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Old January 12th, 2011 (02:32 AM). Edited February 8th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Italicising everything Puck says is starting to really get on my nerves...

Oh well. Here we go:

Chapter Two: Bat out of Hell

A long, long way away, deep under the earth, a man in a ruby-red trenchcoat was fuming quietly.

“Sir?” asked a timid subordinate. He was answered with a death-stare of such power that he recoiled in horror and stumbled into the wall.

“Please,” said the man in the trenchcoat, anger audibly suppressed in his voice. “Please, just tell me one thing.”

The subordinate looked as if he wished the floor would swallow him up.

“What might that be, sir?”

“I want to know,” his boss said, “how exactly you failed to steal the goods from Devon.”

“Well. There was another thief, sir—”

“Ah, yes. I heard about this. The Pokémon.” The man in the trenchcoat looked up from his desk and delivered another withering death-stare.

“Y-yes, sir, it was a Pokémon. Probably working for the blues, sir.”

“And it was a better thief than you were.”

“Y-yes, sir.” Sweat poured down the subordinate’s face in great glistening rivers.

“And you don’t know where it took the goods.”

“N-no, sir.”

“Well.” The man’s eyes flashed dangerously. “Our benefactor won’t be very pleased about that, will he?”

“No, sir.”

“So, then.” The man in the trenchcoat looked behind his underling, at something beyond the door into his office. “I suppose you know what this means.”

The other man turned around slowly, eyes wide in terror; he knew what was waiting for him there. It was what waited for anyone who failed the boss: the thing that wreathed itself in shadows and stalked its prey in the dead of night when the wind was at its face.

Yellow fangs snapped; something red blazed in the darkness.

Drops of blood hit the floor and pooled.

“Clean that mess up,” said the man in the trenchcoat dispassionately, to some unseen servant. “And get me back those Devon goods!”

---

Kester, said a little voice. Kester.

“Not this dream again,” I mumbled.

Not a dream. Wake up.

I jerked my eyes open, startled, then remembered. This was Puck, the Rotom who had, through a bizarre, horrible series of mishaps, got himself trapped in my head.

“What do you want?” I asked, rubbing my eyes and checking the time. It was four o’clock, and I was hungry; I hadn’t eaten all day.

I have something to tell you.

“What is it?” I got up and started on the way downstairs.

Um... actually, never mind.

“No, what?” I went into the kitchen. “You woke me up for nothing?”

It was one of those things where you think it’s important, but when you think about it, it turns out not to be important... Puck tailed off.

“Whatever.” I pulled bread from the box and cheese from the fridge and started making sandwiches. “Look, Puck, I think we need to have a talk.”

I’m glad you’re using my name. Surely this must be a sign of our deepening friendship?

“No.” I decided to be blunt. “I appreciate you can’t get out of my head and you don’t want to be there, but just... shut up and stay that way until you do, OK?”

Ouch, said Puck. I’m hurt. He didn’t sound it; if anything, he sounded like he was suppressing laughter.

“I – hey, what’s funny?”

Nothing, nothing. It’s just... you’re so defeatist. Aren’t you going to try and get me out of here? Be a bit more... proactive?

“I’m just making the best of a bad situation,” I said curtly, taking a bite of the sandwich. “Unless you have any ideas.”

I don’t, as it happens. Hey, what are you doing?

“I’m eating.” I paused. “Wait. Let me guess: that’s disgusting and something that only meat-faced humans do?”

No! Puck sounded hurt. Well... maybe. I eat, too, though. But I eat electricity.

“Well, you want to know something? I don’t care.”

Puck sighed.

Look on the bright side, he said. At least you don’t have a proper Ghost-type in your head. Can you imagine what it would be like if I were a Gengar or a Banette? All those angry thoughts. I’d probably eat your soul.

“Puck, shut up.”

But me, he continued blithely, I’m a much better class of Ghost. I don’t eat dreams, just electricity. I don’t hurt people, just possess a few machines now and again and play a few tricks.

“Puck!”

Yes?

“I told you to shut up.”

He seemed put out, but he stopped talking, and I finished the sandwiches in blessed silence.

Kester?

“Damn it, Puck, stop talking!”

But I’ve got a favour to ask of you.

“Why would I grant you any favours at all? You’re the most annoying person I’ve ever met!”

Before I was ch – before I went and possessed that blasted machine, I dropped some, er, important goods off somewhere, and I was wondering if we could go and—

“No.”

You don’t even know what I was going to say!

“Don’t care. We’re going nowhere.” I put the plate in the sink, and, deciding that I ought to try and curry some favour with Mum, started washing it and the bread knife.

A little sigh echoed around in my head.

I didn’t want it to come to this.

“Come to what?” I paused warily.

I can pull on some neurons again. Like I did earlier, when you were in shock.

I winced at the memory.

“You wouldn’t.”

I would. I’m very serious.

“I guess you would,” I said, realising that I hadn’t done anything to make Puck feel very warmly towards me. I turned off the tap and sighed. “OK, where did you put these goods?”

---

“So, Puck,” I said as we walked down Teckerford Road, “what are these goods you wanted?”

Er... If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not go into that right now.

“Fair enough, fair enough,” I replied, eager not to be zapped in the brain again. “A man has to have his secrets, after all—”

Kester?

“Yes?”

Shut up.

Smarting at the insult of having the tables so completely turned on me, I complied, and kept following the Rotom’s directions.

Left here.

“Where are we going, exactly?” I asked; the alley we had turned onto was carpeted in trash and green-tinted puddles, and I was slightly concerned about being mugged.

Don’t worry, said Puck, I am a Pokémon. If anyone comes after us, I’ll get them with Discharge.

“Can you use that – when you’re inside me like this, I mean?”

There was an ominous silence from inside my head. Then:

Maybe...

“Great.” I walked on, convinced that I was going to be murdered at any moment; these alleys led towards the industrial district, and in that direction lay the poorer neighbourhoods, the ones with high crime rates and desperate people who would kill for small change.

Are you sure you’re not exaggerating? asked Puck. That can’t be right.

“Oh, it’s true all right,” I said darkly. “I heard this story about someone who left his Ponyta there while he went into a shop, just for five minutes – and when he got back, someone had taken all the legs off it and it was just sitting on four little piles of bricks.”

That’s definitely not true.

“Well, maybe not that story. But it’s a scary place.”

What are you, eleven? Start walking and go down that alley there.

Cursing the bad fortune that had landed me with Puck, and the ability he had to knock me out with a painful attack on my brain, I complied, kicking a can moodily. The buildings either side of me got grimier, the alleyways got darker, and my mood blackened.

Stop.

“What am I looking at?” I glanced left and right, in case anyone had spotted me and decided I looked easy to kill.

Behind these bins.

I looked at the bins. They were old and rusty, and smelled strongly of boiled cabbage.

“Do I have to touch them?”

Not if you can move them with your mind.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I muttered, and dragged them aside, doing my best to ignore the odd-smelling stickiness the handles left on my palms. Behind them was a black rucksack, sitting in a pool of water that was giving off the cabbage smell. “Why did you leave it in the water like that?” I moaned.

I was in something of a hurry, said Puck evasively. Just pick it up.

I picked up one strap between my thumb and forefinger, then realised it was too heavy to lift that way. Gritting my teeth, I grabbed it properly and dragged it out of the water, holding it at arm’s length.

“OK, I got your stupid goods,” I said. “Can I go back home now, before my mum gets back and kills me for going out?”

Yeah, yeah, Puck answered, unusually quickly. Let’s go now, Kester.

“What is it?”

Then I saw them, too: the two men in red suits at the other end of the alleyway. Their faces were impassive behind red-tinted sunglasses, and one of them was carrying a gun.

“Puck, I swear, I am going to kill you,” I said, staring at them.

What’re you going to do? Run over your own head? Actually, he snickered, you could probably do that, considering how good you are at driving – Wait! That’s a gun! Er – get out of here!

I turned and ran, and heard footsteps behind me as the two men in red broke into a run, too. A bullet sang past overhead and buried itself in the brickwork of a wall; I broke out into a cold sweat and ducked down a side-passage, breathing heavily.

“Puck, they just shot at us,” I gasped.

Nice work, Sherlock. Now start moving, they’re catching up!

“What do they want? And what’s Sherlock?” I cried as I started moving again.

You’re disgustingly poorly-read, snapped Puck. But I guess I can’t expect anything else of a Hoennian.

“Stop – gasp – avoiding – pant – the question!”

Another bullet ricocheted off a wall just in front of me; I yelped and turned left—

—right into a dead end. I turned wildly, but the two men were already there, blocking the exit.

“So,” one of them said, “you must be the owner of that Rotom.” He looked me up and down. “Is it just me, or are crooks getting younger these days?”

“They are,” said the other in a slow, lugubrious voice. He was the one with the gun, and he held it levelled at my head. “Remember that kid from Lilycove?”

“Mm,” agreed the first one. He turned his eyes back to me. “Kid, do you know what this is?” He held up a Poké Ball.

“Yeah,” I nodded. “Please don’t shoot me.”

“You obviously don’t know what this is. It’s a Poké Ball – it doesn’t shoot, it holds Pokémon. Like this.”

He tossed it down on the ground, and something large expanded out of it in a flash of blue light: a huge, blue-skinned bat, mouth held open in a permanent scream and great, fat tongue rolling out like the steam from a smokestack. I’d never seen one in real life, but I knew from TV that this was a Golbat. The great bat uttered a strange gibbering noise that sent shivers down my spine, and glanced over to the first man with shifty eyes for its orders.

“Take that bag from him,” instructed the man. The bat advanced, standing upright on its hind legs and walking in a manner curiously reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin. Panicking, I threw the bag down in front of me.

“Ah, wait!” I cried. “Don’t – just take it! I don’t even know what it is!”

What? Puck cried. No, don’t do that!

The Golbat halted, uncertain, and looked back at its master, who looked at the man with the gun. All three looked equally confused.

“But why did you steal it, then?” the first man asked.

“I didn’t! I – this has been a very, very bad day,” I told them, the words coming out too fast and becoming a babble. “There was a Rotom – but it went in a scanning machine – and then—”

“I think ’e’s insane,” said the second man, peering at me intently. “Do we kill ’im anyway?”

“A witness is a witness,” the first man replied. “Want to shoot him, or shall I do it?”

“Don’ like shootin’ kids. You do it.”

“Golbat! Kill him!”

The bat gave an ear-splitting screech and rushed towards me, waddling fast on its ungainly little legs. I threw myself to one side, heedless of my head, and it turned on one heel, leaping into the air with one beat of its powerful wings and slamming down onto my chest, winding me. The small, sharp eyes glared into mine; the huge, python-like tongue emerged from the mouth and tasted the cloth of my shirt.

“Oh, please,” said the first man, sounding disgusted. “Can you do it without all this dribbling? This is revolting.”

The Golbat looked at him with an aggrieved air, as if to say: What do you expect, with a tongue like this?

Kester, said Puck, fast as thought, hit him now.

“What?” I hissed, and the Golbat’s eyes snapped back to mine. I felt its claws tighten on my ribs, slicing through my shirt and drawing lines of blood.

Just do it! Trust me, we need to work together on this one!

“You’d better be right,” I muttered, and punched the Golbat on the root of its massive tongue.

Blue lightning exploded from my fist and the Golbat fell over backwards, dazed; I stared at my hand in wonder as sparks flew all around it.

Don’t just stand there, get up! My legs spasmed in response to Puck’s order, and I scrambled to my feet as the Golbat reeled, wings clasped to its tongue in pain. Hit him again! I swung at it, but missed; a ball of electricity burst from my hand anyway and hit it squarely between the eyes. All of its muscles contracted at once; in a weird sort of death-flap, its wings snapped outwards and then in again, launching it backwards into a wall at high speed. It gave a single despairing screech, then its eyes glazed over and it fell back, unconscious.

For the longest second I’ve ever lived through, no one said anything. All three of us (four, counting Puck) stared at the fallen Golbat.

“What the ’ell was that?” said the lugubrious man at length.

Go on. Threaten them, while they’re still surprised.

I turned to the two men and opened my mouth, but no words came out; I was far too shocked to do anything as complicated as speak.

Go on, Puck repeated. Speak!

“I...” I closed my mouth, moistened my lips and tried again. “You should go.”

“Can we still have the bag?” asked the first man.

No.

“No.”

“Shoot him.”

“I, uh, wouldn’t do that,” I said, holding up a hand. To my surprise, a few bluish sparks danced on my fingertips. “What do you think is faster, bullets or lightning?”

The two men exchanged glances.

“I think we might need to make a tactical retreat,” the first one said.

“Migh’ be onto somethin’ there,” the second one agreed, holstering his weapon. The first one recalled his Golbat, and both of them ran as fast as I’d run earlier, obviously expecting lightning to chase them out.

I leaned against the wall, suddenly weak at the knees. I didn’t even care about the dirt and slime on the brickwork; I was shaking all over, like a leaf in a strong breeze. And that pretty much summed up how I felt, too: utterly shaken and unstable.

“Puck,” I said in a low voice. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”

---

When you’re fleeing, you’re usually too occupied to notice anything outside of the thing behind you (danger) and the thing in front of you (safety). Thus, as the two men in red suits fled the danger – Kester – towards safety – their hideout in the industrial district – they didn’t notice the man in a green overcoat leaning against the wall in a nearby alley, watching them go.

Furthermore, as Kester stumbled out of the dead end, staring at his hands with all the fervour of Lady Macbeth, he did not see the man in the green overcoat either. Puck, since he could only look through Kester’s eyes, also failed to see him.

And that was how it came to pass that the man in the green overcoat, the man who had seen everything that had happened and had absorbed it with the greatest interest, was able to walk away in the direction he had come from, completely undetected.

---

“So let me get this straight,” I said, lying back on the sofa and taking a deep draught of my drink. “When you tried to use your moves, they happened through me instead?”

Kind of. Puck paused, and when he spoke again, he didn’t sound happy. Actually, you’re the one who has access to them now.

“You mean I can use all your Pokémon moves?”

So it would seem, Puck replied sourly. Then he brightened a little. Hang on, not all of them. From what I saw in the alley, you can do everything I could do about... eight years ago.

“What d’you mean?”

Put it this way, explained Puck, if you were a Rotom – and I suppose that, combined with me, you form an honorary Rotom, as it were – you would be about Level... 1.

“What? I thought – that blast of lightning seemed pretty powerful to me!”

ThunderShocking a Golbat does not make you Superman.

“But still.” I held up my hands in front of my face and let a few sparks sizzle off my fingertips. “It’s kind of cool.” I grinned. “You know, you might actually have a use after all, Puck.”

So glad to be of service, he replied, in tones that left me certain he meant the exact opposite. Is this what it takes to cheer you up? I have to donate my abilities to you?

“Yes,” I replied firmly. “How else do you make up for the fact that you got yourself trapped in my head?”

I could... possess an oven and roast you a goose?

“What the hell’s a goose when it’s at home?”

Puck sighed. I miss England.

“You are English, then?”

Yes. I came to Hoenn a few months ago, to – actually, never mind why I came here. Besides, added Puck slyly, a more important matter for you to consider would be the two men in red.

“Oh yeah.” I hardened my voice and did my best to sound mean. “Explain exactly why they tried to kill me?”

Puck coughed. Ahem. Er... I’d rather not go into that, if it’s all the same to you.

“It isn’t. I’m going to throw that bag into the river if you don’t tell me.”

Fine, he grumbled. But... don’t be angry, OK?

“That means it’s something really bad, doesn’t it?” I groaned, putting one hand to my forehead.

No, no, Puck reassured me, in a soothing voice. Not at all. He paused. They’re just two harmless killers from Team Magma.

I leaped bolt upright, choking and spilling my drink; instantly, any elation I might have felt at my newfound electrical powers vanished.

What?” I shrieked, slamming my glass down onto the table so hard that its contents slopped over the sides. “Puck, you’ve got me involved with the Mafia?

Team Magma and Team Aqua; there hadn’t been a more famous set of rivals since the Montagues and the Capulets. Two crime syndicates, both alike in aspect, both calling themselves Hoenn’s Mafia, locked in a never-ending battle for supremacy over the nation’s underworld; their agents were spread over the region, scattered into fighting units in every town and every city. From the knife-fights in the treetops of Fortree to the shootouts in the depths of Lilycove, not a week went by without news of another skirmish, another clash between the two Teams’ forces. Neither was large enough to eradicate the other, and so the fighting wore on, little, indecisive victories won – the Magmas won this street, the Aquas won that dock – that didn’t really take anything away from the other Team. Their gang war had been raging on for fifty years, and showed no signs of letting up; the current underworld situation had developed against the backdrop of the fight, and now you could pretty much be certain that almost every crook in Hoenn supported, directly or indirectly, either the Magmas or the Aquas. The worst of it was that everyone in the country knew all about it, and the government did nothing: the Teams were essentially large armies, and the gang war might just become a civil one if they were interfered with.

You’re only a little bit involved, said Puck in wheedling tones. I just stole that bag from Devon, all right? But the Magmas want it pretty badly. You can probably expect them to come for it quite soon, he added.

“Puck!” I shouted, rising to my feet. “You brought the Magmas down on me? Why the hell would you steal that bag if you knew this was going to happen?”

I didn’t know this was going to happen, snapped Puck angrily. I thought I’d still be free, not trapped in some semi-retarded meatface without a spine who’s stolen all my powers!

“I’d gladly give them back if it would get rid of you!” I retorted. Then, all at once, all my fighting spirit left me, and I sank down onto the sofa, holding my head. “Oh, it’s too much, it’s too much,” I moaned. “What did I do to deserve this?

There, there, said Puck; I wasn’t so stupid that I couldn’t detect irony and immediately got angry again.

“Shut up!” I snapped. “You haven’t even answered my question: why did you steal that bag?”

There was an odd silence in my head.

“Puck?”

Nothing.

Puck?

Still nothing.

“Right,” I said, getting up and grabbing the bag, “this is going in the river—”

All right, all right! Puck cried. Put the bag down and I’ll tell you!

I did, and sat back down.

“I’m all ears, you malevolent little demon.”

I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, he said frostily, or see the thoughts that just flashed through your head about what you would like to do to me. I stole that bag... Here he faltered. I stole that bag... because Team Magma wanted it! And, after all, if they wanted it badly enough to kill—

“Kill?” I yelped; the Rotom ignored me and kept going.

—to kill, then it’s probably better off out of their hands, don’t you think?

“What are we going to do, Puck?” I moaned, reverting to my despairing persona in this time of crisis. “What the hell have you dragged me into?”

Puck was silent for a while. When he answered, he sounded uncharacteristically serious.

Look, he said, if it makes you feel any better, I apologise for getting you into this, even if it wasn’t my fault. But we’re here now, stuck together like this, and we can’t sit around moping all day. Here he paused, and, reluctantly recognising the cue, I sat up and removed my head from my hands. We aren’t totally defenceless, the Rotom continued. You can use my ThunderShock, right? Maybe you can practise, and get better – like a real Pokémon. Maybe you can learn other moves of mine, stronger moves. We can defend ourselves against the Mafia, repelling wave after wave of lethal home invaders. It’ll be like Home Alone, only without any funny bits and lots of death. Er... What I mean is, we’ll be just fine.

“No,” I said decisively. “We’ll just give them their bag back as soon as they come asking for it.”

No! cried Puck, aghast. You can’t do that!

“I can and I will,” I told him, in tones that, if you’ll permit me to compliment myself, really did brook no argument. “I can’t hold off a nationwide criminal organisation armed with the powers of a Level 1 Rotom. This madness has to stop.”

Kester—

“My mind is made up,” I said, watching a silver Devon company car pull up outside. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to let my mum in and try and get back in her good books.”

Ignoring Puck’s increasingly feeble protests, I walked out and opened the door, whereupon someone who most definitely was not my mother threw something purple at me, and I suddenly found myself somewhere else entirely.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.