It was a good thing that Roark didn't mind enclosed spaces.
Being the safety officer for the mines in Oreburgh City meant that he was often the first to enter any new opening or chamber discovered. It was also due to the fact that he was smaller and skinner than the other miners. Uh huh, send in the skinny kid first. He didn't mind, though. It was always exciting to be the first to see what was on the other side.
A new chamber had been discovered, completely by accident. It seemed to be a natural formation, either created by pokemon or slow trickling of water. It was bone dry and quite narrow. And it led down to the underground tunnels below. Which would be handy if he ever desired to sneak down into the tunnels without anyone knowing.
But it was also rather dangerous. Any trainer could just as easily enter the mines. Looking after a bunch of burly miners was hard enough. Imagine trying to keep an eye on a bunch of far too inquisitive kids?
The orange safety cones would undoubtedly pique the interest of any passer-by, but hopefully they won't step past them for now. He had to figure out a way to keep the area safe.
Scraping his way through the natural opening to set foot back inside the mines he was used too, Roark had to crouch down low, nearly on his knees.
"Wow, you certainly give a whole new meaning to the question of what hole did you crawl out of."
Roark snapped his head up, hitting the rocky 'ceiling' overhead. Thankfully he had his hard hat on, so it didn't hurt. It did, however, look ridiculous to be caught off guard. He quickly scrambled out of the tunnel after the realisation that the voice was familiar and he stood up, subconsciously dusting himself off.
"What are you doing here, Volkner?" Roark asked, surprised to see him wilfully standing in the furthest chamber in the mines. Normally the handsome (and some even referred to as rogue) gym leader wouldn't be caught dead in such confine spaces.
"Looking for you, obviously," Volkner retorted quickly as he folded his arms over his chest, his luxray sitting back on its hunches by his side, looking at Roark with curiosity.
Inexplicably, Roark felt a blush rise to his cheeks. Why would he-?
"There was a gym leaders meeting you forgot to attend."
Roark's blush took on a whole different meaning. In an embarrassed fluster, he did mildly recall that there was to be a short leader's meeting in neighbouring Eterna City.
"…I totally forgot about that," Roark murmured, slightly mortified.
"The other gym leaders aren't exactly pleased," Volkner continued, looking mildly bored.
One gym leader in particular would be raging mad.
"I've been busy," Roark tried explain. "There's a natural cavern that leads to the underground Tunnels. I needed to make sure it was safe."
"While searching for fossils and stones at the same time?"
Roark winced yet again. "Not on purpose!"
Why was he even bothering to try to explain himself to a self-centred brat like Volkner? Ok, he didn't think of the other as a brat normally, but there were times when he did!
Roark knew what the others thought of him and the mines. They often told him, in a half joking manner, to get his head out of the dirt and go on a tropical vacation or something. He was a young man. Live life a little.
As if he could! Being not only the safety manager to the mines, he was also a relied on discoverer and researcher of fossils. Let's not forget he was also a gym leader! He could scarcely leave the city!
Sighing, Roark rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand. He was getting a headache.
…There was no way to redeem himself, was there?
"Here, Luxray," Roark murmured as the electric pokemon trotted over to him, its head tilted to the side in question. Roark managed a small smile as he pulled something from his pocket and showed the electric pokemon a sparkling yellow coloured stone he found. "This is an electric gem. It'll enhance electric attacks. You can have it."
Luxray's ears twitched for a moment before a clearly happy expression appeared on its face. It made a sound equally happy and picked up the stone with its mouth. It then trotted back to stand by Volkner's side, its tail wagging while it swayed happily. It was adorable.
Pity about the master…
"Not everything can be won over by a rock, Roark," Volkner was quick to retort, that infuriating smirk on his lips.
Roark all but bristled. "If you're done reprimanding me, you can go now. Wouldn't want that pristine jacket of yours to get dirty, do we?"
Volkner snorted, less than amused or pleased by what was supposed to be sarcasm. "You have been underground too long, haven't you?"
That made Roark really bristle as he immediately stood up to his full height (which wasn't all that impressive…) "Would you just leave already?!"
"Ok, ok," Volkner finally relented, even going as far as to throw his hands into the air in mock surrender. "I'm going. Remember, you can't stay down here forever."
With that said, Volkner turned on his heel, shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket and, in Roark's humble opinion, sauntered away, Luxray ever faithful by his side. Throwing a stone at the back of that infuriating head wasn't going to do him any favours, so Roark resisted.
Feeling undeniably cranky, Roark heaved another sigh as he pondered the thought of whether he could stay down at the mines for a little while longer. No doubt that his phone would have been inundated with text and voice messages. He had his phone with him, but there were some black spots in the mines. Apparently the new chamber was one of them.
He, however, knew he had to leave eventually. Might as well do it now, Roark thought to himself.
Making his way out of the mines, Roark ignored his phone chiming in his pocket, informing him of several missed calls. He glanced up at the sky and sighed again. The overcast weather suited his mood perfectly. Grey and dull, and utterly miserable.
"You ok there, boss?"
Looking up at one of his miners, Roark forced a small smile on his lips. "I'm fine." Just annoyed that he can't be everywhere at once. "Looks like rain. Don't get caught out in it, ok?"
"You got it."
With that little conversation over, Roark decided to head home to, you know, sulk a little.
Kicking off his boots and removing his hard hat, Roark let the door close behind him as he shuffled into his apartment. Where he promptly collapsed onto his couch and stared up at the ceiling.
Of course it had to be Volkner to tell him he had accidentally forgotten about a gym leader's meeting. Perfect, handsome Volkner. He took great joy in telling him of his mistake, for certain. It wouldn't have stung at much had it been someone else.
He just wished…
He just wished that Volkner didn't see him as some weak little nerd who had his head buried in the dirt. He wasn't as strong as the electric gym leader, but he wasn't any less important, right?
Well, maybe now since he seemed to be neglecting his duties to the gym.
It was just hard sometimes. Not only was he the gym leader, he was also in charge of the mine and helping the museum with searching and researching fossils. Both things were equally important.
…Maybe it would be best if he quit being a leader. Prove his father right, probably, but at least he was good at mining and digging for fossils.
With that depressing, but truthful thought, Roark decided to get some rest before tackling the exhausting task of explaining himself to his fellow gym leaders. And to region champion Cynthia.
His own father would be the most difficult.
… … … … …
Roark was disturbed from his sleep several hours later to the sound of rain just thundering against the roof of his apartment. In a sleepy haze, he was greatly startled. He sat up and looked around, quickly waking up.
The rain…He had never heard it so loud! It was deafening. And worrying. Oreburgh City was situated several kilometres below sea level and near a mountain range. While it had never flooded from memory, it wouldn't be hard to imagine. It was the lowest point in the region. Well, lowest point above ground, if that made any sense. The underground tunnels were obviously the lowest point.
Above ground, the water had nowhere else to go. Nowhere other than the mine, of course.
He had better head out to see if everything was all right.
Slipping on his boots and hard hat, Roark ventured outside. What he encountered, however, startled him greatly. He thought it would rain, but he had no idea it would be so…extreme.
The rain was torrential. He had never seen anything like it in his life. The rain cast everything in a strange shade of white, making it impossible to see anything, especially at a distance. Not to mention the sound of the large water droplets hitting everything, the noise was intense.
Swallowing back a sense of nervousness, Roark gripped the rim of his hard hat, lowered it a little to prevent water from getting into his eyes and stepped out into the rain. Dipping his head further, he winced when he gazed at his feet. He didn't realise how much it had already rained. Water was lapping at his ankles!
It was no ordinary rain storm. It was something else. If the rain kept up at the torrential pace, it'll flood the city in a matter of hours.
"Roark!" an old timer miner called out to him. "The lower parts of the city are already starting to flood!"
Flooding already? Crap!
W-what should I do? Roark thought to himself as his nervousness increased. I have no experience with this!
No, wait, he kinda did. He was a safety officer. He knew how to keep others safe. Ok, first he better turn off the power to the homes affected. The last thing he needed were his citizens getting electrocuted.
"Cut off the electricity!" Roark ordered as a few more of his miners approached him, all of which were looking bewildered, but not panicky. "Then I want you to go door to door to check on the houses affected. Go!"
Grateful to have been given some kind of direction, the miners with their pokemon set about battling against the raising waters to ensure the safety of the locals and tourists.
Not knowing how bad the flooding was or was going to get, Roark decided the best course of action would to check on the mines. If they were starting to flood…well, they would be in trouble!
Roark had to shuffle his feet along the ground carefully, paying special attention not to lift his feet too high for the rushing water would sweep him up his feet in a second. It was also to ensure that he didn't stumble into any unexpected potholes. While the ground beneath his feet was smooth and had been cleared of rubble previously, the water was creating its own eddies and rips, forming unexpected obstacles while destroying others.
As he moved closer to the mines, the water depth increased substantially, not to mention in speed as well. And when he fumbled his way down the rocky steps into the construction area of the mine, it took his breath away. With the water up around his hips, he was surprised by how utterly cold it was. It was like liquid ice!
Hearing yet another voice of one of his men that worked in the mine, Roark pushed forward with more determination. He heard the worry and slight fear in his voice. It was clear that the water was entering the mines.
Squinting his eyes through the misty haze of the rain, he could make out a group of his miners working feverishly to sandbag the mine's entrance. But the water was rising far too quickly. If they had some warning, then maybe they could have constructed a proper levee. But the rainstorm had caught them completely off guard. Their sandbagging was only delaying the undeniable. The mines were going to flood.
"Forget the mines!" Roark shouted to them over the roaring rain. "I want you to look after the residents instead!"
"What about the new chamber?"
Roark had figured they would also be worried about that. For good reason, too. If the flash flood water made it into the underground tunnels, those who were running around in there, hunting for spheres or other treasures, would be caught completely unaware. There would be nowhere for them to run to. They were in a completely enclosed space. No way out.
Roark couldn't let that happen. He had to block that newly discovered entrance somehow.
By himself. He won't endanger anyone else.
"I'll head in and take care of it," Roark said as he pushed his way through the rapidly rising water.
"You can't go in by yourself!" one of the veteran miners practically shrilled.
Roark ignored him as he continued to wade his way through the now waist deep water. "Head back into town! That's an order!"
The height of the sandbags should be enough to slow the flow of the water into the mines. For a short while, at least. But should they break, the water would flood the mine like a torrent. It was already ankle deep. Not to mention moving at a rather steady pace. First the water will seek out all the low points before spreading out.
Although he had never encountered a flood before, he had the right mind to at least read up on the topic. He was the safety manager, after all. Flooding was slightly better than a roaring fire. Should a fire begin in the mines…?
He'd rather not think about it.
Shaking his head to clear it, Roark quickly focused on the task at hand. There was no time to let his mind wander.
With the light from his hard hat and extensive knowledge of the mine's layout, Roark was able to feel his way through the many winding tunnels and cavities. The water was a murky brown and filled with debris. It was mixing with the dirt and sludge, making it not only difficult to walk in, it was dangerous. He couldn't see even an inch in the water. He had no idea at all what could be lurking beneath.
Still, he needed to keep going. Not much further now. The new chamber was officially the lowest point in the mine, but there were a few natural rises and berms. They'll act as temporary levees, giving him enough time to seal the way into the underground tunnels. He might not be able to prevent water leaking through, but at least he could stop a potential underground tsunami.
That was what it would be. A tsunami of water. The water would be funnelled through the slight opening, making it even more dangerous. With the water packing up behind it, it would more faster and faster. It would be like a jet of water rushing into the tunnels below. Getting caught in a flash flood in a city was bad enough. Imagine how utter terrifying it would be without the possibility of any air rescue? The ultimate nightmare.
Scrambling his way over the natural bumps in his path, Roark breathed a sigh of relief to note that the newly discovered chamber was dry. For the moment at least.
"Rampardos! Onix!" Roark called as he released his pokemon from their pokeballs. "We need to block the way into the underground tunnels before the flood water reaches it."
Hearing the urgency in his voice, his two faithful pokemon immediately set to work, bashing at the walls and pushing piles of dirt into the open to create a cave-in. Although loathsome to close off a natural formation, which still needed to be explored, there was no other choice. Lives of others were more important than stones and fossils.
With Rampardos and Onix working together with practiced precision, they managed to fill the tunnel. Boulders and dirt filled the entire void. Hopefully it would be enough.
Rampardos suddenly made a distressing sound. Roark immediately turned his attention to his pokemon, noticing that water was starting to lap around its ankles. It did a hurried little dance in the vain attempt to get out of the murky rainwater. Seeing that was greatly distressing. It meant that…
No! The water was already breeching the chamber!
He had to move quickly. His pokemon had done the best they could under such adverse circumstances. "Rampardos, Onix, return!"
With his rock pokemon safely tucked away in their pokeballs, Roark placed them into one of his pockets that had a zipper before picking up a blue plastic tarp. With the water starting to reach the tops of his boots, he worked quickly to strategically place the tarp against the sealed off entrance. The pressure of the water should keep the tarp pressed against the rock pile, granting them even more time to warn those playing in the underground tunnels.
He had done all that he could. It was time to get out!
As he scrambled through the man-made tunnels of the mines, everywhere he looked was more and more water. Dark brown, murky water. It was everywhere. He hadn't realised how low the mine ceilings were until he was nearly touching it.
Ok, stay calm. He knew the layout of the mine. The water was turbulent, but not rushing. Not yet. He just needed to feel his way out. That meant he had to go swimming. Not something he particularly enjoyed doing, even at leisure, but he had no choice.
With great trepidation, Roark waded out into the water, once again almost losing his breath by how cold the water was. He could, thankfully, touch the ground. That was greatly reassuring, as if he still had some control.
But he needed to get out, as quickly as possible.
Focusing his mind to recall the layout of all the tunnels and caves, trying hard not to be worried about the water nor the pieces of sharp debris that it was carrying. He didn't have time to worry or think about any possible cuts and scrapes. He just needed to get out. If the mines were flooding, how were things in town going? Were his miners getting everyone to safety?
A sudden surge of water, however, pulled Roark out of his thoughts. It rushed into him unexpectedly and he was dragged to the side, against a wall. Before he could get his footing, he stumbled into a pothole. He staggered again when, suddenly, something seemed to crush against his foot. Something hard, heavy and metal. A piece of mining machinery?
Drawing in a deep breath, Roark desperately tried to stop himself from panicking. Stay calm and simply tug his leg back. Everything was going to be alright…
Roark tried simply moving his leg, hoping that he could wiggle it free. But there was something tight around his ankle. And it was becoming painful. He was also starting to panic. He reached into the water with his hands, gripped at his leg and pulled. He pulled with all his might. But nothing happened.
He tugged on his leg again. And again. He soon realised that he couldn't not budge it an inch, and when he did an even more something terrifying realisation occurred to him. "I…can't get out."
The water was rising higher and higher. First to his shoulders, then his neck, his chin…Roark coughed when the water began to touch his lips. He couldn't move…he was going to go under.
In sheer desperation, Roark breathed in as much air as he could before holding it and abruptly ducking under the water. He felt along his leg of the ankle that was trapped and tugged. He pulled with all his might, but the water was just too cold, his muscles were contracting and become weak.
Forced to break the surface for air, tears stung at his eyes when he realised that the water was even higher than before. He won't be able to last much longer. He was…going to drown. He never thought he would go…out like that.
Roark was nearly about to go under again when he felt something unexpectedly brush up against his leg and the pressure around his ankle abruptly disappeared.
Immediately bobbing up above the water line, Roark gasped as he tried to keep his head above water. A soft, but concerned cooing from a pokemon made Roark realise that he wasn't alone. Despite having lost his glasses during his struggles, he could see the somewhat familiar form of a certain orange coloured water pokemon. It was sitting easily within the water, bobbing up and down with the current, nestled up against Roark's side to help him stay above the water.
Floatzel? What was a Floatzel doing down here?