[Catch up on the story so far here!]
Which Pokémon do you turn to?
– Aura, the Beautifly
You need to do something about this smog before it chokes you – and hey, you’re a smart kid, you know exactly how to deal with that. You have a Flying Pokémon; time to use her. Aura appears from her Pokéball in a flash of light, and without even a word from you, she begins to flap her wings, using Gust to blow the clouds of choking, toxic smoke back into the cave it spewed out of.
Two things now happen at once. First, with the smog gone, your vision is now clear and you can see a squelching, purple goo-like Pokémon that you recognise as a Grimer, clearly trying to sneak up behind you using the heavy brown clouds as cover and just as clearly alarmed that it has now been exposed. Second, you hear a startled yelp from the ledge up above you, where the first enemy commands came from.
“No, no, no, my equipment! That gas is corrosive, you fool!”
You have just a moment to feel rather offended by that remark. This guy just tried to gas you! Who gives a flying Feebas about his equipment? You realise that the Grimer is taken aback as well; you can sense that it was expecting new orders and is unsure what to do now that its master seems preoccupied. You have a few seconds to capitalise on that confusion.
No time like the present, right? You have Aura swoop around behind the Grimer and fire off a focused Gust that dislodges its sticky “foot” from the hillside and sends it bowling further down towards the cave mouth. Before it can regain its balance, you tell her to blanket it with Stun Spore. The Grimer quivers as the golden powder takes hold, then slumps. Part of you wants to immediately stop and take a quick sketch or some notes on how its slimy body is behaving – do Grimer have “muscles,” and what do the paralysing spores do to them? What is the actual mechanism of the effect this attack produces on a Pokémon with an amorphous body of sludge? You wonder some weird things for a kid in the middle of a Pokémon battle, I gotta tell you. But you also realise that you need to bring this fight to a close. You tell Aura to fly up to the ledge and ready – but not release – another wave of Stun Spores. It’s kind of a bluff; you wouldn’t actually hit a defenceless person with a dangerous toxic powder like Stun Spore (…even one who just had his own Pokémon try to Smog you unprovoked). But he doesn’t know that.
“AHH! I-I-I-I-I I surrender!” You see a young man with long black hair step up to the edge of the rocks above you, his hands in the air. He calls down towards the cave mouth. “Koffing, stand down and come out!” A third Pokémon, with a purple sphere-shaped body covered in little vents, floats slowly out of the cave and hovers next to the Grimer. “What do you want? I-I won’t turn over my fossils to anyone; y-y-you’ll have to kill me!” Bird Jesus Christ, what is with this guy? You tell him – a little impatience coming through in your voice – that you just want to talk. Y’know, like you could have done in the first place if he hadn’t tried to gas you and blow you up. You don’t say that part, I guess because you’re a diplomatic little nerd, but you should.
You give your attacker – who, you’re now pretty sure, must be Miguel the “super nerd” – a few minutes to climb down to your position. For a moment you reach for Scallion’s Pokéball, thinking to help him down with Scallion’s vines, but then you remember that Scallion is unconscious because this little $#!t blew him up, and you’re just annoyed all over again. A little snappishly, you demand an explanation.
“The password! That password was for Lexa’s use only, and she would certainly have no reason to share it with someone who couldn’t pronounce palaeontological terms correctly!” Um, okay, that pronunciation snobbery is some weirdly elitist $#!t coming from a guy who lives in a cave with a sludge monster, a broken fog machine and a talking Pokéball. Apparently he’s paranoid and a gatekeeping jerk, but you restrain yourself from giving him an earful. He explains that his Voltorb’s potent electromagnetic senses had detected your approach well before you came within earshot of the cave, and he’d set up the ambush “just in case.” Miguel was already assuming the worst when you flubbed the password and he – perfectly reasonably, in his own twisted mind – deduced that you must have coerced or deceived Lexa in order to get close to him and steal his fossils. You patiently try to explain what you’ve been doing the past couple of hours, and-
Hang on. Why would he think someone was after his fossils?
Miguel looks around shiftily, then whips out a spyglass from the pocket of his long coat and quickly scopes out several positions both up and down the mountainside.
“The Enemy is watching,” he says through gritted teeth. He is silent for several seconds, continuing to look around nervously, then suddenly seems to come to a decision and ushers you towards his cave. Without recalling Aura, you cautiously proceed.
Miguel’s cave doesn’t look like the hideout of a raving lunatic – there’s a neatly made stretcher bed over by one wall, and a low folding table by the other, strewn with fossils at various stages of cleaning just like the ones you saw in Lexa’s tent, including two particularly complete and impressive-looking shellfish Pokémon specimens. You notice that this cave has an entry into the subterranean warrens within the mountain, but it’s far too small to be passable for humans. Miguel has hung a glowing phosphor lantern at the tunnel entrance, presumably to deter Zubat from entering or leaving through his camp. There’s also a pretty embroidered cloth laid out on the stone floor next to the lantern, with some berries neatly arranged in rows. Next to the fossil table is a messy pile of electronics, including what looks like an old and somewhat cannibalised radio, and it is this that Miguel directs your attention to.
“They’ve been closing in on me for weeks; ever since yesterday afternoon the chatter has been constant.” He pulls a tattered notebook from his coat pocket and flips it open, revealing pages of indecipherable scribbles and ink splatter. “I’ve cracked about half of the Enemy’s code words and they are definitely here to steal my fossils and return them to their dastardly masters.”
So, on the one hand, this guy is a loon. Also, he has a working radio that has clearly been hacked together from several mismatched parts, which immediately makes him a suspect for having stolen those parts – and maybe other things – from the dig team. On the other hand, he’s really preoccupied with his fossils, and you know that no fossils are missing from the excavation camp. You ask, trying to be tactful, whether he’s informed Lexa or her friends about any of this.
“Informed her? I can’t possibly leave my camp in a situation like this! We could be surrounded right now…” Miguel’s gaze involuntarily darts to the mouth of the cave. The sun has now well and truly set, and darkness is closing in. “And you’ve knocked out my Voltorb and Grimer! We’re practically defenceless!” You bite your tongue to keep yourself from spitting out a vindictive retort. “I tried to raise Lexa’s crew on the radio, but there was no response, and I didn’t dare try again in case the Enemy was listening. I suspect sabotage.” You don’t sense that he’s lying about that. He sincerely doesn’t know why Ellie and Mal didn’t respond to his transmission. If you’re any good at reading people (which… apparently you are, I guess???), that diminishes him as a suspect… and brings the possibility of a mysterious “Enemy” back into clearer focus. “Anyway, now that you’re here, you can go back and warn them yourself.” He turns his back to you and begins fiddling with the radio dials. The conversation is apparently over.
The night, however, has only just begun. Heading back down the mountainside in the dark would be dangerous, even along the fairly straightforward route you just took, although under the circumstances you think it might be worth the risk. The alternative is to spend the night here with Miguel – it’s not like he’s in any position to kick you out, especially if you offer to defend him from “the Enemy.” You suppose you could compromise – write a note explaining your new intel (…such as it is), give it to Aura and have her fly back down to the camp alone. You doubt there are any wild Pokémon out here that would pose a serious threat to her if she doesn’t go looking for trouble, but with Scallion down already you’re a little nervous about cutting your own team any further.