This episode of Generations features Team Plasma’s assault on Opelucid City from the second half of Black and White 2, in which the city is frozen by blasts from their flying ship’s Kyurem-powered cannons. It’s another one of those episodes that is basically showing us something we’ve already seen and know about, but manages to make it just that little bit more evocative through the cartoon medium than the games could originally manage.Continue reading “Pokémon Generations: Episode 14”
I sit in a picturesque little restaurant overlooking Undella Bay, surrounded by the smell of the salt breeze, the sound of chattering holidaymakers, and the warmth of the sun. I tap my pencil against the table, musing over a passage of the letter I am drafting on the back of a menu.
“…and furthermore,” it reads, “I cannot imagine what possessed you to hide something as basic as a difficulty setting behind something as ——- as the key system, nor who you imagined would use an ‘easy mode’ unlocked only by completing the game; this all but undoes the admittedly excellent work you have done in presenting these options in the first place, especially for players of Black 2, and serves no readily discernible purpose. And another thing…”
Uncooperative? Needlessly complicated? Demented? I chew the end of my pencil and gesture to a waiter for another glass of water. I’ve been here for nearly an hour and have ordered only a small tasting plate, which I have long since finished. I suspect the staff are growing tired of my presence. Hopefully I won’t have to keep them waiting much longer.
Byzantine! That’s the word I wanted. I continue to scribble away on my menu.
“Sorry I’m late. I was held up by some old friends; apparently their trust in me is not what it once was.” I look up from my menu to see Zinzolin, dressed in his faded old silk robes, standing by my table. I stand up to be polite, and shake his hand before inviting him to join me. “How are you?” he asks as he sits down. “And your brother? Where is he?”
“Jim? I’m surprised you haven’t been keeping tabs on him. After we tied everything up at the Giant Chasm, he just kept going. Fought at the Pokémon League and everything. His battle with the dragon girl was spectacular. Everything’s still all hush-hush now, but,” I lean across the table and whisper conspiratorially, “they’re making him the new Champion. And I have his ear.” I sit back, smugly. “We’re already planning some major reforms in policy, regulations, and power structure. Not as dramatic as your plans, I admit, and it might take a while to win over the rest of the League, but we made a lot of friends on our travels. Clay will back us on just about anything, if we allow a few choice concessions to the Driftveil Tournament, and I think beating the snot out of your guys has won Cheren over to our side permanently.” I hesitate. “Er… avoid mentioning this meeting to him, would you?”
“Good, good. Where was I? Oh, yes. Iris is something of an unknown quantity. She respects Jim, certainly, but… she was a very conservative Champion. Very much preferred to run things on a personal level; no sweeping reforms. So was Alder, come to that, but Jim’s working on him.”
“Oh? How so?”
“Alder’s kind of a recluse these days. Spends most of his time at home in Floccesy Town. These days, his voice in the Pokémon League is his grandson, Benga.” Zinzolin suppresses a slight groan.
“…you mean now there are two of him?”
“You have no idea.” I’d met Benga. ‘Chip off the old block’ is an understatement. “Benga’s old school, like his grandfather. He’s all about endurance. You’d like him,” I suggest, cheekily. Zinzolin snorts. “He’s taken over one of the skyscrapers in Black City and set it up as the ultimate test of a Pokémon trainer’s ability to persevere in the face of hardship. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of elite trainers, battling from dawn ‘til dusk. That’s where Jim is now. Win over Benga as a friend, and maybe do him a couple of favours popularising this new battle club of his, and we’ll be halfway to gaining his support for our reforms.”
“My, my. Busy indeed,” Zinzolin comments, bemused. “And what have you been doing? Not at your brother’s side, clearly.” I sigh.
“I’ve… been wandering a bit. Exploring Unova. Fought some legendary Pokémon here and there. Got my ass handed to me a few times. I was hoping for allies, to be honest, but that hasn’t panned out so far, even though Unova’s practically hosting a legendary Pokémon convention these days. The lake guardians are here, all the way from Sinnoh, but I think they might be more interested in watching events unfold. They certainly didn’t take kindly to my intrusion. A Latias and a Latios showed up outside Striaton City; lord only knows what they’re up to, the inscrutable bastards. There’s even a Regirock waking up beneath Twist Mountain. I think there’s a whole triad down there, but I haven’t been able to translate all of the inscriptions or open all of the tombs yet.” I shrug. “It seems like everywhere I turn, there are more powers with their eyes on Unova, and I have no idea what any of them intend.” Zinzolin waits patiently. “I don’t like not knowing,” I add petulantly. “I ran into the rest of Team Plasma, too.”
“Oh, yes?” Zinzolin seems to be holding back a chuckle. I ignore his levity.
“Most of them are still with Colress on the frigate. Last I checked, they’re docked outside of Nuvema Town, optimising the solar panels so the ship can fly again without its power core. Colress plans to continue his research, of course, but the rest of them have no idea what they’re going to do. I advised them to contact Rood and try to reunite Team Plasma. Together, and without Ghetsis’ influence, they might actually be able to achieve some good for once.” Zinzolin continues to look sceptical. “You know, you could join them again, if you wanted. They could use some guidance.” Zinzolin gives a dismissive snort.
“They are weak. They remain loyal to the scientist for the same reason that they remained loyal to Lord Ghetsis: because they can conceive of nothing else. They feel they have no place in this world, and fear the struggles they would face if they attempted to carve one out, so they cling to the only place they have ever been accepted. Colress rules through fear, whether he knows it or not.” He looks me in the eye, a hint of ice in his gaze. “You would be wise not to think of that one as an ally. This quest of yours to reform Unova… he and his technology may support you for a time, but his devotion to his grand experiments makes him… unpredictable. As Lord Ghetsis discovered, to his cost.”
“Ghetsis didn’t understand Colress. I do. I can work with him. As I can work with you.” Zinzolin gives a hint of a shrug, silently letting the matter drop. I shake my head and press on. “Speaking of Ghetsis… I didn’t invite you here just to swap stories; there are some things I still don’t understand. Things I need to get straight in my head. I was hoping you could help me sort some of it out.”
“Well, I can’t promise I’ll be able to help you. If you want to talk, though, you’ve earned that. Ask your questions.” I lean forward over the table.
“Why did Ghetsis do it?” Zinzolin raises an eyebrow. “I mean… all of it. Why conquer Unova? Why manipulate N, and you and the other sages? Why try to control Reshiram, Zekrom and Kyurem? Why separate humans from Pokémon? Why any of it?”
“Because it was in his nature.” I say nothing and stare at him, giving a little ‘go on’ wave with my hand. “Lord Ghetsis was a rare thing, and exquisite in his own way,” Zinzolin continues; “a brilliant mind given over absolutely to one singular purpose. Through life, we change our world, but the world changes us as well. For most of us, the ideal world seems impossible, so we agree to compromise, and let the truth of what is dull our dreams of what might be. Some, though… some cannot bear to compromise. It is easier for them to change reality than to accept it. History may remember them as ‘heroes’ or ‘villains;’ in the end there is no difference. This is what Lord Ghetsis was. He believed he was born to rule. This is nothing unusual; however, most men would quickly be subdued by the impossibility of that vision. His vision could not be denied.”
“That’s what he showed to Kyurem, isn’t it?” The words form a question, but my own voice is already answering it. Ghetsis had given me and Jim a brief, partial explanation at the Giant Chasm. “That’s how he mastered it. Its soul was empty, and he filled it with his own ambition. But if Ghetsis could do that to Kyurem, if his ambition was that powerful, why did he ever need N? Why didn’t he try to control Reshiram himself two years ago? She and Zekrom are just as amoral as Kyurem, aren’t they? They didn’t care about the sides they took; only the heroes’ devotion to their causes mattered to them.”
“Zekrom and Reshiram are like Kyurem, it is true,” Zinzolin replies, speaking slowly as he thinks through his answer. “They respect willpower, the drive to bring about change, and are shaped by it into an instrument of the wielder’s choosing. Zekrom and Reshiram, though… partnership is in their souls. They could never separate humans and Pokémon, because they, more than any of us, need partners to feel whole. That is why Lord N’s resolve was twisted by Reshiram just as it shaped her, and he abandoned us. Lord Ghetsis… his will would not be shaped. He could not use them. It was only later that he discovered Kyurem, and realised how unnecessary it had all been.” I frown, remembering my own battle with Ghetsis’ monster.
“But Kyurem was nothing,” I object. “My Samurott crushed it. Ghetsis would have been better off sticking with the frigate.” Zinzolin smiles slyly.
“You never battled Kyurem,” he tells me. I open my mouth to demand that he stop speaking in riddles, before I realise what he’s saying.
“I battled that… thing; that fusion of Kyurem and Reshiram. But wasn’t it stronger than Kyurem on its own would have been? Wasn’t that the whole point?” Zinzolin sighs.
“I believe Lord Ghetsis may have… miscalculated. Kyurem’s power was incredible. I know it firsthand, as do you. The attack on Opelucid City is proof of this. I also know that, only minutes after becoming one with Reshiram, it was defeated ignominiously by a mere child-”
“-partnered with a perfectly mundane Pokémon. I can see only one explanation.” I beat down my injured pride and understand what Zinzolin seems to be getting at.
“You think the fusion weakened Kyurem.”
“Oh, I am certain its body was vastly improved, in every way a common trainer would consider important. But we did not anticipate the weakening of its spirit. In that fusion, Lord Ghetsis’ ambition was tainted by the weakness and sentimentality of Reshiram’s affection for Lord N, and by a need for partnership, for equality, that Lord Ghetsis could never satisfy. It changed Kyurem’s basic nature, from an embodiment of his pure, undiluted will, into a…” he pauses.
“…a living being with hopes and dreams?”
“Exactly,” Zinzolin says with undisguised disdain. I turn this information over in my mind.
“So if you’re right, someone who understood Reshiram and earned her partnership… a person like that could join Kyurem and Reshiram properly?”
“Perhaps. Kyurem would become a vessel for the truth forged by the hero. But Reshiram’s hero is Lord N, and where he walks…” Zinzolin turns up his palms in a gesture of ignorance. I recall my recent visit to the haunting, silent ruins of N’s castle, beneath Victory Road, and the offer made to me there by N and Reshiram. I keep my expression neutral, though, and say nothing. Zinzolin might be a friend, of sorts, but ‘trust’ would be a very strong word to describe our relationship. I take the opportunity to change the subject.
“I don’t think you ever told me what you thought about N’s part in all this. Who is he, to you?” Zinzolin seems hesitant to say anything at all.
“In public… in public Lord Ghetsis spoke of him as the saviour, the only one who could lead Pokémon out of the night. Behind closed doors… there, the facade was thinner, but still, none of us could tell what he really thought.”
“At the chasm, he called N… a freak, I think he said; a freak without a human heart.”
“He may have been right. Lord N’s body and mind were human; of his soul, I have doubts.” Part of me wants to contest this, but I let it slide.
“Could he really talk to Pokémon?”
“Oh, yes. That much is beyond doubt. Some of us… the Seven Sages, that is… some of us believed he was a harbinger of the next stage of human evolution, others that he was a throwback to the days of myth, when humans and Pokémon lived as one. One of us thought he must have been sent by some great legendary Pokémon as our messiah. The rank and file called him ‘child of the Pokémon’ – they adored him, of course. I do not know what he was, though I would be very much surprised if any of those things turned out to be true.”
“He said something, when we were at the Giant Chasm. Something that’s been bugging me.” Understatement of the century. I recite N’s parting words: “By being with Pokémon, humans can continue toward new horizons. By being with humans, Pokémon can exhibit their true power. That’s what Reshiram taught me: the truth for Pokémon and me. And someday both truth and ideals will come together… Then Pokémon and humans will be freed from the oppression of Pokéballs.” Zinzolin’s brow furrows at that.
“Lord N said that? Those exact words?”
“I don’t think I could forget them if I tried.”
“Perhaps he hasn’t changed as much as we thought, then. We all believed that Lord N had given up trying to rewrite the relationship between Pokémon and humans, but perhaps he still has ‘Pokémon Liberation’ of a different sort in mind. I wonder where Rood would be today, if we had known that two years ago?” Zinzolin chuckles.
“What he said, though… the ‘oppression of Pokéballs.’ For N to say that, still, after everything he’s seen and done… do Pokémon really suffer when we capture them?”
“Of course they do. Do not delude yourself by imagining otherwise; it is beneath you.” I blink, surprised by the backhanded compliment. “Pokémon joined with human trainers are torn from their homes and communities, and called to devote their lives to fighting and growing stronger. How many humans in today’s world can say the same?”
“So is that why you joined Team Plasma in the first place? To… free Pokémon from oppression?” I mean… sure, I can respect that, but it’s not what I was expecting from Zinzolin.
“Did you understand nothing of what Lord N said?” he asks, clicking his tongue in rebuke. “I joined Team Plasma to free humanity from oppression. Battle, struggle and suffering are the path to growth. By relying on Pokémon for everything, our society has brought itself to stagnation and weakness. We have cut ourselves off from evolution.” Yeah, okay, that sounds more like it.
“But we achieve so much working together!” I exclaim.
“We?” Zinzolin asks, his gaze flickering downward, to where my fingers are instinctively tapping on my Pokéballs. “Or they?” I blink.
“I… will give this some thought.” I fall silent. Zinzolin studies my facial expression for a while. A waiter comes by and refills our water jug.
“If that is enough philosophy for one day,” Zinzolin suggests, “perhaps I can catch your interest with another proposal. You do not seem to have been in any great hurry these past few weeks. I take it your brother can do without you a while longer?” I cock my head.
“There is a ruin, not far from Undella Town. Beneath this very bay, in fact,” he says, gesturing with one arm. “A product of that same civilisation that built the Desert Resort, the Dragonspiral Tower, and so much more. That same civilisation that fell when Reshiram and Zekrom last clashed. You fancy yourself an archaeologist, do you not?” I open my mouth to speak, but Zinzolin cuts me off. “Now, now, I know what you will say – you cannot commit to so great a project. But perhaps this will convince you.” He seems confident of this. “Contrary to what you may believe, my faith in Lord Ghetsis was never entirely blind. I made something of a point of tracking his movements – difficult, of course, but far from impossible. He visited this site with some regularity throughout our… career. Even during his time in exile, I believe he continued to do so, though it is hard to be certain, since he normally moved from place to place with the aid of the Shadow Triad. More importantly…” he withdraws a hefty binder from within his voluminous purple robes, “my lord’s papers, which are now in my possession, contained extensive notes on his attempts to translate the inscriptions below.” He places the binder between us on the table. “Please, discuss this with me further. No need to commit to anything just yet.”
I glance out at the sea. The sun is setting over the waves, but I have nowhere to be.
“Shall we order? I’m starving.”
We touch down outside the route 22 entrance to the cave network that leads into the Giant Chasm. Jim, Hugh and I sneak inside and prepare for a surprise attack on the two Team Plasma guards within, but are cut short when a third grunt approaches to tell them that they’re being relieved – it’s time for everyone to gather in the crater forest. The third grunt turns out to be our old friend, Rood’s spy. In recognition of the minor service he has performed for us, Hugh refrains from crushing him like a bug, and actually seems almost apologetic. I think he may have finally learned to distinguish between the two factions of Team Plasma; he even expresses a belief that justice for Rood’s group will never be possible as long as the loyalists’ actions continue to tarnish the name of Team Plasma. The agent thanks him for his understanding, and regretfully explains that he must leave us, as he still has more to do.
The cave network is twisted and confusing, but small, and we easily find our way into the Giant Chasm. As we step, blinking, back into the light and feel the still, frigid air on our faces, we see that Cheren was right about the frigate’s destination – the great ship has landed in the middle of the crater forest. Many Team Plasma members are already outside, apparently standing guard near the cave exit. To our surprise, Rood is there as well, standing opposite them with a couple of ex-Plasma grunts. Rood seems to be trying to explain to them that Ghetsis is evil and has no interest in liberating Pokémon at all. That’s… strange. I thought everyone already knew that. Some of the loyalists still believe that their real mission is to free Pokémon from human oppression? I know that many of them have given up the pretence completely; these guys are either lying or deluded. They refuse to believe anything Rood says, denouncing him as a traitor. Hugh calls on Rood and his attendants to fight, asking them why they even have Pokémon with them if not to protect the things they value. “Even if your precious Pokémon get hurt,” he exhorts them, “even if your ideals get damaged, the time to fight is NOW!” Wait- hang on, Hugh, aren’t their ideals the things that they’d be fighting to protect? And aren’t their ideals all about protecting Pokémon? And, for that matter, aren’t their Pokémon the ones they originally stole and are now trying to earn forgiveness from? And- oh, what the hell. At least he’s learned to exercise a little discrimination in his rage-unleashing; there’ll be plenty of time to get him started on philosophy later. His rallying cry seems to have worked, at any rate. Rood and his allies call out their Pokémon and prepare to fight, sending the three of us on ahead to invade the frigate once more while he keeps his former friends occupied. As we leave, he calls out to Hugh, telling him that the Purrloin he’s looking for is likely to be in the hands of the Shadow Triad. His commitment renewed, Hugh charges off towards the ship, Jim and I following cautiously behind.
The entrance to the ship is unguarded, and we quickly gain entrance. Jim and I almost immediately lose track of Hugh, who has begun another rage spree in his search for the Shadow Triad. We find a warp panel that takes us into the lower levels of the ship, and are immediately confronted by another force field, this one controlled by a series of switches protected by a warp panel maze. How the hell does anyone get anything done on this ship? More to the point, who’s designing this stuff? The Pokémon world’s security companies must be staffed entirely by ADHD schizophrenics. Jim and I split up, and manage to fight our way through the handful of Team Plasma guards remaining on the ship to flip the four switches. We meet up again at the deactivated force field and advance. Directly in front of us is the huge machine we saw from the balcony above the last time we were here – the ship’s heart, with Kyurem waiting inside. Zinzolin appears for one final gesture of futility. I convince him that there’s no point in fighting; he can’t beat either of us alone, so he’ll certainly never have a chance against both of us together. He gives us a strange piece of advice, “as long as you are dreaming, the dream will never reveal itself to you,” (either Zinzolin is still my superior in philosophy, or he’s spouting cryptic nonsense in order to confuse us – possibly both) and tells us that, although Kyurem’s prison is indestructible, we can go on to fight Team Plasma’s leader by taking the warp panel to our right. With a resigned shrug, we ready ourselves to take on Ghetsis. We remember the bastard from the original Black and White, and we aren’t about to be caught unawares. Satisfied that our Pokémon are in order, we step onto the panel and find ourselves in a spacious control room at the ship’s prow. Standing at the front, behind a desk packed with complicated-looking control panels, is-
Ah hah! I knew it! Colress was really Ghetsis all along! I- wait, no, that makes no f#$%ing sense. Colress, why don’t you tell us what you’re doing here?
For Colress, all of this is, and has always been, about how Pokémon can become more powerful. N believed that humans suppressed the true strength of Pokémon, and that only separating the world into black and white could ever allow Pokémon to achieve perfection. N, of course, recanted his views after the events of Black and White, proving to Colress’ satisfaction that the way forward was for humans to bring out the true strength of Pokémon, but there was still a question to be answered: was this to be done through hard science or through emotion? When Colress’ old friend Ghetsis asked him to help orchestrate Team Plasma’s new operations in Unova, Colress decided to take advantage of the whole thing to set up an experiment. He designed all of Team Plasma’s new technology for Ghetsis, including the great flying frigate and its Nevermeltice cannon, along with a host of other devices, to try to bring out the power of Team Plasma’s Pokémon (particularly Kyurem). Unlike Zinzolin, he has no particular desire to see human civilisation destroyed, but would consider it a reasonable sacrifice, if that’s what it will take to see the ultimate strength of Pokémon realised at last. Meanwhile, he would encourage trainers like me and Jim to grow, work with our Pokémon, bring out their power through trust and love, and challenge Team Plasma. The Team Plasma loyalists who still worked for Ghetsis made the perfect control group, since they were, almost without exception, appalling trainers with only the barest shreds of empathy. We, it seems, have shown the potential of our approach at almost every turn. Like a good scientist should always be, Colress is as happy to be proven wrong as right. Our conflict with Team Plasma, he thinks, will decide the fate of the relationship between all Pokémon and humanity – Pokémon must always grow towards their true potential, whether the path is through Ghetsis’ cold technology or our empathy. He just has one final experiment to run: one last battle.
While Jim and his Pokémon team engage Colress’ powerful Steel-types in battle, I attempt to take on Colress himself in debate. I admit that I admire his dedication to the basic principles of science – his willingness to put his beliefs on the line and let his worldview be dictated only by hard evidence – but question how he can condone giving such power to a group like Team Plasma, effectively a terrorist organisation. How could his experiment be worth risking our entire civilisation? Colress replies that it was no risk at all. Ghetsis and N’s actions two years ago have revealed that both the justice and the utility of our relationship with all Pokémon are in question, and the nature of that relationship pervades every aspect of our society. If Team Plasma wins, if Pokémon truly can reach their potential more effectively through Ghetsis’ philosophies, then what authority is there left in civilisation? What can we trust is not holding us back? Better to take away everything, let our new relationship with Pokémon be decided from scratch, and to the victor go the spoils. But, I challenge him, how can a contest of brute force be allowed to have such authority? Colress chuckles at that. Surely I know better, he asks. Pokémon become more powerful as they grow, everyone knows that, but that’s hardly all there is to it. As a Pokémon’s physical strength waxes, so do its self-awareness, its understanding of its own powers, its ambition and ability to plan, even its personal charisma. This isn’t about Pokémon becoming better at battles – this, just as N always said, is about Pokémon becoming perfect beings. I concede his point on principle, but remind him that the relationships between all of these factors are still very poorly understood, in spite of recent advances in the field, and that any sweeping conclusions must remain highly contentious, especially in the case of species which do not exhibit Pokémon evolution. I suggest a complete survey of all relevant studies to date, with a thorough examination of the data and a critical review of all current methodological approaches. Colress agrees enthusiastically, and offers to mail me a copy of his research notes and a detailed bibliography. There’s totally a PhD thesis in this for me. At this point, we are interrupted by a deafening metallic clang as Colress’ Magnezone crashes to the floor. Colress claps his hands together excitedly. Jim’s Pokémon, again, have proven far more powerful than his. He congratulates us both on our strength and returns to his control panels. Tapping a few buttons, he casually explains that he is unlocking the warp panel that will lead us to Ghetsis’ office, then sends us off with a jaunty wave.
With only a bare handful of grunts on deck, my Pokémon and I manage to force our way onto the Team Plasma frigate without much trouble. Jim and Hugh arrive just as my Ampharos is tossing the minions overboard. Together, the three of us march into the ship’s forecastle, our Pokémon swarming around us. Tragically, our dramatic entrance is stymied by a Team Plasma security device: a crackling blue force field.
Oh, okay, I remember how to handle these things; we have to find the ‘off’ switches in the rubbish bins, and- wait, there are no rubbish bins. Damnit; what kind of power-crazed madman designed this place!?
Inspection reveals that the force field is controlled by a keypad. We need to input the correct passphrase if we want to get inside and confront Team Plasma’s leaders. I momentarily regret ordering Sansa to throw the first batch of grunts off the ship without first torturing them for information. I instruct Hugh to guard the force field while Jim and I find someone to interrogate, but Hugh is having none of that. He still has rage to unleash today. He tears off towards the rear of the ship, looking for a way down below the deck. I follow him, glancing back at Jim with a helpless shrug. I catch up with Hugh as he barrels down the stairs only two steps behind his Emboar, who lands with a sickening crunch on top of an unfortunate Team Plasma grunt waiting at the bottom. Hugh is beginning some kind of rage-related threat when the grunt splutters a plea for mercy. He is, he claims, a spy for Rood’s splinter group, keeping watch on the movements of Ghetsis’ loyalists in order to help thwart their mischief. Huh. Way to go, Rood. I didn’t think espionage was really his style, but I guess it must have been easy enough, since the loyalists are still actively trying to recruit from his group. Unfortunately, Hugh and I very quickly learn that this spy has discovered absolutely nothing of any value. He knows that there is a force field protecting the ship’s command centre, and he knows that there is a password. He has no idea what that password is. Nor, when Hugh questions him, does he know anything about a stolen Purrloin. Hugh snorts derisively, muttering that he expected no better from a former member of Team Plasma, then tells Emboar to get off the poor guy and stalks off into the bowels of the ship. The spy apologises to me for not being helpful, but suggests that some of the real Team Plasma members might know something.
While the exterior of the Team Plasma frigate is quite imposing, and has a certain old-fashioned charm to it, the interior is really rather depressing. All the furnishings are in dull grey metal, and the grunts sleep in crowded dormitories and take their meals – bread and water, according to their cook – in a run-down mess hall. Frankly, the place reminds me of a prison. When I question one of the grunts about their living conditions, she remarks defensively that some of them have nowhere else to go. Well. That’s depressing. I suppose when the alternative is the revilement faced by Rood’s group, maybe this doesn’t seem so bad. I feel a momentary spasm of guilt at invading their home, and decide to take my mind off it by having Jaime the Samurott dangle one of them out a porthole. We quickly establish that none of them actually know the password, they just have a couple of letters or clues each. All this guy knows is that it begins with R. Well, surely, I point out as Jaime shakes him up and down, they must have compared notes once or twice. He protests, his voice slightly muffled as it comes in through the porthole, that the kind of people Ghetsis liked to recruit are not exactly experts in cooperative thinking. I shrug in assent, and dismiss him. Jaime drops the grunt into the sea, and we turn to the next fellow in line. He holds up his palms and explains quickly that he knows the password is the name of a Fire-type Pokémon, but nothing more. I am about to have Jaime stuff him through the porthole anyway, when my brain starts to tick. A Fire-type Pokémon whose name begins with R. That’s actually reasonably specific. Which Fire Pokémon have names that start with R? There’s Rapidash… Rotom when he’s in the form of a toaster, if you can even count him… and…
No… surely not… surely Zinzolin wouldn’t be so brazen?
I call Jim on my X-Transceiver and tell him to try entering “Reshiram” as the passphrase. It works.
Clearly Zinzolin never got the memo that your password should never be your name, your spouse, child or pet’s name, your date of birth, or the name of the ancient god who is the raison d’être of your entire organisation.
Jim marches through the deactivated force field with his Lucario, Dovahkiin, at his side. Behind the field is a tiny room containing a warp panel, presumably leading to somewhere else on the ship that can’t be directly accessed from the outside. They step onto the warp panel and, with a flash of light, find themselves standing on a balcony overlooking what appears to be the ship’s power core. Zinzolin is waiting for him. He applauds Jim for making it into the engine room, to which Jim modestly admits that all he did was keep watch while I found the password. Zinzolin shrugs, and notes that Jim is still clearly a very powerful trainer – and worthy of seeing the secret of Team Plasma’s newfound success. He gestures to the power core below, an enormous glass cylinder surrounded by an eerie blue glow that seems to feed the machines around it. Inside the cylinder, apparently passive and docile, is Kyurem, the legendary dragon of ice. This is the source of energy that powers their ship’s Nevermeltice cannon and, presumably, its other systems as well. It takes a while to recharge the cannon after a volley, but apparently the ship is almost ready. With Kyurem safe behind glass and all his ship’s systems powering up for battle, Zinzolin confidently challenges Jim, but the conclusion is forgone and hilarious. All of Zinzolin’s Ice Pokémon, of course, are cripplingly weak to Dovahkiin’s powerful Fighting attacks, and have no effective means of damaging a Steel-type anyway. Hugh, meanwhile, has arrived to deal with Zinzolin’s attendants. Once their battles have run their course, Hugh approaches Zinzolin and demands to know what’s happened to his sister’s Purrloin. Zinzolin frowns and gives Hugh a sceptical look. He has no idea where Purrloin is, though he assumes it now belongs to a member of Team Plasma. He suggests that Hugh should go and catch another one, to which Hugh objects that this Purrloin was caught for his sister by their grandfather, who has since died. Zinzolin dismisses this, saying that “an individual’s feelings” are “a trifling matter indeed.” He chides Hugh for wasting time on such sentimentality, then proclaims the ship ready to fly and summons the Shadow Triad. Two of them appear by Jim and Hugh on the balcony, and the third appears next to me on the lower decks. For an instant, everything goes black, and we find ourselves standing on the beach.
GOD DAMN IT, I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS TELEPORTING NINJA BULLS#!T.
I run to get back onto the ship, but Zinzolin has already fired up the flight engines, so I start hurling abuse at them instead, beginning with ‘coward’ and working my way up through all the different possible levels of obscenity and anatomical detail. For some reason, the ship does not descend, but instead flies off to the northwest. As I slow down to take a breather, we here a familiar voice – “sorry I’m late.” Cheren, useful as always, has just arrived to tell us that he thinks the ship is heading for the Giant Chasm. We all hop on our respective Flying Pokémon and prepare to move out, but Cheren himself doesn’t move. I give him an accusatory glare, and he just says something about looking for the heroes, since only Reshiram and Zekrom can stand up to Kyurem. We’ll see about that, I mutter as I spur Daenerys into flight. This is my damn story, and I’m standing up to whatever Pokémon I please, N or no N. Daenerys the Flygon, Lydia the Swanna, and Hugh’s Unfezant soar off, past Humilau City and back towards route 22.
With Opelucid City frozen, it’s difficult to get around. We find ourselves sliding all over the place on sheets of ice, and our paths are continuously blocked by great crystal spires. Of course, the Team Plasma grunts aren’t doing too well either. Drayden seems unwilling to reveal exactly where the ‘DNA Splicers’ we’re supposed to be protecting actually are, so Jim and I are forced to sweep the city, pulverising as many Team Plasma members as we can find. Eventually I locate Zinzolin, outside the Opelucid Gym. Oh, I realise, well duh. Where else would Drayden keep a ridiculously valuable set of artefacts with apocalyptic powers? Zinzolin greets me and we shoot the breeze for a while about the nature of pain. Zinzolin feels there is a certain purity in suffering, and wishes to spread this transcendent experience to the rest of the world in a form of social Darwinism. His views are extreme, but his dedication to practicing what he preaches and embracing suffering himself is admirable. Zinzolin thanks me for the compliment, but suggests that we need to get on with our business. I sigh and agree. Can’t this guy be my rival instead of Hugh? We could just hang out and debate philosophy; it would be awesome. He has actually come a long way since our last battle, mere days earlier; he has picked up a second Cryogonal and evolved his Sneasel into a Weavile. This time, though, I have grown tired of the cold, and call out my Arcanine to bring a swift end to the battle. Cryogonal’s epic special defence aside, Ice Pokémon are not well equipped for the kind of onslaught Barristan can lay down. Zinzolin graciously bows out, leaving me to guard the Gym. Drayden and Jim soon arrive, having finished sweeping the city, and Drayden tells us to wait outside while he fetches the DNA Splicers from his lair. Minutes later, he brings them out to show us: a set of elongated pyramidal objects, striped in black, white and grey. Huh. So these are the magic devices that will… well, presumably fuse Kyurem with either Reshiram or Zekrom to create those terrifying bastards on the box art.
Suddenly, a member of the Shadow Triad is here.
Equally suddenly, he is talking as though he has successfully stolen the DNA Splicers. What on earth are you talking about, Mr. Shadow Triad Person? Drayden is holding the splicers; they are right there in his-
With a curious sinking feeling, Jim and I turn back to Drayden.
God damnit, Drayden, you were physically holding the stupid things in your hands, how could you-? Oh, you know what? Never mind. Teleporting ninja bull$#!^. Whatever.
The Shadow Triad ninja gloats briefly, then flees through the city with his magic shadow ninja speed. The three of us stare at each other, wordless, for a full ten seconds before we split up and run through Opelucid City at breakneck speed hunting for the Shadow Triad. I make it all the way to the city’s eastern entrance before finding one, who challenges me to come and take the splicers if I want them. With an Absol and a pair of Pawniard, he’s certainly no slouch at battling, but nothing Barristan and Daenerys can’t handle. Once defeated, the ninja admits that, actually, he doesn’t have the DNA splicers at all – he was just buying time for the others to escape. With that, he blinks away. I spend the next five minutes reciting Catullus 16 in Latin at the top of my voice. Just as I am in danger of running out of ancient words for violent sexual abuse, Jim turns up. He has also battled a member of the Shadow Triad, and has had similar ill luck. Well, there were three ninjas, and there were three of us, so if I didn’t get the one with the splicers, and Jim didn’t get the one with the splicers… As we discuss this, Drayden arrives and wails that the Shadow Triad have escaped.
GOD DAMNIT DRAYDEN YOU HAD ONE JOB.
Hugh and Cheren arrive just in time to avoid doing anything useful, and we hold an impromptu council of war. Cheren’s friends at the climate institute have detected another massive temperature drop near remote Humilau City, which probably means that Kyurem is there – with Team Plasma. Drayden dejectedly tells us that he can’t come, since he has to protect Opelucid City (because he’s done such a wonderful job of that so far) but Hugh and Cheren proclaim the vital urgency of this quest and dash off, Cheren to get more information from the climate institute, Hugh to investigate Humilau City. Jim and I depart as well, flying back to Undella Town at top speed. As reluctant as we are to get further involved in any of this nonsense, Team Plasma’s theft of the DNA Splicers surely indicates that their plans involve not just Kyurem but Reshiram and Zekrom as well, and possibly the creation of something else more powerful than any of them. When we arrive in Undella Town, we immediately dash to the newly-opened Marine Tube, the clear underwater tunnel leading from Undella to Humilau City. This thing reminds me a little of the tunnels in the Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium in our home city, Auckland, but on a massive scale. I glimpse some enormous Water Pokémon swimming in the ocean around the tunnel, but there’s no time to stop and watch – Hugh has made it quite clear that we are on an urgent mission! We soon arrive in the tropical paradise of Humilau City, a resort town built primarily on wooden walkways raised above the shallow sea, a little reminiscent of Pacifidlog Town in far away Hoenn. Upon our arrival we are greeted by Hugh, who will surely want to co-ordinate our efforts in this desperate, frantic hunt.
“We’ll get the DNA Splicers back for sure! So you should focus on defeating the Gym Leader first!”
O…kay. So, um… no rush, then?
Hugh is, I can only assume, confident that his obsessive hatred of Team Plasma and bloodhound-like ability to hunt them down will sort everything out in due time without undue difficulty. Jim and I are less certain and, unwilling to waste time on anything as frivolous as a Gym challenge, scout out the areas around Humilau City. I head south and leave Jim to go west. Humilau City is separated from Undella Town by a stretch of pristine tropical coast, dotted with tiny sandy islands. There is no sign of Team Plasma anywhere. I also check out the Seaside Cave that leads into Undella Bay, but find nothing out of the ordinary. There is another exit from the cave on the east side, but it is blocked by a large square boulder suspiciously similar to the group of Crustle Jim and I encountered outside Castelia City so long ago. Hmm. I poke the boulder a few times, and even have Jaime, my Samurott, hack away at it with Razor Shell a couple of times. No effect. Where’s Colress when you need him? I throw my hands in the air with exasperation and return to Humilau City. Jim, to my surprise, has not left the city yet. He explains, sheepishly, that he can’t find the way out. I stare at him in disbelief. I was gone for hours; how hard could it have been? Apparently, the walkways of Humilau City don’t all link up, and he can’t figure out how to get to the far west side of the town. We walk around the city for a little while, and I point out that we are allowed to walk beneath the platforms as well.
Jim spends the next hour cursing under his breath and muttering about how Humilau City is a silly little add-on anyway, feels like it was tacked on at the last minute, and doesn’t add anything important to the game. I am forced to agree that it doesn’t really seem to serve much purpose other than to provide an excuse for a new Gym and an alternative road to the Giant Chasm and the Pokémon League. It’s not even like Humilau City is Unova’s only tropical resort town. This does not stop me from sniggering at Jim as we wander back towards the Pokémon Centre. On our way, we are confronted with Humilau City’s Gym Leader, Marlon, who springs out of the water to greet us in his own idiosyncratic fashion. I wasn’t aware before meeting Marlon that “sup, yo” was a greeting that anyone actually used, but apparently it is. My poor rigid classically-educated brain has trouble keeping up with him; I half expect him to start calling me “dogg.” I quickly decide to cover up my discomfort by demanding a battle. Marlon tells me to “chill” and meet him later at his Gym, “yo.”
The thought briefly occurs to me that I am now wasting time on something as frivolous as a Gym challenge. I dismiss the notion, rationalising that I have seven of these damn badges now – one more couldn’t possibly hurt, right?
We stare, unblinking, at Virizion’s scarlet eyes. Virizion lowers his head and trills softly, keeping his eyes fixed on us. He paws the ground and gives a strange, high-pitched yelp. A flood of images fills my mind – Cobalion, Virizion, Terrakion, separately, then together, Cobalion again, alone, an Ultra Ball, our battle with Cobalion, the Ultra Ball again. Give him back. Wait, what? I lean over towards Jim and whisper in his ear.
“D’you think it’s mad?”
Virizion yelps again and takes off towards us, his hooves beating the ground like war-drums. We draw Pokéballs from our belts and dive out of the way. I call out my Vibrava, Daenerys, and Jim calls on Falk, his Magmar. Virizion pulls to a stop just in front of our Pokémon and attempts to disembowel them with a rapid series of impossibly graceful Sacred Sword attacks before fixing a mighty Giga Drain on Falk. As Falk attempts to beat Virizion back with a stream of skilfully blocked Flamethrowers, I quietly gesture to Daenerys to take to the skies. Climbing high into the air, she nails Virizion with a dive-bomb Dragonbreath, breaking his concentration long enough for Falk to join in with an especially peppery Flamethrower. With a triumphant screech, Daenerys explodes with light and evolves into a Flygon. She and Falk are quickly able to subdue Virizion, who meekly submits to capture.
The musketeers have, truth be told, been rather anticlimactic so far. I initially took Cobalion’s presence to mean that the trio had some part to play in the chaos to come; they were once, after all, some of the most explosive opponents of human interference in the world of Pokémon, and really ought to have jumped at the chance to join the main conflict of Black and White. They never did, though, and it looks like they have no particular plans to do anything about the current conflict either, other than present themselves to us in a faintly accusatory fashion and give us the opportunity to conscript them. This, I think, is really a shame because there’s a lot of potential for Cobalion, Virizion and Terrakion to get involved in a story like this in a way that resonates with their backstories and helps players to think more about the overarching themes of the plot into the bargain. Hmm. Oh well. Maybe next time.
With Virizion satisfactorily defeated, we are free to move into Opelucid City, a strange town at war with itself, half clinging to the past as half embraces the future. We are greeted as we enter by Iris, whom we met back in Castelia City. Iris is spectacularly unhelpful, as usual, but does encourage us to visit the Opelucid Gym and challenge the leader, Drayden, which- hmm. Hang on. That means Iris is no longer the Gym Leader on either Black 2 or White 2. Hmm. Either she was fired by the Pokémon League for her massive incompetence and lack of commitment, or… something more sinister.
Eh. Whatever. I’m sure she’ll reveal her new purpose in time.
Like all the Gyms of Unova, we find that the Opelucid Gym has been redesigned. Its two great dragon statues are still there, but now one rears up, almost vertical, at the back of the Gym, with trainers waiting on its arms and Drayden watching over all from atop its head. The other dragon statue cowers meekly at the base of the first. We consult Clyde the Guide for advice on scaling the first statue to reach Drayden, and he explains that we need to stand on the other dragon’s head and ride it as it rears up and violently smashes its face into the first dragon’s limbs, one at a time, fighting the trainers waiting on each limb. I raise an eyebrow and ask him, as tactfully as possible, whether he is completely insane and why he is trying to get us killed. Clyde tells us that these are Drayden’s orders, and he can only follow them like the loyal servant he is. I shake my head and stride over to the base of the rearing dragon statue and begin shouting obscenities up at Drayden. I narrate in some detail my nauseating Virbank Gym challenge, my nightmare-inducing experience in the Castelia Gym, and my recent hair-raising battles in the wind tunnel Skyla sees fit to call the Mistralton Gym, peppering it all with my most creative expletives. I am preparing to embark upon a comprehensive description of all the Pokémon with whom Drayden’s mother must have been intimate in order to produce him, when I realise that he can’t actually hear me up there and slump, defeated, on the floor of the Gym. Seconds later, I hear a long, warbling cry and see a streak of white as Jim’s Swanna, Lydia, carries him up alongside the dragon statue towards the head.
“Oh,” I mutter.
By the time I have recovered from my extensive rant, gotten over my sheepishness, and summoned Daenerys to carry me to the uppermost levels of the building, Jim has already defeated Drayden’s powerful Dragon-types and is waiting for me to give it a try myself. Drayden gives me his customary gruff but encouraging Gym Leader greeting. I respond with a flood of insults so rapid and slurred that even I can barely make out what I’m saying. Drayden, to his credit, merely blinks twice at my barrage of abuse before summoning his Druddigon. I decide that since Daenerys is already out I may as well start with her and her new Dragon Claw attack. Dragon vs. Dragon is always a quick but dramatic affair. Daenerys and Druddigon clash a few times, their teeth and clays flashing and sparking with pure overflowing life force. Before long, Druddigon is crouched in submission on the ground, wounds shimmering with lingering energy, and Daenerys isn’t faring much better. I switch her out as Drayden brings in his own Flygon, replacing her with my battle-ready Samurott, Jaime. Jaime slashes away happily with his seamitars (this, I have only recently learned, is what Dewott’s scalchops become when he evolves, ‘seamitars’), delivering punishing Razor Shell attacks until Flygon drops in defeat. Drayden has saved his best for last – Haxorus – but so have I. My Arcanine, Barristan, is itching for a chance to try out his new Dragon Pulse attack, and even Haxorus’ enormous power loses some of its lustre after an Intimidate. It’s a close thing – it always is with Haxorus – but of course I prevail. Was there ever a doubt? Drayden, gracious in defeat, hands me my Legend Badge. I thank him by asserting, in mumbled tones, that he is of a fellow of loose virtue. Jim, remembering what we came here for, asks Drayden whether he can tell us anything about the legendary Pokémon. Surprised, but happy to help, Drayden leads us out of the Gym and takes us to his home.
Most of what Drayden has to tell us is stuff we’ve heard before anyway. He relates the old story of Reshiram, Zekrom, the legendary heroes, their more modern counterparts, and their involvement in the Team Plasma crisis two years earlier. He laments the conflict that exists between Reshiram and Zekrom, explaining that there’s really no reason for truth and ideals to be in opposition – it’s all the fault of the heroes whose fighting caused Reshiram and Zekrom, once a single Dragon Pokémon, to split. He’s not sure how Kyurem, the third dragon, fits into the grand scheme of things, but he thinks it’s just as old as the other two, based on Professor Juniper’s studies on an ancient treasure kept by his family: the… DNA Splicers? That’s what they’re called? You’re really going with that? Only that seems to imply a fairly detailed understanding of what these things do, informed more by modern science than by legend and myth, which must mean- oh, whatever. Drayden speculates a little more about Kyurem’s nature, wondering if it could be just an empty husk left behind by the separation of Reshiram and Zekrom (this, you may remember, was a popular fan theory when Black and White were released). I am broadly happy to accept Drayden’s speculation for now. It seems to match much of what we already knew, and his regret over the conflict between the black and white dragons at least addresses my niggling irritation that these two supposed opposites are actually completely alike (even if it doesn’t really fix it). Our reverie is broken by a series of loud explosions from outside. Drayden, Jim and I rush outside to see-
Ah. Yes. Team Plasma’s battleship can fly. Of course it can. Wonderful.
Frowning, I send Daenerys into the air to blast a hole in its side. Enough is enough. Jim observes that shooting the ship down over a populated area might not be the best idea. I take note of his objection and command Daenerys to press on. To my surprise, when she draws near the ship a massive cannon emerges from the hull and knocks her out of the sky with a freezing bolt of energy. The ship turns its cannon on Opelucid City, pelting the town with blasts of cold and creating huge spires of magical ice. Once most of the city is frozen over, Zinzolin and some of his minions emerge from the ship. Zinzolin approaches us to gloat, revelling in his own shivering discomfort as proof that he is alive. This man really does fascinate me; he has just the right balance of erudition and sociopathy to be a perfect partner in my own schemes for world domination. I express my delight at seeing him again and renew my offer of a partnership between us once all this Team Plasma nonsense has blown over. Zinzolin gratefully acknowledges my interest, but points out that we both have business to attend to. He wants the DNA Splicers. Drayden, naturally, has hidden them and is not keen to give them up. Zinzolin deploys his grunts and orders them to search the city. Time for a good old-fashioned punch-up, I guess…
Undella Town passes us in a blur. Not literally, of course; we just weren’t paying attention. There are a few new areas – the Marine Tube which supposedly leads to Humilau City, and the Seaside Cave which also supposedly leads to Humilau City, but neither is open to us at present. We’re pretty sure Hugh turned up at some point and demanded some practice battles, but he said little of interest or relevance. The road south to Black City and White Forest was much as it always has been, although the gatehouse at the end of the road is perhaps notable for being host to Game Freak’s most bizarre roadblock yet: a line of dancing fat men, who, when questioned, will explain that they are dancing for no reason, and will someday stop dancing, also for no reason. I stare at them, transfixed, with an immovable look of “wha?” on my face, until Jim manages to drag me out of the gatehouse. The road north towards Lacunosa Town, likewise, is largely unchanged and uninteresting – until we reach the point where it forks toward the Giant Chasm. The Chasm itself is inaccessible, but there is someone at the junction waiting for us: Cobalion.
I tell Jim, insistently, to leave this to me. He raises an eyebrow, but agrees. I approach Cobalion and politely ask him whether we may continue our negotiations. Cobalion lowers his head, ready to charge. I smile, taking this as an affirmative, and open my mouth to begin an impassioned speech on the natural suitability of humans for command and Pokémon for obedience. My plan, of course, is to moderate my position as the debate continues, thus creating the impression that I am a) reasonable (hah!) and b) receptive to Cobalion’s own arguments. Unfortunately, Cobalion delivers a startlingly effective riposte in the form of a Sacred Sword attack, which neatly lops off one of my Princess Leia buns as I dodge to the side. For a few moments I stare at Cobalion, dumbfounded. Has this creature no conception of civility!? I am collecting myself for a cutting remark on Cobalion’s parentage when he prepares to initiate an Iron Head attack. The thought momentarily occurs to me that perhaps a somewhat more aggressive diplomatic strategy would have been apropos. As I contemplate my imminent premature demise, a pair of thick green tendrils lash out of nowhere and snare Cobalion around his neck and one leg. As he screams with rage, I spin around to see Jim’s Serperior, Ulfric, straining to keep a tight hold on the legendary Pokémon with his Vine Whips. Jim orders Ulfric to hurl him into the air, and the Serperior obliges, flinging Cobalion roughly into a nearby tree. The musketeer Pokémon recovers quickly, though, and within moments they are at each other’s throats, Leaf Blade against Sacred Sword. I draw an Ultra Ball from my bag. This has gone on long enough. I lob the Ultra Ball with all my strength, chanting “up, down, A, B, up down, B, A” under my breath. It strikes Cobalion and draws him in with a flash of light. A few moments later, it’s all over. Jim stares at me as though I’ve swiped a sandwich from his open mouth. I poke my tongue out at him and dismiss Cobalion’s ball to the PC network. I’ll deal with you later.
With that behind us, we arrive in the only walled city in all of Unova – Lacunosa Town. I remember this place being kind of pointless, other than for providing some vague hints about- oh. Ah. Right. Better look around. We are soon met by Professor Juniper and Bianca, who have used Fly (i.e. cheated) to beat us here, and as usual have their own ideas about how our investigation should proceed. Juniper drags us to the home of one of Lacunosa Town’s elders, explaining that the town has a legend we should hear. The elder relates the familiar story to us: when the cold winds blow from the nearby Giant Chasm, a fearsome beast stalked the night, snatching away anyone who wandered outside after dark. The town’s great stone wall was built to defend against this monster, but even to this day no-one in Lacunosa Town will leave home after dark. Professor Juniper comments that the wall is probably what gives the town its name; lacunosus clouds are a type of cloud that are supposed to look like a fence or a net. Jim and I have to conceal a snigger at this. Lacunosa Town is named for its wall, but clearly the town’s founders were influenced by either an astonishing lack of confidence in their stonework or a distressingly poor command of Latin – lacunosus means “full of holes” (this, I should note, is its strictest, most literal sense; it could also be taken to mean “collapsed,” “sunken,” “waterlogged,” or just downright “inadequate”). The more sobering thought then occurs to us that, if a legendary Pokémon as powerful as Kyurem were to attack the town, that name might turn out to be chillingly accurate.
As we go to leave for Opelucid City, we run into Hugh. Damnit, how do all these idiots keep getting ahead of us!? Hugh is following some rumours he’d heard about Team Plasma activity in the town, and is wondering if we’ve seen anything. We are about to answer in the negative before switching the topic to something more conducive to Hugh’s mental stability, like hobbies or the weather, when – speak of the devil – none other than Zinzolin, the Sage leading the reborn Team Plasma, appears with two grunts in tow. Hugh’s eyes flash and he reaches for his Pokéballs, but Jim and I interpose ourselves and attempt to negotiate. What is Zinzolin after, anyway? The other Sages abandoned Ghetsis when they realised he’d been manipulating them, so why is he still leading Team Plasma? If he just wants to take over the world, couldn’t he, maybe, work with us instead? Zinzolin laughs and explains his philosophy. He’s actually not interested in power at all – from what I can understand, he’s mostly interested in chaos. Zinzolin knows that Ghetsis means to tear the asunder the order of the world and the balance of nature and civilisation by forever separating humans from Pokémon, and he wants to watch. The crazy bastard wants to watch.
I am forced to concede that it does sound like a fascinating sociological experiment.
I offer, in the event of a Team Plasma victory, to co-author a paper with Zinzolin on the extent of human sociological dependence on Pokémon. After all, just because I’m theoretically opposed to them doesn’t mean I can’t try to create a win-win situation for myself. Zinzolin hesitates, but agrees to my proposition. We shake hands on it, and then return to the matter at hand – Hugh is foaming to beat up Zinzolin and his attendants, and Jim and I have a mind to join him. Zinzolin, it turns out, is quite a strange Pokémon trainer. One of his persistent character traits, held over from the original Black and White (which Cheren noted when we first encountered him in Driftveil City), is that he hates the cold. This is strange because Zinzolin is actually an Ice-type specialist – his Pokémon are Cryogonal and Sneasel. Thinking out loud, I observe that this seems indicative of a level of self-loathing. This gets Zinzolin so flustered that my Scolipede, Tyrion, is able to steamroll both of his Ice Pokémon before he can regain his composure. I give the sage a cluck of disapproval as Jim and Hugh finish off his equally inept minions. Zinzolin curses, mutters something about searching Opelucid City and departs with his grunts, Hugh close behind, waving his fist and shouting something unprintable about radishes.
So, Opelucid City sounds like the place to be.
The road to Opelucid City is nearly as boring as the road to Lacunosa Town was, with the exception of the Village Bridge. As the surprisingly apt name suggests, this is a bridge with a village on it. I don’t think anyone actually knows why the village was built on the bridge, as opposed to the more architecturally sound option of building it next to the bridge. I mean, okay, yes, there was the mediaeval London Bridge, but that was a) in the middle of a massive and already overcrowded city, and b) a massive fire hazard. Village Bridge, as it turns out, is guarded – in the middle stands an odd Gentleman by the name of Stonewall, who declares that he challenges anyone crossing the bridge. He has won 999 straight victories, and is eager to win victory number 1000! Well, we observe, if he’s won 999 straight victories he must be pretty str-oh no wait never mind. Though comparable in skill to the sage Zinzolin, with a powerful Durant and Lucario, poor Stonewall soon finds himself twisted into knots by Jim’s Zoroark and its mind-bending illusions. He collapses in defeat, mourning the winning streak he’d spent two years building up (y’know, with only two Pokémon, battling about three trainers every day is actually a pretty good effort), though he vows to try again. Once across the bridge, the rest of our journey to Opelucid City is quick and without incident… until we reach the outskirts, and find none other than the legendary Virizion blocking our path.
As Jim and I leave the Pokémon World Tournament, arguing about its relative merits, we nearly run straight into a Team Plasma grunt, who does a double take as he passes us, visibly panics, and bolts for the Driftveil docks – just as Hugh and Cheren emerge from the tournament building. Hugh sees the villain fleeing and is instantly ready to give chase, but his blood-curdling battle-cry is cut off when Colress appears right behind them and softly but firmly tells him to stop, warning him of the risk of tackling a powerful criminal organisation like Team Plasma and admonishing him for his recklessness. Hugh dismisses his concerns and proclaims that if there’s any chance of finding a lead on his sister’s Purrloin he is damn well going to go for it. Well, jeez, Hugh, that’s fine; go ahead and casually reveal, to a random scientist and a Gym Leader you don’t even like, the deep dark secret that you kept from your two closest friends for years; it’s all good. Cheren, who was a fairly militant opponent of Team Plasma himself back in the day, supports Hugh, and they both leave for the docks. Colress shakes his head with scorn at their overconfidence in their Pokémon. Surely they can’t believe that friendship and trust alone can protect them from hardened criminals with Pokémon of their own? Jim notes that a bunch of Team Plasma ruffians are unlikely to pose much of a problem for a Unova League Gym Leader; the fact that Hugh is a reasonably accomplished trainer in his own right is really just icing on the cake. In fact, you could almost say that they probably don’t need any help. There’s really no need for anyone else to go along at all. Colress gives him a reproachful frown, and I point out, with a sinking sense of foreboding, that as Hugh’s dearest friends we are responsible for both his safety and, to a lesser extent, the safety of those upon whom he chooses to inflict himself. We look at each other, sigh in unison, and reluctantly dash after Hugh and Cheren, leaving Colress quietly tutting to himself behind us.
The Team Plasma grunt seems to have disappeared into a large black sailing ship moored at a wharf near the Pokémon World Tournament – Team Plasma’s new base of operations? Cheren and Hugh are already rushing up the gangplank after him. We ask a nearby local whether she knows anything about the ship, and receive only the cryptic response “a ship’s not really a ship unless it’s crossing the ocean.” We stare at her in disbelief, respond “of course it is, you nitwit,” quietly shove her into the water, and board the ship. Hugh notes that there’s a strange coldness about this boat – and he’s right. It’s a pleasant Spring day in Driftveil City, but there’s a chill in the air that cuts right to the bone, and we can see our breath steaming in front of us. I glance nervously at Jim. Reshiram and Zekrom are gone, and there’s no telling where or for how long, but wasn’t there a third legendary dragon in Unova? One with the power to fill the air around it with a terrible supernatural cold? Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I point insistently at the gangplank. Jim shrugs helplessly and gestures to Hugh and Cheren, who have their backs to us and are looking around the deck. I glare at him, point at our allies, firmly draw a finger across my neck, and then point at the deck beneath me before throwing my hands in the air, miming an explosion. Jim stares incredulously, holds up four fingers, mimes sneaking, and jerks a thumb over his shoulder towards the gangplank. I stare back, roll my eyes and hold up three fingers instead. Jim cocks his head slightly, thinks about it and shrugs. We turn back in the direction of the gangplank.
There’s a Team Plasma grunt standing in the way.
Pokéballs fly non-stop for the next ten minutes. At first, each of us has a single Team Plasma member to take care of, but this arrangement quickly proves far too simple for anyone’s taste; first I pair up with Jim and Hugh with Cheren for a pair of double battles, then we trade partners, and before long all of us become embroiled in a complex set of three intertwined rotation battles, at which point we collectively admit that the whole thing has basically become a free-for all. I’m pretty sure that, at one point, I was partnered with two Team Plasma grunts in a triple battle against Cheren, another grunt, and my own Scolipede. I see a Liepard, and the thought briefly flashes through my head that the Purrloin Hugh is searching for might have evolved, but I can’t get Hugh’s attention any more than I can tell whose Pokémon is whose at this point. Someone makes an unflattering comparison between Hugh’s hair and a Qwilfish, which… actually, yeah, okay; fair call. I am desperately trying to keep track of a quintuple rotating Contest battle when I suddenly realise that one of my opponents is, in fact, myself and frantically call for a time out, causing everyone present to collapse immediately from a combination of relief and exhaustion.
It is, I am later forced to admit, the most fun I’ve had in years.
An old man in a heavy purple robe emerges from below decks and demands to know what right we have to be snooping around on his ship. Cheren studies his face for a moment, names him as Zinzolin, one of Rood’s former colleagues in the Seven Sages, and tells him that we have every right to investigate the activity of a notorious criminal group. Zinzolin furiously proclaims that Team Plasma’s intent remains unchanged – to use a legendary Dragon Pokémon to rule Unova (well, that confirms it, then) – and summons the Shadow Triad to remove us. The Shadow Triad, Team Plasma’s three magical ninjas, appear before us in a puff of smoke and begin to tell Zinzolin, “by the way, we are not your-” but he cuts them off and insists that they do this for him anyway. Not his- underlings? Of course; the Shadow Triad never worked for Team Plasma, N, or the Seven Sages. They were personally loyal to Ghetsis alone – which means he’s back. Joy of joys. The Shadow Triad blink us off the ship, and when we regain awareness, the ship and everyone on it is gone.
Damnit; how the hell do they do that!?
Well, Hugh and Cheren are both alive, which means we’ve done our bit. Time to continue our journey and forget about Team Plasma completely! I’m sure everything will sort itself out in due course now that Cheren is on the case. Besides, if Unova expects us to be socially responsible then it deserves everything it gets. As Jim and I head back in the direction of Driftveil City proper, our eyes are drawn to a cave entrance near the Pokémon World Tournament grounds. We question a construction worker in the area and learn that this is the north entrance to the Relic Passage, the ancient tunnel network that connects to the Castelia sewers. The Relic Passage, Jim recalls, is inhabited by weirdoes of every conceivable shape and size, but the two of us together should be fine, and anyway it’s our duty as archaeologists to loot- er… I mean… to preserve everything we can find in the site. The worker guarding the entrance listens patiently to our spiel about the value of the past and the importance of knowledge, before waving us through and explaining that no-one really cares about the Relic Passage anyway; he’s just stationed there so it looks like things are under control. As we investigate the Relic Passage, we quickly develop a hypothesis about the place: the popular belief that it was built by ancient people is absolute rubbish. The degree of organisation required to build a tunnel like this would be immense – and no-one going to that sort of effort would waste time building the kind of pointless loops and dead ends that fill the place. Any human group capable of building something like this would be capable of building it according to a halfway sensible design. Besides, it has none of the hallmarks of human construction. It does seem to have been used by humans, though. The tunnel connects the sites of Driftveil City and Castelia City – major cities are almost always built on sites that have been used before, often for millennia. We also find an entrance to the lower levels of the Relic Castle, the site of another ancient city, though we are quickly chased away by the castle’s guardian Volcarona. We conclude, eventually, that the Relic Passage may have started life as a series of unconnected Onix nests which were later taken over by humans and joined together, probably using captured Onix, to create an unbroken path – hence the seemingly random design (construction almost undoubtedly went through several false starts). Resourceful, if nothing else, and seemingly indicative of extensive trade and travel between Driftveil, Castelia and the Desert Resort. We make plans to take a few months later in the year to write an article for an archaeological journal, and move on.
We complete our trip through the Relic Passage and emerge in the Castelia sewers. Refusing to touch the filthy ground, I command my largest Pokémon, Sansa the Ampharos, to carry me out of the sewer. Jim rolls his eyes and follows. When we emerge once more into the light, Jim immediately summons his Ducklett, Lydia, grabs her by the legs and holds her up in the air. I ask him what on earth he’s doing, and he replies that he’s flying back to Driftveil City. I protest that I don’t have a flying Pokémon yet, but he just shrugs and whistles at Lydia. As Jim soars into the sky, dangling from Lydia’s legs like a hang-glider, I pull Daenerys’ Pokéball from my belt and call her out. I lift my Trapinch into the air over my head and say, as imperiously as I can, “now, Fly!” Daenerys twists her head to look down at me, bemused, and makes a clicking sound. I sigh, recall her to her Pokéball, and begin the long walk back to Driftveil City.