[Catch up on the story so far here!]
Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:
What moves should Scallion focus on?
– Razor Leaf and Sleep Powder
What moves should Nancy keep?
– Thunder Wave and Helping Hand
Now that Scallion’s bigger and can’t lift his own weight on his Vine Whips, they’re not as useful; may as well go into Razor Leaf specialisation instead. He’ll still have the vines, obviously; they just won’t be as versatile or effective without continual practice. As for Sleep Powder, it’s not only great in battle, it’s so useful for pacifying wild Pokémon – or potentially even people, if you run into “Team Rocket” again – that you can hardly pass it up. Nancy, on the other hand, you think should stick to what she’s already good at. Thunder Wave is just a great disabling technique, and Helping Hand fits her cheerleader schtick too well to get rid of it. The other moves she could learn instead might be useful, but you don’t think she really has the temperament for trickery to master them.
But that’s quite enough dawdling. You tell Blue to recall his Pokémon so you can get moving – you need to pass through the next cave system and up onto the north slope so you can find the dig site. Remember that? Brock wanted you to… I dunno, fµ¢£in’ babysit some grad students or something? The afternoon goes pretty much the same way as the morning. There are slightly fewer Zubat as you head further up the mountain – further to fly to find prey at the mountain’s base, you suppose – and more Geodude, but nothing you haven’t learned how to handle very efficiently. You make it through the second tunnel without incident and start climbing up towards Mount Moon’s peak as the sun dips low in the sky. Even up here there are rudimentary trails – places where someone’s cut steps in the rock, or left beds of fine, even gravel to make life easier for climbers – and following those makes the going easy enough. Late in the afternoon, you idly kick a stone down the side of the mountain as you chat with Blue about your plans for your Pokémon’s development, and as the stone clatters down the slope, you hear someone give a startled yell.
“Wh-who’s there!?” a man’s voice calls out nervously. You shout back to identify yourself, and a young man and woman appear from behind a boulder, both wearing grubby, practical clothes covered in dust and sweat-soaked bandannas. Well, they certainly look like palaeontology grad students on a dig. You introduce yourself and Blue and ask whether they’re okay. The woman frowns.
“Look, you shouldn’t be here, but… we do need help. Are you alone up here?” You confirm that you don’t have anyone else with you, but explain that you’re here to look for them. You just get puzzled looks in return.
“Wait, Grant and June- that is, the- th-the Professors sent you? But you’re just kids,
what are you supposed to-?”
“We’re Pokémon trainers, numb-nuts,” Blue says. “Just let my friend give you a hand and you’ll be fine.” Oh, that’s nice; you guess you’ve been promoted to “friend” now. You explain that you aren’t working for the Professors exactly, but that Brock sent you on their behalf. The woman relaxes slightly, but the man just looks confused.
“Who the hell is Brock?” he demands, but his friend puts a hand on his shoulder to calm him down.
“It’s fine, Mal; he’s the Pewter City Gym Leader. He was at a couple of Grant’s seminars at the museum; spiky hair, kinda dark skin, he had that… that weird thing with his eyes? If he sent them, they’re legit.”
“…oh. Well. Fine then,” he says sheepishly.
“I’m Ellie Saddler,” the woman says, gesturing to herself, then to her friend. “This is Malcolm Ainscomb.”
“Mal,” he says with a weak smile. “Sorry, I’m… a bit on edge.”
“We all are,” Ellie says, apologetically. “Our camp site’s just around the corner; you should come and rest.”
The camp site is messy, but lively; you see four tents, a fire pit, a couple of folding tables strewn with rocks, hammers and chisels, a few crates. Six of Hazelwood and Hammond-Spruce’s doctoral students are here, apparently, but one is busy in the conservation tent and the others are a little further up the slope, doing some survey work (they should be back soon, according to Ellie). Ellie and Mal sit you down, offer you some water and sandwiches, and try to explain what’s been going on in the past week.
“It was just little things at first – a spare rock hammer, a brush, a protein bar from the snack box,” Ellie says. “We thought it must be wild Pokémon, or even just that we’d misplaced things, or miscounted how many we started with. But a few days ago, we tried to start up our magnetometer and realised someone had busted it open and yanked out the solenoid. When we tried to make our scheduled check-in with Pewter City, our radio was broken and half the pieces were missing.”
“Someone’s stealing from us, and they’re doing it specifically to screw with us.” You raise one eyebrow to ask for clarification. “None of our fossil finds are missing,” Mal explains. “They’re the most valuable things in the camp. I mean, obviously we don’t exactly leave them lying around in the open, but the radio was in the guys’ tent on the night the parts were taken and none of us heard anything.”
“Eoin said something about a weird dream…”
“Yeah but he ate, like, a whole wedge of Numel cheddar that night.”
So they think someone – or something – is taking their stuff, and now the thefts have cut off their communications. That explains why the Professors and Brock were concerned. Why haven’t they investigated themselves, or just left to get help at the Pokémon Centre?
“Ellie and Tim are the only ones with Pokémon, and they’re- um-” Mal seems to lose his train of thought and glances at Ellie.
“What Mal means is that Tim and I aren’t that strong. We trained our Pokémon to help with excavations, not for fighting. If we head further away from the path we’re… not completely sure we can handle whatever we find.”
“But because none of the rest of us are trainers, we can’t go down the mountain without them. And if they head down without us, we’ll be…” he gulps nervously. “Alone up here with whatever’s been stealing from us.”
“So why don’t you all leave?” Blue asks languidly, rolling his eyes.
“Are you kidding?” Mal shoots back. “We have six weeks in this dig season and we haven’t secured funding for next year yet! Every day we lose here is a day we might never get back!”
“Of course, if more of our food goes missing, we might not have any choice…” Ellie reflects sadly.
“We could have asked the weirdo for help, I guess,” Mal says, jerking his head the direction of the mountain’s peak. Ellie chuckles mirthlessly.
“Unless he’s the one taking everything.” You ask who they’re talking about. “This guy who hangs around up here at the top of Mount Moon,” Ellie explains. “Private fossil collector or something, but he’s really into survival too, and some… esoteric stuff. He’s been alone out here for…” She waves her hand and blows air out the corner of her mouth. “His name’s… Miguel, I think?” Mal shrugs.
“He wanders into the camp and talks to Lexa sometimes. Our conservator,” Mal nods towards one of the tents. We always thought he was harmless, but now…”
“He’s weird. Like, we’re all nerds, but he’s, like… a super nerd.”
Well, that’s one lead, you suppose. Seems like this Miguel guy is on decent terms with at least one member of the team, so it’d be odd if he were sabotaging them, especially if he’s a fossil collector and none of their fossils have been taken. He might know something, though, especially if he’s a keen survivalist. Or you could take a closer look at the scene of the crime(s) and see if the culprit left any clues.
“Could still be wild Pokémon,” Blue points out. “And, uh… I’m gonna be checking them out anyway, while you play detective or whatever. You can come along if you’re already bored with this.”
“Wait, aren’t you here to help us?” Ellie asks incredulously.
“Uh, no. This dweeb is here to help you; I’m here to train my Pokémon and chew bubblegum. And I’m all-” he sticks his hand in his pocket and fishes out something wrapped in shiny blue paper. “Oh, hey; I do have some left.” He unwraps the gum, pops it in his mouth and starts chewing, a big $#!t-eating grin on his face. “Smell ya later!” He saunters off towards the nearest cave mouth. Blue’s an ass, but you grudgingly admit he has a point – even if the wild Pokémon aren’t directly responsible for anything that’s happened at the dig site, any disruptions in their behaviour might point you towards the real culprit. So that’s a third possibility, you guess.