View Single Post
  #53    
Old March 2nd, 2011, 11:21 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Xilfer, this one's for you.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Bad Day Bad Day Bad Day!

First off: have you ever tried to separate a Magnemite and an Aron?

It’s not easy, let me tell you that. I got recruited to help – which basically means that I grabbed Rono and Shawn grabbed Wattson’s Magnemite, while the two Trainers stood around and did nothing at all to aid us. The little steel ball had a lot of power in it, because it took the better part of twenty minutes to work the damn things apart; they were stuck as fast as two limpets that had accidentally suckered themselves to each other.

As soon as we had them apart, Wattson recalled his Magnemite, which nullified the magnetic field instantly; I tumbled over backwards and down the steps to the stage, with Rono’s hard, heavy body crushing my ribs and belly. I lay there, winded, until Sapphire recalled him, and then slowly got back up.

“Couldn’t you have recalled your Magnemite earlier?” I asked Wattson, aggrieved. “You know, like before it got stuck to Rono and I had to try and prise them apart?”

“Wahahahahaha,” laughed the old Gym Leader. “You ended up giving me a thrill!”

I turned to Sapphire, ignoring him and trying to quell the rage building up inside me.

“We should go,” I said. “Rono looks like he could use the Pokémon Centre.”

“Thanks, Shawn, Wattson,” Sapphire said, nodding at me. “It’s been absolutely a pleasure to meet you.”

“All mine, Sapphire,” replied the guitarist. “And I’m sure Wattson’s delighted, too.”

“He certainly seems it,” I muttered under my breath, listening to his laughter; Puck chuckled.

You’re getting the hang of this joking lark, aren’t you? he remarked happily. Well, good for you.

We made our way back out of the training hall, and upon entering the Gym’s little entrance corridor, were immediately confronted by a five-foot-tall blue bat, its great mouth spread wide and about a metre and a half of tongue lolling out and lying on the floor in a lazy coil.

I never forget a face
, said Puck, but in his case, I think I’m willing to make an exception.

“Ee-ee-E-E-E-eek,” it said malevolently, and I raised my hand to ThunderShock it; before I could do anything, it whipped its tongue through the air and vomited out a stream of sparkly lights. Surprised at this sudden move, I stood and gaped while they hit me in the face. It didn’t hurt, but almost immediately, I felt like I was suffering the effects of deciding to get drunk on a roundabout: dizzier than any rational human being can ever want to be.

Oh dear, Puck said. Seems you’ve been confused.

I’m not entirely sure what happened next, because I did a lot of walking into walls and tangling my feet together; none of my limbs would do what I want, and all of them had their own ideas about who we were meant to be attacking. At one point, I even managed to ThunderShock myself in the face, which was, though not unduly painful, very annoying.

I was vaguely aware that something was happening to my right, where Sapphire was; she’d tried to turn back and get into the training hall again, I think, but somehow the Golbat stopped her.

That is one mean stare that Golbat’s got, Puck remarked, as I smacked my face against the wall. Probably because it’s using Mean Look, but you know.

“No, I don’t!” I managed to say, through lips that didn’t seem to recognise words.

Toro appeared. That was the next thing I remember. However, she didn’t stay out for long; the Golbat swiped at her head with one wing, and she crumpled to the floor, instantly defeated. I had no idea why, and I didn’t really care, because I was trying to stop punching myself.

Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself, said Puck. Heh. Did you ever get bullied and have someone punch you with your own fist while saying that? I didn’t – no one bullies a Ghost, and I don’t have fists anyway – but I’m fairly certain of its prevalence amongst humans.

“I’m trying to stop!” I answered, anguished. “I really am!”

I believe you, Puck said. I’ll always believe in you. Unless you do something stupid, in which case I’ll inform you of it in no uncertain terms.

“Be more helpful!” I blundered forwards and, by sheer luck, crashed into the Golbat; together, we tumbled to the floor. Its heavy wings beat against my back, and my electricity crackled along its tongue; it screeched in pain and threw me off, struggling back to its feet. I tried to get up and ended up kicking Sapphire in the leg. Unprepared for the blow, she fell over too, and she, Toro and I co-existed in an undignified tangle of limbs for a short, uneasy period of time. The reason for its being short was this: once we had all been incapacitated, the Golbat lurched forwards, wrapped its tongue around my waist and dragged me away down the hall.

Your health is slowly being sapped, Puck informed me brightly. This is the move known as Wrap. Or maybe he’s just got his tongue wrapped around you, I can’t really tell. It’s almost the same thing.

“You’re no help!”

We’re confused. We can’t do anything. It’ll wear off soon, don’t worry. About the confusion, that is. You probably should worry about this whole kidnapping business.

The Golbat headbutted the Gym door open, and flapped out; it struggled and strained, and managed to lift me into the air. It flew away, misjudged the height and let me smack headfirst into the fence.

EEEEEK!” it said angrily, dropping me a swift and painfully-terminated six feet to the ground; at this point, Sapphire and a couple of other Trainers burst out of the Gym, and, deciding that it would prefer to survive to fight another day, the Golbat flew off hurriedly. A large, four-winged Pokémon with massive eye-shaped antennae erupted from its ball and rapidly gave chase.

I picked myself up off the tarmac, the last vestiges of confusion swirling in my head. I clung to the fence for stability, and blinked sluggishly as a barrage of questions assailed my ears. ‘Are you OK?’ was the one that I heard most often, and consequently the one I answered first.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, head clearing. “I’m fine.”

“Did that Golbat just come in here and—?” asked a kid a few years younger than me, the one who’d set the four-winged Pokémon on the Golbat’s tail.

“Yeah,” I replied. “It beat up Sapphire’s Combusken, confused me and then just – took off.” I made a little motion with one hand. Maybe I was in shock, maybe I wanted to make myself seem cooler, but I was making very light of this indeed.

“We should tell Shawn about this,” said another Trainer.

“No, the police!” argued the first.

“Kids,” I said, and when they glared at me regretted it. “I mean, guys, let’s just... be cool.”

Be cool, honey bunny, Puck said, in a deep American-accented voice. Be cool. Then, as usual after he made an abstruse referential joke, he laughed quietly to himself.

“Are you sure?”

Yes,” said Sapphire forcefully. “We’re both fine. That Golbat... we’ve met it before. Kester has, anyway. It’s our business.”

With a jolt, I realised she was right: the Golbat had to be the Team Magma one that had attacked me last Monday, in the back alley in Rustboro near where Puck had stashed the goods.

That sounds so cool, Puck said. ‘Where Puck had stashed the goods.’ I feel cooler than Huggy Bear.

Who? I thought back, as the four-winged Pokémon returned; it moved slowly, bleeding from a series of small, crescent-shaped cuts on its belly.

“You didn’t catch it, then?” asked its Trainer; the Pokémon buzzed dumbly and I wondered if he’d really expected an answer. He was talking to an insect, after all. He sighed, sprayed a Potion on it and recalled it. “You’re sure you can handle this yourselves?” he asked of Sapphire and I.

“Yes.”

“Yeah.”

He exchanged glances with the other Trainer; they sighed and said:

“All right.”

Then they turned and went back to the Gym.

Who brings a Masquerain to an Electric Gym? Puck wondered. They’re so weak to those moves. Unlike diamonds, which are forever.

“Come on,” Sapphire said, looking around in case the Golbat returned. “We should leave. Team Magma have caught up with us, it seems – and the Golbat’s using different tactics now. It’s not taking any chances.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Let’s get back to the Centre.”

As we walked down the street, a thought struck me.

Puck? I just got your last reference!

To
Diamonds Are Forever? I thought you might – I seem to remember you knowing who James Bond is.

Well, yeah. The world is not enough to contain his fame.

Oho! Puck seemed genuinely impressed. That’s good, Kester. Knowing that you can actually make jokes gives me a quantum of solace.

We both burst out laughing then, much to Sapphire’s surprise; she gave me an odd look, and I shook my head, pointing to my brain. She rolled her eyes and ignored me.

OK, OK, I thought. Let’s have a competition—

—To see who can reference the most Bond film titles? Puck asked. You’re on! Time’s up when we run out of films, and you can’t use any of them twice.

Fair enough, I agreed, and immediately started thinking of ways to relate the things I was seeing to James Bond.

Don’t rush it
, Puck cautioned. Let it come naturally. This is going to be fun, and it’ll be best if we do it at a natural sort of pace.

“Right,” I said aloud, and schemed all the way back to the Pokémon Centre.

---

Goishi landed with a clatter in the centre of the table, scattering dishes and leaving a splatter of saliva over Fabien’s lobster terrine.

“Oh, come on!” cried Fabien, who was mere moments away from taking a mouthful, and now put down his knife and fork in disgust. “You know that’s my favourite!”

The Golbat eyed him with the sort of distaste usually reserved for foul and unidentifiable gunk that attaches itself to the sole of one’s shoe, and said:

“Eee-ee-EEEE-eek.”

Fabien listened intently, then asked:

“So they were at the Gym? Then why didn’t you catch them?”

Again, the withering stare; Fabien, completely impervious to it, nodded and smiled.

“I see,” he said sympathetically. “It was obviously too much for you.”

“Excuse me, sir,” interrupted a waiter as politely as possible, unwittingly forestalling any retribution on Goishi’s part, “I’m afraid I will have to ask you and your friend to leave. You can’t bring Pokémon in here; not non-domestic ones, anyway.”

He cast an unloving look at Goishi, who, affronted, slapped his cheek with the tip of his tongue; Fabien and Blake rose hurriedly, tossing a few notes onto the table to cover their ruined meal, and left before things got out of hand.

“Honestly,” Fabien said despairingly as they trudged through the Memorial Centre, “you really must be more sensitive, Goishi. That man didn’t deserve that.”

Goishi gave him up as a lost cause and shook his heavy head.

“Fabien,” said Blake.

“Yes?”

“I’ve acciden’ally stolen a fork.”

Fabien looked. He was right: the utensil was still clasped firmly in Blake’s meaty hand, and Blake himself was staring at it as if trying to figure out how it had got there.

“Well, what do you want me to do about it?”

“Do I take it back?”

“Too late now,” sighed Fabien. “Just... put it down somewhere. In that bin, that’ll do.”

Dutifully, Blake tipped the fork into the bin, which drew the ire of an old lady wandering nearby; she addressed them in no uncertain terms about the moral wickedness of failing to recycle metal items, and chased them down a flight of stairs, laying about their heads and shoulders with a stout umbrella.

Goishi flapped lazily along above his two masters, watching them flee the Centre in a panic, and sighed. He missed Stheno.

---

You may recall I said that Wednesday was an awful day, and be wondering quite what was so bad about it beyond having to separate Rono from the Magnemite and almost being kidnapped by a Golbat. I might well respond that that was bad enough – but it did actually get worse, and it started when we retired to the Centre’s living-room after lunch to see if there was anything on TV.

Sapphire and I were the only ones there – generally, Trainers were out for most of the day – and had thus managed to gain control of the sofa directly in front of the TV.
Comfortably seated and feeling almost normal, we flicked on the television and stared in surprise at the screen.

Hey, Puck said. It’s our old friend from Slateport.

There he was, topping the news, his sharp eyes shining like factories far away; he was grinning wildly into the lens of a CCTV camera, while his cohorts tore up books behind him. Talking over the frozen image was the voice of Gabby van Horne, Hoenn’s favourite newsgirl and one half of a partnership with the country’s most famous and reckless cameraman, Tyrone de’Medici.

Seriously? He belongs to the House of Medici?

“Ssh,” I hissed. “I’m trying to listen.”

“...attacks have spread to Verdanturf and Mauville over the last few days,” Gabby was saying. “Professor Birch is currently working with the Pokémon Rangers in order to try and find out what exactly is agitating the Sableye, and how best to calm them down.”

“Kill Stripe, that’s my guess,” I muttered. “He’s the one stirring them up. I thought I’d got him back in Slateport, but I guess he never dies. Just like tomorrow.”

Oh! Puck cried. You sneaky—! I’ll have to keep my guard up against you.

“This is bad,” Sapphire said. “We let those Sableye out. Aren’t we kind of responsible?” She looked at me, worried. I shrugged.

“Is it our fault that the lead Sableye’s crazy?” I asked.

“I guess...”

“Besides, what do you care? You’re fairly abusive as it is.” Sapphire looked hurt.

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“...the first recorded injury,” Gabby said, which snapped us out of what would doubtless have been a long and protracted argument. “Mrs. Deagle, 52, of Verdanturf, was thrown from a first-floor window by her stair-lift, which had been altered to run at dangerously high speed by the Sableye. She is currently in hospital, where her condition is said to be critical.”

Mesprit’s pink pigtails, Puck exclaimed, this joke is rapidly becoming my favourite. And you still aren’t getting it, you moronic Hoennian meatfaces!

Sapphire and I exchanged a vaguely guilty glance.

“Is that our...?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “Can’t be our fault. We were just escaping, right? Couldn’t be helped.”

“Besides,” Sapphire added, “they can’t know for sure that it was the Sableye, can they?”

“The tracks of several Sableye were found nearby, and tufts of hair confirmed to be from the Darkness Pokémon were caught in some mechanical parts of the stair-lift,” Gabby went on, “marking them out as the obvious perpetrators of the crime. It is still uncertain why this gang of Sableye have developed criminal tendencies, but early studies indicate that there is a leader among them, instigating the violence. We’ll bring you more as it comes.”

Wow, said Puck mildly, it’s like this broadcast was tailored for you, the way it answered Sapphire’s question like that. You might even say it was... for your eyes only.

“Now is not the time, Puck—”

It’s always time for a Bond joke, Kester.

I ground my teeth and wished I’d never entered into the stupid competition; it was doing nothing but encouraging him.

Didn’t your mother tell you never to grind your teeth?

I tuned him out and returned to the news, but Gabby was talking now about the battle to cope with 140,000 Libyan refugees heading into Egypt and Tunisia, which should, in all fairness, have probably been on as the main story. In Hoenn, though, we’re pretty much unaffected by the events in the Middle East, or anywhere else for that matter, and local news like enraged Sableye tends to top the bill. Our UN representative, if the rumours are to be believed, spends most of her time playing Chinese checkers against her Sinnish counterpart.

“Still, this stuff... it is pretty bad,” I said, worried. “OK, this might be partially our fault.”

“We should do something,” Sapphire agreed.

We looked at each other for a moment, hoping the other had an idea. In true form with days that get worse and worse, neither of us did, and we ended up doing nothing except feeling guilty and watching TV for another hour. After the news, during which we learned that British researchers had just created the highest-resolution optical microscope ever, we sat and suffered through an hour of daytime television, with the result that I felt myself to be in serious danger of a brain haemorrhage.

“We can’t stay here,” I said, determinedly turning off the TV. “It’s going to kill us. Well, it’s going to kill me, anyway.”

“You’re right,” said Sapphire. “We should... go and do something about those Sableye?”

“Yeah, all right,” I replied unenthusiastically. “I guess we could do that. I don’t suppose it said where they were?”

“If you were listening, you would know that that woman’s house is in Panzini District,” Sapphire told me. “If we go there, wander around and ask someone, I expect they’ll know where it is. They won’t still be there, but you don’t study wild Pokémon for seven years without learning how to track them.”

With that, we hit the road. Guilt is, I find, one of the most powerful motives for anything, and also certain to ruin your day.

At around a quarter to three, we arrived at the house of Mrs. Deagle, which was a fine old detached property that would, given fifty years without love, have made a good haunted house; unsurprisingly, there was a ring of police tape around it, and a white marquee erected over the spot in the road where the fateful stair-lift had crashed. The scene of crime officers buzzed around it like flies on a corpse, and a few policemen stood around the perimeter, explaining to us and to everyone else who had come to see that we couldn’t come any further, and that it would be preferable if we would all leave. Being Hoennian cops, they were significantly less polite than this, but the message was essentially the same.

“Come on,” said Sapphire, “let’s get around here.”

We skirted the crowd of onlookers, and managed to get to the left-hand side of the house, where a Sableye-sized hole had been cut into the wall. I had no doubt that the stair-lift was on the other side.

“Hey! You kids!” cried the policeman whose unfortunate duty it was to guard that spot. “Get outta here!”

“Just going,” Sapphire said, flashing her lopsided grin. “We’ve seen all we need to, thanks.”

She walked off down the street, and I turned and ran to catch up.

“Wait!” I said. “What do you mean, you’ve seen all you need to?”

“They went this way,” Sapphire said, pointing down the road. “Sableye like hard surfaces like stone and jewels, so they haven’t used the gardens. Look. There’s black fur on the fence-post there.”

I looked. There was, and I gave an impressed whistle.

“You know your stuff,” I said admiringly.

“Yes,” Sapphire replied, without the slightest trace of irony, “I do.”

I followed her down the road and towards a commercial area in the south of the district. There, the trail ran out, destroyed by the passage of cars and pedestrians; the Sableye could have gone anywhere from here.

“Damn,” I said. “Are you sure there’s nothing?”

“Nothing,” Sapphire said, looking annoyed. “That’s really annoying.”

Yes, I’ll bet it is, Puck said. This is where you need the services of a Ghost.

“Puck? What was that?”

Well, I can sense them, of course, he replied smugly. They’re Ghosts, I’m a Ghost. There’s a deep connection there. Spiritual, baby.

“Whatever. Where are they?”

“He can feel their presence? They’re near?”

I shushed Sapphire and listened to Puck.

I know where they are, he told me. You might call me Dr. Know.

“That was awful,” I replied, “but I appreciate it’s difficult to get that one into normal conversation. Where are they?”

Well, the leader one’s quite smart. You know, for a Sableye. So he remembers you, and not too fondly. Consequently, when he sensed your Ghostly presence, he decided to head this way with a gang of about... oh, maybe fifty friends?

“Oh God,” I said, ramming the heel of my palm into my forehead. “Sapphire, we need to get moving.”

“Why?” she asked, and I told her. “Oh,” she said. “That seems reasonable, I suppose.”

Someone shrieked from up the road. My head snapped around to face the direction of the sound, and I saw them coming: they moved along the walls, like they had in the lift shaft, swarming over the shopfronts and dropping down occasionally to bounce around on the heads of frightened passers-by. People were backing off and running, or staring in shock; the cars just kept rolling past, oblivious to the chaos that reigned on the pavement.

Then I saw Stripe. He was at the head of the column, grinning like a madman and, disconcertingly, gripping a Bowie knife between his teeth.

Seems like he’s been learning while looting those shops, Puck said. Kester, I think we might want to consider running.

“Sapphire, let’s go,” I said.

“Yes. Definitely,” she replied, and we ran.

A great chattering whoop went up from the Sableye, and they doubled their pace; the street degenerated into chaos, a blur of fleeing pedestrians and cars swerving violently to avoid them; the screech of brakes, frightened cries and the shrill battle-shout of the Sableye filled my ears for a brief instant before being blocked out by the thumping beat of my heart. A surge of energy washed over me, and somehow I ended up in front of Sapphire. I forced my way between a couple of slow fat people, and into an alleyway. Thinking back on it, heading for a dark, enclosed space – in other words, home turf for Sableye – probably wasn’t the best of ideas, but at the time I just wanted to leave the chaotic muddle of the street without getting hurt.

The alleys snaked and twisted around like fighting vipers, and I ran down them blindly, without thinking; some quirk of fate brought me out near Blintzkrieg, and I burst into the bright light of day with a strange, high-pitched cry of relief. This, combined with the wild-eyed, dishevelled look of me, frightened a cluster of teenage girls and sent them rushing over to the other side of the street, casting me strange looks.

They should be in school
, Puck remarked. It’s what, quarter past three? Oh wait, maybe the schools have closed now. When I went to school, the day ended at quarter past six. A real man’s working day, that was.

I was too out of breath to reply, or even doubt that Puck had ever actually attended school; I flopped down onto a nearby bench and tried to get my breath back.

“We’re – safe now – right?” I panted after a moment or two.

I think so. They should have lost you in the confusion. You’ll live to die another day.

“Very – funny,” I replied, as sarcastically as I could given the small amount of breath I had to work with. “You never – know – when not to – make – jokes – do you?”

There isn’t much else for me to do
, Puck pointed out. I’m kind of stuck in your head, if you remember.

“Shut up.”

I looked around at the passing traffic. The mess I’d escaped from seemed very far away; everyone here was calm, safe in the security of habit. No monsters were after their lives, and no evil organisations wanted to capture them. No one here was secretly watching another, stalking them until the moment was right to pounce; the street was just a chance combination of lives, coming together once in a unique combination that would break apart when someone turned the corner, and would never form again. I had a brief but profoundly philosophical moment of longing for the random vagaries of everyday life, and then I sighed, the feeling melting seamlessly into a strange, ineffable sadness.

I thought Hoennians were Buddhists?
Puck asked. Shouldn’t you therefore not believe that any event is random?

“I’m not really much of a Buddhist,” I replied, drawing a strange look from a man walking his Growlithe. “I drink alcohol, for one, and I eat meat, and I never meditate... you know how you can be a nominal member of a religion, and not really be a proper member?”

I see, Puck said. It’s like that. Among the Pokémon with higher rational abilities, there are lots like that as well; I can see it applying to humans.

“Pokémon have religions?”

They’re the same ones as yours. When you go back to people as wise as Siddhattha Gautama or Jesus Christ, there isn’t any difference between human or Pokémon; we’re all just looking for something to believe in. Puck sounded pensive, perhaps even sad. It’s the price we pay for intelligence: we have to believe. Have you ever met an Alakazam? They’re very clever, but they’ve choked on their own intellect. All of them are fundamentalists about one thing or another; either that, or they’re insane. Puck sighed. It’s a pity that being smart isn’t a guarantee of wisdom. There’s nothing so valuable in this world, or anything so universally overlooked.

I was genuinely moved by his little speech; there was something about its sincerity and emotion that struck home deep within me, a little bell in my heart chiming the same note as his words. Perhaps it was just because it was so unlike him to engage in serious conversation, or perhaps I was just so new to philosophical discourse that I was overwhelmed by this brief taste of it, but I felt a rush of something new inside me.

“Anyway,” I said, after a brief pause, “we should see where Sapphire’s got to.”

Yes, agreed Puck hurriedly. I hope she got away.

“She will,” I replied. “The Sableye were after me, right? They’ll live and let die when it comes to her.”

Wha—? It’s so unexpected when you make jokes! Puck cried, and, smiling to myself, I got up and went in search of Sapphire.

---

In a long, dark alley behind a small, dark bar, a short man in a hooded coat dialled a number on his mobile telephone.

“Yeah boss, it’s me,” he said. “Tchaikovsky.”

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