Chapter Seven – Slateport
“Thank y-you,” the shaken receptionist stammered as Erik handed over the fifty Pokedollar entrance fee to the museum.
“You’re welcome, have the guys in the red cloaks given you much trouble?” Erik glanced around the room as he asked, seeing seven Magma members filling out the museum’s ground floor.
“They didn’t pay,” she replied, hiding behind her desk, “but other than that they haven’t given us any trouble, they are all just kind of standing there, waiting for something.”
Erik flashed the worried lady a half smile before making his way through the museum, walking directly towards the stairs that led to the institution’s other floor. He could see that the receptionist wasn’t wrong, the seven Magma members were just stood still, seemingly admiring the displays.
The Museum’s ground floor was crammed with glass cases, each one containing an ocean-themed item – from old ship models to fossils to water samples. The crimson figures overlooking the displays were speaking to each other in hushed tones.
“If Grant didn’t fail at Rustboro we wouldn’t be here right now” one growled to another.
“Wait ‘til the boss gets here, then the fun begins” whispered another.
Erik smiled as he made his way up the stairs, making sure he remained inconspicuous, he doubted any of the group would recognise him but wanted to make absolutely sure, he needed to be in and out before the boss arrived so he could drop off the parts to Stern and avoid any trouble.
The first floor had the same aqua-blue carpet and walls as the ground floor, but the displays up here were much more prominent. The large, open room was fronted by a miniature map of Hoenn. Erik studied the scaled-down island – it was surrounded by deep oceans and filled with forest. The north was mountainous, with an active volcano, whereas the south had many beaches which Erik could attest to.
Overshadowing the map was a large model of the ship under construction at Stern’s shipyard, the SS.Tidal, a huge cloud-white cruise ship intended to deliver people in and out of the Hoenn region. The far end of the room featured containers which each consisted of a water sample from another region. Standing by the Kanto sample was an aging man wearing a moss-green suit with matching coloured fedora.
“Captain Stern?” Erik enquired, as he made his way to the man who was fingering his moustache.
“Yes young man, what can I do for you?” The man’s voice was soft and friendly.
Erik told him about the package as he reached into his bag, and handed it over. A brimming smile engulfed the captain’s face.
“Thank you Erik! I have been waiting a long time for these parts and now I can finally take part in an underwater expedition for precious stones. I must thank Mr. Stone and tell him what a great job his delivery boy has done!”
Erik felt a flash of rage at being called a delivery boy but quickly quashed it, smiled and went to make his way out the museum.
Suddenly the anger re-materialised.
All seven of the Team Magma grunts stormed up the stairway, Pokeballs in hand.
“Stern!” the lead one called out from under his hood, “we require your assistance.”
Erik blocked their way, Blaze’s Pokeball in his own hand.
“What am I doing?” He thought to himself, recalling what had happened on the beach when he got involved in something he shouldn’t have, he shook the painful memories from his mind before shouting out, “You want Stern?! You have to go through me first.”
“Alright, a seven on one battle it is!” The lead one spoke again with a bark of laughter, a smirk remaining afterwards on his shadowed face.
As this was happening, another man came up the stairs. Wearing a red and black labcoat with red jeans and boots. The seven grunts parted to let him through as the man eyed Erik through thick-rimmed glasses, his long auburn hair flowing as he strolled through the room.
“Brave” he spoke with authority to Erik, though his voice remained calm.
“You must be Maxie.” Erik retorted.
“And you, Erik” came the instant reply, the man had an aura about him which demanded respect.
“What do you want with Captain Stern?”
“We would like his help, as we would like yours.”
“Mine?” Erik asked quizzically.
“Yes, you have proved yourself a worthy trainer and would progress far in our order. We have gotten off on the wrong foot I believe, unlike you’ve been told via the media, our goals are noble, not barbaric nor evil.”
“Noble? You cheat and steal!” Erik snapped.
“Only from the privileged and corrupted authorities,” again, the reply was instant and calm, “We intend to propel humanity to even greater heights of progress and evolution, we live on land and are running out of space to grow here in Hoenn, the authorities banning Pokemon elsewhere has caused vast increases in the population, to accommodate everyone, we must increase the landmass.”
“And just how are you going to do that, and how will Stern help with it?” Erik enquired, feeling he was listening to the words of a mad man.
“I can see you need more persuasion before you are ready to join us, Erik.” Maxie pondered for a moment before continuing, “I would like to see your abilities for myself in battle, I will use only my weaker Pokemon for now to give you a chance, if you win then we will all leave without a further word, if I win, Stern comes with us. Fair?”
“Deal.” Erik snapped, feeling insulted and wanting to prove Maxie wrong.
Blaze roared at his opponent, the Combusken trying to intimidate the Numel he was facing off against.
“I’ve heard all about you and your Blaze, the bond that you have with your first ever Pokemon.” Maxie’s voice remained calm and assertive.
“How do you know so much about me?” Erik snapped, before composing himself, “I cannot let him get into my head” he hissed under his breath.
Maxie replied with only a smile, before ordering his Numel to blast Blaze with flame, Erik’s Pokemon absorbing the fire attack.
“Why would he attack a fire Pokemon with fire?” Erik thought, before Blaze strolled up to his adversary and kicked him through one of the water containers, the Numel being extremely weak to water as he was both a fire and ground type, the liquid poured out of the container and onto Maxie’s creature. Blaze knew he had defeated his opponent with ease as it thrashed and struggled against the water in vain.
Maxie sent out a Zubat next, Erik countering with Ice. Although his Poochyena was low on confidence, with Maxie seemingly not even trying, he knew that this was the perfect opportunity to restore some of Ice’s self-belief.
Ice leapt onto the flying creature and sunk ice-filled fangs into it, the Zubat tried fighting back with a wild bite but was unsuccessful, the poisonous flying Pokemon was incredibly weak and under trained, falling easily in battle to Ice’s attacks.
“You could at least try!” Erik snapped again.
“I wanted to see your bond with your Pokemon, it’s truly incredible.”
Maxie threw out another Numel onto the battlefield, so Erik allowed Roller his first taste of action. The Gulpin rolled around the room to move, coughing up sludge at the Numel. The ground Pokemon then tried attacking Roller with blasts of fire, but the Gulpin rolled out of the way each time, dodging every attack. Instead of hitting Roller, the flames hit the carpet and displays, causing the room to catch fire.
Stern and Blaze lifted up the containers filled with water, attempting to extinguish the flames, but were slow in doing so. Roller was left with nowhere to go as the fire spread and ending up being hit by one of Numel’s attacks, weakly rolling back to Erik to be withdrawn into its Pokeball.
With Ninja being weak to fire attacks, Erik sent Lady into the fray for her first taste of battle, but despite being a Water type, she couldn’t handle a full battle just yet. The Numel rammed into her and sent her flying back further than she should’ve gone, Erik had underestimated just how weak his Tentacool was as she lay unmoving, flames creeping closer to her. Maxie’s Pokemon moved in for the kill, it inhaled breath ready for a final spit of fire, when it was sent rocketing into a water container by another kick from Blaze, the Combusken then pouring water over Lady and the surrounding fires.
Lady coughed back into consciousness, Blaze carrying her frail body back to Erik.
“The way your Pokemon fight for each other is remarkable, you are all like family.” Maxie was still calm, despite being defeated. “I have seen what I wanted to, I am very much looking forward to the day you join us Erik.”
“That’s not going to happen” Erik snapped.
“Oh, it will. When you find out the truth about everything that is going on. When you become desperate and your Pokemon fall and falter leaving you with nothing left. When you grow from being an angry, hurt little child into a man hardened by pain, You will become one of us. you will one day take my place. This, I promise you.”
Erik awoke tired and groggy, he had hardly slept the previous night after remembering Maxie’s promise the day before. Blaze looked up at him from the hotel room floor, having slept as badly as his trainer, channeling Erik’s anxiety.
“We need to go through Route 110 to Mauville, get our third badge” Erik whispered to his closest friend, who chirped in agreement.
Erik heard a crash from across the room, a plate had fallen from the table as Roller tried eating the contents.
“You won’t like that cereal, Roller. Thats human food!” Erik chuckled, as his Gulpin seemed nonplussed by his comments and continued eating the food. Ninja and Ice were still asleep underneath the bed, with Lady off swimming in the ocean away from the group as usual. Erik decided he would get a couple more hours rest before heading off, Blaze chirped happily at the decision.
“It’s Lisia, it’s Lisia” were the screams and shouts from outside the contest centre. Erik had been making his way out of Slateport when he heard a commotion from outside the large brick building on the edge of the city.
“What’s going on?” Erik enquired to one of the people screaming, a young teenaged girl with blonde ponytails.
“How do you not know?! It’s Lisia the famous contest winner!” Squealed the girl.
“What’s a contest? They don’t have those in Kanto?”
“Have you been living under a rock or are you just stupid?” The girl retorted, “Everyone knows that people challenge each other to contests with their Pokemon, not everyone wants to be a trainer you know, you don’t even need a licence for contests.”
“You still haven’t answered my question.”
“Oh, contests can be performed in five categories: Cool, smart, strong, cute and beautiful. Each categories has two rounds, the first is where the Pokemon is presented to the audience and points are given for the best reaction. The second is the performance round wher-”
“I’ve heard enough, you’re boring me, who’s Lisia.” Erik interrupted.
“Rude! Lisia is the best! Her and Altaria are famous for being the best at contests.”
“AND NOW” The woman who Erik assumed was Lisia announced, her lime-green hair tied up in a ponytail, she was wearing nothing but a short skirt and tube top, both were as white as her Altaria’s wings.
“I will pick out one of the audience” Lisia continued, “and this member of the audience will be my scouted star.”
“PICK ME!” The girl next to Erik screeched, leaping into the air and knocking him to the ground.
“Oh poor boy!” Lisia cried, running over to Erik and helping him back to his feet, “You shall be my scouted star!” She yelled, feeling sorry for him whilst grabbing her new star’s hand and holding it in the air to be greeted by a roar from the audience. Erik shot a grin at the girl who had knocked him over as he made his way into the contest hall.
“So that is how you’ll win this contest” Lisia smiled as she finished talking. In truth, Erik hadn’t been paying attention to a word she had said as he looked around the dressing room planning his escape, he couldn’t cope being here much longer.
“Actually,” Erik began, “I do not want to compete, I was only being nosey outside, I hate this place to be honest, all happy and oblivious to the world. How can you dance and sing with Pokemon, pretending to be happy, when gangs are taking over the land?”
“Excuse me?!” Emma responded instead of her friend, the red haired woman was in charge of the contest centre and was helping Erik along with her friend Lisia prepare. “Lisia is the best there is, how dare you talk to her like that!”
“If she’s so good why don’t we have a battle?!” Erik thundered, before Lisia spoke calmly to cool the situation.
“I don’t battle, besides, why all this fighting when we are going to have a little fun contest in a minute. Emma, please lend Erik your Pikachu as his Pokemon are nowhere near ready for a contest.”
“Sure thing,” Emma smiled before turning back to glare at Erik whilst handing him a Pokeball. “I’m not an official trainer therefore my Pikachu isn’t registered to me, so can be used by anyone.”
Erik released the Pikachu from it’s spherical home, before gasping in shock. The electric-typed Pokemon was in a red jacket with black shorts and red, fake eyebrows. The Pikachu immediately started dancing, spinning around on her tiptoes and waving her hands in the air.
“We will leave you and Pikachu to get ready,” Lisia smiled, “I expect you both in that contest hall in ten minutes.” Emma followed her out through the back door into the hall.
Erik saw his chance, he withdrew the Pikachu back into it’s Pokeball and ran, he couldn’t stand being here any longer so took the Pokemon with him without thinking. As he exited the changing room out the front door and into the Lobby, he picked up a couple of food items laid out on the table for his Pokemon, a “Rage Candy Bar” and a “Sweetheart”. He exited the building and ran out onto Route 110 without looking back.
The sun was setting, and a chill now took the air. Erik was exhausted from a busy day of battling with trainers. Route 110 was packed with trainers looking for action, Erik had been forced to take the lower pathway as he didn’t have a bike, the lower road full of thick grass, stretched out over a lake.
“Sorry Dancer,” Erik whispered to his newly nicknamed Pikachu, “we can’t go back there, not even to return you.” A shiver flowing through his spine as he thought about the contest centre he had escaped from this morning.
Dancer looked sad, even her movements were slow and ponderous instead of the fluid dancing she was performing in the dressing room, she wanted nothing more than to go home. Erik felt his new Pokemon’s sorrow, flicking on his ‘Region round-up’ on his Pokenav for a change of scene.
“For some unknown reason Team Magma are retreating from Slateport, and have now been heading towards the active volcano, Mt. Chimney” the reported stated, “some speculate that they may be returning to their base, which could be hidden inside the mountain.”
Erik recoiled, if there base is up there then the authorities should assemble a team to take them down, why wouldn’t they? He thought back to what Maxie said about the authorities being weak and corrupt, for them not even to have a police force something must be going on.
“Team Magma’s numbers have bolstered significantly since their recruitment drive with Stone badges” the reporter continued, “and despite an apparent setback in Slateport, their rise is set to carry on.”
Erik wondered if he was strong enough to take them on by himself, he had been training all day. A lady named Isabel had sent out a Plusle and Minun against him which Ninja dispatched with ease, too quick for them to shoot down with bolts of electricity he continuously swiped at them with his claws. Roller had defeated a Roselia sent out by another trainer, before teaming up with Blaze to defeat another Plusle and Minun in a double battle with a pair of twins. Roller then defeated Miguel‘s Skitty and even Lady got in on the action, defeating Andrew’s trio of Magikarps. Ice and Blaze performed some training of their own, racing each other up and down the route to try and build their stamina, speed and fitness.
Erik looked at Roller, the Gulpin was currently eating some of the grass, and thought about how the Pokemon he had caught on this very route was becoming a key member of his team, Lady was becoming more powerful too after winning against some Magikarps, using the terrain to her advantage. Dancer, however, had refused to battle with the team, instead skulking around and lagging behind them.
“Yoo-hoo!” A shrill shout came from a feminine voice behind Erik, he immediately thought of Lisia and Emma, had they caught him?
“Hey Erik, it’s been ages!” May spoke through a wide smile, “how’ve you been?”
“Magma are killing the region Erik, I hate them,” May finished, the two having had a long chat to catch up with each other’s lives as Dancer caught up with them.
“Oh Erik your Pikachu is so cute,” May exclaimed, before Erik explained the whole situation with Dancer and the contest centre. Her reaction shocked him.
“How are you any better than Team Magma, you are just like them, stealing from innocent people!” she screamed at him, “return him at once, Erik, or I will never speak to you again,” she crossed her arms, glaring at Erik the whole time.
“I don’t want to go back there, I was trapped there!” Erik countered, feeling May’s fury rising with every word he spoke.
“Fine, you know what Erik, I got you wrong,” she continued. Erik could feel himself panicking each time she opened her mouth, he didn’t know what to do, “I thought you were one of the good guys, if you won’t return that Pikachu then I will. We will have a mock battle.”
“You’re challenging me to a fight?” Erik blurted.
“A mock battle,” May repeated, “as I am a researcher it doesn’t have to be official, if one of our Pokemon is about to be defeated, we recall them and consider them unusable for the rest of the fight. If I win, you go to the contest hall and return that Pikachu. Straight. Away.”
“Okay, and if I win?”
“Do whatever you want.”
Ice faced up against May’s Shroomish, Erik was torn in half about what to do, he had never lost a battle and didn’t want to start now. He also wanted to fight for his rights, scared to go back to the contest centre. But at the same time, if he won then May might never speak to him again.
Ice started off on the front foot, clearly buoyed by his victory against Maxie’s Zubat. The Poochyena crunched down on Shroomish, but in doing so caused the grass Pokemon to release spores into the air. Ice was paralysed inhaling the spores, but managed to carry on regardless, his cold fangs freezing the life out of May’s creature.
“Ice, don’t kill it!” Erik called out to his Pokemon, who suddenly released his half-dead opponent from his jaws, the Shroomish rolled weakly back to May who took out it’s Pokeball, withdrawing it.
May reached for her second Pokeball and sent out a Slugma. Erik gave Lady a chance, shooting his Tentacool a smile and some encouraging words as she used her tentacles to walk out onto the field of battle. Lady stood up straight, fulling stretching out her arms to seem taller, then screeched supersonic soundwaves at the Slugma, confusing May’s fire type. The fire slug leapt at Lady in retaliation, but the Tentacool leapt out of the way, leaving the Slugma to slam into a railing which separated the path from the lake.
Lady took the opportunity to lay some toxic spikes on the ground, coughing up small purple nails brimming with poison. The Slugma blasted Lady with fire whilst she was distracted, but her slimy surfaced soaked up the flame.
“Lady’s really coming along well” Erik thought to himself, seeing how Lady was using her brain and anything to her advantage reminded him of Ziggy.
Erik shook the thought of his fallen Zigzagoon from his head and returned his gaze to the battle, seeing his Pokemon shoot a stream of poisonous liquid at the Slugma who coughed and choked as the ooze hit his magma-like surface. The Slugma charged through the liquid but in its confused state, missed Lady and fell into the lake.
“SLUGMA!” May cried, seeing her fire Pokemon drowning in a watery tomb. The slug disappeared underwater, out of sight. Seconds passed before it reemerged, Lady had leapt into the lake and swam her foe to safety, the Slugma coughed up water, barely alive.
“I hate you Erik!” May stamped her feet, “my Marshtomp will make you send that Pikachu back to it’s home” she finished, throwing out her final Pokeball.
“Dancer, fancy a battle?” Erik asked the Pikachu, but the electric Pokemon folded her arms and puffed out her face, refusing to fight. Erik launched Roller’s Pokeball into the air instead, as Dancer went off into the distance to practise one of her dance routines.
Erik’s vision snapped from the Pikachu and back to the fight at hand, as May’s Marshtomp charged at Roller, the Gulpin rolled out of the way as the water and ground dual-typed Pokemon tripped over one of Lady’s toxic spikes, getting itself poisoned in the process.
May surrendered, seeing her Pokemon succumbing to the venom.
“Here, I have a spare antidote in my bag,” Erik remarked as he healed the Marshtomp.
“I forgot how strong you were Erik, I didn’t have a chance,” a tear rolling down her cheek as she realised the damage that her opponent had caused her beloved Pokemon.
“I’m sorry, May,” came the reply from Erik, who went to grab her hand before May slapped it away.
“I don’t want your apologies, look at how unhappy that Pikachu is, it just wants to go home,” May ranted, “the way you battle without mercy, the way you steal without remorse, you are just the same as Team Magma” May finished, storming off.
Erik was at a loss, he didn’t know what to do next, he leaned against the rail pondering his next move.