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Old January 26th, 2011 (07:23 AM). Edited February 13th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Posts: 1,030
Chapter Seven: No Peace for the Wicked

“That boy!” Felicity’s blue eyes flashed with anger, and she chewed ferociously on her fingernails. “He’s... he doesn’t know. But it has to be...”

There was no one else in her bedroom, and no answer seemed forthcoming, so she lay back on her bed and sighed, twisting her hair through her fingers. Her headphones were off for once, plugged into the wall socket and resting on top of her bedside cabinet, next to the lamp.

“What was his name...?” Felicity swapped her fingernail for a knuckle, pinching the loose skin between her teeth. “Kester, that’s right.” She paused and chewed some more, ivory skin reddening in her mouth. “This isn’t good at all. Especially if he’s with the Magmas...” She sat up again, long hair falling back to its usual dead-straight style as she did so. “I need to do some independent investigation, without that chauvinist dirtbag – and without that guy looking over my shoulder.”

She got up and checked the little light on her headphones’ charger; it had turned off, signifying that the batteries were fully replenished. Unplugging them, she laid them on the bed and changed clothes, from Aqua uniform to something more normal – for her, at least.

Done, Felicity slipped her headphones back onto her head and turned them on; waves of electronic Japanese music began seeping into her ears. She glanced at herself quickly in the mirror before she left, and then came back to look again, frowning. The white of her right eye were slightly off-colour, faintly tinged with yellow as if she were suffering from jaundice. Felicity swore and recoiled, mingled fear and anger on her face.

“When does this stop?” she asked of no one at all, voice trembling. “I... Damn it!”

She punched the dresser hard, making the items on its top jump. She stayed there, breathing heavily, for a moment, then pulled away and fumbled in her drawer for sunglasses. They were blue Team Aqua ones, but they would do; she just couldn’t face looking at her eyes right now.

“Calm,” she told herself. “Tranquillity.” She took a deep breath. “Time to go.”

Felicity left her apartment, no sign of conflict on her pale face. There was still time. She was going to fix this – but first, she had some spying to do.

---

“I thought Trainers hiked through the wilderness to get between towns,” I said.

“Only when you don’t have to get to Admiral’s in time to get a ferry to Slateport today,” Sapphire replied. “We’ll do all that hiking stuff another time, when I want to train you and my other Pokémon up.”

“Must you treat me as subhuman?” I asked. “It makes me feel like – like—”

Just then, Puck gave me a very crude and highly immoral simile to fill the gap at the end of my sentence, which reminded me of that business last year; I had to remind myself quickly that what had occurred then was technically legal, in Hoenn at least.

“Never mention that again,” I said hoarsely, with such vehemence that Sapphire looked at me in alarm.

“What?” I pointed to my head. Sapphire sighed. “I wish I could hear what he says,” she said. “It must be good, to always get you so worked up.”

“He talks more sense than you,” I replied belligerently. “It was him who worked out how the beat the Carvanha. Where were all your Trainer tactics then?”

“I’m not getting drawn into this,” said Sapphire, looking like she desperately wanted to do the opposite. “Just sit back and enjoy the ride. I’m paying for you, aren’t I? You could be in the ball.”

It was actually quite an effort for her to resist the temptation; neither of us had endeared ourselves to the other last night. Firstly, Sapphire had had to smuggle me into the Centre inside the Master Ball, since I wasn’t a registered Trainer and couldn’t use it; then, I had discovered the soulless and unsatisfying nature of Pokémon Centre food, and complained vociferously in a way that had resulted in Sapphire returning me to the ball, taking me back up to her room and releasing me into the wardrobe before locking it shut. This was infinitely less pleasant even than being in the Poké ball, and I spent a very miserable night banging forlornly on the door, wedged uncomfortably into a forest of coat hangers. In fact, that conversation on the train was the first time we’d spoken since last night.

“You don’t have to treat it like an honour for me to be out of the ball,” I said. “It’s kind of my right, as a free human being and citizen of Hoenn. Are we not part of the UN? Do we not accept the UN’s list of basic human rights?”

“It’s not your right,” she snapped. “You’re a Trainer’s Pokémon. Freedom doesn’t enter into it.”

That was particularly nasty, even for her, and I sat and sulked in silence for the rest of the journey. For once, Puck commiserated with me; he was, I reflected bitterly, nothing if not fair – which regrettably meant that most of the time, it was I who was in the wrong.

Admiral’s Berth: a dock and port that was curiously detached from both of the nearest cities, Rustboro and Petalburg. It had started as the cottage of a retired sailor who called himself Mr. Briney; he’d died in the 1960s, and when his possessions were retrieved it was found out that he had actually been a famous admiral of the Sinnoh navy. This surprised everyone, since all he had done since he moved into the lonely cliff-top house was sit on a rocking-chair on the veranda, stroking an ancient, devious-looking Wingull called Peeko and plotting to overthrow the Emperor of the Moon; nevertheless, it had proved incentive enough for the cottage to be preserved as the official Admiral Briney museum. This had swiftly grown into a tiny town, almost entirely composed of its rambling docklands. That town was Admiral’s Berth: one of Hoenn’s three main seaports, along with Slateport and Lilycove.

It was into the bustling train station of this town that the train pulled into, grinding to a halt on salt-rusted rails. People poured off like water; this was the end of the line, and Admiral’s Berth was always a popular destination. Sapphire disappeared into the crowd, and I spent several minutes searching for her before she lost patience and recalled me instead of waiting.

“What the – Sapphire!” I cried, kicking the wall of the ball. “That was unnecessary!”

Leave it, advised Puck. She can’t hear you, and I doubt she cares.

“Why is she like that?” I asked despairingly, dropping to the floor in a sitting position.

I can’t tell you, Puck answered. I’m not the sort of Ghost that can read minds. I just play with machines.

“But you seem to know so much – why can’t you work it out?”

I’m not that perceptive. It’s just that you’re so very puerile and stupid.

“Don’t you pick up on anything but my flaws?”

Yes, but the flaws are what I need to work on if I’m going to survive my incarceration here.

“Thanks.”

Sorry. Forget I said anything. You’re perfect, and I can’t see any reason why Sapphire hates you.

“You mean you do know why?”

Sort of. You two are just too different to get along without a lot of work. She’s strong, self-confident and assertive – and you’re, well, somewhat weedy and pathetic. I don’t think Sapphire can stand that about you.

“Again, thanks.”

Any time.

“Huh.” I lay down and scratched my neck. “Why does she keep me then?”

Sheer bone-headed stubbornness, Puck replied succinctly.

“S’pose you’ve got something there,” I admitted thoughtfully.

About an hour later, Sapphire saw fit to let me out of the ball again; now, I found myself in a small, white plastic room with a rich blue carpet.

“Sapphire! Why’d you— hey, where are we?” I looked around. Nothing graced the walls to hint at our location, so I looked at Sapphire instead.

“On a ferry,” she said, sounding uncharacteristically nervous. “Going to Slateport.”

“What’s this place?”

“An empty room I found to let you out in.” She glanced around. “We need to get back to the main room.”

We left, and passed down a short corridor before emerging into a large, semicircular room that seemed to be a cross between an airport departure lounge and a café. Round tables with arcs of cushioned seats around them were scattered about the room, and the walls were punctuated by wide, tall windows that showed the slate-coloured waves beyond. A counter ripped from a bar or light restaurant stood at the far end, and at it sat a dispirited-looking man in a green overcoat that I recognised immediately as Darren Goodwin.

“Sapphire!” I hissed, pointing. “It’s the Devon guy who caught me!”

She looked concerned.

“It is? I thought he looked familiar... It’s OK, he doesn’t have to see us. Let’s just... sit down somewhere.”

I looked at her oddly; she seemed much less belligerent than usual. Nevertheless, I followed her to a free table, dodging a couple of excited kids, and sat down.

“Are you OK?” I asked. Sapphire started, and looked like I’d stabbed her.

“I’m fine!” she protested unconvincingly. “Never better. Who said I wasn’t fine?”

The boat wobbled slightly, and she went pale. I smiled, the light dawning.

“You’re seasick, aren’t you?”

“No!” The boat went over another wave, and Sapphire gripped the table tightly. “Yes,” she admitted.

I laughed; I couldn’t help it. Sapphire glowered weakly.

“It’s not funny,” she said petulantly.

“Yes it is,” I replied. “You were completely calm in the face of a shotgun and a Carvanha, but you can’t deal with a bit of water?”

“Shut up,” she grumbled. “The Devon man will hear us.”

“He’s on the other side of the room,” I pointed out, “separated by about eighteen families, a group of noisy youths and a crying baby. It’s a miracle he can hear anything.”

Sapphire made an attempt to reply, but a medium-sized wave rocked the boat slightly and she ended up grabbing onto my arm, expecting some sort of support. With any other girl, this might have been quite enjoyable (the Aqua girl came to mind) but since it was Sapphire, I looked at her as I might look at something stuck to the sole of my shoe, and gently but vigorously shook her off.

“God...” she muttered. “This sea...” She looked out of the window, then looked away again rapidly. “Is this a storm?”

“No,” I replied, “it’s pretty calm.”

Ordinarily, Puck said, I would be sympathising with Sapphire right now, but... well, I’m a Ghost, and I like to laugh at humans.

“Anyway,” I said, a thought coming to me, “what was it you wanted to discuss later? You mentioned it yesterday, at your house?”

“Yes,” she replied. “About releasing you... What I wanted to say was that I will. After you help me unravel this mystery about the goods.”

“You’re... Actually, what are you doing? Is that bribery, because you’re going to give me my freedom? Or is it threatening, because you’re not going to do so if I don’t help?”

“Neither. Just a deal.” Sapphire looked at me seriously. “You help me, I set you free. Deal?”

“This is shady,” I remarked. “I can see why you didn’t want Birch to know.” Then I sighed. “But I don’t have a choice, so...” I held out a hand, and she shook it.

This is good, noted Puck. You’re learning to work together.

After that, the conversation dried up a bit; we didn’t really have anything in common, nor did we know each other well enough to keep us entertained. I sat and watched the waves, my trance only broken when, at sporadic intervals, Sapphire emitted almighty groans of nausea.

---

Naturally, Kester, Puck and Sapphire were not the ferry’s sole passengers. There were several others of note aboard; Darren Goodwin, the man Devon called ‘researcher’, has already been touched upon, but elsewhere we might find our man Barry of Team Aqua, partaking of whiskey at the bar, and the two charmingly bumbling goons, Barry and Fabien. You might perhaps have thought that our other character, Felicity, was to be found here – but she, by means of her feminine efficiency, had arrived at Slateport the previous night. There, if you remember, she had returned to her apartment to cogitate and recharge her headphones.

Barry was, thanks to a curious quirk of fate, sitting right next to Darren, on his left. The barman regarded each of these men with the knowing eye of his profession; if any there was a man who knew the intricacies of the human soul, it was a bartender. Who else has had so many passionate tales poured out to him, who else knows best how to soothe a broken heart or a deep-seated grief? Not even a psychiatrist can claim to rival the barkeep in this regard, for the latter can not only cure all ills of the mind but gently and firmly remove drunks from his bar in such a way that they will come back tomorrow for more drinks. This is a feat that the psychiatrist wishes he could manage, for then his practice would be far more lucrative.

This bartender was not, at first appearance, one of those wise men. At the centre of a bustling ferry at midday, it seemed he must have been unable to procure better employment – but that assumption would have been incorrect. When night fell, and the lonely midnight service ran between Dewford and Slateport, he came into his own; for the witching hour is the time when the broken-hearted, the down on their luck, and the retired, melancholy sailors travel the ocean, and need the comforts of the professional barman. His talents were as sharp as a razor, and so it was that he set a pair of drinks before Barry and Darren, and uttered the immortal greeting of the professional barkeep:

“So, fellas. Why the long faces?”

Barry glanced at Darren and Darren glanced at Barry; the two men seemed to reach an agreement that Darren was to go first, and so he did.

“I’m a Devon researcher,” he said with a sigh, pulling at his drink, “and someone stole an important weapon we’re developing – it was this Team Aqua girl, wearing a blue coat. I’ve been dispatched to go and retrieve our weapon by our President, and I’ve also got to deliver this to Slateport.” He held up a black bag, and Barry’s eyes widened. “It’s just all a bit much, really. It’s my wedding anniversary tomorrow, and I’m going to miss it because of this.”

The barman shook his head dolefully. “Perhaps you can catch the ferry back in time for tomorrow evening.”

“Only if I catch that girl in time,” sighed Darren. “She’s got to be heading for Slateport, I guess, which is some small consolation.”

“Did you have any plans for the evening?”

Here was where Barry stopped listening; thoughts were whirling around his tiny brain like dervishes. A Devon researcher! This was terrible news. He was acutely aware of the fainted condition of his Carvanha, and the fact that Felicity had taken the gun with her. If the researcher discovered his identity... well, Barry didn’t like to think about what would happen then. He might have his pride, but Barry knew when to keep his head down. It was best to act as if he had nothing to do with the Aquas at all.

Yet... the Devon guy had mentioned an Aqua girl. That couldn’t have been Felicity, since he knew she didn’t have whatever it was the man was after. At that moment, a tiny circuit sparked into life somewhere in the morass he called a brain, and he realised with a jolt that he must be talking about the girl in the blue coat from yesterday. The girl who was working with the Rotom kid. She was undoubtedly a Magma employee, rather than Aqua; the blue coat was probably a ruse to throw Devon off the track.

“And what about you?” the barman asked, turning to him.

“Ah... I made a mistake in my work,” Barry told him. “Didn’t deliver what I was supposed to. Probably going to get fired.”

Despite his sorrowful tones, Barry was inwardly exultant; here was a fantastic snippet of information for the boss, and one that would more than make up for his failure to obtain the goods. Team Magma had stolen Devon’s secret weapon.

And that was it: then he had one of those blinding flashes of genius that occasionally rushes upon you like a thunderbolt from a clear blue sky. These inspired moments come to even such dolts as Barry, and this one was a good one.

The secret Devon weapon was the boy with the lightning powers.

This connected in his mind with the Rotom thief; Ghosts could possess things, and Electric-types could shoot lightning – thus, Barry concluded, his fit of genius coming to an end, that the boy was somehow one with the Rotom, perhaps due to some sinister Devon experiments.

Astounded at his own intellect, Barry sat and gaped for a long moment, during which both the barman and Darren Goodwin regarded him curiously. When at last he recovered, he coughed uncomfortably and hastily threw a handful of coins onto the table to cover the drink before hurrying off to vanish into the crowd, eager to contact his superiors.

Darren and the barman watched him go.

“Odd guy, that,” remarked the barman. Darren nodded in agreement.

“Yes.”

From a nearby table, Fabien looked on through holes cunningly cut into his newspaper, in a clichéd display that would have made any decent criminal groan; thankfully, neither he nor Blake were decent criminals.

“Did you hear all that?” he murmured to Blake. Both men were still disguised, though Fabien had an inkling that his disguise might actually be attracting a little more attention than even a Team Magma uniform.

“Yeah, I got it,” replied his comrade. “Secret Devon weapon?”

“I was thinking that too,” Fabien said. “It’s that kid, isn’t it?”

“Gotta be,” affirmed Blake, nodding his heavy head. “When ’e broke out, or the Aquas stole ’im or whatever, ’e must ’ave taken the goods with ’im.”

“Those cunning Aquas!” Fabien shook a theatrical fist of rage. “Is there no end to their depravity?”

“I s’pose it ends in abou’ the same place as ours,” suggested Blake.

“You may have something there,” admitted Fabien. “Well, anyway, we have to steal that kid from the Aquas! It was an Aqua girl wearing a blue coat, he said – we must find her.”

“D’you think it was that girl we saw yesterday?”

Fabien shook his head. “He’d have mentioned the headphones.”

“Fair enough. That reminds me – ’ave you got a message from Goishi yet?”

“No, not yet. I think his target went to Slateport on the late ferry last night.”

The two men sank into the same sort of contemplative trance that had occupied them shortly after fleeing from Kester in the alleyway, trying to puzzle out what to do next, what to tell the boss and where the girl with the secret weapon might be.

Funnily enough, both she and the so-called ‘secret weapon’ were sitting just seven tables away, trying not to be sick and watching the waves respectively.

---

The ferry took an hour and a half to reach Dewford Island, where we were to change for Slateport; by this time, Sapphire had been sick twice and was paler and shakier than a reanimated skeleton. This pathetic sight managed to touch me despite my dislike for her, and I helped her off the boat and back onto dry land, eliciting approval from Puck.

That’s right, he said. Good old-fashioned manners, that’s what count.

“I’m not doing it out of politeness,” I retorted. “I’m doing it because she looks so pathetic.”

“I can hear you, you know,” muttered Sapphire weakly. “God! The ground is swaying...”

“Oh, come on,” I said, exasperated. “You’re not even at sea any more.”

Just sit her down on a bench or something, Puck advised. The world will soon stop swaying. I got something similar once, he added, as I steered Sapphire down the crowded pier and onto the promenade, when I first possessed a fan. It was like the world’s most terrifying Ferris Wheel. A shiver ran down my spine that didn’t belong; I presumed it belonged to Puck.

I found a bench that overlooked the ocean and dumped Sapphire on it with some relief. The view was fantastic; to our left, on the north, there was the bustling pier from which we had just extricated ourselves; in front of us, a golden expanse of beach stretched out beneath the noonday sun, slipping under bejewelled waves to the east; and to our right, you could see the outlines of Dewford’s sole town, imaginatively named ‘Dewford’. I didn’t dwell too much on it, because it was mostly a hellish mix of cheap holiday resort and theme park, and quickly returned my attention to the sea. It was pockmarked with ferries and little sailing boats, and I wondered whether it was any fun to go out to sea like that, with the open air and the spray on your face.

No, it isn’t, Puck told me. Believe me, I went out to sea on a boat at Brighton once, and it was awful. Got cold seawater right the way through my plasma – and some of it was heavy, which didn’t go down well, he added darkly.

“Er... right.”

You don’t get it, Puck said insistently. Heavy water contains isotopes of hydrogen that are suitable for nuclear fusion. With the energy in my body, they could do that – I had a nasty little cold fusion reaction going on in my eyes. Felt like a bomb had gone off in my brain—

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said, “and I don’t care.” I sat down next to Sapphire. “When does the boat to Slateport leave?”

“Quarter to two,” she replied. I looked at my watch, which told me that the time was currently 12.37.

“We have some time then,” I remarked. “Shall we get something to eat in the town?”

Sapphire gave a deep and heartfelt shudder that started at her toes and moved all the way up to her forehead.

No,” she said firmly. “I can’t even think of eating like this.”

“OK, let me re-phrase that. Can I go and get something to eat in the town?”

“I’m not stopping you.”

I sighed.

“Will you give me some money?”

“Don’t you have any?”

“This trip was sprung on me by surprise, so I left my wallet in my room.”

Sapphire made a disgruntled noise, but handed over a couple of notes. I looked at them: two thousand-Pokédollar bills. In total, enough for, say, nine or ten Potions.

“Is this it?”

“What are you eating? A three-course meal with roasted Swellow?”

“Fine, I’ll just take it.” I stomped off towards Dewford, muttering angrily. “Come on, Puck, agree with me here. She’s rich, right? So why can’t she be generous?”

She hates you. I thought you knew that.

“I suppose that’s right,” I agreed, passing the entrance to The Wurmple World of Adventure, probably Hoenn’s least likely theme park. “She just doesn’t want to give me anything.”

It might help if you were nice to her.

“If she won’t be nice to me...” The sentence didn’t need finishing, so I let it hang there in the air as we arrived at Dewford’s main street.

It was horrible. That’s all I can really say about it. There was a crowd, yes, a nasty, hot, sticky crowd that pushed and shoved and jostled all over the road; I caught a glimpse of a car, hopelessly trapped in a sea of people, a little way off and felt a pang of sympathy for its harassed-looking occupants. As soon as I entered the crowd, I wanted to get out again, but as I turned around the entrance disappeared; a current in the wave of humanity engulfed me and sucked me deeper in despite my protests. At one point, I became stuck to the back of a fat guy and was carried along for several yards before I managed to peel myself free; at another, someone’s pet Pelipper sat on my head and slowly crushed me to the floor before I sent it packing with a weak ThunderShock.

That was close, commented Puck of that last.

“Yeah,” I gasped, struggling to avoid being stepped on. “It almost squashed me.”

No, I mean you came very close to killing it. Water/Flying – quadruply weak to Electric. It’s a good thing that you weakened the attack.

I thought about reprimanding him, but decided it wouldn’t do any good and said instead:

“This was a mistake. I need to find a bench and – and regain my bearings.”

It was lucky Puck was inside my head; if he’d been anywhere else, there’s no way he would have heard me over the clamour and tumult of the crowd. Unable to get to my feet in the crush, I wormed my way forwards between the legs of passers-by and eventually reached a lamppost, which I used to as support to draw myself up against. My sudden appearance startled a family of holidaymakers, especially as I popped up, exultant at my achievement, directly behind the young daughter of the group; I think it was the expression of triumph on my face that drove them to believe I had criminal designs on her, and caused them to flee into the crowd in a panic.

Did you see their faces? chuckled Puck. Mew’s Liver, that was funny.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” I said as I wormed my way through the crowd, looking for higher ground, “what is with all these weird curses you keep spouting? Mew’s Liver, Dialga’s Orb, Arceus – what do they mean?”

They’re the names of legendary Pokémon, the Rotom replied. Like you say ‘Oh, God’, I blaspheme using their names.

“I see,” I panted, and then: “YEAH!”

I had managed to break free of the crowd, and now stood just in the entrance of a small, sunlit courtyard, surrounded by tastefully built little houses and consequently deserted.

These buildings are lovely, admired Puck. Those philistines out there really prefer the gift shops and stuff to this?

“Yep,” I confirmed. “My mum insisted on me taking Taste at school, so I like this.”

Ah, Taste! Puck sighed with happiness. When I lose faith in the education system, despairing at what it teaches youngsters, I just have to think of Taste to wash all my worries away. What could be finer than a class that actually teaches you good taste? You—

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, shut up,” I interrupted, looking around. “Let’s see... if we go straight on here, maybe we’ll get to a normal street that isn’t full of tourists.”

I left the little courtyard and continued on my way, feeling very hungry now; due to Sapphire incarcerating me in the cupboard, I had missed breakfast that morning. The sun shone down, Puck babbled pleasantly in my head, and the buildings around me were tall and beautifully designed; for once, it seemed as if things were going all right for me. There was no one here to mock or wound me, and I was away from Sapphire, which meant she couldn’t recall me; I even entertained thoughts of running off and leaving her, but in the end had to face the reality that that wasn’t going to happen, since I had almost no money and, after all, we had a deal.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t know at the time was that there were, in fact, people at Dewford Island out to spoil our day. Later, I was going to wonder how I could have felt so carefree.

Because while I was wandering happily around Dewford, someone I’d met the day before yesterday, someone who, in fact, might be pointed to as the one who landed me in this mess, had found Sapphire.

Note Yo. This is the Cutlerine. I appreciate that there's probably no one reading this - but if there is, would it kill you to at least let me know I'm not talking to myself here? That's all. Ciao.
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For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.