Leaving Castelia behind us, Jim and I take the north road towards Nimbasa City. We find Colress very quickly – it’s hard to miss him, in fact, since he’s waiting for us on the main road, next to… a line of rocks. Okay… so someone’s just… taken a bunch of perfectly cubical boulders and lined them up across the main road? That’s, um… why would someone do that? Game Freak, is this really how low you’re willing to stoop to keep us from travelling to Nimbasa City before battling with this guy? Ah, whatever. We approach Colress, who doesn’t notice us at first since he’s busy doing something on a laptop, but greets us excitedly when he looks up. He begs our patience as he finishes what he’s doing, and continues to type. As he does so, he explains offhandedly that the delicious candy he gave me in the last episode was laced with 50 microlitres of concentrated Science, which he is now using to track my position and monitor my interaction with my Pokémon.
The two-faced little-! How dare he! Does he know who I am?
Colress, apparently taken aback by my outburst, protests that actually he has no idea who I am; he just saw that my brother and I had some impressive Pokémon and wanted to study the way we worked with them. I will have none of this nonsense. I draw Barristan’s Pokéball from my belt and challenge Colress to a duel, a challenge which he accepts with a smile, as Jim settles down on one of the flat-topped boulders to watch. Colress’s Pokémon, Klink and Magnemite, both Steel-types, fall quickly before my Growlithe’s relentless fire, and I march up to Colress and demand compensation for being dosed with Science without my knowledge. Colress blinks twice as I glare at him, plays with his hair momentarily, thinking, and offers me another chocolate bar. It is as delicious as the last! As I eat it, Jim smacks his palm to his forehead and sighs, while Colress treats us both to a little exposition on his theories. Team Plasma, he notes, believe – or at least, believed two years ago, under N’s leadership – that Pokémon need to be separated from people if they are to fulfil their destinies and achieve perfection, since humans hold them back by subordinating them to our own goals. What Colress thinks is just the opposite – that it is through embracing life alongside humanity, not rejecting it, that Pokémon can attain their true potential. This is why he studies trainers – to understand how people can make Pokémon strong. And, he says as I finish my chocolate bar, he has a demonstration for us! He gestures to the rock Jim is sitting on, explaining that these are actually-
OH! They’re not random boulders that some jerk lined up in a row in the middle of the road; they’re a bunch of worn-out Crustle, too tired to move! That makes- wait, no, that still makes no f#$%ing sense, but what the heck, let’s go with it. There is no obvious way to move the Crustle, but Colress has a plan – use a device he has created that invigorates Pokémon! We are sceptical, but tell him to go ahead. Colress strikes a dramatic pose, points a remote at the Crustle, and, with a cry of “for science!” presses a button. Nothing happens. A ball of tumbleweed threatens to blow across the road, but Colress shoos it away. After about twenty seconds’ silence, I open my mouth to ask Colress what’s supposed to happen – and I am interrupted by a creaking noise, as Jim’s Crustle drags itself to its feet! The lumbering crustacean staggers momentarily under the weight of its great sandstone slab, but soon rights itself and wanders off into the desert – carrying a stunned and alarmed Jim along with it. One by one, its brothers and sisters follow, until eventually the road is completely clear. Colress triumphantly holds his device in the air and proclaims victory. I quietly wonder whether the Crustle might simply have gotten bored and wandered off, but decide not to voice my suspicions. Colress tells me that he is determined to keep up his studies and learn how humans can bring out the true strength of Pokémon. If only it were possible to get some idea of the Pokémon’s perspective on all this, he muses. If only there were a human who could talk to Pokémon… He leaves, heading off down the road to Nimbasa City, thinking out loud to himself.
So, Colress is suspicious. The man doesn’t seem to be aligned with Team Plasma in any direct sense, based on what he’s told us so far… but he was lurking in the Castelia sewers awfully close to a Team Plasma operation of some kind… and Jim later remarks that Colress remind him of N, in his intensity, his obsession with realising the true potential of Pokémon, and his determination to change the world by examining the relationship between humans and Pokémon, even though their beliefs seem to be polar opposites. And, most importantly, he was in the opening title sequence, so he must be significant. We’ve got our eye on this weirdo…
I look around and see no sign of Jim. The Crustle has already wandered too far while I’ve been talking to Colress. I reason that he can probably take care of himself, and decide to wait for him in Nimbasa City. There’s a Gym there, and various sundry amusements, and if nothing else the Skyarrow Bridge to Nacrene City is apparently closed for repairs, so it’s either this, or make a new life in Castelia City. I strike out northward, keen to close the distance in as little time as possible.
Route 4 has other ideas.
As I walk down the main road, I notice that route 4, once an uninviting desert littered with construction materials, has changed a great deal in the past two years. On the right side of the road, a forest of new development – tall buildings, some of them still under construction, and land being prepared for more. On the left side of the road, a huge archaeological excavation; dozens of ancient stone buildings have been unearthed from the desert sands, and the whole area is buzzing with both academics and tourists. And, as I continue to advance, I find the spot where the two have reached an impasse. Two men are standing in the road, wildly gesticulating at the two very different scenes. I am determined to ignore them and keep walking. One man, an immaculately dressed businessman, is waving at the shiny new buildings. I hear words like ‘progress,’ ‘future,’ ‘jobs,’ ‘economy,’ and ‘homes.’ Still not my problem. Walking on. The other man is a beardy academic in a home-made cardigan, and is pointing at the archaeological site behind him. I hear words like ‘culture,’ ‘understanding,’ ‘heritage,’ ‘irreplaceable,’ and ‘permanent.’ Walking… on. Still… not… my…
Something that you may know about me and Jim, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while and paying careful attention to my pearls of wisdom, is that we are both archaeology students.
As I near the two men, the fellow in the suit, evidently seeking to prove a point, gestures towards me and says something about young people and the voice of progress, suggesting that he and his opponent ask this random strangers what she thinks. The older man looks dejected, but assents, and they walk up to me to explain their situation. A huge new development planned for this area, with an immense amount of money tied up in the project already, was halted when the workers levelling the ground discovered an ancient stone wall, which quickly turned out to belong to just one building in an entire previously unknown city, thousands of years old. A team of archaeologists was called in to salvage as much as possible, but their leader is now arguing for the permanent preservation of the site from all further development. The tycoon funding a big part of the construction project says he understands the site’s importance, but it’s already been scanned and surveyed in detail, and the archaeologists have been over the place with a fine tooth comb. How can he be expected to forget about the whole project?
I adjust my clothes slightly to reveal the Pokéballs at my belt. I smile sweetly and explain to the businessman in sugared tones that I don’t know much about progress, but if I see so much as one of his construction workers set foot on that archaeological site, my fist is going to progress so far up his-
Meanwhile, Jim’s Crustle has come to a halt somewhere in the desert. He gingerly hops off, careful to avoid the sharp stony crags that litter this desert. The whole area is filled with half-finished buildings and abandoned construction equipment, none of which seems to bother the wild Pokémon one bit; they just keep playing amongst the rocks and the sand as they always do. There are no roads. No signs. Just a maze of rocks and construction sites, filled with Sandile. Jim sighs with exasperation. Who creates a new suburb without first designing and building a thorough road system? This is frightfully un-Roman. He calls Ulfric the Servine to his side, then picks a direction and starts walking, but quickly finds his path blocked by a stack of girders. He turns and picks another direction. Fleet of abandoned cranes. What irresponsible bunch of loons is in charge of this site? Suddenly, faintly, he hears a tortured scream in the distance, accompanied a girl’s voice spewing a raft of unprintable but highly imaginative curse words. He smiles and begins to clamber over and around the cranes.
“Good girl,” I tell Sansa, patting her on the head. Things had looked hairy for a moment when the developer had called over the workers he affectionately referred to as his ‘muscle,’ but Sansa and I had… explained to them, in a… a polite and concise manner, the cultural advantages of preserving the excavation site for future generations. We explained it twice, in case they didn’t understand all of our points the first time. Sansa’s debating skills have improved markedly since she learned Take Down. As I congratulate my Flaaffy and talk shop with the grateful director of the archaeological site, a nearby wall collapses as Ulfric’s Vine Whips tear apart its scaffolding, and Jim strolls out of the unfinished building.
“Did I miss anything?”