Chapter Eighteen

Lapras burst out of the Poke Ball in a flash of light. Candida quickly grasped the Water/Ice Pokemon's neck and hauled herself onto her solid shell, breathing heavily and still clutching the Rock of Darkness.

The water was coming in rapidly, turning the corridors of Aquarius into rivers. Candida was horrified. Were her friends all right? Had they been caught in any flooded areas? She felt her heart hammering violently at the thought. Then, her mind turned to her own situation. How was she to get out? She knew Lapras could swim underwater, but she would need her Aquagear.

"Oh great!" she thought to herself. "What else can go wrong?"

Still, she reasoned, at least she could try to find out where the others were. She turned to the Togetic hovering nearby. "Togetic," she said, "fly off and look for the others. And don't argue!" she added as Togetic gave her a look as if to say she wouldn't abandon her trainer. "Lapras and I will be all right!"

As Togetic flew off on her mission, Candida turned back to the situation at hand. The whole corridor was flooded and the water was rising rapidly; she would have to get out of here before it was too late. And she still had to find a way of getting rid of the Rock. That, however, would have to wait.

"Lapras, get us out of here!" she urged, giving her Pokemon a gentle prod in the back of her neck. Maybe there were some areas that weren't yet flooded; if there were, she would have Lapras drop her off on the nearest stretch of dry land and continue searching for a way out on foot. Then, a thought occurred to her. Togetic might bring the others, assuming she did find them, back to the place where she saw Candida last. And, when she found her trainer gone . . . Somehow, Candida would have to let her know what was happening.

But how? Togetic was probably out of earshot by now and Candida didn't have a loudhailer with her. All she had was the Rock of Darkness and the Poke Balls which housed her two Pokemon. Her Pokemon . . . Lapras and Togetic could, she recalled, use Psychic; maybe that would be useful here. There was only one way to find out.

"Quick, Lapras!" she whispered. "Use Psychic to tell Togetic where we're going!"

"Laaaaaaaaa!" Lapras began to glow with blue light as she launched into her Psychic ability.

Elsewhere in Aquarius, a battle was raging. Candida's friends and the staff of the undersea complex had freed the people enslaved in the caves and were now fighting to get out before it was too late. All they had to do was get past the Team Midnight guards.

"Pikachu, Thundershock!" Autumn called, watching with satisfaction as Pikachu zapped two guards at once, putting both of them temporarily out of action. "How's it going, Sandra?" she called across to her friend.

Sandra's Wooper and Dratini were fighting like a true team. Wooper was spraying Team Midnight agents with water and Dratini was following through with her Thunderbolt. Lightning surrounded the Dragon Pokemon as she built up energy, releasing it seconds later in a powerful blast of electricity. A Team Midnight agent fell to the floor, stunned.

"Fine so far," Sandra called back. "I just hope what we're doing's enough to . . ."

The whole scene was a chaos of Pokemon Attacks. Water Pokemon were spraying powerful jets, while Fire Types breathed hot flames, Electric Types fired off bolts of lightning powerful enough to stun and all the other Pokemon gave Team Midnight a taste of their own Attacks. Indeed, so much was happening at once that it was hard for anyone to keep track of it all. Not that anyone cared; they just wanted to be able to say that they had been here, that they and their Pokemon had had a hand in stopping Team Midnight's plans.

Team Midnight, meanwhile, fought with the tenacity of those who have to win at all costs. Wave after wave of Dark Type Pokemon (some belonging to agents, others stolen from their original trainers) was sent out and ordered to attack. And attack they did; the Rock of Darkness was still controlling them, still turning them into ruthless fighting machines. Autumn's Pikachu leapt at an Umbreon and prepared to zap it with Thundershock. But, before he could attack, the Umbreon fired off a Shadow Ball. Pikachu was too close for it to miss.

"Pikachu!" Autumn cried. She ran forward and picked up her small yellow Pokemon. This was getting serious. Her only Pokemon was down and that meant she wouldn't be able to counter-attack. "Sandra, we've got to get out of here!" she added.

"I know, but how?!" Sandra was getting desperate. It seemed that, no matter how hard she and the others fought, Team Midnight would not be beaten. Her Wooper and Dratini were fighting valiantly, but there was no way they could keep it up indefinitely. There were simply too many Dark Type Pokemon, all of them still powered up by the Rock. The battle was going Team Midnight's way and, judging by the smirk on her face as she stood behind her Nidoking, Cacturne, Houndoom and Golbat, Crozier knew it.

"So?" she said with feigned calm. "You kids thought you'd take on Team Midnight, did you? I think you need to be taught a lesson. Nidoking, Houndoom, Cacturne and Golbat, attack!"

In response the four Pokemon launched themselves at Wooper and Dratini. Nidoking's horn whirred menacingly as he prepared to launch into his Horn Attack. Houndoom began powering up a Fire Blast, while Cacturne spun round, generating a powerful Sandstorm and Golbat started to emit a loud Screech. They closed in around Sandra's Pokemon . . .

Sandra knew she had to think fast; otherwise, her Pokemon would be finished. "Wooper!" she cried. "Waterfall! Dratini, use your Blizzard!"

Wooper jumped high into the air, above the heads of Crozier's Pokemon. Then, before they could react, he sent a cascade of water down on them. In the same instant, he dived clear seconds before Dratini opened her mouth and launched into her Blizzard. A freezing cold blast of snow struck Crozier's Pokemon, sending them flying across the room.

"Grrrrr!" Crozier made a sound reminiscent of an angry Growlithe as her Pokemon were knocked out. "You just made a big mistake, girlie!" She turned to her fellow agents. "All of you with Pokemon in fighting condition, teach her a lesson!"

"Uh-oh!" Sandra said as several Team Midnight agents surrounded her, all of them holding Poke Balls.

"Now what do we do?!" Autumn cried from where she was tending to her Pikachu. This was the worst thing that could have happened right now. They were surrounded, outnumbered by around ten to one, and there was no way their Pokemon could take on so many opponents at once. Could this be the end?

Just when it seemed the answer was yes, Candida's Togetic appeared on the scene, her body glowing as Lapras communicated with her. And seeing the white Flying Pokemon gave Autumn an idea. It was a long shot, but it might be their only chance. "Togetic," she said, "can you Metronome Teleport?"

Togetic looked doubtful. Pokemon using Metronome had no real control over which Attack was used. You might get something really powerful such as Aeroblast (normally a preserve of the Legendary Pokemon, Lugia) or you might get the most useless move in existence, Splash.

"It's our only chance!" Sandra shouted desperately.

Togetic nodded to tell them that she would try, then started waving her arms back and forth. Seconds later, a jet of bubbles shot out of her mouth, catching the nearest agent full in the face. "Oh no!" groaned Autumn. "Togetic, we don't need a Bubble Beam! Please, try to generate a Teleport! And hurry!" Already, several of the agents were pressing the buttons on their Poke Balls.

Togetic waved her arms again and, this time, a flash of light enveloped Sandra, Autumn and their Pokemon, causing them to disappear.

They materialised seconds later in the flooded area. Candida was nearby with her Lapras and saw them appear. She was relieved to see that Togetic was with them, but what had happened to bring them here so fast? Had Togetic Metronomed Teleport? That, however, would have to wait; right now, she had to get herself and her friends out of here before it was too late.

She urged Lapras to swim towards the small group of humans and Pokemon. "Get on!" she called to Sandra and Autumn as Lapras halted alongside them. The two of them, Autumn holding her Pikachu, did as she said and climbed up onto Lapras's large shell. A Lapras was a useful form of transport for anyone travelling across the sea; its large body and gentle nature offered anyone who rode on the back of one a very comfortable ride. Many other large Water Pokemon could also be trained to ferry humans across stretches of water, but few took to it like a Lapras. Indeed, this trait was what had earned Lapras its classification as the "transport Pokemon".

In any case, Candida's Lapras picked up Autumn, Sandra and Pikachu, while Wooper, Dratini and Marc's Squirtle remained in the water and Togetic hovered alongside them. The three girls exchanged glances, each of them hoping the same thing, that they would get out of here safely. First, however, they had things to attend to.

"Have you seen the others?" Candida asked her two friends.

"Marc and Ryan were in the battle," replied Sandra. "The others should still be at the Pokemon Centre." She glanced down the flooded corridor. "I hope it isn't underwater . . ."

"Only one way to find out," said Candida. "Lapras, take us there!"

As Lapras turned in the direction of the Pokemon Centre, Candida realised the seriousness of the situation. Aquarius was being engulfed with water, the defences installed to protect the underwater city were broken, and the little group of friends was separated, scattered throughout the complex. She hoped that she, Autumn, Sandra, Kelly, Kevin and Jeremy would be able to get out, but what about Marc and Ryan? What would happen to them and all the other people in Aquarius? And they still had the Rock of Darkness to deal with.

Meanwhile, at the Pokemon Centre, Kevin, Jeremy, Kelly and Nurse Joy were doing their best to keep the water out. They had sealed the door and blocked up the cracks as best they could, but it wasn't enough. Already, they could see water seeping in.

"Now what do we do?" asked Kelly as she and the others stood on Nurse Joy's desk, hoping to keep clear of the water that way.

"It would help if we had a Water Pokemon," replied Kevin. He looked down at his Poke Balls and thought of the Pokemon housed inside: Sneasel, Houndour and Murkrow. More than anything, he longed to see them freed from the Rock's influence, restored to their usual personalities.

"Don't any of you have one?" This question came from Nurse Joy.

Kelly, Jeremy and Kevin shook their heads. "Some of our friends do," added Kelly. "Too bad they're not . . ."

But she spoke too soon. Seconds later, the door burst open and a cascade of water flooded into the Pokemon Centre. And, riding on the crest of the wave was Lapras with Candida, Autumn and Pikachu on her back. Squirtle, Wooper and Dratini swam alongside Lapras and Togetic flew behind them. "Quick!" Candida urged the four people standing on the desk. "Get on! We've gotta get out of here!"

Hearing the urgency in her tone, they did as she instructed and climbed onto Lapras's back. Now, there were six humans and a Pokemon riding on the blue sea creature, who had never before transported more than three passengers. But Candida was sure she was up to the task; Laprases were large and powerful Pokemon, capable of carrying as many as ten humans at one time. As Lapras's trainer, she sat at the front where she would be able to control her and direct her to attack if necessary. "OK, Lapras," she said, patting the Pokemon's neck. "Get us out of here!"

"Now what do we do?" asked Kelly as Lapras swam down the flooded corridor.

"Find a way to get rid of this," replied Candida. She looked down at the Rock of Darkness and, for a moment, marvelled at how one lump of rock could cause so much trouble. She didn't know how, but something told her that it was the Rock that had triggered the tremors which had weakened the defences in the undersea city and caused the flood. And maybe it was too late to save Aquarius now, but at least they could do something about Team Midnight's plans. The question was, what?

And, even if they did manage to rebury the Rock of Darkness, what was to stop some other criminal gang from trying the same thing as Team Midnight? Somehow, the Rock must be destroyed before it did any more damage and ensnared every Dark Type Pokemon in the world. Somehow, they had to put an end to this madness once and for all. She only hoped it was not already too late for the people of Aquarius.

"Well, we can't do that in here," Sandra added in response to Candida's statement. "So we'd better . . ."

Before she could complete her sentence, something rammed into Lapras's flank. Lapras bellowed with surprise as she was knocked back several feet and her human passengers had to cling on tightly to avoid being knocked into the water. "What was that?!" gasped Jeremy, catching his Charmeleon's Poke Ball as it fell out of his pocket.

He received his answer almost at once. A short distance away, Crozier's Nidoking was swimming in the water; he had just used Body Slam in a bid to unseat Lapras's passengers.

"I guess that Nidoking knows Surf," Autumn remarked.

"Right you are!"

The companions and their Pokemon turned with a start. There, standing on a raft improvised from an upturned table, was Crozier, who had healed her Pokemon after Togetic Teleported Sandra, Autumn and their Pokemon to safety. Marc and Ryan were with her; both boys had their hands tied in front of them and duct tape plastered over their mouths. "Hand over the Rock of Darkness!" ordered Crozier. "Or your friends will pay!"

A shocked silence followed her words. The friends knew what Crozier meant to do if they did not do as she ordered, but they had also seen for themselves what the Rock of Darkness was capable of. But how could they refuse Crozier's demands with the lives of two young boys at stake? In that moment, Candida realised that, no matter how much of a pain Ryan was, he was her little brother and it was her job to protect him. She looked at Kelly and Sandra as an idea occurred to her . . .

With a flash, Kelly's Delibird, Deli, emerged from her Poke Ball and perched herself on Lapras's head. Crozier laughed coldly. "I don't know what you're planning to do, but it won't work," she said flatly. "Now, hand over that Rock!"

You want it?" Candida taunted, brandishing the Rock in her hand. "Come and get it!" With that, she threw the Rock high into the air. "Now!" she cried as it neared its zenith. "Lapras!"

"Wooper and Dratini!" shouted Sandra.

"Deli!" cried Kelly.

"Ice Beam Attack!" all three girls yelled together.

The four Pokemon opened their mouths, or beak in Deli's case, and four brilliant white beams of light shot out, converging on the Rock of Darkness as it started to fall. Seconds later, it was frozen solid. Crozier snarled furiously and made a mad grab for the lump of frozen rock as it plunged into the water and sank to the bottom. "Grrr!" she growled, reaching for one of the Poke Balls at her waist. "Golbat, teach them a lesson! Secret Power!"

"Oh, crap!" Kevin muttered as Crozier's Golbat emerged from his Poke Ball and hovered above the group. "Do you guys know what happens if a Pokemon uses Secret Power in water?"

None of the others had time to reply before the waters flooding the undersea complex suddenly surged, forcing those riding on Lapras to cling on tight to avoid being thrown off. And, on the makeshift raft, Crozier clung onto one of the table legs, smirking triumphantly. Marc and Ryan, their hands still tied, were unable to hold on and ended up falling into the water.

"Lapras, quick!" Candida ordered. "Get over there and save them!"

"Golbat, Confuse Ray!" countered Crozier, hoping this move would confuse Lapras and prevent her from following Candida's orders.

But Kelly was too quick for the bat Pokemon. Even as he started glowing, she turned to Deli, who had left her perch on Lapras's head and was now hovering in mid-air. "Deli, Present!" she shouted, taking a wild gamble. Present was the only Attack a Delibird learned naturally - all other moves had to be taught - and, while it could cause serious damage to your opponent, it sometimes healed them instead. There was no way of telling . . .

Deli reached into her tail and produced a small package, which she threw at the Golbat. Seconds later, the room was lit up by a powerful explosion. This time, Kelly had struck lucky; Deli's Present had turned out to be a really strong one, strong enough to knock out both of Crozier's Pokemon at one go. But, in the confined space, it was impossible for anyone (human or Pokemon) to avoid such an release of energy. The sheer force of Deli's Attack sent Lapras and her passengers careering into the far wall, swiftly followed by the rest of the Pokemon, then Crozier, Marc and Ryan. The last thing Candida thought of before she blacked out was her parents. Would she ever see them again?

The next thing she remembered was waking up to find herself lying in a bed with crisp white sheets, her parents and brother at her side. "W - where am I?" she stammered, wondering just how long it had been. "And where are the others?"

Jack Benson took his daughter's hand in his. "You're at the hospital in Cianwood City," he told her. "As for your friends, they're all safe. Wilson found you while Aquarius was being evacuated."


Lydia nodded. "Yes," she said. "Team Midnight was winning; it seemed there was no stopping them or their Pokemon. But, then, things suddenly turned in our favour." Candida digested this news in silence, wondering if the change in fortune had coincided with the Rock of Darkness being frozen. Lydia continued her explanation. "Anyway, a lot of us managed to get round the agents, only to find the corridors flooded with water. That was when Wilson said we all had to get out, before it was too late. It's a good thing he found you and your friends."

"Can I see them?" was Candida's next question. After everything she had just been through, she felt she could not believe her friends were safe until she saw them for herself.

"I'll check with the nurse," Lydia replied as she got up to go. "But it should be OK."

Moments later, she was back, followed by Candida's friends. Autumn, her Pikachu perched on her shoulder, was in the lead, followed by Jeremy, Kelly, Marc, Sandra and Kevin. The youngsters rushed towards their friend and gave her a group hug as Pikachu hopped off Autumn's shoulder and onto Candida's chest. "Pika!" he cried happily.

"I'm glad to see you too," Candida said, smiling at everyone and patting the Pikachu on the head. "For a moment back there, I thought we wouldn't make it."

"Luckily, we did," Kelly told her. "Everyone who was in Aquarius legally did."

"And Team Midnight?" Candida did not address anyone in particular, but it was Lydia who answered her.

"Most of them got out too - and found the police waiting for them. They're in custody right now; it's been all over the news. There's even been talk of shutting them down for good." Lydia sighed deeply. "Still, I doubt even Lenoir will try another scheme like this. He lost too many agents on this one and . . ."

"What about the Rock of Darkness?" Autumn cut in, recalling that it had been the cause of all this trouble.

"In cold storage, awaiting high security transportation to Mossdeep City," replied Wilson, appearing in the doorway. "They're going to send it into space where it can't corrupt any more Pokemon. This young man . . ." He gestured towards Kevin. " . . . and I talked it over. And we both agreed it was best for something that powerful to be removed from Earth altogether."

In that moment, Candida and her friends knew their nightmare was finally over. Team Midnight had been defeated and the Rock of Darkness was neutralised, soon to be sent well out of the reach of anyone who might try to exploit its powers. The adventure was at an end.

"You know what?" Marc said at length.

"What?" they all asked at once.

"I think we should keep in touch after we all go home."

The others nodded their agreement - after all, they had been friends almost from the moment they arrived in Aquarius - and they began swapping home addresses. "And maybe we'll get together again some time," Autumn added as she scribbled down her address in Whitebeam City. "Meanwhile, let's all agree to be friends forever."

The youngsters piled their hands on top of each other and, speaking with one voice, echoed Autumn's last two words. "Friends forever!"