The teleport pad leads to what seems to be Lusamine’s private laboratory – a cavernous space at the heart of Aether Paradise. We’re standing on a massive white platform made of the same synthetic material as the rest of the Paradise’s superstructure, and we must be in some closed-off part of the docking level, since there’s sea water all around the platform’s base – perhaps we’re directly below Lusamine’s mansion. At the centre of the platform, Lusamine has several consoles displaying similar information on spatial anomalies to the instruments in Professor Burnet’s lab back in Heahea City. At her side is a black metal box, glowing from within with a strange blue light and floating just off the floor. And all around her instruments…
“…oh my.” The lab is filled with cryogenic stasis tanks, each containing a Pokémon – I see a Slowpoke, a Pikachu, a Pyukumuku, a Starmie… “So, what are they in for?” I begin as Lillie and I approach Lusamine.
“Hmm…? Oh, these?” Lusamine gestures to the tanks. “They’re my private collection… my precious babies. They will all be preserved for eternity here.” I whistle.
“Eternity in, like, a poetic sense, right? I mean, it’s just cryo-stasis… to preserve them until you have a cure for some illness, maybe…?” She laughs.
“No, I mean literal eternity.” She walks over to one of the tanks and raises a hand to stroke its glass surface. “My love will preserve their beauty forever…” I cough politely.
“Well. Your love, and a super-advanced therapeutic hypothermia system.” I raise one finger questioningly. “So, uh… what’s the over/under on muscle atrophy from long-term cryo-sleep with your hardware setup? Two weeks? Three?” Lusamine waves a hand dismissively and returns to her console.
“I wouldn’t expect a child to understand why these cages are necessary. But my poor beast… what confusion, what rage must if feel, arriving in this strange world? It would not be right to confine its feelings. I think I will let it express all its fury upon the Alola region as it will!” I blink, and look around the room again.
“So… no judgement here,” I begin slowly, “but like… ten points for style, minus several million for sanity, y’know?” Lillie, standing next to me, is oddly quiet but visibly fuming. I’m about to start questioning her again when the teleport pad behind us whistles twice, discharging first Hau, and then Gladion.
“Hey! Chris! Whoa!” Hau stumbles over his words as his eyes register his bizarre new surroundings. “And Lillie! Man, I’m so glad to see you’re okay!”
“Hau, she is the enemy,” I hiss at him, but before he can reply, Lusamine greets him.
“Ah, sweet Hau. So you came too? And Gladion.” Gladion puts his hands on his hips and fixes her with the most devastating death glare I’ve yet seen out of him.
“Mother,” he greets her coldly. Lusamine turns up her nose.
“Hmph. Must you be so untidy?”
“You mustn’t open the Ultra Wormhole,” Gladion tells her, with a hint of menace in his voice. “You cannot let the beasts run wild!”
“You have no right to ask for so much as my attention now, let alone ending my plans! The daughter who stole my Cosmog from me…” she glances contemptuously at Lillie, “…and the son who took my Type: Null! All I ever did was give you two all the love I had, and all you did was betray me!” Lusamine’s voice rises almost to a shriek, and her eyes go a little wild for a moment, before she collects herself and returns to a stony-faced glare. Hau, meanwhile, is looking back and forth between Lusamine and Gladion like he’s watching a tennis match. Suddenly a little light bulb flicks on in his head.
“Wait, wait, hold everything!” Hau protests. “You all are a family!?”
“…Hau. Dude.” I beckon him over to me, then lean close as though to whisper in his ear. “OF COURSE THEY ARE; THEY LOOK EXACTLY THE F%#£ING SAME, YOU ABSOLUTE MIND-BOGGLING NITWIT!” Hau blinks at me, stunned. His mouth wobbles a little and his eyes start to water. I am suddenly acutely conscious that Lusamine, Lillie and Gladion are all staring at me, their faces sitting at various positions between surprise and horror.
“…wow,” Gladion says, finally.
“Chris, how could you say something like that!?” Lillie asks.
“For once, my disgraceful progeny and I are in complete agreement,” Lusamine declares.
“Wh- bu- you- wh-” I splutter, attempting to defend myself. “How could-!? It’s true, you’re all- I mean, anyone could see-! We all know Hau’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, and-” Hau starts sniffling. “Oh- oh god. Hau, I didn’t mean it like that; please don’t- n-not now, please-”
“Apologise right now!” Lillie demands.
“What!? You stay out of this, you little-!”
“Now,” Lusamine adds sternly. I look at Gladion pleadingly. He just shrugs, as if to say “you’re on your own.” I turn back to Hau, who is visibly on the verge of tears.
“’msorry, Hau,” I mumble. He sniffs, chokes back his tears, and looks at my feet. “You’re not a… what did I say?”
“Absolute mind-boggling nitwit,” Lillie quotes acidly.
“…that. You’re not. I’m sorry I said that, buddy; I’m stressed, it’s been a long day, but I still never should have…” Hau raises his eyes and looks at me expectantly. “Look, I- we should probably focus on trying to save Alola for a bit here, but why don’t we go for some malasadas later and we can talk this out? My treat?” Hau sniffs again.
“O-okay,” he says, forcing a smile. We both turn back to the dysfunctional family reunion in progress. All three of them are still glaring at me coldly.
“Oh, come on, like you three are a model for healthy relationships!”
“It doesn’t matter now!” Lusamine declares. She turns her back on us and lifts up a glowing blue box from the floor in front of her command console. I vaguely recognise it from the Foundation’s files as the device they built to contain Cosmog. “None of it matters now. I was able to open the Ultra Wormhole using just the gases we’d extracted from Cosmog when it was in Aether Paradise. If I use its entire body…” she gives the box a weirdly sensual stroke, “…how many sweet beasts will come to me then?” Lillie stares at her in horror.
“Mother, please; you can’t! If Nebby isn’t- if you make it use up too much of its power… you don’t understand what will happen! It could die!” Lusamine laughs coldly.
“All this time and still no sense of vision! Living out in the real world hasn’t improved you at all, has it, ‘daughter’?”
“Hold on,” I interrupt. “Pokémon die now? Has anyone told Game Freak about this?”
“Enough!” Lusamine shouts, holding the box aloft. “Watch… come to me, my sweet beast!” The box glows brighter, and a ball of luminous stellar plasma rises from a vent in the lid and streaks towards the ceiling of Lusamine’s huge laboratory. With an intense burst of light, an Ultra Wormhole opens above us, exactly like the one Hau and I saw at Aether Paradise weeks ago. With an audible trilling warble and a hauntingly inaudible telepathic whisper of madness, the unholy jellyfish entity we battled that day emerges, apparently ready for round two. Lusamine stares up at it in absolute rapture. On the many screens of her command console, blips representing more wormholes and more Ultra Beasts pop up all over Alola.
“…wait,” I say slowly. “Wait, wait, wait. Wait a minute. So… Lusamine is evil?”
“Wh-what? No!” Lillie answers.
“Yes!” Gladion interjects, exasperated.
“She’s just- she… I mean, she only-” Lillie says, tripping over her words.
“So your whole evil plan to take over the Alola region using the Ultra Beasts was totally based on her evil plan to take over the Alola region using the Ultra Beasts!?”
“I- I- no, I- wh- what? What are you talking about!?”
“Don’t get me wrong!” I quickly tell her. “I mean, I respected you more as an antagonist when I thought you were the mastermind, but betraying your evil mother like that is still impressive!”
“As… amusing as this was at first, it’s beginning to bore me,” Lusamine interjects. “My… ‘daughter,’ as she insists on calling herself, has nothing to do with my plans; she simply doesn’t have the intelligence or the ambition. It shall be I, and I alone, that gives to Alola the gift of my sweet beasts’ glorious devastation.”
“…oh,” I say blankly. Then the pieces all fall into place. “OH! YOU’RE the primary villain! That… well. Okay, that… does actually make a great deal of narrative sense.” I glance over at Lillie. “Sorry. I suppose. For the whole ‘thinking you were a terrorist’ thing. I am just having a real off day today, aren’t I?” Everyone in the room stares at me in total silence. “Oh, so Hau didn’t figure out that all of you are related, and that’s perfectly understandable, but I thought Lillie was evil and trying to take over the world, so I’m the dense one?” The stares continue. “…okay, I guess when I put it that way it does sound kind of bad.”
“Lusamine wanted to summon and control dangerous entities from another dimension!” Gladion exclaims.
“Yeah!? Well… I’ve… done that!” Dead silence. “Occasionally! When the situation called for it!”
“She was willing to let Nebby die!” Lillie adds.
“Well- well, he’s a mouthy little $#!t, isn’t he?” I suggest, lamely. As if on cue, Lusamine’s magic box rattles a bit, and a weak trilling sound comes from inside.
“Nebby!” Lillie cries.
“Ugh! Must you be so noisy, even inside there!?” Lusamine shouts, kicking the box. “What an annoying Pokémon!” She sighs impatiently and turns to her command consoles. “Yes… perfect… so many sweet beasts, all over Alola… on Akala… and Poni… Wait… wait, what’s this?” She types some hasty commands, zooming into Melemele Island, where one of the blips representing an Ultra Beast is being intercepted by another blip of a different colour. A video feed flickers into life: the yellow birdlike legendary Pokémon I know as Tapu Koko, locked in battle with a strange, pale and slender humanoid insect creature. “The guardians… Of course Tapu Koko would interfere. No matter.” She kills the feed, and returns to staring up at her demon jellyfish friend. “My sweet beast,” she giggles, “mine at last!” I clear my throat.
“So, um… did she just win? Are we, like… done here?” Behind us, the teleport pad whistles again, and Guzma materialises in the room.
“Madam Prez!” he greets Lusamine, then spends a moment taking in the Ultra Wormhole and the unspeakable abomination it just produced. “The experiment was a success, huh? Looks like it’s time to catch this wicked Ultra Beast and beat down these annoying upstarts!” Lusamine snaps out of her reverie and grins wickedly.
“You’re right, Guzma. Quiet those children for me. I don’t want to hear from them again.” Gladion yanks Null’s Pokéball from his belt and starts barking orders.
“I’ll stop the beast! My partner Null was born to be a beast killer! Hau, you take Guzma!” Hau gives a startled yelp, but obediently turns to face the leader of Team Skull. “Chris! Stop the president! If we don’t, Alola will be flooded with beasts!”
“The, uh… the ship’s kinda sailed on that one, hasn’t it? Maybe we should just cut our losses and-”
“Chris!” Lillie protests. “We have to get Nebby back!”
“…do we though? And for that matter, what are you doing to help? He’s your friend!”
“I- I can’t battle! I don’t have any Pokémon!”
“Why not!? They hand the things out like candy! You literally just turn ten years old and show up!”
“Stop arguing and just fight!” Gladion yells.
“Fine, whatever! It just sure would be nice to have backup, that’s all!” I yell back, with a quick glare at Lillie for good measure.
Lusamine is the most powerful opponent I’ve faced yet in Alola; it turns out that in the Aether Foundation, as in most organisations of the Pokémon world, a little skill with the Pokémon trainer’s art goes a long way towards maintaining authority and loyalty. Lusamine’s Pokémon are mostly species that are traditionally ‘feminine,’ beginning with a Clefable that tries its best to nuke my Decidueye with Metronome, but just ends up getting worn down by Steel Wing. Decidueye stays in to pummel her Mismagius with Sinister Arrow Raid, successfully banishing it to the aether but taking a nasty Shadow Ball hit in the process. Likewise, my Toucannon deals handily with Lusamine’s Lilligant but is in no shape to keep fighting after suffering the effects of Teeter Dance and Petal Dance. Against her Milotic, my Psychu scores a lucky critical hit with Discharge that paralyses it, easily finishing it off. Then out comes my nemesis, Alola’s darkest and most terrible Pokémon… BEWEAR. After a few moments spent cowering behind one of Lusamine’s cryo-tanks, I order my Psychu to attack it with Discharge… only for her to get slammed into the ground by a Take Down. With a terrified squeak, I send in my Golisopod, whose powerful chitinous armour allows her to weather Bewear’s blows and finish it with a Brick Break.
Meanwhile, Lusamine’s horrifying eldritch jellyfish is slowly retreating towards the collapsing Ultra Wormhole in the face of Gladion and Null’s assault, while Hau and his Primarina are holding their own against Guzma’s Bug-types. As she surveys the situation, Lusamine’s frustration reaches boiling point.
“Argh! Enough! How can you all be so awful!?” She takes a step back towards the wormhole. “Guzma, to me!” He obligingly breaks off his battle with Hau, recalls his Pokémon and rushes to her side.
“It’s over, mother!” Gladion calls. “Surrender!”
“I will do no such thing! I don’t care about any of you; all I want is my precious beast!” The wormhole flickers and distorts, and the Ultra Beast flickers in sync with it; whatever force summoned it from the void is fading. “We can catch it using the Foundation’s Beast Ball; come on!” With that, she gives a jaunty wave, turns her back on us, and leaps into the Ultra Wormhole. Guzma shrugs.
“In for a penny…” he decides, then jumps into the portal after her. In an instant, every trace of Guzma, Lusamine, the Ultra Beast and the wormhole are gone.
In the aftermath of the battle, we take stock of the situation. When Lillie releases Nebby from his confinement, he seems to have collapsed himself into some sort of inert disc-shaped form, presumably as a result of being drained by Lusamine’s exploitation of his power, and is completely unresponsive, to Lillie’s distress. She and Gladion both seem intent on pursuing their mother into hell, or wherever she’s gone.
“Um… why?” They respond with total silence. “If she wants to spend the rest of her life on the wrong side of the end of space-time with only a transdimensional demon and a dumb-as-bricks high school dropout for company, I say let her.”
“Even if she is… like that…” Gladion says hesitantly, “Lusamine is still our mother. We can’t just leave her in the beast’s world.”
“You totally can, though. I realise there’s some history to your relationship that I’m not privy to, but frankly there’s a couple of signs of $#!tty parenting that just kinda stick out.”
“Almost like how there are a couple of signs of having an evil plan to take over the world that ‘just kinda stick out’…” Gladion mutters.
“What was that?”
“Nothing.” He folds his arms. “Besides, what if we leave the Pres- that is… our mother… in the beasts’ world, and she finds some way to return with an army of Ultra Beasts? She could conquer the world if she can enslave those things!”
“She wouldn’t!” Lillie protests.
“Well, I think she might,” I suggest. “It does seem like she’s flipped her lid just a tiny bit.” Shock from Lillie, a death glare from Gladion. “What?”
Gladion thinks we’ll be able to follow Lusamine into hell if we can access the power of the Alolan legendary Pokémon that Lillie was researching in Malie City – Lunala. Lunala itself is probably an Ultra Beast with good PR, courtesy of the old rule that “history is written by the victors,” and at least as dangerous as anything Lusamine was trying to summon – and our plan is now to conjure it and request its help. Because this situation just isn’t nearly enough of a mess yet.
After spending the night at Aether Paradise, Lillie turns up the next morning outside Lusamine’s mansion with a new outfit and hairstyle. This probably symbolises, like, her determination to break with her past and become strong on her own, or some vague bull$#!t like that. She’s still dressed all in white, but has ditched her wide-brimmed hat, tied her hair in a ponytail, picked herself a new short skirt, and replaced the holdall where she used to conceal Nebby with a backpack, for an overall more adventurous aesthetic. She calls this her “Z-powered form.”
“My Z-powered form! Like, when you use your Z-power on a Pokémon and that changes its form?”
“That… wha-? No? No, Z-power doesn’t do that. It doesn’t work that way.” She looks crestfallen. “Are you maybe thinking of mega evolution? Mega evolution does that.”
At this point, Gladion finds us, and presents Lillie with an object he’s looted from Lusamine’s private stash of weird voodoo magic – an orange wooden flute, which he calls the Sun Flute. Together with its twin, the Moon Flute, said to be somewhere on Poni Island, it can supposedly be used to summon the legendary Pokémon whose help we are unwisely planning to beseech. Gladion also offers me and Lillie passage to Poni Island on an Aether Foundation ship, where he advises us to find and question the Poni Kahuna, the caretaker of the shrine where we can perform the summoning.
“But… what are you going to do, Gladion?” Lillie asks him.
“Deal with this mess,” he responds, with a vague sweeping gesture of his arm. “I’ve got to clean up Aether Paradise.”
“You?” I ask sceptically. Gladion has a lot of talents, but I’m not sure I can see him as the president of a conservation and eco-technology non-profit.
“It’s either me or Faba,” he says, unenthusiastically.
I just have one stop to make before we keep travelling.
Even if Lillie and I are both working to stop Lusamine, save her, or both, I’m still not sure I trust her. If I’m going to help her summon a legendary Pokémon capable of wreaking an age of eclipse upon Alola, I want my own damn legendary Pokémon in case things suddenly turn pear-shaped… and luckily, I know just where to find one: back on Ula’ula Island, just across the bay from Aether House.
When I present Left and Right with my Zygarde Cube – now containing enough cells to manifest Zygarde’s serpent form – they take it with reverence and begin chanting something ominous-sounding in Old Kalosian. Using their arcane devices, they assemble Zygarde’s body from its fragments, their chanting reaching fever pitch as its form coalesces. Addressing me as “Apostle of the World-Shaker,” they command me to take Zygarde and use it to crush the unbelievers of Alola in a final crusade of wrath and vengeance that will level the injustices of the world and bring perfect order to this sinful region. I make some vague, noncommittal mumbling noises and then slip out the door with Zygarde’s Pokéball while they’re not looking.
Zygarde is one of the most inscrutable Pokémon around. I still have no idea what it’s even doing in Alola, and its sense of justice, balance and order is a little alien to me. But I know one thing: the kind of chaos that the Ultra Wormholes and Ultra Beasts will bring to the region is anathema to Zygarde, and fighting other legendary Pokémon is what it was made for. In generation VI, its Aura Break ability was only useful against Xerneas and Yveltal, since they were the only Pokémon with Aura abilities, but here in Alola… I suspect, and have every intention of testing this suspicion, that the auras used by both the Totem Pokémon and the Ultra Beasts to increase their powers will also fall under Zygarde’s influence. Gladion thinks his weird-ass Pokémon is a beast killer? Wait until he sees my weird-ass Pokémon…
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
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
Genderless, Sassy nature, Aura Break ability
Safeguard, Stone Edge, Dragon Dance, Thousand Arrows