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Chapter Twelve: The Trials of the Second Emblem

     After what seemed like hours of waiting in the small cell, I heard quick, 
sharp footsteps outside the door. After a muffled exchange more footsteps 
came, less defined, lazier. The door creaked opened slowly, and a bald 
forehead, followed by small beady eyes, came through the door, testing if it 
was safe for the rest to follow. When he saw I was awake, something else came 
through the door. A pistol.
     "Now, don't try anything," a high male voice piped.
I tilted my head at him and then looked at the rope bonds at my hands and 
feet. I would have given him a witty remark, too, if it hadn't been for the 
gag at my mouth.
     I'd been here since I'd regained consciousness and no one had even looked 
in on me. Unlike before, they confiscated everything I had. I had no way of 
knowing where my Pokémon were, or my friends, or even if they were alive. I'd 
made up my mind not to leave without any of them, even that Lapras we'd 
rented to take us to Cinnabar. I also couldn't listen to anything they told 
me about them, as it would most likely be lies.
     The man had fully entered the cell, now. He stood 5' 3", and there was a 
quality to him that did the opposite of impressing someone. He had a long, 
narrow nose that curved into a downward hook. His big, chapped, lips were 
straight, with a bored, but nervous expression. His eyes, beady as they were 
before, had grown even smaller with the addition of these two new features. 
His bald head was very flat, except for a small lump on the top. A snake like 
tongue slithered out, and caressed the top lip.
     He opened his mouth and spoke: "You are quite lucky, you and your Pokémon 
were the only ones to survive that horrible accident."
     I'd expected to hear something like that, but he was a convincing liar. I 
almost believed him.
     "Oh, don't worry. Your Pokémon are being treated in our center for their 
wounds. You will be reunited with them shortly."
     I tried to curse at him, tell him what I thought of his lies, but it came 
out muffled due to the gag. He walked toward me to take it off. When it'd 
been removed, I glared at him and said, "Whatever your point is, get to it. 
I've got things to do."
     He didn't seem phased in the least by this, in fact, I think it made him 
feel better, knowing he wasn't tormenting a helpless child.
     "You've come seeking Emblems?"
     "I've come seeking answers."
     "Why whatever do you mean?"
     I ground my teeth, fighting down my rage. I knew that anger would only 
get me in deeper in this situation.
     "The tentacle."
     The corner of his mouth flicked up. He was pleased at something, probably 
my ignorance. Again the snake tongue moved swiftly over the top lip.
     "Ah, yes. You see, our organization is secretive due to its 
exclusiveness, we don't want amateurs coming to us, trying to compete with 
trainers light-years ahead of them. So the tentacle acts as a secrete, 
automatic storage system, collecting the emblems when it senses them. 
Eventually you'll learn to control it."
     "What I'm worried about is it controlling me."
     The small man chuckled. "No, you needn't worry about that. Now, do you 
wish to know about the Emblem available here or not?"
     Last time I fought and won, I was reunited with my friends. It's a 
possible way out, albeit not the easiest one. Okay. I'll play his game, for 
     "Okay, when can I face Harold."
      He looked puzzled, then amused. "My dear child, you already defeated 
Harold. Chances are, you'll never se him again."
     It was my turn to be puzzled, but I figured it out quickly. Harold was a 
Gym Leader. He was merely one of many, and this place would be different.
"I get it. So who's the leader here?"
     He tilted his head and smiled slightly. "My dear child, I lead here."
     I suppressed the urge to laugh, knowing that you couldn't judge a book by 
its cover. But I did allow myself the comment: "So where should I go after I 
defeat you?"
     The man bowed his head slightly and grimaced. "I think that you 
misunderstand. The Emblem we give out here requires the recipient to complete 
trials, rather than compete against another trainer."
     "Yes, a series of tests using Pokémon."
     "You mean like the Orange Crew?"
     "Well," he smiled, "A bit tougher."

     He returned my belt of Pokémon to me, explaining that giving me back my 
back would be more of a hindrance than a tool during the Trials. He led me 
through twisting, low, dark and gray corridors, keeping the pace quick. We 
passed a few doors; each with a man or woman outside them dressed in Ancient 
robes. They had a bored look about them, until they saw the man I'd named 
Snake. At that they stood at attention and said something in what sounded 
like Klingon.
     When we reached the end of one hallway, he turned to me. "Beyond here, 
there is no turning back. If you still wish to continue, though, do so at 
your own risk. It can get a little dangerous."
    "You're not going to let me go without facing these Trials, so I don't 
suppose I have much of a choice." He lifted one corner of his mouth and gave 
a short bow. With his sharp, quick footsteps, Snake left me.
I pushed the hefty door open to find a small cube-shaped room with a 
circular drain in the middle of the floor. There were no lights inside, and 
the air was cool and damp. It was obvious what would come. I stepped through 
and the door slammed behind me.
     As the water began to gurgle up from the floor, my mind was racing. Would 
this be a timed mechanism? Or would I have to remove the water myself? I only 
had one idea, but if it worked, it would work beautifully. I called out 
Spore, Neptune, Destiny, and Goose.
     The water had reached my waist when I began to speak to them. "Alright, 
guys. All I need you to do is hold you breathes for a moment."
Spore flew to the short ceiling, while Neptune swam around, loving the 
bath. Destiny transformed into a Wartortle with wings instead of arms and 
enjoyed the water. Goose lifted her three heads as high as she could, looking 
very scarred.
     The water quickly rose to the top of the cube room and my Pokémon 
struggled to hold their breaths, at least, the non-aquatic ones. When the 
water reached the top, I heard a metallic clang as the water stopped pumping.. 
I recalled my Pokémon. My plan worked.
     The decreased amount of mass in the water-room lowered the level down to 
my waist. The water wasn't pumped back in; rather it was drained as lights 
flickered on. I was socking wet, but alive. 
     The door in front of me opened into the bottom of the ocean. Glass, or 
something like it, a few inches thick, separated this tunnel from the sea. 
Somewhere else, the tunnel would have been an aquarium, a pleasurable thing I 
would have enjoyed. But I had to look for danger in the room. I found it 
rather quickly.
     About fifty feet down the tunnel, it ended. No, it dropped. Deep.
I walked down the hall and got to the drop. What it did was get to the 
bottom of an underwater ravine, and the glass stopped. That was why the 
pressure was so hi in this room. The air in the room was packed so that water 
wouldn't be able to enter. Obviously, the trial of this room was to reach the 
surface. But obvious isn't always right.
     If I did leave the room, with Neptune pulling me up, chances were that at 
that rate of ascent the nitrogen in my body would surge to my brain and my 
head would explode. There was something else here.
     I sent Neptune to the bottom of the ravine to look around. The only thing 
he found was a vent for the dead air in the Gym. It wouldn't be too hard to 
get to it and slide down. The constant airflow would keep the water out.
I looked around the tunnel, wondering how many people survived these 
trials. I decided to leave instructions written on a napkin on how to get 
through this test. Maybe someone would find it before the Ancients disposed 
of it.
     Spore helped me down to the bottom of the drop. When I got there I jumped 
on Neptune's back. Three deep breaths and we dove. Neptune was thankfully 
fast getting me to the vent. I got my Pokédex out and turned the brightness 
up to the highest level, and pointed it toward the vent. I used the light to 
help me remove the screws from the vent. I almost blacked out, but Neptune 
shoved me down the vent and followed quickly.
     When we reached a processor kind of thing, I kicked the maintenance door 
off and climbed out the side, Neptune close behind. I recalled him now, as 
this looked to be an actual part of the facility and I might have to dodge 
guards, which I could do, but a Wartortle isn't exactly the stealthiest 
Pokémon alive.
     When I heard the sharp, quick footsteps I'd learned to identify with a 
certain person, I ducked for cover behind a mass of vertical pipes. When 
Snake walked by and saw the access door forced off, he turned his back to me 
and said something to himself. I took this time to make my move.
     I ran out from behind my pipe cluster and jumped on Snake's back wrapping 
my arms around his neck and cupping one hand over his mouth. I used my free 
hand to draw his pistol. When I'd jumped back off, he whirled around to see 
the gun starring down at him.
     "Quiet now, Snakey. I want this to be a private conversation."
     He whispered to me, "Congratulations."
     I smirked at him. "So I've completed your trials?"
     He nodded.
     "Now tell me where my friends are."
     He looked at me with a mixture of fear and sorrow on his face. "I told 
     "A lie. You told me a lie."
     He looked at the floor. His body shook a moment, and then steadied. When 
he looked up, he had tears in his eyes. "You you're right. I did lie. But 
not in the way you think."
     "What do you mean?" I was truly afraid here. It had been easy to spot the 
lie before, but this time, he seemed sincere.
"Your, your friends. They died during the Trials."