I haven't got around to posting this yet, and now is as good of a time as any. This is mostly just to gauge the reaction of other people to see if there is any interest in me continuing this.

Short author's note: This is more or less a continuation of the Team Aqua and Team Magma plot from the Hoenn games, with the exception that the player character never existed (because I assumed terrorism was more of a problem for adults such as Steven and Wallace to handle). There are also several other fixes that I made to the way the pokemon world operates that all have to do with realism and children not being national heroes and whatnot. The other major point where I diverge from the game canon has to do with Norman and it will become very apparent very early on what's up with him.

Also, I feel like I need to defend myself for a moment in regards to the first chapter: yes, the first chapter is very male-centric, but many female characters come in later, including arguably the single most important character. So don't judge me on being sexist just yet!

CHAPTER 1 - THE SEALED CHAMBER

An elderly man, whose face had been overcome by wrinkles twice over, tipped the brim of his bowler hat low as he made his way through the meticulously rectangular design of the hallways in Petalburg Gym. To some, this action could be seen as an unconscious movement from habit, the man accustomed to shielding his eyes from the ever-intense tropical Hoenn sun, but at this early hour, there was no light save for the dim fluorescent bulbs in the ceiling that cast an eerie lifeless glow throughout the building. As such, such a subtle tip of the hat could only be interpreted by those watching with a degree of suspicion. As if his reputation did not precede him, and any person would not immediately recognize the man whose Claydol endlessly followed his every move, using a weak form of its Telekinesis attack to aid the frail man in walking with a cane.

Behind the many-faced clay pokemon walked a young woman, trudging along reluctantly as if resigned to some horrible fate. She purposefully averted her eyes toward the ground, not feeling comfortable with staring directly into several of Claydol’s unblinking pink eyes that encircled its head. She knew all too well that her grandfather’s pokemon could actually process the information taken in from every single eye and store it all, it having rendered several of her mischievous plans completely useless in her childhood, and even more recently, in the case of her attempted escape the previous night. Thus, she had been under constant surveillance from the psychic pokemon for the last twelve or so hours

“I really don’t want to do this,” she repeated for what had to have been the fifteenth time since departing from the outskirts of Slateport City in the early hours of the morning. Daring to look up in expectation for a response, she observed nothing more than a meaningless one-eighth rotation of Claydol’s detached head. His only words to her that morning had been a curt “Get up. We’re going,” before they left home. She almost jumped when the old man actually spoke, in his usual faint grumble.

“Maybe I wasn’t clear on the situation.” He actually stopped to turn around, causing the girl to cringe, as she knew the loss of forward momentum was excruciatingly painful for the man. “It doesn’t matter whether you want the money or not, or even if you actually get it, because that is also questionable; you cannot say no to people like that in these circumstances.”

Turning around to walk forward once more, the Trick Master began to reflect on his past. The girl’s eighteenth birthday had been a combination of momentary excitement followed by major, lasting disappointment for them both. She had not expected at all, given the way the Trick House had been struggling along and after losing its tax-exempt status, to be given a pokemon on her birthday. A POKEMON! Just like everyone else her age was going to get. And her grandfather had not even gone the cheap route and captured some ailing three-legged Zigzagoon in the forest either: he had given her a Bronzor, such a rare pokemon in the Hoenn region that she had never seen one before! The Trick Master’s disappointment came to him first like a crushing wave; not disappointment in his granddaughter, but in himself, for what he had to say next: “It comes with a few strings attached.”

That was when she learned of the mission she had to undertake, and when her own disappointment set in. It nearly killed the old man to crush her spirits in that manner, but he had gotten in far too deep with the wrong people in a time when the Trick House desperately needed money. To be fair, his relatively stable long-term budget had not accounted for raising another child, but he still felt as if he should have found another way.

From that day on, relations between the two had become more distant than ever, even more than the time when he wouldn’t let her date the boy she wanted in pokemon preparatory school, during which she had refused to talk to him for almost five days. That, in hindsight, was a petty thing, but on her birthday she had felt a real betrayal.

The old man grunted as he came to a stop once more, this time in front of a sturdy wooden door at the end of the hallway with a metal nameplate reading “Norman” nailed into it. Above the doorway was a name that had been carved into the wood but attempts to scratch it out and paint over left the former writing unintelligible. Most likely it had been the name of the previous gym leader and Norman, having only arrived within the past year, had not taken the time to redo some of the more trivial aspects of his facility.

The Trick Master shared a long look with his granddaughter before mumbling a “Good luck,” and shuffling away back down the hall they had come from, his ever present Claydol not far behind. Once he was around the corner and out of sight, the girl took a deep breath and unclipped one of the two pokeballs from her belt and enlarged it by pressing the center button. With a quick toss in the air, she released a small disc-like pokemon into the air. In front of her, two yellow eyes were mounted on a flat circle that gleamed in the light of the sunrise.

“Bronzor,” she whispered, taking one last look at herself in the pokemon’s highly reflective surface, “It’s time for you to use Reflect.”

As they had rehearsed, the mirror pokemon used its psychic powers to bend the light waves around each of their bodies, leaving the girl with an altered appearance to others and rendering Bronzor itself invisible. Although she could not actually see it, the girl knew from hours of sitting in front of a mirror as she and the pokemon practiced making facial expressions that she now bore the appearance of a typical boy her age. Everything would go according to plan as long as no one attempted to touch her, which would essentially reveal the disguise.

Cautiously, she knocked on the door of Norman’s office and waited.

*****

[And to conclude our 2013 Hoenn League preview, we turn to Hoenn’s newest gym leader, Norman Whitman. After filling former leader Kendra Blautchensen’s vacated position at the height of the Team Aqua crisis last year, the new Petalburg gym leader racked up an impressive series of wins, forcing the league to change its status from a low-level to a mid-level gym.

Notoriously private, Mr. Whitman would not return our request for an interview, so we can only speculate on his plans for the year. Whether or not those include trying to surpass the Fortree City Gym in difficulty remains to be seen.

Certain veteran pokemon trainers, however, doubt that this is possible. According to one, who wishes to remain anonymous, “The premise upon which he attempts to win is a complete gimmick, a parlor trick. I won’t give it away, of course. But then again, maybe that is the whole point - to put every challenger on roughly equal footing.”

What mysteries lie within the Petalburg Gym this season? You may have to dust off your old trainer’s license and discover for yourself!]

Fanaticism, surely the brown-haired boy thought to himself. But then again, I can just go the long way to Dewford Town and pass through there on my way by.

His long, lanky body lay sprawled out on his back in the fine golden sand of Slateport Beach, holding up the magazine he had just been reading from. The entire area was overcrowded with tourists, many escaping the harsh winter at home in some of the northern countries such as Sinnoh or Karafuto, and many taking advantage of the cheap prices that had resulted from Team Aqua’s continued presence throughout most of the previous year.

It was the locals that annoyed Terry the most. They seemed to all be in collusion to try and suck as much money out of tourists as physically possible. As if he actually gave a damn, anyway. He was just here on vacation with the money he won in a local pokemon tournament the last year.

Smiling, Terry relived the moment in which he knew he had won. His Haunter had come out on top in the first matchup, and then managed to execute a Destiny Bond attack to take down another, leaving his opponent with only one remaining pokemon and himself with two to fight it. Terry had even hesitated on using the move: he assumed that it would be expected of his Haunter and would leave him exposed for far too long after forming the dark energy portal. And they were in LAVENDER TOWN for god’s sake!

Still, best vacation money I ever won, he reminded himself.

“Uff!” Terry was abruptly brought out of his reverie by a boy that had tripped over his legs while running by. Setting down his magazine, the Kanto native opened his mouth to tell the boy to watch where he was going, but he had already got back up and started running again, shouting and gesturing wildly at something in the water passing by.

Judging by his faded jean shorts and cutoff shirt, Terry decided that the boy was probably one of the locals, so he got up, shook the sand off his shorts that nobody liked, and began jogging after him, assuming that the boy had seen some sort of rare water pokemon that didn’t usually end up near Slateport Beach.

If it’s something rare like a Gorebyss, I may never get to see one again! he thought. Drawing closer, Terry discovered that the blond boy, who had run out into the shallows, was giving commands for a pokemon in the water to attack something trying to swim away.

“Didn’t work?” the boy shouted from the beach. “Hit the Sealeo with Acid and drag the boy under!”

The last sentence caused Terry to become alarmed, especially as he watched some sort of water pokemon flounder about in a purple ooze while a menacing pokemon he recognized as Tentacruel wrapped several of its long, beige tentacles around what appeared to be an actual human being.

“What the hell are you doing?!” he shouted out to Tentacruel’s owner, the boy in the jean shorts. The boy acknowledged him briefly by looking back over his shoulder, but then turned his attention back toward the ocean, where his pokemon dragged into the sand some kind of unconscious seal pokemon on one side of its body and its barely conscious trainer on the other side.

Though the boy in the sand was coughing and sputtering water out of his mouth, Tentacruel’s owner wasted no time in beginning to search the boy’s body for something. Completely appalled at what appeared to be like an unabashed mugging in the ocean, Terry ran up and shoved the blond boy over into the sand.

“What is going on here?” he demanded, grabbing a miniaturized pokeball out of his pocket (and being thankful that he had thought to bring it) in case he needed to engage the Tentacruel. “You know, in...”

“That guy stole my pokemon!” The blond stood up angrily and glared at Terry before walking back over to his victim, who had collapsed in the sand out of exhaustion. He leaned over and grabbed the pokeball out of the thief’s maroon jacket, assuming it was his as opposed to the two that were clipped securely onto a belt. Holding it up to Terry with a roll of his eyes, the boy then readjusted his orange fishing hat on his head and began to walk away, recalling his Tentacruel into its pokeball as he left.

“Wait...” Sealeo’s trainer, the boy in the sand, managed to groan out that one word loud enough that the blond turned around to listen, albeit skeptically.

“They’ll kill me if I don’t show up with a Wailord,” he said in response to the blond’s raised eyebrow. “Team Aqua, I mean. I won’t hurt your pokemon, I promise.”

Terry fully expected the water pokemon trainer to just roll his eyes and continue to walk away angrily, but he was surprised to find the thief and his assailant staring at each other intensely for a few moments instead, as if the blond boy was trying to make up his mind.

“Fine,” he said. “You can borrow my Wailord for whatever purpose you need it. But I get to come along to make sure I get him back and that you don’t hurt him.”

With that, the blond boy tossed the pokeball he had taken back from the thief into the air over the ocean, releasing an absolutely massive water type pokemon. The whale’s body was smooth and mostly featureless, save for the change in color from gray to white halfway up its body and the presence of several large fins on the tail end of its body that were each larger than a human’s body alone. The pokemon was long enough to compete with the length of small ships, but at the same time huge and cylindrical, giving it the appearance of a much larger mass. It was in fact so tall that Terry could not imagine how any person who intended to ride it would actually do so.

“We need to swim out into the ocean a little way so that Wailord can dive down and come up underneath us,” the pokemon’s trainer explained matter-of-factly to the other boy, who was clearly still astonished by Wailord’s size.

As the two pokemon trainers waded out into the water, Terry decided at that moment that he had to intervene. “Are you really going to some unknown location with a pokemon thief you just met that’s working with Team Aqua? That may be the single worst idea I have ever heard in my entire life!”

Wailord’s trainer looked back at Terry quizzically for a moment from where he was currently treading water in the ocean. At this moment, a large wave hit the beach from the effects of Wailord’s recent submersion underwater.

“I’m pretty confident that I can handle myself, but feel free to come with me, and you can ‘protect’ me and whatnot to make yourself feel better about your life,” the boy offered. “But hurry, because Wailord’s about to come up!”

Against his better judgment, Terry found himself running out into the water, swimming vigorously to meet the other two boys his age in the water. Just as he lifted his head out of the water to breathe, beginning to tread water facing the other two, the ground seemed to suddenly come up out of the ocean underneath him. A slippery blue mass rose up, and while the pokemon’s trainer calmly grabbed onto the nearby blowhole, the other two boys were left slipping around wildly and nearly falling off Wailord’s side into the ocean.

“You might want to sit behind me and hold on,” the water pokemon trainer suggested, giving an amused glance back at the other two, who clearly had never ridden on a Wailord before. The Team Aqua member did not hesitate to follow directions, with the fear of falling off into the ocean, but Terry hesitated, not feeling entirely comfortable with having to hug the back of a shirtless male. Instead, he elected to lay down flat on Wailord and spread his arms out as wide as possible to try and provide stability on the pokemon’s rubbery skin.

“So, Team Aqua thug,” Wailord’s trainer asked, “where are we going?”

The boy sitting behind him gestured out eastward to the open ocean. “There’s a small island with a cave where the others are waiting. Also, my name’s Vincent, not Team Aqua thug.”

“Wailord, head east toward Pacifidlog! Try and stay in the ship corridor, too, so we don’t have to deal with those rocks again!” the boy called out to his pokemon, before turning around to address his new companion. “And I’m Carter Westport, former pokemon trainer, current hunter of rare water pokemon.”

At this moment, Carter and Vincent both looked back to the final member of their group, currently lying down and clinging pathetically to Wailord’s skin, who managed to mutter, “Terry.”

“Anyway,” Carter continued speaking, “I’ve only been out this far once, to go see the Corsola that are said to be below Pacifidlog Town. The people that live there weren’t too happy about me diving down to go see them, though. Scared I would damage the chains linking their houses to the pokemon or something.”

He had been about to continue with his opinion on how he felt the Corsola were being exploited, but before he could open his mouth, Vincent pointed to one of the many nearly indistinguishable rocky outcroppings sticking out of the water.

“We’re getting close,” he said. “It’s not actually that far out.”

“Terrorists hiding right under everyone’s noses,” Terry grumbled. “I should have believed my friends who said this country isn’t safe.”

Carter ordered his Wailord to stop as it pulled up to the small rocky island where a man and a woman walked out of the cave that lay there. Their ornate blue and white uniforms combined with the dead serious expressions on their faces made for a very intimidating sight. It was at this moment that it fully sunk in to Terry exactly who he was dealing with. These were killers. Extremists who will stop at nothing.

“Who are they?” the man demanded, in his unnervingly gruff voice that resonated with years of hardship. “I told you to just bring the pokemon.”

“The Wailord’s trainer offered to let us borrow it,” Vincent explained nervously as he and the two other boys climbed up onto the rocks out of the ocean. “They... they aren’t a threat.”

“Hmmph,” the woman rolled her eyes, sticking out her hand. “Well, give us the pokeball, then. You will wait outside.”

Carter obligingly handed over his Wailord’s pokeball, not daring to make eye contact with her, before sitting down to face the ocean as Vincent and the two Team Aqua members retreated into the dark cave. Terry awkwardly joined him, wondering more so by the minute why he let himself get dragged into such a dangerous situation.

“I hope you realize this was a terrible idea,” he pointed out to the Hoenn native, who looked at him stupidly in return.

“I think you were the one who didn’t understand the gravity of the situation beforehand,” he retorted. “They were probably going to kill that boy if he didn’t find them a Wailord. And trust me, he wasn’t going to come across another one. So that’s why I volunteered. Why are you here?”

“ ...because you asked me,” Terry mumbled almost incoherently.

“That’s because I thought you would be able to back me up if things turned south. But it looks like you only have one pokemon. What is it, anyway? A Zigzagoon?”

“A Zubat...” the boy in the swimsuit almost whispered, before feeling the need to defend himself. “But I have other pokemon! Just not with me! How was I supposed to know my trip to Slateport Beach was going to require fighting for my life?”

Voices could be heard from inside the stone cave. It sounded as if the Team Aqua man and woman were arguing over something. The argument stopped abruptly, however, with the sound of crunching stone. Carter and Terry exchanged a confused look.

“You don’t even know what they’re going to do with your pokemon,” the Kanto tourist reminded his friend. “Are you sure they aren’t going to sacrifice Wailord or something?”

Carter’s eyes grew wide at the thought of this, which he clearly had not anticipated. A familiar roar from his pokemon coming from the cave was all he needed to jump to his feet and run inside. Terry stood up to follow, but the sudden rumbling of the ground nearly knocked him over again.

“What’s going on?” Carter demanded as he ran inside, coming across the scene of the three pokemon trainers standing around a large hole in the ground along with a blue bipedal pokemon that was cleaning dirt out of its claws. Another roar came from down below, and the ground began shaking once more.

“Your Wailord won’t stop thrashing around!” the Team Aqua man snarled at the pokemon’s trainer. “It’s going to bring the whole cave crashing down!”

Carter ran to the edge of the hole in the rock, pushing aside the Golduck. It appeared that the Team Aqua members had sent his pokemon out into some sort of wide tunnel, but the large whale took up nearly all the space and was feeling claustrophobic.

“Hey! Wailord! It’s me! Don’t worry,” he tried to reassure the water type. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but you’re going to be fine!”

He looked expectantly to the Team Aqua man for answers. The muscular figure appeared undecided for a moment, sharing a look with his female partner, before looking back to Carter. Vincent, meanwhile, was conspicuously standing back with his head down.

“He won’t calm down unless you come with us?” the man probed, and receiving a head shake, continued. “Fine. I’ll have to explain: We’re following the directions of these ancient runes. They’ve successfully identified where to dig in the ground, and we came across this large underground stream, which, according to the runes again, we need Wailord to ride on for some purpose.”

There was an unspoken “so let’s get a move on already” at the end of his last sentence. Carter nodded and carefully lowered himself down into the hole to come to rest on Wailord’s back, grabbing onto the blowhole as usual. The Team Aqua woman came down second to sit behind him, followed last by her partner.

“Let’s go,” the man urged, and Carter patted his pokemon to signal it to start moving.

They inched forward slowly into the darkness, as the only light source had been from the cave, which was already greatly reduced from the outside. Smiling only to himself, since he knew no one else could see it, Carter grabbed a second pokeball off his belt and called out a small pokemon to sit on his lap.

“What the hell are you...” the woman started, but silenced herself as a dim red glow lit the tunnel.

The Tentacool wrapped its tentacles around Carter’s waist, and the red light emitted from the two orbs on the small jellyfish’s head lit up the stream a small distance ahead of them, giving Wailord the reassurance to swim along a little faster.

“It’s interesting, actually,” Carter was proud to offer an explanation of the phenomenon. “During the day, Tentacool float in the ocean and gather up sunlight, but then at...”

“Yeah, we don’t really care,” the Team Aqua man cut him off brusquely. “Just tell your pokemon to go faster.”

These words were unnecessary, however, as the underground stream took a decided turn downward and Wailord’s slick body began to move more quickly even against its will and preferred swimming speed.

A spray of water was flying up into the faces of the three trainers. Carter had to squint to see ahead, but he soon gave up on that as he learned there was not really anything to see except for the smooth tunnel walls ahead.

Wailord let loose a sort of siren call, and it made Carter shiver, as he knew it was a warning call. He gripped Tentacool more tightly with one arm while still holding on to the blowhole with another. Another sudden fall in the stream and Wailord was shooting along faster than ever. The water roared around them, blasting upward and back at the trainers on top of the whale pokemon powerfully. The Team Aqua woman had to grab Carter’s waist in order to keep from sliding backwards, and her partner did the same.

Carter thought that the river sounded strangely like the roar of a waterfall, but had dismissed the idea as ridiculous. The roaring of the water suddenly grew exponentially louder, and at the same time the tunnel opened up into a large cavern.

There was no time to react as Wailord, with a deep panicked roar, shot off the edge of a huge underground waterfall, only to land against the current on the top side of another waterfall of equal size. Fortunately the whale pokemon had the sense to swim vigorously against the current to prevent itself from being thrown off the second waterfall backwards.

Wailord saw the convenient pool of calm water off the side that split off from the raging river and pulled over to stop, allowing its trainer and the two Team Aqua members to step down onto a safe stone ledge.

For a moment the three just stared at each other, hardly daring to breathe. The dynamic of Carter as the outsider that the other two were merely using had vanished for the moment as all three pokemon trainers looked down at the twin waterfalls facing each other in the eerie red light given off by Tentacool, who was still wrapped around Carter’s waist.

“Only a Wailord could have made it across that gap,” the man murmured absently, looking at the nearly forty foot space in between where there was nothing but darkness.

“Let’s keep going,” the woman spoke shakily, gesturing to the tunnel breaking off where they could continue on foot. She left room for Carter to step in front, who used his Tentacool for a light source to guide them.

“What are we actually doing down here?” the younger pokemon trainer asked, feeling that the Team Aqua members definitely owed him an explanation after their near-death experience.

“Wouldn’t you like to know!” the man growled, but his partner groaned in annoyance.

“Oh, please, Matt, it can’t hurt anything now,” she reasoned. “We’re hoping that at the end of this tunnel, there is some sort of hint, or a map, or something, that will help guide us to the locations of some legendary pokemon.”

“And this pokemon can expand the oceans at the expense of the land?” Carter questioned, reciting the well-known mission of Team Aqua.

Matt snorted as his partner let out a short laugh. “That’s how the media portrayed us, we know,” she explained. “But do you actually think we’re that stupid? There’s plenty of ocean out there, those pokemon don’t need our help. It’s the pokemon living in coastal habitats that are the most vulnerable. People are building bigger and bigger cities on the coast, like Slateport and Lilycove, and these are completely destroying the natural habitats of so many pokemon through their pollution and overfishing.”

“Shelly is a true idealist, but she explains our mission well,” the Team Aqua man continued, before gesturing down the dark tunnel impatiently. “Now let’s get a move on, there’s a big chamber up ahead.”

The tunnel, a steep uphill climb before then, appeared to open up for a moment, but the red glow coming from Tentacool indicated a large flat wall not far from them that appeared to be a dead end. The group was silent for a moment, before Matt wandered over to the center of the wall, squinting at what appeared to be symbols carved into it.

“It’s...” he started, before beckoning Carter and his Tentacool over to illuminate the area better. “...a really primitive map of Hoenn. This is what we were looking for.”

Indeed it seemed to be an ancient person’s idea of the land in which he lived. The native Hoennites, of course, were all but gone, having long ago mixed into the general population of people from Kanto that had immigrated en masse, leaving nothing behind but a slight darkening of the skin of the majority of people who lived in Hoenn. Little was known about their culture aside from a few sites, such as the one near present-day Mauville City where the people drawing this map appeared to be from.

The area around the bay of Mauville was clearly the most detailed, suffering from a lack of detail radiating outward from there as the map tried to show other locations in Hoenn. The small islands that littered the sea between Dewford Island and the mainland, in particular were portrayed as gigantic in the stone carving, and the rainforest region in the northeast was unbounded, suggesting a general lack of exploration in that direction.

The most obvious features of the map were four colored stone wedges that protruded from the map on the wall in different locations. A blue rock was on one of the islands between Dewford and the mainland, a tan one was seen to the east of Mt. Chimney, which itself was only vaguely marked, and a gray wedge was sticking out of the middle of the rainforest area. The fourth, a white stone, was out in the middle of the ocean sticking out of a picture of what appeared to be some sort of square with people on it, with waves all around.

Shelly immediately went to work pulling the four stone wedges out of their spot in the wall, pausing after pulling out the first to show her partner the strange markings that were carved into the sides of them. They resembled the ones that appeared in a long line below the map.

“Do you think that’s the desert?” Matt asked as she pulled the tan stone out of its slot, receiving a shrug in return.

Now that the primary mission was accomplished, the Team Aqua members and Carter turned their attention to getting out of the cave. A moment of panic ensued as the chamber appeared to have no exit other than the one they came in with.

“There has to be a way out,” Matt insisted. “It’s not like the people who made this map never made it out... right?”

“What’s below the two waterfalls?” Carter wondered out loud. “I mean, it has to go somewhere or else this whole place would have filled up with water. Maybe there’s an exit down there.”

“We still have the Relicanth that the first glyphs told us to bring with the Wailord,” Shelly said. “Maybe it has to go down the waterfall.”

“We are NOT going to send that Relicanth over the waterfall,” Matt insisted. “It might be our only way out, we ARE NOT going to waste the pokemon on some stupid idea that this kid came up with!”

It was then that Shelly noticed the small wet area reflecting the red light in the corner of the chamber. “There!” she pointed, running over to verify he had seen it. “There’s water coming into this cave from this hole in the wall. There has to be a way out.”

“Or else we’re still underwater and the water is just seeping in through tiny holes,” Matt reasoned. “I don’t know how far we came back up compared to the first river.”

“We needed Wailord because its size let us make it across the gap between the two waterfalls,” Shelly reviewed in a slightly uneasy tone, “so we probably need Relicanth because of some unique trait that it has. So why use it over any other water pokemon?”

There was a momentary silence as the group stared at the hole in the corner of the cave wall where water slowly ran out. The idea of being trapped was starting to weigh heavily on the three pokemon trainers.

“Head Smash!” Carter suddenly said, to the confusion of the other two. “Relicanth has a bony head and so it learns the move Head Smash. That’s how it’s been able to survive as a species for so long, because...”

“We still don’t care about your pokemon trivia,” Matt rolled his eyes. “What are you suggesting we do?”

“Have it swim into that hole and hope its head breaks through something,” Carter said, but then hesitated. “Unless that would just flood the cave and kill us...”

At this point, the red glow coming from Tentacool was starting to fade, threatening to leave the pokemon trainers in complete darkness. Sensing the urgency of the situation, Shelly called out the bony fish pokemon into the small pool of water and gestured for it to swim into the hole.

The pokemon, not trusting the trainer who had recently captured it seemingly without reason, didn’t want to obey her command, but as a pokemon confined to water the little tunnel was also its only escape, so it swam ahead into the dark, confined space.

“You could have just killed us!” Matt shrieked, before a large cracking noise silenced him. Relicanth had indeed bashed its head into something.

Almost instantly, the expansive cave wall before them containing the map carving cracked in all directions and began to crumble away. Shelly and Carter screamed helplessly as the wall fell before them and water rushed in. Fortunately, it only came up to their ankles, and sunlight streamed in, revealing that they were indeed nearly at sea level. The cave through which they had entered lay only a short distance away, where Terry could be seen sitting on the rocks.

The two Team Aqua members nodded in acknowledgement to Carter before calling out two pokemon into the water. Matt and Shelly grabbed onto the back of their Sharpedo and Mantine, respectively, before swimming off toward Slateport City once more, with Vincent exiting the cave to follow their lead with his Sealeo after a few moments.

Carter looked around briefly for the Relicanth, but it became apparent that the rock pokemon had taken the first opportunity it got to flee from its captors. He took one last look at the rubble that used to contain an invaluable ancient map before swimming back over to where Terry still sat waiting for him.

“I half expected them to come back without you,” the Kanto trainer commented as he swam out into the open water to meet his ride back to the shore.

He tried to hide his mouth by facing slightly away from Carter once he got closer, but there was no hiding it. “What happened to your lip?” the water pokemon trainer asked, with an amused look on his face as he called Wailord out to come up from underneath them.

“I told you!” Terry explained. “I thought they were going to come back without you and kill me, so I tried to take down that one guy while he was alone with me. But he defeated my Zubat with an Ice Ball attack and so I tried to physically fight him. Lost that too, if it wasn’t obvious.”

The two boys were mostly silent during the ride back to the shore. Slateport CIty came into view, and for the first time Carter saw not only his home city but also the large destructive shipping industry it hosted. He felt embarrassed as Wailord glided on by the docks where large crates were being unloaded from a ship with a crane.

Terry, meanwhile, saw safety. “We’re going straight to the police, right?” he confirmed the minute they landed on the beach.

*****

END CHAPTER 1