The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World
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February 14th, 2011 (10:59 AM). Edited February 22nd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Gone. May or may not return.
The Misspelled Cyrpt
Chapter Sixteen: I Am the Main Character!
Blake. Fabien. Goishi. Three names that have gone unmentioned for some time in this narrative. What they were doing the day that Kester and Sapphire found an albino Sableye and set off for Mauville has not so far been revealed; now, the great moment has come, and we shall rejoin their tale on the morning of that day, to find them lying on a set of dingy mattresses on the floor of the run-down warehouse in Slateport’s Runcible District that served as one of Team Magma’s Slateport hideouts.
“Blake,” said Fabien, staring at the ceiling.
“Yeah?” replied Blake.
“Do you ever get the feeling that... well, that this isn’t our story?”
“Eh?” Blake’s tone seemed to indicate that metaphysics were not a welcome topic for discussion.
“I mean... we’ve done quite a lot. This all started with the order to go and get the Devon goods, and then we ran into that Rotom boy who works for the Aquas. Then that Devon researcher got involved” – here Blake winced; his memories of that man were not happy ones – “and here we are.” Fabien paused thoughtfully. “This is a quest. An adventure. A – a
. You see what I mean?”
“But somehow, I don’t think...” Fabien broke off, searching for the right words. “I don’t think... that I’m the main characters – I mean, that we’re the main characters.”
Blake grunted again, and rolled over to face away from his partner. From the grimy rafters came a slow, lazy ‘ee-EEEE-
’; this was, in all likelihood, Goishi-speak for ‘shut up’.
“It’s been worrying me quite a lot,” Fabien admitted. “I mean, how can I not be the main character – how can we not be the main charact
– of our own story?”
Fabien was silent for a while, disturbed.
“Fabien, I gotta headache, an’ firs’-degree burns, an’ – an’
now my stupid phone is ringin’!
It was, and Blake sat up angrily, ramming fingers so hard onto the little keyboard that it cracked.
“Whadja wan’?” he growled furiously into it, then his face went pale and the mobile slipped between his fingers. He swore softly.
“Who is it?” asked Fabien.
“The boss,” whispered Blake. “Er, Fabien, you answer it. I don’ think ’e liked my tone o’ voice.”
Fabien picked up the phone gingerly, between finger and thumb, and raised it to his ear; immediately, a violent blast of invective surged out, and he threw the mobile away reflexively, bouncing it between his hands as if it were red-hot before catching it properly and replacing it by his ear.
“Sir?” he said timidly. “This is Fabien Latch.”
Five minutes of furious speaking ensued, during which Fabien was roundly lambasted, then abused, put down and, in short, made subject to almost all forms of verbal assault in existence. He bore it with the sort of expression usually worn by people who have mistaken lemon juice for water, then said cautiously:
“Sir? What was it you wanted?”
A second torrent of words spewed forth from the receiver; as far as could be made out by the discerning observer, it was composed of equal parts fury, rage, and ire. As Goishi put it, it was a perfect anger trifecta, but since he phrased it ‘Ee-eee-
-EEK’, no one understood him.
“I see,” Fabien said patiently. “And what exactly is it that you want us to do?”
For the third time, the boss communicated his precise feelings to Fabien. This time, he included some choice speculation on the decency of Fabien’s mother and sister, as well. Fabien did not actually possess a sister, but the insult still smarted.
“Yes. I’m sure – I’m sure she would, sir,” he said through gritted teeth. “But what is it you want us to
Not for the first time in his career as a Magma, Fabien pondered the long-term health consequences of Maxie’s legendary tempers. Hopefully, he decided, they would lead to a heart attack of fatal proportions, and thus to the election of a calmer, more reasonable leader.
It seemed that the boss was ready to talk properly now, and hence Fabien merely listened, going ‘Mm’ at periodic intervals as one does when listening to a monologue on a telephone, and eventually said something along the lines of ‘Yes sir, right away sir’ before thumbing the disconnect button and hurling the phone savagely at Blake.
“Next time you make him angry,
answering for it,” he said warningly. “I’ve had more than enough of this.”
Blake nodded, shamefaced. Then he said:
“What was it ’e wanted, then?”
“We’ve got information from the Benefactor,” Fabien said, standing up. “Team Aqua have been tipped off by someone that the Module’s going to leave town for Mauville in a week.”
“So what d’we do?”
“Our Benefactor also gave us some other knowledge,” Fabien continued. “The Rotom-boy and the girl with him are heading north this afternoon, for Mauville.”
“Why?” asked Blake sharply. “Ain’t nothin’ there for ’em...”
“That’s what we’ve been told to investigate,” Fabien said. “Since we’re in the area. My thinking is that either they’re a distraction to occupy us while the Aquas snag the Module from Angel while it’s being transported, or they’re heading for HQ.”
Blake’s eyes widened with mingled astonishment and admiration.
Fabien shrugged nonchalantly, as if it were nothing for him to generate such stellar ideas. In fact, it wasn’t, since the ideas were the boss’s; this was, however, something he chose not to inform Blake of.
“It’s a possibility,” he said. “You have to remember, that Rotom-kid’s a pretty powerful weapon.”
Goishi flapped down from the rafters and screeched his agreement.
“Well,” Blake said. “We should go then. Righ’?”
“Yes. We’ll take the car to the city outskirts, and then go by the Trainer’s path – that’s the one those kids will take. We can ambush them or something.”
The three Magmas began making their way towards the warehouse’s door, talking as they went.
“If the boss calls again, I want you to answer it. Even if he’s angry.” The memory of Maxie’s verbal abuse was still fresh in Fabien’s mind.
“I mean, I don’t mind taking the occasional bullet for you,” Fabien said, beginning to warm to his theme. “I
the main character, after all. It’s my viewpoint we’re working in right now. And as the main character, I have to be heroic like that.”
Blake looked like he might say something, then closed his mouth again and shook his head deeply, perhaps in speechless wonder at Fabien’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his sake.
“But still,” Fabien continued, “you have to learn to take hits yourself.” He pulled upon the warehouse door, which did not open; then he pushed it, and much the same happened; finally, he slid it, and continued out into the bright morning sunlight. “I admit it’s tricky. It hurt even
a little when the boss mentioned that incident at the Christmas party last year.”
pretty drunk,” Blake ventured.
Fabien waved his words aside as they rounded the corner and entered the gloom of the hideout’s garage.
“I didn’t know she was his daughter,” he said. “How can I be blamed for it? A man has a couple of drinks, of course a few amusing incidents will occur! He should thank me for it. It’s a nice colourful anecdote for the future!”
,” Goishi put in. Neither Fabien nor Blake understood this, which was probably for the best, since it was a very crass – yet very faithful – description of exactly
far from an amusing incident the event in question had been.
They got into the car, argued about who was driving, swapped seats and finally left, with Fabien behind the wheel.
“I mean – what’s that?” Fabien almost turned around to see what Goishi was fussing over, then remembered he was driving and asked Blake to look.
“There’s a dead Wurmple on the back seat,” he reported.
“What?” Fabien’s brain whirred. “A big one?”
“A foo’, maybe?”
“A foot... that
quite a big one.” Fabien thought for a moment. “Goishi, eat it.”
The volume of the screeching from the back seat left him in no doubt as to Goishi’s opinion of this course of action, as did the large, thick tongue that darted forth in between the seats and slapped him in the face.
“All right,” said Fabien evenly. “Just throw it out the window.”
The blood-dimmed tide of the Golbat’s fury rose again in a cacophony of shrieks that impressed upon Fabien the fact that Goishi lacked for hands, and thus could not, as he had suggested, open the window.
“This is ridiculous!” Fabien cried. “Blake, go and open the window.”
The big man undid his seatbelt and turned around, crawling back between the two front seats to reach the back. Fabien leaned to one side, trying to avoid being kicked in the face, and realised that his view of the cars coming around the next corner was now blocked by Blake’s legs. Unwilling to wait, he made a wild guess and drove forwards, hoping that he wouldn’t be hit by a bus; thankfully, he had guessed well, and there was no more than a blaring of annoyed horns as the car slewed around the corner far too fast, narrowly avoiding a harsh impact with a traffic jam.
“Come on!” Fabien said. “Blake, what’s taking you so long?”
“’Andle’s stuck,” came the reply. “’Ang on, I’m tryin’...”
The sound of cracking plastic came from the back seat, and then cursing.
“What was that?”
“I’ve snapped the ’andle off,” Blake said unhappily. “That window ain’t gonna open now.”
“Try the other one,” Fabien replied. “But be careful. This isn’t our car.”
Fabien tried to see if anyone was coming up behind them, but the rear-view mirror showed him nothing but Blake’s red-suited back. He shrugged, trusting intuition, and drove on, crashing into the side of a bus.
It wasn’t a hard impact, just enough to smash the headlights and dent the grille; Fabien’s body jerked forwards, struggling to free itself from his seatbelt, and Blake slid back almost entirely into the front, one foot going through the windscreen and his broad shoulders wedging themselves firmly between the front seats.
Fabien swore violently and reversed, only for the back of the car to hit the front of another; he cursed even
vehemently and turned left, driving over the centre of a roundabout and turning the wrong way onto a one-way street.
“Blake!” he shouted. “Get down, get down!”
“I’m stuck!” yelped his partner, wriggling violently and not moving an inch.
Fabien struck one palm against his forehead and yelled at the heavens with all the passion of Hamlet after meeting Fortinbras’ captain; his words were unprintable, but carried the general message that fortune was a strumpet, and that God was, as Beckett’s blind cripple would have it, not only nonexistent but also born out of wedlock.
The Magma car slalomed at unnecessary speed down the street, desperately avoiding the other cars that were all going in the correct direction; it reached the other end and shot onto a normal road, heading north in the correct lane. By this time, adding up the heart rates of its occupants would probably have netted you a three-digit figure.
Fabien took a deep, calming breath.
“OK,” he said. “Everyone calm down. We’re in a normal road now. We’re OK.”
Pull over, Fabien!
” shouted Blake violently, thrashing his trapped foot around and widening the hole in the windscreen to an alarming size. This did have the advantage of allowing him to withdraw his foot, but disadvantaged Fabien in that the windscreen was now so covered in cracks that it failed to remain transparent. It also showered him with broken glass, something he was understandably keen to avoid.
“I can overcome this,” he told himself, swinging the car left and bringing it to a halt on a double yellow line. “I am the main character! I can do this!”
He opened the door and leaped out, then went around the other side to try and help Blake; with Goishi’s help, he managed to twist Blake’s broad body free of the seatbelt, and pass him out through the remnants of the windscreen. He slid down the bonnet, then stormed furiously over to the back door and wrenched it open, grabbed the dead Wurmple and flung it hard at the nearest shop window. This promptly shattered, setting off a burglar alarm, and a wild-eyed shopkeeper appeared at the door with a cry of rage. In one hand he held a stout cudgel, in the other the Wurmple; behind him, there was a rather large and savage-looking Grovyle.
Blake and Fabien exchanged glances, then leaped back into the car and drove off as fast as they could. Behind them, they heard a faint whistling, as if of something flying through the air; a second later, the rear window smashed, and the malodorous corpse of a Wurmple landed on the back seat again.
So much for Team Magma. What was Team Aqua doing? More importantly, what was that most manly of manly men, Barry Hawksworthy, doing?
The answer is simple. Barry was getting over his recent electrocution in the way that only someone as much a man as he could: he was drinking himself into an alarming state of temulency, and it was not even eleven of the morning clock.
Owing to their dominance in that city, the Aquas had a rather well-appointed base in Slateport. This fact has already been touched upon in reference to their large garage, and will be expounded further in the mention of the bar that sat in its centre.
It is a tradition, or perhaps merely a cliché, that criminal activities must take place behind the façade of a faintly disreputable tavern of some description. Team Aqua had taken this tradition and turned it on its head: within the nest of their criminal activities, there existed a faintly disreputable tavern. It was located right in the centre of the building, for it was the beating heart of the place; the founders of the Team had been sailors of a piratical bent, and those sorts of sailors had always been more than partial to a good stiff drink. Hence, the right for Team Aqua members to become blind drunk at the slightest provocation had been enshrined in the organisation’s rules, and thus there was a bar in all of the larger headquarters. This brings us neatly back to the bar in the Slateport base, and thus back to Barry himself, sitting there and getting very drunk far too early.
“You want – you want to know something?” he asked the barman.
The barman, being a barman and therefore possessing, as described in Chapter Seven, infinite sagacity, nodded warmly and leaned upon the bar, polishing a sparkling cut-glass decanter for no reason whatsoever. Emboldened, Barry waved an arm extravagantly and nearly knocked over his empty glass.
“I really hate my partner,” he whispered in a confidential tone, loudly enough for everyone in the building to hear. “She’s – she’s such a – a stupid...”
Here, words seemed to fail him, and Barry groped around in midair with one hand, as if he might find a suitable insult in some invisible cupboard. The barkeeper quietly mixed him another cocktail, which appeared to mostly consist of tequila, and pushed it across the table towards him. Barry inspected this with one eye, shutting the other firmly, and then nodded in deep satisfaction before drinking it off in one go. This was fairly impressive considering its large size, but the bartender didn’t react; Barry had been doing this for about two hours now. It was amazing, really, that he was still conscious, and we must put this down to his tremendous size.
“What was I saying?” Barry wondered. “I think – I think...” His brow furrowed into lines of deep thought for a few seconds, then he shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. You’re my bestest friend, you know that?” The barman assured him that he did indeed know that. It was true, after all; the barman is the bestest friend of all those who need an ear and who can pay for a glass of alcohol. He raised his glass to his eye and examined it carefully to see if there was anything left in it, then staggered unsteadily to his feet. “I – I better – butter? – better be going,” he managed, and dropped a handful of notes on the bar’s polished surface. The barkeep kindly placed twelve of these back in Barry’s pocket, realising that he had overpaid by approximately eighty thousand Pokédollars, and sent him on his way with a gentle word and a pat on the shoulder.
Barry stumbled down the corridor, bumping into other Aquas but receiving no rebukes on account of his height and width; at length, he arrived at the door to the living quarters, and, after several all-too-successful attempts to outspeed the automatic doors, he emerged into a bland lobby, now sporting a bruised nose and forehead. He asked the receptionist for directions to his room – for he had, somewhere around the fifth glass, forgotten where it was – and staggered back there, whereupon he engaged in a protracted battle with the keyhole. At length, he got the door open and himself inside.
The room was one of about seventy identical chambers in this area of the building; many Aquas who had cause to be in Slateport did not necessarily own a domicile there, and this was where they stayed. Barry did not give it so much as a cursory glance, merely fell face-first onto his bed and passed into a deep and dreamless sleep, approximately twenty minutes before the phone rang.
Still drunk, Barry raised his groggy head and lunged for his mobile where it buzzed and sang on the bedside table; much like the keyhole had earlier, it seemed to be a master of evasion, but he eventually cornered it against the lamp and got it into his hand. By this time, it had stopped ringing, and he was on the verge of putting it down again when it started again.
“Yo!” he cried ecstatically into the mouthpiece, which was both very unlike him and probably not the best thing to say to Felicity, who treated him to a cold, snappish remark that made his excessive manliness a
quality. This had the effect of sobering him somewhat – not completely, but enough for him to understand what she was saying. “Felicity?”
“Oh good. For a moment, I thought you were going to say ‘woman’. Like you usually do.” Felicity paused. “Anyway, we have work to do. We’re going after Ruby and Birch.”
Felicity gave a frustrated sigh.
“The Rotom kid and his girlfriend,” she replied. “Don’t you listen to anything anyone says?”
Barry felt that this was an unfair remark, but at that moment he lacked the words to express this sentiment fully. Instead, he said:
“I’m going to take that as meaning ‘why are we doing this, Felicity, when we’ve been assigned to the Devon goods case?’ The answer’s simple enough even for you to understand. The goods aren’t leaving Devon for a week, so the boss has decided to employ our – well,
– talents elsewhere, and leave Hans and Molasses in charge of watching Angel in the meantime.”
Barry was certain Felicity had insulted him at least twice just then, but he couldn’t quite work out how. Vaguely irritated, he said again:
“Charming. Meet me in Cadogan Square at noon. We’re leaving for Mauville.”
“Mauville?” This change of subject puzzled Barry. He had been under the impression that they were hunting for the Rotom-boy.
“Yes, Mauville, you big lump of meat. Our benefactor has given us information that this afternoon they’ll be leaving for Mauville, on Magma business with Spectroscopic Fancy.”
“How does he know?” Barry was quite proud of managing a full sentence, but Felicity didn’t seem to share this view.
“He knows a lot of things, doesn’t he? How am I meant to know?”
It was indeed a curious fact that the benefactor should know this when neither Sapphire nor Kester knew they were leaving yet, but there it was.
“Just meet me, OK? Cadogan Square. Noon.”
Felicity hung up, and Barry dropped his phone back onto the table, suddenly feeling at least half-sober. The reason for this was Felicity’s comment that the Rotom-boy had business with Spectroscopic Fancy. If
was true, then surely that meant that the company was in collusion with the Magmas?
Barry shook his head and decided he was still properly drunk after all. He couldn’t trust his brain right now – well, he thought, he couldn’t trust it most of the time, but
not right now. He sighed, got up, and picked up car keys.
Then he fell over on top of a chair, and set to wondering where Cadogan Square was, and how he was going to get there in his current state of insobriety.
Blake limped heavily down the Trainer’s path north of Slateport. His leg had been cut up quite nastily by the glass from the windscreen, and the Wurmple’s corpse had left some sort of greasy green stain on his hand that refused to go away. Consequently, he was in the state known to those with pretensions of grandeur as high dudgeon.
Fabien was one such pretentious person, and he was walking along in front of Blake, wrapped up in a minor existential crisis. He had been struck by another bout of uncertainty about whether or not he was the main character, and was wracking his brain for a solution to his problem.
Goishi flapped lazily above them; he could have flown to Mauville in about twenty minutes, but chose instead to keep pace with his Trainer, wings beating only once every five minutes. Alone of the three, he was in high spirits. He’d not had a good time for the last few days – first a ThunderShocking at the hands of the Rotom-boy, then some Ice attack from an assailant he hadn’t seen, topped off with a Thunderbolt from the Devon researcher’s...
. So, he had been in precisely the state of mind that was necessary to truly appreciate the amusing misadventures of Fabien and Blake that morning.
The three Magmas were acting on an idea of Fabien’s: namely, that they hike up to a spot about one-third of the way to Mauville, and lie in wait there for their quarry. They had recently passed the house of Javier – where Goishi had suggested they situate their ambush, only to have this idea quashed by Fabien.
“That house,” he had proclaimed, in the tone of one who knows, “is a death-trap.”
Blake had wanted to know if Fabien had ever been in there, and asked him. For a moment, Fabien had looked disconcerted, but he had swiftly regained his composure.
“Well – no,” he admitted. “But it is. Look at... the scratches there!”
He indicated a series of apparently random scratches in the paintwork on the lower left corner of the façade.
“What about them?” Blake asked, puzzled.
“What about them?
What about them?
” Fabien asked incredulously. “They’re secret signs, left by travelling Trainers! Or maybe hobos, I’m not sure. But I do know what they say. They say ‘danger’, that’s what they say. So we can’t go in there. I’ve no idea what’s in there, and I don’t think we want to.”
Awed by Fabien’s knowledge, Blake had acquiesced and they had passed the house by without further incident. Goishi had been more suspicious of Fabien’s assertions’ veracity, but there was nothing he could do to change his masters’ minds, and so simply followed them down the path.
That had been an hour ago. Now, they were out on Coffen Spit, a geographical feature formed by the combination of longshore drift and a sharp bend in the coastline; the path ran along the spit, followed its curved end, and rejoined the mainland on the other side of the water by means of a footbridge.
It was on the spit, in a stand of umbrella thorn acacia trees, that Fabien decided they would wait in ambush. Goishi had some unresolved questions about why there were umbrella thorn acacia trees here, so far from Africa, but had the notion that he wouldn’t receive an answer if he posed them.
They assumed their various positions: Goishi hanging from a branch, hidden amongst the leaves; Fabien standing in what he thought was a cool pose, leaning against a tree trunk; Blake sitting comfortably in the undergrowth, back to a tree and red hat pulled down low over his eyes, preparatory to catching a few minutes’ illicit sleep.
The trap was set. Team Magma was waiting.
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