View Single Post
  #54    
Old March 4th, 2011, 12:36 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
By Omlet's papa spook, I hate this chapter; it's honestly the worst thing I've written since the start of 2010 - and that includes my Theology essays. Bleah. Here it is anyway. I'll give the next one my best shot to bring it back to the usual quality.

Oh yeah, and there won't be an update on Sunday; instead, the next update will come on Tuesday. This is so I can devote this entire weekend to my brand new copy of Pokémon Black Version, which I should come into possession of at around 4.25 tomorrow.

[clears throat] Uh, one more thing: the title is the worst pun I've ever made. Really.

Chapter Twenty-Five: The Convergence of the Main (Characters)

The thing was on the move.

It tore across the country at blistering speed, easily outpacing any human fool enough to try and catch it; swooping from the heights of the Madeira Mountains, it shot southeast, heading for Mauville almost as the crow flies, and from there straight south to Slateport.

In a Poké Ball on a train was not the most dignified way to travel, but the thing cared not; it possessed roughly the same level of intelligence as a watermelon, and was content as long as it had something to chase.

And it did: Maxie had sent it and his most trusted Administrator to secure the SuperBlast Module, and before Thursday was out, they would be travelling back to the mountain, prize in hand.

---

As dawn broke over Slateport City, a tall, thin man with an eyepatch and a wooden leg stood next to a short, fat man with the opposite eye and leg missing; both wore the blue suits and sunglasses of Team Aqua, and also large, ostentatious black hats with the Aqua logo on them. Their names were Hans and Molasses, and they were watching the long, low building next to Angel Laboratories where deliveries were loaded up to be driven away. Attacking Angel itself was out of the question; their security was Devon-standard, and consequently the only option was to hijack the delivery truck as it left the compound.

Molasses, the small one, gestured with a hook-hand.

“Not long now,” he grunted.

Hans, the tall one, nodded.

Around the area were arrayed thirteen other Aquas, each slightly lower-ranking than the last. Like Hans and Molasses, they were wearing the full dress uniform of the Team: hat, hook and wooden leg; eyepatch, suit and sunglasses. Before sunset fell over Hoenn, they would be back at Aqua headquarters, and they would have succeeded just as much as the Magmas.

---

“Kester, I swear I’m going to push you into the traffic if you don’t stop complaining.”

“I’m not saying anything!” I cried in protest, spreading my hands wide.

That’s true, affirmed Puck. You’re too busy trying to think of Bond jokes.

“Well, your eyes are complaining,” Sapphire replied waspishly. “Look happier.”

It was ten o’clock on Thursday morning, and we’d been hanging around the deliveries entrance to the Spectroscopic Fancy building since dawn. Sapphire had woken me at some ungodly hour much as the Bellman’s crew had pursued their target – namely, with forks and hope. She had, typically, displayed zero gratitude for my tracking her down the day before and finding the way back to the Pokémon Centre. As a result of this and the whole ‘waking me up by jabbing me with a fork’ thing, our relations were more strained than usual today.

“Look,” I said, “I’m resigned to the fact that you and I don’t get along. That’s cool now. But I don’t want to be blamed for things I haven’t done!”

Sapphire waved my words aside.

“Fine, fine,” she said. “You’re not complaining.”

“Thank you,” I replied, in a tone that I hoped conveyed slightly ruffled dignity. “Now, let’s all calm down and wait for the SuperBlast Module to arrive.”

---

Darren Goodwin leaned against a pilaster on the surface of a large building whose architect knew the Classical orders well and used them to great effect; a plaque beside the door proclaimed it to be the head office of the Mauville Times. No one challenged him, and if they had they would have swiftly been sent on their way by the threat of the Raiders, hanging in a loose cloud above his head.

The Devon researcher was watching Kester Ruby and the Aqua girl. They were just around the corner from him, and so laughably unaware of his presence that he almost smiled. He had been told that, since he was in the area, he might as well oversee the delivery of the Module; happily, though somewhat unexpectedly given its nature, it seemed his targets also had designs on the device, and so he had decided that, once it had been delivered safely, he would use the Raiders to force the Aqua girl to return the Master Ball, take possession of Kester, and then bring the girl in for questioning.

Darren sighed, and closed his heavy eyelids for a moment. It had been a long week, and he missed the sound of his wife’s voice. But it would be over soon. He would be home by tomorrow morning, and then they would celebrate the delayed anniversary of their third year of marriage together.

And if fate conspired to lead events in a different direction, then Darren would use every power available to him as a Goodwin to alter it.

---

As soon as the truck rumbled out of the garage, the Aqua grunts sprang into action: a blue Aqua lorry was swiftly backed up by the entrance to the car park, and as soon as the truck passed through the gateway, the waiting lorry reversed sharply, lowering its rear ramp and scooping the truck neatly into its interior.

Shouts and gunshots sounded from near the Angel building, and Hans glanced back to see the black-clad security forces of the Laboratories emerging from strategic points around the area.

“Close the door!” he yelled, and two grunts burst from hiding to slam the lorry door shut on the truck, which was trying and failing to reverse. As bullets sang through the air, the Aquas alternately fled and returned fire, grabbing onto a series of straps attached to the side of their lorry as its engine turned and roared.

The Angel men poured into black cars and gave chase as soon as the lorry began to move, and soon the entire conflict had moved into the street, where the traffic parted before the chase in a storm of blaring horns and screaming brakes. Those that failed to do so were tossed aside by the lorry’s reinforced front.

So much fire was now being traded by the Aquas and the Angels that the air between the cars and lorry now seemed to be primarily composed of metal and noise; round holes opened up on the lorry’s rear, but its girth prevented any bullets from finding their mark on the Aquas themselves. Similarly, the armoured Angel cars were more than enough protection to render the Aquas’ firearms useless. Neither side could accomplish anything by the senseless shooting, and both sides’ driving suffered from it: the Angel cars almost crashed multiple times, and the Aqua lorry did crash at least twice – though it was so huge that it merely bulldozed the lampposts and smaller vehicles that had the temerity to stand in its way.

Then came the decisive moment: a corner. The lorry slewed around to a concerto of furious brakes, tipping and turning in a wholly unsafe manner; the Aqua cars tried to pull ahead of it, but were stopped by the unexpected rupturing of the lorry’s wall. It seemed it could not take the weight of the Angel truck leaning against it, and so the delivery vehicle burst through, hit the ground with wheels spinning and sped off back in the direction of the Laboratories.

Immediately, the lorry bounced wildly back to a fully vertical position, flinging grunts high into the air; they rained down like confetti, slamming with cries of pain into cars, tarmac and even roofs. By a strange quirk of fate, it seemed none were seriously injured, although several had lost their peg-legs, and they made their bruised way back to the lorry to turn around and give chase to the now-fleeing Angel vehicles.

The truck with the Module in was in the lead, with the three Angel cars surrounding it to prevent attack from the back and sides. The lorry, after a surprisingly sharp turn, lumbered along close behind, much faster now that it lacked its bulky cargo. Between it and the cluster of Angel vehicles, the air was almost a solid wall of bullets – but they might as well have been blanks for all the damage they did to either the cars or the lorry. Neither the Aquas nor the Angels knew entirely why they were still shooting, but both sides were damned if they were going to give up before the enemy.

The lorry rammed the rearmost Angel car, and the smaller vehicle shot forwards to crunch into the back of the truck; however, it was entirely undamaged, and the chase continued apace. The continuous blam! blam! blam! of gunshots; the shrieks of fleeing motorists and pedestrians alike; the roar of the great lorry’s engine; the sounds of the chase spewed out across the street in crazy waves that battered at the eardrums and demanded to be let in.

The truck tore back into the car park, braking hard and drawing long black lines of rubber across the asphalt; it slewed across three parking spaces, obliterated a parked car and slid neatly into the open door of the loading building. The three Aqua cars pulled up neatly outside the front doors, and their occupants each leaned out of the nearest window and started firing with gusto.

Hans and Molasses, in the cab of the lorry, looked at each other with unease. This was not meant to happen; in fact, nothing since the truck had fallen out of the side of the lorry had been meant to happen.

“Stupid cheap armoured lorry,” muttered Molasses under his breath. “That’s the last time we buy from Notorious Evans.”

“I told you he was called ‘notorious’ because he’s notorious for selling weak-walled lorries,” replied Hans, though in fact this was a complete fabrication; Notorious Evans was notorious purely for being somewhat shady, and employing underhand tactics at the Slateport Citywide Horticultural Show.

This was all they had a chance to say, because at that moment the lorry’s supposedly unbreakable windscreen broke, and they had to duck a storm of glass and bullets and throw the lorry into reverse. Seconds later, the Angel truck re-emerged from the garage, this time with the noticeable addition of a green-haired man in a blue suit standing on the roof. This was not the most alarming thing about him, as noted by Hans as he reversed the lorry furiously up the road; no, the really troubling thing was that he had a very large gun in his hands, of the type generally known to those who know them well as the 7.62mm M134 General Electric Minigun.

This development was both unexpected and unwelcome. The Minigun was far too large for one person to hold or wield safely, but, like Blain with Ol’ Painless, this man appeared to have no trouble doing so.

“This cannot be happening,” Molasses said, and then the blue-suited man opened fire.
How he stayed upright on the moving vehicle, firing a gun more usually mounted on a helicopter, will forever remain a mystery; we will not even touch on the implausibility of him being able to operate the Minigun and keep his arms in their sockets. This was Angel Laboratories, who were as corrupt as Devon and five times as insane; if someone threatened their products, they fought back with all available resources. And as acting head of the company, it was only natural that Usher House would defend it to the death.
We shall not dwell on the results of this attack too much; we shall pass over the whine and hiss of bullets, the rending of steel and the hilarious cries of incredulity that the fleeing Aquas made. What is more important is the conclusion to the episode: namely, that the Angel truck and its accompanying trio of black armoured cars sped past the ruined lorry, and that as they turned onto the motorway the police turned up outside Angel Laboratories.

---

“Yes,” said Felicity. “Goodbye, sir.” She put down the phone and glanced across at Barry. “Change of plans,” she said. “We’re going to Spectroscopic Fancy.”

---

I could tell the truck was from Angel because Usher was standing on the roof, impossibly maintaining his balance against the wind and carrying a gun that was far too large for any normal person to even lift. It tore around the corner at breakneck speed, and behind it came a battered-looking green car and an ominous cloud of darkness.

“Sapphire, I think the goods have arrived,” I said, somewhat redundantly.

The truck screeched to a halt outside Spectroscopic Fancy, but it seemed no one from the company was willing to get involved. Consequently, the cloud of darkness went unopposed as it growled, coiled and sprang up onto the truck’s roof. Usher swung the gun around towards it, but a massive black-grey paw emerged from the cloud and swatted it away like a matchstick.

I don’t know why I did what I did next. It was a stupid thing to do, and against every cowardly bone in my body. But I did it anyway, out of pure instinct: I ran into the road and screamed an Astonish.

For a brief moment, everyone froze: the cloud of darkness, tilting slightly towards the sound; Usher, staring at me in surprise; Felicity and her partner Barry, getting out of their car. There was no sound save the lingering echo of the Astonish, and no movement at all.
Then Sapphire appeared on the roof of the truck and hauled Usher out of the way, and the spell broke. The cloud of darkness leaped down from the roof to land in front of me, leaving a woman behind it on the roof; simultaneously, Felicity’s gun snapped around to point at my face, and Barry launched himself towards the truck.

Kester, Puck said, this guy hates me, and he remembers my scent. He can also kill us any time he likes, so GET OUT OF THE WAY!

I was startled into obeying, darting left just as a set of yellow teeth clashed together where my head had once been; Felicity fired reflexively but missed, and the blast whipped away part of the dark cloud for a moment, revealing a huge, shaggy head like a wolf’s. Then the cloud reformed, snarled, and started chasing me.

I ducked between the Aqua car and the Angel truck, and the shadowy monster tried to follow. Felicity fired again, though, and something within the darkness ruptured: blood splattered over the bonnet of the car, and the monster gave a spine-chilling yowl of pain as it pulled back. I sighed, relieved, then found myself staring down the barrel of Felicity’s gun.

“In the car,” she said. “Now.”

Barry had never fought Courtney before, but he had, of course, heard of her. Everyone had; everyone knew the rumours about her.

In the last five seconds, Barry had been able to confirm almost all of them.

Courtney hadn’t spoken to him since she’d dropped from the back of Maxie’s Pokémon. They both wanted the truck and its contents, and both were willing to fight to it – to the death, if necessary. Hence, the battle had begun as soon as Barry tried to stop her opening the truck’s doors. She had taken up a knife; Barry had made fists. The wordless communication that this fight was serious passed between them, and then they had started.

It was hard, and Barry knew that he was losing, but he had to hold her off; there was no way that he could let the Magmas get hold of the Module. Whatever it was, it was far too important. But Courtney moved around him like smoke on the breeze, tracing red lines across his skin like a child scribbling on the walls; none of his punches connected, her slender frame intangible beneath his fists. In this situation, there was only one thing that could happen: Barry lost it.

Like a wounded bull, he bellowed and threw himself bodily forwards at where he thought Courtney might be; naturally, he missed and fell face-first onto the steel roof of the truck. Surprised, Courtney paused, knife raised to slit his throat – and then the truck started moving.

---

Sapphire and Usher ducked down beside the truck’s cabin, on the other side to the driver’s seat; this was crucial, since that was not the side that Courtney chose to climb down to knock out its occupant. There, as the sounds of battle rained down upon them from the roof, they conferred together without words, formulating a small plan and putting past differences temporarily behind them. Perhaps it might have worked had not Darren Goodwin chosen that moment to storm around the corner.

He grabbed Usher by the lapels and dragged him to his feet.

“You,” he said, “wait around the corner. I’ll see to it that neither of them get it.”

It was at this point that Sapphire noticed the thing floating above the Devon researcher. She might have called it a Magneton if it had been composed of just the three orbs, but, comprising as it did around nine individual Magnemite, she wasn’t entirely sure what it was.
“Raiders,” Darren snapped at this strange apparition, “hold her for a moment.”

Before Sapphire could react, the ring of floating balls encircled her in a tight spiral, lines of lightning crackling into life between each one, sealing her into a cage of electricity. Her hand paused halfway to her belt; any wrong move here would result, no doubt, in death by electrocution.

Darren climbed up into the cab of the truck, pushing the driver onto the passenger’s seat, and was about to start the engine when the cloud of darkness exploded on the other side of the truck, and the biggest Mightyena that Sapphire had ever seen flew out of it to land with a crunch on the tarmac.

---

Kester, said Puck urgently, you want to get through this alive?

Yes?

Obey Felicity, get in the car. Trust me on this.

I did, and she locked the door behind me before slinging her gun over her back and beginning to climb onto the roof.

Now, get in the driver’s seat.

“O-K...”
I shuffled across, over the gearstick and into the driver’s seat.

Now, hold onto the wheel. Don’t worry about the driving, that’s up to me.

“What driving?” I began, but it was too late: I’d touched the wheel, and sparks crackled between me and the plastic as Puck’s powers of possession sprang into action. The engine snarled, and before I’d even registered that we were moving we’d backed up and started hurtling forwards.

Now I saw the reason for Puck’s urgency: the monster in the dark cloud had been coming back, apparently unharmed by the shotgun wound, and he had decided we should—

“Puck!” I screamed, trying to let go of the steering wheel and failing. “Puck, this is a really bad id—!”

CRASH!

The impact distracted Courtney for the single moment Barry needed; he leaped up and was about to punch her when the truck leaped forwards beneath them. In a hopeless tangle, they tumbled over the edge, landed on the Mightyena and struggled back up just as the truck pulled away. The unfortunate Mightyena had just managed to get to its feet, but their combined weight forced it back down and knocked its head against the tarmac, sending it to sleep with a startled yelp.

“After the Module!” Barry roared, though to whom he spoke was anyone’s guess; Courtney’s knife came up, and it was likely that blood would have been spilled on both sides if a voice had not rung out at that moment:

STOP!

Once again, all the combatants froze at a loud noise. This time, however, all eyes turned to Usher, rather than to Kester – who was in no condition to speak right then, anyway. He stepped forwards from the pavement into the silence, and asked pleadingly:

“Will somebody please tell me why all of you people want our Module so much?”

Both Courtney and Barry opened their mouths, but neither of them could actually reply. Felicity watched them from a distance, unimpressed; she knew, or at least had an idea, but she wasn’t going to tell them.

“I don’t know,” admitted Barry at length. “But it’s important!”

“Why? Why would you want an arcade machine that much?”

“What?”

The shout came from Sapphire, Courtney, and Barry; the latter two stormed over to him, and pointed at the truck, which Darren had stopped a few yards down the road to watch the fireworks from.

“In there,” snapped Courtney, “you’ve got an arcade machine?”

“Well, yes,” replied Usher apologetically. “It’s a new model for Spectroscopic Fancy. They supply them. In fact, this one’s for the Mauville Game Corner.”

“I don’t believe it!” rumbled Barry, stomping across to the truck and ripping open the door; he hauled out the large crate within and kicked it to matchsticks. Then he fought valiantly against the polystyrene, and stared with mingled disbelief and fury at the Y-38P SuperBlast Module. “I don’t believe it,” he said again. “It’s an arcade machine.” Then: “Damn it!” He kicked the screen in and thundered back to Usher, at whom he howled in rage for a moment before leaving to find something to beat up.

Courtney was more reserved; she looked around, sighing, and recalled Maxie’s battered Mightyena, now bereft of its shroud. She swore quietly and walked off, rubbing her forehead with one hand.

Usher watched them go with a bemused look on his face, then hurried over to the Angel truck to confer with Darren Goodwin.

For her part, Felicity looked on and felt vaguely sick. It wasn’t just that all the action and effort had been for this anticlimax; it was more the sensation that her arms were no longer working. Neither, it seemed, were her legs. Slowly, very slowly, they crumpled beneath her, and the shotgun slipped from her hands. The ground rose gently up to meet her, a soft grey pillow for her aching head, and her eyes slid shut as the world swam before them.

---

“That was... odd,” remarked Fabien.

“Yeah,” agreed Blake. “I don’ get why Cour’ney said we weren’ to ’elp ’er, though.”

“Pride, my friend, pride.”

They were just around the corner, peering around a wall and trying to establish exactly what had just happened and why; unfortunately, neither of them could come up with an explanation.

“Well,” said Fabien eventually, “I guess we could catch that Rotom-kid now, while he’s still unconscious.”

“There’s a thought,” Blake replied.

They advanced from hiding, and across the street in her electric cage the Aqua girl’s eyes widened.

“Usher!” she yelled. “There are more Magmas coming!”

Fabien looked up the road to see the blue-suited man look up sharply; from the door of the truck next to him came an all-too familiar figure. It was the shape of the Devon researcher who had bested them back in Slateport.

“Blake!” cried Fabien. “Run for the car!”

“That didn’ work last time!” said Blake, but he did it anyway; unfortunately, the Rotom must still have been awake as the boy slept, because the car drove away at their approach, coughing black smoke and trailing the bumper from its smashed-in front.

The researcher shouted something, and his many-headed Magneton ceased their embrace of the Aqua girl and flew over to him. Together, they and their master ran towards the two Magmas.

“Goishi!” cried Fabien. “Distract them!”

“...eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-EEEEEEK!” came a shrill cry from above, growing steadily louder and louder with the descent, and then a bolt of blue and purple lightning shot across their field of view, snatched up the Aqua girl in a blur of pink-grey tongue, and vanished again.

“No!” said Fabien, aghast. “I meant distract the resear— never mind! Blake! Cover us!”

The two Magmas took to their heels and fled, Blake firing wildly behind them; since they had recently had quite a lot of practice at running away, it was not long before they were several blocks away, and alone once more.

---

An arcade machine.

It couldn’t possibly be. This was what the two Teams had been after all this time? A new type of arcade machine? It just couldn’t be. And yet... it was.

Sapphire didn’t even really need the Magneton-thing to hold her in place; she was glued to the floor with shock. An arcade machine...

There had to be a trick. Someone had set the Teams up. They hadn’t been expecting an arcade machine, after all. With a strange sort of horrified calm, Sapphire realised that the mystery of the Devon goods was nothing, just a small step in some larger plan.

No sooner had she come to this realisation than the Magmas turned up, and from then on everything became very confusing. She was released, and then suddenly captured in exactly the same way Kester had been the day before; however, Sapphire was still too shell-shocked to feel embarrassed or even angry.

An arcade machine...

How was it possible that something could have gone so horribly wrong as this little adventure? It had seemed relatively serious, but for the object the two Teams sought to turn out to be nothing more than some stupid video game... it was beyond belief.

Snap out of it!

Sapphire opened her eyes, and that was when she realised that the drama wasn’t yet over. Below her was Mauville, a child’s playset stretched out from horizon to horizon, and all around her was the clear blue sky.

And then Sapphire swore, and gulped, and looked up to see her captor, the Magma Golbat, and the thick python of its tongue twitching and straining at her weight.

Then she swore again, drawing the attention of the Golbat. It tightened its grip around her a little, then a little more; in between her struggles, Sapphire’s last thought before she blacked out was that she hoped to God it knew when to stop. Otherwise, she reasoned in that calm second before complete unconsciousness, she would probably die.

---

“What’s the meaning of this?” demanded Maxie furiously, throwing over the coffee table. A subordinate dashed forwards to clear up the mess, but was swiftly moved to a prone position on the floor by the application of a fist to his face. “Some benefactor you are!”

Zero regarded him with eyes that contained something Maxie didn’t recognise.

“It seems I was misinformed by my Aqua mole,” he replied. “Don’t worry. I shall have them... suitably punished.”

“What the hell does that mean?” roared the Magma boss; he made as if to strike Zero, but something held him back.

“Don’t you see what it means?” Zero said quietly. “It means that this entire thing was an Aqua scam.”

“But they seemed surprised... No!” Maxie looked, if possible, even angrier than before. “You’re right! It’s just like those damned pirates to pull off a trick like this.”

“I suggest you move forwards with the effort to find the orb as swiftly as possible,” Zero told him. “The Aquas must be heading towards war.”

“Wait,” said Maxie, reining in his temper with a tremendous and very visible effort, “what about proof? We have no proof that this was an Aqua scam.”

Zero had already thought of this.

“I will have my Aqua agent brought to you,” he said. “She seems to have fallen ill recently, but I’m sure that won’t matter. You can extract all the information you want from her.”

Maxie nodded; the prospect of a little light torture seemed just the thing to vent his spleen on.

“All right,” he said. “We’ll do it.”

---

“You understand,” Archie said, leaning forwards in his armchair, “this is a serious oversight on your part, Zero.”

Zero nodded.

“Yes,” he replied. “But listen. I do, in fact, have a plan for just this contingency...”
__________________

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