Pokémon Moon, Episode 12: In Which I Infiltrate A Gang Stronghold

Once I’ve stopped shaking uncontrollably,
and the Rotomdex has reassured me that the horrifying undead Pikachu I just
fought is only another Pokémon (a Ghost/Fairy-type called Mimikyu), Acerola
offers me some suggestions on what to do next.
Although my success in her trial was in some respects debateable – I
was, she reminds me, only supposed to get a photograph of Mimikyu, not give its
lair a new back door – I did basically achieve its fundamental objectives, so
she presents me with her crystal, the Ghostium-Z.  As Ula’ula Island has only two Captains, that
means I now have the right to challenge the island’s Kahuna.  Acerola declines to explain who or where the
Kahuna is right away, though, and invites me back to Aether House to talk it
over there.  Unfortunately when we get
there, with Hau just a few steps behind, someone who is definitely not the Kahuna is waiting.

“Back so soon, hmm?”  Plumeria, Team Skull’s self-described ‘big
sister,’ is parked in front of Aether House with a couple of grunts.  “I wasn’t expecting you just yet,” she says
to Acerola.  “I heard you were
supervising a trial, and-” she stops mid-breath as she catches sight of
me.  I flinch and quickly sidestep behind
Acerola.  “You!?”  I swear under my
breath.
“…hi there, uh… Plumeria, right?  Good to, uh-”
“What did I tell you about messing with my
little brothers and sisters, jerk?”
“I don’t… remember exactly?  But I’m sure it wasn’t good.  Um.
D-do you think we could talk about th-”
She laughs out loud.
“Give it a rest, kid; I’m messing with you.  You’re on the level.”
“…oh.
Um… really?”
“Yeah – now make damn sure it stays that
way.”  I gulp nervously, drawing a smirk
from her.  Acerola looks back and forth
between us like she’s following a tennis match.
“…what on earth are you two talking about?”
“Nothing that concerns you, Captain,”
Plumeria tells her icily.  Her gaze
flicks back to me.  “Now.  It takes these dumb grunts way too long to
deal with you kids… so I guess it’s my turn!”
“Wait!” I protest.  “I thought we were cool!?”
That
was personal.  This is business,” Plumeria clarifies.  “I told you before… next time you get in our
way, I’m not holding anything back!”
With a flick of her wrist, she directs her grunts to engage Acerola and
Hau, then summons her own Golbat.  I
respond with my Toucannon, and Beak Blast it right out of the sky.  When Plumeria turns to her partner Pokémon –
now evolved into Salazzle – I switch to my Raichu and fry its brain with
Psychic.  As at our last meeting,
Plumeria (in stark contrast to Guzma) barely acknowledges the loss.  “Hmmph.
Guess you are pretty tough.  Now I
understand why my grunts waste so much time battling kids.”
“Well, that’s part of the reason,” I say
slyly, then suddenly remember my sense of self-preservation.  “Uh.  I
mean.  Yeah.  That must be it.”  Plumeria glares at me, and I swear I can feel
a hole being drilled through my skull.
“If you want us to return the Pokémon, then
you’ll have to come to us.  Alone.”
“Wait, what?  Pokémon?
What do you-?”  She just keeps
talking over me.
“The boss is just dying to meet you, hmmph!
See you at our base in Po Town!”
With that, she and her grunts are gone.

Inside Aether House, the gravity of the
situation soon becomes apparent.  Lillie
and Nebby are both miraculously untouched, since Lillie of course chose to save
her own treacherous skin the moment danger reared its head.  However, the Yungoos belonging to the little
girl I met here just a few hours earlier has been kidnapped.  If Plumeria is to be believed, it will be
found in Po Town, on Ula’ula Island’s northwest cape, and Team Skull is
expecting me – and only me – to come and retrieve it.  Acerola explains that Po Town is Team Skull’s
“private playground,” a whole settlement that they’ve taken over and run (or
rather, fail to run) to serve their own random whims and instant gratification.  This is clearly an obvious trap and a
terrible plan, and will more than likely lead to my murder in a dark
alley.  There is, of course, no way for
me to get out of it.  Damn it, the kid is
standing right there; I can’t even argue about it without seeming like a
total monster.  Why can’t she just grow
up bitter, angry and emotionally unstable, get a new Pokémon, and hunt them all
down for revenge years later?  It worked
for Hugh
!

As I leave, Acerola points me to “this guy
on route 15 who’s wearing a kimono” for help crossing the nearby bay to reach
Po Town.  At first I am sceptical of her
attribution of useful transport expertise to random strangers on the basis of
overly formal dress sense, but it turns out she has a point: “this guy” is none
other than Grimsley of the Unovan Elite Four.
After a brief exchange of small talk, Grimsley presents me with a bet.
“Tell me.
Uncle Grimsley is going to flip a coin.
Will it be heads or tails?”  I
think for a minute.  Grimsley is obsessed
with luck, but part of his philosophy is that luck can sometimes really be a
matter of decisions made behind the scenes: how you play your hand is much more
important than the cards you draw.  And
I’ve heard him talk about coins before… something he said on Black and
White?  “A flipped coin doesn’t always
land heads or tails.  Sometimes it may
never land at all…”
“Neither,” I tell him with a sly grin.  He looks at me curiously, then flicks his
coin up into the air and catches it.
“…astonishing,” he says, shaking his
head.  “I had indeed been planning to
have Skarmory snatch it out of the air as it spun in the sky.”  I laugh.
I guess sometimes “making your own luck” means cheating so outrageously
that your opponent is forced to respect your ingenuity.  In any case, my prescience has earned
Grimsley’s respect, and apparently the right to call one of his Pokémon with my
Ride Pager: Sharpedo, who can carry a rider across the water like Lana’s
Lapras, but can also shatter boulders like Hala’s Tauros, getting me safely
across the rock-strewn bay on the west coast of the island.

On the north side of the bay is a small
white prefab building that I recognise as one of the Aether Foundation’s field
labs – run, strangely enough, by Left and Right.  Are they just… doing odd jobs for the Aether
Foundation while they’re on holiday?  Or
are they manipulating the foundation into serving their own dark and mysterious
ends?  It seems like the answer may be
the latter, as the lab houses a large multi-coloured crystal that, according to
the Kalosians, can induce Zygarde’s scattered cells to reform.  I’ve collected quite a few cells since
meeting them in Heahea City, enough to embody one of Zygarde’s dog-like lesser
manifestations, as well as two cores.  Each
core apparently contains the knowledge of one move that can be included in
Zygarde’s moveset – the cores I currently possess know Thousand Arrows and
Dragon Dance.  Left and Right are pleased
by my progress towards resurrecting their god.
Their cult’s recruitment numbers are on the rise, and even a lesser
manifestation of Zygarde’s power will go a long way towards winning the hearts
and minds of the Alolan heathens.
Another dozen cells, and I will have reassembled enough of Zygarde to
summon its giant cobra form, and any who still doubt Zygarde’s power will be
brought to heel by the might of the World Shaker!
“…and your enlightened theocratic rule will
bring an end to strife and disunity in Alola, right?” I ask.
“C’est ç’la, oui, oui,” Left says, turning to
Right and starting a rapid back-and-forth in Kalosian about something that
neither of them cares to explain.  I
guess they’re done talking to me.

North of the lab, the road leads through
Ula’ula Meadow, another Oricorio habitat.
The ones in this area feed on nectar from deep crimson flowers that
gives them Fire-type abilities.  There
are no other new Pokémon here, but there is a trail off the east of the main
road that leads to a truly spectacular ruin – a vast circular dais, surrounded
by stone fortifications, on an island in the middle of the Lake of the
Sunne.  The complex seems completely
abandoned, but almost certainly serves some kind of ritual function, and if I
were a betting man I’d say that the dais was built for summoning a legendary
Pokémon.  Maybe this is where Lillie will
perform whatever dastardly blood ritual is necessary to call Lunala and begin
her destruction of the Alola region…

Once I clear the meadow, I’m on the
outskirts of Po Town.  As promised, there
are plenty of Team Skull members here, but just like those in the desert
settlement, they don’t seem to have aggression on their minds.  One straight-up admits that he’s rubbish at
battling and relies on his Team Skull brothers and sisters for protection;
others challenge me, but are perfectly cordial.
The only hint of anything more sinister is the police station on the
side of the road – abandoned and overrun with Meowth.  Po Town itself is completely encircled by a
stark, forbidding concrete wall, its only gate guarded by a pair of
grunts.  I try for negotiation at first,
but the conversation quickly takes a sour turn when they notice my Z-Ring and
Island Challenge amulet.  This is for one
very simple reason: Team Skull is apparently made up entirely of people who failed
the Island Challenge.
 Funny how no one mentioned that before.  It might have been useful to know, Kukui.
My attempts at talking my way inside only deteriorate from there, and
end with the grunts retreating inside.
Well.  I suppose I could try and
get my Toucannon to blast a hole in the wall…
“You there.
Boy,” says a voice from behind me.
The speaker is a haggard-looking older man wearing bits and pieces of an
Alolan police uniform.  “Seems to me
you’re trying to get into Po Town.  You
sure you’ve thought this through?”  I
shrug.
“As far as I’m likely to.  What’s it to you?”
“Hmph.
Kids.”  He walks toward the
gate.  “You’d better be ready if you’re
thinking of coming in here.  Ready to
live as Team Skull… or ready to take on Team Skull.”  He turns back to me and looks me right in the
eyes.  “You really think you’re ready for
that?”  I narrow my eyes and stare back.
“No, really, what’s it to you?  You’re the only person I’ve seen out here
who’s not with Team Skull.  What’s your
deal?”
“My deal
is keeping people safe, kid – whether they care or not.

Now I’m gonna ask you one more time: you ready for this?”  I roll my eyes.
“Ready for Team Skull?  Sure.
They’re not as dangerous as people think.  There’s good in them.”  I pause for thought.  “Some of them, anyway.”  The man looks surprised.
“I guess everyone has their own reasons.  Maybe yours and mine aren’t so different.  I’ll have them let you in.”  He raps on the hard metal door, than turns to
me and says, almost as an afterthought, “If you don’t make it, I’ll be sure
your remains at least get back home.”
“…wait what.”

Po Town is… well, it’s definitely
something.  The high, enclosed walls have
created a local microclimate dominated by heavy rain.  The town itself looks like it was once a very
nice, upper-crust sort of area, with pretty little houses and neat gardens, the
sort of place where sitcom families live their nauseatingly ideal lives.  Team Skull’s influence, though, is
palpable.  Every available surface has
been tagged with spray paint, most of the buildings have at least one broken
window, and even the Pokémon Centre is barely operable.  The Team Skull members running the place are
happy to heal my Pokémon, but explain regretfully that they have to charge a
small fee to keep the lights on.  The
Alolans really have just left them here to rot.
I make a mental note to give Kukui a good chewing out when this is all
over.  Battling or evading grunts as I
go, I navigate around the barricades on the main road and head for the back of
the town, which is dominated by an opulent mansion that has seen better
days.  This, I can only surmise, is “the
boss’s crib.”  Guzma isn’t exactly subtle;
he’s bound to be in the most extravagant accommodations available.  The front door seems to be unguarded, so I
creep up in the shadow of a hedgerow and quietly slip inside.

The inside of the mansion is as much a bomb
site as the rest of the town.  The walls
and floor are covered in crudely painted designs, overturned furniture is
scattered around the lobby, and a massive gilded chandelier is blocking one arm
of the grand staircase.  I don’t make it
any further than around the first corner before someone grabs me by the arm and
drags me into an alcove.
“What are you doin’ here, homie!?” a voice whispers.  I blink.
It’s B, his face a mix of anger, surprise and… concern?  “Don’t you even know what the boss’d do if he
caught you!?”  I blink again and yank my
arm away.
“I’m here
to see
Guzma,” I hiss at him.  “He
stole a Pokémon from a friend of mine and I am here to get it back.”
B’s eyes widen.
“You don’t gotta do that, yo!  That ain’t your fight!  The boss is gonna flip!”
Someone
has to, and I don’t see anyone else around here who’s going to stand up to
him!”  I step out of the alcove and into
the middle of the hallway.  “Now are you
going to help me, or get in my way?”  B
clenches his fists and yells in frustration, wrenching a Pokéball from his belt.
“Argh!
If I gotta put up a defence to make you see some sense, then let’s drop
this pretence, yo!”  B has expanded his
roster since we last fought, adding a Gastly and a Salandit to his Golbat, but
all three are Poison-types and none are a match for my newly-evolved Slowbro’s
psychic powers.  Our battle is over
quickly, and he slumps into a battered old chair, looking despondent.
“What’s the use?” he says.  “I’m never gonna be strong like you.  I’m an incomplete grunt; this is the only
place for me in the whole world.”  He
hangs his head and lapses into silence.  I
sigh and sit down on the floor, my back against the wall.
“There’s more to being strong than winning
battles, B.”  He says nothing, but cocks
his head at me.  “Guys like Guzma think
being strong means beating other people down, making them do what you want,
crushing their potential.  It’s not.  Being strong is about building other people
up.  That’s why we train Pokémon, right?”
“Easy for you to say,” B mutters.  “Your Pokémon are strong.”  I chuckle.
“Weren’t always.  It takes training, patience… you have to see
the potential in them, everything that they could be.  Guzma… he’s a Bug-type specialist; he ought
to know that better than anyone.  If he
treats his Pokémon like he treats all of you, I don’t know how he ever got his Golisopod to evolve.”
“He’s been havin’ us hustle all the
Buginium-Z crystals in Alola,” B muses thoughtfully, “so’s no one else can be a
stronger Bug Pokémon trainer.”
“See!
That’s exactly what I mean!  He
thinks being strong is about keeping your rivals weak.”  I shake my head.  “Izzat really what you want Team Skull to be
about?  The way Plumeria talks, she makes
you guys sound like a family.”  He’s
silent for a few beats.
“We are.
We take in trainers who’re… incomplete.
Give ‘em somewhere what they can call home, when everyone else’s given
up on ‘em.  Just like me and Zubat.”
“After you failed your island challenge?”  B looks up at me sharply.  “I heard that’s how a lot of Team Skull got
started.”  He frowns.
“…that’s complicated.”
“I bet it is.  And I bet the Captains and Kahunas didn’t
have time for ‘complicated,’ right?”  He
doesn’t answer.  “You don’t have to tell
me the whole story now.  Just… look, just
help me get to Guzma.  You don’t need to
help me fight him.  But one day, you’re gonna.
And you’re gonna win.”  B stares at his feet for a moment.
“Sometimes I want to smash the world, but
I’m always afraid of it.”  He breathes
out slowly, then clenches his fists.
“All right.  Follow me.”

B leads me upstairs, past more trashed
rooms and hallways, and out to a balcony where a Team Skull guard asks him for
a series of passwords: Guzma’s favourite move (Beat Up), Pokémon (Golisopod)
and drink (Tapu Cocoa).  When asked if
he’s sure about his answers, B yells “no!” and we’re let through – apparently
Guzma likes his minions to have a contrarian streak.  Climbing out over the roof, B shows me
through a broken window and into the building’s east wing, the part blocked off
by the chandelier on the stairs.
Finally, we reach a closed door.
B raises his hand to knock, and then stops.
“It’s okay,” I tell him.  “You got me this far.  I’ll handle the rest.”
“…you sure, homie?”
“I’m sure.
Just remember what we talked about, okay?”  He furrows his brow, but nods.
“Be careful, yo.”  I grin.
“I always am, aren’t I?”  He rolls his eyes, but dashes off.  I turn and knock on Guzma’s door. 

Guzma’s room is just as messy as the rest,
and a fancy landscape painting on the back wall has been thoroughly defaced
with a Team Skull logo in purple spray paint.
A huge chest full of yellow-green Z-crystals sits in the corner, where a
grunt stands guarding the kidnapped Yungoos.
Guzma himself is lounging on a big armchair set up on a low stage like a
throne.  He stands as I come in, and
looks down at me curiously.
“I don’t really get you, kid, but at least
this is a change of pace,” he tells me thoughtfully – or at least, what passes
for thoughtfully with Guzma.  “It’s not
every day someone comes straight to me for a beating!”  I sigh.
“Look, dude… I honestly wouldn’t even be up
for this most days, but I do kinda have something to prove here, so listen
up.  I’m here for the Pokémon you
stole.  Beatings are 100% optional, but
are absolutely on offer.”  Guzma laughs.
“What, Yungoos?  How sweet of you to help out a sad little
girl.  Can’t you just watch out for your
own Pokémon and stay out of other people’s business?!”  I sigh again, more theatrically this time.
“Seriously, I hear you, I do, but again:
something to prove today.  There’s
someone on your team who needs to see that you’re not worth being scared of, so
we can do that the easy way, or the way where you spend the next six weeks
tracking down bits of your spinal cord all over Alola.”  He stares.
“You’re one messed up kid!”
“Well, I mean, I prefer to think of myself
as creative, and I guess I do have an
overactive imagination, but-”
“You wanna know what I do when some machine
messes up?” he talks over me, raising his voice.  “The first thing I do is give it a nice hard
smack!”
“I guess this is happening now,” I say with
another sigh, then hastily sidestep the Golisopod that is suddenly barrelling
towards me, and send out my Decidueye.
Golisopod leads with its devastating First Impression strike, and takes
little damage from Spirit Shackle.
Looking for breathing room, I tell Decidueye to heal off the damage with
Synthesis – and then the bloody thing uses Swords Dance.  This… could seriously go south quickly.  I pull out Decidueye’s unique Z-move,
Sinister Arrow Raid, a devastating barrage of spiritual arrows that doesn’t quite knock out Golisopod, but does
weaken it enough to trigger its Emergency Exit (which apparently bypasses the
magical anchor created by Spirit Shackle), causing Guzma’s Ariados to pop
out.  Ariados opens with a nasty Sucker
Punch that takes Decidueye completely off guard, then finishes him with Shadow
Sneak when we try to heal again.  Still,
both of Guzma’s Pokémon are weakened now, leaving him open for a clean sweep
from my Salazzle, who torches them both with Flame Burst.  Guzma, to his credit, takes the loss
gracefully and congratulates me on an honourable victory.

…nah, I’m just messing with you; he totally
flips his lid and storms out of the room while shouting obscenities at
literally everything and everyone in his path.

The Yungoos immediately flees the
house.  I assume it can find its own way
home; after all, Yungoos are supposed to be smart… ish.  Right?
I take a moment to look around Guzma’s room and swipe a Buginium-Z from
his chest, and am then compelled to try sitting in his chair.  It’s… soft, relaxing, luxuriant… as I sit
back and enjoy it, the door opens and a grunt rushes in.
“’Scuze me, Bo-”  He stops and stares at me.
“What?” I ask irritably.
“B-b-but you’re not the boss?!” he cries.
“B!tch I might be,” I retort.
“What’s the deal, homie?!  You’re not the boss of me?!” the grunt
protests.
“Izzat not how this works?” I asked.  “I whooped his ass; doesn’t that make me the
boss now?”  He just stares at me like his
whole world is collapsing around him.  I
wave a hand dismissively.  “Whatever,
just… just go, I don’t care.”  The grunt
huffs indignantly and leaves.  Well… can
you blame me for trying? 

Back outside, the man who let me into Po
Town is waiting for me, along with the kidnapped Yungoos and Acerola (oh, sure,
now she turns up to help).  The run-down old man, Nanu, is apparently
Acerola’s uncle, and the only police officer crazy enough to live anywhere near
Po Town – because, he says, “the rent’s cheap,” though Acerola insists that he
has a heart of gold and is doing it to help Pokémon.  I… kinda love this character; he’s the
bitter, cynical, misanthropic bastard I’ve always longed to be.  We’re basically done here, so Acerola heads
back to Aether House with Yungoos, Nanu goes back to moping in the rain, and I
summon Kiawe’s Charizard for a ride back south.
Guzma is beaten once again, and all is right with the world. 

When I return to Aether House, Lillie is
gone, Hau is panicking, and Gladion is there, in the process of completely
losing his $#!t.

Oh good.

Ridiculous quote log:

“I might really go to paradise now that
I’ve lost!”
…I’m not going to kill you; jeez.

“OH EM GEE!
Please don’t tell me that’s my
Skull Tank you’re wearing?”
“Ohhh, no wonder it stinks!  It’s the same design though.”
“It does not stink!  That’s a lovely aroma!  Anyway, we should write our names on them so
we don’t mix them up.”
“Uhmm, hello!  Our names are all Grunt.  What’s the point?”
Well, I suppose this explains Team Skull’s
lack of administrative nous…

The team:

Tane the Decidueye
Male, Timid nature, Overgrow ability
Level 38
Steel Wing, Razor Leaf, Synthesis, Spirit
Shackle

Rhea the Toucannon
Female, Lax nature, Keen Eye ability
Level 38
Screech, Roost, Beak Blast, Brick Break

Ashley the Psychu
Female, Timid nature, Surge Surfer ability
Level 38
Discharge, Hidden Power (Ice), Nasty Plot, Psychic

Hypatia the Slowbro
Female, Hardy nature, Own Tempo ability
Level 37
Psychic, Yawn, Slack Off, Scald

Joanna the Salazzle
Female, Timid nature, Corrosion ability
Level 38
Flame Burst, Nasty Plot, Sludge Bomb, Toxic

Sigourney the Golisopod
Female, Careful nature, Emergency Exit
ability
Level 37
Brick Break, Payback, First Impression,
Leech Life

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