Barry, Rosa, and the other not-members-of-Team-Break did manage to get out of the rain quickly. Koko found a nearby cave, ripe for exploring. Ripe for a lunch break, too. The clouds outside shifted into one of those paradoxical weather events–with the sun peaking back out and shining brightly even as the shower continued.
Brock perked up as they looked around the cavern. Exploring caves was his equivalent of a party, after all. And after Misty had made him try Octillary ink, he figured she owed him a few activities of his choice.
The opening to the cave might have been massive, but the inner cavern even more so. Brock craned his neck; the ceiling was so high it was almost hidden in shadow, despite the closeness to the sunlight outside. Rock Pokémon had a special flair for making a person appreciate just how small they were in the world. But places like this did the same. Strands of rock hung from the ceiling, meeting the brown and silver stalagmites that jutted up from the cave floor. The place looked like some massive creature, even bigger than a Gigantamaxed Eevee, had simply pulled the mountainside open like a wad of wool. Pattering droplets outside blended with the gurgle of flowing water somewhere off in the distance.
“Hey, why don’t we have a Pokémon battle?” Rosa suggested, running farther into the cave and releasing her Servine onto a nice, flat stretch of rock.
Misty shrugged and brought out her Starmie, while Koko, Brock, and Barry found some less-than-comfortable spectators’ seats: slippery rocks with a loamy scent of dampening earth. Cozy.
Both opponents faced each other with utmost confidence. Brock had never known Misty to be intimidated by a type disadvantage, and he saw no reason why that would start now.
“Let’s start this off with a Mega Drain!” Rosa commanded her Pokémon. Servine cooed and obliged, and although Starmie braced itself for the impact, the attack didn’t do anywhere near the damage Brock expected. Maybe Servine wasn’t that strong?
“That did…something,” Misty said. Feigning encouragement was never her strong suit.
Rosa’s cheeks puffed out in annoyance. “Come on, Servine. We’re better than that,” she said.
“You try having your Pokémon hold a Big Root?” Koko suggested. “Those are great for doing more damage with draining moves.”
“Pokémon don’t hold items here on Pasio,” Barry said.
“Starmie, Bubblebe–wait, they don’t?” Misty asked.
Starmie huffed but assumed she meant to finish the command and sent a blast of glowing rainbow bubbles right at Servine. It got a little shaky on its feet but seemed to pull itself together as it readied its next attack.
“That did more damage than Mega Drain,” Brock observed. “Let me guess. Type disadvantages aren’t a thing here, either?”
“Nope!” Barry crossed his arms, looking slightly smug about his insider knowledge. Brock couldn’t blame him. It was a pretty basic thing, he supposed–perhaps the equivalent of visiting Galar and not knowing that an Eevee could grow to the size of a building and suffocate you with its sheer fluffiness.
Rosa seemed to be growing all the more frustrated, so Brock stepped back in an attempt to break the tension. “I’m going to check out some of these tunnels,” he said. “See if I can find a good spot for lunch.”
“Isn’t here a good spot?” Koko asked, indicating around them.
Brock looked at Barry, who was explaining more Pasio battle logic to Rosa in a patronizing-but-oblivious tone. Rosa looked like she might smack him, and Brock didn’t really want to be around for that.
“I’m going to see if I can find a better-than-good spot,” he told Koko and followed the first tributary he came to. It was still pretty wide, so the sunlight did give some minimal lightning in here. Plus, the sound of the flowing water was growing louder the deeper Brock explored. Maybe there was a stream nearby? Barry and Misty’s water Pokémon sure would like that.
As Brock took a few more steps, he heard a strange, non-water-based sound. A muttering voice approached, accompanied with the sound of footsteps. Whoever it was wasn’t stomping per se, but their heavy footwear made a deep echo on the cave floor. The flicker of a flashlight beam rounded the corner.
“…could work here. Nice shelter. Wait, is that water?” Surge’s familiar haircut came into view. Like on the beach, he was scrutinizing the area around him, glancing at each nook and cranny. Now that Brock saw where to look, he caught the smallest glimpses of sunlight dancing off the surface of a small stream right along Surge’s walking path.
“Yep, definitively water,” Surge went on. “Electronics and water sure don’t mix. I know that much.”
Brock stood and waved a greeting. “Lt. Surge! Over here!”
The man glanced up. “Fellow gym leader Brock!” he said brightly. “Again!”
“Just Brock is fine,” Brock assured him. Surge shrugged like he couldn’t get why Brock wouldn’t want a more complicated name and walked closer, closing the gap between them. Once he’d gotten enough into the sunlight, he turned the flashlight off and tucked it away in his pocket. He looked expectantly at Brock to continue the conversation.
“So…” Brock said awkwardly. He wanted to ask what Surge might know of Team Rocket’s activities back home, but there had to be a better lead up to the subject. Really, any lead up at all would do. “How, uh, long have you been on Pasio?”
“A few months now,” Surge replied. “It’s the best, isn’t it?”
“Couldn’t say,” Brock answered truthfully. “I haven’t been here that long to tell.”
“Oh, you’ll grow to love it. Trust me,” Surge said. He put his hands behind his head and leaned back against the cave wall. It did not look comfortable.
Guess that’s as good an opening as I’ll get, Brock thought. “You, um, mind if I ask you a question?”
Brock drew in a slow breath and exhaled. “Misty and I seemed to have developed some…memory issues since our arrival. Do you remember much about what was happening in Kanto? Before you got here, I mean?”
“Well,” Surge said, rubbing the back of his head. “To be honest, I’m a little lost there myself. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy a break from the stresses of gym leader life, you know?”
Brock was surprised by this. Working as a gym leader could get busy at times, true, but he’d never used the word “stressful” to describe it. Of course, Surge ran a gym by a busy ocean port, whereas Brock manned the gym in one of the quietest cities in Kanto that actually had a gym.
“Guess we’re not really on the same wavelength there,” Surge said, and Brock suddenly realized he’d never answered Surge’s question. He began to apologize, but Surge waved him off. “No worries. I get it. Before I came here, I don’t think I really got how much running the place was burning me out.” He went from leaning against the wall to kneeling beside the stream. Not quite settled, he crossed his legs, resting his hands on his knees as he watched the slow trickle of water dancing along the cave’s floor.
“In Pasio, every day is basically perfect,” he mused. “I get up, run some laps, get breakfast at this amazing restaurant…”
Brock nodded and tried not to drool as he remembered Siebold’s grilled vegetables.
“…I even startled this little Gadgeteering club,” Surge continued.
“Oh, yeah? I didn’t know you were a gadgeteer,” said Brock, mostly to show Surge that he was, in fact, listening.
“I’m not,” Surge chuckled. “But I gotta say, I like the idea of being one. So I started this little club with two guys who actually know what they’re doing. One’s from Sinnoh and one’s from Alola, and there’s a scientist guy who might also join us. You’re welcome anytime you wanna come pretend you get how complicated electronics work.” He glanced back at the cave. “Also, as soon as I pick a place for us to actually meet.” He pulled the flashlight back out of his pocket and started back the way he had come. “I’ll send you a message when we’re actually meeting, okay?”
“Sure. Wait, do you even know where I’m staying?” Brock asked.
“Nope. But Lear does, I’m sure. I’ll ask him. See ya!” And with that, Surge disappeared around the corner once again. Brock started to follow, only to see a second tunnel turning away from the direction Surge had gone. Surge’s path was narrow and not really the best for navigating without a flashlight or a Pokémon that could act like one. Plus, Brock thought he saw more light down this way. He shrugged and gave the path a try.
He hadn’t gone far when he heard more rushing water, something much bigger than the tiny stream that had Surge concerned earlier. The source of the sound wasn’t clear right away. Instead the first thing Brock spotted was another cave opening. The sunlight shown bright now without a trace of rain, and a small rainbow hung low in the sky. He approached, thinking that it must have come out when the rain stopped. His face broke into a smile as he spotted a small waterfall plunging into a calm river by the cave’s exit. The low-hanging rainbow rose out the mist at the base of the falls. A grayish-brown canine Pokémon bounced happily around the river’s edge. When its paws hit a puddle, a splash of water came back into its face. The Pokémon shook its head and growled at the offending puddle, catching the attention of a young man with shoulder-length blond hair, who was kneeling by the river.
Must be the trainer, Brock thought. On an island with no wild Pokémon, seeing a solo Pokémon and an unrelated solo human would be rather unusual.
The trainer dried his Pokémon’s face with a towel, then turned towards Brock. “Oh. Hello, there,” he said.
“Hi!” Brock waved from and approached slowly so as not to make the stranger nervous. “Sorry to come up on you like that. Name’s Brock. Guess I’m not the only person who likes exploring caves.”
“Not at all,” the trainer replied. “Although I think Quartz here likes it more than me.” He turned towards the Pokémon, which gave an affirmative yip.
“Cute nickname,” Brock asked, looking the Pokémon over. “And if I’m not mistaken, Quartz is a Rockruff?”
The trainer grinned. “He sure is. If you like, you can pet him. Oh, and I’m Paulo, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you, Paulo.” It was never a bad sign when a trainer introduced their Pokémon first and themselves second. Brock reached out his hand and patted the blue-eyed canine on the head. It let out a happy little yip and nuzzled his palm in return. Brock had never interacted with a rock-type that was quite this…fluffy before. It was kind of nice.
At least, it was nice before Barry’s pounding footsteps approached from behind him. How did the group catch up with them already?
“A-ha!” Barry said, pointing at Paulo the same way he’d pointed to Brock and Misty outside the cave. Brock had to wonder if the poor kid would pull a shoulder muscle, doing this to everyone he didn’t know.
“A-ha what?” Paulo asked. “Do I know you?”
“Barry…please wait…” Rosa begged. “Look at him! He’s not even wearing a Team Break mask.”
“Huh,” Barry looked Paulo over and rubbed the back of his head. “That’s a good point.”
We weren’t wearing masks, either, Brock thought, but decided not to point it out. Barry didn’t seem like the type to take corrective logic well. But at least he gave Paulo an apologetic bow.
“Sorry I nearly accused you of being a Team Break scumbag. I guess you’re not-at-all-a-scumbag, huh?”
“It’s all right,” Paulo replied. “No harm done.” He introduced himself, once again, shaking hands with both Barry and Rosa. “I get your enthusiasm,” he reassured a guilt-ridden Barry. “I can’t stand what Team Break’s doing, either. I actually came in here thinking it might be a hideout of theirs. Then I could crush them for good.” He crossed his arms. It might have looked intimidating, if the Rockruff next to him wasn’t licking its paws as he spoke.
“So…is this a hideout?” Barry asked excitedly.
“Can’t say for sure yet,” Paulo replied. “But don’t let your guard down…if it is, they could attack us from anywhere.”
Barry took this suggestion very seriously, standing back-to-back with Prinplup. For a few awkward moments, nobody moved, and the only sound was the sound of water cascading down the rocky falls.
“Maybe they heard us coming and ran off?” Koko suggested.
Barry lowered his arms a bit. “Maybe. That would make sense. We are pretty tough-looking.”
Rockruff barked its agreement, which was less tough and more painfully adorable.
Barry smiled and relaxed. Once again, Rosa was left in the awkward position of apologizing to someone for Barry’s behavior. She gave Paulo a head-nod of a bow. “Barry really does mean well,” she reassured him. “He just…sees the world a little too much in black and white sometimes.”
Brock felt like there was a joke somewhere in there, but he couldn’t quite place it.