The Middle Ground
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April 24th, 2011 (1:55 AM). Edited July 27th, 2011 by FlaafyFTW.
Researcher of Orange Lore
Chapter 22 – What Lies Beneath (Part 3)
We emerged out of the hidden basement into the black of night. Freshly fallen leaves crunched under our feet and there was a distinct chill in the air, a sure sign that autumn was on its way.
Bebe helped me over to sit on a tree stump at the edge of the forest and then returned below without uttering a single word, instead offering a small strained smile that wasn't at all convincing. The area was peaceful; crickets sang their tune from within the grass and the ebb and flow of the tide was enough to put anyone at ease. The small community in which Celio and his friends had hidden themselves amongst was quaint, with small picturesque houses dotted about the island all facing toward the open ocean where a selection of small fishing boats were docked in a makeshift harbour, seemingly the local trade.
For a brief moment I'd forgotten the conversation I'd just had. Relics that can give humans power over the elements - Pokemon powers. Could it really be true? My dad being obsessed over what, to him, was no more than a myth... They'd have no reason to lie about it. But what would they want me to do - be a Gem hunter? Get revenge?
The trouble was I knew what Celio wanted me to do. I didn't know if I could bring myself to intentionally go back and be around those people... those murderers and act like nothing had happened. Pretend to be their hostage.
Hostages... The Rockets had already taken me, Bill
Lanette, but me... why me? For information? No, they didn't know who I was. I was nothing special, I had nothing of value and they hadn't even said a word to me since they locked me in the cupboard. The more I thought about it, the more confused I became.
I sighed deeply and laid back upon the stump, looking to the night sky for answers; nothing made sense.
A soft breeze blew through the treetops, the rustling the leaves looking as if they were reaching for the stars.
“Leaving?” Came a voice from above unexpectedly.
Startled, I pushed my body upright and looked around, studying the branches for signs of life... Nothing, but I did know who's mouth the words had come from.
"Crowe? ...Where are you?"
The air around the trees began to appear if it was rippling and then suddenly Crowe appeared, perched directly above me in the branches swinging one of his legs off of the edge.
"H-how did you do that?" I stammered as the ripple effects began again.
A Pokémon’s face appeared beside him, seemingly floating in midair.
"Shadow Sneak. I'm on guard duty remember?" Crowe replied.
I sighed and again laid back upon the hard wood of the tree stump, not bothering to respond to him. After the conversation I had forgotten all about the man I'd named Trench and the unfortunate circumstances in which we had to meet, but I had other things to think about.
"I forgive you, you know." Trench said smugly, tossing a pokeball up and down in his hand.
I paused before responding, wondering if I had heard the boy correctly. "
? What for?!" I cried, furious that he would even accuse me of doing anything to him.
"Your outburst earlier." He said, catching the pokeball and making eye contact with me. His piercing glare was off put by a raised eyebrow.
Again I paused. Was he trying to provoke a reaction out of me? I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.
"Well then I guess that makes us even." I said, resting my head back upon the wood and shutting my eyes.
"Let's just say abuse for abduction, sounds about fair." I said supressing a small smile.
"I'm glad you see it my way - without me you wouldn't be here and you wouldn't have known what you do now."
"I wish I didn't." I sighed.
"But you do. The decision now is what you're going to do with the information." He said, turning his body to face me.
"I want to help - I do... but I don't think I'm strong enough, not for all this. You know what happened in Lavender, if I end up fighting the Rockets it'd be the same story all over again."
Trench turned his pokeball to the air behind him and withdrew the almost fully invisible Pokémon before leaping to the ground swiftly and smoothly, making it look as if he'd jumped from a small ledge instead of a treetop.
"Believe me, you and your Pokémon have a lot of strength in you, everyone does. You've just got to find the right way to use it. And anyway, I'll be there to protect you so you won't ever be alone as long as we stick together." He said, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder.
I smiled. The first proper smile of the past few days. "When did you become so nice?"
"I'm always nice." Trench replied, almost rigidly, lowering his tone of voice.
After sharing a small laugh he helped me back inside the "abandoned" bungalow's basement to where Celio, Bill and Bebe were all gathered around a large ceiling-height computer in the centre of the room; Celio was typing away on his laptop that seemed to be connected to it and Bebe was tinkering with the mammoth machine's insides. Bill, who was watching the computer screen over Celio's shoulder, was the first to spot us.
"Adam..." He said, grabbing Bebe and Celio's attention.
They all looked towards me, even Trench, as if they expected me to make some grand announcement. I couldn't tell what they were expecting me to say but the second Bebe saw me in front of her, her eyes lit up expectantly, full of hope. That seemed to be enough, knowing people would be behind me in this... whatever it was, was enough to give me the determination to do it.
"I want to help."
Small smiles spread across the faces of the others and the same glimmer of hope I saw in Bebe's eyes lit up in the eyes of the others.
"But," I began again. "I want April kept out of the loop. She can't know anything about this, the Rockets, our Dad - any of it. I want to keep her hidden."
Trench looked at me suspiciously.
"Understandable, we're already on it." Celio said, resuming his work on his laptop.
"What are you doing?" I asked, hobbling beside Trench to the other side of the laptop. A mess of numbers and code sped across the screen continuously; I had no idea what they meant.
Bill explained that they were transferring her videophone account which was linked to the trainer PC network over to someone else's so she couldn't be traced through it. "I suggested Alex. They seemed quite close when I met them and he is quite a capable trainer so it seemed like the logical choice, as long as it's okay with you of course."
I'd never really spent too much time with Alex but I seemed to trust him, perhaps a lot more that I should have. But Bill was right - Alex did seem like the logical choice.
I nodded in agreement and Celio finalized the change.
"All done down here!" Bebe cried from inside the machine.
"Now all the messages she had will head straight for Alex's account, she'll be untraceable for anyone else but us." Celio said sitting back on his chair.
An overwhelming sense of relief swept over me. It was one less thing I wouldn't have to worry about anymore, my sister was safe.
"But there's something else I have to ask." Celio continued with a serious look upon his face, turning his chair 180 to face me. "Do the Rockets know your name?"
"Erm... I'm not sure." I answered truthfully.
Adam, this is important."
thinking. Proton and his goons hadn't spoken a word to me since I was put onto the boat so the only thing I had to go by was the night by the Rock Tunnel. I stumbled upon them, so they couldn't have known who I was, but Fuji was there - he knew my name! He did call out to me when I showed up but that was just my forename, they couldn't have known who I was.
"...What did they do to Mr. Fuji?" I asked.
"He's completely fine." Bebe said, brushing herself down. "He was knocked out for a while after your encounter but apart from that, nothing. They left him behind."
"Then your answer is no."
Celio ran his right hand through his hair. "Then we can stick to the plan."
"And what exactly is the plan?" I asked, wanting to know what I was getting myself into.
Celio gestured to Trench to start the explanation, where he told me that in order for everything to go smoothly, I had to pretend to still be a hostage whilst Trench stows away on board the Rockets' boat. "And together we need to find out any information we can; the extent of their knowledge, where they are heading and anything else that could be useful which I'll then relay back to these guys."
"And if they go after a Gem then you two need to stop them getting it. But for now, you need to lay low." Celio said solemnly.
I agreed. Laying low was easy; the hard part would come if we had to fight to get one of the Gems back. Although I was comforted by the fact that I would have Trench and his Pokemon around to protect me; they were a frightful force, I was just glad they were on my side.
"Adam, there's also something you should know... When we set to work trying to hide April's identity, it looked like someone had already done it. According to official records, you and your sister don't exist."
Again I had to do a double take of what had just been said. "What do you mean we don't exist?"
"There's no birth certificates or any official documentation in the national archives to say that either of you two exist. Looks like professor Moon wanted to keep you safe too. That's why, no matter what the Rockets do to you, you cannot tell them your real name. They will try to get any piece of information out of you that you can, and they won't stop until they do."
"Okay... But I have just one question," I began, "aren't the Gems useless without the Pearl? If no one knows where the catalyst is then aren't we safe?"
"We can't take the chance that they don't know where it is, which is where we come in. We'll hold down the search for the Pearl here while you two gather any information you can."
What Celio said made sense, if we idly stood by and let them gather the Gems and then one day found out that they had found the Pearl too, we wouldn’t be able to stop them. We discussed the details for another half hour before Trench decided that we should be leaving to get back before the Rockets did.
Before we left I said goodbye to everyone, who in turn wished me luck. Celio seemed distracted but Bill and Bebe seemed almost saddened at my departure.
“Are you sure about this? You know you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to…” She said softly, embracing me in a farewell hug.
“Yes, I want to do this… Not just because of my father, for him.” I smiled.
After a much less distressed trek through the woods than last time, we arrived back at the factory as the sun began to rise, followed by Trench’s two loyal Pokémon. We carefully peered over the cliff’s edge where we could see that the Rockets’ boat was still docked and that we were the first to arrive back.
With Trench’s help we went below deck to the room I was bound in only the day before. Crowe performed a quick tidy up of the mess he had made earlier searching for my pokeballs and then helped me assume the position I was in before in the small cupboard, no matter how uncomfortable it was. Trench then left the cupboard door ajar slightly and retreated to another corner of the room, releasing a Pokémon from its ball.
The Pokémon had white legs and lower body and a green upper body and head. Its forearms were shaped like scythes and a teal coloured plume stood atop its head.
“Gallade, Shadow Sneak.” Trench commanded.
His pokemon followed its orders as its forearms began to emanate a shadowy gas which it seemed to spread across its trainer and itself like a veil. Then, as the two stood still, the air around them seemed to ripple and they faded out of sight.
“Now… we wait.”
I awoke to the sound of a crazed man’s scream as he was thrown across the room, his body sliding across the wooden floors into a wall - It was Gideon, albeit very bruised.
“You said it would be there!” Proton yelled, striding into the room, readjusting his glove.
The hooded figure we’d seen at the factory earlier stood at the edge of the doorway, just barely visible, watching the events unfolding and this time not intervening. Proton knelt down and grabbed the scientist’s coat with his left hand and raised a fist in his right only to begin punching the quivering scientist’s already bruised face amid his screams of protest.
I looked to Trench’s corner of the room. He was still invisible, not moving, not helping the scientist who I suddenly felt sorry for. I wanted to help him myself but I knew I couldn’t, we had to let this play out.
“Wait – wait!” Gideon cried, gasping for breath through the blood in his mouth. Proton stopped his onslaught to **** an eyebrow at his victim expectantly.
“The lab, it may have been deserted… but Gideon… Gideon knows of another.”
Proton smiled and released the scientist from his grip. “We’re leaving!”
"Naoko!" Dilan cried, overjoyed to see a friendly face coming to his rescue.
The cobra pokemon quickly recovered from its impact into the cages and slithered back into the fray, leaving the broken remains of the metal prisons in its wake.
"Vileplume - Energy Ball now!" The redhead ordered, pointing toward Slowking and its trainer.
"Volt Tackle." Surge ordered, eerily calm.
Arbok, acting of its own accord, lunged at the trio of pokemon protecting Dillan who instinctively dispersed in different directions. Whilst Dillan and Primeape sidestepped the attack, Puzzle and Meena turned on their feet and ran in the opposite direction, only narrowly missing the serpent's bite. Aggravated, the snake hissed sharply and slithered onwards to gave chase to its new prey.
Meanwhile, Surge's Raichu was fast approaching upon an oblivious Primeape, its orange fur ablaze with electricity. Dillan felt a gust a of air blow past his leg and by the time he had realised what was happening, it was too late. The electric attack had connected sending Primeape skidding across the rough metal flooring of the cargo hold.
The large, heavy petals atop Vileplume's head covered its body in darkness, its small yellow eyes being the only things visible through it. Then, as ordered, the pokemon lowered its large head to the floor where its petals miraculously changed from a poisonous shade of deep red to a rich, healthy shade of green. Vileplume's stamen seemed to come to life as it began to gather large amounts of energy from other parts of the pokemon's body, forming a sphere of energy.
"Slowking - deflect it using confusion!" April cried as the green energy sphere was launched from Vileplume's head.
Slowking concentrated hard on the incoming attack, his pupils dilated as he reached his arms forward, encasing the energy ball in a blue aura. With one mighty swing of his arms to the left, the energy ball's trajectory veered into a collection of metal cages set in the same direction.
As the small could of dust settled, small brown and yellow pokemon began running free through the large hole the energy ball had created in their cages.
April smiled contently as the pokemon ran free from their cages, much to the redhead's disgust.
"Slowking, Zen Headbutt!"
"-Stun Spore!" The Rocket countered.
In the midst of the madness Naoko dodged past the attacks, closely followed by Lulu, running across the room to her friend's aid. The Raichu that had just tackled April's Primeape had turned to Dillan and was poised to launch a new attack, one Naoko recognised. Just as she was about to call out to her friend she felt something forcefully grab her arm so tightly that she was pulled backwards as she ran. Naoko stopped and looked at her arm, she was grabbed by a tall, broad man with bleach blonde hair wearing a clean white uniform - It was Captain Surge.
"And where do you think you're going?" He asked rhetorically, tightening his grip even further.
Naoko's heart was practically in her mouth, she wanted to cry out in pain but she had to warn her friend: "Dillan - hit the deck! It's using Iron Tail!" She yelled across the room just as Lulu fired a water gun from her mouth directly into the Gym Leader's face. Naoko took the opportunity to quickly knee Surge in between his legs, causing him to loosen his grip just enough for her to struggle free.
Dillan ducked to the floor as the poised Raichu leapt into the air and lashed out with its whip like tail, the small hardened lightning bolt-shaped tip powered through the air where his head had just been. Dillan was scared stiff, not knowing how he would defend himself until he noticed the remains of the cage Arbok had slammed into earlier. Reaching out, he grabbed a metal bar and rose to his feet, milliseconds after Raichu touched down onto the floor. The pokemon growled sharply and again turned to face Dillan ready to launch another attack when the steam ship employee swung the metal bar as hard as he could into the pokemon, knocking it out and across the room.
April watched the redhead's every move; each eye movement, each flexing finger, waiting for her to expose some sort of weakness.
Slowking slowly moved his head backwards trying to latch onto Vileplume's wavelength, but the opposing pokemon was quicker than him, shooting an orange haze of tiny spores from within its lowered petals into the air above April and her pokemon.
April covered her eyes; when they were re-opened she saw that the spores had latched themselves onto Slowking and he couldn't move.
The redhead laughed as April begged her pokemon to move, before turning her attention to the last of the pokemon escaping from their cages. "Vileplume baby, stop those pathetic Electrike with Razor Leaf!"
As the last of the Electrike escaped from the cage behind April, four large leaves began to fall from in between Vileplume's petals. April then realised she had no pokemon to stop the attack with; Slowking was paralyzed and Primeape was on the other side of the room. To her, there was only one thing to do.
Vileplume hoisted itself upright and performed a 360-degree spin, using momentum to release the razor sharp leaves into the air. The Electrike stopped, sensing an attack but didn't think fast enough to dodge it, then suddenly April appeared in front of it acting as a shield. The leaves tore through April's clothing with ease and sliced open the skin on her back in four distinct lines. April screamed out in pain and told the pokemon in front of her to run while it could.
Puzzle and Meena had been separated, Meena had climbed to the top of a set of cages behind April and was desperately searching for her partner, every so often letting out a small Spark attack against the Arbok that was snapping at the air around the structure trying to feed, but the attack of the minus pokemon was too weak without the positive charge of her partner.
Puzzle could see the fear in Meena's eyes from behind the cobra pokemon and needed to get to her to launch an attack but daren't climb up the cages because Arbok's speed was far greater than his. Then, seeing an opportunity, the Plusle jumped onto the serpent's tail and began climbing up its body, only stopping halfway to sink its teeth into the snake's skin.
Naoko thanked her Marill for her help as she ran but heard frantic cries of Meena from behind her. Dillan had taken care of himself and was helping the injured Primeape to its feet, so she turned on her heels to help her pokemon.
The redhead laughed coldly at April. "Oooh baby, you really care about these things don't you? What a strange little girl you are! Why protect something that would not do the same for you unless you told it to?"
April breathed deeply from the pain with a tremor in her voice. "I care... ab-bout protecting anything that you want to destroy."
"Oh? And what is that supposed to mean?" She asked, folding her arms, genuinely interested.
"You... you destroyed my home, you killed my parents! I... I'm not going to let you destroy anything again!"
"Hahahaha! So this is a little revenge mission? Well I'm sorry baby, whoever your parents were - they had it coming to them."
Arbok cried out in pain, hissing violently at its attacker. It began thrashing about violently trying to shake Puzzle off, very much aware that it would be in danger of biting itself if it tried to use its mouth to scare the pokemon off.
Whoever they were
'?! They were my family; they had names, jobs, lives, and what? You don't care?"
"I don't remember. You'll have to be more specific I’m afraid." She said, smugly flicking back her deep red hair and, unaware to April, was keeping one eye on the events occurring behind her.
Naoko arrived on the scene and quickly withdrew Meena into the safety of her pokeball from atop the cages. She attempted to do the same to Puzzle but Arbok's movements were too fast for her to get a clear shot at her pokemon. Arbok became increasingly more violent and began throwing itself against the cages next to it attempting to crush or knock the pokemon off of its back.
Naoko lost sight of Puzzle.
The serpent stopped its onslaught and checked its body over for signs of where the pokemon went. Suddenly Puzzle's cry could be heard a few feet away as it struggled to get up after being thrown onto the cold floor. The cobra pokemon paused, looking at its prey. Slowly it turned its head to the side and began swaying its body back and forth, flexing its brightly coloured chest.
Then, as fast as lightning, the snake darted forwards flailing its tongue and bearing its fangs. Noako acted quickly and withdrew her Plusle without a second to spare, but the snake carried on going - Puzzle wasn't his target!
"Y-you don't remember? - You monster! How can you
killing someone?! Their names were Vir-"
Having been following everything happening around him, Slowking watched as Arbok charged towards his trainer. The pokemon suddenly regained control of his limbs, the effect of the spores having almost completely worn off and he moved himself between April and the path of the snake.
Arbok anticipated this and with one quick motion of his neck, slammed Slowking across his side, propelling him across the floor.
"April!" He cried out to his trainer who was cut off mid-sentence and saw just enough out of the corner of her eye to realize what was going to happen to her. Then, as if out of nowhere, a large wolf-like yellow and blue pokemon charged straight into the lunging cobra head-first with a Skull Bash attack.
Witnessing the event from behind, Naoko gasped. "That's a Manetric..."
The Manetric's piercing eyes looked deep into April's as if to tell her something. After a few seconds April responded. "You're that pokemon from before... the Electrike."
The redheaded Rocket snarled upon seeing her Arbok struggle to recover from the attack.
"Looks like I underestimated you but it's not something I plan to make a habit of." Surge said calmly, appearing beside the redhead as she began to issue an order to her Vileplume.
"Ariana. I'll take care of this." Surge said, stopping the redhead mid-sentence before throwing five pokeballs high into the air. Four Magnemite and one Magneton appeared hovering in midair around their trainer; cold spheres of metal with magnets set either side and a single eye set in the centre.
Manetric grunted and nodded to April. "You want me to get on?" She contemplated.
The opposing pokemon would surely beat her own and Naoko's water and electric types - it would be no use trying to fight. Manetric was her way out, but she would have accomplished nothing. She had learnt nothing. Only a name... the name of the vile woman who destroyed her home; Ariana. That had to be enough, for now anyway.
Surge watched as April climbed up onto Manetric and acted instantaneously. "Thunderbolt - all of you, don't let them get away!"
The Magnemite and Megneton gathered, their magnets shaking as they charged electricity for their attack which was aimed at the two girls.
"Naoko - get on!" April cried as she withdrew her pokemon from across the room.
"But -" She cried hesitantly, looking towards Dillan who had just helped Primeape to his feet only for him to be returned to his pokeball.
"We can't win - now come on!"
Naoko nodded sombrely and sat in front of April on the Manetric.
Dillan ran towards the girls but he realised in a heartbeat that he would not make it to them in time for them all to escape unharmed.
He stopped, about to do the bravest thing he had ever done.
"Dillan?! What are you doing?!" Naoko cried.
Not kidding herself as Naoko was, April realised what was happening and placed her arms either side of the dark-skinned girl and tugged on the Manetric's fur, telling it to go.
Accepting his fate, Dillan raised the pole in his hand high into the air to act as a conductor, before looking back to his best friend and smiling. Then, it happened. The pokemon unleashed a wave of electricity that blanketed the crew-boy from head to foot, electricity flowing to every end of his body and back again.
"DILAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!" Noako screamed as he was engulfed in a veil of smoke and Manetric ran up a set of stairs to the upper levels and out of sight. "Go back - go back!! He might still be alive!" She continued hysterically, struggling against April's grip. "-Let me go!!"
April didn't speak, instead concentrating on getting off of the wretched ship.
The group were speeding through the corridors of the ship, passing room after room, however, the Magnemite were in close pursuit. Spark attacks flew through the corridors, aiming for the girls but closely missed. The blue electricity making holes in the polished floors and ornate walls, singing plaster and exploding expensive sconces.
Every level they rose, the halls became more and more lavish but before they knew it they were on the uppermost deck and had nowhere to go. Manetric turned to face the Magnemite and backed away slowly to the edge of the ship as they began charging another series of thunderbolts. Suddenly a white cloud blew past the magnet pokemon followed by a pink haze which caused the Magnemite to all turn their attention to it as they fired their attacks, completely missing their targets. April recognised the cloud immediately - it was Alex's Swablu using attract.
"Blu - Swablu!" It cried flying over the edge of the deck to the harbour below.
April put her life in Swablu's hands and told Manetric to follow her. Not wasting any time, the pokemon ran towards the edge and howled up into the night sky as they took their leap of faith over the side of the ship to whatever was waiting below...
Catch 'em, catch 'em, gotta catch 'em all; gotta catch 'em all - Pokemon!
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