[Catch up on the story so far here!]
Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:
What do you want to investigate?
– Visit Lexa, then go looking for the Super Nerd
You decide that Mal and Ellie’s comments about a “weirdo” who hangs out at the mountain’s peak are the best thing to follow up, so you head over to the tent where they said their fossil conservator, Lexa, is busy working.
You step into the tent. Inside there are rows of low trestle tables covered in rocks, bones and stacks of wooden crates. The whole place stinks of some kind of resin.
“I’ve finished cleaning the big femur from square 7B,” says a voice from the back of the tent, and a young woman in a modern-looking motorised wheelchair appears from behind some of the crates. Her gaze is fixed on a clipboard held in a little gripper arm attached to one of the chair’s armrests, and she’s scribbling something with a ballpoint pen. “The ribcage is going to take a little longer; it was probably a mistake to separate the-” she stops suddenly as she looks up from her notes and realises that you aren’t Ellie or Mal. “Oh. Hello. What do you want?”
You surmise that this must be Lexa, the conservator, and introduce yourself. She just wrinkles her nose and writes something else on her clipboard.
“Yes, obviously I am,” she says, not even acknowledging the introduction. “What do you want? I have a lot of work to do.”
Taken aback, you stammer out your purpose for being here and ask about the “super nerd.”
“Miguel? Yes, he comes here sometimes to discuss his latest finds. Occasionally I help him administer a stabilising treatment. For someone without a formal science qualification, he has very some interesting ideas about niche diversification among Upper Carboniferous shellfish Pokémon. I like him because he doesn’t waste my time.” Lexa pointedly looks back down at her notes and starts writing again.
You cautiously voice the possibility that he might be the thief that has been plaguing the team, and she looks up sharply.
“Unlikely. Not because I trust him – he almost certainly has a criminal record – but he would have stolen fossils, not tools. Although… I suppose I can’t completely rule it out.” When you ask where to find him, Lexa taps her pen a few times against her lips, thinking. “He moves his camp around because he thinks someone is tracking him, but I think he’s stayed put for the last two weeks. Keep to the path up towards the peak, as far as the ledge with a big rock that looks like a Rhyhorn. Turn left, go past the first cave entrance and find the second. Maybe use that Ivysaur of yours to cut through some of the bushes,” she nods at Scallion, who grunts cheerfully in acknowledgement. “Oh, and shout the word ‘foraminifera’ before you go inside.” At your confused look, she clarifies: “Password. I would say that he’s being paranoid, but considering our own team’s present situation, perhaps a little paranoia is called for.”
You attempt to continue the conversation, asking for any information Lexa might have about local Pokémon or anything else that could be going on at Mount Moon, but she interrupts you.
“I’m a conservator. I clean, stabilise and preserve fossils. That is what I do. You’re a Pokémon trainer, you said? Go and… train Pokémon. Find Miguel, explore the area as much as you can before dark, set your Pokémon to guard the camp overnight. Investigate. Do Pokémon trainer things at this problem until it stops being a problem.” Lexa backs her wheelchair up and gently picks up a fossil from one of the work benches. “I am going to do conservator things at this fossil until it stops being a problem. I suggest we each stick to our respective lanes.” She takes a pencil and starts lightly marking lines on the fossil. After a few seconds, looking up and seeing that you’re still standing there, she flips the pencil around and points at the tent flap. “Out.”
If nothing else, Lexa’s directions are clear. The same old hiking trail that got you this far leads all the way to the top of Mount Moon – of course, at this point it’s little more than a dirt track winding through narrow gaps in the thorn bushes, with no markers to speak of, but there’s pretty much exactly one direction that could be described as “the path.” You’re worried at first that you won’t spot the “big rock that looks like a Rhyhorn,” but honestly the resemblance is uncanny – you even get Scallion to poke it with his vines a few times, to make sure it’s not a real Rhyhorn that’s just sleeping. You’re still not totally sure; like many Rock Pokémon, older ones can sleep so deep and so long that lichen starts to grow all over them. When you leave the path to head down an overgrown gully and get Scallion to start carving up the aggressive local foliage with his new Razor Leaf attack, even in the fading sunset light it’s not hard to spot the first cave entrance that Lexa mentioned. A few Zubat are already starting to flit out of their cave roosts and search for prey, but they give you a wide berth – at least for now. The trouble comes when you see the second cave mouth and attempt to shout the ‘password’ Lexa gave you.
Was it… foramera? Fomifera? Fora… for a mint enema?
Come on, kid, it’s a science word, you’re supposed to be the nerd here!
As you clumsily try to get the pronunciation right, thick brown smoke starts pouring out of the cave mouth. You start to back away, up towards the path, but the smoke is rising surprisingly fast and it’s not long before you have trouble seeing the uneven ground to keep your footing. Well, this is certainly a charming welcome. You’re trying to decide whether to just press through the smog or retreat and come back tomorrow, when you suddenly hear a voice cry out from somewhere up above you –
An instant later, a deafening explosion knocks you off your feet.
Your ears still ringing, you pick yourself up off the now soot-blackened limestone and try to look around. The smog has risen further and is stinging your eyes and throat, and you see that Scallion is down, so you quickly recall him to his Pokéball. You can’t see the culprit, but you heard the attack command and you know how Selfdestruct works, so at least you can be confident that the enemy Voltorb is going to be feeling that one in the morning. You need to fight back – fast.