The group walked quietly as Fiona the tour guide led them along a dimly lit corridor lined with a long tank containing several Staryu. Charlie gazed at them as they twirled around the bottom of the tank; the glow of the light above illuminated a red gem in the center of their bodies. The rest of the tank was filled with all sorts of strange shaped rocks, long flowing seaweeds and a sandy sea bed.
“Ah, you’ll notice that these Staryu are unusually smaller than a wild Staryu that you may find when exploring sea caverns or the ocean floor. This is simply because they are confined to tanks instead of living in endless ocean. These particular Staryu will live approximately twenty five years longer than your average wild Staryu. The man-made tanks in this exhibit contain an average of five hundred gallons of water, which are emptied and cleaned weekly. A study has shown that the Lilycove Aquarium goes through an average of two hundred and sixty thousand gallons of water each year. Fortunately, all of our Pokémon require salt water, therefore sparing the earth’s freshwater supply,” Fiona’s speech lasted the length of the room, and Charlie wondered how one person could say so much about the most boring subject.
Charlie’s mother pulled on his shirt, telling him to keep up with the group. Fiona opened a door to reveal the outer area of the aquarium. His eye's still adjusting to the light, Charlie could make out 3 large pools with grandstands periodically placed across a concrete plain. Many outdoor exhibits were also made visible as the group was lead across a wide path. Charlie could see everything; an open topped tank containing playful otter Pokémon, Buizel; A small pool which allowed visitors to swim with the sea Pokémon and a large walrus Pokémon, Walrein, sunbathing on a rock. Charlie was strongly reminded of the plumber he had seen earlier and tried to imagine the Walrein stuffed in a sweaty white t-shirt and large, but tight, pants.
Charlie heard a loud cheer from behind a brightly coloured wall. A sign next to an open doorway read "Now: The exciting world of Squirtle - An Interactive show brought to you by Lilycove Aquarium" in striking blue font. It had a picture of four blue, turtle Pokémon; Squirtle standing on top of each other in a bizarre Pokémon totem pole. Another sign next to it read "Coming Up Next: Bullseye! - A new show starring two of our most talented Pokémon. A Must See!" This sign was decorated with images of red and white targets and two fish Pokémon; one, a sleek silver while the other, a light shade of purple. He didn't stay long, as he was again pulled by his mother towards the group.
"Now, If you'll all look over here, everybody!" Fiona said, indicating a large rocky exhibit with a small pool. Many of the tourists rushed towards the hand rail to get a better look. "We'll see a colony of Krabby..."
The Krabby were scuttling slowly around the rocks, every now and then pausing to pick up something with their pincers, trying to nibble on it, before putting it back realising it was a pebble. They didn't seem very bright.
“Unfortunately,” Fiona began, yet again, “The Krab species has suffered the most in retrospect to the others. Due to the fact that they inhabit coastlines and water-based caverns, they tend to receive the majority of damage from pollution as opposed to other aquatic life. The raising tides and changing temperatures in effect of global warming has forced these creatures to evolve from the forms they once had in earlier ages of life. In 1912, a Scientist by the name of Edward Moshcavez discovered that what the Krabby made up for in defense mechanisms, they lost in wit, thus causing them to be one of the most unintelligent species.”
Bored, Charlie found himself staring back at the colourful wall which housed such exciting sounds while his mother took snapshots with her camera.
"Now this is fun isn't it, Charlie?" She said without looking at him. Her eye glued to the back panel of the camera. She seemed a bit over excited by the slow moving crabs.
He looked to the tour guide, then back at the wall; many thoughts racing through his mind. Quietly, he ducked out from behind his mother and ran towards the cheers, dodging the crowds of people as they moved from one exhibit to another. Once through the door, Charlie instantly heard the sound of a catchy show tune. Looking around, he found himself in a mini stadium. The seats circled around an oval pool in the center. On a small platform in the middle of the pool stood a man and a woman in full length wetsuits, conducting four Squirtle in the water.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen... we're almost finished!" said the man excitedly into his microphone.
"Please everyone, give these talented performers a round of applause as they leave the pool!" said the woman. She started to clap and the audience joined in as the four Squirtle dived into the water magnificently, swimming towards a canal which led out of the show tank.
"We hope you've had a great show! My name's Ben!"
"And I'm Emma!"
"Thanks for watching!" they both said together, holding their arms in the air and with wide grins on their faces. The audience broke into a loud applause as the two conductors swam from the platform through the same canal the Squirtle used previously. The cheers died down as audience members left the arena.
"Hey, great show guys! Possibly your best yet! No wonder you two are so popular!" exclaimed a man as he helped Emma up the step ladder and out of the water. He handed both of them a towel to dry off.
The pair of them were a bit taller than average, towering over the short and chubby man who stood by them. While Ben had shaggy, auburn hair with deep brown eyes, Emma’s hair was waist length, and light brunette. Her eyes were uncommonly green, though you wouldn’t notice unless you looked closely, which she gave few people the opportunity. Other than their gender differences, the other thing that separated the two was that Ben had dark and well-tanned skin and Emma’s was significantly paler. Their height and thinness alone set them apart from any normal person. Emma blamed the aerobic workouts they got from swimming so much, while Ben blamed his genes.
They were backstage in a room filled with other performers rushing to get all their props and Pokémon ready for their show. The man wore a dark blue suit and tie on which a gold badge engraved with the word Manager.
"How would you know? You didn't even watch," said Ben sarcastically as he dried off his arms.
"I was there in spirit," he quickly replied with a jokingly stern look on his face. "Now go rest up before your next show. It's a big one!" He strode out of the back door which led towards the ticket booths.
"I'm starving! Where's lunch?" groaned Emma as she threw the towel down. She pulled a jacket over the top of her now dry, wet suit. Ben did the same, as Emma made her way towards a door at the opposite end of the room, which was now calming down as the new show started; The Interesting Life of a Goldeen.
The two performers made their way into the public part of the aquarium, on their way towards the staff lounge. They were walking along one of the familiar corridors, taking in the sights and sounds of over-excited kids, playful Pokémon and exhausted parents. The staff room door was just up ahead.
“Oh my Gosh! OH! IT’S BEN!” someone screamed from behind. A fair haired girl sprinted towards him. In one smooth motion, she scooped a book and pen from her bag and dived into his arms. “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S YOU!”
“Well… this is where I work,” said Ben “There’s a good chance you’ll see me.”
“GIVE ME YOUR AUTOGRAPH!” screamed the girl, a look of hunger in her eyes. Emma stared at the girl with a pathetic look on her face. She turned on her heel and walked towards the staff door once again.
Ben signed the girl’s book and she ran off again, screaming all the way down the hall like a maniac.
“Jealous much?” said Ben with a smug look on his face. “I don’t see you getting mobbed by some guy.” He started to laugh as he turned around. Ben’s laughter stopped abruptly at the sight of five wide-eyed men each holding a small notepad towards Emma.
“Ok, ok, one at a time boys!” she laughed, loud enough for Ben to hear. She finished signing their paper and waved them goodbye and re-joined Ben at the door of the Staff Lounge. “What was that about being mobbed?”
“Ugh… could this place get any more depressing?” said Emma as she pulled up a battered wicker chair to the plastic table. The staff room was large, with few pieces of furniture. All the light had to be provided by dangling globes as there were no windows. A short green fridge stood next to a kitchen bench and sink, behind which the walls were coffee stained. The toilet door next to it was open a crack, inside Mario could be heard yelling to himself as he scrubbed the bowl.
“Oh… who was in here last? They really filled up the place didn’t they?!”
“Hey guys, I… I saw your last show,” said a thin teenager from the table opposite. His hands were trembling, as they always did. His face was pale, especially when contrasted with his curly, bright red hair.
“Thanks Jasper,” said Ben as he pulled two plastic cases containing sandwiches from the base of a vending machine and walked back to Emma.
“Whoo! That’s ripe! I wouldn’t want to shake this guys hand after this lot!”
“Poor guy, scared of everything,” said Emma. Her face screwed up in disgust as she opened her sandwich. “I saw him yesterday; he was scared to feed the Luvdisc…”
“I’d be scared all the time too if I had to sit in here listening to Mario all day” said Ben, feeling more sick than hungry now. “I’ve lost my appetite… let’s go.”
“Agreed,” said Emma quickly and they hurried out of the room, leaving Jasper trembling alone with Mario.
“Come one, come all! Travel through the depths of the ocean, watch amazing special featured shows, take a break in our aquatic petting zoo; all for the tiny price of fifteen ninety-nine!” The man in front of Lilycove Aquarium danced around oddly, which was probably more difficult to achieve than it normally would have, as he was wearing a large Wailord suit with little room to move his legs thanks to the tightness of the tail. He held a sign in the air, which read: Find out what everyone is clamming about- Lilycove Aquarium.
It wasn’t an unusual sight to see a costumed person standing outside of the building on Saturdays, though it seemed every week the poor employee was forced to wear an even more absurd outfit than the last. However, the man shuddered in the memory of the day he was assigned a shiny Barboach costume, and the coloring along with the shape resembled more of an embarrassing body part than a Pokémon.
He walked around chanting clever phrases, hoping to draw tourists into the entertainment trap, but it seemed today would be a slow one, as not many people ventured through the city’s streets thus far. The promo-guy sighed slightly as a group of young teenagers approached him, he wasn’t quite in the mood to be teased today.
“Haha, that sucks,” came the comforting and motivational comment of the first boy, his jet black hair long and shaggy in his eyes. “I’d rather join the ballet than be caught in such a ridiculous costume.”
Wally the Wailord arched an eyebrow at the kid, however, no one could notice this as his face remained hidden behind the black screen of the whale’s mouth. He stared silently for a moment, before replying, “I’d rather be stuck in this ridiculous costume than be forced to walk around wearing that hideous mask.”
“OOHHHH! BURN!” another boy within the group of kids behind the first burst out, as a few of the others began giggling or covered their mouths. Their ‘leader’ simply furrowed his eyebrows in anger and led the group of laughing teens away.
“I hope you have a whale of a day!” Wally shouted after them. “My, I definitely don’t get paid enough for this…”