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Old February 8th, 2011 (12:27 PM). Edited February 22nd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote originally posted by Mizan de la Plume Kuro:
Which reminds me, how is it that you’ve not referenced Douglas Adams? Inconceivable!
Must... reference... The Princess Bride...

Chapter Thirteen: Believe Me Natalie

“Kester! Get over here!” Sapphire hissed.

I looked cautiously around for any of those hulking security guards that rich people always seem to have in the movies, and crept over as quietly as I could.

“I don’t really want to do this,” I said.

We were standing on a wide, semicircular landing at the top of an odd, squat protuberance that projected from one corner of the museum’s roof; before us was a façade that might have been ripped from one of the fancy townhouses on Rustboro’s Pelenine Hill, and behind us was a long, helical staircase that led back down to the museum proper.

It had taken no small amount of ingenuity to get here. I had wanted nothing more than to leave every time a member of the museum staff challenged our right to see Natalie and her father, and some quite elaborate arguments had been thought up by our opponents – but somehow, Sapphire had overcome each one.

“You’re so pathetic,” Sapphire told me, casting a look over me that managed to somehow be both withering and pitying at once. “What, you’re afraid we’ll get caught? We’re not doing anything illegal, you know.”

“But I might get hurt.”

“Chicken. Knock on the door.”

“No way! You do it.”

“I’m the Trainer. You’re the Pokémon. Knock on the damn door.” She retreated down the stairs a little, so as to be entirely out of view from the doorway.

It seemed that if there had been any goodwill in Sapphire’s treatment of me earlier that morning, it had entirely faded. I sighed, dithered for a moment and then rapped sharply on the door. It was opened a few moments later by a girl my age, her nut-brown skin arguing foreign ancestry.

“Who the hell are you?” she asked, tensing suddenly. I had a funny feeling she might be as capable of violence as Sapphire, so I tried hard to meet her eyes and replied:

“My name is Kester Ruby. I’m here on behalf of someone you used to know.” I took a deep breath. “Sapphire Birch sent me.”

In one fluid movement, her hand shot out, pushing me over backwards, and retracted into the apartment, slamming the door behind it. From the floor, I looked up at the handle, vaguely glad that I hadn’t been more badly injured.

“What kind of a performance do you call that?” snapped Sapphire angrily. “Come on, Kester, don’t you have any social skills?”

I got up slowly, dusting myself off. It seems odd now, but I think my pride was actually stung by that remark.

“I can do this,” I said. “Watch me.”

I knocked on the door again; this time, it didn’t open.

“Natalie!” I called. “I actually came because Sapphire wants to apologise.”

The door burst open and a fist shot out; it caught sharply on the jaw and I leaped back, yelping, as the door shut again.

“Ow... Hey, seriously, Natalie. Sapphire wants to apologise. She... just... didn’t want to get punched, so she sent me.”

The door opened again. Natalie poked her head through.

“She sent you because she didn’t want to get hurt?”

When not threatening me, her voice was soft and faintly upper-class, the way Sapphire’s was when she was calm.

“Yeah,” I replied. “You know how she is.”

I know,” she said. Her tone of voice made it clear just how well she knew. I waited for a moment, wondering what would happen next. Then, eventually, she said: “Well... sorry for hitting you, I guess. You don’t deserve it.”

I swear, if I had had just an ounce less self-composure, I would have flung myself at her and showered her with adoration for that comment. You don’t deserve it. She was right; I didn’t deserve any of what had happened to me recently. I was wholly and unreservedly the victim.

“Can I come in?” I asked. Natalie thought about it.

“I suppose. I’m not going to hold Sapphire’s brutality against you.”

She turned around and went inside, leaving the door open. I glanced towards Sapphire’s hiding-place and stuck my tongue out at her, then walked in and shut her out.

Inside, the apartment was of a size befitting the scale of a museum – massive windows, high ceilings, wide expanse of polished wooden floor – but it didn’t match the time period at all. While the museum itself was old and dark, this place was light and airy, composed of pale wood and stainless steel, with a generous helping of glass. It also possessed the biggest TV I had ever seen, and which I later found out was one of the largest privately-owned ones in the world at the time.

“Hope you don’t think you’ll get me to change my mind about Sapphire,” Natalie said warningly.

“God, no,” I replied. “Can’t stand her.”

“Why are you helping her, then?” asked Natalie. She indicated a large leather sofa, and I dropped onto it eagerly.

“Blackmail,” I replied succinctly.

Natalie nodded, as if she understood entirely, and asked me if I would like a drink. I was warming to her; it seemed like ages since I’d met anyone who showed me a normal amount of courtesy.

“Yes please,” I replied, and received one for my troubles. Natalie sat down next to me and asked me what exactly it was that I wanted here.

“Sapphire asked me to come here,” I told her, “so here I am. Look, if I can just stay here for a few minutes, then come out and tell her I tried and failed to convince you, that’ll be fine.”

“You might as well try,” Natalie suggested. “Come on. Give it a go.”

“Er...” I wondered where to start, and floundered helplessly for a moment. Then, I threw caution to the winds and told her everything.

It took me a little over twenty minutes, and she didn’t say a word throughout the whole thing. When I was done, she sat very still and very silent, in the same sort of way that a bomb does before it goes off. Hence, I tensed my legs, ready to leap up at the first sign of violence.

“That,” she said at last, making me jump, “is so like Sapphire!” Her hands clenched tightly into fists, the knuckles fairly bursting out through her skin. “I – aagh! You’ve made me really angry!”

“S-sorry,” I offered cautiously. Registering the concern on my face, she visibly calmed herself.

“No – not at you,” she said. “At Sapphire. She’s so... you know?”

I nodded to show that I did, in fact, know.

It’s what you call being headstrong, said Puck sleepily. But who cares? You don’t.

I started. Puck was speaking to me again? No, now wasn’t the time to talk to him about it...

“Look, I can help you if you like,” Natalie said. I raised my eyebrows in surprise. “Not Sapphire. You.” She paused. “I mean, if you find out what these goods are, she’ll let you go, right?”

“That’s correct.” A troublesome thought crossed my mind. “Wait a moment. Why did you just accept my story without question? Why didn’t you ask for proof that there was a Rotom in my head?”

“It felt right,” Natalie replied simply. “I trust you.”

Touching, Puck said. How can anyone be this naïve at seventeen?

“Come on,” Natalie continued. “I’ll show you my dad’s office.”

She led me up a spiral staircase—

The correct word is ‘helical’, Puck pointed out pedantically—

—wrought, as most things in this place, of stainless steel; the racket we made as we went up it reminded me unpleasantly of last night’s escapade in the Calavera Tower. At the top was a semicircular landing that looked like the progeny of the one outside, and set into its curved edge were six or seven doors. Glancing up, I could see another floor above us, but was unable to make out any distinguishing features.

“In here.” Natalie pushed open one door and led me inside; it was the second office I’d visited in as many days, and it was definitely the better of the two. While Usher’s was Spartan to a ridiculous extreme, this one was well-appointed and possessed a large, solid-looking teak desk covered in files, papers and two or three lamps that all pointed in different directions.

“Here,” Natalie said, picking up a thick stack of folders and dropping it into my arms. “You look at these, I’ll look at some others.”

We fell into a rather companionable silence then; it was oddly like group revision for school exams, which made me feel a bit nostalgic until I remembered I was too young for nostalgia.

This continued for about an hour, and then Natalie spoke:

“OK. Look at this.”

Natalie pointed to the papers, and I did as she ordered. From what I saw, though, it was just a mess of invoices and letters.

“Can’t you summarise for me?” I asked hopefully.

“It shows that he’s been privately financing the construction of that submarine you said they were building at Angel. The S.S. Cangrejo.”

“OK. Why does he want a submarine?”

Natalie shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s an Aqua, if that helps.”

What?” I cried.

“What of it?”

“It’s just... You admit it so freely.”

“But it’s not like it matters.” Natalie shrugged. “I mean, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.” She held up a small, stylised letter ‘A’ in white enamel, crafted to resemble the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger. “Look, here’s the badge.”

“Hmm,” I said, still somewhat shocked. “That’s unexpected, but not that useful... let’s keep looking."

After a little while, Natalie tapped my shoulder again.

“Here.”

She handed me a page of small, crabbed handwriting in dark blue ink; I scanned it, picking up such words as ‘Angel Laboratories’ and ‘submarine’ – and, at the bottom, a signature scrawled with ferocious energy: Archie.

“Archie himself,” I breathed. “This is...” I looked up at Natalie. “Whoa. This is probably... something that should go to the police.”

“If you like,” Natalie said. “It won’t matter. The police agree not to interfere with either of the Teams on the condition that their officers don’t get killed.”

I opened my mouth to reply, then realised I didn’t have anything to say and shut it again.

“Anyway, there’s nothing illegal about commissioning a submarine,” Natalie pointed out.

This was indisputably true, and I was forced to admit it.

“The Aquas do like the sea,” Natalie continued. “Remember, they used to be a bunch of weird marine-supremacist-eco-warriors before they went into organised crime. It might be that they just want a submarine to use as their headquarters, or something.”

“Right. You’re right, of course.” I stood up. “Thanks, Natalie.”

“No problem,” she said. “Always happy to strike a blow against Sapphire. But I’m not done.”

“Oh?” I sat down again and she held up another letter; once again I took it to peruse.

“To Mauville?” I queried. “Why are the goods being taken to Mauville? And who’s the ‘Spectroscopic Fancy Company’?”

“Not sure,” replied Natalie. “But look more closely. It’s not the goods themselves being taken to Mauville. They’re going to be built into a ‘Y-38P SuperBlast Module’, and then sent up to the Spectroscopic Fancy Company in Mauville.”

“What’s a Y-38P SuperBlast Module, do you know?”

Natalie shrugged. “No idea. But this Spectroscopic Fancy Company needs investigation. Both the Aquas and the Magmas want the goods, right? So my guess is that this Y-38P SuperBlast Module is something that both Teams want.”

“Or whatever Spectroscopic Fancy is doing with the Module is something that will negatively affect each Team,” I suggested. Natalie nodded and looked impressed, which went some way to restoring my rather dented sense of self-worth.

“That might be it,” she agreed. “You’re clever.”

Unlike Sapphire, she meant it. I hadn’t realised how much I needed real, heartfelt compliments in my life, and positively glowed with happiness.

“Well, thank you very much,” I said, standing up. “I’d better go now. I’ve kept Sapphire waiting long enough.”

“I don’t think you could do that if you tried.” Natalie smiled, and it was a very pretty smile.

“Maybe you’re right,” I replied. “But I’d better go anyway. It’s gone midday.”

“All right.” Natalie showed me to the door, though of course I remembered the way, and as I bade her farewell and left I rather thought I’d made a new friend today, and a charming one at that.

I’m not charming enough for you? Puck asked in mock horror. Gasp!

Sapphire uncurled from where she was sitting uncomfortably on the steps.

“Did you have fun?” she asked sourly.

Masses,” I replied. “I really like Natalie.”

Sapphire looked like she was bridling at the insult, but managed to contain herself.

“What did you find out?”

“I might tell you that,” I replied, “if you’re nice.”

So of course the next moment I was back in the Poké Ball, and Puck was laughing his head off.

---

“And we go live to Jessica Colburn, our Pokémon Affairs correspondent, at Blackfriars.”

A pretty young woman in a neat suit and a fluffy coat was standing at the southern end of the bridge, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral just visible off to her right. Though it was summer in Hoenn, England was firmly in the grip of winter, and she had a vivid red scarf wrapped snugly about her neck. The tassels on its end kept breaking free of control and dancing around in the wind.

“Thank you, Pete,” Jessica said to the camera. “Here with me is Harrison Morrison, Professor Emeritus of Pokézoology at Oxford University.”

The camera swivelled left a little, to include Harrison’s weathered face. It had the look of an old paper bag about it: battered and with a few crumbs sticking to the corners. Despite its roughness, there was a gentle kindness in it, and excitement too.

“Good morning, Jessica.”

“Thank you very much for being here, Professor. Now, when exactly is it going to pass over?”

“Well, you can see that the skies are completely clear,” Harrison replied. “That would indicate that it is literally minutes away: its ability doesn’t extend more than a few miles ahead.”

“I see. For those viewers who perhaps don't know, can you explain again why it’s here?”

“That’s a simple enough question. As most people probably know, it circles the globe continually, each circuit taking it a year. What you may not know is that it alters its flight path slightly each year, which some scientists believe is a result of minute shifts in the earth’s magnetic field. This year, for just the third time since records began, the it will be passing over England.”

“Exciting stuff. Professor—”

“Look!” cried Harrison, pointing. “It’s here!”

And it was: a great, twisting band of dark green against the clear blue sky, worming its way sinuously across the heavens as no other beast on earth could do. Glittering yellow tracery adorned its massive flanks, and its fins flashed red along the edges in the winter sun. It came from the north-east, and, with the morning sun behind it, seemed to blaze with divine fire.

Across the country, mouths dropped and eyes popped; in London itself, people crowded against windows and burst into the streets, staring up into the skies at the monster that had once been known to the ancient world as Ziz, and now rejoiced in the name Rayquaza.

It passed over London at impossible speed, but from the ground it looked as if its progress were slow and stately; as it drew closer to the cathedral, it tipped back its vast head and let out a long, incredibly loud roar that shook the air and sent birds into the air all over the city.

“Incredible,” breathed Jessica.

“Marvellous,” agreed Harrison, but then a frown passed over his face. “But – what’s that?”

He pointed, and the camera followed; there was a blot on the bright sky, a dark patch a little to the east of Rayquaza, and drawing nearer.

Harrison and Jessica squinted, and the camera zoomed in as much as it could, but it was much too far away. All that could be seen was a dark, bulky shape: some sort of aerial vehicle or perhaps a Flying Pokémon – though admittedly, few that could Fly grew to that size.

“What’re they doing?” cried Harrison.

His question was soon answered. The shape drew up alongside Rayquaza’s head, and one great eye rolled over to investigate it.

Then there was a distant boom, and an earth-shattering roar, and Rayquaza began to fall.

It spiralled down like a stricken kite, the air screaming in protest as gravity hauled Rayquaza through it; its tail smacked against the dome of St. Paul’s and the lead gave way with a booming whine, crumpling like tissue paper under the blow. Its head drew closer and closer, and now people on the bridge were leaving their cars and running as fast as they could for the shore—

—before Rayquaza crashed headfirst into Blackfriars Bridge, its jaw ripping up the tarmac as it slid along, throwing up cars and pedestrians like confetti. The ground bucked and swayed beneath its weight; people screamed and shouted; metal burst and stone shattered; and finally it ended with a colossal splash as the dragon’s sinuous body hit the surface of the Thames and sank from sight, throwing up walls of water a hundred feet into the air.

Dead silence followed. The camera was lying on its side, the lens cracked and nothing but the base of a lamppost visible through it. Then, shakily, it rose up, and panned back towards the crash site, where Jessica was picking herself up.

The Professor was already on his feet and running towards Rayquaza’s head, clambering over upturned cars and stumbling over chunks of stone and asphalt. The camera followed, moving jerkily as its operator struggled beneath its weight; it stopped at the edge of the wrecked area, and zoomed in to follow Harrison’s path.

Across the country, a million gasps rang out.

The Pokémon had landed with the left side of its head forwards, and it could be clearly seen that its left eye had been replaced with a bloody pit of gore and smoke; the skin around it was blackened with smoke and slick with the juices of its ruptured eyeball and brain.

Harrison slapped a palm to the point where Rayquaza’s neck met its head; ordinarily, the sight of a man attempting to take the pulse of such a vast creature would have been amusing, but now it was deadly serious. Millions of people looked on with bated breath, waiting for Harrison’s pronouncement.

“It’s dead,” he said softly, turning to face the camera. “Rayquaza is dead.”
__________________

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