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Old July 10th, 2011, 02:05 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Sixty-Two: The Rainbow Opera

THWACK!

I jerked upright, wrenching my head from the desk and mumbling incoherently.

Whu-huh-vuh?”

I think that probably deserves a detention, don't you?”

Blink. Blink. My eyes refocused. I was...

Ah. This was bad.

I was in the middle of a History lesson. The thwack that had awoken me was the crack of a ruler against a desk. That ruler was held in the hand of a teacher. And that teacher was looking down at me with the sort of glare that only people in authority can actually perform. And, last but by no means least, that glare had its own group of back-up stares, executed masterfully by my twenty-odd classmates.

Uh... sorry?” I offered hopefully.

That's a nice sentiment,” the teacher said. “See you Saturday. If you can stay awake that long.”

Damn it. This was the fifth week running – though I had to admit, it was the first time that the cause of my detention had been falling asleep.

Ms. Harwood went back to the front of the class, and I sat and suffered through another thirty minutes of the Kantan Wars of Independence. Distractedly, I noticed that someone had scribbled some graffiti on the whiteboard: a picture of an unfamiliar Pokémon shaped like a rather spiky light bulb. It was quite good; I guessed it must have been Elle who'd done it. She was in this class, was the best artist in the year, and just stupid enough to draw pictures on the board belonging to Ms. Harwood of all people.

Thankfully, this was the last lesson of the day, and as soon as the bell rang I grabbed my bag and left before anything else bad happened. Stepping out into the corridor, I let myself be caught in the tide of bodies moving towards the exit; I’m not sure why, but this gets you out of the building a lot faster than actually trying. Unless you're Jack Spiegelman – but he does free running in his spare time and always leaves school via a window, or the roof, or somewhere weird like that.

Someone fell into step beside me.

Yo,” he said. I looked at him.

Hey, Luke.”

Hi,” said someone on my other side. I looked at her.

Hey, Bea.”

Let me guess,” said Luke, “you're not free tomorrow morning, are you?”

I winced.

I'm right, then,” Luke went on, smiling incredulously. “Jeez, what'd you do this time?”

I fell asleep in History,” I said, which got a laugh.

How do you do it?” asked Beatrix. “Every single week...”

I don't know!” I cried forlornly. “I just can't do anything right.” I sighed. “I'm bad at life.”

No, you're bad at school,” Beatrix corrected. “It's Luke who's bad at life.”

Luke looked wounded.

Ouch,” he said. “What was that for?”

We were talking about this during Hoennian. Don't you remember? You turn up late to everything, you have insomnia, you wreck pretty much everyone and everything you meet and do...?”

Oh yeah,” said Luke, wagging a mnemonic finger, “I remember now. Yeah, I am bad at life.”

See, this lets us build up a sort of three-tiered system of uselessness,” I put in. “Luke, you're bottom, because you're bad at life. I’m in the middle, because I’m only bad at school. And—”

I'm at the top!” finished Beatrix, throwing up her hands in mock celebration. “Woo hoo! I’m better than both of you.”
Yes, but this is relative to normal people,” I reminded her. “Remember, it's a scale of uselessness. Let's say our benchmark normal person is... Marvin.”

A collective shudder went through us. It was all very comical.

He's so bland,” complained Beatrix.

I know,” said Luke. “That's why you should be glad you're worse than him. It makes you interesting.”

How am I worse than him?” asked Beatrix. “I mean, how am I useless?”

At this point, we came to the main entrance, and poured out into the sun. Someone bumped into me quite forcefully, and muttered:

Wake up, Kester.”

I turned around and gave them a rude gesture; I'd fallen asleep once. That was nothing to be ashamed of.

Hey, who was that?” asked Luke. He and Beatrix had stopped at the gate to look back.

I don't know. Someone from my History class, I bet.”

We went over to the shed and picked up our bikes; my school is nowhere near anyone's house, which is both impossible and very annoying, and also means you need to either drive or cycle there. Since none of us could drive yet – though I was learning to ride a Vespa – we cycled.

I was asking how I’m useless.”

I looked at Luke, and he went red.

I don't really want to say,” he said cautiously. “I mean, it's not my place.”

If it isn't yours, it's no one's,” I pointed out. “You're her boyfriend, you should know.”

What?” Beatrix looked outraged. “This better not be what I think it is!”

It's not!” Luke said, raising a pacifying hand.

Tell me then!”

We turned the corner and headed down Blackmoss Street. As we passed the electronics store, I glanced at the TVs in the windows, and saw that the light bulb Pokémon was on every screen, saying something inaudible. I stopped and stared at them, frowning.

Kester?” It was Beatrix this time. “What is it?”

I saw this Pokémon on the whiteboard in History,” I said, pointing. “I think Elle drew it there. Weird...”

It's called a coincidence,” Luke told me. “Come on. I’m hungry.”

You're always hungry,” Beatrix told him, riding close to him and forcing him into the road, which angered a passing motorist so much that he sounded his horn continuously for about two minutes.

What's his problem?” I wondered. “He didn't hit you.”

I could've died!” cried Luke. “Jeez, Bea...”

She made a mouth of one hand and mimed excessive chattering, so Luke shoved her off her bike and into a hedge.
You can't do that to me,” she protested, getting out and back on her bike. “You're meant to like me!”

And I do,” Luke countered. “Very much so. But you're also really annoying sometimes.”

And to think this is all because I said Bea was the least useless,” I said, shaking my head. “I hope I haven't ruined your relationship.”

Both Luke and Beatrix braked hard and rounded on me.

It's your fault!”

I shrugged.

What can I say?” I answered nonchalantly. “I'm a villainous sort of guy, I guess... ow!”

You're so not funny,” Beatrix told me.

Neither was that,” I replied, rubbing my head. “Luke, pick on someone your own size.”

Luke's dad was Canadian and his mum, Kantan; therefore, he was much, much taller than your average Hoennian, and also trilingual, which is cool. I mean, I only speak Hoennian and about seven words of Sinnish.

Look, let's just forget it,” he said calmly. “You've set us against each other, I've exacted revenge. We're all cool now.”

All right,” I agreed. “Come on, then, or they'll be closed before we get there.”

They're open til seven,” pointed out Beatrix.

I didn't mean it literally!”

I know.”

Beatrix was possibly the most irritating person I knew. She took everything literally and threw it back in your face, just for fun – which not only made idioms tricky, but gave her an annoying immunity to sarcasm. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why we were such good friends. Sometimes I thought that if we met for the first time today, we'd hate each other.

About half an hour later, we reached the café; small, brightly-coloured and cheap, it was our usual refuelling point on the way home. I’m not sure when we started going here, but it was something of a tradition now, and we rarely broke it.

As we drew to a halt outside, all three of us looked up at the sign and frowned.

They've changed the name,” Luke said, looking surprised. “Why would they do that”?

I don't know,” I said. “We should ask.”

Where the sign had once read 'Orange Café', it now read 'пробудить'.

I think it might be under new management,” said Beatrix. “That's not Hoennian.”

Luke? Is it English?”

He looked at me as if I had suddenly declared myself to be a fire hydrant.

Does it look like English?” he asked witheringly. “No, it's... Russian or something.”

The 'CLOSED' sign is in the door,” said Beatrix. “And if you look in the windows...”

We did, and saw the paraphernalia of rebuilding and redecorating strewn over the floor: paint-stripper, sledgehammers, screwdrivers, bundles of cable, paint, and a large pile of broken chairs and tables.

I guess someone bought it,” I said slowly. “And they're making it into something else.”

All three of us bowed our heads for a moment in sorrow. Then we got on our bikes and rode away.

This is awful,” said Luke after a while. “I can't believe...”

I know,” replied Beatrix sympathetically, “I know.”

We rode past the skatepark, which at four o'clock in the afternoon was empty except for its accompanying graffiti. I glanced at it, and almost fell off my bike.

OK, this is getting weird now,” I said nervously, braking.

What is it?” asked Beatrix, stopping.

I pointed.

Oh. Oh. That's really creepy.”

The orange light bulb-shaped Pokémon had been spray-painted onto the back wall of the half-pipe. Clearly visible from the road, it was looking out at us, and had a speech bubble next to its head that read:

WAKE UP, KESTER!

That's beyond a joke,” said Luke, staring. “That's actually quite scary.”

Kester? Are you OK?” asked Beatrix.

I barely heard her; my mind was full of orange Pokémon. Something about it seemed familiar...

Wake up, Kester! Come on, I’m so bored!

I blinked.

Did – did you hear that?” I asked, looking around.

Hear what?” asked Luke.

Oh. Nothing, I guess...” I looked at the painting for a while longer. “Do either of you know what sort of Pokémon that is?”

No,” replied Beatrix. “Luke?”

Me neither.” He paused for a moment, thinking. “The library's a couple of blocks away. Let's look it up.”

I think that would be a very good idea,” I said, tearing my eyes away from the picture. “Come on. Let's go.”

And so we rode off towards the library, severely freaked-out and not a little terrified.

---


I have to ask you a question now,” said Steven, “and I’m afraid the wrong answer might have disastrous consequences.”

The doctor gulped.

Er, what's the question?”

Will you swear not to reveal anything that you see in this room to anyone? Ever?”

The doctor took a step back under the force of Steven's eyes; they blazed like stars, or rebel diamonds cut out of the sun.

Um... OK,” he said. “I'll do that.”

Very well.” Steven rapped on the door. “Sapphire, I've got the doctor.”

It opened in a trice, and a pale-faced, anxious girl with black hair and glasses looked out at them.

Please,” she said urgently, “hurry!”

Sapphire grabbed the doctor's wrist and pulled him over to the sofa, where Kester currently lay; next to him was Felicity, looking, if anything, even more worried than Sapphire. Next to her was the scorch-mark, but it, callous creature that it was, didn't seem worried at all.

The doctor took a long look at Kester, and frowned deeply. Sapphire watched nervously; did this mean things were worse than they looked?

Why,” he asked, “is he wearing lipstick?”

It was a disguise – oh, get on with your job!” cried Steven.

The doctor raised his eyebrows, sighed and got out his black medicine bag. It looked like it was going to be a long, long night.

---


Excuse me,” I said to the librarian, “do you have any encyclopaedias on Pokémon?”

He struck an attitude of thought, scratching his chin and staring above our heads into the middle distance.

Uh... hello?”

Yes,” he said. “Over there, right at the back of the reference section.”

Thanks,” I said, and walked off. “Over there,” I repeated to Beatrix and Luke, and pointed.

I don't like him,” Beatrix informed us. “Every time I come in, he's the librarian on duty, and it takes so long to find books with him around.”

Beatrix was the only one of us who actually read for pleasure; Luke and I were more the video-game-playing type. None of us would ever have even considered any form of exercise, which explained our fantastic physiques.

I can imagine,” I replied. “He's weird.”

We reached the reference section and set to searching the shelves; a couple of minutes later, Luke came up with a thick book containing information on all 932 Pokémon thus far discovered, plus (so the cover advertised) exciting speculation on several Pokémon that might possibly be found to exist in the future.

This ought to have it,” he stated unnecessarily, and dropped it with a thud on the table, which drew a disapproving ssh from both Beatrix and the librarian. “Sorry,” he whispered back, “I'm bad at life.”

I started flipping through the book, looking at the pictures to see if any of them matched up with the Pokémon I'd seen. Some of the Ghosts, I noted with interest, didn't show up on camera, and so there were drawings of them instead of photographs. After a moment, Beatrix snatched the book off me.

Look,” she said in an exasperated voice, “from the picture, it's obviously an Electric-type, so go to that section and look there.”

All right, sorry,” I said. “You do it.”

It's your weird stalkerish picture-Pokémon,” Beatrix replied. “You do it.”

'Weird stalkerish picture-Pokémon?'” I repeated. “That's got to be the weirdest way of saying anything, ever.”

Beatrix smiled, and smothered a laugh; Luke wasn't so guarded, and got shushed again for the ensuing guffaw.

Sorry,” he said again. “I'm really bad at life.”

That isn't an excuse,” Beatrix told him as I flipped through the Electric-type section.

Yes it is,” Luke said. “It explains everything I do, doesn't it?”

Oh, shut up.”

Got it,” I said. “It's called a Rotom, and...”

I trailed off as I read the rest of the page.

What is it?” asked Luke. Then he saw it. “Oh.”

Yeah,” I said quietly. “Oh.”

What...?” Beatrix read it, and then she went 'Oh' as well.

For underneath the heading 'ROTOM' and the image of a spiky orange Pokémon was just one sentence, repeated over and over until it filled the entire page:

WAKE UP KESTER

I went cold. I thought that just happened in movies and books, but it actually happened: I felt like I'd just been buried in snow, and a shiver ran down my spine.

What do we do now?” I whispered, looking up at my friends. “This is... I don't know what this is. But it's sure as hell the scariest thing that's ever happened to me.”

I don't know,” replied Beatrix, who looked as frightened as I felt. “Maybe... we should keep looking. If we can find out what this Pokémon is... maybe we can work out what it wants with you.”

You think it's this Pokémon doing it?” I asked.

It could be,” Beatrix said defensively.

Or it could be someone using Rotom as their symbol,” suggested Luke. “Maybe...” He snapped his fingers. “Kester, you said you thought Elle had drawn the Rotom on the board at school. D'you think she's behind it?”

I stared at him as if he'd grown an extra arm.

What? Why? How?”

She could have done the painting at the skatepark,” Luke said. “I mean, it wouldn't be hard to figure out we go past there on the way home.”

But how would she have done the TVs? Or this book?” I asked.

Luke's face assumed that embarrassed expression that faces take on when their owners have just been proved horribly wrong.

Oh yeah,” he said.

Guys, over here,” called Beatrix from one of the computers, and we went.
What is it, Bea?” asked Luke.


I Googled Rotom,” she replied, “and I've got some information. Straight from that most reliable of sources, Wikipedia.”

Rotom are trickster spirits,” I read aloud. “They enter machines and take control of them, causing havoc in towns and cities. Only appearing with the advent of computers and in particular the Internet, they have since spread across much of the world, travelling via email, aeroplane or even telephone wire.” I broke off. “Is there one here? Is this meant to be a joke on me? Because I’m not laughing.”

I don't know,” Beatrix replied. “But it's a start, isn't it?”

Scroll down,” said Luke. “We'll read more.”

We did scroll down, and what we read was this:

WAKE UP KESTER!

I made a very effeminate and undignified noise and recoiled from the screen in shock.

OK,” said Beatrix, effortfully remaining calm, “that's obviously not an option. Let's try a different site.”

She clicked back to the Google search, and, scrolling past such intriguingly-titled pages as The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World and World's Most Wanted Art Thieves, clicked on a link that purported to take us to Professor Oak's famous Pokémon Index Project. The page on Rotom came up, and told us very little that we didn't already know. When Beatrix clicked on a promising-looking link, a pop-up came up and told me to wake up.

Is this all about falling asleep in History?” I wondered. “No one knows about that except the people in my History class.”

Could someone have noticed you were falling asleep, decided to do this to you, drawn the Rotom on the board so you'd notice later and then, after school, run to the electronics store and the skatepark and get everything done there?” suggested Luke.

Your ideas really are stupid today,” I said, at which he slumped. “But it's the only vaguely plausible explanation, isn't it? This can't all be a coincidence...”

He perked up again at that.

Yeah! I’m right for once!”

Sssh!” said the librarian violently.

Sorry,” whispered Luke, abashed. “I'm bad—”

Sometimes I wonder why I go out with you,” sighed Beatrix. “Any sensible person wouldn't be caught dead in the same room as you.”

So Kester, can you make a list of everyone in your History class?” asked Luke, studiously ignoring her.

Uh... Elle Driver, Laurence White, Thom Garp, Jenny Haniver, John Doe... er... Nikki Bueller, Sam Pepys, Andy Beluga, Mona Lawson, Naomi Trent...” I paused, and thought some more. “Give me a moment... Sam Byrne, Simeon Hancock, Sabrina – actually, what's her surname? Sabrina with the blonde hair?”

Dunno,” replied Luke.

It's Parsons,” Beatrix said. “Anyone else?”

Yeah. Nicola Montana, Chris Sawyer, Dani Shalott, Tycho Stradareus, Colophonius van Bismarck and Zoe Tripe.”

OK,” said Beatrix. “How many of those people would want to mess with you like this?”

Absolutely none,” I replied. “I know most of them. Those I don't, don't dislike me.”

Not even Andy?” asked Luke hopefully. “He's got those shifty eyes.”

You can't say that,” I pointed out. “He has two lazy eyes.”

Oh, is that what it is?”

Luke, shut up,” said Beatrix sweetly. Then she turned to me. “Are you absolutely certain, Kester? Because this is our only lead.”

I thought.

Yep,” I affirmed. “None of them would do this.”

In that case, there's no explanation,” she said simply. “And we have to face the possibility that this might be that Pokémon itself, playing some sort of sick joke on you.”

I felt a shiver run down my spine again, and it reminded me of something; long-forgotten words, maybe, that hovered on the edge of my mind:

Sorry. That was one of mine.

Fingers snapped in front of my eyes, and I blinked.

What?”
Kester, you OK?” asked Luke. “You zoned out for a moment there...”

I remembered something,” I replied quietly. “Something about the Rotom...” I looked up sharply, an idea slotting into place from nowhere. “We need to go to the hospital.”

---


All right, is everyone here?”

Archie's voice boomed throughout the submarine, his faux-Bronx mumble magnified a thousand times by the echoes in the corridors. There was no real way of telling if everyone was there, or even if anyone had heard him, but he nodded to himself in a satisfied sort of way.

All right,” he said again, and turned to the helmsman. “Dive!”

We have, sir,” the helmsman pointed out, a trifle uncertainly. “We've been waiting for the next tide to get out of here.”

Oh.” Archie considered this, then nodded. “Difficult to tell,” he said at last. “It's dark down here.”

This was a valid point. They had turned the lights in their headquarters off to save on the electricity bill before they left, and so it was now uniformly dark both under and above the water. (Naturally, Archie had arranged for a neighbour to come around at about seven o'clock at night and turn the lights on again each day that they were out, so as to deter thieves.)

It is, sir,” agreed the helmsman. “Don't worry yourself, now. Go and sit down somewhere; the tide is due in about twenty minutes.”

All right,” Archie said for the third time. “Good job.”

He left the bridge, a strange tingling sensation thrumming in his limbs; he felt excited and wary all at once, and slightly overwhelmed. It was just – well, in a few days' time, they'd be at the cavern, and a day or two after that (assuming the standard level of druidic traps were in place) they'd have the Orb. From then on, it would just be a matter of time until Kyogre was back, and the Team finally had the power they'd been seeking for so long.

And it was all a bit too much, to be perfectly honest.

Archie was a criminal mastermind, of that there could be no doubt – but he was also a rather ordinary man with a slight obsession with The Godfather. And rather ordinary men often find that the extraordinary things to which they aspire aren't actually so extraordinarily wonderful as all that, when they get them.

They find it's all a bit too much.

Archie hailed from the Lincolnshire industrial town of S****horpe, in England, and concurred with the words of the erstwhile Mister Milligan that S****horpe was a joke. He had moved as far away as possible as swiftly as possible, and hence had found himself, at the age of eighteen, adrift in Hoenn with no money and no grasp of the language – in fact, with nothing at all save an abiding love of organised crime.

This was the point in the story at which Archie usually quoted Goodfellas. Since the astute reader will doubtless have seen it coming, I shall refrain from repeating the precise quotation and continue with the story.

The young Archie had then become involved with the Magmas, who had, as the modern parlance would have it, 'screwed him over', which precipitated his defection to the Aquas, and ignited in him a burning hatred of the reds. He had risen swiftly, and now he was the most successful leader the Aquas had had for a long time, and the one who would bring them all to a glorious new height of power.

And, speaking frankly, as a young man of impecunious provenance from S****horpe, it was all a bit too much.

But then again, he was a criminal mastermind. And he was a bit insane.

So that was all right then, because even if it was a bit too much, he was Archie Taniebre, and he was damned if he was going to turn back now and miss out on the chance to rid the world of the goddamn Magmas forever.

In his cabin, Archie leaned back in his chair, and smiled happily to himself. The end was nigh, and he was at the forefront of it.

---


I don't think I've ever seen so many broken bones in one body,” the doctor said, straightening up and wiping his brow. “It's like he picked a fight with a cement mixer.”

That, my good man, is a singularly unwanted comment,” Steven said pointedly, and the doctor coughed and looked down.

Sorry.”

But he's going to be all right now, right?” Sapphire asked insistently.

I'm certain,” replied the doctor cheerfully. “Pokémon bones heal well; the infusions ought to deal with them, though the blood transfusion was a bit tricky – jolly difficult to plug a bag of blood into the mains.”

They had, of course, been forced to tell him that Kester was in a rather unusual position when it came to what exactly his species was; indeed, that was why Steven had contacted this particular doctor. He was a Nurse Joy who had also trained as a doctor, and provided a unique service in Lilycove's underworld, healing both wounded gangsters and their Pokémon. It was part his job that he asked no questions in return for prompt payment, too, and, all in all, he had been the perfect candidate to treat a semi-Pokémon boy who had to be kept secret for fear of Devon finding him.

When will he wake up, do you know?” asked Sapphire.

The doctor shrugged.

No idea,” he replied. “Could be in five minutes, could be tomorrow, could be... never.”

Sapphire said nothing, but she closed her eyes and turned her face upwards.

Thank you,” Felicity said, at which the doctor turned, surprised; it was the first thing she'd said since he'd arrived. “I am sure you have done your best,” she went on. “Kester will be fine.”

Hm. Well, when you put it like that,” the doctor replied, rather gratified that someone was appreciating him for once. Your average gangster was an ungrateful sort of person, not given to handing out praise. This made a nice change.

I am certain of it,” Felicity said in her soft, stilted voice. She looked down at Kester, or what was visible of him beneath the bandages. “I am certain he'll be all right...”
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; July 23rd, 2011 at 06:05 AM. Reason: Reformatting