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Old February 4th, 2011, 08:09 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Eleven: The Power of the Goodwin

Fabien and Blake sat on hard plastic chairs in the waiting room in the Pokémon Centre’s medical wing; Goishi was somewhere in its depths, being ministered to by the doctors. Rarely did they find themselves in this position; of their two Pokémon, Goishi was by far the more reliable, and he hadn’t been injured badly enough to be hospitalised for about a year. That time, Fabien recalled uneasily, had been during the battle for Lilycove’s Shamuta Canal, when a Sharpedo’s lucky Ice Fang had clipped his wing and sent him tumbling to the asphalt; the frozen flesh had shattered into four pieces and had required intense surgery.

Ordinarily, of course, no Pokémon Centre would serve a Magma or an Aqua, in the same way they wouldn’t serve a Devon researcher or an axe murderer, but as long as you weren’t obviously a crook they would do it, fearful of reprisals from the Teams. As long as the appearance of respectability could be maintained, the Centre management were happy to do pretty much anything.

“Mister Latch?”

Fabien and Blake looked up, to see a Nurse Joy emerging from the double doors, carrying a clipboard. Traditionally, the role of Nurse to Pokémon was allocated to women – but this one was a rare male, perhaps in his mid-thirties, looking tired and harassed with two days’ worth of stubble on his chin.

“Yeah?” Fabien stood up; it was he who possessed the surname ‘Latch’.

“Your Golbat is... more or less OK.” Fabien exchanged a relieved glance with Blake, then turned back to the doctor sharply.

“Mostly OK? What does that mean?”

The doctor took a deep breath.

“He’s been fully thawed out and the bleeding stopped, don’t worry about that. But... he does seem to have acquired some sort of mark on his back that we can’t seem to get rid of.”

“A mark?” Fabien looked puzzled. “Can I see him?”

“He’s right here.”

The doctor handed him Goishi’s ball, and Fabien released the Golbat; he took one glance at his master and turned away from him in disgust.

Fabien and Blake stared.

On Goishi’s back was a curious, claw-like symbol, like a talon crossed with a broken sword, printed in very light blue and outlined with dark. It looked like it was done in paint – but it didn’t seem to have been brushed on.

“Do you have any idea how this happened?” Fabien asked, crouching down to examine it.

“No,” admitted the doctor. “We do have a Kirlia here for reading thoughts and memories in cases where it’s necessary, but we can’t use her on a Golbat – it’s the Poison typing, you see. Psychic moves just kill them.”

“Yes,” Fabien agreed, recalling Goishi. “They do that.” He straightened up and shook the doctor’s hand. “Well, thank you very much anyway.” With that and a pleasant smile, he walked out, Blake trailing behind him.

---

“If I were free,” Felicity muttered to herself. “Oh, if I were free...”

She was back in Aqua uniform, still wearing the sunglasses and trying to ignore a headache. Around her, the Aqua’s main Slateport garage dripped acidic water from its cracked ceiling; the tarpaulins on a hundred nondescript cars of varying model, make and colour rustled gently in accordance with some unknown wind. It was not the most pleasant garage she’d ever been in by a long way, but here she was and here she had to stay, for now at least.

The man who she worked for – unwillingly, she would have stressed – had ordered her to return to an Aqua base, where the Team would have orders for her. These orders now required the arrival of her absent partner; despite her earlier words to Barry, Felicity did not know how to drive. She had never needed to.

Felicity sighed and started chewing her knuckle. She knew, and her boss knew, that the two Magmas that Team Aqua had just ordered her and Barry to detain had not appeared for the express purpose of taking the goods from Kester Ruby and Sapphire Birch. She knew this because her boss had told her that Ruby wasn’t working for the Magmas at all; he and Birch were just trying to unravel the mystery. The goods themselves were in the possession of Devon – though the Aquas seemed to think that Ruby and Birch had somehow stolen them back again, based on reports of a rampaging Exploud mysteriously defeated on Dewford Island.

Why, then, was there a Magma duo in the city? Felicity could only imagine that they were heading for Angel Laboratories, hoping to catch Devon’s man as he delivered the goods. She scratched her head. It was all ridiculously complicated; the main point was, she thought, that both Teams had the wrong end of the stick, and that the only person in possession of all the facts was her boss.

At that point, Barry came into the garage, stubbing out a cigarette on the palm of his hand; doubtless this was meant to be impressive, but Felicity just found it mildly repulsive.

“I’m here,” he announced, though his size rendered this statement somewhat unnecessary.

“Get in the car,” Felicity ordered. “I’ve been here long enough.”

“Shut up,” growled Barry, but he got in anyway, and Felicity slid into the passenger seat.

“We’re headed to Angel Laboratories,” Felicity said, as they drove out into the sunlit evening streets. “That’s where the Magmas are going.”

“How do you know?” asked Barry. “Why would they be going there? I saw the Devon man on the boat to Dewford, and I think the Magma weapon-boy stole the goods off him on the island.”

Felicity resisted the urge to pound the truth through his thick skull and simply replied:

“We have information. I don’t know why they’re going there.”

“Well, if we have information...” Barry’s tone of voice made it very clear that he would rather the Team gave him all the information rather than pass it to him via this woman, but he turned left in the direction of Angel anyway.

A few minutes later, Barry spoke again.

“Turn off the music.”

Felicity sighed.

“No.”

“Do it.”

“No.”

“I’ll break your headphone—”

“I’ll shoot you,” Felicity replied baldly, waving her shotgun precariously near his face. At this, Barry seemed to accept he’d lost the battle – for now, at least. Red-faced with anger, he hunched low over the wheel and muttered darkly to himself in whispers of a similar resonance to the rumble before a volcanic eruption.

And so on they went, the two Aquas, as if nothing untoward was happening; as if Felicity was normal and free, and as if there wasn’t something growing inside her that wanted to come out, and as if she wasn’t currently bound in slavery to a certain young man who had a certain unfathomable hankering for the apocalypse.

---

Tomorrow was his wedding anniversary, and Darren Goodwin was not pleased.

His wife knew what he was, and what his job entailed; she knew that he often had to go away for periods of time – and she had been so understanding when he had told her that he had to miss their anniversary. If anything, that had made it worse, just deepening the guilt and distemper that rotted like a misshapen cancer in his mind. He had walked out of his little house in Rustboro in leaden spirits, and, if anything, those spirits had dropped further over the course of the day.

All this and more he contemplated as he lay on his back in the dirt next to an obscure path on Dewford Island, staring up at the ultra-blue sky and the occasional scudding cloud.

After a little while, he closed his eyes and hauled himself to his feet. There was a slight pain in his cheek from where he had been punched – but Darren was a Goodwin, and he did not let such trifling injuries hold him back.

He walked down the path, following the small footprints left by Sapphire and the large ones of Giga; the sun grew oppressively warm on his back, and he found that he had to remove his green overcoat and carry it over one arm.

When he got to the beach, Darren was discouraged but not surprised to find Giga stretched out on the sand, apparently unconscious, taking great wheezy breaths through all his pipes at once. Red blotches had appeared all over his leathery hide, and his eyes, wide and unseeing, were so bloodshot as to resemble a pair of tomatoes.

“So much for ball number one,” the Goodwin said aloud, and bent down to dislodge the Nosepass from the back of his Pokémon’s throat. Shoving the stone monster’s body into the cave, Darren recalled Giga and put his ball back into his pocket. Next time he met the Aqua girl or Kester, he thought, he would use his second Pokémon. There was little or no chance that either of them would be strong enough to tackle that – not at their current levels of strength, anyway.

Darren walked back to the docks, and inquired about the next boat to Slateport; an hour later, he was aboard a ferry, this one full of day-trippers making their way back home after a day at Pickly Towers or whatever the current fashionable Dewford theme park was.

He read a little, after examining the goods to make sure they hadn’t been damaged, and the time passed swiftly for him. It was not long until he arrived at the roaring tumult of the Wharf, and he walked through the gathering twilight to Angel Laboratories. A faint hope fluttered in his breast that perhaps the girl and Kester would be here, and that he could detain them tonight. That would be perfect; he could catch the midnight ferry and be back in Rustboro by six in the morning, or even earlier if he was lucky.

The great blocky body of Angel rose before him, like some vast, cubic fungus, whose hyphae, unseen, ranged underground all over the city, feeding off the chaos it generated. Darren scowled at it, and walked up to the lobby.

At this point, two men in red suits stepped out of the shadows, blocking his path.

“You’re the Devon man, I presume,” said the one on the left. Darren’s hand went to his pocket, but there was a warning click and the man on the right had raised a gun, aiming it directly at his head. Absently, Darren’s combat-trained mind categorised it as a Browning nine millimetre.

“You’re here for the goods?” the Goodwin asked coolly.

“What do you think?” rejoined the one on the left. He had withdrawn a Poké Ball from his pocket, and now dropped it to the ground. “Goishi!”

From the ball emerged a lithe Golbat, possessed of a larger-than-average tongue; it looked around wildly for a moment, adjusting to its new surroundings, then fixed its eyes on Darren’s.

“When the nice Devon man decides to hand over the goods,” its Trainer said, “get them and bring them over here.”

“Ee-e-eeek,” agreed the blue bat, and cycled through several expressions before settling on a pugnacious glare. Darren was mildly surprised that it could express itself so well using only its eyes, but said nothing.

“Well?” asked the Golbat-owning Magma.

The Goodwin thought of the goods, and of what they were for; he thought of his imminent wedding anniversary, and of his wife back home in Rustboro; he thought of the gun, and of the Golbat, and of the blank red glass discs that hid the Magma men’s eyes.

And he reached into the black bag on his back and pulled something out, something wrapped securely in oilcloth and tightly tied with a steel cable, and held it out to the Magmas with a smile.

“Catch,” he said, and hurled the Devon goods high into the air with all the strength he possessed.

Both Magmas traced its upward flight with their eyes; their Golbat screeched, beat its wings and launched itself after it. Darren reached into his pocket, fingers scraping over the sticker marked ‘2’, and rushed forwards, intent on disarming the gunman—

—when a blue car ground to halt, tyres spinning and fishtailing wildly, just in front of him. He stopped dead and leaped back as the door in front of him opened, disgorging a giant in Team Aqua uniform and a lightning blur that could only be a Carvanha.

“If anyone moves,” said the accented voice of a young woman, “I’m going to kill them.”

Darren froze. Until he knew what this new threat was, it was best to take her words as truthful. He searched with his eyes, and found the woman on the other side of the car, holding a shotgun.

“Where are the goods?” growled the giant, grabbing Darren by the lapels of his greatcoat; in response, the Devon man looked up.

The oilcloth package had, by some strange whim of fate, become lodged in the corner of a telegraph pole and its wire. The Magma Golbat had landed on the wire and badly electrocuted itself; it was flying in circles, dazed and confused. For a moment, no one could do anything but stare; then, as one, the Magmas and the Aquas leaped for the prize, the giant tossing Darren aside as he went.

The gunless Magma was the first to get there, being closest, and he jumped onto the hand- and footholds projecting from the pole’s sides, scrambling for the top. The giant was hot on his heels, and rammed one mighty shoulder into the wood; it splintered and the whole pole began to sway ominously. The goods dropped from the top, past the first Magma, and landed in the outstretched hand of the second.

“Blake! Get away!” cried the first one in what was, though Darren didn’t know it, a rare act of altruism; the other needed no encouragement and, firing off a few bullets at the Goodwin and the Aquas, leaped into the abandoned Aqua car.

Darren leaned casually against the ruined pole as the Magma frantically revved the engine and the Aqua giant tried to rip the door off the car. Next to him, the girl kept the first Magma trapped at the top of the pole with the threat of her shotgun. It was, the Goodwin thought, all rather amusing.

The car finally started, and Darren took a few steps back as its interior exploded into a violent, blinding storm of yellow lightning, sparking from every exposed surface and blowing out each window in a great screaming buzz; the Magma driving slumped in his seat, unconscious and scorched, whereas the giant – who had been touching the metal door – convulsed violently and was flung bodily away, coming to rest on the other side of the street.

His partner stared in disbelief for a moment; that moment was all the Goodwin needed. He stepped forwards and twisted the shotgun lightly from her hands, then swung it hard into her head; it made an odd crunching sound, softer and somehow more ethereal than the usual sound of breaking bone, and she crumpled to the floor before he put a shell in her chest.

At this point, the Goodwin turned around and kicked at the weakest point of the telegraph pole, as he had calculated while he had been leaning against it. It snapped easily and the first Magma fell to the pavement with a despairing wail. The pole then descended onto him with the sort of crash that is rarely heard outside cartoons.

“Simple,” said Darren aloud, and glanced around at the street. It was deserted, as he knew it would be. No one sensible stayed around to watch a gang fight.

Unseen by him, two forms converged on him from above, so blurred by speed that it was all you could do to tell that they were blue; as they sped downwards, the setting sun flashed on tooth and claw, and on long strings of soot-blacked saliva...

“Raiders,” Darren said quietly, and twin beams of electricity shot into his would-be assailants with a crack! that split the air asunder; the smoking, charred bodies of a Golbat and a Carvanha fell heavily to the tarmac behind him.

For a long moment, there was nothing but silence; then, very suddenly, an odd, growling, buzzing sound started, its pitch and volume continually varying. It sounded like the ghost of microphone feedback.

A moment later, a cluster of metallic orbs floated out through the destroyed car window, bobbing and swaying around each other in response to the vagaries of some unseen force. They often moved closely, but never touched; the magnetism that bound their simple brains together repelled as strongly as it attracted. Each ball bore a single, blank eye, made of unblinking white enamel, and these roved around continually, examining their surroundings with all the fervour of a group of forensic investigators. Around this apparition floated various pieces of metal debris – the Magma’s watch, and his gun, and the metal core of the gearstick, along with some bolts and keys. Foremost, however, was a little oilcloth package, bound with twine; upon drawing level with their master, the set of orbs fanned out into a ring around it, holding it dead in the centre with uncanny precision. While the others had been scrambling to recover the goods, Darren had taken the opportunity to casually toss their Poké Ball into the car.

“You did well, Raiders.”

If the metal balls understood him at all, they didn’t show it; their bodies did not lend themselves to expressing emotion. They spun their rigid eyes, which could have meant anything, and drew back into a loose cloud shape as Darren took the goods from them – wrenching quite hard to free it from their magnetic grip – and put it back into the bag. He recalled the Raiders, letting their collection of magnetic objects clatter to the ground, and began to edge around the ruined car, fastidiously stepping over the giant on his way to the Angel Laboratories building’s main entrance.

It was then that he heard it. One of the most terrifying cries anyone could ever dream of, a great, stretched out wail of sorrow and despair, mingled with hunger and wracked with heavy sobs. The Goodwin froze, then spun around, to find the Aqua girl’s face inches from his own – only now her eyes were shut, sealed by dry blood, and her mouth was open to reveal that her teeth were too small and too numerous to be true to humanity, and too sharp as well.

Darren stumbled back, crying out in fear, but the girl’s long hair stretched forth and clutched at his shoulders, forming into thick, rope-like fingers that squeezed his torso tightly. Her body seemed to hang limp beneath her head, as if she was a marionette and the puppeteer scorned the use of any strings save those attached to the scalp.

The arms of white hair drew him slowly closer to her, to that awful mouth and the small, pointed purple-black tongue within; he struggled, but it was no use. Whatever force had hold of the girl was far too strong.

“Raiders!” Darren hissed, from between clenched teeth, and wrenched the ball from his pocket; he dropped it and the cluster of orbs appeared again, lighting up the darkening street with another display of lightning; the girl was either wounded or frightened by their assault, because she drew back sharply, gave another blood-curdling, despairing squeal, and sped away, moving under the influence of something other than her legs.

Darren stared at her retreating back, leaning on his knees and breathing heavily. He had half a mind to give chase, but that probably wouldn’t have been wise; he distinctly remembered crushing her skull and shooting her in the chest – and if that hadn’t stopped her, he had no idea what could.

“Raiders, you did it again,” the Goodwin said at length, straightening up. “Follow me and watch. If she returns, let me know.”

He continued towards the Angel building, mind whirling. Who was that girl? What was she? In a way, she reminded him of Kester Ruby, oddly human and animal at once – but he had a Rotom in his head, whereas she... she was more like something out of an old story, a vampire or a gan-zuka, one of the monster women who wandered the winter nights in Hoennian legend, feasting on lone male travellers to assuage their never-ending hunger.

There was very little that could spook Darren Goodwin, but the Aqua girl could. He shivered, and resolved to contact Devon at the earliest opportunity as he slid into place between the revolving doors.

He made his way to Usher House as soon as he got in; that was what you always did, if you were visiting Angel. Mister Michaelangelo never visited the company he had created, merely pocketing the money it generated. He had hired House soon after Angel’s creation, and then left, never to return save to raise his own salary. House himself worked for a pittance; perhaps the man did not realise what a genius he was, to have built Angel from nothing to what it was today, but he had never, it seemed, even so much as considered changing jobs – though a thousand other companies would have walked over hot coals to get him.

“You’re the Devon man?” asked House. Darren nodded.

“That’s correct,” he said. “I have the goods.”

He held out the black bag, and House took it reverently, staring at it hard as if, with enough effort, he would be able to see through the fabric.

“These,” he proclaimed, holding the rucksack high, “will be of vital importance to us, Mr—?”

“Goodwin,” Darren told him. “Darren Goodwin.”

House’s eyes widened, but not as much as Darren would have expected.

“A Goodwin,” he repeated. “Devon has really outdone itself today!”

Darren frowned.

“What?”

“Well, earlier today, we had a Tennyson come around,” House told him. “He was with a Willow. They were here to guard the goods once they arrived.”

A Willow... Darren knew that rank. It was a women-only class, five levels below Goodwin. A peculiar sinking feeling gripped his stomach, and he glanced at the Raiders as if for reassurance. No response was forthcoming from them, so he looked back to Usher.

“These researchers,” he said, “they wouldn’t happen to be quite young, would they?”

House nodded. “That’s right. They were deep undercover, disguised as a pair of young Trainers. They even had a weedy little Combusken with them, to complete the disguise.”

“Where are they?” asked Darren Goodwin, voice low and urgent; House looked somewhat taken aback.

“What?”

“They’re imposters, you fool!” shouted Darren. “Now, where are they?

Quailing before this unexpected onslaught, Usher pointed over to the little door in the side of the room. Before he could so much as twitch, Darren had grabbed him by the lapels of his ridiculous pale blue suit and was dragging him out through the door, the Raiders close behind.

The Devon man’s face curved into a grim smile. It seemed like he was back on track at last.

---

It was Fabien who came to first. With the sort of groan more usually heard between the lips of dying soldiers on the battlefield, he rolled slowly out from under the wrecked telegraph pole and came to rest on his back, arms splayed wide, staring at the evening sky.

“Cops,” he said at length, to no one in particular. “The cops will get here soon.”

There existed a tacit understanding between Hoenn’s police force and the two Teams that the former would give the latter half an hour after they had a battle, to allow the fighters to evacuate. This had come about after it transpired that interfering any sooner was quite likely to result in heavy police casualties.

Fabien dragged himself to his feet and surveyed the debris. It had not, he felt, been a very productive battle. There was something he and Blake had done wrong here.

“Blake?” he called, then stopped. The bruises on his chest made speaking something of a chore. He glanced around, but there was no one there to answer; the citizens of Slateport were too wary to dare interfere in a gang fight, and the people at Angel never came outside, too distracted by their own little world of noise and confusion.

A few metres to his left, Fabien saw the Aqua giant sprawled in the middle of the road; his partner, the girl, was nowhere to be seen. Neither was the Devon man.

“Blake?” Fabien repeated; the response was no more forthcoming than before. He wondered for a moment where he could have got to, then remembered in a flash: the car! Blake was in the car!

He hurried over and wrenched open the door, burning his hand on the lightning-heated metal. Within, he found his partner, slumped over the steering wheel, scorched and distinctly lacking in consciousness.

“Blake?” Fabien shook his shoulder roughly. “Blake!”

A sudden fear gripped him; surely it couldn’t be that Blake was...?

He groaned and sat up, pushing his sunglasses back up his nose to their usual spot and blinking slowly. Immediately, Fabien pretended not to be relieved.

“What the ’ell was that?” he mumbled, half-stepping and half-falling out of the car.

“I don’t know,” admitted Fabien. “He must have put a Pokémon in there at some point.”

“Did – did you get...?”

“No. But it doesn’t look like the Aquas did, either.” Fabien gestured to the Aqua grunt. “We need to get out of here. The cops will be here soon.”

“Goishi?”

Fabien clapped a theatrical palm to his forehead.

“Of course!” he cried, and began frantically searching the area for him; he found him near the Aqua giant, next to a frazzled Carvanha. He seemed to have been struck by lightning, or perhaps lightly roasted. Recalling him, Fabien stood up, and he and Blake limped slowly off into the alleys, just as the thin shriek of sirens began to ring out in the distance.

---

darkcoldhungrydarkhungrysoHUNGRY...

Felicity’s eyes flew open and she gave a small cry: where was she? How had she got here?

She took the former question first, and sat up, which hurt. Looking around, she saw she was in a back alley somewhere, literally in the gutter; filthy water had soaked her blue Team Aqua suit, and her sunglasses were gone, long since lost in the battle or her escape.

The second question was easier to answer. It had happened again. The thing inside her had come out again. Felicity thought back to the fight and bit her lip. She wondered if she had killed anyone; she very much hoped she hadn’t. Violence was one of the things she had left her native country to escape, after all.

wateriwantwaterhungry...

“Shut up!” hissed Felicity, clamping her hands over her ears; her left hand found her headphone, and twisted the volume dial up to the maximum. Something melancholy and Korean blasted into her head, and immediately the voice receded, growing fainter, dwindling and disappearing like mist burning away under the sun.

Felicity kept the volume at maximum for at least five minutes, curled into a tight ball in the corner of an alleyway, then slowly turned it down and climbed to her feet. Her fingers were trembling, and she pressed them together to her chest to hold them still; they came away bloody, and she looked down to see a huge bloodstain marring the front of her suit.

Her mouth fell open, and for a moment she was paralysed; the next thing she knew, she was tearing away the cloth, trying to see how badly she was hurt; she ripped her shirt open and saw—

—nothing at all, beneath a thin layer of crimson blood. There was no wound at all, and Felicity sank back against the wall in relief, suddenly weak. She’d been hurt before, and badly – but never seriously enough to put her life at risk. She supposed that she owed the thing inside her, that monster with the dark thoughts, for once; without its powers, she suspected that she would have been dead.

Felicity breathed out in a long sigh of relief, and got unsteadily to her feet, re-buttoning her shirt as she did so.

“I – I have to get back,” she said, more to hear the sound of her voice rather than anything else, and set off shakily down the alley, heading for the roads.

If she had had a mirror handy, she would have seen that the whites of her eyes were now the colour of lemon peel, and the irises the hue of a summer sky.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; February 19th, 2011 at 06:20 AM.