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Old January 15th, 2011 (04:11 AM). Edited January 15th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Three: Dance Like a Ludicolo

“Puck? Where are we?” I didn’t really expect him to know, but he was the only person around for me to ask.

I was standing in the centre of a little round room, window- and door-less, with steel walls, floor and ceiling. It was unpleasantly reminiscent of that business that occurred last year, though that’s something I’ve no desire to go into here.

This has never happened to me before, said Puck, and he sounded like he was choosing his words carefully, but...

“But?”

I have heard about this from other Pokémon.

A dark little suspicion began to take shape in a far corner of my mind, but I ignored it and asked him again, more forcefully.

“Puck. Where are we?”

I think, he said, and don’t be angry, but... I think we’ve been caught.

“Caught?”

Well... yes. Caught.

“What do you mean, ‘caught’?”

Like, er, in a Poké Ball, caught.

And then I took to wailing and gnashing my teeth, and shrieking and battering the walls, and to the rending of my hair. It was a very biblical fit of wrath.

Because, after all, I was in a Poké Ball.

Now, I’d never taken that much of an interest in Training – that was why I was still in school, and not out roaming around the country with my own set of superpowered monsters – but I knew what that meant: someone now owned me, or intended to. And that was something that, to understate things, really quite annoyed me.

“Hang on.” I paused in my ineffectual assault on the ball’s walls. “I thought these things could only catch Pokémon?”

Yes. But, in case you haven’t noticed, we are a Pokémon, Puck pointed out. Together, we can use moves, and we have an elemental typing, Electric/Ghost. Don’t you think that makes us enough of a Pokémon to be caught by a ball?

“Argh! This is all your fault!” I shouted. “God, Puck, I hate you! You show up in my head, you make me beat up mafia Pokémon and steal mafia property, and now you get me caught like a damn Zigzagoon!”

In my defence, it isn’t mafia property as such, Puck said facetiously. It’s only desired by the mafia.

“Another thing!” I cried. “You don’t take any of this seriously! You’re stuck in me, right? You have a vested interest in whether or not I survive, right? Yet you don’t seem to care at all whether or not I live through it!”

There was a brief silence, during which I wondered if Puck was building up to zap my brain again.

I can’t deny that my presence here is most likely what’s caused you to become captured, and that I have caused you considerable inconvenience otherwise, admitted Puck. But I urge you to relax. Just because they caught you doesn’t mean you have to obey them. Pokémon often disobey their Trainers, right?

It was true. Every week, there’d be a couple of stories on the news about Trainers mauled or otherwise injured by newly-caught, untrained Pokémon; they were as dangerous as wild ones before they got to know their owners. It was one of the hazards that had led me to reject the opportunity to become a Trainer all those years ago, when I’d been ten. It was just too dangerous for someone like me, who liked the quiet life. Not that I thought I’d be getting much of that now, in a Poké Ball with a Rotom in my head.

Just a quick question, Puck said, was that serious enough for you?

“Yeah. You sounded like James Bond.”

That’s fairly racist of you, but I think it might be a compliment so I’ll overlook it.

“Whatever.” I raised a hand and shot a ball of blue lightning into the wall of the Poké Ball; the steel conducted it all around the room before it fizzled away harmlessly. I grinned a wicked grin, imagining what had happened to the Golbat happening to whoever had caught me. “You know what, Puck? I think you might be right for once. Let’s get some revenge.”

Yes, agreed Puck. Let’s do that.

If I hadn’t been so absorbed in thoughts of electrically-based revenge, I might have noticed he sounded less than certain of my scheme – but I was, and so I didn’t.

It was going to cost me.

---

Solomon Stone was a large man, stout and corpulent: his neck, if he had ever possessed one, was long gone, and his body flowed seamlessly into a head of precisely the same width as his shoulders. He resembled nothing so much as a great fleshy tombstone, crammed into an expensive dove-grey suit. His arms were too short and his legs too long, so that he was well over six feet tall but couldn’t reach high shelves; every single aspect of his proportions were anatomically wrong.

Stone’s face was no less prepossessing: his mouth was wide and stretched almost from ear to ear, turning up at the corners and so giving him the expression of a benevolent frog. His eyes were wide and very large; in his youth, when he was very drunk, he had often amused other partygoers by popping them almost an inch from their sockets – a trick he now put to use in business meetings when he wanted to stun someone into silence. Pallid, straw-like hair, greying now, hung limply from his large cranium, and his ears were so small as to be inconsequential.

Naturally, this remarkable appearance was the subject of much discussion among those who knew him, for Stone refused to tell a soul how he had come by it. The leading theory at the moment was that he had been born of the unholy union of Ludicolo and woman – which also explained his habit of shifting from foot to foot, waving his hands.
Yet beneath this strange and alarming exterior lay a mind of unparalleled business acumen. The illegitimate son of a Kantan gravel merchant (possibly by a Ludicolo), he had been born with stone in his heart; he had taken it as his name and made a fortune in quarrying in Italy. He had acquired Silph cheaply when the company collapsed in the late ’80s, during the Kanto-Johto Depression, and, rebranding it the ‘Devon Corporation’, had resurrected it in Hoenn. Now, Devon had the kind of monopoly on Hoennian high technology that Silph had once had in Kanto, and Stone was, at just forty-four, among the planet’s ten richest inhabitants.

Right now, however, Stone was not acting as a man of his status; he was not lying in a pool in his palatial mansion, absorbing the sun of the Hoennian summer, nor was he hard at work to increase the amount of money in the bank.

He was trying to balance his pen on its nib.

This was a problem that had absorbed him for about three days now. Stone knew it must be possible, but he couldn’t quite figure out how. His pen was one made by Devon, and consisted of a slim steel rod that tapered to a razor-like point; it wrote by leaving a thin line of metal behind when it passed over a surface, and hence could write on virtually anything. When held upright, it was perfectly symmetrical, so there could be no reason why it wouldn’t balance except Stone’s own imperfections.

Stone did not tolerate his imperfections. When he encountered them, he strove to eradicate them – and for the most part, he succeeded, through sheer pig-headed determination and effort. That was why he had been sitting in his office for three days at the top of the Devon skyscraper, trying to balance his pen on its point on the surface of his desk.

One problem, he had thought early on, might have been that the desk was on an incline, so he’d borrowed a spirit level from one of the engineering labs downstairs to check that it was even; upon discovering that it was about a degree out, he sawed a millimetre off the legs on one side of the desk. That then lowered it too far towards the other side, so he’d sawn some off those legs – and this had gone on and on, until his desk lay on the floor like a beached whale, surrounded by broken bits of wood.

The next problem that he had encountered was that the surface of the desk was probably not entirely smooth. It might have microscopic dips and peaks that interfered with the ultra-fine point of the pen. So, of course, Stone had procured a plane and removed most of the wood from the top of the desk before varnishing it with a special lacquer Devon had created a few years ago for simulated ice-rinks; it was extremely slippery and, even on a molecular level, was almost entirely even.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was Stone’s ninth desk this year. His long-suffering receptionist had been forced some years ago to place a standing order with a nearby furniture firm, who, while unused to supplying clients with packets of identical expensive hardwood desks on a monthly basis, had accepted gladly and were now quite prosperous.

There was a knock at the door, and Stone’s pen fell over again. He looked up absently.

“Come in,” he called.

A pair of Devon employees came in; one was a researcher, wearing a white lab coat and carrying something in his hand. The other was less easy to place, since she just wore a grey suit; however, Stone had a hunch she might be someone important from advertising.

He regarded these intruders into his domain benevolently over horn-rimmed spectacles, specially made to accommodate his widely-spaced eyes.

“Hello,” he said good-naturedly. “Who might you be?”

“I’m Darren Goodwin,” the researcher replied, “and this is Theresa Ruby. Um, I hope we’re not interrupting anything, sir...” He was staring in some consternation at the sad corpse of Stone’s once-fine desk.

“No, not at all,” said Stone genially, getting to his feet and settling into the impressive chair that had once sat behind his desk, and now sat behind a pile of very slippery firewood. “Take a seat.”

He indicated two chairs on the other side of the ruined desk, and the two Devon employees seated themselves somewhat uncertainly.

“I was just trying to balance my pen on the point,” explained Stone, holding up the relevant implement. “Quite difficult, as it happens.”

“Er – right, sir. Well, do you remember those stolen goods?”

Stone nodded. “Yes, of course. That was just yesterday, wasn’t it? Dashed bad business. They needed to get to Angel down in Slateport. In fact, I think they’ve been calling up, demanding to know where they are.”

“I know, sir. I was tracking down those parts, as instructed, and I found this.”

He held out a fist-sized sphere, half white and half purple, with two red blobs on the upper part. Stone peered at it.

“You found a Master Ball?” he asked, puzzled. “I think you’ll find we make those. We have lots of them here—”

“No, no, sir,” replied Darren Goodwin. “I found the boy in possession of the stolen goods.”

“Well, where is he, then?” asked Stone, feeling put-upon. Honestly, the man was talking in riddles! Why couldn’t he just leave him to balance the pen on his desk? “Why are you showing me a Master Ball?”

Darren Goodwin suppressed a sigh. Stone was an excellent businessman, but all other aspects of his personality, including common sense and reason, seemed somewhat... moronic.

“No, sir,” he said. “He’s in here.”

Stone blinked once, slowly, like a chilled lizard. Then, he spoke, with a calming, avuncular air.

“Now, Derek—”

“Darren, sir.”

“Now, Derek, I want you to listen here,” Stone continued blithely. “It might have escaped your attention – and you probably work very hard – but our Poké Balls, even Master ones, only catch Pokémon.” He gave a reassuring grin; it spread his mouth so wide it looked like the top half of his head might come off.

“That’s just the thing, sir,” replied Darren, through clenched teeth. “I think he might actually be a Pokémon.”

And thus Stone found the story of the boy using Electric-type moves on the Magma grunt’s Golbat being related to him, by none other than the man in the green overcoat himself, though that coat was now hung up next to his desk nineteen floors below.

“...and I’m sure it was ThunderShock,” finished Darren. “I have a Magneton, sir; I know my Electric moves. So I followed him home, returned to the office and borrowed a Master Ball to catch him with – on a hunch, sir.”

“Very interesting,” observed Stone, nodding. “Spectacular work, Derek.”

“It’s Darren, sir.”

“Of course. How remiss of me. Let me apologise, Derek.” Stone paused. “This could prove quite the breakthrough. No doubt all sorts of tests can be performed on this lad.”

“Excuse me, sir,” interjected the other Devon worker, Theresa Ruby, “but may I ask why I’m here?”

Stone turned to her in some astonishment. Truthfully, he had forgotten she was there.

“Why, of course you may ask,” he said kindly, “but I’m sure that I don’t know the answer.”

“Actually,” Darren said, “I think this might answer your question.”

He stood up, took a few respectful steps back from the carcass of the desk, moved his chair aside and dropped the Master Ball in a colourful explosion of purple-blue light.

A boy appeared – or a young man, it was difficult to be sure; his long, thin limbs and skinny body argued for him lying on the cusp of adulthood, at the awkward age of sixteen or seventeen. He had messy, sun-bleached hair and a lightly-tanned face; a battered-looking school uniform belonging to an institution that Stone did not recognise hung from his thin frame. One of his eyes was brown, and the other, on the right, was the electric blue of distilled summer skies.

“Hah!” he cried, and pointed at Darren Goodwin; a small ball of blue lightning shot from his finger and fizzled harmlessly against the man’s coat.

For a long moment, no one said anything. Then, the boy turned around and noticed everyone else – particularly Theresa Ruby, at the sight of whom he looked inordinately surprised.

“Mum?”

---

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. Naturally. I mean, this was the worst day I’d ever had, after all.

“Mum?”

She seemed just as surprised as I did.

“Kester?” She glanced at the man next to her – the guy against whom my ThunderShock had proved singularly ineffective.

Er – about that, said Puck, I was going to say, but the only reason you beat up that Golbat with ThunderShock was because it’s a Flying-type, and they’re weak to Electric moves. Because ThunderShock on its own is, well, useless, really. Especially if you’re Level 1. Which you are.

I wasn’t really listening to him; I was too confused. Happily, though, this was becoming something I was used to. I looked around for answers, and saw a Ludicolo in a suit sitting in a fancy chair on the other side of a smashed-up desk. I was about half a second away from throwing myself out of the window in despair and fury at the nonsensical nature of the world when I realised that it was just a very ugly man, which was marginally less stupid.

“Kester... how did...?” Mum seemed to have swapped surprise for confusion.

“It’s a long story,” I told her wearily, “but basically, this all started because my clock ran out of power in the night.”

If anything, that confused her more.

“Explain,” said the man in the white coat, who was holding something purple I recognised as a Master Ball. A wave of hatred surged through me; he must have been the guy who caught me. I folded my arms and looked him squarely in the eye.

“I don’t want to,” I said.

“Fine.”

There was a brief red flash and I was back in the ball again.

“Damn it!” I howled, blasting the walls with ThunderShocks. “That wasn’t meant to happen!”

A moment later, he let me out again.

“You going to talk now?”

So, glowering mutinously, I told them everything: about the Vespa crash, about the accident with the brain scanner – a Phelps-Laurence Occipital Tampering Device, the white coat guy told me it was called – and about Puck stealing the bag of goods.

“So,” said the man who looked like a Ludicolo, getting up and wandering over in a series of dance-like steps, “you’re now a human Rotom, as it were?”

“Yeah,” I replied sulkily, “and much good it’s done me.”

“But this is remarkable!” he cried, bending down to examine me better. “From what I know of our Device, that ought to be completely impossible!”

I shrugged.

“What do I know, I’m not a scientist.”

“I presume this is why your right eye has gone blue.”

“What?” This was news to me – and not welcome news, either. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s blue. Like a Rotom’s eye,” the white coat guy said. I groaned loudly. Great. Another unwanted change that Puck had caused.

“Actually, this has happened at a very convenient time for us,” the Ludicolo man said, straightening up and starting to shuffle from foot to foot. “This lad would be an ideal courier for taking the goods down to Angel, wouldn’t he, Derek?”

“It’s Darren, sir,” replied the white coat guy through clenched teeth. “And that’s an inspired idea. We can’t risk sending them through the usual delivery service, not now we know the Magmas are after them.”

“Whoa,” I said, holding up a hand. “No. No, no, no. I’m not delivering anything for anyone.”

The white coat guy, Darren, sighed.

“There are three reasons why you, in fact, are, Kester. Number one: you are a captive Pokémon. If you refuse, I’ll just recall you. Number two: the man to your right is the President and owner of the Devon Corporation. If you refuse, your mother will be fired. And number three: if you do this, I will personally oversee the extraction of that Rotom from your head.”

“I would too,” put in the Ludicolo man or, as I now knew him, the President of Devon, “but I’m afraid I’m rather busy at the moment with a personal project.”

Now that was an offer. But was it possible to get Puck out of me? He couldn’t get out by himself...

“How do I know you can actually get him out?” I asked suspiciously.

“I’ll get fired?” asked my mother, outraged. It seemed to have been the only part of the conversation she’d picked up on.

“Please be quiet, Theresa,” said the Devon President. Mum opened her mouth again, then thought better of it, and closed it. Her eyes flicked to mine and communicated angrily: You’d better go and deliver those goods, or I’m going to kill you.

“If the Rotom went in, the Rotom can come out,” said Darren simply. “I shall start research on how the Device managed to get him in there as soon as you leave.”

Seems like a pretty good deal to me, said Puck. I’d take it. Also, you have a scary mother.

“Tell me about it,” I muttered under my breath, so that only he could hear. Then, louder: “OK. What exactly do I have to do?”

“It should be simple, for someone with your powers,” the Devon President said. “Do you remember that bag your Rotom stole?”

“Yes?”

“Deliver it to Captain Stern at the Angel Laboratories building in Slateport, defending it from any Team Magma rapscallions who come after it.” He smiled genially, as if this was the most reasonable request in the world.

I stared back.

“You must be crazy,” I told him. “There’s no way I can do that.”

The President clapped a palm to his inordinately broad forehead.

“Of course!” he exclaimed. “How remiss of me. We at Devon will, of course, provide you with the necessary funds for ferries, accommodation, food and suchlike—”

“That’s not the point,” I snapped, not caring that I was talking to someone who could probably have had me killed if he’d wanted to. “It’s not the money, it’s just stupidly dangerous.”

“Now,” said all three of the adults at once in the same placating tone; I gave a small cry of despair. They looked at each other, and then Darren spoke.

“I think,” he said, “that your mother wants you to go so she doesn’t get fired, and President Stone and I want you to go in order to salvage this awful situation with Angel Laboratories. With such compelling reasons—”

How are they compelling?” I shrieked, and found myself back in the Poké Ball. I stared around at the steel walls for a few moments before he let me back out. “Right,” I said sourly. “That’s how they’re compelling.”

“I’m not going to get fired over this,” Mum said in quelling tones. I turned to her in stunned disbelief.

“Don’t you care that I’ll probably die doing this?”

“No you won’t,” she said, “you’ve got your powers now.”

“Dear God,” I moaned. “The world has gone insane.”

“Look, are you going or not?” asked the President, suddenly very businesslike. “I’ve got a pen to balance on my desk, you know.”

I decided not to ask about that, and simply shook my head.

“I’m not going,” I said firmly. “And before you return me” – I saw Darren raising the Master Ball – “I just want to say something.” I took a deep breath.

Oh. Wait. Kester, wait – I don’t think this is a good idea...

I’d seen Ghosts do this on TV, when the Championship Tournament came on. I hoped to God that Rotom could do it as well, and that they could do it at Level 1.

The shout left my lips and instantly magnified itself to incredible volume; I actually saw the air ripple around my head as the sound waves tore the atmosphere asunder. President Stone, Darren and Mum slammed their hands over their ears, recoiling, and I closed my mouth and snatched up the Master Ball as Darren dropped it. The shout continued to echo as I ran for the door, the windows of the office shattering beyond the ruined desk.

Dialga’s Orb! shrieked Puck. How the hell did you make an Astonish that strong?

“Shut up, I’m trying to flee!”

I shoulder-barged my way through the door and ran through the office of a very surprised secretary onto a red-carpeted landing. There were stairs and a lift; I thought they might catch me if I waited for a lift and hurled myself down the stairs.

This was the first mistake. I should have thought about it: I was on the top floor of the Devon building – which was fifty-one floors above ground level. Thinking about it logically, a guy like me, with the fitness of a Slakoth, was never going to make it down even half of those.

It took me five floors before I couldn’t go any further; gasping and spluttering, chest heaving, I staggered past a group of surprised office workers, tripped and tumbled heavily down the next flight of stairs, dropping the Master Ball and cutting the legs from under a young woman on her way up. In a confused tangle of limbs, we both crashed into the wall at the point where the stairs turned.

“Ah!” I cried, jumping up and accidentally treading on her hand. “Sorry! Can’t stop!”

I took a couple of steps towards the top of the stairs, but a strong hand grabbed my arm.

“What?” asked an angry voice. “You can’t stop? You just knocked me down, then stepped on my hand, and you can’t even stop to help me up?”

I turned around with a weak nod.

“Uh – yes,” I said, quailing before a ferocious gaze from two bright blue eyes. “I – it’s a really – difficult – situation...”

“At least apologise properly,” snapped the girl. She looked like she was my age, with brown hair that fell in two long arcs either side of her head and skin tanned to the colour of wood. “Go on. Apologise.”

Is it just me, or are all human women utterly terrifying? asked Puck.

“Please, just shut up!” I told him. Noticing anger flare in the eyes of the girl I’d knocked down, I hastily added: “Ah no, no, not you! I was talking to – someone else!”

I heard shouting from the upper floors; my pursuers were gaining on me.

“There’s no one else here!”

“Yes, there is!” I cried. “In here!” I jabbed a finger at my temple. “I was talking to – oh, forget it! I’m sorry, OK? I didn’t mean to knock you over, I wasn’t telling you to shut up. Can I go now? There really is quite a lot riding on this...”

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” The girl put the Master Ball back in my hand. “You dropped this, by the way.”

“Thanks,” I said, and started to run again just as Darren careered wildly around the corner of the stairs, shouting at the girl to grab the ball off me before I got away; I was a thief and a robber and up to all kinds of larceny. As fast as lightning, she snatched the ball back from me; instantly, I stopped running and started pleading. “No! Give that back! I need it to live a safe and ordered existence!”

The girl looked from me to Darren uncertainly. Behind Darren materialised my mother, and a fleet of confused-looking Devon office workers.

“He’s released the Pokémon from that ball,” Darren told her. “You need to recall it! Its name is Kester!”

“Don’t listen to him!” I cried. “It’s me who’s in that ball, and he’s trying to trap me!”

The girl looked at me as if I were insane, and raised the Master Ball.

I can’t believe you thought that would work, Puck said in disgust, as I snatched wildly at the girl’s outstretched hand—

“Kester, return!”

And then red light pulsed in front of my eyes, and I was in the little metal room again.
__________________

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