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Old September 22nd, 2011, 05:10 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
My computer, the comely Sabine, is now back in my hands, and henceforth you crazy people who are amused by my scribblings can look forward to further chapters from me, in both this and that other one I do. Whatever it's called.

Chapter Seven: In Which We Become Acquainted with What May Well be the True Nature of Genius

'Unfortunately, wisdom is not a corollary of intelligence. The most intelligent people in the world tend to be vain, arrogant – and complete bratchnies to anyone with an IQ under 150.'
—Tserrof Pmug, Intelligence is Overrated


Mars pulled the trigger, the revolver's barrel pressed against Ashley's chest—

Click!

I stared. Mars stared. Charon stared. The technician stared. Even Jackson the Purugly stared.

And Ashley pushed past Mars, flung himself with all his might into Jackson's flank, and cried:

“Get up and run!”

Ashley hit Jackson with enough force that the Purugly's tails uncoiled reflexively from around his waist; an impressively large belly flopped out into place, and the big Pokémon fell heavily onto his side, winded.

I didn't need any encouragement: free, I jumped up as fast as I could, yanked Ashley back onto his feet and burst out of the double doors. We ran past the grunts guarding the doors, leaving them rather surprised; they peered inside the operations room to see what had been going on – and were flattened by the doors as they flew open, forced almost off their hinges by several hundred pounds of tail-corseted cat.

“Catch them! Now!” thundered Mars, and Ashley shoved me hard with his shoulder, just as a ripple in the air flickered past; I almost lost my balance, but used the momentum to duck around a corner instead, and kept going.

“What – the hell just – happened!” I demanded, in between ragged breaths.

“That door!” cried Ashley, and all but threw me through it; a second later, I turned and slammed it in Jackson's broad face. I heard him yowl and back himself up for a second attempt; I was about to try and hold the door when Ashley hissed: “Don't bother! Just get out of here!”

We were in another of those rooms that were filled with mysterious machinery and enigmatic engines, and Ashley was darting between them towards a window; I followed, kicked over some sort of computer as I went in the vague hope it would slow someone down and then tripped over my own feet trying to jump up onto the windowsill.

At the same moment, Jackson smashed through the door with such force that he rammed one paw clean through it; it might have been funny, but he ripped it loose with such power and savagery that I couldn't help what might happen if he applied the strength of that paw to my spine.

“Quickly!” cried Ashley, from the outside. “Get out!”

I climbed to my feet, wondered briefly why I was so clumsy and swung myself out over the windowsill, just as Jackson cleared the computer I'd kicked at a single bound. Mars appeared behind him, Ashley's useless revolver still in her hand, and she shouted at him to get after us. I tried to shut the window, but the Purugly was faster; thankfully, he was too fat, and got stuck halfway through. I watched him squirm there for a moment, stuck my tongue out at him, and hurried off after Ashley, towards the front of the building and the safety of the tunnel.

“A good getaway,” muttered Ashley, as we reached the front veranda. “I stole Tristan's keys, so they can't unlock the door to get out any time soon. We'll be fine.”

I stared at him in shock.

“What kind of detective are you?”

Unexpectedly, he grinned back.

“The best kind,” he said, and started out across the grass towards the tunnel.

“That's so not true!” I shouted after him, and ran to catch up; above us, the raptors whirled and screeched, and I glanced up – to see about four of them suddenly detach themselves by the firmament and fall down towards us like murderous stars. “Ashley!” I yelled, but he had already reached the tunnel; he turned and looked, and motioned for me to run faster. I wanted to tell him I already knew that, but I didn't have the breath to; the Staraptor were dropping like stones, unbelievably fast, and curving their flight to intercept me. As I ran, they doubled, trebled, quadrupled in size, until I could see the whites of their fierce shiny eyes and the red of their sharp crests—

—and then I was in the tunnel, and three raptors peeled away to rise back up, their tiny brains unable to work out where I'd suddenly disappeared to. The fourth smashed head-first into the ground, rolled beak over heels and ended up on its back, wings spread wide and staring blankly at the sky.

“Thanks a bunch,” I said to Ashley, panting. “Really nice of you to help.”

“You were fine,” he replied dismissively. “I have had this entire situation under control for some time now.”

I cast a glance at the raptor; it looked back at me with an expression that indicated it was as angry at me as I was at Ashley. Thankfully, it didn't seem to be able to get up, what with its wings weighing about eighty pounds each and all, so I returned my gaze to the detective.

“You planned this? You so didn't! You were just lucky that your gun wasn't loaded—”

“I deliberately set up this situation to give me time to look around the room for clues—”

“Oh, come on,” I said, fixing Ashley with the hardest look I could muster, “you couldn't do that unless you had the foresight of Zero! It's completely impossible!”

Zero was some sort of criminal mastermind who had plotted the destruction of the world a few months back; I hadn't really followed the details, but it was on the news a lot. The point was, he was meant to have been able to predict apparently random events far in advance, and plan accordingly.

“And who's to say I don't?” he asked angrily. “You? You couldn't even get this spying right!”

“I thought you orchestrated it?” I replied. “If you were controlling everything, wouldn't you have known that I was going to get caught?”

Ashley blinked.

“I – I can prove that I set it all up,” he said eventually.

“You're not answering the question—”

“I can prove it!” he shouted.

We might have argued further, but at that moment the raptor figured out how to flip itself over, and started waddling towards us with evil in its eyes. Behind it, I could see that Liza and another grunt had reached the veranda, along with Jackson; it seemed like all the evil forces that Dane Valley could get together were being sent after us.

“Maybe we should continue this elsewhere?” suggested Ashley.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Definitely.”

And we started to run again, down the tunnel and away from the cat, the bird and the angry woman with guns.

Jackson was surprisingly fast for something so big and so fat; he caught up with the raptor in just a few bounds. The raptor took exception to him trying to muscle in on his kill, and pecked him on the head, drawing blood. This was apparently an insult no Purugly could stand, and soon the tunnel behind us was blocked by a furious duel between hawk and tiger; I didn't see much of it, being a bit busy fleeing for my life, but I heard the screeches and the yowls, and heard the ripping of flesh and snapping of teeth. A few feathers floated towards us, and quite a while later I was to discover a splash of bird blood on the back of my jeans, which stubbornly refused to wash out.

I think we owed the raptor our lives. If it hadn't picked a fight with Jackson, Liza and her colleague would have caught and shot us in moments. As it was, they got stuck behind a fight that no one wanted to go near, and which they couldn’t risk shooting at for fear of hitting Mars' Purugly.

And so we got away out of the tunnel, headed off the track and ended up stumbling through the woods for a while, with the predictable result that we didn't get back to Floaroma for another forty-five minutes.

One reason it took so long was that we both agreed that we had some arguing to catch up on. Once we were sure we'd got away and we could stop running, we slowed to a walk and Ashley started to tell me how he could prove he set the situation up.

“I have the information I gathered while there,” he explained. “The computer screen the technician was working at showed that he was diverting electricity from the grid and passing it off to some unknown source. Furthermore, there were white vans parked at the back of the Windworks, each one containing what appeared to be some sort of battery; these had been wired into the electrical supply.

“I noted that Charon's suit was made by Stanton's, a tailor only to be found in Eterna; Mars' shoes, on the other hand, had a thin layer of grey dust over them, indicating that recently she visited Veilstone City. Her accent suggests she comes from a middle-class family in the centre of the country, so perhaps she was visiting home or relatives.

“Finally, unless her hair was done abroad, the styling suggested it was the work of the Eterna-based Salon Dimanche.”

I raised an unimpressed eyebrow, but I can't raise one on its own and so ended up raising both.

“Basically, you found out nothing we didn't already know. They're based in Eterna.”

Actually, I was impressed – I hadn't noticed any of that – but I wasn't going to give Ashley the satisfaction of knowing.

“Yes, but you see that I was gathering information from the situation I created—”

“Liar,” I interrupted. “Why can't you admit you just made a mistake and picked up some extra information while we were in that stand-off?”

“Because it's not true!” protested Ashley. “I'm telling the truth! Just because you may not be intelligent enough to conceive of that scenario—”

“Oh, please! Will you stop going on about how clever you are? How old are you, anyway?”

I seemed to hit a nerve there, because Ashley suddenly fell silent, hunched his shoulders and walked away without looking back. If he'd been a cartoon, there would have been a little thundercloud over his head. I almost laughed – it was so childish – but then realised that, coming from me, that would be incredibly hypocritical, since I was also fairly childish.

“Well, go on then!” I shouted after him. “I don't need some jumped-up little bratchny like you to solve this mystery!”

Ashley didn't reply; he stalked off through the trees and vanished.

That was the second reason why it took so long to get back to Floaroma. He'd known the way, and I hadn't; when at last I finally arrived back on the path, he was waiting by the arch of flowers that framed the road back to town.

“I am only here to make sure you don't get lost out here,” he said. “I don't want anything more to do with you, Pearl. Here's a train ticket. It will secure you passage back to Jubilife. When you get there, go home, write your essay, apologise to Stephanie and stay there.”

I stared at the ticket, and then at him.

“What?” I asked at length. “I'm not abandoning this mystery.”

“You have made it quite clear that you hate me,” said Ashley. “And what's more, you haven't done anything except interfere with my work, and then tell me that it was all a coincidence. I don't want to work with you.”

“I don't much like you either, Ashley, but aren't we both in danger? Aren't you, me and Iago in this together?”

“We aren't the Three Musketeers,” retorted Ashley. “No one is paying me for this, so my only motivation is self-preservation and the fact that it's an interesting puzzle. Besides, you won't die. Iago and I will be more than sufficient to draw their attention away from you.”

“What if—?”

“There are no more relevant questions that you could ask,” said Ashley formally. “Goodbye, Pearl Gideon.”

I glared at him, then slowly and deliberately tore up the ticket.

“I'm not going anywhere,” I growled. “I don't know what kind of people you usually deal with, Ashley, but they're nowhere near as stubborn as me.”

He looked bored.

“As you wish,” he said. “Do not return to Jubilife, then. We'll see how long your money lasts. Or how many lectures and essays you can miss until you're thrown out of university.”

I paused. He had me there. I wasn't really very well-suited to uni – but I'd promised my parents I would get through it. And I really didn't want to have to go home and tell them I'd been kicked out.

“No,” I said. “I'm not leaving. Someone wants me dead and I want to know why.”

“Then I'll tell you when I find out,” replied Ashley. “I will say no more to you.”
He turned on his heel and walked away.

I stared after him for a moment, then ran to catch up.

“Hey! Wait!”

He didn't even acknowledge my existence; he just kept walking down the lane, back into Floaroma.

“Ashley!” I grabbed his shoulder, but somehow he slipped free and kept walking as if I wasn't there. “Oh, come on,” I said. “This is really childish.”

Still no answer.

“Fine,” I said. “You can't ignore me forev—”

“Oh, thank God you're back!” cried Iago, rising out of a bush. “I've been hiding here for about half an hour now. I was beginning to think they might catch me.”

Ashley sighed.

“You were found out?”

“I can pay you back for the bet, that's the important thing,” Iago said. “But, er, yes, it seems I might have underestimated the intellect of these small-town types.” He noticed me. “Hey, Pearl! How was the Windworks?”

“Windy, angry, and chasey,” I replied thoughtfully, “in that order. I guess the scamming didn't go so well?”

“I have the money, but there's also a cop running around trying to arrest me,” explained Iago. “I, er – I am slightly out of shape when it comes to grifting. Hey, you wouldn't want to team up with me for a two-man con, would you? I was thinking we could pull the Priest Heist in Jubilife—”

“Now's not really the time,” I said. “We have an Ashley situation.”

Iago looked from me to him and back again.

“He isn't talking to you?”

“No.”

“He wants you to go home?”

“Yeah.”

“And you don't want to?”

“Uh-huh. He's used to getting his own way. Aren't you, Ashley?”

“You really are a foul little creature, aren't you?” replied the detective.

“That means 'yes'.” Iago climbed more fully out of the bush. “Ignore him, he'll get over it once he's bottled up all his emotions and he's gone all calm again.”
“That doesn't sound very healthy,” I observed.

“That's what you humans say, isn't it?” asked Iago. “Kadabra think differently. For us, we take our negative emotions, trap them at the back of our minds and let them out selectively when we need to hurt someone. It's like shaking up a bottle of fizzy cola and opening the top, only instead of cola, it's raw anger that melts your brain.”

He was surprisingly amiable; I put it down to the money he'd got, and the relief that someone had finally turned up to save him.

“Only,” he went on, voice darkening, “I can't do that, so I get drunk instead and knife humans in back alleys.”

“We're going,” announced Ashley. “Back to Eterna. It seems there's nothing to be done here.”

“By train?”

“Yes. Give me your money, I'll buy tickets and a suitcase.”

“A suitcase?” I asked.

Iago sighed.

“It's necessary,” he said. “You'll see.”

I did. Half an hour later, we were sitting on the only platform, waiting for the early afternoon train to Eterna – and at our feet was a rather talkative suitcase.

“It smells of human,” the suitcase complained. “Where did you get this?”

“A shop,” replied Ashley.

“That'll be why,” said the suitcase. “They've probably touched it. With their hands. The same hands that are stained red with the blood of my brothers and sisters—”

I put my feet on the suitcase, and it gave a muffled cry of pain.

“Suitcases don't talk,” I said, and leaned back to wait for the train.

When the train arrived and we got on, the guard asked what was in the suitcase, since it was quivering so much; I told him it was a captured shipment of Mexican jumping beans, and that we were taking it to be burned at the Eterna Bean Pound. That seemed to do the trick and he let us through.

“See?” I said to Ashley pointedly. “I can be clever.”

Mexican jumping beans have been illegal in Sinnoh for a very long time; as a child, I'd been friends with the local bean dealer, and was the envy of all my other friends until they got Pokémon, which, to be honest, outclass jumping beans by a country mile. Despite my ingenuity, I didn't get a response, and took my seat next to him with a sigh.

The first fifteen minutes of the journey stretched out forever, since no one was talking to me; after that, though, I thought it was probably safe to let Iago out of the suitcase, and I hauled it off to the toilet so I could release him unobserved. Unfortunately, a woman in her fifties was walking past when we exited at the same time, which led to a slightly disgusting misunderstanding on her part. Which I'm way too embarrassed to even think about, let alone write.

When we got to Eterna, Ashley immediately sat down on the nearest bench and started fiddling with his smartphone, which didn't really fit my idea of what private detectives did.

“What's he doing?” I asked Iago, standing around and feeling useless.

“Looking up the registration numbers of those vans, I guess,” he replied, for he had been told all about our misadventure at the Windworks during the train ride. “If they're legit, it's pretty easy to trace them to their owners. Then you get an address, and boom! We find where Team Galactic are based.”

“OK,” I said. “What do we do in the meantime?”

Iago shrugged.

“Ashley doesn't need me until it's time to go there, and he doesn't want you.” He thought for a moment. “Food? Beer? I have money.”

He produced a black wallet from the folds of his tail.

I looked at Iago, then at Ashley.

“Yeah, all right,” I agreed, and left Ashley to it.

--

If you remember the Important Man, you will remember that the last time we encountered him, he was sitting in an office.

This was no longer the case.

He was walking in a meditative sort of way around a certain newly-furnished floor in a certain building in a certain city, and while he walked, he listened to the words of a certain blue-haired man, who appeared to be functioning as his guide.

“This is very impressive,” said the Important Man. “But have you given any thought as to how we'll actually get them up here?”

The blue-haired man hesitated. He did not look like the sort of man who usually hesitated, but hesitate he now did.

“Ah. No, sir.”

“You should fix that,” said the person who had once been sitting on the desk, and now followed close behind the Important Man. Since we once knew them solely for sitting on said desk, we shall henceforth refer to them as the Desk Sitter. “Either move this floor down, or find a way of moving them up.”

“Yes, thank you,” muttered the Important Man impatiently. Then, to the blue-haired man: “You have to find a way. Install a service elevator or something.”

“Couldn't we catch them in Poké Balls and move them—”

“Yes, of course we could,” said the Important Man. “That is, if you expect that it will actually be possible to do that.”

His tone was scathing and his eyes cold; the blue-haired man quailed before him. It was one of those classic villain-and-underling moments.

“Spare us this nonsense,” groaned the Desk Sitter. “It pains us to see such... stupidity.”

The Important Man ignored them.

“Just make the changes,” he snapped at the blue-haired man.

“Yes, of course, Mister Maragos,” replied this man in a wheedling sort of voice. “I'll go and think up a solution straight away – a service elevator or something—”

“Very good.”

And the man whom we now know as Mister Maragos walked away, down some corridors and back to his office.

---

“Who was meant to be keeping watch?”

The members of Team Galactic who had invaded the Windworks remained silent.

“I asked a question,” said Mars in a low voice. “And if I don't get an answer to that question, I'm going to start making assumptions. I might assume that you were meant to be on watch,” she said, pointing at the nearest grunt. “Or you.” She paused, and Jackson got to his heavy feet behind her, wound his tails tightly about his waist and growled.

He was, the grunts noted, very big indeed.

“And if I say you were keeping watch, then – well, isn't it obvious?”

It was obvious. Jackson yawned a prodigious yawn, and exposed about a hectare of tooth.

“So if any of you have anything to say...” Mars paused again; she had learned the benefits of pausing at the last training exercise she'd had. “Well, now's the time to say it.”

As one, thirty hands moved to point towards one man, standing at the back of the crowd. One man, who pointed feebly to the person next to him.

“What's your name?” asked Mars, moving through the ranks of grunts to get to him. Jackson followed close behind, and the crowd parted like the Red Sea for him and his mistress.

“Tristan, ma'am – Tristan Shandy—”

“Who's your partner, Shandy?”

It was company policy to send grunts in pairs, one with a Pokémon and one with a gun; it had worked for the Teams Magma and Aqua in Hoenn before they were inexplicably removed from the face of the earth, and the boss was one of those rare people who actually learn from their predecessors.

“Radley, ma'am – Liza Radley...”

“Then, Shandy, I suggest you pick up Miss Radley and go and kill Lacrimére and Gideon,” Mars said. Her eye glittered in a dangerous sort of way; it was like looking into the soul of a shark. “Otherwise I might just hold you personally responsible for letting them get in here, and therefore them escaping with rather a lot of valuable information. Of course, if you think I'm being unreasonable, you're welcome to talk to Samantha in Human Resources.”

Tristan looked relieved, and not a little confused.

“Just be aware that Samantha in Human Resources is entirely fictional, and has no power over me. But talking to her may well comfort you as you contemplate spending the rest of your miserable existence as part of Jackson's excess fat reserves.”

Jackson growled menacingly, then broke off, puzzled. Had his mistress just called him fat?

Tristan, for his part, merely gulped.

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Mrowr,” mewed Jackson indignantly, which may well have meant something along the lines of 'I'm not fat, it's glandular'.

“Get moving,” said Mars coldly, and swept away; Jackson remained a moment, looking upset, then shook his heavy head and followed her. “We're leaving now,” Mars snapped. “We can't afford to be caught. Get the vans ready; I want to be out of here five minutes ago.”

Immediately, the grunts scattered to go about their various duties; within moments, there were only two left.

Tristan stared blankly into space for nearly a minute, pale and trembling, before he turned to the space-suited woman standing near him.

“So,” he said weakly. “Shall – shall we get going, then?”

Liza raised one eyebrow into an arch of such perfect acerbity that it would have made a lemon weep, and said:

“I don't know why I follow you around.”

“Because... I'm handsome?”

“I doubt it.” Liza sighed. “Come on, then,” she said. “I suppose we'd better get moving. Do you still have the taxi?”

Tristan looked uncomfortable – or, since he already looked very uncomfortable, more so.

“No,” he admitted. “I dumped it in Floaroma.”

Liza closed her eyes.

“It'll have been impounded by now,” she said. “If you left it where I saw you park it, that is.” She sighed again, this time recalling a ruined flowerbed and smashed fence. “Fine. We'll take a train, but you're paying for it.”

“That's not—”

“I'll buy you a Kinder Egg.”

“Deal.”

And they left, Tristan feeling apprehensive but vaguely triumphant, and Liza feeling whatever strange emotions it was that she felt in that lonely, muddled head of hers.

---

Half an hour later, a secretive-looking gentleman knocked furtively on the door of the Windworks.

“Who is it?” called a shaky voice from within. “Is it the police?”

“Ah, better than that, monsieur!” cried the gentleman enthusiastically. “It is the International Police, and I am here to arrest Mademoiselle Liza Radley!”

The door opened a crack, and a long sliver of pale face became visible, punctuated by one bespectacled eye.

“What?”

“My name is Looker,” the gentleman said. “And I am on the trail of Mademoiselle Radley, who is, I am informed, right here in this building!”

“I don't know anything about any Madama-whatever Radley,” the face said, “but there were some nasty thugs in weird spacesuits here a while ago. I called the police when they left—”

“And naturally they will come, monsieur,” replied Looker. “But I, I am a member of the International Police, and I am of course, roads ahead of them, as you say.”

“I think you mean 'streets',” the man replied, “but they're gone. These two young people came and chased him off.”

Looker took a step back and made an exaggerated face of surprise.

“He has been here already?” he cried. “The Diamond has been and gone?”

“What? Who is this Diamond guy that everyone keeps talking about—?”

“So he was telling the truth,” Looker muttered frenetically, turning away and striking a thoughtful pose. “Mademoiselle Radley, she is mixed up with the Galactic... Pardieu! There is much to be investigated here...”

And he walked away, leaving a very confused scientist behind him.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; October 29th, 2011 at 08:08 AM. Reason: Misspelled 'mademoiselle'. How is that even possible, and, more importantly, why didn't anyone notice?