In comparison to the last six Gyms we’ve visited, the Humilau City Gym is an extremely laid-back place. No one tries to blow me through a wall… or crush me between two giant statues… or wrap me in a silken coffin. Jim and I are permitted to drift gracefully and calmly across Marlon’s huge indoor swimming pool, borne on huge lilypads, our reverie broken only by such trainers as we deign to battle. If nothing else, Marlon at least knows how to treat his challengers with a bit of good, honest respect. I quickly find, unsurprisingly, that my Sawsbuck, Bran, is going to be the star of this show, with a little backup from my Ampharos, Sansa. Jim, likewise, has Ulfric the Serperior and his own Ampharos, Elisif, to cut a swath through the Gym. Although they are admittedly quite strong, the Gym trainers fall very quickly to our onslaught of super-effective attacks. We barely break a sweat on our way to Marlon. He battles me first. Bran, unsurprisingly, crushes the Carracosta Marlon opens with, and goes on to heal himself almost effortlessly by draining the great sack of HP that is Marlon’s Wailord with his Horn Leech. Marlon’s partner Pokémon, Jellicent, proves to be made of sterner stuff, and I am forced to recall Bran when his Horn Leech attack is locked down by Cursed Body. Now weakened, though, Jellicent is no match for Sansa’s Discharge. Marlon congratulates me and hands over my Wave Badge before turning to Jim and saying that his Pokémon need time to “chill” before another match, “fo’ reals.” How long? Oh, a couple of days, maybe a week. Apparently it is not proper for one to “rush the chillaxation, yo’,” as it is an important part of Marlon’s training regimen. Or something. Jim groans with exasperation, produces a bag of Revive crystals and Hyper Potions, and patches up Marlon’s three Pokémon before demanding a battle. Marlon says something about “keepin’ it fo’ reezy” or… oh, who am I kidding? I’d long since stopped paying attention by this point. I settle down on a lilypad to watch Jim’s battle, which is even more of a walkover than mine was, Ulfric’s Coil technique boosting the power of his Leaf Blade to obscene levels and giving Marlon’s Water Pokémon no chance to respond. Once defeated a second time, Marlon promptly backflips into the water and swims out of the Gym, presumably to go and ‘chill’ somewhere.
Hugh is delighted that we have earned our Wave Badges – only now, apparently, can we get on with our urgent business. He dispatches me and Jim to check out route 22, west of Humilau City (which Jim, of course, never quite got around to) while he sweeps the southern areas. At this point, Marlon shows up with an interjection. He’s certainly easy enough to find when he wants to interfere… Marlon, unlike every other Gym Leader in the region, not only hasn’t even heard of Team Plasma but has no opinion on their actions one way or the other, because “the ocean accepts all rivers, brah.” Jim points out, somewhat indignantly, that Team Plasma’s past actions, and indeed their entire raison d’être, are pretty much the exact antithesis of the philosophy Marlon seems to be pushing here. The Gym Leader is unconcerned, and wanders off to return to whatever vaguely-specified activity he had been busy with earlier.
Jim and I head for route 22, a wilderness area with paths so convoluted it could hardly be more confusing if it had been designed as a maze. We find no sign of Team Plasma as we search the area. If their ship was here, it’s gone now. I doubt it could have landed anyway; the terrain is so uneven that it would be just about impossible. Just as we are about to give up and go back to Humilau City, though, we find something much more interesting: the legendary Pokémon Terrakion, waiting for us on a plateau. Images flash inside my head: Cobalion, Terrakion and Virizion, together, a blade crashing down on the heads of our enemies.
“What are you waiting for? Catch it.”
Colress is standing behind us. He explains that, as far as he can tell, Terrakion wants to fight Team Plasma alongside Cobalion and Virizion, and is here to test us to see if we deserve his assistance. I shrug and call out Jaime, my Samurott. If this big ugly git wants a swordfight, we’ll give him one. Terrakion has centuries of experience on Jaime, but Water-beats-Rock is a truism as old as the ocean itself. Jaime’s Razor Shell brings Terrakion to his knees, and a barrage of Ultra Balls seals his fate. I turn back to Jim and Colress. Colress applauds enthusiastically, and declares that he has a reward for us – a prototype of the machine he used outside of Castelia City to awaken the Crustle blockade. He hands me a small remote with a big green button on it, beaming proudly. It has not been proven to have any effect at all on Pokémon in battle, Colress notes, but he’s sure I’ll find some use for it. I am about to fire off a snarky comment, but remember the suspicious square boulder in the Seaside Cave, and thank Colress for his gift. Satisfied, he departs, leaving me and Jim to our business. I tell Jim to stay on Route 22 and do one more sweep of the area while I check out the Seaside Cave. Were this any other game, it would probably be nothing, but since this is Pokémon and Nintendo we’re dealing with, there is an extremely high likelihood that the square boulder is a Crustle, and that it is sitting exactly where we need to be.
When I reach the Seaside Cave, I retrace my steps and find the east exit where the great sandstone boulder is still waiting patiently to be cleared. I squint at the remote Colress gave me. He provided no instructions, but the interface seems simple enough: push the big green button. With a dramatic flourish, I point the remote at the boulder and press it. The remote begins to emit a hum, which quickly rises to a high-pitched whine. Nothing happens to the rock. The remote then starts sparking and giving off choking black smoke, which prompts me to drop it. It hits the ground and quietly explodes. I bend over and peer at the remote’s remains, raising an eyebrow. My confidence in Colress’ technology has taken a serious hit. Suddenly, though, I feel the ground tremble ever so slightly. I look up to see the huge Crustle slowly, tortuously getting to its feet. It chitters to itself gently before waddling away. The way is now open. I silently question whether the remote did anything or the Crustle simply woke up on its own, but decide it doesn’t matter. Now that I can get through the cave exit, I can clearly see the Team Plasma frigate sitting calmly in the water just off the beach. I punch Jim’s number into my X-Transceiver and tell him to get down here, then step out of the cave to take a closer look. The first thing I notice is that, this time, the ship’s occupants have remembered to pull up the gangplank. Hmm. Well, I suppose I could just Dragon Pulse my way in. This ain’t my ship, what do I care? Then again, that would attract a lot of attention, and I should probably at least try to- wait, no, I don’t give a $#!^ who sees me; I’m Princess Motherf#$%ing Leia, I’m taking these morons down, and I don’t care who knows. Dragon Pulse it is.
As I deliberate on the problem, Marlon backflips out of the water and greets me. I give him a sarcastic “sup, yo.” Marlon is here, apparently, to repeat what he told me and Jim back in Humilau City – that, like him, I need to be open and accepting of all peoples and creeds, which is why he doesn’t want to fight Team Plasma. After all, they’re probably perfectly nice guys, deep down. I tap my foot on the sand, waiting for him to get to the point. On the other hand, Marlon continues, I clearly need a hand here, so he’s just going to help me out a little bit and then be on his way. He leaps back into the water, swims back out to the ship, does some sort of spider-climb up its side, hops over onto the deck, slides out the gangplank, and flips back over the side into the water. He gives me a jaunty wave, tells me to “keep it real, yo” and swims off.
Y’know, Marlon, there’s a difference between a philosophical commitment to balance and neutrality, and plain old indecisiveness. What you are doing is definitely the latter. Thanks for the assist though.
Anyway. Jaime, Sansa, Tyrion, Barristan, Daenerys, Bran… come on out, everyone. Time to storm this b!tch.