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Old February 10th, 2011, 10:08 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Sorry for the recent lack of humour in this. It's just that I felt I owed it to Rayquaza's awesomeness to send him off solemnly. I promise that the chapter after this will be back to normal.

Chapter Fourteen: Gemstones Rampant on a Field Sable

Once I’d told her about the SuperBlast Module, Sapphire had wanted to leave for Mauville straight away and consequently we returned to the Pokémon Centre to pick up her bag; however we never got much further than the Centre lounge. We came in and ran straight into the back of a tightly-packed crowd, gathered around the TV and blocking off all the exits.

“What the—?”

Sapphire shoved angrily to the front of the crowd, and I slipped through the gap she left, throwing apologies left and right with more than one worried glance at a guy whose Swellow seemed about to fling itself at my face in rage.

Then we reached the TV, and stopped dead.

The picture was one of utter devastation; I didn’t recognise the area but there was a bridge, and it had been completely wrecked by the partially flattened body of a colossal Pokémon that even I recognised. It was the one that everyone knew, the one that had been flying around the globe since time immemorial.

Rayquaza.

The Sky High Pokémon was currently anything but. It looked like its brain had exploded and blown out one of its eyes, and the impact of hitting the ground had caused its body to flatten vertically. This had driven hundreds of its ribs out of its flanks; they projected like ivory cannon from the side of a great green galleon, ready to fire the streamers of red and white-yellow gore that hung from their tips. And this was only the first third of its body: the rest lay underwater, in the depths of the river that the bridge spanned.

“Oh my God,” I muttered. “It’s... it’s dead?”

“Ssh!” hissed Sapphire violently. “I want to hear.”

“—ave said that the precise cause of death is uncertain; however, it is likely to have been some form of rocket launcher, or possibly a powerful Pokémon attack such as Hyper Beam,” the English reporter onscreen told us, via a dubbed Hoennian translator. “Harrison Morrison, Professor Emeritus of Pokézoology at Oxford University, has been assisting police with their investigations. Professor Morrison, what can you tell us about this attack?”

The scene changed; now we were at night, facing a tangled web of police tape and floodlights. In front of these was a man in late middle age, with salt-and-pepper hair and a lined, tired face that bore testament to having recently suffered through a great deal of stress. A little box flashed up in the corner, reading ‘LIVE from Blackfriars Bridge, London’, and I remembered that there was an eleven-hour time difference between Hoenn and England.

“Well,” said the Professor (or at least the translator who was being dubbed in), “it would actually have been a fairly easy thing to do. Rayquaza has been protected by its enormous size – and, more recently, international law – for many, many years now. It has become used to being unchallenged, and so it failed to register its attacker as a threat.”

“Would there ever have been anything that could threaten Rayquaza?” asked the reporter. “Presumably, this is the sort of thing we’re looking for when searching for its killer.”

“We don’t know,” replied the Professor simply. “Rayquaza is what’s known as a legendary Pokémon: something so powerful it’s become deified, and has passed into myth and culture across the world. Most of these so-called ‘legendaries’ are either exaggerated memories of Pokémon now extinct, or never existed at all; there are only seven such species other than Rayquaza known to exist: Mew, Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Raikou, Entei and Suicune. But none of these save Mew have ever been captured and studied, only glimpsed – their power is completely unknown. We can rule out Mew as the attacker because of its size and relative weakness, and the three legendary beasts on account of their lack of flying ability. My guess is that one of the legendary birds, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, is behind this.”

“But what reason could there be for this?” the reporter persisted. Professor Morrison shrugged and sighed.

“We just don’t know,” he replied helplessly. “It’s generally held to be impossible to capture most legendary Pokémon, even with a Master Ball, but there’s no reason for these legendaries to fight amongst themselves without human intervention. I can only surmise that someone killed Rayquaza – but who they are or how they gained control over a legendary is entirely beyond me.”

“Thank you, Professor,” said the reporter. “Those of you watching at home, don’t go anywhere: in an hour’s time, the police will be holding a press conference...”

Sapphire turned away abruptly and shoved her way back through the crowd, heading for the stairs and her room. Apologising again, I followed.

“Sapphire!” I cried, rushing up the first flight. “Sapphire, what is it?”

“Three hundred million years,” Sapphire said quietly, not stopping. “That’s how old they think it is. Three hundred million years as king of the sky. The metabolism powering that was the most amazing on earth; that’s why it was always flying, and why it had fins – to cool itself down. No one knows where it came from or whether there was ever more than one. Three hundred million years, and never known to show even the slightest sign of eating or drinking. Three hundred million years of life that defined the myths and legends of a thousand different cultures all over the world. Three hundred million years, Kester, and some worthless, gutless monster comes along and has the presumption to end that existence!”

She was practically screaming now; I recoiled and let her storm up to the room by herself. I should have known she would feel strongly about it. She was the daughter of a Pokémon Professor, after all.

I sighed and sat down on the steps, not knowing what to do. It seemed pretty likely that we wouldn’t be going anywhere today, and I had no idea how to go about comforting Sapphire without getting beaten up or paralysing her.

Well, well, well, remarked Puck. I can’t say I wasn’t expecting that.

“Puck?” I sat up. “I meant to ask you about that. You’re speaking to me again now?”

I was thinking.


I waited for him to continue that sentence, but it became apparent that that was it, so I ventured:

“What were you thinking about?”

How much I can tell you. Puck sighed. Look, Kester, when I say you should stay out of something, you should, well... You should take my advice.

“Forget I said anything,” I told him, happy to have someone to talk to.

It’s touching that you want to be friends – or perhaps pitiful that you’re desperate enough to talk to a voice in your head – but you’ve asked. I will answer. Just not fully.

“OK. That’s fine, too.”

I’m... not one of the good guys, strictly speaking, Puck said slowly. And... there are things about me that would place you in quite a bit of danger if you knew them. And like I said, I have a vested interest in your survival, so I’m keen to avoid that.

“OK.” I shut my eyes and tried to absorb this knowledge, but it didn’t seem to fit particularly well with anything else I’d found out so far. I still couldn’t see Puck’s connection with the whole ‘Devon goods’ business, or why he was in Hoenn.

On a lighter note, the death of Rayquaza, Puck said, brightening. Oh. Wait. That’s a darker note. Never mind. So: what’s our opinion, boys and girls?

“I don’t know. Some lunatic shot it down?”

Half right. Someone shot it down – but they were no lunatic. They had a reason.

“You know about this?”

No. I suspect about this. I’m pretty sure it’s connected to all the stuff that’s happening here, too. I just don’t know how yet.

“Why does talking to you always put me in mind of trying to set fire to snow?” I asked exasperatedly. “Would it kill you to speak plainly for once?”

Most definitely yes.

I sighed and got up. “Fine. Any ideas about what to do next, then?”

Sapphire’s not coming back until she’s worked off that anger... I guess we could go and watch TV. See if any leads have been found about Rayquaza’s killer. I know it doesn’t mean that much to you, being a non-Trainer meatface – I mean, human – but we ought to show some small modicum of respect.

It was the only plan I had, so I wandered back into the lounge and wormed my way through the crowd of Trainers until I got to a point where I could see the screen again.

“...in other news, a rash of strange Pokémon attacks have broken out across Slateport during the night,” a Hoennian reporter said, the picture behind her flickering to a shot of a gutted shop with smashed-in windows. “CCTV images show that the cause of this has been, of all things, a group of Sableye.”

I frowned as the image changed to grainy black and white, and a swarm of the little monsters broke the window, pouring into the shop like rats out of Hamelin.

Sableye?
queried Puck. Surely they aren’t....?

All at once, an ovoid head popped up in front of the camera, just inches away from the lens. Two massive diamond eyes adorned the front, on either side of a white stripe, and beneath them was a wicked little grin. Then the picture cut to static, and changed back to the studio.

“Professor Birch is here with me to discuss this. Professor, Sableye are usually docile, are they not?”

“Um. Er, yes, they are...”

I didn’t need to hear any more; I struggled out of the lounge and back into the lobby, where I dropped onto a bench.

“Puck,” I said, “is it me, or was that Sableye a bit... familiar?”

It was the leader of that group in the lift shaft, Puck said. I recognised its convenient white stripe. You were probably too busy fleeing and falling to remember it very clearly.

“A white stripe,” I said. “Is this another joke?”

Probably, Puck replied amiably. I think it might go on for a while, too. He paused for a bit, presumably thinking, then said: Look, we aren’t going to get to Mauville today. Let’s go exploring.

“What, and get lost in Slateport?”

You won’t get lost.

“OK then. How about run into Darren Goodwin?”

You won’t run into Darren Goodwin.

“Team Magma?”

They aren’t exactly a threat, Puck reminded me.

“Fair enough. What about Team Aqua?”

There, Puck paused. Like me, he was evidently remembering our encounter with the Aqua girl the day before.

I see your point, he admitted. But come on, Kester! Let’s live a little. Sapphire’s not here, and while the cat’s away, the mice will play...

“Shut up.”

Your mind is made up, I see, Puck said sorrowfully. We will just sit here all day in the Pokémon Centre, doing absolutely nothing.

“That’s right,” I agreed, and leaned back against the wall.

Five minutes later, I glanced at my watch. It was one o’clock.

“Fine, you win,” I conceded, getting to my feet and realising that my legs had gone to sleep. “It’s too boring. Let’s go.”

Puck snickered, and we headed off into Slateport.

---

My wanderings eventually took me down to the Wharf again, which was welcome because it was one of the few places within walking distance where I didn’t have to pay to see something amazing. I spent a happy while pacing along the waterfront, looking at the ships, their crews and Pokémon, and would probably have spent another hour or so there before heading back if I hadn’t been accosted by a strange old sailor who sported an impressive beard.

“There was a ship,” he told me earnestly, gripping my arm with a skinny hand. I shook him off and backed away a couple of paces, ready to Thunder Wave or Astonish him if necessary – but he didn’t seem to be making any threatening movements.

“Who the hell are you?” I asked. He gave me some sort of stare, which was probably meant to hold me to the spot, but it didn’t really work, coming as it did from a very nonthreatening old man.

Whoa, said Puck. Now that’s what I call a long grey beard, and glittering eyes.

“The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared—”

“What?”

“Merrily did we drop—”

“What?”

“Below the kirk, below the hill—”

What?

He paused, and tried again to hold me with his glittering eye– but it was no more successful this time than it had been before.

“Below the lighthouse top,” he finished disconsolately. “You don’t wanna hear my story?”

“No,” I said. “Just... leave me alone!”

“It’s a good one,” he persisted.

Haha! He’s such a grey-beard loon.

“I don’t want to hear it! Let me through!”

With that, I pushed past him and stalked off through the crowds.

“Any idea as to who that was?” I asked Puck.

I... I’ve come across something like that before, he answered.

“Right.” There was a pause. “Are you going to tell me about it?”

No.

“Didn’t think so.”

We wandered along a little further, watching the ships come and go and keeping a weather eye out for any more ancient mariners; thankfully, there seemed to be none around, and our walk from then on was uneventful, at least until we realised that we were lost.

---

“Felicity,” said the young man, “it looks like you might need to hurry up a little, or it might get too late.”

“Shut up,” she growled weakly, but there was nothing she could do to stop him. He was the only one who could help her now.

“I don’t care how much pain you’re in, you know.” The man seemed eager to impress that fact upon her. “You have to keep going.”

“Why?” Felicity’s eyes flashed angrily. “Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I go home? Why, why, why?

The young man regarded her with unruffled eyes. He had not moved an inch.

“Because I need you with the Aquas,” he said. “It’s part of the plan.”

“Plan. Plan. Always on about this plan. What is it, Zero?” spat Felicity. She spat the name out as if it were poison; it was not, as it happened, but it was certainly a little melodramatic.

“My own little project,” Zero replied. “A hobby; a game; a bet; call it what you will, it’s all the same. Now, Felicity, report to your superiors. Go and tell them that you have information detailing the precise times of the movement of the Module from Angel Laboratories to Mauville.” He tossed her a CD in a blank case, and she caught it one-handed. “This is a taped conversation between Usher House of Angel and Melton Mowbray of Spectroscopic Fancy. It will suffice as evidence.”

“Why do you need me?” Felicity asked helplessly, looking from Zero to the disk and back again. “Why? What did I do to deserve this?”

Zero looked at her, and there was infinite kindness in his eyes.

“Nothing, Felicity,” he said. “You did nothing at all.”

---

“Puck?” I asked hopefully. “Anything?”

Nope. Let’s see... we could go back the way we came, if you can remember it.

We were standing at the point where a road that went by the ominous name of Evisceration Street crossed another named, perhaps more ominously, Clownbeater Avenue. So far, I had resisted the urge to say 'I told you I'd get lost' to Puck, but the temptation was strong.

Yo, Kester.

“If this isn’t helpful advice, I don’t want to hear it.”

Do you think ‘Clownbeater’ means someone who beats clowns, or a clown who beats things? Puck wondered.

“Shut up! That isn’t helpful advice!”

But how can you define ‘helpful’ in this crazy modern world of ours? Puck persisted. It’s so... so... Damn it. OK, that joke failed. Can I try again?

“No. Be quiet.”

The Rotom sighed, but obeyed, and I headed down Clownbeater Avenue on the grounds that I would rather either beat or be beaten by clowns than be eviscerated.

This road seems to be going south, Puck commented, as we followed the curve of the pavement. It might take us to the Wharf. That’d be good.

“Yeah,” I agreed, and so continued.

The street didn’t seem to have an end, and was curiously deserted; it was still bathed in bright afternoon sunlight, and I could still hear the traffic and the Wingull – but something about it struck me as creepy.

Yo, Kester, Puck said, after we’d been walking for about fifteen minutes.

“Yeah?”

Ghosts. To the left.

I glanced left and saw the ruined shop that had made the news earlier.

“This is too much of a coincidence,” I said aloud. “This just can’t be happening—”

You’d best believe it, Puck said, because that little stripy chap looks like he wants your throat for nest lining.

Wincing at the mental image this conjured up, I looked around wildly for the striped Sableye, and found him atop a lamppost, squatting like a gargoyle and baring his teeth. Immediately, I launched a ThunderShock at him; it missed and hit the lamppost, but, being made of steel, the current passed through it and neatly zapped the soles of his feet. He screeched in pain and leaped down into the road; in response to his cry, about eight more of the little monsters emerged from the wrecked shop.

“Puck!” I cried.

We can handle this! His response was cool, calm and focused. Sableye are fairly weak; they can’t handle repeated hits. You’re strong enough now that if you can get a good ThunderShock in, you can probably take them out in a couple of hits each.

I had no time to reply: the Sableye were leaping forwards, their clawed hands moving so fast as to sound like fan blades. I didn’t even have time to move before they were on me, scything their claws down again and again—

—and doing absolutely nothing, the talons passing straight through me – much to their consternation.

Fury Swipes, Puck said. Normal-type. Counterattack, now!

I wasted no time in doing so: first one of my strong Astonishes, which froze about half of them in their tracks, then a frenzy of ThunderShocks, raining down like blue meteors. Puck was right. The Sableye were actually about as threatening as wet blotting-paper, and three of them fainted dead away from that first assault alone.

The remaining Pokémon darted back quickly, wary now, and circled me like sharks under the hissed direction of their striped leader.

For the sake of space, time and a reference, Puck said, let’s just call that one Stripe from now on.

Suddenly, as one, the Sableye stopped dead in their tracks, and line of blackness shot across the ground from their feet to mine faster than I could blink; it felt like someone had knocked my legs from under me with a lead pipe, and I fell over heavily, crying out in pain.

Damn it! Shadow Sneak! Puck sounded agitated now. Kester, get up and out of the way!

I tried to get to my feet, but the Sableye did it again; this time I saw what the darkness was: it was their shadows, stretching out from beneath them to ram me savagely in the shins. Except now, of course, they were hitting me all over, not just my shins, and it was excruciating; if it was possible for it to be worse than falling down the fire escape, or the Carvanha’s Bite, it was.

I might have screamed. I don’t know. I do know that Puck was trying to speak to me, but his voice was faint and flickering, like a badly-tuned radio. Then there was a brief period of nothing, and after that, I remember sitting up shakily in the middle of the street, surrounded by a rather drunken-looking troupe of Sableye.

Kester! Kester!

“P-Puck?”

No time to explain! Just ThunderShock something – anything! They’re about ready to run away...

I did, weak sparks flaring at my fingertips and arcing across to Stripe, who shrieked and staggered off, his limbs moving as if they were under someone else’s control. With some difficulty, the rest of the Sableye followed him, swaying and tripping like Spinda.

“What – what happened?” I asked, my head clearing somewhat. The pain was fading; now that I looked, there didn’t seem to be any marks on my legs, either.

They were using Shadow Sneak
, Puck told me. That’s a Ghost-type move, which we’re weak to. Six of them together like that and it was too much. You know, like when you make a sandwich that’s just too tall for you to bite into, but you still go and try anyway, and it all ends in doom and tears—

“But – how did I...?” I interrupted, before he got too involved in his ridiculous simile.

Chase them off? Uproar, my friend. Uproar. That crazy drunken gait of theirs? Disorientation caused by the sound waves.

There were probably plenty of eloquent replies to be made, but I wasn’t quite up to finding one.

“Uproar?”

It’s... well, officially it’s a Normal-type move, so it shouldn’t have affected those half-Ghost Sableye. But in reality, it can hit anything with ears. The clue is in the name: it’s basically a screaming and shouting attack, like Astonish, that affects everyone around you. The only downside is that you can’t turn it off once you start. You have to keep doing it for a certain period of time.

“That’s so stupid it must be true,” I said, regaining my full senses at last, and getting up. “I have to say, though, I really hate Sableye.”

Then... you won’t want to look down.


I did so, of course, and saw that amongst the three fainted Sableye was a fourth one – only this wasn’t like any Sableye I’d seen before. Its short fur was a pure, snowy white, and its eyes were massive rubies rather than diamonds.

“What the hell is that?”

Er... an albino Sableye? suggested Puck. Seriously, your guess is as good as mine. I’ve never seen anything like him before.

I stared at the albino Sableye, and he ducked his head, hiding it beneath his little hands, as if self-conscious. He took a few steps away from me, and crouched behind one of his fainted brethren. Unless he was incredibly devious and sneaky, it seemed unlikely that he would attack me, so I started walking again, moving slowly now in case my legs gave out unexpectedly.

After a while, I turned around and saw that the Sableye was following me; as soon as my eyes alighted on him, however, he dived for cover behind a dustbin and lay there quivering.

You know, Puck said, he reminds me of you a bit.

“Shut up,” I muttered. “I’ve done enough dangerous things now that you couldn’t call me a coward.”

No, that’s not what I meant. He’s like you because he’s pale and useless.

If I could have punched him, I would. As it was, I thought very long and very hard about the beautiful Felicity instead, and then about the less-beautiful-but-still-attractive Natalie. This, I was pleased to discover, caused him no small amount of discomfort.

By then, I had, as hoped, reached the Wharf, and knew roughly where to go. It was going to take me a hell of a long time to get back to the Centre, but I didn’t care; I was just glad that I wasn’t being threatened by bejewelled monkey demons anymore.

As I began the slow walk back to the Pokémon Centre, I knew the Sableye was still following me, but it didn’t seem important any more. All I wanted now was a long rest and a cold drink.

Huh. I doubt Sapphire’s going to let you have either of those, Puck said darkly. I mean, she isn’t in a good mood and we went out without her permission.

“Oh, shut up,” I said wearily, and trudged on.


Note:Technically, I guess the Sableye ought to have been shiny, but I kind of don't care.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; February 22nd, 2011 at 05:41 AM.