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Old October 16th, 2011 (03:57 AM). Edited October 27th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
From the ashes of real life I emerge, a phoenix of online wit and weirdness, a veritable Lazarus and sentient compendium of pop culture references, a disciple of the Golden Sprout and proponent of Far Fetched Fiction.

In other words: I'm back, though for how long is debatable. I've managed to get the story across to a different computer, but I've only got access to it today. I think I might be able to post again in about a week's time - but I can't be certain.

Therefore, enjoy this (now very strange) story!

Chapter Nine: In Which We Meet Three New Characters and an Old One


'It is recommended that the Trainer Sebastian Emerald be placed under surveillance for a minimum of four years. It must be assumed that if he comes to this country he will become a threat to our plans. It is also imperative that the location of Steven Stone be ascertained, and also whether or not he has obtained a new Metagross.

Finally, and most importantly of all, the professional thief Robin Goodfellow must be found and captured or killed at all costs.'

From the files of one Mister C. Maragos


Money,” I said. “That's why you're with him. You said you were in debt.”

Iago shook his head.

Here's a tip for you: never accept what a con artist says at face value.” He gave me a sly look. “Whatever you might think, I am competent at what I do, you know. I mean...” He held up my phone, and then my purse.

What? Hey, give those back!” I snatched them off him and returned them to my bag. “That wasn't con artistry—”

Yeah, but pickpocketing is useful too.”

There came more thuds from upstairs, and someone shouted out in a commanding voice:

What the hell is going on here?”

I took a step towards the upper floor, but Iago laid one hand on my arm.

Trust me, Pearl,” he said, “there's a whole lot more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy.”

What's that supposed to mean?”

I felt like things were getting very out of hand, very quickly; it was as if I had blundered into some vast conspiracy. Actually, I realised, that was precisely what I had done. Reality had caught up with my imagination – but not at all in the sort of way I’d been imagining.

I mean that if you go upstairs I'll stop you.”

You?” I had to laugh. “You're built like a ten-year-old girl, Iago... oh, OK, that does change things a bit.” He had just brought out rather a large knife from within the many folds of his tail, and was turning it over in his hands like a valuable statuette.

Yeah,” he agreed. “Did I ever tell you about the time I met an Australian?”

Thrown by the sudden change of topic, I took a moment to catch up with him.

What? Er, no.”

He pulled a knife on me,” Iago explained, “so I said 'Call that a knife? This is a knife' and pulled out my knife, which was bigger.” He laughed quietly. “Get it? It was funny because it was a reversal of the usual situation, where the Aussie has the bigger knife.”

Uh huh.” I found it a bit more difficult to find anything funny in the situation, given that I was pretty much being held at knifepoint by a sociopathic Kadabra. “Did, uh, anyone end up getting stabbed?”

Iago looked thoughtful.

No,” he said. “He backed down.”

I smiled; I didn't really want to get stabbed, and it was reassuring to know that Iago didn't have a history of actually using his knife.

That's a relief.”

Mind you,” he went on, “I did set up a line of piano wire across the road before he left, so that he sliced his head off when he drove away in his convertible.”

I stared at him in shock, and he guffawed.

I'm joking,” he said, chuckling. “Jesus. Your face.”

I'm really not laughing,” I replied solemnly. “In fact, I kind of want to push you down the stairs.”

I'd stab you first,” replied Iago. “Nothing personal, you have to understand. Really, you're not too bad – for a human. But I'm committed to protecting Ashley's secret. Well, it's not really his secret, it's more...” He trailed off and shrugged. “Ah, I can't say. Believe me, I'd tell you if I could.”

I almost did believe him as well, but then I remembered that he hated humans and was a congenital liar, so I didn't.

Just then, a man in Galactic uniform came tearing around the corner and down the stairs; he didn't even register us, just pushed past and hurtled by as if he'd just seen the hound of the Baskervilles. Iago stuck out one clawed foot and tripped him as he went by, which sent him flying down the stairwell, bouncing off the far wall and down the next flight. I peered over the railing and saw him tumble all the way down; it was a good old-fashioned piece of slapstick humour, entirely ruined by being in a nonvisual medium.

Iago sighed.

Pity,” he said. “I thought that would be funnier.”

I know,” I agreed.

There came a snuffling animal sound from upstairs, and the sound of some sort of energy charging; a second later, there was a swift thump-crunch and the animal squealed. Someone gasped something incredulous, and then I heard Ashley's altered voice again:

Let us go into your office. We can talk there without distractions.”

The sound of a door opening; footsteps; door closing – and silence.

I think we can go up now,” Iago said, though he didn't put the knife away. “Just don't go into the office.”

We went upstairs, and saw rather a large number of Galactic men and women lying prone on the floor. For a moment, I was quite scared – and then I realised that a couple were unconscious, and the rest were pretending to be dead. I knew this because they started to get up and run away, as quietly as possible.

Something scared them,” I said unnecessarily. “Iago, was that—?”

Ashley? In a manner of speaking,” he replied. “No more questions now, because if I answered them, I'm afraid I'd have to kill you.” He grinned. “Haven't you just always wanted to say that?”

I hadn't, but didn't think it particularly wise to tell him that seeing as he was currently holding a knife that looked like it was fairly close to growing up into a sword.

I don't see the Pokémon that we heard,” I said, changing the subject and fiddling with a strand of my hair.

Its owner probably recalled it.” Iago shrugged. “Who cares? After what happened to it, it's in no condition to fight.”

After... what happened to it? What did happen to it?”

Ashley did,” he replied after a pause. “Sort of. Seriously now, I'm going to kill you if you ask any more questions.”

Before I could even begin to think of a reply, the point of his knife was at my throat, and once again I realised that he really wasn't human. Iago walked and talked and smoked and drank, but behind his triangular eyes was a brain that lacked any human ideals or morality. He would no more worry about my death than I would care about squishing a bug. Faintly, the part of my brain that was actually interested in university thought that Kadabra morality might make for an interesting philosophical discussion topic; the other parts of my brain, which were all quite scared, ganged up on it and told it to shut up, or else.

OK,” I said, swallowing deeply. “No more questions. Got it.”

Iago withdrew the knife and leaned against the far wall.

Apparently,” he said, as if he hadn't just held a knife against my neck, “this woman's name is Jupiter. That's got to be a code name, don't you think?”

What?”

He pointed at a plaque on the door opposite him; I looked, and read the words 'COMMANDER JUPITER' printed there.

Am I allowed to speak, or will you kill me if I do?” I asked.

Depends how the mood takes me. Killing you would simplify things, but I'm not really supposed to unless it's necessary. Which is a roundabout way of saying 'yes, you may speak'.”

How reassuring. I was just going to agree with you.”

That's good— aha, here he is.”

I turned sharply, and saw Ashley emerging from Jupiter's room, adjusting his glasses with the middle finger of his right hand.

What the hell happened in there?” I asked, despite Iago's pointed cough.

We had a conversation, and Ms. Jupiter was very helpful indeed,” said Ashley. “Unfortunately, she didn't know why we were to be killed, or the overall aim of Team Galactic; it seems their leader keeps the amount of information known by each individual member as small as possible.”

Which means they must have been expecting you to come sniffing around,” Iago said.

Me, or someone else,” agreed Ashley. “Ms. Jupiter did mention that there were concerns about Cynthia Buckley, as well, and about some other people, whose names weren't mentioned to her.”

Doesn't that mean that this is something really big?” I asked. “Cynthia's the Pokémon Champion of Sinnoh. If she would get involved...”

Correct,” said Ashley, sounding surprised. “It means that whatever the Galactics are doing, it is Pokémon-based and has national consequences.”

Those grunts in the Pokémon room,” I recalled. “They said they needed 1.2 gigawatts of energy. And they stole electricity from the Windworks.”

Hey, since when did you have a brain?” asked Iago rudely. “I thought you were the sap we brought along so that we'd have someone to explain things to?”

Knife or not, I bet I can get you in an armlock in about two seconds,” I retorted. “Shut up for a moment.”

Yes,” said Ashley unexpectedly. “I rather think Pearl has seen it. Go on.”

I looked at him, surprised, and then asked:

Ashley, what was in Professor Rowan's briefcase?”

He smiled.

You did see it,” he said. “It was research on Pokémon evolution, and the light and heat energy given off as they evolve under captive conditions—”

The Pokémon in the storage chamber!” I cried. “They were all—”

Unevolved, yeah,” Iago finished. “I suppose you want congratulations for getting the answer right?”

So now you see it too,” Ashley said, ignoring him. “Team Galactic are gathering electricity, by any means possible. That's what's going on.”

But why?” I asked.

I don't know yet,” he replied. “But I do know the name of the man who will. He's the one who ordered our deaths.” (Here, Iago suddenly looked interested.) “Ms. Jupiter very kindly dropped his name for me. The architect of this scheme and the leader of Team Galactic: one Mister Cyrus Maragos.”

---

Right now, Mister Cyrus Maragos was once again talking to the person we have come to know as the Desk Sitter. Again, the Desk Sitter was failing to live up to their name, but this was because they were in a park, and there were in fact no desks to sit on.

This is it,” said Cyrus. “The statue.”

It is terrifying,” stated the Desk Sitter.

Cyrus considered this view, and came to the conclusion that it was correct.

Yes,” he said. “Yes, it most certainly is.”

It must have been fifty feet high, and showed some primaeval beast rearing onto its hind legs; it was as if someone had taken parts of every movie monster going and stuck them together with the goal of forming some sort of ultimate hybrid. It had the long, swept-back head of the Alien and the metal-plated face and chest of the Predator; the powerful arms of the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the claws of Freddy Krueger. As if this weren’t enough, it had a few other bonus features, apparently added as a sort of garnish to complete the nightmarish effect: a proliferation of spikes and plates, a pair of wings composed mainly of flat blades, and a tail that looked like it could level a building with a single swing.

The inscription's worn right down,” Cyrus announced, inspecting it. “It seems that this won't be as useful as we hoped.”

We believe this statue to depict a fusion of both of them,” the Desk Sitter said, as if Cyrus hadn't spoken. “It embodies your – our vision. That is why we have brought you here.”

Technically, I brought you here.”

Do not quibble. We dislike that.”

You've no right to say that. You quibble too,” pointed out Cyrus.

We do not. We say exactly what we mean, and nothing else.”

That's not true. If you did, you'd have told me we were coming to see this statue instead of making me waste an entire morning coming here!”

We thought you might be inspired by art,” said the Desk Sitter sulkily. “Evidently, we were wrong.”

Art provokes an emotional response that I disap—”

We have also categorised you as a philistine.”

Oh, shut up,” said Cyrus, annoyed, and then became even more annoyed that he'd become annoyed. Then he got more annoyed because he'd become more annoyed, and so on and so forth.

You are being emotional,” observed the Desk Sitter smugly.

I'm not talking to you right now,” replied Cyrus shortly, swallowing the lungful of anger that was rising in his chest.

That is an even more emotional response.”

If I don't talk to you, I'll be able to get these damnable emotions under control,” growled Cyrus, and flung himself down onto a park bench to stare at the statue of the Unknown Really Scary Thing (as it was described in the guidebook) and brood in silence.

---

We shall have to go after them,” announced Ellen, with the air of one who expects to be obeyed. She was sitting on the edge of the table and swinging her legs back and forth like a pair of pallid pendulums.

Madam?” Bond was less energetic and more reserved; he stood to one side, straight-backed and tall.

I know, I know. It's awfully dangerous,” said Ellen. “The Feeling says we can't, but – but it would be so awful if it wasn't stopped. It would be like – oh, I can't bear to think of it!”

I know precisely what you mean, madam,” agreed Bond. For once, there was a slight tinge of emotion to his voice. He did know what she meant; he too had seen it at work before, and the memory was strong in his mind.

Will they be able to hear us, do you think?”

I cannot say, madam. Perhaps we should try harder.”

As suggestions go, this was not one of the greats, but it has to be said in Bond's defence that there was no possible way he could have thought of a better one.

Mm. I suppose that might do it,” agreed Ellen. “Well, shall we go?”

Let us not stand upon the order of our going, but go at once,” concurred Bond in a rather well-read manner. “As you wish, madam.”

So saying, he crossed to the door and held it open for her as she passed through.

I must admit to having some misgivings about this venture, madam,” he said, following her into the hall. “I am not entirely certain if I am capable of leaving this place.”

You simply must be able to, Bond,” replied Ellen. “I don't think I could manage without you.”

You are set on leaving, then, madam?”

I can't not leave,” Ellen said reasonably. “Think what might happen!”

Indeed, madam,” replied Bond. “It is a fearsome prospect. Still... this Feeling...”

Bond! I am in charge, and I say we shall at least try to leave!”

Bond inclined his head in the slightest of nods.

Of course, madam,” he said, in a voice that implied rather more suppressed doubt than a servant strictly ought to show for his mistress's plans. Ellen paused at the foot of the main stairs, and shot him a look.

I shall gather my friends. Prepare the carriage, would you?”

If it still functions, madam, it will be my pleasure.”

Bond glided off in that singular manner that expert servants are capable of, and vanished out of the door; Ellen watched him for a moment, then headed upstairs to find her friends.

Their names were Chicory, Mans and Huluvu, and they were, Ellen found, willing enough to run ahead for them and point out where they needed to go; however, none of them would go further than a mile away from the house. That was understandable, of course, for this was a desirable territory for their kind, and they wanted to be certain that they could rush back to protect it from intruders in an emergency. Ellen agreed to their terms, and they left to embark on their mission.

Ellen returned to the hall and walked out down the driveway, where Bond was waiting with the carriage. It looked rather the worse for wear – the black paint was badly scratched, and chunks were missing from its wooden sides – but the wheels looked sound enough.

Is it safe?” she asked.

If not for others, then certainly for us,” Bond replied, holding open the door for her. “I have taken the liberty of cleaning the inside as much as possible, madam. I also packed your books, and some money for the purchase of more ink. Also of paint and nails, for as you so astutely observed, the carriage is in some small need of repairs.”

As he was speaking, one of the shafts fell off the front with a thump, something that Bond chose not to acknowledge.

Oh,” said Ellen, looking at the fallen shaft. “Er, all right. Well, at least you took my books and pens. Shall we go, then?” She climbed into the carriage – which was, though more or less clean, distinctly rickety-looking – and took a seat, drawing back the moth-eaten velvet curtain to let in some light. Bond closed the door after her and ascended to the driver's seat.

There was a pause. Neither of them were entirely certain what would happen next.

It is not too late to remain, madam,” called Bond from the roof.

Ellen hesitated – then squashed her fears and rapped on the ceiling.

Follow Chicory and the others,” she replied. “And if we should cease to be – well, would that be so bad, Bond?”

I take your point, madam,” answered Bond. “Since this then may be the last time we speak, I should like to take this opportunity to tell you that it has been a pleasure to serve you and your family these past years.”

And I have appreciated your service,” replied Ellen. “So did my family, I'm sure. You're a splendid butler.” She took a deep breath and straightened out her shaking hands. “However, we shall survive, I'm sure of it. Go!”

As you wish, madam,” replied Bond, and even he could not quite keep the tremor from his voice. There was a low whinny, which was quite strange as Ellen was certain there were no horses any more, and the carriage lurched forwards towards the gates. As it drew closer, Ellen felt the familiar Feeling rise in her chest; it felt as if her heart swelling up within her, ready to burst and blow her to pieces—

and then they were out, beyond the gates and rolling southward, and the Feeling was gone.

We did it!” yelled Ellen excitedly. “Bond, we got out!”

So it would seem,” replied the estimable butler. His voice betrayed not the slightest hint of his relief, but Ellen knew he must be full of it; she certainly was, and she hadn't been nearly as afraid of the consequences of leaving as Bond had.

Right, then,” said Ellen, trying hard to return to the important matter at hand. “Bond, we must think of a way to communicate with them...”

---

Tristan and Liza arrived in Eterna at about four o'clock, weary and footsore; Tristan might well have criticised his partner for delaying them so much, but he didn't quite dare. She was obviously slightly insane, and she also had a rather large gun. Together, these two things made her more than Tristan thought he could realistically take on in any sort of confrontation.

So,” he said, dropping exhaustedly onto a bench and closing his eyes, “what do you suggest we do next?”

Head to the Eterna base and see if there's any word there,” Liza replied. “I don't know why you're sitting down. Get up and get moving.”

Tristan gave an almighty sigh, and made a feeble effort to rise that moved him about an inch away from his starting position.

Do I have to buy you a Kinder Egg to get you to get up?” asked Liza.

Tristan thought about it.

Yeah,” he replied. “You do.”

How about I don't buy you one, and just decorate the bench with your brain?”

Tristan opened his eyes and saw Liza's gun pressed against his forehead; he went cross-eyed trying to look at it, and decided to get up.

Right then,” said Liza, putting the gun away and looking around to make sure no one had noticed. “Let's get going.”

And they did, and neither, predictably enough, noticed the battered black carriage rattling along behind them.

---

Leaving the Galactic building had been easy; we'd gone out the way we'd come, and only run into a couple of goons as we did so. They had all been too busy fearing for their lives to cause any real trouble for us, and so we found ourselves in the streets of Eterna again, searching for somewhere to sit down and think about the information we had, and plan our next move.

Eterna had quite a famous park on the east side, so I suggested we go there; Ashley and Iago both agreed, and while we walked I called Stephanie back to see what she wanted.

Hello? Steph?”

Pearl!”

I winced and moved the phone further away from my ear.

Huh. What big lungs you have.”

All the better to shout abuse at you with,” Stephanie returned. “Where the hell are you? Are you tryingto get yourself kicked out?”

It's kind of important—”

What are you doing that's more important than this? Your position at the university is already pretty damn tenuous—”

Someone's trying to kill me!” I cried back, which not only shut her up but drew quite a few strange looks from other people on the street. Ashley and Iago took a few discreet steps away from me.

What?” asked Stephanie. “Someone's... Pearl, what's going on?”

I wish I knew,” I replied forlornly. “There's this group called Team Galactic, and they've sent assassins after me, and the detective and his friend—”

You're with that detective? Pearl, why can't you let him do his job and solve the crime without you getting involved?”

You sound like him!” I snapped back, annoyed now. “If someone wants me dead, I'd say I have a pretty damn good reason to get involved, wouldn't you?”

What if you get—”

Whatever happens, I'm safer here than anywhere else,” I replied, and then thought of Iago and his knife. “Well. Maybe not anywhere else. Which reminds me...” I stole a glance at Iago and Ashley, but they didn't seem to be listening. “Can you do some research for me, Steph?” I whispered down the line.

What?”

Well... look, I can't really explain, but can you look up Ashley Lacrimére for me?”

Pearl, I am really confused and really pissed-off, and if I don't get some straight answers soon, I'm going to track you down and kick you off a cliff.”

I can't give you any straight answers, because I don't know any answers myself!” I hissed. “Look, just do some research, OK?”

Something in my voice must have made an impression on her, because she replied in quite a subdued voice:

O-OK. What am I looking for?”

Something out of the ordinary,” I replied, looking across at Ashley and Iago again. “I know he runs a consulting detective agency, but I want to know if there's anything, like... weird about him.”

Weird?”

Well...” How could I put it into words? I wanted to know what had distorted his voice, what had put such fear into the Galactics in the building; I wanted to know what the hell was going on, why Iago was bound to follow Ashley, whose secret this was if it wasn't Ashley's... There were so many questions that I just had no idea what to say. “Just look for weird things. Secrets. Hidden stuff.”

Why am I doing this and not you?”

Because if I do it, I might just get knifed,” I answered truthfully. “Oh yeah, and you might want to keep it a secret that you're doing this. Or someone might turn up at your apartment and knife you, too.”

For a moment, Stephanie was speechless. Then:

Jesus Christ, Pearl. What have you got yourself into?”

I don't know,” I replied. “But don't worry. I'm going to find out.”

That's exactly what worries me,” she told me. “I hope you know what you're doing...”

It wasn't an auspicious end to a conversation, but I'd got the message across and that was the important thing. I put my phone away, caught up with the others – I'd fallen behind – and we continued on our way to the park.

Its fame turned out to be deserved: a huge, broad expanse of grass, with a pond to the east, the occasional stand of trees and a fifty-foot statue of some terrifying ancient monster in the middle of it. On a sunny Friday like today, you'd have been hard-pressed to find a part of it that didn't have a few families picnicking on it, or a pair of young lovers lying in the grass. There was nowhere in Jubilife like this at all, and overall it seemed like a great place to just sit in the sun and relax.

Unfortunately, we were here to do more than relax; we'd be doing some sitting in the sun, but we had to think as well, and draw up a plan of action. We sat down near a tall pine tree where there was a view of the statue and of the pond, and a teenager with his blue-haired girlfriend about ten yards to our right.

Nice spot,” said Iago, looking around. “I'll have to remember this place. Which I will, because I have perfect recall.”

There's no need to be smug about it,” replied Ashley. Maybe it was because I'd been unexpectedly clever back at the Galactic hideout, but he seemed to, if not exactly like me, then certainly tolerate me more than before. “Let's discuss this Mister Maragos.”

Well...” I thought. “Might he be...?” I hesitated. “Might he be in Veilstone?”

Ashley looked at me, puzzled.

What makes you think that?”

And I was about to answer him when someone called out to us: an unfamiliar voice, with an unfamiliar accent.

Iago? Iago, is that you?”

The Kadabra looked up sharply, and so did I; I saw a bright orange light approaching, lightbulb-shaped and glowing with blue electricity.

What the... hey, is that you?” asked Iago, stunned. “It is, it isyou!”

The Rotom drew closer, and I noticed that there was a tiny speaker floating in the middle of its body, which was where its voice was coming from.

Ah,” it said, taking in Ashley and myself. “Good afternoon, assorted meat creatures. I'm an old friend of Iago's, and my name is Robin Goodfellow.”
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For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.