Chapter Twenty-one – Siege

Erik tasted the salt of the sea on his tongue as cold breeze emanating from the nearby ocean washed over him, the biting wind like a neverending series of waves upon his skin. Wingulls screeched overhead, viciously fighting over scraps of food like their lives depended on their next meal. The journey from Slateport to the outskirts of Lilycove City on the back of Soar had proved uneventful and now the vast city stretched out before him, painted in dull hues of the ominous grey stone buildings.

The entire city was perched on a hill overlooking the ocean. A sharp descent on the far side led to a small beach, which was all that separated the city from a seemingly endless body of water. Erik scanned the town, looking to find anything of interest. A bustling harbour to the south immediately grabbed his attention, full to the brim of sailing boats, yachts and fishing vessels floating harmlessly upon the water’s surface. Bright white pearls against the dark blue of the sea. He pondered for a moment as to why none of the ships were setting sail, all stationary in a motionless rest, but cleared the thought from his mind as he continued scouring the town.

He spotted a small rise to the north of the city, with a huge monstrosity sitting at its crest. The building, which reached up and touched the sky, was labelled ‘Lilycove Shopping Mall’ as it dwarfed two further buildings which flanked it, an art museum and a contest hall.

Erik marched through the city, his intention solely to find Archie. The leader of Team Aqua had headed to Lilycove City in his quest to uncover the secret Magma base, but he hadn’t the faintest idea of where to find him. He strolled through the streets, houses constructed with stone clustered the edges of narrow sand littered pathways as the city suffered from overcrowding. He turned a corner, only for a flash of crimson to catch his eye, then another, and another.

The entirety of the city was infested by members of Team Magma, who sauntered along as if the city belonged to them. In fact, there were far more of the crimson cloaked criminals than there were ordinary civilians. A particular huddle of grunts loitered by the street’s edge. Erik ambled up to them then dropped to his knees, pretending to tie a shoelace in order to listen in to their conversation.

“-Unable to get out,” what looked like the leader of the group spoke in a hushed tone, Erik having to lean in slightly to hear.

“We need to get out of here someday soon, ‘Operation: Newage’ is set to begin soon!” a grunt chirped in.

“Newage?! You mean ‘New Age’ you fool! How do you know about that anyway?!” the head grunt snapped, raising his voice slightly.

“I saw it written down somewhere,” he blurted in response, his quiet voice starting to tremble.

“Regardless,” the head grunt replied, lowering his voice back to a whisper. “Aqua have blockaded the port. We’re stuck here. Besieged.”

“Why don’t we just force them out? There’s hundreds of us and only a handful of them,” another grunt added.

“I don’t know, the boss is waiting for something I-” The head grunt’s words were cut off by a scream from the hill. Erik leapt to his feet, his view of the rise obscured by a row of houses. He bolted towards the source, ready for anything.

“Hand over that rare Pokemon!” the grunt demanded, piercing coal black eyes peeking through her hood. The Magma member pinned a woman against the mall’s outer wall by her jumper, the victim hiding a Pokeball behind her back.

“You can’t just take my Swampert!” the woman in distress yelled, to nothing but a harsh laugh from the male grunt accompanying the aggressor.

“We do as we wish,” he replied, a cold snarl painting his face. “We’re the law in this region.”

“Let her go,” Erik growled, tightly clutching Blaze’s Pokeball. He edged closer, making sure he made no sudden movements which could lead to the woman getting hurt.

“Erik!” May shouted from within the grunt’s grasp, the look of her eyes flickering from fear to joy momentarily.

“You’ll back off if you know what’s good for you,” the hooded grunt threatened, averting her gaze from May for only a second.

“Time to leave,” her partner said, slowly backing away. “That’s the one the boss warned us of!”

May heaved a sigh of relief as the grunt released her before the hooded girl joined her partner in hastily retreating, disappearing into the depths of the dull stone city.

Erik felt pride bubbling up inside him. From a small boy wanting to prove himself and overcome his father, to a man whose presence made Magma tremble and flee in fear. He confidently strolled over to May, who leapt into his arms.

He felt her tears soaking into his shirt and her heart pounding against his chest. He pushed her away, only slightly, but enough to lift her head gently with his hand and plant his lips on hers. His own heart thudded violently as they made shapes with their tongues, it was as if his heart wished to reach out of his chest and intertwine with May’s.

They released their lips wet hold on another, as much as Erik wanted to stay with her all day, he knew the region needed him. If what the grunts were saying held true then Magma now controlled it, and Archie had besieged the city.

“I was only here on a shopping spree,” May whispered to him, her shaky voice matching her vulnerable demeanour. “I just wanted some new clothes,” she followed, tears freely streaming down her soft cheeks. “Then they ambushed me when I walked outside, I managed to fight them off with Swampert but as soon as I withdrew her in her Pokeball they grabbed me,” she sobbed, struggling to bring herself to stop the tears.

“Magma will pay for harming you,” Erik replied, a surge of anger flaring within him.

“That Archie guy and those Aqua people we met in Meteor Falls,” May whispered, her voice so quiet Erik had to focus to hear it. “They’re leading the siege of the town.”

“Then I will join with Archie and together we will stop Magma once and for all,” he replied matter-of-factly.

“I want to help.” A weak smile flickered upon May’s face as she spoke the words, but it vanished almost as quickly as it had appeared.

Erik thought for a moment. He certainly wouldn’t allow her to come with him, it’d be far too dangerous. An idea blossomed in his mind.

“My friend, Cecilia, is in Sootopolis doing some investigating on Magma and their goals,” he began, sure he saw a spark of either anger or jealousy in May’s eyes at the mentioning of Cecilia, but like her smile, the emotion had disappeared in an instant. “I need to get a message to her, tell her that Magma are looking for an ancient Pokemon named Groudon in a cave somewhere beneath the area. Can you do that? Then help her uncover where this cave is?” he asked, lightly brushing away the tears on May’s face with his thumbs.

“Yes!” May responded with delight, newfound energy and enthusiasm pouring out of her at the suggestion. “Anything I can do to help, and maybe we can go on another mission together soon.” She kissed him softly on his cheek, before grabbing her Swellow’s Pokeball. “I know!” she squealed. “I’ll come to the caves with you once we find it! See you then!”

Before Erik could say no, May was already on top of her Pokemon, who took off and soared into the skies towards Sootopolis.

Ocean waves crashed against the partly submerged cavern’s exterior walls of solid stone. Sprinkles of residue from the impact lashed onto Erik’s face as a cold wind clawed at him. Soar roared fiercely, in anticipation of the assault, the Latios hovered cooly above a cohort of Wailmer who lingered expectantly on the sea’s surface.

Erik looked down at the makeshift army. A dozen or so remnants of Team Aqua who each rode their own Wailmer seemed fierce and determined, there was no room for cowards here. The police force had taken many casualties upon Mt. Pyre, reducing them to only a loyal few.

“Yeah, we’re all that’s left,” Archie shouted up, seemingly hearing Erik’s thoughts. “Our pleas to the authorities for new members has been revoked. In fact, I just got off the PokeNav shortly before you arrived. They’ve disbanded us, saying Magma’s no longer a threat.”

“Magma aren’t a threat?!” Erik shouted back, before it hit him.

“Yep, what they said. We all know why.”

“Team Rocket now rule the region,” Erik responded, to himself more than Archie.

“That’s why I’ve gotta do this first,” Archie replied. Erik attempted to shoot a reply but the Aqua boss was already sailing to the front of the cavern, holding a hand in the air to tell his grunts to remain where they were.

Archie span sharply on his Wailmer, the large Pokemon turning in the water as agilely as a bird in the sky. Before he scanned the line of men and women before him, eleven loyal members of Team Aqua and Erik floating above on a Latios.

“Listen up all of you,” he bellowed outwards to the legion. “If you lose in battle today you will all lose your Pokemon licences, and with Magma in charge now you won’t be able to get those back. If any of you wish to go home and return to your normal lives and abandon our mission then do so now, I won’t think any less of you.” He paused for a moment, before continuing after none of his grunts moved an inch. “But we are Hoenn’s last hope. If we lose today it is all over, Magma will release Groudon and rule the region with an iron fist. Erik up there says that Team Rocket control Magma, meaning that Rocket would rule the world as we know it!” he roared, passion and hatred stinging his tongue after every word. “Victory today means freedom for not just us, but everyone! Your friends, your family and your future children! So let’s defeat whatever we come across inside and…” He paused once more, before punching the air. “Take. Down. Magma!”

A roar erupted from each and every one of the grunts below Erik, as he locked eyes with Archie. He nodded in approval to the Aqua boss, despite feeling a tinge of fear. He knew every word was true, so much was riding on this assault here today. They could stop Magma in their tracks, before they could even get to Groudon, and relinquish their hold on the region. Or they could fall here and end any resistance to the criminal gang’s monopoly over Hoenn.

The cavern’s interior rose out of the water, and apart from a narrow estuary of water that acted as the entrance, the entirety of the hideout looked as if they were inside a volcano, rather than within the ocean’s depths. Contained fires lit up the cave, with crimson banners featuring the silver and black Team Magma logo stitched in hung from the roofs, motionless in the calm air of the hideout. Red hot tubes pumping what looked like lava ran across the walls, adding to the sweltering heat of the base.

“This is not a drill, response team to their stations. Repeat, this is not a drill,” blared speakers in each corner of the room as Erik and Team Aqua ascended from the water and onto the rough rocky surface.

Large metal doors dotted around the area flew open as swarms of Magma grunts sprinted into the room, grasping Pokeballs in their hands.

“Hold them off!” Archie barked to his team. They were heavily outnumbered but what they lacked in manpower they made up for in both resolve and skill. “Erik,” the Aqua leader continued. “Follow me.”

Archie led Erik away from the confrontation, through a large set of metal doors and into the main hub of the hideout. Computer stations decked the area whilst high energy machines operated across a huge laboratory-like room. Magma members wearing white lab coats and thick rimmed glasses only added to the effect, the scientists ignoring the duo as they charged through the room to another metal door.

“How do you know where to go?” Erik asked as he panted for breath, not used to running.

“Same way I knew where to find this hideout,” Archie grunted. “Had an informant in this place, until he was discovered,” he followed, as another door slammed shut behind them. They were now in a long tunnel with many glass windows running along the walls.

“So they knew we were coming?” Erik questioned as he looked through each of the glass windows whilst sprinting passed, each contained a horde of either Zubats, Poochyenas or Numels. The rooms here had one purpose: To breed legions of Pokemon to be used by Magma grunts in battle.

“Yep,” Archie answered, holding up a keycard to a scanner. The device flashed green before the door it was securing swung open. “That’s why there were so many of them at the entrance.”

“Did you not think to warn me?!” Erik snapped whilst gasping for breath as they finally stopped running. “Or even your team?” he followed. They stopped in their tracks to look around the new location. They were atop a glass bridge, hovering over a dozen or so Magma grunts training in a large open battlefield below.

“I couldn’t,” Archie hissed, unsuccessfully trying to whisper. “With Aqua being disbanded by the authorities their loyalty was shaken, telling my boys we were walking into a trap would’ve push them over the edge!”

“And what about me?” Erik whispered, making sure to keep his voice low now over the loud roars of battle below them. Grunt faced off against grunt in mock fights. Suddenly, a Numel burnt a Poochyena to a crisp, causing Erik to notice that these weren’t friendly practise sessions at all. They were merciless and very real trainer battles, where only the winner would stay on to fight out in the field for Magma. He questioned what would happen to the loser, would they be given another licence by the powers that be? Or turned into a scientist, their lack of skills in battle proven by this test?

He turned his thoughts to the path ahead. The walkway ended in a sharply descending staircase that looped back around. They’d have to pass through the training zone to get to Maxie, a large door barring their way on the other side thereafter.

“With what we’ve seen so far, looks like they’re training an army down here,” Archie commented, ignoring Erik’s question in an attempt to shift the subject. “And it will only get worse further in.”

“Then we have no time to waste,” Erik replied, brushing off Archie’s ignorance as his mind wandered. With Aqua nearly destroyed and the authorities onside, then why would Magma need an army?

The answer hit Erik, striking him like a painful bite from a poisonous snake. Magma were preparing to take over Hoenn, wrestling control of the region from Team Rocket with Groudon, increasing the landmass and controlling the population. But this army wasn’t for Hoenn. Maxie would’ve stuck to his word after all, he would’ve declared war on Kanto and Team Rocket with an army of Magma grunts and the backing of Hoenn.

Still, Erik had no regrets. Team Magma were just as villainous as their superiors.

Erik counted fifteen grunts. All of which were clasping Pokeballs in their hands and honing in on both he and Archie. Normally, he’d fight them one at a time, but this was Magma’s region now, in their own home. They would battle him as they wished.

“Take down the blue one,” one of the grunts commanded. “The boss will want to speak to Erik, better weaken the punk first though.”

The grunts obeyed, the majority heading towards Archie but a half-dozen still targeted Erik.

A plethora of Pokeballs entered the lukewarm air, with no pipes to be seen on the rocky walls. This room was cooler than the rest of the facility. Five Zubats, six Numels and three Poochyenas emerged, the grunts sending out all of their Pokemon at once. Erik responded the only way he could; by releasing all six members of his party.

Blaze was immediately set upon by the Zubats, bursting flames and launching kicks in an attempt to swipe the creatures from the sky. Leaf and Dancer teamed up against the Poochyenas and a Numel, electrified spores rocketing towards their opponents. Soar agily glided past flame bursts from a trio of Numels, Warrior and Splash taking a remaining Numel each.

Warrior wrestled his foe to the ground, landing a punch and moving in to slice the fire type with pincers, before roaring flames erupted from within the Numel’s mouth. Erik’s Pinsir flew backwards swamped by fire, the Numel charging for a finishing blow.

Soar twirled through another wave of fireballs, before swooping down. But it wasn’t the three aggressors he aimed for. He picked up another Numel in his clutches, launching it across the room and into a spiked rocks which jutted out from the wall. Warrior frantically managed to swot out the fires, before returning to battle to help his saviour battle his cluster of Numels.

Erik turned his gaze to Splash, the Numel fighting her cautiously approached the Magikarp. Splash was flopping harmlessly on the ground, the approaching Magma Pokemon didn’t know how to react, it had been borne amongst other Numels, Zubats and Poochyenas, in a habitat that was all about battling with ferocity. As the Numel approached, Splash threw herself into the air, the fire type carefully stepped aside for the Magikarp to flop back to the surface, crashing into the ground and hurting itself in the process.

“Hey Erik!” Archie roared from across the room, his army of water types evenly matched with around twenty Pokemon facing off against him. “Magikarps are special. Most trainers give up on them after seeing how weak they are, but they require something different to other Pokemon. They need someone to believe in them.”

“I do believe,” Erik whispered, smiling at Archie before returning his view to the battle at hand. Splash struggled as the opposing Numel rammed into her, launching the Magikarp across the room.

Dancer lay helplessly on her back as she held a Poochyena off with both her paws, clasping them around its jaws. She had already defeated one Poochyena as Leaf struggled against both the third and a Numel. Dancer was slowly being overpowered by the Magma Pokemon’s tough jaws, as Leaf was launched across the room having been rammed by the Numel. Erik’s Gloom crashed violently into the ground next to her trainer.

Erik felt the top of his right leg burning as if it had suddenly caught fire. He reached into his pocket and immediately withdrew his hand due to the scalding heat within. He had to get whatever it was in his pocket out of there, otherwise it could burn through his leg. He tried again, quickly slamming his hand into his pocket and turning it inside out, the stone inside flying into the skies.

Leaf climbed to her feet before the Poochyena leapt onto her, the Numel following in closely. The stone stopped suddenly in mid air, hovering for a split second before zooming towards the Gloom, colliding with her body and engulfing her and her two attackers within a bright white light.

Erik saw Blaze fall to the floor out of the corner of his eye. His Blaziken had destroyed two of the Zubats with fire and kicked a third into the wall, but the final two had overcome him. The poisonous creatures latched their fangs into Blaze, enclosing their mouths around both a shoulder and a leg.

Soar crashed to the ground after being hit by one too many flame bursts and Warrior was locked in a wrestling match with a Numel as another creeped up behind him, preparing to catch the Pinsir unaware and smolder him into ashes with a burst of flame.

“Splash,” Erik whispered to the prone Magikarp, who flopped weakly on the ground as the opposing Numel closed in for the kill. “I believe in each and every one of my Pokemon, and right now four of mine are about to be defeated and I don’t know what will come out of that light Leaf went into. You’re my only hope, I need you.”

Splash turned his terrified eyes towards Erik, his gaping mouth gulping breaths of air before she too, was engulfed in a shining white light.

Dancer tried to fry the Poochyena with an electrical blast, but it was too late. Her foe wrapped powerful jaws around her throat, sinking its fangs inside, until sharp razor-like leaves sunk into the Poochyena, who let out a horrific howl of pain before Dancer launched her attack.

Warrior overpowered the Numel and sliced it apart with his pincers but failed to notice the blast of fire from behind him. Erik’s Pinsir burst into flames before both he and the Numel were swept away by a strong wave of water.

Dancer sprinted over to check on Soar’s health. The Latios was still breathing, albeit weakly, as she blasted away the two Numels circling the beast with electricity.

Leaf and Splash approached Blaze. The newly evolved Vileplume emitted sleeping powder into the air, sending the Blaziken to sleep as well as the two Zubats, who released their tight grip on Blaze in their slumber. Splash reached down with his long neck, the Gyarados grabbing the Zubats in his huge jaws and eating them whole.

Erik cheered, giving both Leaf and Splash a hug before returning his team to their Pokeballs. A glance over to Archie saw the Aqua leader struggling in his own battle, but before Erik could sprint over to support his friend, he was rebuked.

“Carry on without me, we need to stop Magma no matter what!”

Without a word of argument Erik obliged, he knew Archie was right.

Erik strolled through the corridor, clutching Leaf’s Pokeball in his hand just incase she was needed. He passed by glass window after glass window, each showing him a room conducting a different experiment. From testing an all purpose robotic battlesuit, with Pokeball launchers attached to each arm, to machines experimenting on meteorite fragments; Team Magma had it all. The final two windows before a sharp turn as the corridor latched onto another saw megastones being poked and prodded by lab equipment as the scientists attempted to unravel the mysteries within.

Archie had said the facility needed to be destroyed at all costs. He was right. Team Magma were experimenting with forces they both couldn’t understand nor control.

The new corridor contrasted the last. From the white stone walls featuring thick glass windows of the experimental sector of the facility to the grey metallic plates of the hideout’s lowest levels. It also surprisingly seemed to slope upwards. Each step resonated in a sharp clunk as he walked along the metal grates towards two Magma grunts who loitered before a staircase which looked to descend into the facility’s final area.

“Halt!” the first grunt shouted across the corridor to Erik as he approached, his frail voice echoing softly around the walls.

“Out of my way, I’m here to see Maxie!” Erik demanded, refusing to stop in his tracks.

“Get the switch,” the grunt said to his comrade, who immediately proceeded to a circular scarlet-red button lurking before the staircase.

The grunt thumped his palm onto the button.

Neon yellow lights descended from the ceiling, swirling colours around the room and emitting a buzzing siren-like sound. Erik heard movement behind him, turning his head to see an impenetrable looking metal door rising out of the floor where the corridor began.

The lights and sounds blared relentlessly, as a metal grate opened in the wall near the grunts. Five Electrodes rolled out, malicious smirks menacingly washed across their faces as they spun their way down the sloped surface towards Erik.

He launched Leaf’s Pokeball into the air. Blaze was too weak, Soar and Splash too large for the corridor, so he kept both Dancer’s Pokeball in reserve whilst sending Warrior in to help Leaf.

His newly evolved Vileplume launched a deluge of powder into the corridor, shooting the sleeping spores towards the Electrodes. The quintet reacted instantly, each generating waves of electricity and conducting the voltage through one another which created an electrical barrier that absorbed the spores within.

Erik was trapped, with five Electrodes and a huge wall of electricity rolling towards him and the metal door slammed shut behind him. He was at a loss as to how to save himself.

He was so close, he knew Maxie awaited him down the staircase. Archie and his grunts would have been defeated by now, or if not, searching for a way to destroy the facility. As raging sparks flew off the barrier as the Electrodes closed in, an idea flicked into Erik’s mind.

At lightning speed he grabbed Splash’s Pokeball and released the gigantic sea creature into the tight hallway. As soon as his Gyarados entered the fray, the metal plating underneath them collapsed, the beast far too heavy for the floor to maintain its weight.

They fell, crashing into the mini-harbour below the tunnel. Erik had landed on top of Warrior, the Pinsir cushioning his fall. He quickly rolled out of the way in the nick of time to avoid the Electrodes smashing into the ground beside him, their electrical energy zapped out of them by the impact. Cracks appeared in their hard skin, as their eyes turned from dots to crosses.

One such Electrode survived the fall, attempting to weakly roll away from him, but Erik felt remorseless. He grabbed a Pokeball and launched it at the electric-type, capturing the creature within and naming it “Zap”.

“Stop right there!” the grunts shouted in unison as they descended the staircase after Erik, launching five Pokeballs into the air, a Poochyena emerging from within each. Splash roared at his new foes, the Gyarados seemingly unharmed by the fall. Leaf and Warrior, however, had fared much worse.

His Pinsir lay lifeless on the ground. He had landed awkwardly and with his trainer also landing on top of him, the fall had proved too much. Leaf was also motionless as Erik held his breath, hoping for any sign of life. He exhaled, relieved to see his Vileplume struggling to climb to her feet after a short while as he recalled the grass type into her Pokeball.

“So nice of you to join us,” a calm rose hovered towards Erik, as he pushed himself back to his feet. A bay opened up before him, the stolen submarine cooly floating within, a drill newly attached to its face. Maxie stood over by a control panel, flanked by two assistants who wore their customary labcoats.

“Nice place you got here,” Erik remarked as he coughed whilst brushing dust off himself. Sweat trickled down his face as he huffed a sigh of relief that his risky plan had worked.

“Unfortunately,” Maxie followed as he strolled over to Erik. Roars of battle echoed behind him as Splash had already defeated two of the five Poochyenas. “You weren’t meant to see any of this. Which gives me a dilemma.”

“And what is that?” Erik followed, moving his hand to his belt as he prepared for battle.

“How can I let you live when you have seen all that you have,” Maxie commented whilst he lifted the palm of his hand into the air, shortly followed by the other. “On the other hand, Giovanni says he needs you alive.”

“Let’s just battle,” Erik snapped, wrapping his fingers around Dancer’s Pokeball as Splash tore apart another Poochyena.

“Not this time. The way I see it the choice is in your hands.” Maxie raised a finger of a still-raised hand. “Option one: You back down and I trap you down here and keep you as my prisoner until the time is right to release you.” The Magma boss then raised a second finger. “Two: You proceed to attack me and I’m forced to destroy you. I only need a little more time then we can release Groudon and control the land, before taking the fight to Team Rocket. If Giovanni believes you still live until that time then no harm done.”

Erik clenched his jaw as Maxie raised a third finger, but he wished to hear no more. “I take my own option,” he growled, stepping forward and moving to release Dancer’s Pokeball. “I defeat you in battle and take you down myself.”

“Hold on. Hold on,” Maxie calmly replied. “Option three is the good one. Now you have seen I will be true to my word, once Hoenn is under our control we will take the fight to Rocket with an army, you can join us, even if only in secret for the time being. I will allow you to leave, whisper none of this to anyone and I will call on you when the time is right.”

Erik moved Dancer’s Pokeball back to its place on his belt, the device clicked into place once it had reached its destination.

“Very good,” Maxie said in a rasp of a voice, his tone barely above a whisper as a large smile spread across his aging features.

“Oh,” Erik said in response, a smile lighting up his own face. “You thought I’d taken up your offer?” he finished, as Splash roared behind him. The Gyarados had defeated all five Poochyenas and was now ready to take down the Magma boss. “Let’s do this Splash!” Erik roared, before a loud siren cut him off.

“Self destruct sequence initiated.”

“What?!” Maxie roared, his calm demeanour disappearing. “Who authorised this?! Turn it off immediately!” He commanded the assistants, who frantically activated their communication devices; to receive only silence.

“They’re not working, sir!” the assistant said, his voice only narrowly making it to Erik over the loud buzzing and constant repetition of the perilous message.

“Fire up the submarine!” Maxie ordered. “We’re getting out of here,” he followed, before turning to Erik. “I recommend you evacuate. Here’s your last chance to join us. Accept and you can join my in the submarine. Refuse and you perish here.”

“I’ll never join you,” Erik hissed.

“Then die!” Maxie passionately snapped, Erik had never seen the Magma leader show so much emotion. As the submarine plunged underwater, Splash leapt in after it, but was unable to dive under the water’s surface himself. Erik was unsure what was holding the Gyarados back.

An explosion boomed overhead, some floors above where he now stood. Maxie was right, there was no escape. The way into the harbour had been destroyed by Splash as he escaped the Electrodes and the only way out was through the bay, but they were deep within the ocean’s depths. It would be impossible for him to hold his breath for that long, even riding on Splash’s back.

“Is this really the end?” he whispered, to both his team and himself. “I guess I have to hope Archie got out okay. Then he, Cecilia and May can continue this fight.” He grabbed hold of Blaze’s Pokeball. If he was going to die here today, he wanted to do it alongside his eldest friend. “Was everything we’ve been through for nothing. Honestly, what have I achieved? Magma and Rocket, Giovanni and Maxie. I’ve not even made a dent in their plans.”

As his tears flowed freely down his face, the drops landing softly on Blaze’s Pokeball, an enormous explosion devastated the area.