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Old Posted July 14th, 2011 (01:00 AM). Edited November 11th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Much obliged, olih. I personally didn't feel that that chapter was particularly funny, but thanks for enjoying, and I'll go and fix that space right away.

Further news: no new chapters until next week, I'm afraid, for I am leaving for a few days to sample the doubtless manifold delights of the Latitude Festival. Here's a chapter to tide you crazy Internet folk over.

Chapter Sixty-Four: You Used to Think those Red Bits were his Eyes. Admit it.


Zero was worried.

Kester Ruby had woken up, thumbing his nose at the calculations that had said this was impossible, and now, if he was correct, he, Sapphire Birch and Felicity were resuming their crusade against him with renewed vigour. For once, Zero's confidence slipped a notch; three times now, Kester had thrown a substantial spanner in the works of his plan, and it seemed almost as if he wasn't going to be able to control him.

The Magmas had failed to capture him in Rustboro. He had freed Felicity from Zero's control in the Mount Pyre Memorial Museum. And now he had broken his way out of a coma induced by what was surely one of the most powerful Psychic-types under human ownership. The question Zero had to ask himself was: what would Kester do next?

---

There's no ferry?”

It seemed almost to be her default reaction, but Sapphire looked cross at this.

I'm sorry,” the man in the ticket office said, recoiling slightly. “The engines stopped working, and then someone stole one.”

It was Saturday morning, and we were pursuing Puck's plan. With some difficulty – I was pretty stiff and sore, even if most of my injuries were well on the way to being healed – I had come with Sapphire and Felicity to the docks to the east of Hoenn's capital, to catch a ferry across to Mossdeep City.

For those who desire exposition disguised as dialogue, Puck said, I shall say the following. Wasn't it a great idea of mine to go to Mossdeep and pick up an HM for Dive, catch a Water-type Pokémon and travel to the bottom of the sea?
Yeah, I replied. It was – right up until the time we discovered the ferries weren't running.

Hang on,” said Sapphire. “Do you know who did this to the ferries?”

Yes,” the man replied. “Didn't you hear? It was on the news. Those marauding Sableye did it.”

I ground my teeth in frustration; those Sableye had been ruining things for us ever since we let them out. Then I stopped grinding, because my teeth hurt. As did quite a lot of the rest of me.

Hey, let's have some more exposition, Puck said. Where did Steven go?

He got a call from Rustboro and had to leave, I answered.

Oh yes. Of course. That was his father, wasn't it?

I think so.

Thank you anyway,” Felicity said to the ticket-man, and carefully rotated Sapphire on the spot so that she was no longer facing him. “What shall we do now?” she asked.

Can Stacey fly us across?” I asked Sapphire. Someone bumped into her, and we moved further down the promenade, out of the way of the pedestrians taking the air or watching the boats.

It's a six-hour ferry ride,” Sapphire replied, “and an adult Altaria's top speed is fifty miles an hour. Stacey isn't fully-grown, can't carry more than one of us at a time and, while holding us, could only fly for about half an hour at twenty miles an hour. So no.”

Why did you phrase that like a maths problem?”

I don't know. It made more sense in my head.” Sapphire blinked irately. “Look, never mind that! What are we going to do now?”

Simple, Puck said. Our resident Traineress is going to catch, steal or buy a Water-type big and powerful enough to ferry the lot of us across to Mossdeep.

I relayed this information, feeling stupid, but for once Sapphire disagreed with Puck's idea.

Not possible,” she said. “It would take forever to get hold of anything big enough for that. We'd need a half-grown Wailmer, or a big Relicanth or something, and you only find the big sea creatures far out at sea, in the deep water away from the boats.”

Yes,” Felicity agreed, “but would your father not have one in storage that we could borrow?”

Sapphire looked surprised.

He would,” she said slowly. “Yes, we could take Duncan... If he lets me.”

Wait, wait,” I said, holding up a hand. “'If he lets me'? That's never a good thing to hear. In fact, it's pretty ominous. What do you mean?”

Sapphire flushed slightly. I had to admit, it was quite enjoyable to see her flustered.

Well,” she began. “There was – we were investigating – what the hell are you smirking at?”

Nothing,” I replied quickly, straightening my face. “Look. No smiles at all, let alone a smirk. Carry on with the story.”

Hm,” Sapphire said suspiciously. “Look, we were investigating Corsola formation in Pacifidlog, and we were riding on Dad's Tentacruel—”

A Tentacruel that seated both of you?”

Duncan's a big Tentacruel. Anyway, I dropped a Corsola on him and one of its spikes went through one of those red glands he has on his head. And then...” Sapphire trailed off.

It burst,” I finished for her. “Was it full of acid?”

No. Worse. It was full of sound and fury.”

Like a tale told by you, Kester, said Puck mockingly, but I didn't get why it was an insult.

How is that possible?” asked Felicity.

I don't know. But Tentacruel use those orbs to send out ultrasonic pulses, and also flashes of light.” Sapphire winced at the memory. “It was like someone had let a grenade off on his head. Dad hasn't really trusted me with him since.”

It's nice to know you're not as superior as you seem,” I said jovially. “Anyway, I’m sure Professor Birch will let you borrow Duncan if it's really important. Which it is.”

Hm.” Sapphire looked uncertain. “Fine. Let's find somewhere to sit down and I'll call him.”

Five minutes along the quay, we found an unattended bench and sat down there; it had a very nice view of the sea beyond the mass of bobbing boats at the dock, but I was more preoccupied with the fact that sitting down made my legs stop hurting, or at least hurt slightly less.

Sapphire pulled out her mobile and pressed a few buttons, then raised it to her ear.

Dad!” she said, after it had rung for a while. “Dad, how are you? How's Mum?” she listened. “No, I don't have an ulterior motive,” she said indignantly. “I just care about you two, that's all. No, it's— fine, look, I need to borrow Duncan.”

Felicity and I, sitting on either side of Sapphire, simultaneously leaned away from her as a sudden wave of furious sound burst out of the phone; it seemed Birch wasn't quite as supportive of the idea as I'd hoped.

Dad,” said Sapphire, trying to cut through the noise. “Dad. Dad. Dad. Dad. Dad. Dad. Dad! Listen for a moment! I only want him because there are no ferries to Mossdeep and we need to get there to stop Zero!”

Birch's words were indistinguishable, but they were low-pitched and probably not friendly.

I promise nothing will happen to him,” Sapphire said earnestly. “I – Kester will make sure of it. Won't you?” She looked at me expectantly; I nodded, felt a sharp pain shoot through my head and regretted it. “And Felicity as well... Fine. Here he is."

She thrust the phone in my direction.

Don't blow it up,” she warned me, and I took it from her.

Hello? Professor Birch?”

Oh! Kester! Er, to tell you the truth, I thought Sapphy was lying. I didn't actually believe you were there.” Birch sounded embarrassed and faintly stupid.

As a description, that applies to him pretty much 24/7, doesn't it? remarked Puck unkindly.

Oh. Well, I am. So's Felicity.”

Really? Wow. Guess I really misjudged the situation. Um... Tell you what,” Birch said, brightening, “I'll send Duncan over, but I want you in charge of him. I'll put a password on the download, so Sapphire can't get him. The password will be—”

Swordfish?” I asked.

How did you know that?” he asked. “No, never mind, Sapphy will have heard you say it now. The password will be 'colostomy'.”

I tried hard not to wonder why that word had entered Birch's mind at that moment.

All right, Professor.”

Did I tell you to call me Alan?” asked Birch. “Er, if I didn't, please do. Anyway, if you could hand me back to Sapphy now...?”

Right. Bye, Prof – Alan.”

He had asked me before, and I hadn't, because it was weird to think of him as being called anything other than Professor Birch. He was one of those people who my mind could only classify by their surname.

Dad? OK. OK. I'll see – huh? No, that's not fair! I – oh, all right. Yes. Yes, I'll send him right back. Fine, I promise. Bye.” Sapphire thumbed a button on her mobile and thrust it angrily back into her pocket. “Kester, I have no idea why he trusts you, but he does.” She sighed. “Right. I guess we'd better find a Pokémon Centre, then...”

---


Fabien had had a rather nice night, all things considered. Using his not inconsiderable acting powers, he had convinced the staff at the Pokémon Centre where Goishi was being treated that he and Blake were nomadic Trainers of the foreign variety; this sufficed as a reason why neither of them had Hoenn League Trainer Cards, and so they were allowed to stay the night there. This meant a comfortable night for once: comfortable beds rather than sagging mattresses in a dingy Magma safehouse; hot and cold running water rather than a single chipped sink full of icy water; a laundry service rather than... well, rather than no laundry service.

Yes, they had spent the night like kings, and now the two Magmas were refreshed, awake and ready to leave. Their phones were both switched off, and, as they walked down the stairs from the rooms, they discussed whether or not they ought to switch them on.

If we turn 'em on,” argued Blake, “the boss'll call us, an' then we'll ge' it.”

This is an incontrovertible truth,” Fabien concurred, “but the longer we put it off, the more violent his reaction will be. I’m sure he's tried to call us already.”

This had not occurred to Blake, and gave him pause for thought; in fact, he literally stopped, thought, and carried on again.

A'righ',” he conceded, “but you take the call.”

Fabien stopped dead and locked eyes full of cold fury on Blake's face. The big man halted, startled.

Blake, my dear fellow,” Fabien said, in a hoarse, dark voice, “we had an agreement on this matter.”

Wha'? We did?”

Don't pretend you don't remember!” cried Fabien, extending an accusatory finger and almost taking Blake's eye out. “Back in the warehouse at Slateport, I took the call for you!”

Light slowly dawned across Blake's face, like an Ampharos waking up.

Oh yeah,” he said.

Yes!” Fabien said. “'Yeah' indeed! I took the call the singular and immutable condition that next time, you would take it oh hello there,” he said to a small girl coming up the stairs, voice flicking from full volume to normal without a breath. He waited until she had passed around the corner, and hissed violently: “Do you remember now?”

Yeah,” Blake said glumly. “I guess I'd be'er take it, then.”

Yes. You'd better,” said Fabien firmly, and they continued down the stairs and into the lobby, just as Kester Ruby, Sapphire Birch and a girl with long white hair came in from the street entrance on the other side.

For a long moment, the two groups stopped and stared at each other. Then Ruby – who was looking like he ought not to really be moving around right now – said, slowly and with great conviction:

You're Blake and Fabien!”

Fabien thought fast. He drew himself up to his full height, tipped his fedora onto his head, and said in his best foreign accent:

Vee are not zey. Vee are umbell Pokeemun Trennairs. Oo are zese Blake und Fabien of which you speak?”

What accent this was meant to represent is unknown, but what is certain is that it was one of the worst impersonations in recorded history, and would only have worked in such a black hole of ignorance as Hoenn.

Unfortunately for them, the girl with white hair was from Japan.

What was that supposed to be?” she asked, puzzled. “I don't understand.”

Accursed she-devil!” cried Fabien in a fit of lyrical rage. “Blake, our cover's blown!”

Run or figh'?” asked Blake.

Call the police,” Birch snapped at the receptionist.

Run,” decided Fabien, and ran outside, Blake hot on his heels.


OK,” I said, “that was weird.”

Yeah,” Sapphire agreed. “Very. I wonder what they wanted.”

They were probably just staying here,” Felicity answered.

Do you still want me to call the police?” asked the receptionist.

No, but thanks,” Sapphire said. “They won't come back here. They're pretty cowardly.”

All right.” She shrugged, and I saw something of my own exasperation with Trainers in that shrug. “What did you want?”

I'm here to use the computers...”

Sapphire showed the woman her Trainer Card and we were waved through into the Centre's computer room; as we took seats at a free PC, something struck me.

Sapphire, how long are you going to keep your hair black?” I asked.

She looked surprised.

I forgot it had the dye in it,” she admitted. “Until it goes back, I suppose. It only lasts a few days, right?”

I think so.”

Sapphire logged onto the Trainer Network, and an alert popped up to tell her that a new Pokémon had registered in her Box.

I've always found it weird that you can do that,” I said, staring at the screen. “I mean, how can Pokémon go in a computer?”

I don't know,” replied Sapphire, and quoted Professor Oak at me: “'There are still many mysteries surrounding Pokémon.' How exactly this works is probably one of them.”

Get the Tentacruel out,” said Felicity pragmatically, and Sapphire returned her attention to the screen.

I've always wanted to hack into the PC Box Network, sighed Puck. Oh, it would be so amazing to have control... I could delete Pokémon, clone them, control them at will. I would be a freakin' god. The world would bow before me and my army of Internet-mon.

Why don't you do it? You can make computers do whatever you want, can't you?

I hate to say it, but the PC system was designed by someone even better with computers than me, Puck said begrudgingly. If I ever meet that Bill fellow, they'll have to scrape his body off the walls.

Kester!” said Sapphire. “Type in the password.”

I leaned over the keyboard so she couldn't see, typed in 'colostomy' and hit Enter. There was a whirring sound, a clank, and then a Great Ball dropped out of a hole in the PC. I snatched it up before Sapphire could, and clasped it tightly to my chest, ignoring the pain.

Give it here,” Sapphire began, but I shook my head.

Your dad said I had to look after him,” I said. “You're not allowed.”

I – actually, fine,” Sapphire said. “I don't really want to try and control Duncan anyway. He doesn't seem to like me.”

I wonder why, said Puck. Oh. Wait. No I don't.

Will you stop doing that? You always say that.

All right. Next time I'll say something different.

Shall we go?” asked Felicity. “I do not know how fast Tentacruel travel, but it will definitely take a long time.”

Duncan's quite big, so he's quite fast, but...” Sapphire mused. “If we leave at eleven, we can probably get there by midnight.”

We'd better leave, then,” I said. “Shall we head to the docks?”

No,” replied Sapphire. “First, we need to get something to eat on the way.” She gave me a withering look, but I was getting used to them and so only flinched a little bit. “That's why you need me,” she said. “In fact, that's why the entire male population of the world needs women.”

Ah, this thing again. You know, being technically completely sexless, I can attest – without bias – that the stereotypes on both sides are, in fact, true. All men are dumb, and all women are crazy. Together, they sort of cancel out and you form a more or less functional species. Mostly less, actually.

Shut up, both of you,” I snapped. “Fine, let's get some food and get out there. I want to lie down on a Tentacruel and float across the summer sea and sleep for a bit.”

You slept all night.”

I was trapped in a living nightmare. Much like I am whenever I’m with you.”

It's the same—”

No, it isn't,” I said flatly. “Come on, let's go. I’m very tired and very sore.”

Something in Sapphire's face softened, and she sighed.

All right,” she said. “Let's go.”

And we went. There was, after all, very little time to waste.


Any Trainer could tell you that the sea routes of Hoenn were long and arduous. Most of them Surfed down at least one of them during their career – if nothing else, the relentless Tentacruel attacks were good for training – but every year, a few more would go missing, a handful more bodies would be found washed up on beaches around the island. They'd be dead from exposure, or from the venomous fluids of the Tentacruel, or they'd have a hole in their chest from a Sharpedo's ramming attack. There was always talk of closing them off to those not in boats, but they never did do it, partly because the Trainers protested so much, and partly because this was Hoenn, and not even our own government cared that much.

So Sapphire told me as we assembled on the Trainer's Beach, tucked away in a tiny cove to the east of central Lilycove. There was one other person here, a boy of about fourteen, who was eating an ice cream next to a hulking, vaguely sea-serpent-ish creature that resembled nothing so much as a shifty-eyed snake with flippers rammed into a spiked shell.

It's called a Lapras, Puck said. They're supposed to be very friendly, but... yeah, it doesn't look like that's right, does it?

It's a giant snake-turtle, I pointed out. How is it going to be friendly?

Kester!” called Sapphire from the shore. “Over here!”

I thought about jogging over, decided it would hurt too much and walked instead.

He says walked, Puck said, but he means limped. Heh heh. Cripple.

You can't laugh at cripples!

I'll laugh at whatever I find funny. I don't conform to the human model of political correctness, for I am not a human; I am Rotom, and you will be assimilated.

Kester, sometime today...”

Coming,” I said wearily. “What is it?”

Let out Duncan,” Sapphire said, “but throw the ball as far out as you can. It's really annoying when he gets beached.”

I threw the ball, and a flash of blue light heralded the Tentacruel's arrival; since he appeared in the water, I couldn't see much of him beyond the giant dome – but that was enough. Fully seven feet across, with orbs the size of beach balls, Duncan had to have been the largest Tentacruel I'd ever seen. Not that I'd seen many, but those I had had never been that big.

The big red lights flashed once, dimly; that was the closest Tentacruel came to sound.

He needs to see you,” Sapphire told me. “Shout his name.”

Duncan!” I called.

The great dome tipped slightly, and I caught a glimpse of a long, pale sliver of eye between sea and head.

Now what?” I asked.

Talk to him,” Sapphire said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

But he's a Tentacru—”

Which makes him one of the most intelligent Water-types in Hoenn,” Sapphire rejoined. “What do you think is in that dome? It's his brain.”

Wow. Er, really? OK. Um. Duncan!” I began again, turning back to him. “Professor Birch let me borrow you to carry me and my two friends to Mossdeep. I’m – I’m a friend of his. And an enemy of Sapphire's.”

The Tentacruel squinted up at me, and a long, grey-brown tentacle rose out of the water and pointed at Sapphire.

That's not Sapphire,” I lied. “Look. Sapphire's hair is brown. This is... Lucy. As you can see, her hair is black.”

The tentacle made a shrugging movement, and withdrew; Duncan drifted closer towards us, and his dome sank back down to the horizontal again.

Well done, Puck said. Spoken like a true human: awkwardly and full of lies.

That was quite good,” said Sapphire begrudgingly. “I—”

I should not talk, if I were you,” Felicity said. “Duncan might hear.”

Sapphire nodded and shut up; if I'd suggested that, I doubt she would have taken it so well.

We climbed aboard the Tentacruel, which turned out to be impossible to do without wading through a foot of water, and once we were seated, Duncan started to move away from the shore, apparently without moving any part of his body.

Smooth ride, isn't it? Puck remarked. This'll be nice.

OK,” I said, rubbing my head, “I really need to sleep now. So if anything horrible happens, like a Sharpedo comes after us or the kraken wakes, let me know.”

What's the kraken?” asked Felicity, but I was already lying down. Duncan's back was soft and squidgy; it felt like I and my aches and pains were just melting away.

It doesn't matter,” I mumbled, and before I could say any more I found that I'd fallen asleep.

---

Since ditching Dahlia, Darren Goodwin had been at something of a loss as to what to do. He didn't trust her, and he didn't like her, and he knew something was wrong – but his hunches wouldn't cut any ice with his superiors. He had to have some sort of evidence before they'd allow him to leave her.

Darren had spent the night in a dingy hotel with his phone switched off, and this morning he was walking along the promenade, wondering what he thought he was doing. He had no idea what he found so repellent about Dahlia, only that it wasn't the sort of thing he could overcome; he had no idea what he was going to do next, and he had no idea what he was thinking about.

In all, Hex,” the Goodwin muttered to the Shedinja that floated along beside him, “I'm pretty clueless right now.”

Dahlia's idea of Kester being allied to neither Team made sense, and Darren had already made a little investigation into Team activity to see when the next big Team event was to take place – but he had been thwarted by something he'd never encountered before: the criminals just weren't there. Yes, there was the odd Magma, but they all had the same mission, looking for someone who went by the name of Zero, and not even the soundest beating Zero could administer had been able to get anything else from them, so it seemed they were ignorant of what was to happen next. But there were no Aquas at all. It was as if they'd vanished off the face of the earth.

Of course, Darren had not failed to miss the theft of the submarine from Captain Stern, but surely one crime didn't warrant the whole Team vanishing? If they wanted to cover up after themselves, all they needed to do was hide the vessel somewhere safe until the heat died down. Instead, they had vanished, completely, utterly and without trace.

What was stranger still was the way that they had disappeared in the middle of one of Archie's parties. The wily leader had somehow orchestrated the entire thing in the middle of a crowded room, and then vanished himself without any of his guests or staff noticing; it wasn't until one in the morning when his absence was noted, and not until six o'clock that anyone figured out that he wasn't just elsewhere in the house. Darren had already been there this morning to interview the staff, posing as a policeman, and hadn't been able to find anything out; the disappearance was nothing short of masterly. He might hate the Teams with a passion, but he had to hand it to Archie – the man was good.

And in this confused, vaguely angry mood, Darren Goodwin happened to glance over the edge of the railing atop the sea wall he was walking along, and saw a familiar white-haired figure down on the beach below. He stopped, and did a double take: was that who he thought it was?

A second look, and he was certain. It was the Aqua girl with the icy powers, the one who'd become some sort of monster in the museum on Mount Pyre.

And standing next to her were Sapphire Birch and Kester Ruby.

Darren slammed a fist into his open palm.

Of course!” he cried. “Dahlia was wrong. They are working with the Aquas after all.” He glanced across at Hex, who was hovering, motionless and silent next to him. Darren had no idea how old Hex was – Shedinja tended to last forever, if they weren't destroyed – but he had a feeling that he had been motionless and silent for a very long time. “We'll follow them,” Darren decided. “Come on.”

And he swept away towards the docks, his great green coat billowing out behind him like the wings of a bird.
__________________

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