Where were we?
Oh yes. I had just returned to Aether House in what I thought was triumph, only to find Gladion there, screaming at everyone in the vicinity.
Something tells me this is not going to be the low point of my day.
After a rage-fuelled battle in which my Raichu and Toucannon narrowly manage to overcome Gladion’s powerful Golbat, Sneasel, and whatever the hell “Type: Null” is, Gladion calms down enough for me to figure out what the hell is going on. In perhaps the single cleverest feint ever executed by a Pokémon villain in the history of time, it turns out that Plumeria’s abduction of Yungoos was a ruse, intended mostly to draw me and Acerola away to Po Town. In our absence, Lillie and her adorable little cosmic nuke were left with no one to protect them but Hau. Now, Hau is admittedly not without his strengths. Indeed, if anyone ever finds a way to convert optimism and doughnuts into a sort of tactical high explosive, Hau will overnight become the foremost military power in the known universe. However, given the way reality has currently chosen to manifest itself, he couldn’t win a battle against the Rotomdex, much less Plumeria, and she was able to double back as soon as no one was watching and kidnap Lillie and Nebby. Gladion is decidedly unimpressed, both at the fact that Cosmog was with Lillie all along (he apparently knows her), and at Hau’s failure to protect both of them. If nothing else, his desire to keep Nebby out of the hands of his own employers seems to have been sincere. Luckily, he not only seems to know where they’ve gone, but actually has a way to get there: he has a boat waiting in Malie City, and orders me and Hau to meet him there posthaste. I momentarily consider the possibility that this is all some kind of complex bluff on his part – perhaps Gladion has been working with Lillie all along and is now luring me into a trap? By this point I’m about 90% sure they’re brother and sister, so he could well be involved in her treacherous plot to rule Alola… but I also don’t really have a better plan than “spring the trap and use Hau as a human shield,” so I agree to go along.
When I arrive at the Malie docks, Gladion is there already, waiting for Hau. Our previous meetings have actually given him a sort of grudging respect for Hau and his determination to forge his own path independently of Kahuna Hala – enough so that Gladion is prepared to count him as an ally in our upcoming raid. I’m about to ask for more details when we’re interrupted by none other than Nanu, the grouchy old guy from Po Town, who has… come to see us off, I guess? Nanu announces, with zero fanfare and even less enthusiasm, that he is Ula’ula Island’s Kahuna, and offers me an impromptu Grand Trial. You know, just while we’re standing around waiting at the docks. Whatever happened to the solemnity and sanctity of- oh, screw it; we all know I don’t care. Unfortunately for my Decidueye, who happens to be at the front of my team, Nanu trains Dark-types, but Decidueye is at least strong enough to bring down his first Pokémon, Sableye, with a couple of Spirit Shackles. When Nanu switches to Krokorok, I send out my Toucannon, who is immediately hit by Krokorok’s Swagger and subsequently reduces it to a smoking crater with Beak Blast. Nanu’s final Pokémon, an Alolan Persian, is strong enough to survive even the boosted Beak Blast and wreck Toucannon with Power Gem, but its poor physical defences and weakness to Bug moves make it easy prey for Golisopod. Nanu smiles for the first time since I’ve met him, and presents me with his crystal, the Darkium-Z.
“There. Congratulations or whatever,” he says, returning to his customary mirthless, dead-eyed stare, and goes to leave as unceremoniously as he arrived – but decides, seemingly on impulse, to give a few parting words to Gladion. “Tell me… If you’re really trying to get stronger as you say, then what’re you depending on Team Skull for?” He leaves without waiting for an answer. I shoot a glance at Gladion, who just snorts and turns to look out at the sea.
A few minutes later, Hau arrives, and Gladion reveals where we’re going: Aether Paradise. He ignores our demands for an explanation, even as we get on his boat and set a course for the Paradise, unwilling to provide any more information than a characteristically terse “I just know.” On the way, I quietly take Hau aside and reassure him that we can always stab Gladion in the back if this turns out to be a mission to sabotage the Aether Foundation. He gives a nervous gulp, but agrees to watch for my signal. Interestingly, when we reach the Paradise itself, Gladion’s boat – black, with Team Skull livery – doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows, and we make it to the docking bay without incident. That’s… strange, do they regularly get Team Skull vessels through here? I decide to go along with Gladion’s plan for now, so the three of us take out the Aether Foundation guards on the docking level (surprisingly powerful trainers, many of them with Dragon-type Pokémon) and make for the elevator. Gladion quickly finds that elevator access to the research level, where he believes Lillie and Nebby will be, has been locked down, and instead takes us up to the administration level to find someone we can trick, bribe or coerce into giving us access. Just such a person is conveniently waiting for us: Mr. Bean.
“I, Faba, am the Aether Branch Chief,” he introduces himself smugly. “The only one in the world, I’m irreplaceable.”
“Yeah, that’s not what ‘Branch Chief’ means,” I comment. “By definition there should be one of you for each branch.”
“Ah, but you see, there only is one branch of the Aether Foundation at present – here in Alola – and even when our organisation expands, I shall remain the most senior of the-”
“What do you even need a Branch Chief for, then?” I ask, genuinely confused. “What exactly is your job, anyway?” I hear a strange nasal sound to my left that might be Gladion stifling a laugh. Mr. Bean splutters indignantly.
“Wh- what do you mean by questioning me like this? By coming back here uninvited?”
“Like you don’t know why,” Gladion says, glaring at him. “You of all people should know everything that happens in the Aether Foundation.”
“Living out in the world hasn’t been kind, has it?” Mr. Bean responds acidly. “But I’m still not telling you anything! And you of all people should understand why…” Gladion shrugs theatrically and turns to me.
“Hey, Chris. You know why being a trainer is so great? Because when you’re battling, it doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult. Everyone’s equal in Pokémon battle!” I snort, and pull my Decidueye’s Pokéball from my belt.
“Equal? We’ll just see about that.” Mr. Bean chuckles.
“Is that what you think? You wish to battle me? The man who is called Aether Paradise’s last line of defence is to battle a mere child!?” His incredulous laughter subsides into a steely resolve. “As you will!” Mr. Bean’s only Pokémon, unfortunately for him, is a Hypno. One-on-one, Decidueye nails its soul to the wall in ten seconds flat. As Mr. Bean stutters in disbelief, Gladion delivers one of his signature death glares.
“So… as I said, Faba,” he says menacingly, “you of all people know what I’m here for.”
“Indeed… If you’re looking for Cosmog, I suppose it might be downstairs…” Mr. Bean replies with exaggerated casualness. “I’ve heard experiments are held down there… experiments aiming to tear the very boundaries of the world apart.”
“So nothing too fancy then?” I quip. Mr. Bean just gives a resigned sigh and unlocks the elevator controls for us, leaving us free to descend.
Aether Paradise’s underwater research level is a much darker, more sinister place than the rest of the facility, with more grey than white, and eerie fluorescent blue lighting. Hau, for his part, is his usual effervescent self. Gladion is a little annoyed by this, but seems to be gradually coming to respect Hau’s unique brand of courage. The three of us quickly dispatch the paltry Aether Foundation scientists guarding the place and begin to look for Lillie and Nebby. Gladion makes it clear that we are in a hurry, knowing that Mr. Bean is probably mobilising the Foundation against us while we search, and discourages us from looking into any of the Foundation’s research – better just to get on with finding Lillie. He makes it doubly clear that Hau and I are not to enter the first of the two labs, where his own Pokémon, Type: Null, was created. Naturally, I ignore his instructions completely and do as much snooping as I possibly can – I’m starting to like Gladion, but we are a long way from anything I would describe as “trust.” Although Cosmog itself is nowhere to be found, the second lab contains extensive notes on the Aether Foundation’s experiments with it. The Foundation believes Cosmog to be a species of Ultra Beast, and has discovered that when placed in great peril it has the power to open Ultra Wormholes, consistently with Gladion’s cryptic warning at our previous meeting. Clearly he knew all of this because of his apparent past association with the Aether Foundation – and the same must be true of his probably-sister, Lillie. Her plan to summon Lunala and conquer the Alola region in an age of infinite night must have arisen from the Foundation’s research on Cosmog.
As for Null… once Gladion returns to the elevator, I have a few moments to slip into the other lab and swipe as much data as possible. The results are… enlightening. Null is an artificial Pokémon, engineered by the Aether Foundation with the explicit purpose of fighting and killing Ultra Beasts, based on research materials gathered in Sinnoh, at the Canalave Library. That’s… strange. The Canalave Library is world-renowned for its history and mythology collections, but in the biological sciences it’s average at best… The files go on to explain that Null, which was originally designated Type: Full, was supposed to have the capability to change its element at will by focusing on eighteen special “memories” that the Foundation gave it, using a technology they called the RKS system.
RKS, Ar-Kay-Ess. Sinnoh, Canalave. At-will type change.
Oh my god. No, literally, oh my god. Surely they wouldn’t-? The Aether Foundation was trying to engineer an artificial Pokémon that drew power from the distilled essence of Arceus, the Original One, the Pokémon said to have created the universe! And they almost did it, the mad bastards! I don’t know how, but they successfully built their Type: Full Pokémon, three of them in fact. The RKS system was a failure though; the Pokémon couldn’t control their power and went berserk, necessitating the creation of control masks – like the bronze helmet that Gladion’s Pokémon wears. Unfortunately, the masks also inhibited the functioning of the RKS system, leading to the Pokémon’s re-designation as Type: Null and their relegation to permanent cryogenic stasis. Until, apparently, Gladion decided to steal one… I wonder, as I catch up to him and Hau at the elevator, whether he has any idea what his partner is. Null is, in a very real and very troubling sense, divine… ideal for fighting demons from the Endless Void, I’ll give it that, but the thing about gods is, they can be terribly fickle, even towards their favourites…
Back on the administration level, we find Lusamine’s aide, Wicke, who greets Gladion as “young master.” She tells us that Lillie is probably with Lusamine in her private quarters, but Mr. Bean has sealed the doors leading to that part of the complex, and mustered as many employees as he can to stop us. He greets us with a confident chuckle as we approach, and crows that he only let us into the labs to buy himself time to gather more of his staff.
“So, uh, Mr. Faba, do you have the key to the president’s rooms?” Hau asks him.
“Indeed!” he replies triumphantly. “I have it right here!”
“So… if you’d just stayed hidden, we would’ve been stuck here anyway, right?” Hau bursts into laughter. Mr. Bean stares at him, dumbstruck.
“Dude, you just got outsmarted by Hau,” I observe. Gladion’s face tenses up as he struggles not to laugh. “This is just not your day, is it, Mr. Bean?”
“STOP CALLING ME THAT!” he screeches. “ALL OF YOU, GET THEM! GET THEM NOW!” His minions fall quickly enough, but Mr. Bean himself has decided to bring his A-game this time, using three Pokémon of his own and enlisting another Aether Foundation worker to run support with a Ledian. My Slowbro and Hau’s Raichu focus-fire the Ledian to keep it from providing him with too many protections, then turn to Mr. Bean’s own Slowbro – between its own Amnesia and the Ledian’s Light Screen, it takes a while to wear down, but two-on-one it’s not too bad. His next Pokémon, a Bruxish, quickly finishes off Hau’s Raichu as I switch in my Golisopod, but then folds to a single strike from First Impression. Finally, against Mr. Bean’s Hypno, Hau sends in his partner Pokémon – now in its final form, a slender, long-haired sea-lion Pokémon called Primarina. Its Hydro Vortex and my Golisopod’s Leech Life finish the battle almost before Hypno can act. Mr. Bean fumes for a minute when beaten, but faced with Gladion’s barely-contained rage, Hau’s wide-eyed grin, and my stare of utter disdain, he relents and hands over his key, muttering “this is why I can’t bring myself to like children,” as we pass him by.
The rear section of Aether Paradise’s administration level is taken up almost entirely by President Lusamine’s opulent mansion and its gardens – which are swarming with Team Skull grunts. Huh. I guess Gladion was telling the truth; they are working with the Aether Foundation. But… why? No time to figure that out; Gladion is already dashing past the grunts to confront Guzma. Hau engages the ones closest to us, leaving me to fight my way forward. Two grunts in my path give me little trouble. The third… is B. We stare at each other in silence for a moment.
“So…” he begins.
“…yeah…” I continue.
“…this is mad awkward, yo.”
“…yup.” We pause, hands inching toward our Pokéballs. “You could have told me the whole thing with the Yungoos was a distraction.”
“I didn’t know! I didn’t even know we was workin’ with these wack Aether Foundation guys til today!”
“Well, maybe now would be the moment to switch sides then, if you’re going to do it,” I suggest, with a jerk of my head towards Guzma and Gladion, in the midst of a battle that Guzma seems to be winning. B hangs his head.
“I ain’t gonna fight a battle I can’t win; takin’ on Guzma, the odds are way too slim.”
“Fine. Get out of my way, then,” I reply sharply. He hesitates. “What, you’re afraid of Guzma but you think you can beat me? If you’re not going to help, then step aside.” After another moment’s hesitation, he does. “That’s what I thought.” I kinda feel bad for him, but Gladion’s already beaten – I need to fight Guzma myself. Guzma laughs as I approach.
“You little misfits keep getting up in my grill, like a cloud of smoke that I can’t brush away. It’s time I put out your fire at the source!” I frown.
“You’re a Bug trainer; don’t you think a fire metaphor is a bit of an inauspicious choice?” Guzma roars and sends out his Golisopod. “…fire it is,” I agree, opening the battle with my Toucannon’s Beak Blast. While not strong enough to outright defeat his Golisopod, that does trigger its Emergency Exit to bounce in Guzma’s next Pokémon: a Masquerain, who quickly falls to another Beak Blast. When Golisopod comes back in, Toucannon is too weak now to keep fighting, so I use my own Golisopod’s First Impression to finish it off. The Pinsir that comes in next is able to bounce my Golisopod with X-Scissor, but that just leaves an opening for my Salazzle to power up with Nasty Plot and then roast both Pinsir and Guzma’s Ariados. Defeated, Guzma grudgingly steps aside and lets me into Lusamine’s mansion. I glance at Gladion, who is still treating his Pokémon’s wounds and waves for me to keep going. Well, here goes nothing.
Most of the mansion, decorated all in Aether Foundation white, gold and black, is sealed off; the only open path leads to Lusamine’s private quarters, where she and Lillie are engrossed in an argument. As I burst into the room, Lusamine looks up at me, surprised.
“Oh! Chris… it’s been a while since we last saw you,” she says, quickly regaining her composure. Lillie spins around.
“Wha-!? Y-you came!? You actually came to help me?”
“Help you!?” I ask incredulously. “I’m here to stop you!” I look over her shoulder at Lusamine. “Ma’am, I have reason to believe that Lillie is plotting to destroy the Alola region by using the abilities of the Pokémon she stole from you to take command of a mythical Ultra Beast known as Lunala! We have to work together to keep that power out of her hands!” Lillie and Lusamine both stare at me for at least ten seconds without saying a word. Lillie opens and closes her mouth uselessly like a fish. Lusamine’s face appears to invent an all-new emotional state that somehow hybridises intense amusement with chronic constipation.
“Oh, my… If this is what you were pinning your hopes on, my dear,” she says to Lillie, “well… what can I say? How disappointing.” Lillie, panicking now, looks back and forth between me and Lusamine.
“I-I-I don’t need your help!” she declares to me. “Or your approval, Mother!” she continues, turning back to Lusamine. “I will save Cosmog!”
“Don’t listen to her!” I warn Lusamine. “Cosmog is an Ultra Beast; it’s dangerous, and so is she!” Lusamine smiles at me warmly.
“Your concern is touching, but I can handle myself. I know how to deal with those dear, sweet, darling beasts.” She turns to Lillie, and all her warmth evaporates. “I could have sworn you just called me ‘Mother.’ You must be forgetting that I don’t have any children! Certainly not any wretched children who would run off and reject my love!” Lillie flinches, and Lusamine laughs. “What can you do, Lillie? The only thing that you’ve ever done on your own is steal someone else’s research!” She turns her back to us. “You’re not beautiful enough for my world…”
“…okay, that’s a bit harsh,” I suggest. “I mean, she is literally your daughter, right? Errare est humanum and all that?” Lusamine ignores me, and gives a shrug and a sigh.
“Well, since you’re here anyway, you can watch me summon my sweet beast. And then… you can leave.” She walks over to a wall mirror at the back of the room, and touches it gently. The mirror vanishes, revealing an alcove containing a teleport pad. “Maybe if you really had been a daughter to me, I would have listened to you,” Lusamine says as she steps onto the pad, then gives Lillie a final sneer and vanishes.
“Wait – summon?” I gasp. Lillie must have tricked her mother somehow – Lusamine wants to protect the Ultra Beasts; she doesn’t realise how dangerous they are. She’s going to do her daughter’s bidding and summon Lunala herself! I run for the teleport pad. “Ma’am! Lusamine! You’re making a mistake! Whatever she’s told you, you have to stop!” Just behind me, I hear Lillie give an exasperated scream as she follows me through the teleport.
Tane the Decidueye
Male, Timid nature, Overgrow ability
Steel Wing, Razor Leaf, Synthesis, Spirit Shackle
Rhea the Toucannon
Female, Lax nature, Keen Eye ability
Screech, Roost, Beak Blast, Brick Break
Ashley the Psychu
Female, Timid nature, Surge Surfer ability
Discharge, Hidden Power (Ice), Nasty Plot, Psychic
Hypatia the Slowbro
Female, Hardy nature, Own Tempo ability
Psychic, Yawn, Slack Off, Scald
Joanna the Salazzle
Female, Timid nature, Corrosion ability
Flame Burst, Nasty Plot, Sludge Bomb, Toxic
Sigourney the Golisopod
Female, Careful nature, Emergency Exit ability
Brick Break, Payback, First Impression, Leech Life