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Old August 4th, 2011, 12:28 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Good to know you're enjoying yourself, callumjames3. Now, read on! For herein are contained the final secrets of Zero's great plan!


Chapter Seventy-One: The Goodwin Strikes Back


They say your first sight of Ever Grande city forms a memory that stays with you forever. In my case, it was one wreathed in so much obscuring fog that I couldn't really see anything; it seemed my luck wasn't getting any better.

Spike met us on the airstrip, her Torkoal a vast, indistinct shadow in the fog.

Kester, Sapphire!” she cried. Much to my surprise, I got a hug; seconds later, I remembered that she was one of the people we'd met who actually quite liked me. It was easy to forget when so many people were of the opposite opinion. “Come with me,” she went on, moving away towards a blob in the mist that I vaguely recognised as possibly being the League Headquarters. “I really hope you're right about this. I had to call in a lot of favours to even get this case heard; someone didn't want you to get through to us.”

I exchanged glances with Sapphire.

Zero,” we both said.

He has that sort of power?” asked Spike. “That's... unnerving.”

Yeah,” I replied. “He's terrifying.”

The League building was disappointingly plain on the inside; I supposed that all the real money was spent on the outside and on the stadiums, which were the parts that got seen on TV.

The word is stadia, Puck told me. Stadia. Like the plural of datum is data and the plural of medium is media.

Shut up.

Spike led us through a plain lobby, down an unremarkable corridor and into a long room with a large table in it, around which were seated no less than six very, very important people. At a glance, I saw Steven, Phoebe Lácrimere, Sidney Rodgers, Glacia Turnford, Drake Landen and Wallace Beckett, the current Pokémon Champion of Hoenn. If I’d been living in a cartoon, my jaw would have hit the floor.

Wow,” breathed Sapphire beside me.

Eh. I've spoken to royalty, Puck said smugly. Well, by 'spoken to', I mean 'stolen from'. And by 'royalty', I mean drug barons. So yeah, no actual royalty involved. Or speaking, for that matter. Why do I keep saying these things?

This is Sapphire Birch and Kester Ruby,” Spike said. “They're the ones I was telling you about.”

Excellent,” said Wallace, rising to his feet. “Pleased to meet you.”

Oh my God, I thought. I’m actually shaking his hand!

Uhm,” I said, and then my tongue came unstuck. “Yeah, er, pleased to meet you too.”

It really is, all of you,” Sapphire said. “But there isn't really time for pleasantries. Hoenn is on the brink of destruction.”

We gathered as much from what Spike told us,” Phoebe replied, stretching in her chair. “Look, why don't you have a seat and tell us all about it.” She turned to Spike. “Spike, can you get that guy for me? The one who brings... stuff?”

Terry? OK.” Spike left the room, and Sapphire and I sat down nervously, next to Steven.

All right,” said Sidney, leaning across the table. His bald head shone under the bright lights, and so did his teeth. He looked positively demonic – an effect that entirely appropriate for a Dark-type Master, and which was also slightly undermined by the fact that he was wearing a shirt with a very weird collar. “Tell us about what this Zero guy's up to.”

So we did. Between us, we got the whole story out: from my accident back home in Rustboro all the way up to the horrific incident in the deep-sea cavern. We told them all about Zero, all about Groudon and Kyogre and the Teams; we told them about Puck, about the druids and about the Orbs. In all, it took about an hour, by which time 'that guy', otherwise known as Terry, had brought us all refreshments. These were received with gratitude, because neither Sapphire nor I had actually had eaten since the trip down to the bottom of the sea.

That's... quite a story,” said Wallace at length. “I... Steven? Spike? This is true?”

Spike tossed a blood-red mobile phone on the table; I picked it up and immediately Puck began to speak.

Whoa,” he said. “This is a nice phone. I’d steal this, if I weren't stuck in your meaty brain.”

The Elite Four stared in shock. It was a fantastic scene: the League greats, the strongest in Hoenn – surprised by something I’d done.

Hey,” Puck went on. “Ghosts nearby. Six of them, in the hot chick's pocket.”

At this point, I felt it prudent to give the phone back to Spike before Phoebe decided to have me killed, and therefore handed it over again.

That was your approximation of her, not mine, Puck told me. Your mind has been affected by her clothing. Or lack of it.

Sorry,” I said, aware of the silence. “He's... not actually a very nice person.”

What the hell? I’m perfectly nice! I’m loveable! Loveable, I tells yas!

That's all right,” replied Phoebe uncertainly. “Ghosts often aren't.”

So it's true,” said Wallace, moving back to practical matters. “The next thing is to decide what we're going to do about it.”

He stood up and began to pace.

Does anyone have any ideas?” he asked. “I think we can rule out the possibility of managing to defeat these creatures, if they're as powerful as you say they are. We might be able to kill them as we did with Rayquaza—”

No,” Steven interrupted. “We would be wasting our time.” He sighed. “Rayquaza was a fragile creature, for all its size. Groudon and Kyogre come from the earth's core and from the ocean deeps respectively. They will be able to withstand tremendous pressure and heat; I should think that, combined with their great size, will render them more or less invulnerable to weapons or Pokémon moves.”

That's reassuring,” remarked Sidney. “OK, so we can't kill or defeat them. That means we need to think of another plan. How long do we have until they meet each other?”

Puck estimated it would take a few days for them to rebuild themselves,” I answered, “and a few hours after that for them to meet—”

For them to meet,” said Steven suddenly. “My God.”

What is it?” asked Sapphire; we all turned to look at him.

This... could you mark that deep-sea cavern on a map?” Steven suddenly demanded of her.

Well – yes, I suppose—”

Steven ripped one from the wall and laid it out in front of her, then handed her a pen.

About here, I guess.”

She marked the spot with an X.

Now look at Mount Chimney,” Steven said.

Where are you going with this, Steven?” asked Drake roughly. “This had better—”

Calm down, Drake,” interrupted Wallace. “I trust Steven's judgement.” He nodded at him. “Carry on.”

If I draw a line between Mount Chimney and the cavern,” Steven went on, “do you see where the midpoint is?”

Sootopolis City,” answered Spike. “So what, Groudon and Kyogre will meet up in Sootopolis?”

You don't understand,” Steven said urgently. “You have to know about the geography of Hoenn for this. Do you see the island chain on the east side of Hoenn?”

We nodded; we did.

See how it describes a circle around Sootopolis?” Steven asked. He drew the circle in on the map.

Ye-es...?”

Well, that's the thing,” Steven said, deadly serious. “That could make this disaster a hundred – no a thousand – times worse.”

---


Well,” said Fabien, “I think we can both say that that didn't go exactly as planned.”

Too righ',” agreed Blake.

They were walking through the city in search of sustenance, and had fallen into a veritable winter of discontent over their failure to achieve anything at all the previous day. Goishi flapped along above them, and Morgana was safely back in her ball, where she could cause no more mischief.

I mean – good grief! It's the Devon man, and he's killing someone!”

Blake turned to look; it was indeed the Devon man, and he did appear to be killing someone. He was hauling a short boy clad in black clear of the ground, and his Ninjashell was hovering nearby, ready to strike.

Do you think we ought to help?” asked Fabien, but before Blake could even begin to formulate any sort of coherent response, there was a flash of blue light, and a lithe brown Pokémon, all carapace and blades, appeared at the boy's side. It darted forwards and sliced the unfortunate Ninjashell in half, and the Devon man was forced to let go of his captive and recall his Pokémon.

That was surprising,” Fabien said. “I think this might be an encounter worth eavesdropping on. Positions!”

He brought out a large, battered newspaper from his pocket, sidled closer to the Devon man and the boy, and proceeded to unfold it, revealing that it had holes cut into the pages. Blake, on the other hand, sat down on a nearby bench and pretended to watch the traffic. Goishi, fearing association with the would-be spies, flew up to a nearby rooftop and simply listened in with his acute hearing.

I'm very sorry about that,” the boy said. “I didn't want to harm your Shedinja, but I would like to be put down. I’m perfectly happy to talk reasonably with you, if you like.”

The Devon man hesitated, then dropped him. The boy dusted himself off, and then spoke further.

Now,” he said. “You've obviously seen these two people. They're mixed up in something beyond me, I can see that. You want to find them, I want to find them. I’d like to suggest we pool our resources.”

What advantage would that give me?” the Devon man asked suspiciously.

For a start, you would actually find them,” the boy replied, smiling. “I have a way of finding people like them. Then, if you would just let me fight them, you can do whatever you want. Besides,” he admitted candidly, “I don't think I can find them without your talents, which don't seem to be inconsiderable. Is that a deal?”

The Devon man appeared to be thinking it over.

All right,” he said at length. “But I don't want you dragging me down.”

Don't worry, I won't,” the boy replied. “I can honestly say, without conceit, that I’m the best Trainer in the entire history of the world. Were you aware that we're being spied on, by the way?”

Fabien kept his cool. As the Devon man walked up to him, he maintained the pretence of reading the newspaper right up until it was snatched from him.

Something wrong?” he asked nonchalantly.

Who the hell are you?” the Devon man asked with a certain quiet ferocity that made Fabien wish that he were about five hundred miles away, and then five hundred more. But he was Fabien Latch, and, as ever, he hid all uncertainty, and went ahead with a ridiculously unlikely plan.

My name is Fabien Latch,” he said, smiling and holding out a hand that went unshaken, “and I think you'll find that we could both help each other...”

That had been yesterday. Today, following the same strange sense that had brought Sebastian to Kester and Ruby in Mauville, they had, in the company of the two men they now knew as Sebastian Emerald and Darren Goodwin, arrived at the airport, where the nice Mister Goodwin had gone through a 'Staff Only' door, and come back with something red on his knuckles and the information that Kester and Sapphire had just left for Ever Grande City.

You might well wonder how Fabien managed to convince Darren Goodwin that he and Blake would be of any use to him. This is a wholly appropriate question, and easily answered: the former Magma had impressed upon Darren their talents as spies and warriors, and then Sebastian had pointed out that they would make excellent cannon fodder. This was a rather ominous thought, but it got Blake and Fabien into the gang, and that was what counted in his book.

Upon receipt of the information that their targets were now in the very heart of the League itself, three of the four members of the group had a few second thoughts. Blake, Fabien and Darren all had reasons for not wanting to go anywhere near them. Sebastian, on the other hand, had no problem with the League. A brief argument ensued; brief because they realised at this moment the necessity of fleeing the airport before they were arrested.

Reconvening elsewhere, the debate continued, and it was eventually decided that they would all take the next flight to Ever Grande City, and that Sebastian would then use his mysterious sense to locate them. If they were in the League HQ as was suspected, then Sebastian would be sent in to lure them out. Otherwise, they could all go.

With this sterling plan in mind, then, the intrepid quartet set out for the airport and thence, Ever Grande City.

---


What do you mean, that could make it thousands of times worse?” asked Glacia.

Steven put down the map and started speaking.

Millions of years ago, the space now occupied by the East Hoennian Ocean was a gigantic cluster of mountains.” He paused. “Volcanically active mountains. Extraordinarily volcanically active mountains. Their magma contained exceedingly high levels of silicon.”

This was apparently meant to impress us, but no one reacted.

Um... is that a bad thing, Steven?” asked Phoebe. “We're not all geologists.”

My apologies. I forget.” Steven gave a little bow of apology and carried on. “The higher the silicon content of magma, the more viscous it is. And when magma is viscous, it gets stuck in volcanoes. It builds up, until the pressure is so immense that you get—”

A volcanic eruption.” Spike nodded. “Right, but how is this relevant?”

In a so-called rhyolite volcano, the pressure is tremendous. The blast can actually destroy the entire mountain. Our mountain chain was a cluster of this sort of volcano, and over the course of several million years, the chain destroyed itself, the mountains collapsing to form a vast ring, which we now see as the islands that form a circle around Sootopolis.”

Still waiting to see how this turns out, Steven,” grumbled Drake warningly.

Quiet,” snapped Phoebe. “Steven's not done yet.”

Isn't it hilarious how everyone loves Steven except Drake? I wonder why that is. Actually, it's probably just a hackneyed plot device to keep Steven's monologue anchored to the room so that the reader doesn't forget where the action's taking place.

Puck?

Yo, Kester?

Shut up.

Sootopolis is a new volcano, growing in the centre,” Steven went on. “In time, if allowed to continue growing with the magma within it, it will probably cover most of the East Hoennian Ocean, as the old mountain chain did.”

Are you saying that if Groudon and Kyogre meet at Sootopolis, the volcano would erupt?” asked Wallace.

No,” said Steven. “I'm saying it's worse than that. Allow me to finish. The entire East Hoennian Ocean is what we call a caldera. It is a single gigantic volcanic crater, several hundred miles across.” He turned serious green eyes on us, and suddenly I realised what he was going to say. “If Groudon and Kyogre start fighting at Sootopolis, they are going to trigger the eruption of the biggest volcano on the entire planet.”

---


They are in there,” Sebastian told his new companions. “Shall I go and get them, or do you have any requests?”

They were standing outside the great wrought-iron gates that formed the sole point of entry to the grounds of the Hoenn Pokémon League. In the street beside them, cars rushed past through the fog like shadows escaping their casters.

Learn what they're doing in there first,” commanded Darren. “Then you can battle them, but you must tell me what they're doing. That is the information I've come to find.”

For him, Zero was the main mission now; it was clear that he had been orchestrating the Goodwin's entire chase, working through his fake CIA members to keep events running to a hidden plan. Darren had an idea that Ruby and Birch must be connected to Zero – but first he would need some more information, and it was that he hoped to gain from Sebastian's spying mission.

He was slightly concerned about the boy, though. He was as big a conundrum as any Darren had come across; normal people did not have mysterious sense that led him towards strong or unusual Trainers. Normal people treated affairs like this seriously, not like a game. Whatever Sebastian really was, he was something that Darren had never encountered before, and did not particularly want to encounter again.

You two,” the boy said, turning to Blake and Fabien. “What do you want me to do?”

Same as 'im, actually,” Blake replied. “We wan' to know wha's goin' on.”

The two Magmas had decided that figuring out exactly what the hell they'd got themselves into was the important thing here, a surprisingly smart move from them. Capturing Kester was no longer important; he was obviously not working for the Aquas, but against them, and that meant that he was their most powerful ally right now.

All right, then.” Sebastian dropped a Poké Ball, and a large, blue and grey turtle appeared; it walked on its hind legs, and had the most vacant look in its eyes since records began in 1856. “Remove the padlock, Coast,” Sebastian instructed, and the giant turtle leaned forwards and bit ponderously through the chain that held the gates shut. “Right,” said its master brightly. “I'll be back soon. You might want to find somewhere less conspicuous to wait.

And without another word, Sebastian and Coast headed away, up the driveway towards the League building.

Fabien, Blake, Goishi and Darren exchanged glances; it took quite some time, but eventually everyone had looked at everyone else.

Do you think he does this all the time?” asked Fabien.

That, or he's the most arrogant person in the entire world,” replied Darren. “Right now, both seem equally plausible.”

And he walked off to find a hiding place, and his new lackeys hurried off after him.

---

I really have to stop doing this, but I’m afraid I have no choice but to tell you that, contrary to everything I've said before, this was the longest, most stunned silence since our journey began.

What's going to happen?” Sapphire asked, after a while. She and I had the most experience of these silences, and so recovered soonest.

Hoenn itself will be destroyed more or less instantaneously,” Steven said. “Explosive lava ejection, earthquakes, ashfall; all life here will be extinguished very quickly.

The rest of the world must suffer worse, though,” he went on grimly. “The ash clouds will blot out the sky entirely. Every nation on earth will be trapped in endless night for anything up to several decades.

In the absence of the sun, photosynthesis will cease. The world's plants will perish, swiftly followed by all the animals, most of the Pokémon... and humans.” Steven's voice was low now, as if the effort of producing such dark words had drained him of all energy. “Then, of course, there will be natural disasters triggered by the eruption: tsunamis will tear through every country that borders the Pacific Ocean, for instance. In the worst-case scenario, I’m afraid to say that the human race will go into rapid, irreversible decline, and succumb to extinction in perhaps just a few short months.”

Once again, there was silence.

Whoa, said Puck. You guys need to lighten up; the atmosphere in here's getting way too serious. Here, I got a joke: why did the chicken cross the road?

I couldn't answer. No one could speak. We were all too busy taking in the information that very soon, we and everyone else on the planet were going to die.

Come on, have a guess. Puck waited. No? Aw, fine, I’ll just tell you: there was a Prius coming down the road then and, assuming that the drivers liked nature and wouldn't kill her, the chicken – who happened to want vengeance on humanity for taking her eggs – darted into the road to make them swerve, crash and cause a four-car pile-up. He paused. What, no laughs? I suppose the punchline is a little wordy.

But that doesn't have to happen,” Steven said, pulling himself together with a visible effort. “If we stop Groudon and Kyogre, then we can definitely avoid this.”

Why?” asked Wallace simply. “Why would Zero do this? He's a clever man to have worked all this out... what drives someone to want to eradicate humankind?”

He is self-evidently insane,” Steven replied. “I can think of no reason.”

Give me Sapphire's phone, Kester.

I did, with some trepidation, and announced that Puck wanted to speak.

Look,” he said, “I get that you wouldn't understand. You're human. But isn't it obvious why he wants to get rid of you? He's bored.”

What?” cried Spike. “That's not a—”

Shut up, punk, unless ya feel lucky,” snapped Puck. “You can't understand. I've been living in one of you guys' heads for a while now, and I can tell you your minds just work differently. You have a sense of society; you place value on life. It's different for Ghosts. We don't care about others. We're sentient – or some of us are, anyway – but we didn't evolve like you. We need no society, so we place absolutely no value on anyone's life except our own.” Puck sighed. “I understand why you feel it would be awful if you all died. But I can't feel it, and neither can Zero. All I can say is that he either wants to commit suicide in the most glorious way possible, or he knows of some way to survive the apocalypse he's making. He's doing this for fun, and he doesn't care that everything will die. Neither would the millions of Ghosts who will survive the apocalypse completely unchanged. Their lives won't change, and so they have no objections.”

Silence greeted Puck's statement.

That,” said Glacia after a minute or two, “is one of the most frightening things I've ever heard.” She glanced at Phoebe. “Did you know this?”

The other woman squirmed uncomfortably.

I didn't really like to think about it,” she replied. “But I did sort of suspect, I suppose. I know what Ghosts are like.”

Leaving that aside,” said Drake roughly, “what are we going to do?”

Again, silence. No one knew. I looked hopefully at Sapphire and at Spike, and I pleaded silently with Puck – but no one had the least idea of how to combat the threat.

I think we can conclude that the only thing possible is to try and contain Groudon and Kyogre before they fully reform,” Sidney said after a while. “I mean, if they're just embryonic meatballs, they won't put up much of a fight, surely? We could go to the Ministry of Defence, get the army on board—”

From what I've heard,” I said, “I think Groudon and Kyogre are just too big for that to be possible.”

But if they're trapped in too small a space for them to grow fully—”

Then they'll press against it until they break it,” Puck said through Sapphire's phone. “These are not regular Pokémon. Rayquaza shot a meteor onto them, and it just knocked them out. It's going to take a freakin' supernova to actually kill them.”

So we're screwed?” asked Sidney. “No, there's got to be something, man; we just haven't thought of it yet...”

Glacia suddenly clicked her fingers.

What about the golems?”

Do you think they're up to it?” asked Phoebe.

They're legendary, aren't they? And there are three of them, they could team up and take them one at a time...”

They haven't worked for seventy years,” pointed out Drake grumpily. “They're not going to work now.”

I think we have someone who might be able to get them started,” Spike said proudly, and put a hand on my arm.

Me?” I asked. “I don't even know what we're talking about.”

The legendary golems, Kester,” said Steven, leaning forwards on the table. “They're Pokémon of remarkable power. And more than Pokémon—”

They're machines,” put in Puck. “The ultimate machines, if you will. Machines that can manipulate the earth itself. Machines that you and I, Kester, are going to pilot to the epicentre of the end of the world.” He sounded like he would have been grinning if he could. “And if you don't think that that sounds like it's going to give us scope for a truly epic ending to the story, then you need to reconsider, because baby, this is going to blow. Your. Mind.”

Note: Have a look at the artwork for the map of Hoenn. If you have any knowledge of geography, you'll recognise it as a so-called super-volcano, like Yellowstone - only bigger. This is one of two ideas that spawned this story; I had one for the beginning, and one for the end. I wanted someone with a Rotom in their head, and I wanted to point out, in the most spectacular way imaginable, that the ocean easy of Hoenn appears to have been designed to be the world's bigget caldera. The rest of the story was kind of made up as I went along.
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For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.