The Middle Ground
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February 22nd, 2011 (7:15 AM). Edited July 27th, 2011 by FlaafyFTW.
Researcher of Orange Lore
I've known how I have wanted this chapter to go for ages but I just havent been able to write it down well enough until now. I hope this will suffice
Chapter 22 – What Lies Beneath (Part 1)
After what seemed like an eternity of being forced to walk through the forest on my twisted ankle, we arrived at the outskirts of the Island village. I’d exhausted myself in the forest just trying to stay upright and had lost the will to fight Trench’s grip so I decided to gin and bear the pain to see where he was taking me.
In front of us stood the back of a rural bungalow on the very edge of the settlement. No light came from inside; either no one was home or it was abandoned. At least, that was what it was supposed to look like.
Clutching my arm behind my back he pulled me closer and whispered “You going to cause trouble?”
I wanted to think of something smart to say back to him but it never came so I reassured him with a convincing "No."
Still clutching my arm he pulled it back from behind me and put it over his shoulders to help me walk. At the time I figured he’d felt guilty but that wasn’t the case.
“Open it.” He said.
Seeing nothing but a large bush in front of me I asked the logical question.
"Open what?" Just as soon as the words had left my lips, the bush separated into two revealing a set of steps leading underground. Looking closer with the help of light coming from below, I could faintly see the outlines of his two pokemon that blended so well into the night, holding the bush apart.
With Trench’s aid I hobbled forwards, down the stairs and through an empty doorway to the right. We entered a room filled to the brim with computers great and small; the sound of typing on a keyboard filled the air whilst discarded pieces of paper littered the floor. Among them was a blonde-haired girl in her mid-twenties with her hair tied into a single ponytail squatting against a mammoth machine to our left, tinkering with its insides and not even noticing our presence.
A curly redhead turned his head from studying a bookcase on our right. He looked only a few years older than me and his face was badly bruised and his left arm hung loosely in a sling.
The third, a brunette with a slight quiff and rounded oval glasses was fast at work typing numbers and letters onto a screen and after a quick glance, carried on with what he was doing.
“Oh good – you’re back” The redhead smiled to Trench, it dropping when he caught sight of me limping beside him.
“-What took you so long?!” The blonde cried, rising up from the floor. “We don’t exactly have much time to sp-“
“-They went to the old lab on One. We’ve got a while.” Trench interrupted.
“Fine.” The woman huffed. “But be quick – I don’t like this.” Trench grunted and released his grip on my arm. Then, without realising how much I was relying on him to stand up, I put my bad leg to the floor, making my leg buckle from the pain causing me to fall to the floor with it.
As I cursed at him again, the girl turned and gasped before kneeling down to help me sit up. “Crowe, what the hell are you doing?!” She yelled, checking me over for an injury. “...Are you okay?”
“Don’t act like you lot didn’t just drag me here, what do you want?” I demanded, pushing the girls hand away from my ankle.
him here?!” The redhead asked ‘Crowe’ quite angrily.
“Technically I pushed. But he was
to the police.” He shrugged, leaning against the vacant doorframe.
The two exchanged worried looks with the brunette who had stopped typing on his laptop.
For a moment I thought that they could be in league with the Rockets but then it occurred to me that we wouldn’t have had to stay hidden at the factory if that was the case.
you people?" I asked, getting mixed signals as to their intentions.
“Friends.”The brunette said, rising from his seat.
"Friends?! Ha!" I laughed. "That's what
said before he twisted my ankle!" I cried, pointing with my thumb to the man behind me formally known as Trench.
“Okay, okay, why don’t we all just take a breather?” He said, approaching the group. “Crowe, I think you should make yourself scarce – why don’t you go on patrol duty or something.”
And just like that Crowe silently disappeared up the steps and out of sight. The brunette pulled me over a chair and put it against the nearby wall before helping me up onto it.
“Beebs, can you fix him up?”
The blonde girl nodded and pulled out a first aid kit from in between two wall-height computers and began rummaging around inside it. “Sorry about him – Crowe I mean.” She began, rolling my trouser leg up to get a better look at my ankle which was now red-raw. “He’s my brother, although you wouldn’t think it…”
"Beebs, we're being rude. Celio Browne, nice to meet you."The brunette said, extending his hand towards me. A gesture which I made a point of ignoring.
"Bebe." The blonde girl piped up, putting the finishing touches on a bandage she was wrapping around my ankle.
"And this is Bill." Celio continued, pulling up a chair beside me as the redhead summoned up a smile. "You want to know what we want? Well, in all honesty... we need a favour."
I huffed, thinking that we must of had different definitions of the word.
And I suppose if I don't help you with this 'favour' then you'll get Mr. Trenchcoat out there to set his pokemon on me again?"
"No,no." Celio replied, seeming genuinely shocked. "You're free to get up and leave anytime; we just wanted the chance to talk to you before you went to the police. Don't worry, you can trust us."
I looked closely at the three faces, trying to decipher from their expressions if they were telling the truth or not. Could I trust them? They had freed me from the Rockets and given me my pokemon back, but I’d also had my ankle twisted and been abducted...again.
"...So what is this favour?" I asked, almost dreading the reply.
"We want you to go back onto the Rockets' boat and pretend you're still their hostage -"
"-What?! No way!"
"We only want you to listen out for any information that will help us. Crowe will stay close by to keep you safe-"
"-Safe? You call
safe?!" I yelled, lifing up my bandaged ankle."Forget it! I don't trust him - in fact, I don't trust any of you! And why do you need me to do this when your little lapdog out there is obviously more capable of doing this by himself?"
"Because you're involved now!" Celio bellowed, slamming his fist against a desk as he rose to his feet. "I'm sorry and believe me, I wish you weren't, but the fact of the matter is that you
involved and we need to make the best of the current situation."
"That's a lie." I said, pulling myself upright using the wall to keep my balance. "This has nothing to do with me. And like you said, I can just walk away."
"Don't you see? People will get hurt - you
walk away, you need to do this. It's your responsibility - why don't you care?!"
As I stumbled along the side of the room to the steps, a combination of rage, hatred and sadness bubbled up inside of me, something that I hadn't ever let surface before.
"Oh let me see... My parents were murdered, I alienated my sister, watched as people died in an explosion that
could've stopped, I was beaten up,
and almost starved to death. So tell me; what have I got left? Why am I
"-Because this is all
"What did you say?!" I cried, turning around and pushing Celio up against the wall with what little strength I had left. For a few seconds there was silence, I had to process what was just said, replaying it in my mind to make sure I didn't mishear.
"He meddled with something we told him to leave well-enough alone. If it wasn't for him, none of this would even be happening!"
"-Stop it!" Bebe cried, pushing the two of us apart and standing in the space between.
I stumbled backwards and caught onto Bill’s right arm to steady myself, but before I knew it my legs gave way and I collapsed in a mess on the floor, physically exhausted. Confused and angry, tears streamed down my face.
What had my father done? Was he involved with the Rockets? Why was he really killed?
I couldn’t answer any of the questions.
“Celio stop it.” Bill said, kneeling down to try and help me in some way. “It’s not right to put the blame on him – He hasn’t done anything wrong. Don’t make him do this; he doesn’t know what his father did.”
"No... No I don't." I sniffed, wiping my eyes. "But please tell me - I want to know everything."
After April left, I went back into the examination room to finish up my call to Ivy but instead we ended up chatting for ages - we hadn't spoken properly or had a catch-up since I was last home. Ivy told me of her daring experiments and endeavouring research, leaving out all the things that had blown up in her face (which is usually alot), while I told her of everything that had happened on my journey so far, trying to leave out the frightening parts but sadly there was no way around Sandshrew's death.
Talking about it still left me with a gaping hole in my gut but I was determined to move on from the subject, hastily changing the subject and tightening my scarf to try and keep my bandaged neck from showing.
After she realised that I didn't want to dwell on the subject, Ivy, like me, was fascinated by the egg I held in my arms. Having studied with Professor Elm, the leading expert on pokemon breeding, for many years, she was quite adept at identifying the species of pokemon simply by the markings on the shell. I protested that she didn't tell me what was inside, but she insisted that something wasn’t as it seemed. She rambled something about possible regional differences before returning to the real world.
A small blinking on the top right of the screen had been annoying me throughout the whole call but I hadn't the slightest idea what it meant.
"It means you have a message." Ivy said, shuffling through various pieces of paper on her desk. "There's a button on the side of the monitor - press it."
I did as I was told and the image on the screen split into two panels, Ivy on one side and a list marked 'Inbox' on the other. I had two messages; the first was from mum asking me how everything was going and was dated a week ago (Oops!), and the second was from someone I wasn't expecting - Robin.
Selecting the message I was met with a loud "Hiiiiiiiiiiii!" Nurse Joy looked in through the glass with a look that was a cross between confusion and concern on her face before returning to help the queue of people that had suddenly appeared.
Robin was stood in the foreground of a shop, dressed in a pokemart apron in front of a window that looked out onto what looked like a very well-kept park with flowers blooming in every available space. Courtney was close by, both of them looking healthy and back to their old selves which, by itself, put a smile on my face.
"Now Stalker, since you like, totally saved our lives back in Cerulean-"
"-even though you were rude and didn't say bye-"
"we figured that we owe you a little bit."
"Soooo, we've sent you and April all-access passes to the show at the new Dome in Fuschia City!" Courtney cried.
"We know we're being super-duper generous, but don't worry about it, you can give us the difference later."
"So yeah, when you get here just print off the tickets and you're like, good to go!"
"-Hey girls - Get back to work!" Came a voice from behind the camera.
"Uh-oh, gotta go!"
I looked at the screen blankly. Not knowing what the 'Dome' was or what show they were referring to, but sure enough there was an attachment with two tickets in, ready to be printed.
of yours?" Ivy asked slyly.
"Oh shut up, they're the girls we helped in Cerulean... How'd they get my number?"
"Every phone is linked to the PC system in some way. It's like a big phonebook; you can search for someone with a registered Trainer ID - it makes communicating on the go and trading with other trainers alot easier."
"Oh that's cool, so can i fin-" I stopped mid-sentence as the screen lit up. I had a new message.
"Someone's popular." Ivy remarked. "Who's it from this time?"
I looked at the message, it was marked as from 'Unknown'. Curious, I opened it.
The image was grainy and the sound was muffled, it looked like an old video that someone had taped over. There was a woman with black hair wearing a red hairband across her forehead, dressed in a full-length kimono of the same colour. She seemed quite distressed but I couldn’t make out much of what she was saying.
"April.... I need.... help.
Please! Come... bad feeling..."
The screen became too grainy to make anything out and 'End of Message' appeared on screen.
Whoever she was, she knew both of the siblings and something was most definitely wrong. But the question remained;
if this message was meant for April then why did I get it?
“Alex? Alex what’s wrong?” Ivy asked, seeing my blank expression. “What was that message about?”
"Its.. well.. I-I've got to go - speak to you later!" I said hastily turning the monitor off and cutting off Ivy's cries of protest mid-sentence.
Something wasn't right, I looked at the clock - April should've been back by now. I had to find her and show her the message so I ran from the room and checked the foyer. Apart from a now diminished queue of people and Nurse Joy, the place was empty.
Without saying goodbye I ran out into the dark of the night. People were still lesiurely walking along the main road in the safety of the streetlamps, but there was no sign of her. I ran ahead through a maze of darkened alleys headed towards the port but when I reached the seafront I was confronted with a large metal fence. It stretched as far as I could see, and although the fence was scaleable, I would've been stopped by the spikes lining the top.
Frustrated, I clutched a pokeball from my belt and threw it high into the air, releasing Swablu in a flash of white. She hovered in the air, sensing something was wrong.
"Swablu, I need you to go and have a look for April in the docks - Please hurry!" I cried, watching as she propelled herself through the air looking like a pice of wool in the wind.
I waited in what seemed like an industrial estate - a place where I was surrounded by large, corregated metal factories. Looking around, one in particular caught my eye. The front of the factory had two lightning bolts painted on it, crossing each other and forming an X above the entrance whereas written just below it was the word 'GYM'.
Touching the rusty metal I wondered if this really was the gym; there was no light coming from inside and the area didn't exactly look like it had been busy anytime in the past.
Suddenly I heard a series of loud explosions behind me. I turned to see smoke pouring outwards from a massive cruise ship docked closeby, inscinctivly I covered my eyes as a cloud of smoke engulfed me.
"Swablu!" I cried out, slowly stammering forwards.
Carefully, I opened my eyes. A howl echoed through the air just before a dark figure appeared in front of me, hidden in the smoke. It was big, on four legs and coming straight in my direction. Right then I knew that if this was the thing that did all that to a huge boat - I was a dead man.
It was a warm evening in Vermillion City; the smells of the sea floated in the breeze and the cobbled streets were filled with people, most of them leisurely heading for the comfort of home after a long day’s work. The brightness of the night sky was dimished by the illuminations of the city, with only a few stars dotted about the empty space above.
April moved quicker than most in the crowd, eager to see first-hand the world-famous ship she had always dreamt of taking a voyage upon. Arriving at the port she quickly located the dock she was looking for – a raised, stone platform made of smooth grey slate that had been pieced together with the utmost care and precision. A dock fit for royalty no less.
She ascended the steps leading up to the dock and when she reached the top of the platform she could see a slow stream of passengers disembarking. She gazed in awe of the beautiful suits and glamourous dresses shimmering in the moonlight from a distance as they disembarked for the night, only to be confronted by a man dressed in a white Navy uniform.
“Sorry Madam – passengers only.” He said, extending an arm.
“But – oh please, I really want to see it up close.”
“Rules are rules kid.” He said again, standing firm.
Knowing she wouldn’t be changing his mind anytime soon, April turned away disheartened, descending the steps. Just as she disappeared from the Nay officer’s line of sight, a man carrying a net of fish bumped into her. After apologizing with a grunt, the man proceeded to walk down a set of wooden steps adjacent to the dock. April was surprised she hadn’t seen this before and even though she felt in her gut that she shouldn’t, she followed the man down the creaky set of steps.
At the bottom she found that the wooden platform was much larger than she’d anticipated , built underneath the stone platform and around the columns that held it up. People were busily rushing about; fishermen, sailors –everyone had a job to do.
The smell of gutted fish was overpowering and a salty, wet muck coated the wood underneath – this place was
meant for royalty.
April ducked and dived through the oncoming people with cries of
filling the air as they collided again and again. The fishermen were clearly locals with that gruff accent that Vermillions are famous for whereas the sailors had an accent all their own that seemed to be an amalgamation from all the different places they had been.
After narrowly escaping the barrage of dock workers, April found herself in an area filled with crates twice the height of her, stacked on top of another. Walking through the area felt like navigating a maze but eventually she came face to face with the base of vessel itself.
The ship’s crew were hard at work unloading luggage and yet more crates to add to the maze through a large, rectangular door in the base of the ship. Some of them were not even in uniform, giving April the perfect chance to slip through unnoticed.
Just as she was about to take her first step towards the boat a familiar face walked past her and into the cargo hold of the boat. The man with shockingly bright blonde hair wore a white uniform with many military badges attached to it. April recognised the man’s face from Adam’s first gym battle – Lt. Surge.
Suddenly thoughts of Alex passed through her mind – he was looking for the gym leader and the last place he’d look would be the harbour. But she was conflicted – she wouldn’t get the chance to see the SS Anne again. It was then she saw something that would make up her mind for her.
A woman with blood-red hair in a similar white uniform followed the gym leader into the bowels of the cargo hold. The same woman April saw on the night her family was torn apart.
The same woman who murdered her parents.
Without thinking about her actions for even a second, April strode forwards, following the woman into the bowels of the ship.
Inside, luggage was tied into clusters; ready to be wheeled out at any second whereas further back, things that were staying on board for lengthier periods of time were stored securely. She passed cars, crates and even artefacts that were centuries old but she didn’t give any of them so much as an inquisitive glance. Instead she was focused on the woman in front of her, her high-heeled shoes echoing throughout the open space with every step she took.
Suddenly, light was cut from the cargo hold with an almighty creaking noise. The Loading door had been shut, leaving April in complete darkness. For a moment she panicked, but hearing the echo of heels against the cold floor made her realise that she still knew exactly where she had to go.
Using her hands as a guide, she navigated the twists and turns with ease, the rough, wooden crates feeling more and more like the cold smoothness of metal with every step. Angry and scared, her breathing became heavy and fast.
The footsteps stopped in front of her for a fraction of a second before continuing on as normal. Realising she had been heard, April backed up against a metal crate, putting both hands to her mouth to try and silence herself.
Ahead of her the woman picked up a metal object and carried on walking a few yards.
April tried to regulate her breathing and calm herself down, she thought she had gotten away with it.
Suddenly the woman turned sharply, swinging a pole she had picked up against the metal crates creating an almighty clang. The crates suddenly lit up the entire area with an intense, bright flickering light. April turned around to see that the metal crates weren’t crates at all, but cages with pokemon trapped inside. From what she could tell, they were all electric types screaming to be let out and frightened at the sudden noise.
Footsteps came towards her.
Out of the corner of her eye April could see the woman’s red hair, slanted nose, menacing eyes and the long metal pole she was carrying in her hand. She confidently strode through the isle of cages behind April, clearly on the lookout for someone.
She stopped on the corner beside April, looking around the immediate area slowly. Just centimetres away, April held her breath and shut her eyes tightly, reaching for her pokeballs - sure she was going to get caught until a voice cried;
Turning back to the direction she was facing before, she grunted viciously, throwing the pole to the floor and then proceeding towards the origin of the voice.
After waiting a few seconds longer, April gasped for breath and glanced inside the cage she was leaning on. A small, blue and black pokemon with a yellow tip on its tail was passed out from hunger or exhaustion, she didn’t want to think about which.
Looking around, the cages were filled with pokemon she had never seen before, all electric types that had been illegally smuggled in appalling conditions, she couldn't bring herself to look at them. After composing herself, April slowly crawled forward two isles to an empty cage, being careful not to spook any of the already riled up pokemon into giving away her location.
Through the bars two figures stood side by side. Surge's muscular arms were folded, standing beside the woman looking quite content.
"So what do you think?"
"They'll work perfectly."
She smiled sadistically, kicking a bar of a large cage in front of her containing a few Electrode.
"Get them to Mahogany when you can."
April clutched a pokeball on her belt, barely able to contain her anger. She wished she had gone back to get
the police or at least spoken to Alex whilst she could, but there was noone here, noone to help her. She was outnumbered if she tried to do anything.
Then, for some reason, among the cages she was drawn towards a small yellow pokemon with blue cheeks crying out for help. It was alot more active than the other pokemon around it, trying to squeeze its way through the bars whereas the others looked like they had given up trying. It then hit her - she wasn't alone. April knelt to the floor and began pulling at the small cage, trying to levy it open. The pokemon looked at her, confused but still adopting a hostile pose, trying to figure out if she was friend or foe.
Suddenly she heard a footstep behind her - "Found you."
Catch 'em, catch 'em, gotta catch 'em all; gotta catch 'em all - Pokemon!
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