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  #151    
Old July 10th, 2011, 01:41 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Varelse View Post
Well, we know hes been introduced before,
Spoiler:
He's the guy Mr. Stone was betting with,

but I bet you mean other than that.

Edit: Oh, and is the different font in the above chapter intended? And by the way, LOVE this story !
I do mean other than that. I mean, Zero is a character who's appeared before. Maybe not a main one, but one of either Kester, Fabien or Barry has at least glimpsed him before.

Thank you for enjoying the story; that's the best thing that can happen for me as an author, really. It's funny: what started out as a tiny side-project has completely pushed all of my main writing stuff out of the way and taken over my authorial life completely.

The different font is a mystery. For some reason, the copy+paste process has left in all the formatting from MS Word this time, instead of reducing it to plain text. I've no idea why it's happened, but I'm not complaining - it means I don't have to go through and manually italicise everything.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #152    
Old July 10th, 2011, 02:05 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Sixty-Two: The Rainbow Opera

THWACK!

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

Whu-huh-vuh?”

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

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

Ah. This was bad.

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

Uh... sorry?” I offered hopefully.

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

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

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

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

Someone fell into step beside me.

Yo,” he said. I looked at him.

Hey, Luke.”

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

Hey, Bea.”

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

I winced.

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

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

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

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

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

Luke looked wounded.

Ouch,” he said. “What was that for?”

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

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

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

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

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

He's so bland,” complained Beatrix.

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

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

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

Wake up, Kester.”

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

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

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

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

I was asking how I’m useless.”

I looked at Luke, and he went red.

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

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

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

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

Tell me then!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both Luke and Beatrix braked hard and rounded on me.

It's your fault!”

I shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn't mean it literally!”

I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke? Is it English?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is it?” asked Beatrix, stopping.

I pointed.

Oh. Oh. That's really creepy.”

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

WAKE UP, KESTER!

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

Kester? Are you OK?” asked Beatrix.

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

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

I blinked.

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

Hear what?” asked Luke.

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

No,” replied Beatrix. “Luke?”

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

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

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

---


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

The doctor gulped.

Er, what's the question?”

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

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

Um... OK,” he said. “I'll do that.”

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

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

Please,” she said urgently, “hurry!”

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

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

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

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

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

---


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

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

Uh... hello?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, shut up.”

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

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

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

Yeah,” I said quietly. “Oh.”

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

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

WAKE UP KESTER

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

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

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

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

It could be,” Beatrix said defensively.

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

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

What? Why? How?”

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

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

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

Oh yeah,” he said.

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


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

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

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

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

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

WAKE UP KESTER!

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

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

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

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

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

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

He perked up again at that.

Yeah! I’m right for once!”

Sssh!” said the librarian violently.

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

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

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

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

Dunno,” replied Luke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, is that what it is?”

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

I thought.

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

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

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

Sorry. That was one of mine.

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

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

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

---


All right, is everyone here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They find it's all a bit too much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---


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

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

Sorry.”

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

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

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

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

The doctor shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; July 23rd, 2011 at 06:05 AM. Reason: Reformatting
  #153    
Old July 12th, 2011, 08:49 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Sixty-Three: Nightmare on Bell Street


What d'you mean, go to the hospital?” asked Luke. “What's there?”

I don't know,” I answered, “but I have the weirdest feeling... We need to go there. I need to go there.”

Kester, you're not making any sense,” said Beatrix cautiously. “I'm not sure we should—”

This whole day isn't making any sense,” I pointed out, slightly irately. “All I know is that there's something at the hospital, and I need to be there.”

There was a pause.

There... couldn't be any harm in going, could there?” asked Luke hesitantly. “I mean, it's a hospital. There's nothing to be afraid of there.”

We shouldn't be following weird hunches,” Beatrix cautioned us. “Kester, you're not really rational right now.”

Do we have any other ideas?” I asked. The answer was evident in the ensuing silence. “All right then. Let's go.”

So we went outside – passing a wall display in which a Rotom exhorted young people to read, and me to wake up – retrieved our bikes, and cycled off to the Central Rustboro Hospital.

---


Supervisor Antonio – he who had once, on a dark and stormy night, entertained the bandits with a story – was not a happy man.

Usually, this phrase is used to indicate that someone is angry, and it would not be incorrect to say that this was indeed the case. But on this particular occasion, Antonio was more than angry. He was also rather frightened. And a frightened, angry man is not only unhappy, but also one who might do something wild and dangerous to those around him.

Supervisor Antonio was angry because his grunts had failed. He was frightened because Maxie would not be pleased to hear that yet another lead on Zero had come to nought. And the people around him were Blake and Fabien.

He was on the verge of doing something wild and dangerous to them.

The whole thing was a set-up?” he asked. He had asked this before – this was the time commonly referred to as the umpteenth – but he knew not what else to say.

That's right, sir,” said Fabien. “Looks like Devon are after Ruby, too.”

I'll draw the conclusions around here,” snapped Antonio.

Sorry, sir.” Fabien looked suitably abashed.

Devon must be after Ruby too,” Antonio mused. “Doubtless they want him for their research.”

It does seem likely,” agreed Fabien. “They do a lot of that sort of stuff, don't they?”

Latch, are you incapable of remaining silent for more than half a second?” asked Antonio waspishly.

Sorry, sir.” Once again, Fabien looked abashed.

Blake raised a hand.

Put it down, this isn't a primary school,” said Antonio witheringly. “What is it, Henderson?”

Wha' sor' of stuff is it tha' Devon do?” he asked.

Enhancement,” replied Antonio, with the air of one who knows he is wasted upon his audience. “Magneton made of nine Magnemite, super-soldiers, that sort of thing.”

He did some pacing, encountered an obstacle in the form of his hat-stand, and smote it viciously to the floor in vexation.

Why in God's name do I have a hat-stand?” Antonio demanded to know; as this was a question that neither of them could answer, Blake and Fabien kept silent. “I mean, who has hat-stands?” he asked, aggrieved.

I wouldn't know, sir,” replied Fabien. “Not knowing anyone who has a hat-stand. Except you.”

Bah.” Antonio came to a halt, drew out a large white handkerchief and mopped his brow with it; as it returned to his pocket, one could see that it was now distinctly grey. “Well,” its owner said, “I don't need to tell you how displeased Maxie will be.”

No,” replied Blake, thinking of the time the boss had called them in Slateport, “you don't.”

Good,” said Antonio, suddenly businesslike. “I'm sure you'll understand why I have to tell him this is all your fault, then.”

What?” cried Fabien. “Sir, we were set up—”

Hardly my problem.” Antonio sat down again and shuffled some papers on his desk.

But sir, we'd be being blamed for something that isn't our fault!”

In all honesty,” Antonio said, after a considered pause, “that doesn't really bother me. And it would make a nice change for you – usually, you get blamed for things that are your fault, don't you?”

Fabien looked at Blake, then back at Antonio in an impotent rage.

Sir,” he said stiffly, after a long pause, “I think we'll be taking our leave of you now.”

Go on then,” replied Antonio genially. “Just keep your phones on, so the boss can call to give you hell when he hears.”

It seemed the audience was at an end. Blake and Fabien left, and the difference in the two men's mettle could clearly be seen in the way they did so. The latter stalked out with an exaggerated air of haughty indignation; the former, a different breed of idiot, merely filed out – quite an achievement, considering there was only one of him.

This is an outrage!” said Fabien as they walked out into the street, and if Goishi had been there he would probably have had some unintelligible quip in response to that – most likely in reference to a Mister Tony Harrison – but he was, however, absent. For Goishi was in the Pokémon Centre, recovering from what had been identified as a rather serious head injury, and, no matter how much of an outrage the situation was, it was now the time to go and pick him up.

---


Something's not right here,” I said.

The hospital looked exactly as it did three years ago, when I'd come here with a broken wrist as the result of attempting to text while cycling: a great grey slab of concrete studded with windows, like a gigantic tombstone for everyone within its halls. There were ambulances at the front, and people rushing in, out and around it in that muddled, busy way people do at hospitals.

But for all that, something was very, very wrong.

I don't see anything weird,” Luke said.

That's because there isn't anything weird here,” Beatrix told him. “Kester, this is just a hospital.”

There's something inside,” I said, staring fixedly at an upper-floor window. “Up there, on the fourth floor.”

Kester—”

I was already off my bike and heading for the main entrance.

Kester!”

The automatic doors slid open and I stepped into a cool, air-conditioned lobby. I touched the reception desk and a nearby pot plant; somehow, they seemed familiar, as if my last visit had not been three years ago but just a few days ago.

Good morning,” said the receptionist. “It's Kester Ruby, isn't it?”

What?” I turned to look at her; catching up with me, Luke and Beatrix did the same.

Mister Goodfellow said you'd be here,” she said, smiling. “He asked me to pass on this message.”

She handed me a little envelope; I tore it open and read the two words printed on the paper within.

WAKE UP.

I glanced at Luke, and then at Beatrix.

Um... who is Mister Goodfellow?” I asked the receptionist.

He said you wouldn't remember him,” she replied. “I'm sure he's around somewhere.”

Uh, OK, but who is he?”

I'm sure he's around somewhere,” she repeated, and I couldn't get anything else out of her.

This is weird,” Luke said. “Kester, I think we should leave.”

No, I think we should find Mister Goodfellow,” I replied stubbornly. “Are you two coming?”

Luke looked at Beatrix; he was hopelessly out of his depth here. So was Bea, really, but she didn't show it.

It's probably better if we go with you,” she said. “I don't think you should be going anywhere on your own right now.” She sighed. “Where do you want to go?”

I don't know.” I glanced around. “Let's ask someone.”

I went up to a passing doctor and asked him where I could find Mister Goodfellow; it ought to have surprised me when he said that I could find him on the fourth floor, but it didn't really. That was where I'd sensed something was waiting, after all.

We took the lift up there; it was empty apart from the three of us. As it rose, I thought I heard a song in the distance:

It’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up
It’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up
It’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up
It’s DARE.

Can you hear that?” I asked, but neither Luke nor Beatrix could.

The doors slid open and we stepped out into a long, cold corridor; it was completely empty, and, no matter how hard I listened, utterly silent.

Kester, I think we should leave now,” whispered Beatrix. I could tell she was scared. I was too – this was far and away the most unnerving thing that had ever happened to me. But I couldn't stop now, not when the answers were so close.

It won't take long,” I said, then realised how much more eerie the silence was when you spoke normally. I lowered my voice to a whisper, like Beatrix, and repeated: “It won't take long. I promise.”

I don't think we're meant to be here,” said Luke nervously.

It won't take long,” I said again. I didn't know what else to say.

I crept down the corridor, walking as quietly as I could; the silence felt alive, and it seemed that any sound at all might sting it into anger. I didn't want to find out what might happen if it were angry. Behind me, Beatrix slipped her hand into Luke's; alone at the front, I suddenly felt very small, and very vulnerable.

We turned left and went on a little further; a few metres down, I felt some strange sensation tug at me, and I stopped.

What is it?” asked Luke. “Realised we should leave yet?”

No,” I replied. “It's here... on the right.”

I turned, and there it was: a door, like any other in this building. This door, though – this door had something behind it.

My heart began to pound, and I felt all the moisture vanish from my mouth.

What's in there?” asked Beatrix fearfully.

I don't know,” I replied, trembling fingers closing on the handle. They rested there for a moment while I worked up the courage to open it.

We don't have to do this,” Beatrix said. “We could leave and forget all about the Rotom.”

I said nothing. I was willing my wrist to move, but I couldn't do it; I just couldn't turn the handle.

Kester, let's get out of here,” Luke said earnestly. “This place is bad. I don't know what's going on—”

Well, you wouldn't, would you?” I snapped. My voice boomed loud in the silent corridor, and we all flinched. “Sorry,” I said, almost immediately afterwards. “Sorry. It's just... I’m scared.”

We all are,” said Beatrix. “So, let's go.”

That's the thing,” I said, “I can't. So all I have to do is—”

My wrist jerked, the handle turned, and the door swung open; I started into the room, eyes alighting on—

nothing but an old and abstruse machine, dusty and cobwebbed, in the middle of an empty room.

Is this it?” Luke asked. “Oh. Makes you wonder what we were scared of.”

Yeah,” agreed Beatrix. “What is that thing, anyway?”

It's a P-L.O.T. Device,” I murmured. “It scans your brain for defects.”

How do you know—?”

I don't know.”

I took a step forwards and wiped dust from one futuristic wing of the Device; I saw now that there was a large crack running through it, and that part of it was dangling only by a few wires.

It's broken,” I said. “It must have broken when...” I trailed off, frowning. “I know this! It must have broken when – when...” I couldn't get it, and broke off with a sigh. “I don't know.”

Kester, you are really scaring me,” Beatrix whispered. “What are you talking about?”

I turned to face her and Luke.

I don't know,” I admitted. “The answer's here... Mister Goodfellow's here...” And then a clue came, suddenly and without warning, like the rest of this strange, wild day. “If I just... turn... left.”

I looked to my left, and it was painfully slow, as if the air had turned to tar; my own neck seemed to resist me, and I had to fight to turn. But when I had, I saw it: a door, just tall and wide enough to admit one person of precisely my size, with a Rotom printed on the front.

There it is,” I said breathlessly, taking a step towards the door. “That's the ans—”

A pair of hands grabbed each of my wrists, and, startled, I turned to see Luke and Beatrix holding me back.

We tried,” said Luke, “but you wouldn't listen to reason, would you?”

Luke? Bea? What's going on?”

You can call us Luke and Beatrix if you like,” Beatrix said, “but that's not really what we are. You might call us parasites, or conjurations, or, if you want to be precise, mind-hacks.”

What – what are you doing?”

I couldn't keep the fear out of my voice, and both of them grinned upon hearing it.

We were placed here to maintain this world,” Luke told me. “And to make sure you didn't leave. Our creator believed that Mister Goodfellow would be trapped in here too – but his incomplete synthesis with your mind has left him adrift, outside this world and yet incapable of wholly breaking free from it. Unfortunately, it seems he also has a modicum of control over it – hence his somewhat unnerving efforts to contact you.”

Luke, Bea, you are scaring me now,” I said. “Let me go!”

That's not an option,” Beatrix replied. “Remembering would cause you to realise the true nature of this place, and we just can't let that happen. It isn't part of the plan.”

I’m not sure what I did, but I know it hurt; something like flashes of light bounced around the inside of my head, and my arms felt like they'd been brushed with red-hot irons. Sparks danced through Beatrix and Luke, and they wavered like failing television pictures; it was just for a moment, but it was long enough for me to slip free, and run for the door with the Rotom picture—

---


Oh, at last!

It was dark here, and there was nothing around save a spiky ball of orange light, with two prongs of blue lightning growing from either side of it.

It's so good of you to drop by, said Puck dryly. I was beginning to think you might have decided that you preferred the illusion to reality.

I’m asleep, aren't I? I said, ignoring his snide remarks.

Yes, you are, and a little thanks wouldn't go amiss. Without any prior experience, I single-handedly freed you from one of the strongest psychic prisons I've ever come across, using nothing but my charm and poise.

Then why aren't I awake?

Oh, you're still asleep, Puck said. We're just backstage in the dream, as it were. The mind-hacks can't get us here. They can only operate within the dream.

Zero was going to keep me there, wasn't he? Until he wanted me awake again.

Which might very well have been never, Puck concluded. A nasty trick, that. Though I have to say, using ThunderShock whilst in your own brain was also pretty nasty. You probably reduced your IQ by about 15 points – but on the plus side, you wrecked the synapses where the mind-hacks were hanging out. Hence their wobbliness. He paused. Right, are you ready to leave now? Because I sure as hell am.

I've lost 15 points off my IQ? I’m more stupid now?

Don't worry, you were pretty dumb before; no one will be able to tell. And if you're lucky, it won't even be permanent. Are you ready to leave now?

God, yes. I don't want to spend another minute in this dream.

Good! Wake up, then.

There was a long pause.

You do know how to wake up, right? Puck asked, with a note of panic in his voice.

Usually, I do it automatically, I replied sardonically. But in case you hadn't noticed, this dream is a bit different to normal.

All right, all right, keep your hair on. Puck thought for a moment, his electric-blue eyes pulsing with waves of light. His whole being seemed to shift and change with every thought that passed through it; he was a bit like a living visualiser. OK, he said, after some time. Can you tell you're asleep?

Yes.

Can you feel your real body as well as your dream-body?

I shut my eyes and focused; yes, if I thought about it, I seemed to be lying down on something soft at the same time as standing in this dark abyss.

Yeah.”

That's good! You said that aloud, not in your mind. Open your eyes. Open your real eyes, and wake up...

A crack appeared high up in the abyss, a ray of blinding light pouring in through the hole in the dark.

That's it! Wider! Puck looked excited, his little orange body bouncing in midair. Keep going!

The crack swelled; it was more of a rift now, and beyond it was something blurry, white surrounded by black surrounded by white. I could barely see Puck now; defined by light, he was almost invisible against such a bright background.

Almost there! cried Puck, and then he faded away, and I was staring upwards at Sapphire's downturned face.

---


In a luxurious penthouse apartment on Lilycove's prestigious Bell Street, a conversation was taking place. It was, by the standards of normal people, rather a strange conversation.

This was because it was taking place between myself, Sapphire, Felicity and Steven (with the odd word from Puck), and the subject was my weird, Zero-induced coma, and the mind-hacks that had accompanied it.

You might be surprised that I was up and about so soon after being beaten to a bloody pulp by Matt's Swampert. The fact is that I wasn't: I was lying on the sofa, feeling like I'd just been pressed into serves as the floor of an elephants' ballroom, and doing as little speaking as possible on account of my sore jaw. And my sore face. In fact, my sore everything.

From what you describe,” Steven was saying, “this was the work of a very powerful Psychic-type.”

Definitely,” Puck agreed through the two massive speakers that flanked Steven's TV. “This ain't any of your Xatu or Gardevoir stuff. We're talking something on the magnitude of an Alakazam, a Gengar – real hardcore.”

Those are restricted Pokémon,” Sapphire said. She had been very pleased to see me awake again; so much so, in fact, that she'd almost compounded my injuries into something worse with the force of the hug she gave me. “You need a license to keep something like that—”

I sincerely doubt that Zero is worried about licensing laws,” Steven said, standing up and starting to pace. Since I'd woken, I'd noticed he was extraordinarily agitated; the result, I presumed, of coming so close to nabbing Zero and falling at the final hurdle. “No, whatever it is, we can't track it through the League system. Particularly since we can't contact them at present.”

How is he doing that, do you think?” asked Felicity. I'd liked her reaction to my awakening best, since it, like Sapphire's, involved a hug, and unlike Sapphire's, involved Felicity. “Something about it does not seem right...”

Nothing about this seems right,” Steven replied, scratching furiously at his head. “I can't puzzle any of it out. It shouldn't be possible for him to block off all communications to the League; it shouldn't be possible for him to bring a Ghost or a Psychic strong enough to create that coma into the country without being stopped at the border; it shouldn't have been possible for him to kill Rayquaza!”

Her hand happened to be resting on my arm, and so I felt Sapphire tense as he said this. She wasn't yet over it, then.

But we can look on the bright side,” Puck said cheerily. “I mean, we know where the Aquas are going, don't we? To a deep-sea cavern. In their yellow submarine.”

It was white,” I pointed out weakly.

As I so often say, and you so often ignore: that was a joke, Kester.” The speakers sighed. “The point is, I bet that's where the Orb is.”

Without question,” agreed Steven.

Now, I hate to impose,” Puck went on, in the sort of voice that conveyed precisely the opposite, “but, well, you had a private jet, didn't you, Steven?”

Ye-es...?”

So you don't happen to have a nice submarine knocking about, do you?”

No,” replied Steven. “Regretfully, I don't.”

I see,” said Felicity. “How will we follow the Aquas, then?”

There was a long pause.

I must apologise,” Steven said slowly. “I really must. But my resources are spent. There is nothing I can do to help you down to the bottom of the sea, or to find out where precisely this cavern is.”

You don't know a rich submariner or anything?” Sapphire asked hopefully. Steven shook his head mournfully.

I'm terribly sorry,” he apologised again. “Truly, I am. But the only rich submariner I know has just left for the bottom of the sea with his criminal team. I’m afraid I don't think there are evenany other submarines available.”

But...” I put one hand on the arm of the sofa and levered myself into a sitting position, wincing as I moved. “But... this can't end here!”

I'm afraid I can't see the way out,” Steven replied.

I cross-dressed, was beaten up and went into a coma all during the course of a single night,” I said baldly. “I refuse to believe I went through all that for nothing. And that,” I continued, warming to my theme, “doesn't even begin to take into account everything else I've suffered in the last couple of weeks. I've been shot at, set on fire, electrocuted, forced to crash a car without a seatbelt, verbally and physically abused and thrown down a cliff and the world's longest fire escape. And there's no way in hell that I can accept that all of that was a waste of my time.”

Silence greeted my impassioned speech, and, unsure of whether or not it should stay, lingered for a while before finally leaving as Puck said:

Well. I rather think we just got told off. How about you, boys and girls?”

Shut up, Puck,” muttered Sapphire. “Kester's right.” She turned to Steven. “There has to be a way of following them.”

I refuse to let Zero defeat me,” said Felicity simply.

Steven looked at our hostile faces in some bewilderment.

But I never said you should give up,” he explained. “I only said that I couldn't think of a way to progress.”

Oh.” Sapphire shot me a look; it told me in no uncertain terms that no matter how battered I was, I was in trouble for misinterpreting Steven and making her look unreasonable.

Well, it's nice to see everyone getting along so well,” Puck said, “but you're all being remarkably stupid. There's a very easy way to follow the Aquas.”

Everyone turned to look at the speakers. Then, realising that that was stupid, they looked at me; eventually, undecided as to where Puck actually was, they went back to looking in random directions.

That was also pretty stupid,” Puck sniggered. “You looked like meerkats who can't decide what they're meant to be looking for.”

Just tell us what—!”

Calm down, Sapphire, it's only a commercial. Now, gather around, children. I’m about to impart an absolutely fantastic idea, the like of which I can guarantee you'll never have heard before...”
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; July 23rd, 2011 at 06:10 AM. Reason: Reformatting
  #154    
Old July 14th, 2011, 12:34 AM
olih's Avatar
olih
Who says you can't go home?
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Gender: Female
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I laughed so much at some of these parts! Awesome chapter! Oh, but I noticed one typo:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
I'm terribly sorry,” he apologised again. “Truly, I am. But the only rich submariner I know has just left for the bottom of the sea with his criminal team. I’m afraid I don't think there are evenany other submarines available.”
You forgot the space there. But other than that, everything's fine.
__________________
Stop Kony!
  #155    
Old July 14th, 2011, 01:00 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
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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.

Last edited by Cutlerine; November 11th, 2011 at 05:44 AM. Reason: Reformatting
  #156    
Old July 22nd, 2011, 02:41 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
And I return. I'm sorry for taking so long; first I was away, then I was busy with entries for some of the G8 competitions.


Chapter Sixty-Five: The Alan Sugar Treatment


Kester!”

There was a hand shaking my shoulder; that, I thought, was really not conducive to a good sleep, and anyway there was a big bruise there and it was hurting...

Kester! Wake up!”

Oh. The person wanted me to wake up. How rude.

That,” I murmured, sitting up stiffly and rubbing my eyes, “sounds very familiar in a really unwelcome way.”

That was when I heard a weird, bubbling giggle, and and I knew that we were probably in quite a lot of trouble right now. So I forced my eyes open, looked past Sapphire and saw that rising out of the water behind her was something like a flying saucer.

I blinked. No, not a flying saucer, more a spaceship crossed with a jellyfish, with a touch of blimp. It was blue, with wide, protruding white bands around the middle, and I thought I could see tentacles dangling from its underside.

Blooblooblupblooblup,” it said, though it didn't seem to have a mouth.

Kester, zap it,” Sapphire said urgently. “Quickly, before it realises what we are.”

What is it?”

It doesn't matter, just zap it!”

I shot a Charge Beam at the jelly-blimp, and it exploded with a high-pitched whine into a shower of water drops that pattered harmlessly into the sea.

Eh?” I stared at the spot where it had been. “Was that it?”

No, replied Puck grimly. You just made him angry.

What? Puck, what do you mean?”

What is it?” Sapphire asked. “It is gone, right?”

No,” replied Felicity quietly. “I can feel it – him. He's a Ghost.”

As soon as she said it, I could too: a dark, cold presence all around us, running through the water and coagulating in lumps—

He's reforming, Puck said anxiously. He won't be so unprepared this time; he's making more than one projection.

What exactly is this thing we're dealing with?” I asked, and then ten of the jelly-blimps rose out of the ocean, all around us.

Duncan braked hard with a surprised, electronic hiss; the three of us fell over and I almost went in the sea. A nest of furious tentacles sprang up out of the water and whipped at the jelly-blimps, but they passed through them; Duncan made a nervous sort of noise and hovered anxiously, acutely aware of his inability to harm whatever these monsters were.

Kester!”

I didn't need telling: I was already back on my feet, and dispensed with two of the blobby monsters with well-placed bolts of lightning; beside me, Felicity hurled something dark at another, and it vanished instantly, without screaming or popping. I would have asked what she'd just done, but blue, lace-edged tentacles were snaking out of the water and latching around my neck—

Metal Claw!”

Something big growled behind me, and the next thing I knew the back of my neck was bleeding and the tentacles lay twitching on Duncan's back. I staggered back a step, tripped heavily over a Lairon and fell headfirst into the sea.

Instantly, the noise and commotion above the water was eclipsed by silence; I struck out for the surface, trying hard not to breathe in and thinking about how glad I was that I didn't die by being strangled by lace.

Yeah, that's a fairly pathetic way to go, Puck agreed. Like drowning in nail polish. Although if you died like that, you'd probably be pretty well preserved. Shiny too.

I broke the surface and gulped in air; blinking back water, I saw Rono lashing out at one of the jelly-blimps and making little progress, and Felicity calmly executing another with a second black lump. Beneath them, I could see Duncan's eyes, wide with fright. I think he knew what we were facing, and feared them.

Him, Puck corrected. There's just one of him. He's making a lot of projections, though.

What the hell is—?”

I didn't get a chance to finish; perceiving my plight and correctly assuming I was a good defence against the jelly-blimps, Duncan had wrapped a tentacle around my waist, making certain not to make skin contact, and lifted me high into the air.

My sudden ascent surprised everyone, not least me: Sapphire, Rono and Felicity looked up in surprise, as did the remaining jelly-blimps. Collectively, they decided I posed the greatest threat, and flew up to attack; I saw dark fires gathering in their tiny, piggy eyes, and realised that they were all preparing Ghost attacks, and that when they hit me—

Correct, Puck said. You will die. You should make 'things that will kill me' your specialist subject on Mastermind; you're really good at spotting them. Now destroy these projections!

Charge Beams burned forth from both of my hands and three of the spherical spectres detonated with a collective wail; a fourth dematerialised under the impact of one of Felicity's dark blobs.

Nice shooting, Puck observed. As I said to Phil Spector. Oh, that joke was in appallingly bad taste. I'd apologise, only I don't care.

The last two jelly-blimps loosed dark clouds of some blue-black gas, like aerial ink; Felicity cried out, and Duncan yanked me down and out of the way, back under the water.

Perceptive, noted Puck. This guy's strong; just one of his Hexes would have killed you, dead as John Cleese's parrot.

Glub,” was my reply. My lungs and the sea were currently engaged in a rather brutal battle, and so I was not quite capable of making as coherent an answer as either of us would have liked.

Duncan thrust me out of the water again, and I half-spat, half-vomited a spray of saltwater over his side; my head made contact with the tentacled underside of one of the jelly-blimps, and instinctively I sent sparks through it. Needless to say, it exploded.

I was a little preoccupied at the time, what with almost being drowned and all, but I’m told that the remaining jelly-blimp looked around, then made an evil little bubbling sound before melting back into the sea. For a long moment, there was complete silence save for the swash of the waves and the gentle sound of Duncan moving steadily on, and then I vomited up another eighty gallons of seawater, and the Tentacruel dropped me in disgust on his back.

Will – gasp – someone – pant – please tell me – huff – what the hell is going on here?” I moaned, staring up at the sky and trying to ignore the way my ribs hurt.

A Jellicent,” Sapphire replied. “I think. I’m not sure.”

She's right, Puck said. Probably sent by Zero, because it's a Pokémon from northern waters, near Unova and the UK. There shouldn't be one here.

It's Ghost/Water,” Sapphire went on. “Or it was. It's gone now.”

No, he isn't! cried Puck, alarmed. Kester, you can feel it, right?

Yeah,” I breathed, and I felt it thrumming in the back of my head, all around me like a wave, a sheet, a rolling black tide...

Snap out of it! Sit up!

With a colossal effort, I drew myself into a sitting position.

It's not gone,” I told Sapphire. “It's still here. But it's not – not chasing us...”

He can't move, Puck said. He exists as an area of ocean, about a cubic mile. Once Duncan gets out of his body, we'll be fine.

We must still be within his penumbra,” Sapphire said. “This is bad.”

It's worse than bad, Puck said. Oh, no. No no no no no. Not now...

What is it?”

Look right.

I did, and I saw Rono whining and nudging Felicity with his nose; she was curled up into a tight ball, trembling, with her hands clasped tightly over the crown of her head.

Oh no,” I breathed. “Sapphire, I think we might have two Ghosts to deal with...”

There was a soft bubbly giggle, and Duncan doubled his pace, unbalancing us all; the wind now raced past us so much that I started to feel cold, even under the blazing summer sun.

Behind us, the Tentacruel's wake twisted up into globes of water, the foam gathering into white bands, and a small army of jelly-blimps – the Jellicent's projections – formed like strange, malicious fruits. They bobbed in unison, reminding me incongruously of line-dancing penguins – Sorry, Kester, but when have you ever seen line-dancing penguins? - and then started to glide towards us, lace-fringed tentacles trailing behind them.

It hurts,” whispered Felicity. “She's coming...”

Hang in there,” I said, but I could feel the sharp, agonising spike of Skuld's presence beginning to press against my mind. “Push her back! Fight her!”

Rono was pacing nervously around; he didn't like being on the water at the best of times, but he must have sensed we were in quite a bit of danger. Sapphire stroked his iron head, trying to calm him, but it didn't seem to be working.

Meanwhile, I lined up my arm with my eyes and fired off a precision Charge Beam, sniping one of the advancing projections and hitting it square between the eyes. It burst with such violence that the two either side of it exploded too.

It's a Newton's Cradle that I can finally relate to, Puck said, fascinated. The laws of physics rock when combined with explosions! Wooo, phsyics!

Shut – ow!”

I turned around sharply, and saw that two icy spikes had forced themselves out of Felicity's skull, standing out sharp and hard. Rono snarled and made to leap at her, but Sapphire called him back.

No!” she cried. “Rono, don't attack her!”

You can do it, Felicity, said Puck. Fight Skuld! Row, row, fight the power!

Then he started something that resembled opera singing, and I had to tune him out or lose my concentration.

I swung around again to face the Jellicent's projections; they had been gaining on us, but now they were slowing, uncertain. The Pokémon they stood for must have felt Skuld's presence too, I realised – and however strong it was, I was willing to bet that the Froslass was stronger. I was no Trainer, but even I could see that she was the most powerful Pokémon I'd ever encountered.

Shoot!” cried Sapphire, and I shot off another Charge Beam. It went wide, but it kicked up a stream of hot water that hit a projection and seemed to mildly annoy it, which was better than nothing.

Mild annoyance is not what we're after right now, Puck said. I’m mildly annoying. You need to be deadly. I'll explain the difference: mildly annoying involves pointless trivia-based jokes, and deadly involves blasting things. Now get blasting.

I Charge Beamed another projection, but there were three more to take its place; there must have been at least fifty by now.

Felicity screamed something, and then I heard a wham followed immediately by a crunch from behind me; I whirled, almost fell over and saw that Felicity was sprawled over one of Duncan's red orbs, with Rono standing over her.

What the—?”

She asked to be incapacitated,” Sapphire said shakily, “so Rono Iron Headed her.”

Super-effective against Ice, and he caught Skuld at her weakest point, Puck said. Yeah, she's probably incapacitated. If not dead. Either one's good.

She'd better not be dead,” I muttered, and, turning around, took out another five Jellicent. The power of my Charge Beams had gone up.

Oh yeah, I forgot, Puck said; if he'd had a face, I suspect he would have been grinning. Kester and Felicity, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S

Cut it out! Are you six or something?”

Another group of projections exploded, but this time they returned fire: three of them banded together and a blast of water shot out from the cluster, crossing the space between us in a split second. I threw myself flat on the floor, swearing violently, and the Hydro Pump smashed into Rono.

Sapphire shrieked something unprintable, and Rono and his limbs vanished in a flash of red light.

Nice touch there, with the limbs, Puck said admiringly. I mean, you hint that they're detached without outright saying it. Classy.

You've just ruined the line.

Oops. Sorry. It was the most unapologetic apology I'd ever heard.

Kester!” shouted Sapphire. “Stop them now! None of my Pokémon stand a chance!”

Duncan!” I yelled, getting to my feet and then dropping back down to avoid another Hydro Pump. “Go faster!”

That strange electronic hiss sounded again and the red orbs lit up momentarily; it was as if the Tentacruel was trying to ask me what I thought he was trying to do.

Nasty, said Puck. He must have hung around with a bad crowd to learn that sort of language.

What did he say?

I've no idea, he replied. I don't speak their language. By the way, you might want to duck and shoot.

I looked over at the projections, yelped and ducked; they were right behind us, and they were expelling a dark miasma from their eyes. The Hex – I think that was the name of the move – passed overhead, and I heard Sapphire cry out in pain.

That's the 'duck' part done, Puck said helpfully. Now try 'the shoot' bit.

Two more Charge Beams left my hands and burst a few projections; the remaining ones burbled a little and flung themselves forwards. Dark eyes met mine and then exploded into water droplets.

I can do this,” I said. “I can do this!”

Sure you can, Puck replied, and I’m Gwen Stefani.

I hit a central projection with a full-power Charge Beam; it was like hitting a prime target in one of those computer games where you burst adjacent blocks of the same colour, and about ten of them turned to vapour simultaneously. The others paused, and I felt the vast consciousness of the Jellicent stir uneasily; he must have realised he was wasting a lot of energy on rather insignificant targets, and abruptly he gave up, his remaining projections fading away into the waves.

Oh. What do you know, you can do it. I guess I’m Gwen Stefani then. Sigh. Life just took a turn for the worse.

It's done,” I said. “Oh, God, I ache.”

I turned around and stopped suddenly.

Sapphire,” I said, trying to keep my voice level, “what's up with your arm?”

---


Where the devil has he got to?” Mister Tanyan asked of no one in particular, staring out of his window. Behind him, Dahlia coughed.

Mister Tanyan?” she asked. Er, what am I supposed to do now?”

What? Oh, hello. I forgot you were here.” Mister Tanyan turned around, and moved his chair so that he could keep putting his foot on it. The sole of his boot never left the cushion; it was quite a remarkable achievement. Well, Miss...He paused.Er, what's your name again?”

Dahlia.”

Right.” Tanyan thought for a bit, and swayed a little. “Look, did you have any leads?”

Sorry,” said Dahlia, flashing a brilliant smile, “I don't speak Hoennian?”

Right. Sorry. Did you have any leads?”

I thought that Ruby and Birch were probably working for themselves, trying to thwart both Teams,” Dahlia told him.They weren't affiliated with the Aquas at all. They'd show up whenever the next big Team event happened.”

But when the Aquas stealed—”

It's 'stole', Mister Tanyan,” Dahlia pointed out politely. Sorry. English is full of irregular verbs.”

Stole. Stole. Stoooole. Tanyan rolled the word around his mouth for a while.Hm. Interesting. Right, well, when the Aquas stole the submarine, they were nowhere to be seen.”

I know. It was a really good robbery. No one even knew it was happening.”

Tanyan thought.

I'll put you in contact with one of my researchers,” he said at length. He specialises in spying on the Aquas here in Lilycove. His name is Truman Joyce...

---


Mister President?”

Solomon Stone looked up from his attempt to balance eight kiwi fruits on top of each other, and beheld his secretary, peering around the door.

Hello there,” he said genially. “What is it?”

It's your son, sir,” the secretary replied. “He says you asked to see him?”

Stone thought for a moment. Had he done that? He was having some difficulty remembering anything from before the past hour, when he'd decided to build his kiwi tower and ordered his secretary to steal all the kiwis from the executive fruit bowls. He'd been so focused that he seemed to have emptied his memory.

Oh yes,” he said at last. “I did, didn't I? Send him in, send him in.”

The secretary withdrew, and a moment later the tall, silver-haired figure of Steven Stone glided in. He moved like a panther on castors: silent, smooth and rather dangerous, as if at any moment he might lunge for his father's throat. Stone blinked and accidentally demolished his tower.

There was never any father and son so different as Steven and Solomon Stone: the former undoubtedly one of the most attractive men of modern Hoenn; the latter, indisputably the ugliest. The movers and shakers of Hoennian society whispered amongst themselves that Steven's mother must have possessed beauty on par with the angels in order to produce such a face as his when diluted with Solomon's ugliness. In fact, some even ventured to say her looks were the reason no one knew who she was: she must have been so good-looking, so unimaginably attractive, that she had died of an overdose of beauty.

What is it, father?” asked Steven. “I'm a busy man now, you know.”

Solomon Stone nodded and smiled; he knew.

Um,” he said. “It's about that stuff we sent over to Mossdeep.”

What stuff – actually, might I ask what on earth you're doing?”

Stone looked at his (new) desk, and the kiwi fruits scattered over it. Then he looked at each of his hands, which each held another kiwi.

I'm building a tower of kiwi fruits,” he said, as if that were the most obvious thing in the world. “Isn't it obvious?”

Steven sighed and stared upwards for a moment, then returned his gaze to his father.

If you say so, father,” he said. “Now, what is this about the 'stuff we sent over to Mossdeep'?”

Oh. Well, it's this new fuel mixture for the rockets at the space centre,” replied President Stone.

What about it?” asked Steven, in the voice of one who is both trying to squeeze blood from a stone and is fully cognisant of the fact that it isn't going to happen.

I want you to deliver it.”

Steven blinked.

You said that you had sent it over.”

Well, we haven't. That's the problem with it.” Stone smiled. Plain speaking, he thought; that was the way to do things. He had no idea why other people complicated things so much.

Get a researcher to send it over, father,” retorted Steven. “As I said, I’m a busy man. I have my own interests to pursue.”

I knew you'd react like this,” said President Stone happily; the cheerful tone threw Steven somewhat.

What?”

Well, I knew you'd react like this, so I thought I’d give you this if you did.” President Stone reached into the drawer of his desk and brought something out.

Steven stared.

A colander?”

Oh.” Stone inspected the object. It was indeed a colander. “No, not that. I mean this.”

He replaced the colander and withdrew a chunk of black, worn stone. Steven narrowed his eyes and leaned forwards.

That,” he pronounced, “is old. Very old. What is it?”

One of my friends in Canada got it for me,” President Stone replied. “It's a piece of the earth's original crust. Solidified magma, over 4.3 billion years old.”

Steven started.

There have only ever been two deposits of that found,” he said breathlessly. “It's quite possibly the rarest rock on the planet...”

I know,” said Stone cheerfully. “And I know you already have some of this, but I thought I’d get you another bit.”

He brought something else out from under the desk.

Father, that's the colander again.”

Oh yes. So it is. No, this.”

It was an unremarkable orange-red rock, but Steven seized it as if it were gold.

Painite,” he breathed. “The other possible rarest mineral on the planet...” He looked suspiciously into his father's staring, froglike eyes. “What's so important about this that you're willing to bribe me with these rocks to get me to take the fuel?”

This new fuel is very powerful,” Stone said, as if that explained everything. Steven sighed.

Father, I’d like a little more information, if I may...?”

The Teams have been very active recently,” President Stone said, fiddling with a kiwi. “It'd be jolly reassuring to know that there wasn't any chance that, for instance, Team Magma couldn't steal it and use it to try and blow up Mount Chimney again.”

Steven sighed.

That's hardly likely to—”

Ah, you think that!” cried Stone, clenching his fists in order to shake them, and accidentally bursting two kiwi fruits. “But you never know – oh, dear.”

Steven drew a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it over with a resigned air.

Put the kiwi fruits down for a moment and concentrate,” he instructed.

Yes, all right,” agreed Stone. “That's probably a good idea.” He laid the remnants of the kiwis on the desk and carefully wiped his hands. “Look, Steven, you never know what could happen, and you're better protection than any researcher. Please do this. As a favour to your old man?”

Steven looked at him for a long moment, and sighed.

Oh, very well,” he said. “But I would like those two mineral samples up front, if I may.”

Naturally,” replied his father genially. “Here you go.”

Steven received the two stones as if they were simultaneously very valuable (which they were) and very fragile (which they weren't), nodded his goodbye and left the room rather faster than a loving son ought to have left his father. He did like the old man really, but he could be rather trying at times.

Stone waved goodbye, brushed bits of kiwi fruit from his suit front and set about rebuilding his tower. He had a new theory that if he gave it four legs like the Eiffel Tower, he might be able to support it using the fruits' own gravitational pull...

---

Blake and Fabien sat side by side on the sea wall, staring glumly at the waves; Goishi was perched between them, wings folded awkwardly at his sides.

I think that maybe not being able to find Zero has made him even angrier than usual,” Fabien said.

Yeah,” agreed Blake. “'E kind of overreacted, didn't 'e?”

You can say that again.”

'E kind of—”

It's an idiom, nitwit.”

EEEE-eee-eek,” Goishi said.

The group sat and watched for a moment.

Well,” said Blake after a while, “I guess that's it, then.” He swung himself over to the pavement side of the wall, dropped down and started off.

Where are you going?” asked Fabien.

I dunno,” replied Blake, pausing. “First train out of here, I guess, an' see where that takes me.”

What if it takes you to Lavaridge or Plain Rooke?”

Then I leave an' go somewhere else.” Blake turned fully to face Fabien. “Why? You go' a scheme?”

Naturally.” Fabien stood up atop the wall, a striking figure against the bright sky. “Blake, do you recall that I once said we were the main characters?”

Blake sighed.

Yeah, an' I got pretty tired of listenin' to it—”

Well,” said Fabien, leaping down and almost spraining his ankle, “have you ever read a detective novel?”

No.”

Oh.” Fabien thought. “How about a crime movie?”

Yeah, I 'ave. Wha' of it?”

Bear with me. Was there a part where the detective slash cop was suspended from the force?”

Blake pondered.

So there was,” he said, surprised. “'Ow'd you know that?”

It's how these things work.” Fabien looked smug. “And what happens when the detective slash cop caught his guy?”

'E was accepted back into the force!” cried Blake, seeing the point.

Precisely!” said Fabien triumphantly. “So you see, if we were to find Zero – or, since that'll probably be impossible – catch Kester Ruby—”

We'll get our jobs back!”

Don't interrupt, but yes. The boss will see that he was too hasty in firing us, and so he'll hire us again. As we are the main characters, this plan is bound to work!”

Fabien, you're a bloody genius,” said Blake admiringly.

Oh, don't say that,” Fabien replied with faux modesty.

Eee-eeee-ee-e-e-EEEK!” cried Goishi suddenly, and flapped a foot into the air.

What is it?” asked Fabien, attempting to grab the edge of the wall and swing up elegantly, and instead crawling up slowly and effortfully. “Egad!” he exclaimed, seeing what Goishi was driving at.

A few hundred metres out to sea was a large Tentacruel, moving away from the shore – and on its back was a familiar figure with bleached-blonde hair, along with another in a stylish blue coat.

It's them two!” cried Blake.

It most certainly is,” agreed Fabien, scrambling down off the wall. “Come on! This is our chance!”

Where're you goin'?” asked Blake.

To steal a boat!” replied Fabien, spinning on one heel and walking backwards. “You coming?”

Yeah!”

Goishi watched them go, and wondered how they didn't notice that all the other pedestrians were staring at them. He sighed an ultrasonic sigh, and flapped off after them.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; July 23rd, 2011 at 06:31 AM. Reason: Reformatting
  #157    
Old July 22nd, 2011, 09:03 PM
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
Hey, I'm back too.

1. Why is Kester narrating in English all of a sudden?

I don't know if this was intentional anymore, but before, you had translated Hoennian in the regular sans-serif font (Verdana?), while English was in a serif font (Times New Roman?).

Can you see if you can change the font in your word processor before copying it into the reply box?

2. I got the Star Wars reference. Yay!

3. Puck didn't make a Kill Bill reference? That moment was just begging for a Kill Bill reference! Or did he but I just didn't get it?

4. Kester and Duncan seem to have forgotten about Lucy?
  #158    
Old July 23rd, 2011, 05:10 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
Hey, I'm back too.

1. Why is Kester narrating in English all of a sudden?

I don't know if this was intentional anymore, but before, you had translated Hoennian in the regular sans-serif font (Verdana?), while English was in a serif font (Times New Roman?).

Can you see if you can change the font in your word processor before copying it into the reply box?

2. I got the Star Wars reference. Yay!

3. Puck didn't make a Kill Bill reference? That moment was just begging for a Kill Bill reference! Or did he but I just didn't get it?

4. Kester and Duncan seem to have forgotten about Lucy?
#1. Something's gone wrong with my word processor. I'm sorry about that - and I'm trying to fix it, believe me - but for now, anything I paste anywhere comes out in Baskerville Old Face. EDIT: It was a problem with my browser, not my word processor, oddly enough; I've fixed it now. I think.

#2. Good for you.

#3. Puck made a lot of Kill Bill references before, and I kind of got tired of them.

#4. True, but remember that they were fleeing for their lives. Doubtless, Kester will have some explaining to do when Duncan realises the deception (as he surely will)...
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; July 23rd, 2011 at 06:32 AM.
  #159    
Old July 23rd, 2011, 06:16 AM
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
This is a test of copy/paste reliability from a word processor into the PokeCommunity WYSIWYG post editor. This text should be in the Tahoma font.

A piece of dialogue, with italics at the end for emphasis.

A piece of dialogue in the Georgia font, with italics at the end for emphasis.

Software used
Operating system: Windows Vista SP2
Word processor: OpenOffice.org 3
Browser: Firefox 5

Well it seems to have worked except it added an extra line break between the dialogue test lines. Let's see what happens on edit...

Edited: They go away if you delete them in the
PokeCommunity WYSIWYG post editor, but not when copying and pasting. The above was edited by deleting the extra lines, while the below is copy/pasted without modification.

This is a test of copy/paste reliability from a word processor into the PokeCommunity WYSIWYG post editor. This text should be in the Tahoma font.


A piece of dialogue, with italics at the end for emphasis.


A piece of dialogue in the Georgia font, with italics at the end for emphasis.


Software used
Operating system: Windows Vista SP2
Word processor: OpenOffice.org 3
Browser: Firefox 5

Last edited by teamVASIMR; July 23rd, 2011 at 06:27 AM.
  #160    
Old July 25th, 2011, 06:24 AM
01
01
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Gender: Male
This is a really great fan fiction. I've been reading it since you wrote it and I think it's great! Though, did you rewrite chapter 36 and 37, because it used to be a reference to The Hangover. Anyway, good luck and I hope you finish this story.
  #161    
Old July 25th, 2011, 07:17 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Why, thank you, 01. It's very pleasing to know that people enjoy what I create; that's why I do it. That and the fact that if I don't finish The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World, I'll never be able to get my head clear enough of it to focus on more important things. So don't worry, I will finish it.

Oh, and I did rewrite Chapters 36 and 37, that's right. It was brought to my attention that they were awful, and, upon re-reading them, I was forced to agree.

Chapter Sixty-Six: Grand Theft Hydro


Is... is your arm OK?” I asked cautiously.

Sapphire glared at me.

My arm is falling off,” she replied caustically. “What the hell do you think?”

Duncan stopped abruptly at the sound of her voice, and the big red lights on his head flashed ominously.

Nothing you can do about it now,” I said to him. “Keep swimming and we might get out of the Jellicent's body before he attacks again.”

The Tentacruel, evidently deciding he would rather be alive with Sapphire on his back than dead without, started moving again. I returned my attention to Sapphire's arm.

It looked like the love-child of a toad and a pot of tarmac; black, blistered and smoking gently, it reminded me of that business last year. As I watched, a few flaky bits fell off it.

That's really, really nasty, Puck said. Isn't it awesome?


How – was that the Hex?” I asked.

It does a lot of damage if the target has a status condition,” Sapphire said from between clenched teeth. “So when it hit my burned arm...”

I winced.

Do you want a Potion?” I asked lamely. Sapphire glared.

Those only work on Pokémon.”

I smiled smugly, then quickly assumed a straight face as Sapphire's frown deepened dangerously.

Uh, OK, so – what do we do?”

Get some bandages out of my bag and bandage it for me,” Sapphire said. I did, and started to wind it tightly around her arm – at which she flinched, swore and tugged her arm out of my grip.

Hold still,” I said.

Sorry, but my arm's falling off,” she replied. “And so I’m in a little bit of pain here.”

It's not really falling off, is it?” I said. “It's more... flaking. Now hold out your arm again.”

After a few false starts, I managed to get her arm bandaged well enough that nothing else was going to fall off, and Sapphire made a sling of her jacket to carry it in. Satisfied that I’d done my good deed for the day, I sat down on Duncan's back and felt for the Jellicent's presence; he was still there, so I assumed we weren't safe yet.

I sighed. Things never seemed to go as we planned.

What are you sighing about?” asked Sapphire sourly.

I'm wet,” I replied. “And the Jellicent's still here.”

Oh, you're wet, are you? Well, my arm's falling off.”

We've been through this,” I said, in my best soothing voice. “It's not actually falling off. It's just flaking a bit.”

Go and leap off a cliff,” Sapphire said grumpily, and turned away.

Someone's feeling a bit upset, Puck remarked. It's amazing how badly you've managed this sea voyage, Kester. Duncan's probably going to stop and demand Sapphire's thrown overboard when we get outside the Jellicent, Sapphire's pissed-off with you (well, more than usual), and Felicity's unconscious. Congratulations, your ferry service is officially the worst in Hoenn.

Shut up,” I muttered, and settled down to wait.

About ten minutes later, Duncan stopped suddenly; I realised we were out of the Jellicent's range now, and he probably wasn't going to move unless we got rid of Sapphire. His lights flashed and he made one of those electronic hisses.

Just keep going, Duncan,” said Sapphire darkly. “I need medical attention. Would you prefer my arm came off than I ride on your back.”

Duncan paused. It was self-evident that, in all honesty, he would prefer that Sapphire's arm came off.

OK,” Sapphire said, the fight leaving her voice. “Just take us to Mossdeep or I'll smash your globe again.”

Duncan's lights flashed very brightly, and a ring of tentacles appeared around us, arched menacingly.

Sapphire doesn't mean any of this,” I said hurriedly. “Look, Duncan, you can trust me. I’m a nice guy. Aren't I, Sapphire?”

She made a rude gesture.

I'm trying to help you here,” I said in a low voice. “Help me out, OK?”

Fine.” She sighed. “Duncan, Kester is a nice guy. He's much better than I am.”

Duncan shivered and emitted a strange grinding noise; it took me a moment to realise he was laughing, presumably at Sapphire. She ground her teeth and glared at me.

So yeah,” I said, trying hard not to laugh myself, “we'd really appreciate it if you'd keep going. Please?”

The Tentacruel seemed to waver for a moment, then withdrew his tentacles, and bobbed slightly.

Does that mean yes?” I asked.

He flashed his lights and started moving again; I guessed that it had.

Pleading with a jellyfish, Puck mused. That's got to be demeaning.

That wasn't a good one, I replied, and the Rotom sighed.

Yeah, you're right, he said. I'll think of something better to say. Watch this space.

Sapphire gave me a long look, and then sighed.

Thanks,” she said. “Sorry.”

Rare praise indeed,” I said, raising my eyebrows. “But no problem. It's fine.”

Felicity stirred and groaned; it seemed she was coming around.

What exactly will Iron Head have done to her?” I asked.

Maybe a couple of broken bones.” Sapphire shrugged. “I don't know. She always seems to heal on her own, doesn't she?”

Does – yeah, she does...” I thought of the water that permeated her body. Were her bones made of ice?

Felicity's eyes fluttered open, and she sat up holding her head.

Ouch,” she muttered, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Skuld was safely back inside her head.

It would have been bad if she'd got out, Puck agreed. Why, we'd all be dead, and then where would we be?

She's... gone,” Felicity said, blinking. “Sapphire?”

Yes?”

Thank you. You stopped her.” Felicity examined her hands minutely, as if she hadn't seen them for a while and needed to remind herself what they looked like. “I used too many of her attacks. It almost let her out.”

What were you using?” I asked.

Shadow Ball,” said Sapphire on her behalf. “A strong Ghost move.”

We can use that, Puck said. Or we could if you were a higher level. You're still a bit pathetic.

What did we get to eat?” asked Felicity suddenly. “I'm hungry.”

So we ate, and drifted on through the afternoon; as the full moon rose, we could just see the outline of Mossdeep appearing in the distance, which cheered us all up quite a bit – it was mind-numbingly dull aboard Duncan's back, and Sapphire was getting more and more worried about her arm. We'd put some of the Blissey lotion on it, but nothing much had happened; it was going to take a proper doctor's attention to fix it.

Yo, Kester, Puck said.

What?”

I saw the crescent, but... you saw the whole of the moon.

I looked up, and could indeed see the moon.

Uh... what?”

Never mind. I just wanted to quote.

Puck?” asked Sapphire, and I nodded.

Something about the whole of the moon,” I replied.

It's only one of the greatest songs of the '80s, you cultureless swine.

Now he's just being abusive.”

That is a gross oversimplification

Now I don't care.”

Puck harrumphed and fell silent, and I smiled to myself. Beating Puck never got old.

As Sapphire had predicted, we made landfall at around midnight, Duncan steering gently into a small cove that housed Mossdeep Island's Trainer Beach.

We splashed off his back and onto land wearily, and before he could make his views regarding Sapphire known to us I recalled him.

It's good to be back on land,” I said. “My legs have gone to sleep.”

My arm's gone to sleep,” Sapphire said. “In fact, I think it's properly unconscious. Maybe even dead.”

All right, all right,” I said. “Let's find a hospital.”

So we walked up the stairs cut into the dark cliff face, and entered Mossdeep City.

Now, I’d liked Mauville. I’d quite liked Slateport's Wharf. I’d really liked Fallarbor and its sunny atmosphere of fame and glamour.

But I really, really liked Mossdeep.

White and shiny, with brown-slated roofs and green bricks creeping across the pale walls, the city rose up like a fantasy castle from the sheer rocks of the island. In the distance, I saw a pillar of glittering lights: the tower of the Hoenn Space Centre, our country's answer to NASA.

It's a pretty bad answer, Puck said. It's like I asked: 'Do you know what 186 divided by 7 is?', and you said: 'Uh... maybe?' That's how bad an answer it is.

We wandered through the streets, and, by asking a couple of people we passed, found a hospital; while Sapphire was seen by the doctor, Felicity and I sat in the waiting room and pondered, next to a boy with a saucepan on his head and a man with a Sandshrew and a hand full of Poison Stings.

Ah, Sandshrew, Puck said, with the air of one greeting an old friend. The only creature in the world dumb enough to attempt to copulate with fire. It's amazing there are any still alive.

Forty minutes later, Sapphire was back with something halfway between a bandage and a cast on her arm; the doctor said something about her to me, but listening was too much effort for one in the morning, so I just nodded, left and followed Sapphire through the streets towards a Pokémon Centre.

And followed her.

And followed her.

And followed her some more.

Sapphire, do you actually know where the Pokémon Centre is?” I asked. She turned around and smiled dreamily.

Where the what is?” she asked in a sing-song voice.

Oh-oh, said Puck. Somebody's liking their morph-iiiine!

Oh, damn it,” I said forcefully.

What is it? What is wrong with her?” asked Felicity, concerned. She sounded very tired, like a dormouse.

Is that a reference to a well-loved novel or a well-established fact about hibernation?

Er... both?

That's the same sort of answer that your Space Centre is to NASA.

She's trippy from the painkillers,” I sighed, wishing I’d listened to the doctor. “We've been following someone who barely knows they're awake.”

Trippy?”

Uh, confused. Spaced-out. Dreamy.”

Oh boy, a synonym contest! Game on! Let's see... whacked-out, vacant, staring into space slash the middle distance, daydreaming, high, on a trip

Shut up!

Oh.” I wasn't sure if she really understood, but I was too tired to care.

Look, forget the Centre. Only she can stay in one anyway. Let's just find a hotel.”

Fifteen minutes of stumbling around an almost-deserted city – it seemed Mossdeep had less nightlife than a dead badger – we found one. I thought I saw insects crawling across the floor, but by then I was beyond caring; I just wanted something horizontal that wouldn't get me arrested for vagrancy if I passed out on it. They had plenty of rooms available, and after I’d helped Felicity get Sapphire inside theirs (she was showing an unusual desire to explore the cupboards) I stumbled into mine and blacked out almost immediately.

---


It's cold out 'ere,” Blake muttered.

Ssh,” replied Fabien. “I'm trying to think.”

They were on a little boat in the middle of the sea, and they had just discovered that some prankster had loosened certain key parts of the engine in such a way that after a couple of miles the whole thing had fallen apart.

We might 'ave to swim for it,” Blake said, shivering in the chill night air.

Goishi kept silent. He didn't want either of the former Magmas to realise they could fly off on him; they were a long way out to sea, and the strain of carrying one of them all the way to land would probably make his heart explode.

Look!” cried Fabien suddenly, standing up and rocking the boat. “Someone's coming!”

It was true; someone – or, more correctly, something – was approaching at a steady clip, skimming along the surface of the water like a dragonfly.

That ain't a boa',” Blake said, puzzled.

No, it isn't,” agreed Fabien. “What is that?”

It came closer and closer, a dark shape that shot along a foot or two above the water. It had wide-spread wings with notched edges, and on its back, a tall figure was balanced.

'Ow can it carry that person?” wondered Blake. “'E's got to weigh twice as much as it does...”

I know how it can carry him,” said Fabien, in the tones of an aged oracle about to impart a great prophecy to a future king. “It's a Ninjashell. A very specific Ninjashell. The Ninjashell belonging to that Devon man.”

Blake gasped.

You're righ' an' all!” he cried. “What do we do?”

Lie down in the boat!” Fabien commanded. “He must not discover us, or we will surely perish!”

Goishi wondered if he ought to point out that the Devon man had absolutely no reason to kill them, but decided that it might be more fun to play along, and so crouched down in the hull with his masters.

The 'Ninjashell' and its passenger slowed as they reached the boat, and the former Magmas heard the researcher's voice call out:

Is anyone there?”

He received no reply, though, and moved away with a soft swish of displaced air. Fabien stood up and brushed himself off triumphantly.

We have just escaped certain death,” he proclaimed dramatically. “How do you feel, Blake?”

Lucky to be alive,” he answered.

Now, while we were dancing with death,” Fabien went on, “I hit upon an idea. It'll get us to Mossdeep, but it's risky.”

'Ow d'you mean, 'risky'?” Blake asked suspiciously.

Now, if you are one of those fortunate people in whom perspicacity, good observation and eidetic memory come together, you will doubtless recall that at the start of Chapter Eleven of this fine tale, it was mentioned that Fabien and Blake in fact possessed two Pokémon between them. It was also mentioned that that second Pokémon was far less reliable than that master of the sardonic squeak, Goishi.

If you recall all of this, congratulate yourself. If you do not, you have just found out again, and we shall both pretend that you did remember.

We'll need to use Morgana,” Fabien said seriously.

Blake raised his eyebrows so far they were in danger of coming down over the back of his head.

Tha's risky, Fabien,” he said, sucking in a deep breath through his teeth. “You know wha' 'appens when we se' 'er loose.”

I know, I know,” Fabien replied, turning so that the moonlight caught his face in a dramatic sort of way. “But she's the only hope we've got!”

I dunno,” Blake said. “I dunno...” He looked over at Goishi, who looked surprised for a moment and then made a motion that might have been a shrug; the Golbat didn't really care if they were left adrift here. Built to cope with migratory flights, he could survive without water for a long time – and once his masters died of dehydration, he could snatch his Poké Ball off them, fly off and toss it in a ravine where no one would find it. Blake looked back over at Fabien, and found that he'd struck a noble pose at the bow, like a pirate captain staring at an island on the horizon.

Blake sighed.

All righ',” he said. “I guess we ain't got no choice.”

Fabien spun on his heel and almost fell into the sea.

Excellent!” he cried. “Right, let's get her out of here.”

He drew a pink Love Ball from his pocket with trembling fingers, held it up to the moon for a moment – and threw it down onto the boat.

---


As Kester Ruby awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself

Puck? Is that you?” I sat up, blinking.

Aw, you interrupted me just before I got to the good bit. That's the thing about Kafka. The good bits are at the end of the sentences.

I looked around. At first, I thought I was in a car park in a red light district, and then I realised that I was in a hotel room. I stared at a line of cockroaches crawling across the floor, followed them with my eyes and ended up looking at a large dead Taillow, rotting just underneath the broken window.

Oh my God,” I said, to no one in particular, and left as fast as possible.

I hammered on the door of Felicity and Sapphire's room; I heard the sound of people waking inside, then a couple of low noises of horror. The door opened, and Sapphire half-ran, half-leaped out and thumped into my chest. She stared up at me, and I stared down at her.

We have to get out of here,” she said urgently.

Agreed,” I said, and, dragging Felicity along with us, we left the hotel faster than I’d ever left a building before.

That was scary,” Sapphire said, when we were a good mile away through the pale streets. “I don't remember how I got there...”

You were spaced-out from the morphine,” I told her. “We didn't really look where we were going, and ended up... there.”

Sapphire shivered.

OK,” she said. “Well, I feel much better today.” She flexed her arm and winced. “Ouch. Shouldn't have done that. Right, we need to get ourselves an HM Dive and something to use it on.”

Can't we use Duncan?” Felicity asked.

Sapphire shook her head.

We only just got him to take me here. There's no way we'll get him to take us down to the sea floor; I'll have to send him back to Dad.”

We bought and ate breakfast as we moved, found a Pokémon Centre from which to email Duncan to Professor Birch and then got on a bus that took us in the direction of a large grey building that was, according to the sign, Arizona Fats' Relicanth Dealership.

We're getting a Relicanth?” I asked.

A big one would take us all and be less expensive than a Wailord,” replied Sapphire. “You can choose, Kester?”

Really?” We passed through the automatic doors into a dingy little office with a broken ceiling fan. “Why?”

Because you're good at finding interesting Pokémon.”

'Interesting' might be putting it a little lightly, Puck said. How about 'certifiably insane'?

I thought of Malvolio and Stacey, and was forced to agree.

Can I help you?”

I glanced over at the desk at the other end of the office, and saw a man who would have been stylish about fifty years ago getting up from behind it.

Arizona Fats,” he said, coming over and holding out a hand for us to shake. “How can I help you?”

Wow. He looks almost exactly like Jackie Gleason, observed Puck. Well, I think that joke's had its run now. Better move on.

We were looking for a Relicanth,” Sapphire told him.

Then you came to the right place,” replied Fats. “Come through here, I'll show you my stock.”

He led us through a door to the right of his desk out onto a broad patio, beyond which a gigantic pool stretched away over about an acre. Beneath the surface, I could see ranks of dark backs twisting sluggishly in the water.

That's... quite something,” Sapphire said, looking around. “Is there any way we can—”

See them? Of course,” replied Fats. “Right this way.”

He took us down a set of stairs that let us look through the glass wall of the pool, and now I could see heavy beige jaws and deep-set eyes, and thick-lobed fins that slowly paddled at the water as if driven by lobotomised oarsmen.

Uh... That's a really, really strange analogy.

Now,” said Fats. “This one's been here four years now, and—”

I don't need and definitely don't want the sales patter,” said Sapphire sharply. “Kester, I just want you to walk along the side here, and see what you can find...”

---


As so often when I argued with Sapphire, I was cut down as swiftly as a Russian cherry orchard. I had tried to persuade her that the Relicanth I had found had some sort of congenital disorder – it definitely didn't look right – but in vain; she said it was rare, and therefore to be valued, and so we should take it off Arizona Fats' hands and use it.

So she bought it and called it Percival, for no reason other than it was the first name that popped into her head. Apparently that was how a lot of Trainers named their Pokémon.

I'm telling you, that thing's got to be dangerous to ride!”

It'll be fine,” Sapphire contended. “He's just a bit... sparkly.”

There might be more wrong with him than just the colour,” Felicity put in. Sapphire glared at her.

Not you too!” she cried. “Kester, is Puck on my side?”

I listened.

I’m on her side. No, on yours. No – oh, I don't know! It's just so – so – IRRELEVANT.

I winced at the volume of the thought.

Seriously, it doesn't matter. Your puny human arguments are so far below my concern that I should probably go join Timon in his cave and have a good natter about how people are a bad thing.

Well?” demanded Sapphire.

Uh... I’m not sure. He's making Bardic references.”

You don't get the Hamlet ones, but you get the Timon of Athens ones? What the hell kind of person knows about Timon but not – gah, I hate these inconsistencies!

Well, it doesn't matter,” said Sapphire firmly. “He's fine. Besides, it'll be proved he's fine to Dive, because we're going to have to get a licence before we can do it.”

I halted in the middle of the street and stared.

You're kidding me? We're moving as fast as possible, trying to catch up with Team Aqua before they awaken a gigantic monster that's going to give them untold power – and you're telling me we have to wait and get a Diving licence first?”

Sapphire shrugged.

The law's the law,” she said.

That's so unlike her. Who are you and what have you done with the real Sapphire? Did you eat her? Oh my Mew, you did eat her!

Puck!

Kester! Kill her quick!

I shook my head, blinked, and resumed my argument with Sapphire.

Look, I don't want to put this off,” I said, trying to sound reasonable and probably sounding infuriating instead.

I agree with Kester,” said Felicity. “Speed is a priority—”

Well, you would think that, wouldn't you?” Sapphire said patiently. “You've got a massive score to settle with Zero.”

Felicity's mouth snapped shut and her eyes darkened, and that was all she said for quite some time.

Stop.” I halted, grabbed Sapphire's arm and spun her around to face me. “Sapphire,” I said. “I am not stopping so that we can pass a test. I’m even willing to take to the sea on that freaky Relicanth if it means you'll bypass this test.”

There's no way we can do it,” said Sapphire, sighing. “You get your Dive HM from Mossdeep Gym, after you've signed up for the training course.”

Inside my head, Puck let out a loud, crowing laugh.

Something locked away from you? he asked slyly. Are there walls between you and the object of your desire? Do you, in short, need a thief?

I was about to make some sort of vague retort, then thought better of it. After all, this was in the service of the greater good.

Actually,” I said slowly, “I think Puck might have an idea...”

---


WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW!

Run run run run run!

What do you think I’m trying to do?”

I dropped out the window, failed to land on my feet and leaped back upright.

Some plan!” I snarled under my breath, pelting away over the car park, feet hammering on the tarmac like runaway drills.

I’m out of practice! Puck cried defensively. Besides, I’m an art thief, I don't usually steal things like – oh, hell, you should probably duck.

I did, just in time to dodge something purple and wobbly that fractured the air above my head.

A Psybeam, Puck noted. I’d say it was nasty, but it really isn't. Not unless it hits your brain, and if it does that you should probably make sure you've written your will and that all your affairs are in order.

I climbed awkwardly over the fence, ripped my shirt on the spiked railings and tumbled inelegantly down the other side; this time, my ineptitude was my saving grace, because whoever was blasting Psybeams at me had been counting on my head being somewhere above the pavement.

I stumbled upright and made off as fast as I could down the street; before launching this plan, we'd had a look at a roadmap of Mossdeep, and so I knew that coming from the back of the Gym as I had, there should be a little network of alleyways that I could duck into right—

“—Here?” I said, puzzled. “Puck, there's no – there's no alley!”

There's a time to make a fuss, but now is not it! Just keep running!

So I did; I turned a corner, saw a shopping centre across the road and dived through the doors. It was packed, and I had to slow down here – but I didn't think anyone would find me here, in the midst of the crowds, and I fought my way over to a fountain and sat down on its edge, breathing heavily.

Oh God,” I gasped, “Puck, remind me never ever ever to trust you again.”

It isn't my fault the guard saw you. It's yours. I mean, you insisted on accompanying me on this job; he never would've known if it had just been me.

You're inside me! I can't not accompany you!”

My wild cries had drawn a number of very strange looks, and since I wanted to keep a low profile right now, I moved away and switched to silent communication.

Oh, that sounds cool, doesn't it? 'Switch to silent communication'. Like in a movie: 'Johnson, we're going to need to switch to silent communications.'

Stop avoiding the issue! I almost got caught!

But you didn't get caught, said Puck earnestly. Isn't that what really matters? Honestly, you humans. It's always 'almost this' and 'almost that' with you. Can't you just relax?

This is not a relaxing situation! I told him fiercely, finding a payphone and dialling for Sapphire. Puck, I swear to God that if you ever suggest a plan for stealing something again, I'll – I'll

I couldn't actually think of what I would do; I’m not the best at thinking up threats.

You could throw me into the sun, Puck said, after a considered pause. That's about the only thing that could properly destroy me. Or you could infect me with a computer virus, which would torture me but not kill me. Or you could get another Ghost to attack me, but that wouldn't eradicate me completely. I’m pretty darn hard-wearin', he said proudly.

I

Kester?”

Oh, hi Sapphire!” I said, surprised. “I got it. Didn't go quite as we'd planned, but I did get it.”

Oh good,” she replied. “I didn't think the Gym would have great security. OK, we're probably going to need to leave Mossdeep pretty quickly, so... meet us at the Trainer's beach in half an hour?”

I checked my watch, then remembered that it no longer existed.

What's the time now?” I asked.

Half three. So four o'clock meeting time. OK?”

OK. See you there.”

I hurled the phone down, angry that Sapphire could be so calm about the whole thing when I’d almost got caught, and stormed out.

Er, Kester – you do realise that she doesn't know that you almost got caught, don't you?

That's right,” I muttered. “And I’m going to keep it that way. I’m already low enough in her estimation.”

Not really. She thinks she's in love with you, the crazy girl.

Have I ever told you how much I hate you?”

Many times, answered Puck, as if answering a question born of love rather than loathing.

Have I told you recently?”

Um... Nope. Don't think so.

I told him, and left the mall. Getting out of the city was, I decided, more important than heckling a ghost that lived in my brain, and bearing that thought in mind, I headed down towards the Trainers' Beach.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; July 26th, 2011 at 10:55 AM.
  #162    
Old July 27th, 2011, 12:47 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Sixty-Seven: Super Gunk Bros.

Percival's a scary gargoyle on a tower
That you built with plastic power.

We stood on the shore at Mossdeep's Trainers' beach, staring at Percival the Relicanth.

I didn't entirely trust him to carry us.

He wasn't an ordinary Relicanth; that, of course, would have been too much to hope for, since Sapphire had made me choose him. He didn't have a mental disorder, like the other Pokémon I’d found – instead, he had a rather obvious physical one.

He wasn't made of stone.

His rhinestone eyes are like factories far away.

OK, are you certain he can take us?” I asked nervously.

Positive,” Sapphire replied. “He's made of diamond, isn't he? He won't break.”

Sapphire, that's not diamond,” I said, suddenly realising the relevance of Puck's song.

It's rhinestone,” Felicity finished for me.

We all stared at Percival, watching him bob happily up and down in the surf. He was impossible. A diamond Relicanth? Sure, that was fine – it was rare, but every so often you'd get a mutant Rock-type who was born made of diamond; they usually made it onto the news. But rhinestone? That wasn't even a natural material. Rhinestones were made of... well, I didn't know what they were made of, but they didn't occur naturally. They were made in laboratories.

Do you think he's artificial?” I asked.

Could be Devon,” Sapphire said after a while. “They do this – this kind of research.”

She spat the last word with more violence than I’d ever heard in her voice before – and this is Sapphire we're talking about. I supposed she must have been fairly violently opposed to any sort of experimentation on Pokémon.

Devon are renowned for that sort of thing, Puck said. They've got their fingers in so many pies that they're in danger of being thrown out of the bakery.

What?

Don't question me!

It does not matter,” Felicity decided suddenly. “We must leave. The police will be looking for Kester and Team Aqua is getting closer to their goal.”

Yes,” agreed Sapphire distantly. “You're right.”

She knelt down in front of Percival and set up the TM Case she'd bought while I was risking life and limb to steal the Dive HM.

Don't be such a drama queen, Puck said. You weren't risking life and limb, just your life – Psybeam leaves no wounds.

How reassuring.

Give me the HM,” she said, and I handed it over; one unexplained and probably very unscientific move-learning process later, we were wading out into the sea and getting onto Percival's back.

Will this be OK?” I asked. “I mean, will he obey?”

I was thinking of Stacey, and how at first she had had to be bribed to do anything.

He ought to,” Sapphire said. “He must've been broken in already. The real problem will be finding the submarine.”

No, it won't,” Felicity said, as Percival started to swim obediently away from the beach. “I bought this while you were buying the TM Case.”

She held out a single grey headphone, with an aerial attached.

It's the same model as my old one,” she said. “Waterproof, and it can work as a radio. Kester can use it to find the submarine's radio signals.”

I took it from her, and slotted it into place over my ear.

Puck? Can you do that?”

Can I do it? Do most major celebrities need air to live?

What?”

Yes, I can do it.

OK, that's fine.” I paused for a moment; there was something at the back of my head that had been bothering me, but I couldn't quite remember. For a while, the only sounds were Percival's lobed fins beating steadily at the water and the waves breaking against his flanks as he moved far out enough to Dive – and then it came back to me, and I spoke. “Sapphire?”

Yes?”

How do we breathe when Percival dives?”

She was sitting in front of me, and she looked over one shoulder to give me that wicked, lopsided grin.

I guess we're about to find out,” she said, and to my horror, Percival suddenly gave a shudder – and sank down through the water, right beneath us.

---


As Gulliver when he reached the shores of Lilliput, so too were Blake and Fabien relieved beyond measure when they actually made landfall in Mossdeep; their pleasure at arriving was eclipsed only by their disappointment as they saw something large and shiny, bearing Kester Ruby, Sapphire Birch and the white-haired girl, travelling back out to sea.

Oh, damn it,” said Fabien, from the top of the stairs down which Kester and company had so recently descended. “They've already left.”
They were quick, weren' they?” noted Blake.

Never mind that,” said Fabien with a sigh. “We'll have to get back out there.” He swallowed in the same sort of nervous way that a man walking to the gallows might swallow. “And that means...”

Not again,” replied Blake, crestfallen. “Not Morgana again.”

I'm afraid so,” Fabien said. “We don't have time to get hold of another boat; we'd lose them by then. No, we shall have to get Morgana to power the boat with Surf again...”

---


I held my breath for as long as I could, but it was no use; the burning in my lungs and throat grew stronger and stronger, and eventually I gulped in—

a breath of slightly stale but very breathable air.

What?” I gasped, looking around. “But we're...”

Underwater, yes,” Sapphire replied, grinning at me. “But that's why we needed the move Dive. If we just went underwater on Percival, we'd drown. The reason we have Dive is because using it allows a Pokémon to take a massive bubble of air with it.”

How long does it last?” I asked.

It was strange, being underwater yet dry; the water was suspended above and around us, as if we were surrounded by some spherical force field.

With three of us...” Sapphire shrugged. “I don't know. Percival's quite big and he seems quite strong, so I’m guessing about twenty hours.”

He's Level 39, Puck said. And I’m picking up the sub's signal. Head deeper and tilt to the left.

I see. Puck's got the submarine's signal,” I told her. “Go deeper and a bit to the left.”

OK.”

Sapphire pulled on one of the glittery flanges on the side of Percival's head, and he turned good-naturedly to the left.

Down,” she said, and he started sinking slowly, like a stone dropped in treacle.

Now for a long and very dull undersea voyage, Puck remarked. I suggest we cut to someone else's narrative for a bit.

We sank further; it was eerily silent down here, I thought. The only noise was a faint roaring from the waves on the surface, and the sound of Sapphire's breath. With a slight jolt, I realised that Felicity wasn't breathing at all – and that she hadn't been for a while now.

She'll be fine, Puck said. Come on, someone else's narrative. Really, there's nothing to see here. We're just going to be swimming along underwater for about thirty hours.

Felicity, are you OK?” I asked, looking back at her.

What? Yes, I am fine,” she answered, puzzled. “Why?”

You're not breathing.”

Oh. No, I’m not.”

Seriously? We're actually going to sit here and force everyone to read their way through thirty hours of nothing?

I have not breathed for days now.” Felicity didn’t sound concerned – in fact, she said it in a cool, clinical sort of way that sent shivers down my spine. “I don't think I need to any longer.”

OK, that's a little bit of creepy exposition. Can we change narrative now? Please, I'll get bored

---

There was a tall figure in black standing calmly on the Jagged Pass.

Oh, thank Arceus, said a voice from hundreds of miles away.

It was Mellifluous Gunk who first found him – he whose habit it had been, since he joined the Team, to come and stand guard every so often outside the tunnel. He had found Zero at about eleven o'clock, and immediately brought him inside, utilising both his tremendously forceful personality and his nine-millimetre pistol (though it was, of course, his personality that bore the brunt of the work).

The pistol at his back did not seem to bother Zero unduly. Though it wasn't possible to see his face beneath the mask, he seemed remarkably calm. Mellifluous marched him through the tunnels, and soon he found that he had brought his prisoner all the way to Maxie's office.

He blinked.

That was quick,” he said to himself. “It's not usually that quick.”

I took you via a shorter route,” Zero told him. “Now get on with this and get me into Maxie's room.”

Bewildered and not a little unnerved, Mellifluous knocked on the door.

If this is anything except good news,” came the answer from within, “you'd better leave now, because I’m going to remove organs that you didn't even know you had.”

I've caught Zero, sir!” said Mellifluous, in what must surely have been the zenith of his career as a Magma.

Abruptly, the door opened, and Maxie appeared.

Excellent,” he said, apparently without the least vestige of surprise. “Both of you, get in here.”

With some trepidation, Mellifluous stepped into the office, herding Zero ahead of him with nothing but his charisma, and, of course, his gun.

Maxie went over to his desk and, leaning over it, pressed the button on the intercom.

Courtney, Tabitha,” he said. “I'd like you here now, please.”

He turned around and leaned against the desk; neither he nor Zero said anything, and Mellifluous began to feel a little uneasy.

A few moments later, both of the Magma Administrators came into the room, and for some reason Courtney seemed to start when she saw Zero.

Now we're all here,” Maxie said at last, making Mellifluous jump, “I think we might be able to begin.” His voice was completely level. “Firstly, Zero, what the hell were you thinking of?”

And a very good afternoon to you too, Maxie,” said Zero. “And Courtney, it's wonderful to see you again.”

What about me?” asked Tabitha.

I'm afraid I don't really know who you are,” Zero said. “But I can tell at a glance that I’m not likely to want to.”

Stung, Tabitha was about to say something – but Maxie shot him a look, and he found something fascinating to look at on the toe of his boot.

What the hell were you thinking of?” asked Maxie, taking a step towards Zero. “Virtually giving us the Orb, then disappearing just in time to avoid telling us how to activate it... what do you mean by that?”

I had other business to attend to,” said Zero. “Steven Stone was becoming too involved—”

What?” Maxie's head snapped around to face Tabitha. “Gerald!”

I'm Tabitha—”

We've been through this before!” roared Maxie. “You're Gerald if I say you're Gerald! Now, as head of intelligence, why didn't you know that the greatest Trainer Hoenn has ever produced was getting interested in this?”

Tabitha cringed.

I – er...”

Thankfully, Zero spared him the necessity of explaining.

It's all right,” he said. “The fact that Tabitha – who despite his manifold obvious shortcomings, is doubtless a fine head of intelligence – did not know about this is no fault of his own. Stone offered tremendous and annoyingly helpful aid to Ruby and Birch and, despite the fact that I blocked his communications to the League, would probably have come after us all himself. I distracted him by calling in a favour from his father and have sent him to Mossdeep, and kept the whole thing secret to avoid distracting you from the important task of discovering how to work the Orb, which I thought you would doubtless work out yourself.” Zero bowed, which almost got him shot by Mellifluous, though he didn't seem to care. “It seems I overestimated your intelligence, Maxie.”

For a moment, there was silence; then Maxie growled:

How do we activate the Orb? Tell us now, or I'll have you killed.”

At the word 'killed', the Mightyena in the corner looked up from its bone and barked questioningly.

Quiet, you,” snapped the Magma boss, and it fell silent with a whine.

You won't kill me, Maxie,” said Zero sharply. “I don't like to be threatened. I won't work on such terms.”

Mellifluous made a big show of releasing the safety catch on his handgun.

Oh, please,” said Zero dismissively. “You can't kill me. You'd all be dead within seconds.”

What do you mean?” asked Maxie cautiously. Zero looked up, towards the vent that brought fresh air down into the stifling hideout from the surface; something heavy landed with a deafening clang on the grille, and a two-foot claw extended from between the bars, bending them with a hideous shriek of tortured metal.

That's one,” said Zero mildly.

Almost as soon as the first claw had appeared, another sprouted from behind Maxie's desk, swiftly followed by a massive, blunt head with two wing-like eyes mounted either side of it.

That's two.”

Now Maxie's great Mightyena yelped, and from the shadows that cloaked its body a lumbering form stumbled, as tall as a man but built like a taloned tank.

And... third time's the charm,” said Zero.

Everyone stared at him.

You see, I knew that when I returned, I would most likely be met with death threats,” Zero said, as if this were something that happened every day. “So before I left you the last time, I concealed my friends' Poké Balls at strategic points around your office. As you can see.”

Maxie was silent for a long time, face red save for a little circle of pale flesh above his upper lip. Finally, he spoke – and when he did, his voice was full of so much suppressed vitriol that he could have bottled it and sold it as a pesticide.

Put the gun away,” he said to Mellifluous.

What? Sir—”

Put it away!”

Mellifluous did, with all possible haste.

Tabitha,” Maxie went on. “He's seen too much. Have him killed.”

He pointed at Mellifluous.

What? No!”

Tabitha sighed and dragged him away, kicking and screaming; it was a cliché, but in a very satisfying sort of way – particularly if you were Zero, and knew it was going to happen beforehand.

All right, Zero,” said Maxie, taking a deep breath and eyeing the closest Armaldo, “we'll do it your way.”

Excellent,” said Zero, strolling over to Maxie's desk, vaulting it and throwing himself down in his chair. “Courtney, come over here.”

Hiding a smile, she did; Maxie looked on, bemused despite his fury. When he did that, Courtney complained of harassment. What made Zero so special?

Now,” Zero said, relinquishing Courtney and clasping his hands, “the key point here is that the Red Orb is Groudon's soul. In order to revive himself, he needs something for his soul to enter into: in short, he requires a body...”

---


Oh, that's hardly fair,” said Fabien, crestfallen.

We're goin' to 'ave to go down there, aren't we?” Blake said glumly, staring at the spot where Kester Ruby and friends had disappeared into the depths.

Fabien sighed and cast a glance at the back of the boat, where a medium-sized and unusually helpful wave was pushing them along.

I suppose we'll have to use Morgana,” he said. “She can Dive. Goishi!”

Eee-eee-E-EE-EEE-eek?”

I'll have to recall you. There won't be enough air for you too.” Fabien looked at him distastefully. “Look at yourself. Breathing like there's no tomorrow. Disgraceful.”

Goishi did something with his wings that would, had he done it to another Crobat, have got him into a fight to the death. Since he did it to a human, however, there were no repercussions whatsoever, and he was recalled without incident.

Blake and Fabien walked slowly to the stern, and looked over the edge at the Pokémon floating in the water beyond.

Is she dancin'?” asked Blake in a low voice.

Her actions are not for us to question, friend,” Fabien replied in the sort of hushed tones one uses when one has entered a secret castle built by a lost civilisation.

Righ',” Blake agreed. “She could turn nasty.”

Morgana,” called Fabien cautiously.

The blue Pokémon ceased writhing amongst the waves, and turned wide eyes to look at the two men who were (in theory at least) her masters.

Morgana, we need to use Dive,” said Fabien. “Is – is that OK?”

He flinched back, expecting a violent response – but evidently Morgana was in good spirits today, for none was forthcoming. She merely beckoned with an appendage (the precise nature of which shall remain unknown for no reason other than to increase your desire to know what species she belonged to) and, glancing at each other uncertainly, the two Magmas stepped carefully off the edge of the boat, dropped into the sea, and landed inside a large air bubble.


---

This trip is really boring.

Shut up, Puck.

But I’m bored, he whined. Do something interesting. Electrify the water and see how many fish you can kill.

No! Aside from the obvious ethical dilemma

Hah! I love it when humans think those things exist!

I'll hit Percival.

Oh yeah. Puck sounded disappointed. Bummer.

Actually, since when have you not cared about ethical dilemmas? You're always talking about morality and philosophy and stuff.

I’m like Hamlet: I know what I ought to do in theory, it's just that I just pretend to be mad instead. Puck sighed. No, but in all seriousness, you pointed this out yourself a few days ago. I know all about morals, but I don't actually have any. He sounded almost proud of this. I was ashamed when you first mentioned it, but I now think it's something that sets me apart from and above you puny meatfaces.

Humans. We're called humans.

You're called what I say you're called. I mean, nothing you can do about it.

I meditated for a few minutes on that business that had happened last year, and then had to stop because both of us were feeling queasy.

See, that's just plain mean, Puck said. Someone in that state shouldn't be left on their own at all, let alone in a warehouse containing that many carcasses.

Do your nonexistent morals tell you that?

No, replied Puck with surprising honesty, but yours do. Oh, down and to the right.

Down and to the right, Sapphire,” I said without opening my eyes. I was actually almost asleep; we'd been travelling for hours and it really was getting quite dull. Behind me, Felicity was asleep; she'd slumped forwards to lean on my back, which I couldn't help thinking would have been nice if she had been breathing and didn't feel so cold – the two of which combined to make her feel unsettlingly similar to a corpse.

I know, Kester,” replied Sapphire. “I can see it.”

What?” I jerked my eyes open and craned my neck to see past her – and she was right. In the dark, blue-green distance, there was something broad and pale moving perpendicular to Percival – and if I squinted, I could just make out tall letters across the side. I was willing to bet they spelled out 'S.S. CANGREJO'.

Me too, Puck said. But that's because I know for certain that this is the S.S. Cangrejo, because that son of a glitch Matt with his damn Swampert is playing with the radio and trying to get the football results.

Son of a... glitch?

I hate glitches. One of Puck's shivers went down my spine. They make programs go all funny, and usually the whole thing ends up with me in pain.

Fair enough.

What's the plan now?” I asked Sapphire.

We'll have to tail it until we see where it's going,” Sapphire said. “It's not like we can just board it. Then we'll follow the Team into this deep-sea cavern we've heard so much about and help the druid who brought it there defend the Orb or get it away entirely.”

That's a good plan,” I said. “I vote we take the Orb and flee. I mean, there's the entire might of Team Aqua to go up against here. Every single member has come on this mission.”

Don't worry, said Puck enigmatically. I sincerely doubt they'll bother you.

What? What does that mean? Why won't they bother us?”

They'll be otherwise occupied. I'll say no more; you'll see when we get there.

Was that Puck?” asked Sapphire. I nodded. “Did you just nod? You forget, I can't see you back there.”

Yes, I nodded.”

Fine.”

So we drifted on, a Relicanth against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

---


Sir?”

Yes?”

I think you should take a look at this.”

Archie sighed, set his book aside and got up to follow the grunt to the bridge.

This had better be important,” he said warningly. “I'm at a good bit.”

Yes sir.”

The Hork-Bajir are in danger.”

What?”

It's in the book.”

At this point, someone might have pointed out to Archie that he was reading one of a series of rather underwhelming children's books, but, wishing to remain in possession of the full complement of organs and limbs that they had been born with, they did not.

They reached the bridge, and the Aqua grunt – who was, by a strange coincidence, the estranged half-brother of Mellifluous Gunk, Euphonious Gunk – pointed to the little sonar screen.

Someone's following us?” asked Archie, surprised.

Yes sir,” replied Euphonious.

It's a very small dot,” said Archie dubiously.

It's been following us for half an hour.”

I see.” Archie considered for a moment. “Torpedo it,” he said at length, and walked off.

Euphonious Gunk stood still for a minute, confused, then ran after him.

But sir!” he cried. “We don't have any torpedoes!”

Archie stopped and stared in disbelief.

No torpedoes? On a submarine? What sort of submarine doesn't have torpedoes?”

A research submarine,” Euphonious told him. “Like this one.”

So, there are absolutely no torpedoes?”

No sir.”

Archie sighed; it was such a sigh that his whole body seemed to deflate.

Fine,” he said. “We'll let them follow us until we reach the cavern, and deal with them there. They're not interfering with the submarine or anything, are they?” he added, a note of anxiety coming into his voice.

No sir.”

Excellent.” Archie started back into his cabin, but paused on the threshold and leaned out to speak. “Just keep an eye on them, would you?”

Then he was gone, back inside and back to his book.

---


At the bottom of the sea, a druid was waiting.

He had been busy recently. In fact, he'd been very busy. He had been trying to build some rather ambitious traps in the caverns – not just to keep out the Aquas when they eventually came here (as they inevitably would), but to stave off boredom, too.

It was very dull at the bottom of the sea.

Regrettably, the whole project had been dogged with issues. Firstly, the druid (whose name was Phil) had discovered that neither he nor his Shiftry had actually done the costings correctly, and had had to spend a day adding up prices for giant boulders and the like – only for his Shiftry to point out at the end of the day that he didn't need to pay anything, and might, in fact, be going crazy from the isolation. Since he was unable to understand the Shiftry's soft, sighing language, Phil paid him no heed, and began construction forthwith.

The next issue had been the digging of a number of holes for poisoned stakes to come out of. This wasn't in itself difficult, but it seemed that previous druidic visitors had already fortified this place against intruders, for in opening the ground he uncovered a massive pit, already filled with poisoned stakes – which he promptly fell into and perished in.

Naturally, this had been a little upsetting for the Shiftry, which, in his grief, had accidentally activated another ancient security system, with the result that he was hacked to pieces just a few minutes after his master's death.

So you understand, when we say there was a druid waiting, we mean there was a druid lying broken and dead at the bottom of a giant spike-filled pit.

This is mentioned purely because, with two alerts, the entirety of the old druid-built security system in the deep-sea cavern had reactivated itself, ready for future intruders. Coincidentally, this happened at the precise moment that the S.S. Cangrejo arrived outside a cave mouth in the wall of the sea trench it was in.

And as the submarine entered, and started to rise to the surface, hidden wheels clicked into place, and a whole lot of everything started to happen all at once.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; July 30th, 2011 at 01:05 AM.
  #163    
Old July 27th, 2011, 05:58 AM
01
01
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Gender: Male
Another interesting chapter. Was the Jellicent sent by Zero ? I read it somewhere I think. By the way, what level is Kester at now ?
  #164    
Old July 29th, 2011, 06:52 PM
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
Hang on; does Matt even have a Marshtomp? I thought it was a Swampert?

As for the creepy-as-hell hotel that Sapphire led them to in her drug-induced state, was that based off of anything in particular?

Nice reference to the Animorphs, by the way. It had all the potential in the world, but it just sucked too much to take advantage of its fairly-original concept. I couldn't help but grin at the Hork-Bajir line. Ah, sweet memories...

I couldn't really find any errors aside from the Marshtomp line, so I have to give you kudos for that.

Your friendly on-again-off-again lurker/reviewer,

Mem.
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  #165    
Old July 30th, 2011, 05:05 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Thanks, Silent Memento and 01. I've corrected what you pointed out, and, 01, the Jellicent probably was sent by Zero - but no one can say for certain, not even me. As for your question, Kester is Level 31 or so at the moment.

In other news: incoming chapter! Everyone get down!


Chapter Sixty-Eight: To the Bottom of the Sea


Fabien climbed out of the water, shook his hat out and gave a deep sigh of relief.

Blake,” he said, “we made it.”

There was no response.

Fabien turned around.

Blake?”

An arm burst out of the water, scrabbled for purchase on the sandy cave floor, and began the laborious process of dragging its owner along with it. Fabien bent down and lent a rather ineffective hand, and soon Blake was lying on the floor of the cavern, gasping for breath and, unlike his friend, very wet.

What happened to you?” Fabien asked, puzzled.

Fell out of the bubble,” Blake puffed, “while we were gettin' out.”

Ah.” Fabien straightened up and peered into the sea. “Morgana?”

The Pokémon in question leaped up out of the water, and started to float at Fabien's eye level.

Return!” Fabien raised the ball, and the red light flashed once – but a moment later, there was a blue one, and Morgana was out again. “Now see here,” Fabien said crossly. “I won't have this! Get in there—”

A large quantity of water hit Fabien in the face at this point, and he was forced to conclude that if Morgana wanted to stay out of her ball, there was very little he could do to stop her.

But,” he said warningly, “this is a top-secret undercover mission. You can't attract any attention, understand?”

Morgana nodded. Whether or not she had the neck which is so often a prerequisite for performing this action is open to dispute, but she did it anyway.

Nice work,” Blake muttered, as the trio turned to examine their surroundings more carefully. “You got her to obey.”

I know,” Fabien said, and he sounded as surprised as Blake. “Can you believe it?”

They had surfaced in some enormous underground cavern, through a pool on the floor that connected it to the sea; the Aqua submarine lay at anchor a few metres away, deserted. Finding out where its owners, Kester and Sapphire had gone seemed to be the priority right now, so the two Magmas had a quick search around the cave. This turned up a large hole in one wall that appeared to lead further into the cave network, and so they crept through.

Upon emerging on the other side, they instantly dived behind a convenient pile of rocks: this room was lit by hastily-set-up arc lamps, and was populated by what must have been the entirety of Team Aqua.

What the devil are they up to?” murmured Fabien, peering over a boulder. From his shoulder, Morgana, ignoring her lack of shoulders, shrugged, and started twirling merrily on the spot.

Look!” hissed Blake. “It's Archie!”

Fabien looked, and perceived that it was indeed Archie – and, more importantly, Kester Ruby, Sapphire Birch (with, for some reason, her hair dyed black) and their white-haired friend. They were standing in the middle of the Aqua crowd, in a little clearing, and Fabien bent his ear towards their conversation.

I should have all three of you killed right now,” Archie was saying, clenching his fists. “But unfortunately, I didn't come prepared for what was down here.”

What is down here?” asked Kester.

Archie pointed, and Fabien looked down towards the other end of the cavern; there was an ominous-looking stone doorway there, carved to resemble the open mouth of some gigantic whale-like creature.

Through there,” the Aqua leader said, “is a series of very nasty traps. Druid-built, by the looks of things.”

I really don't like where this is going—”

Shut up, boy.” He did. “Now, you've got Rotom powers, is that right?”

We-ell,” said Kester evasively. “I wouldn't say powers—”

Kester, if they don't think we're useful, they'll kill us,” Sapphire told him.

Yes, I have Rotom powers. Lightning, machine control – you name it, I can do it.” Kester smiled broadly, and not a little nervously.

Why are they arguin'?” Blake wondered. “They're both Aquas...”

No,” said Fabien softly, a thunderbolt of genius coursing through his veins. “It all makes sense now...” He looked up at Blake, and for once his face bore no trace of drama. “They didn't know who they were at Meteor Falls, either. Blake, those two – they're not Aquas!”

And you,” Archie continued, turning to the white-haired girl. “You've – well, I’m informed you can do things too...?”

I have a Froslass in me,” she replied simply.

I see. Seize the black-haired one!”

A couple of Aquas stepped forwards and grabbed Sapphire by the arms; to her credit, she struggled admirably (Fabien had an eye for that sort of thing) but one teenage girl could not fight off two thickset men in their thirties.

Now, Mister Ruby,” said Archie. “You and Miss Kusagari will go ahead and dismantle the traps for me so that I can get to the Orb. We've lost several men already, but you should be able to do it. You have powers, after all.”

If we don't, do you kill Sapphire?” asked Kester.

Yes.”

The boy sighed.

All right,” he said resignedly. “What sort of traps are up there?”

Archie smiled unpleasantly.

They're difficult to miss,” he said. “You two, escort them to the doorway.”

The massed ranks of Team Aqua parted, and two of the bulkier grunts stepped out to take Kester and Felicity away. One of them was, coincidentally, our old friend Barry Hawksworthy – he of unparalleled strength and stupidity – but, of course, neither Fabien nor Blake were aware of this.

What do we do?” asked the latter. “What do we do?”

Fabien bit his lip.

We wait,” he said at last. “We have to wait for them to clear the traps, then follow the Aquas. Think of it, Blake! If there was any doubt that we were the main characters—”

This again?”

“—then let it be dispelled now: we have stumbled across an opportunity to stop the greatest Aqua plot of all time! We'll be heroes!”

Should we call for backup?” asked Blake.

No!” replied Fabien vehemently. “We must take all the glory for ourselves.”

But we're up agains' the whole of Team Aqua—”

Yes, but think,” Fabien said, his low cunning churning out ideas at an unprecedented rate. “If we can get Kester Ruby and that Felicity girl on our side, we can probably get to Archie and hold him hostage. And we can get them on our side, Blake – we both want to stop the Aquas!”

Blake stared at him. If at times he had doubted the infinite genius of his partner, that doubt was blown away now; he could do no more than stare, and wonder at the mind that had spawned this grand scheme.

Fabien,” he said at length. “Let's do this.”

And so saying, they and the still-dancing Morgana hunkered down to wait.

---


How hard can it be?” I wondered aloud.

We had made landfall a short while ago, waiting for the Aquas to get out of their submarine and get away; unfortunately, it seemed they'd noticed us before, and when we surfaced, we found fifty of them waiting for us.

Very hard,” guessed Felicity. “They said they had lost several men.”

Nothing we can't handle, surely,” I said, pausing in front of the giant mouth-door and staring apprehensively into the darkness beyond. “I mean, it's not like we've not got anything at all.”

That sentence was horrible to decipher, Puck complained. You're being a real Holden Caulfield.

What?

No one understands, and you're annoying as hell.

Look, we've got our powers,” I went on, trying to reassure myself. “We can—”

You two! Get on with it or Birch dies!”

I grabbed Felicity's wrist and dragged her through the door.

After a short tunnel that seemed to be full of darkness with the consistency of fog, we emerged into another long cavern, this time lit with a series of Duskull in glass boxes on the roof. Periodically, each one would use Flash, and light up a large area all around it; after a few minutes, the light would fade, and another would Flash instead.

It's like watching the heart of a disco ball,” I said, looking up at the ceiling.

What?”

Never mind.”

I wonder who put them there,” said Felicity.

Probably the same person who put those skeletons over there.

What?” I cried, and looked down sharply.

A hole had opened up on each wall, halfway down the cave, and slowly, with a lot of shuffling and clicking, a horde of human skeletons with swords was coming out of them.

I stared. My legs had locked up with shock and fright. Blank eye sockets stared back sightlessly; beneath them, bare teeth made impossible grins. The ringing click of bone on yellowed bone sounded continuously, like sticks falling down stairs; a wave of foul, musty air rolled out with the skeletons, and clouds of dust rose off their bodies whenever they moved.

I swore violently, turned around and ran away.

---

A slim hand caught my wrist.

Calm down,” Felicity said. Her voice was perfectly level; I couldn't detect even a trace of emotion in it. “It's easier than it looks.”

Felicity, those are skeletons,” I replied, twisting free and running back towards the door. “This – no! It isn't possible—”

Puck!” Felicity called after me. “Tell him!”

Stop, Kester.

Puck's mastery over my nervous system must have been getting better, because I did: my legs seized up and I almost fell over.

Puck, I have to get out of here,” I said in a low, urgent voice. “I can't do this. I can't do skel—”

Turn around.

I did, and then I felt it.

A wave of Ghostly presences, hundreds and hundreds of them; they were weak individually, but together formed a crashing tsunami of spectral force that forced me to my knees.

Ghosts?” I whispered at the slow-moving army. “It's not... they're not real...?”

They are,” Felicity said, helping me up. “They're Gastly, bound into bones.”

Low-level, mostly four or five, Puck added. Come on, Kester, think evil thoughts and let's have us an Ominous Wind.

R-right.” I still couldn't stop staring at the horde; the skeletons didn't seem to have noticed us, just kept on walking.

They'll keep on walking til the sun comes up, Puck said. Or until they've gone a thousand miles to fall down at your door.

Kester, you take them,” Felicity said. “I don't want to wake Skuld, and you can do that wave attack.”

Om-ominous Wind.” I was still struggling to get my mind around it: these skeletons had once been men and women, and now they were dead – but they kept moving, and they turned their swords this way and that to catch the pulsing, haunting Flash-light.

Come on, think evil thoughts. I'll start you off:

William Sikes, and Estella's intentions,
Judah's reaction to Tartarus Rotations
Circe, Medea and monkeys with wings,
These are just some of the best evil thingslook, do some of the work yourself, Puck said crossly. I just did two rhymes and about six references for you!

It was already enough; the wind had sprung up behind me, and now a dark mist was rolling down the cavern. I had enough presence of mind to pull Felicity close, to stop her from being caught up in the Wave – and then a thousand voices were crying out in my head, squealing and jingling like windchimes in pain.

Let me get that for you, Puck said, and the voices faded.

The skeletons were all fixed to the spot, juddering and shaking; one of them vibrated so hard that its arm, still clutching its sword, popped out of the socket and flew across the room. They kept that up for a second or two, and then, abruptly, every single one of them collapsed.

I stared. Fear had turned to shock. If I wasn't very much mistaken, I’d just taken out about two thousand Gastly with one move.

Yeah, that's what you get for having me lodged in your brain, Puck said. I’m just that good.

I... did I do all this?”

Yes. They were not strong.” Felicity looked at me. “Shall we go on?”

Um... OK.”

I let her take my hand and drag me off through the sea of collapsed skeletons, but I was still staring around at the carnage; every so often, some of the bones would slide aside and release a little cloud of black gas, which would float away slowly, wheezing heavily.

Some of the Gastly were damaged badly enough to release them from the bones they were animating.

Stop!” cried Felicity, and held me back; I snapped back to reality for a moment, and saw that we were standing on the edge of a massive pit, perfectly cylindrical – as if someone had taken a massive hole puncher to the floor of the cavern. The bottom was cloaked in shadow, but I could make out the outlines of a few fallen skeletons, pacing around steadily with their swords held ready, and between them some tall, pointy things that looked rather more dangerous than I was comfortable with.

Oh,” I said, my response dulled by the whole skeleton thing. “How do we get past this one?”

I don't know.” Felicity kicked a shoulder bone—

A scapula, Kester. Wait, how come I know the name when I don't even have bones?

over the edge of the pit, and we watched it fall. It hit the bottom a full five seconds later, and immediately all the skeletons down there converged on it and attempted to cut it into little pieces with their swords. When they found that it was, in fact, impervious to slicing, they slumped their shoulders and went back to mindless pacing.

Is there a way around?” I asked. I was coming back to reality now. There had been skeletons, and that had been too much; now there were just Ghosts, bones and a big hole. That I could deal with. I just wasn't too good with the reanimated dead.

Remind me never to take you to Whitby, Puck said. Last time I went, Lucy was still kicking about.

Perhaps.” Felicity turned to look at me. “Shall we check?”

I stared at her for a very long time. Far too long, in fact – so long that Puck had to prompt me to speak.

Kester? You're staring.

Um. Oh, yes. Let's check.”

Felicity turned and started to wade through the bones and dust towards the edge of the room. Still slightly dazed, I headed off after her, trying not to breathe in too much of the powdered remains drifting through the air.

It turned out that the pit didn't quite extend to the walls, so we went around it, by the edge. This took us to the next door, which, like the last, was large and rather too toothy for me to be entirely comfortable going through it.

Felicity, of course, stepped through without a second thought; a moment later, she called back to me:

It is fine. The skeletons and the pit were the only traps. I can see the Orb.”

This was encouraging news, so I followed after her and found myself in an even bigger cavern than the entrance one, though with a similar pool in it. On a small island in the middle of this pool was the Blue Orb, looking for all the world as if it had been there for centuries, and not just since Friday.

Shall we take it?” I asked. “Or shall we leave it to them...”

We'll have to take it,” Felicity said. “Zero can't succeed.”

But then Sapphire dies.”

Something unnameable flickered across Felicity's face.

If that's the price we have to pay...”

What?” I cried. “Felicity, I can't believe – you're not serious, are you?”

She kept her gaze level.

Of course I am serious,” she replied. Was it me, or had the circles around her eyes deepened, darkened, in the last couple of minutes? “I cannot not be, now.”

Uh oh, said Puck. I don't like the look of this...

I gave her a long look.

Felicity,” I said, a horrible feeling of dread welling up somewhere at the base of my spine, “what exactly do you mean by that?”

No more emotions,” Felicity told me simply, and now her voice was soft and sibilant. “When I woke up they were gone. There's just me, and ice. Cold, cold ice...”

I knew what was coming before it even started to happen; I turned and ran as fast as I could for the exit. A strangled scream echoed out from behind me – but I couldn't stop to see how Felicity was doing. I sped through the door, almost fell into the giant pit, crashed through the sea of bones and then – just as I heard the long, mournful wail of a Froslass echo out through the caves – I burst out into the main cavern again, panting hard.

Killed – the skeletons,” I gasped, leaning against the wall. “Dodged – pit – but Felicity's gone – Skuld!”

Team Aqua stared at me.

Does anyone have any idea what he's saying?” asked Archie.

There was silence. I straightened up and said, slightly more coherently:

I dealt with the traps, but my friend's gone insane and turned into a monster.”

A werewolf?” Archie looked furious, and turned swiftly to face Matt. “Matt, that girl was once part of our Team! I recall giving specific orders that on no account were werewolves ever to be admitted to the organisation—”

She's not a werewolf,” snapped Sapphire. “She's possessed by a highly predatory Froslass that seems intent on destroying everything around it.”

Oh, one of those,” Archie said, nodding. “I know those. I saw one in Manchester once.” He paced for a moment, agitated. “She does this regularly?” he asked at length.

I came closer, so I wasn't shouting at him.

Uh... this is the second time, but I do have experience of dealing with her,” I told him, ever-eager to stress the fact that I was worth more to him alive than dead.

Can we suppress her?” asked Archie.

Probably,” replied Sapphire. “There are a quite a lot of you here.”

She can say that again. We've got so many Aquas that if one of them said 'I’m Spartacus' we'd have to wait six months before they were all finished.

Right. The traps are all deactivated?”

Yes,” I replied.

Archie thought for a moment, then called:

Hawksworthy!”

Our old friend Barry stepped out of the crowd.

Yes boss?”

Make sure these two don't run off,” Archie instructed. Then, turning to the Aquas in general: “Team! We're going to the Orb! Those of you with Pokémon effective against Ice- or Ghost-types, get to the front!”

There was a minor cheer – evidently, the Aquas hadn't yet connected Felicity with the disastrous museum invasion – and the Team assembled itself into something vaguely resembling military formation. Barry, and by extension Sapphire and I, were at the front with the Poochyenas and their Trainers, and as the group began to move, he grabbed our arms and started walking.

You could let go,” Sapphire told him. “Come on, you moron, where are we going to run to? We're at the bottom of the sea!”

Shuddup, woman,” rumbled the big Aqua menacingly, and she did. I almost laughed, despite being in what some might have called dire straits: random acts of chauvinism might not be politically correct, but they were definitely funny. At least, they were if they happened to Sapphire.

Kester! That's rude!

You don't care about manners!

Incorrect. I don't care about morals. I care deeply about manners. I mean, I’m English – genetically disposed to be polite, whatever the situation.

That's just not true.

I like to think it is.

We entered the bone room, which caused some consternation amongst the Aquas; a lot of people turned to look at me uneasily, concerned that if I’d managed to destroy all these skeletons, it might not be so difficult for me to destroy all of them.

What the hell were these?” whispered Sapphire.

Human skeletons,” I replied, shivering at the memory. “Animated by Gastly. They were weak, so I Ominous Winded them. I don't want to think about what would have happened if I hadn't been able to do that.”

You're welcome, Kester, said Puck. I have graciously loaned you my powers so that you may survive. Now worship me.

Go to hell.

Been there, got bored, came back.

What?

I’m a Ghost, he answered, as if that explained everything.

I sighed, and kept walking, only for something to—

---


Right,” said Fabien. “Are we ready?”

Blake nodded.

Let's go,” Fabien said, and the two men slipped out from behind the rock and joined the back of the Aqua column, Morgana drifting along behind them.

They were, as they had been for several days now, in their disguises: Fabien in trenchcoat, fedora and sunglasses, Blake in a plain black suit; most of the Aquas were in their blue suits, but there were a few who hadn't been prepared, and the two Magmas didn't stand out. Morgana was the only potential spanner in the works – but Fabien thought that since she was probably a Water type, she wouldn't give them away.

Blake,” hissed Fabien, “phase two!”

The big man nodded, and began to slowly power his way through the crowd, moving just slightly faster than everyone else in the group. As he moved forwards, Fabien followed in his wake, and Morgana trailed after. No one really wanted to question Blake, since he stood head and shoulders above everyone around him, and so Fabien's unlikely scheme paid off: in the time it took for the company to reach the edge of the giant pit, the two Magmas had reached the front of the great crowd, and could, if they looked left, see Kester and Sapphire.

There!” said Fabien. “Now, while we move around the pit – catch up with them.”

Unfortunately, things got slightly complicated here, and a number of events happened at once.

The first was that something white appeared at the other end of the cavern.

The second was that Kester Ruby collapsed.

The third was that the lights went out.

Instantly, what had been order became pandemonium; Blake and Fabien fought to get clear of the pit edge as the Aquas that surrounded them blundered about in a panic.

What on earth—?”

Someone bumped into them, and Blake lashed out in retaliation; there was a lingering scream and a distant thud, and he winced.

Oops.”

SILENCE!” thundered Archie's voice, and the Aquas ceased their motion instantly, like the tumultuous waters in the story. “Everyone who can, use Flash!”

The first part of his sentence was swallowed up in another unearthly shriek, but the idea got across; small areas of light flickered into existence all over the cavern, and immediately the white thing flew up into the air from where it had been throttling an Aqua, covering its eyes with its hands.

Shoot it down!”

Bullets sang and whistled overhead like so many lead-jacketed pipers; they passed clean through the Froslass with little more than a splash of water, but it was a potent distraction, and Fabien seized his chance to take Blake and head for Kester.

---

They found him in the custody of a surprised-looking man who appeared to have borrowed both his skull and his standards of personal hygiene from a mountain gorilla; Blake tapped this curious apparition on the shoulder and, when he turned around, laid him out flat on the floor with a right hook.

Sapphire Birch?” enquired Fabien, looking at the girl he was now facing. “Is that—?”

He never finished the sentence, for the girl had hit him squarely on the nose, and then attempted to run away. However, hampered as she was by the fact that Kester was unconscious, she got no further than a step or two before Blake caught her.

Look,” he hissed. “We're tryin' to 'elp. We got the same goal 'ere.”

A Poochyena sailed by overhead, yelping; presumably hurled by Skuld, it let out a short scream before it descended into the pit and came to a pulpy end.

What do you want?” hissed Sapphire.

We're here to stop the Aquas getting the Orb,” Fabien told her, glancing nervously at a man with an alarmingly large shotgun standing to his left. “Come on, we'll sneak around the edge while they're—”

The Froslass screamed so loudly that Blake's ears started bleeding, and the trio looked up to see what had happened. It was not a pretty sight: dripping with water, the ice ghost had separated into several pieces, evidently shattered by a lucky Rock-type attack; she attempted one last swoop, but fell apart in midair and splashed down into the bottom of the pit. With her disintegration, the Duskull that powered the lights seemed to regain their confidence, and began Flashing again.

Archie's voice rang out again:

Everyone all right? How many casualties?”

The man with the large gun, in noting Barry's unconsciousness, seemed to have worked out that neither Blake nor Fabien actually worked for the Team, and promptly raised the alarm by attempting to kill them; thankfully, Morgana would have been caught by the shot too, and, in defending herself with a wall of blue energy, inadvertently shielded her masters.

Sapphire stared.

Is that a—?”

Damnation! Our cover's blown!” cried Fabien. “Blake, grab those two and follow me!”

Spies!” yelled the man with the shotgun, loosing another blast after them as they fled around the edge of the pit. “The Magmas are here!”

This had the fortunate effect of starting another riot amongst the Team; fortunate because, while Archie and his administrators were frantically trying to calm their underlings, the Magmas and their new allies (or captives, depending on whose view you took) managed to escape into the third room, completely unscathed.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #166    
Old July 31st, 2011, 08:49 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
As we come closer and closer to the climax of the story, the Cutlerine gets so excited he starts talking about himself in the third person!

Also, he starts writing way too quickly, and tells himself crossly that he really must stop doing a chapter every day, or he's going to swamp those few certifiably insane people who reads his crazed ramblings in a tsunami of text and stupid jokes.


Chapter Sixty-Nine: One Orb, Two Orb – Damn it, I've Used that Joke Already. Twice.


I can't believe it,” said Courtney, as she ran with Zero through the halls of the Magma headquarters. “We're doing it! We're actually doing it!”

Wait,” said Zero, tearing off his mask for ease of breathing, “we have to get out of here first!”

The two of them burst out onto the Jagged Pass, past the guards who were just heading in to respond to Maxie's call, and collapsed breathlessly onto the back of Zero's flying transport.

Get us out of here!” cried Zero, and the Pokémon began to rise obediently into the air, moving straight upwards in a way that was impossible for any normal creature.

Three seconds later, they felt it take.

It was a sound like a fire bursting into life, a fierce, muffled whumph from deep under the ground; the whole mountain shook slightly, and flocks of Swablu burst, cheeping in alarm, from the pine forests on its sides. A thin plume of smoke shot out from the top of the volcano and—

silence fell over the Madeira Mountains. The only testament to what had just happened in the mountain's bowels was the smoke dissipating on the wind above the crater.

Now we can say we did it,” said Zero, after a long pause. He glanced at Courtney, a half-smile of relief and disbelief tugging at his lips; her expression mirrored his own, and within moments they were weak with hysterical laughter: the plan had come off! They had just entered into the ranks of history's greats – and the best part was that no one knew yet. No one so much as suspected...

Kiss me,” demanded Courtney, suddenly recovering, and proceeded to take the initiative without waiting for an answer. Zero, mildly surprised for once, responded in kind, and as the sun rose over the Monday that would start the end of everything, their bodies closed together in a passionate, savage kiss.

---

You can do anything,” Scott said eagerly, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Pick any facility in the entire Frontier – you can be the Brain of whatever you want.”

The boy with jade eyes – or, as we now know him to be, Sebastian Emerald – stood still and did not reply.

Come on,” Scott continued. “I mean, aren't you happy? You beat all the best Trainers in the world to be here! You're phenomenal!”

I'm the best Trainer the world has ever produced,” Sebastian replied, without a trace of arrogance. “I knew I would win.” He sighed. “I only came here because I was looking to scratch an itch, to find someone who wouldn't lose right away. But there was no one who could take down more than one of my Pokémon.”

All the more reason to stay as a Frontier Brain,” Scott went on, sensing his star battler was slipping out of his grasp. “The best will come here, and—”

I am the best,” Sebastian retorted. “And I already know that no one as good as me will come here.” He sighed. “I apologise. That was rude. But I'll have to decline your offer, Scott.” He held out a hand for the older man to shake. “No hard feelings?”

Scott hesitated.

Sure I can't persuade you?” he asked pleadingly. “You'd be the best opening publicity this place could have...”

I don't work for you,” Sebastian replied. “Shake my hand and let's have done with this.”

They did, and Sebastian turned to leave the office. Something, however, made him pause – and in his breast, Scott's heart skipped a beat. Was he reconsidering?

By the way, Scott,” Sebastian said, “can I ask you a favour?”

Sure,” replied Scott eagerly. “Anything. What can I do for you?”

Can I borrow your helicopter?”

---


Would you just sign for this and be done with it?”

Steven held out the clipboard beseechingly; looking into his eyes, the heart of the Space Centre clerk melted, and he signed without a second thought.

I cannot thank you enough,” said Steven with feeling.

Why did they send you with the fuel, anyway?” asked the clerk.

Steven sighed.

My father believed that Team Magma might break into your institute, steal the fuel and use it to make the volcano erupt,” he said.

The clerk shook his head sadly.

He's not any better, then?”

Lamentably, no,” replied Steven. “But his lunacy does at least keep him entertained. Thank you, and goodbye.”

He walked out, and tossed the clipboard into the first rubbish bin he saw.

---

Sumvahoo!” I cried and leaped upright, looking around wildly; however, I perceived nothing other than Sapphire, Blake and Fabien.

Blake and Fabien?

What are you two doing here?” I asked, hands starting to glow with sparks.

Fabien raised his hands.

We're on your side right now,” he told me, as soothingly as he could. “Really, we are. You don't want the Aquas to get the Orb, we don't want them to get the Orb.”

I think they mean it,” Sapphire put in. “Come on, Kester, we don't have much time.”

Since I, however misanthropic Sapphire might be, trusted her, I took her word for it and asked what the plan was; while she told me, I had another look around, and noticed that we were in the third chamber, where the Orb lay in the middle of the pool.

We don't really have a plan,” said Sapphire, “but that” – here she pointed at a blobby blue thing that floated in midair next to Fabien – “said that there's a way to Dive out through the Orb's pool.”

What are you waiting for?” I cried, choosing for the moment to ignore the question of what precisely the blue thing might be.. “Why haven't we taken the Orb and fled?”

Because the water's dangerous,” Sapphire said urgently. “Kester, if you could electrify it and get rid of the Pokémon in there—”

There were shouts from the doorway; I whirled around, but no one came through.

What's happening back out there?” I hissed.

That Froslass,” Sapphire replied grimly. “They thought they got her, but the more she takes over Felicity, the quicker she gets at healing... Fabien had a look out there. She's killing anyone who gets too close to this room.”

What?” This was strange; was Skuld actually helping us? “Why would she do that?”

It's the Blue Orb. Its essence is water, and so is Skuld's; right now, Skuld is the Orb's defence system. You see, the beauty of Rayquaza's spell is that not only did Groudon and Kyogre fall asleep, they never want to wake up

OK, OK, I didn't ask for your life story.” I looked up at the others. “Puck says the Orb's controlling Skuld to defend itself right now.”

Hang on,” said Fabien, holding up a hand. “Does that mean that if we remove the Orb...?”

Yep, said Puck cheerfully. Skuld will come after us.

Yes,” I told Fabien. “If we take the Orb, we become her targets. But that's good,” I said, attempting to look on the bright side. “That'll bring Felicity back to us.”

No,” said the Magma. “No, I don't think we can do that.”

But we don' ge' the Orb if we do nothin',” Blake argued.

Yeah, I've been wondering about him. What the hell is someone with an accent like that doing outside London?

We'll have to risk it,” Sapphire decided. “Kester, electrify the water.”

I went over to the pool apprehensively.

What's in here that's so dangerous?” I asked, and then saw a tall, triangular fin break the surface.

Sharpedo,” replied Sapphire quietly. “Remember that Carvanha? These are the same thing, only bigger, angrier and faster. But like the Carvanha, they won't take even one good hit – so shock the water already.”

All right, all right.”

I put both hands in the water, which was, naturally enough, freezing cold; I did my best not to recoil out of it, and let two Charge Beams go at once. I thought that maybe I’d see sparks dancing over the surface of the pool, but evidently not; all that happened was that the big fin toppled over and some bubbles floated up to the surface, presumably from deeper Sharpedo.

Is that it?” I asked, straightening up. “I thought it would be more impressive.”

Can you see the sparks on an electric fence?” asked Sapphire.

Well – actually, I've never seen one—”

Never mind. Tell us when the charge has dissipated.”

I poked the water experimentally, and felt no tingling at all.

It's gone.”

Let's go, then.”

Percival appeared in the water and didn't explode in a burst of sparks and smoke, so it seemed safe enough; Sapphire and I got onto his back, while Blake and Fabien stared.

Is that... diamond?” asked Fabien.

No,” replied Sapphire, “that would be too expensive. It's rhinestone.”

I could almost see the fuses blowing in the depths of Fabien's mind, but he got on regardless.

What's rhinestone?” I heard Blake ask him.

Synthetic diamonds,” Fabien said, sounding vaguely shell-shocked. “Synthetic diamond...”

Yes,” said Sapphire, as if that were something you saw everyday. “What of it?”

Percival began to swim towards the Orb's little island; we fell silent, and all I could hear was the distant shrieks and gunshots from the room behind us, overlaid gently with Fabien's disbelieving mutterings:

Artificial! Rhinestone, of all things...”

Quite surreal this, isn't it? Puck remarked. Calm in here, backed up by extreme violence out there, and over the top of it all, a man dressed like a 1950s detective muttering about manufactured gemstones.

It was further than it looked, and it took us a full three minutes to reach the Orb; as soon as we were near enough, Sapphire leaned out and picked it up – and then all hell broke loose.

Immediately, Skuld flew back through the door, screaming at us; I almost fell off Percival with the force of her presence. Sapphire thrust the Orb into my arms and, while I tried desperately to hold onto both consciousness and the big blue ball, Percival submerged.

Skuld hit the water a few seconds after we'd Dived, and it seemed whatever process she moved by worked just as well under the surface as above it. She powered straight down, burst through the side of our air bubble and rushed towards me; something foul and acidic rose in my throat as her yellow eyes met mine, and before I knew it I was once again reminded of that terrible business from last year, because I was falling unconscious.

---


In the seconds after Kester passed out, a great number of things happened very quickly. To avoid any confusion that might arise from such a mess of simultaneous actions and events, they will here be listed in a calm, clinical manner.

Number One: Kester Ruby fell off Percival's back.

Number Two: He left the air bubble and his body, in a show of rather base selfishness, immediately began the process of drowning.

Number Three: Sapphire Birch released Toro, on Percival's back, within the air bubble.

Number Four: Concurrently with Toro's release, Fabien and Blake glanced at each other, and at Morgana, and decided that the best place to be right now was elsewhere.

Number Five: Team Aqua burst into the room.

Number Six: Toro, displaying a singular sense of balance, managed to strike Skuld with an Ember.

Number Seven: In response to this slightly annoying attack and to recover the Orb, Skuld dived after Kester, at precisely the same moment that—

Number Eight: Fabien and Blake jumped off Percival and into the ocean.

Number Nine: Team Aqua, determining in that astute manner of theirs that the Orb was not on the island, began searching the premises for it.

And since this is where things become marginally less confused, here is where we shall return to conventional narrative.

--


Sapphire took less than a second to decide what to do next. Without the slightest thought for Toro, she leaped off Percival's back and plunged straight through Skuld.

The water was as cold as ice, and all the breath was knocked from her as soon as she hit it; a moment later, she was even colder as she passed into Skuld's body. All her muscles locked, and Sapphire, paralysed and drifting downwards, had quite a long time to get very, very pissed-off with herself for being so impulsive.

She hadn't so much as mildly inconvenienced Skuld; in fact, it was debatable whether or not the Froslass had even noticed her. Above her head, Sapphire could see the Froslass wrapping strong, white arms around Kester and heading straight for the surface; some detached corner of her mind that hadn't joined in with the rest in abusing its mistress wondered if that was Felicity's work.

Gradually, the sounds and lights receded into the distance; even the cold seemed to fade a little. Sapphire knew very well that she was probably on the verge of hypothermia right now, but what could she do? She couldn't move, not even an inch, and she only had about thirty seconds of breath left anyway.

Her anger was fading away; it was over now. Just relax, she told herself calmly. There's no other way out...

Sapphire almost sighed, but she wasn't quite ready to let out the last little bit of air yet. Instead, she drifted downwards, and wondered when she'd start to float to the surface again. Surely her downward momentum must have been used up by now? She decided that it must be the weight of her bag that was bringing her down.

Then Sapphire saw what was at the bottom of the pool.

Sand.

A sudden burst of explosive anger rushed through Sapphire's body, and now she was thinking clearly; she didn't want to drown, she didn't want to die, and she most certainly did not want sand all over her! A mighty convulsion, born of sand-induced fury, wracked her body, freeing her trapped limbs – and Sapphire struck out for the surface.

Inch by inch, she rose through the freezing water, powered by hatred and the remnants of a good lungful of breath; six inches higher, a foot, three feet, four yards. She could see Percival's great brown belly above her now, and sounds of the violently percussive sort.

Then she ran out of air, and froze.

So startled was she that she began to sink again for a moment. This couldn't happen. She could feel her lungs burning, filling up with something hot and prickly that chased the last dregs of her breath away.

Oh my God, thought Sapphire. I’m actually going to drown.

And then that violent desire for life took over her again, and she began to swim once more; her muscles screamed at her, told her that there was nothing to power them – but right now, Sapphire didn't care if it wasn't possible, she just – wanted – air—

Her head broke the surface, and she gulped in a great breath; it was stale, from being in the Dive-bubble, but it was without a doubt the sweetest she'd ever taken. Gasping, coughing and even, on occasion, spluttering, Sapphire hauled herself out of the water and back onto Percival.

Oh my God,” she gasped, trying feebly to sit up. “Oh my God...”

Next to her, Toro cheeped in alarm; she might not recognise incipient hypothermia when she saw it, but she could see her mistress needed warming up and drying, and so breathed a gentle flame over her. Blessed heat began to burn its way back into Sapphire's bones, and she managed to sit up, almost setting her hair on fire in the process. She sat there, gasping and panting, for a moment, and then worked up the breath to say:

Thanks, Toro.”

She patted the Combusken on the head, and received an affectionate squawk and another slow flame in return. Sapphire, now mostly dry (except her bag; she didn't even want to think about the state of everything inside it) recalled her, and ordered Percival to the surface.

As they rose, Sapphire's mind began to race again. She was out of danger for the moment, but what had happened to Kester while she was down below? How long had she spent drowning? What exactly was she planning on doing?

Oh. That was a tricky one, she thought, but it was too late to come up with a plan; the top of her Dive-bubble had just broken the surface. Thankfully, it seemed that no one was too concerned with her, since Team Aqua were facing in the opposite direction to her, looking at Archie, who was making some kind of speech.

...Orb,” he was saying. “Our Benefactor has been contacted, and he is on his way to witness our crowning glory.”

A cheer went up from the massed grunts; issuing from two thousand mouths, it was deafening enough – but it also rebounded from the ceiling and walls, multiplying itself a hundredfold and making Sapphire wince.

He will be here at any moment,” Archie continued. “Apparently he was already on his way.”

Sapphire nodded cynically; that was like Zero – always knowing what was going to happen far in advance. She bit her lip. It seemed like things were going very much against her right now. And where was Kester?

Incorrect, Mister Taniebre,” came a dark, quiet voice, like oil on ice. “I am, in fact, already here.”

The Aquas murmured amongst themselves; Sapphire couldn't see Zero from here, but she was willing to bet that he'd appeared from nowhere, like a ghost.

I hope you don't mind,” continued Zero, “but I brought a friend.”

No,” said Archie. He sounded shaken. “Wait. Is that—?”

Ah yes,” Zero interrupted. “This is the delightful Courtney, who has been working for me for quite some time now.”

Courtney! Sapphire almost cried out in surprise; the Magma Administrator had been an accomplice of Zero? Was that how he'd made everything run to his plan?

Well, I...” Archie broke off and laughed. “That's how you always knew what the reds would do!”

Guilty,” Zero replied, sounding vaguely amused. “Now, go ahead as we discussed, my good man; I've been looking forwards to this for some time.”

Right,” Archie said. “Loyal underlings, soldiers, friends – we are on the brink of a new age. Today, we resurrect Kyogre from his age-old sleep. Today, we bring him back, here at the very heart of the sea we adore. Today, we fulfil the twin imperatives of our charter. One, we will complete our original goal of expanding the sea!”

There was smattering of polite applause; it seemed that your average Aqua grunt wasn't actually that interested in the ideology that had led to the Team's formation.

Two, we will become an unstoppable superpower, capable of destroying the Magmas and forcing the world to bend to our will!”

The applause was much more heartfelt this time; several people raised their hands right up above their heads, and more than one person whooped and whistled.

Now,” said Archie, calming his Team with a word, “as you know, the Blue Orb contains Kyogre's soul. We cannot place him back into his original body; that has long rotted. Thankfully, we have one here that has two lives wound into it; one that is capable of withstanding Kyogre's tremendous power – and one that, conveniently, I have already captured and contained in this Poké Ball.”

The bottom dropped out of Sapphire's stomach; she felt very sick and not a little frightened.

Please welcome the latest addition to our Team,” Archie went on, “someone who I’m sure you've all met before: Mister Kester Ruby!”

---

The last thing I remembered before passing out was Skuld's eyes; the first thing I saw when I woke up again was a massive crowd of Aquas, stretching out across the cavern. I coughed, and an alarming amount of water forced its way out of my mouth; after that, I felt slightly better, and was able to register the fact that I was standing on some sort of makeshift podium, with Archie and the Blue Orb on my right, Barry behind me holding my arms, and Zero and Courtney on my left.

Courtney? That's unexpected. I mean, I didn't have Zero down as the kind of guy who was after forming a relationship.

I blinked, dazed; Archie was saying something and the Aquas were cheering, but I didn't quite get it.

Kester, you were captured while you were out – with a regular Poké Ball, too. Quite disgraceful. But the point is, they're probably going to implant Kyogre's soul into you.

That woke me up.

What!” I cried. Or at least, I tried; it actually came out as a low mumble.

Look, I told you that Groudon and Kyogre's bodies are gone, right? So they need new ones that they can grow back into their old ones. Your body is one of very few that's suitable: you've got me inside you, which makes your body a lot stronger than a human one – that's why you weren't outright killed when Matt's Swampert attacked you. I also serve as a massive source of energy. If Kyogre wanted to grow back to his full size once he was in you, he'd get halfway there in one go if he absorbed me. Puck sighed. How barbaric is this? I mean, I almost expect some guy to come up to us, yell 'Kali Ma!' and rip your heart out.

I couldn't think. I had barely regained consciousness (though I was getting better at that; I’d been getting a lot of practice) and now this? All I could do was look around wildly, and notice that Zero was leaning towards me ever so slightly, and hear the soft-whispered word that passed between him and I.

Checkmate,” he said quietly, and I imagined a thin, satisfied smile on his face.

You have to think, Puck said, was this his plan all along? Did he really mean what he said back in Lilycove, or was that all a lie? Or is he lying now, and does he have some further diabolical scheme we don't know about yet?

Way to blow the subtext,” I muttered, regaining some of my composure.

Just shut up and listen. Because I’m cunning and mighty on a scale not heard of since Odysseus, I have a plan to get us out of here – but for now, we need to listen to Archie and get more information.

...and now to awaken the Orb!” finished Archie, raising the artefact aloft; whatever his speech was, it had whipped the Aquas into a real frenzy, and they were baying and howling like mad dogs.

Oh, for Pete's sake, Puck said crossly. You talked all through the exposition. I just hope Sapphire was listening.

What's your escape plan? I demanded urgently.

Still, er, fine-tuning it. Hang on a moment...

Archie, with some small assistance from Zero, had done something to the Orb; it began to glow now with an unearthly ultramarine light that pulsed outwards in steady waves. As if from a great distance, I heard the bellowing cry of some great sea creature, and the splash of a primaeval tide. Below me, the Aquas looked like a collection of strange deep-sea monsters, lit by the Orb's flickering rays, and suddenly I noticed Percival, the light glittering spectacularly off his body in the distant pool, and Sapphire atop him. She looked about as scared as I felt; our eyes met and something that might have been companionship, or might have just been plain terror, passed between us.

Then the waves of light halted, focused themselves, and formed a steady stream that shot straight towards my chest.

Got it, Puck said. Kick Barry in the balls.

Immediately, I went to Rotom-speed; my leg curled up behind me and connected with soft flesh. Barry yelped at a surprisingly high pitch and doubled up – and I threw myself off the stage, just as Kyogre's soul passed through the spot where my heart had been a moment ago.

I hit the ground, rolled and leaped up again, eyes wild. I didn’t care who I hurt just then, only that I escaped; shouts and cries went up, but no one could stop me: I moved too fast, Charge Beams hitting those Aquas closest to me. I glanced back, and saw that the ray had rebounded from the wall and turned back into waves, spreading out over the whole cavern. I heard screams and shouts, and people running – but I didn't care, I was running as fast as I could towards Sapphire and the glittering Relicanth she sat on.

Don't stop me now! sang Puck as I broke free of the crowd. Man, Queen were great, weren't they? I met someone who looked a lot like Freddie Mercury once. He wasn't, but he signed my album anyway. I got it at home – Steve Briggs, his name was.

I wasn't listening; I wanted no more than to get away from whatever was happening behind me. I could hear ripping flesh, screams, footsteps; I didn't even care what it was, just that Percival was right in front of me, and he would let me put a large distance between me and whatever horrors lurked back at the podium.

Sapphire held out a hand; I grabbed it and leaped for Percival's back. I slammed into it hard, chest-first, and had the wind knocked out of me, but it didn't matter, we were sinking away, the world disappearing into the dark, blue-black waters of the sea, and all the terrible noises fading away to nothingness.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; August 2nd, 2011 at 09:16 AM.
  #167    
Old July 31st, 2011, 09:44 AM
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
Who's that Pokemon?
Spoiler:
probably phione or manaphy?


EDIT: Sorry for the short replies, I am trying to avoid the following:
-affecting the plot
-eliciting any response that takes significant time away from writing the story itself (sorry if I did that before)

me shut up now.

Last edited by teamVASIMR; August 2nd, 2011 at 12:38 AM.
  #168    
Old August 2nd, 2011, 07:17 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
You can guess all you like, I'm still not revealing Morgana's species yet. It's set to be exciting. Or an anticlimax. I won't even reveal that yet. You're also not affecting the plot, or distracting me from writing the story because I'm writing long replies.

Also, I have a chapter for y'all.

I also have wise advice: when waiting for a post to upload, never cross your arms when your bracelets are covered in spikes. I have just discovered that it hurts. Quite a lot.

Chapter Seventy: The Froslass and the Deep Blue Sea

Darren Goodwin. A man of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, if you caught him in the right mood; regrettably, when he was working he never was in that sort of mood. You would have to visit him at home to find him so jovial.

Right now, he was a lot less than jovial. Right now, he wasn't even agreeable. Right now, he was wondering where the hell Ruby and Birch had got to.

For Darren was sitting on a bench in a park in Mossdeep, sipping rapidly-cooling coffee and feeling like he was missing something. He didn't know what it was – but he had the strange sensation that there was some vital piece of information that he was missing out on.

Ruby and Birch had obviously met up with Team Aqua at some point, he thought – but where they had gone after that was completely unknown. He could only hope that at some point they'd be coming back.

In the meantime, Darren had been doing some thinking, and a little research. He had contacted a hacker he knew in order to look into Dahlia's background, and found a suspicious absence of data; he didn't know if perhaps the CIA had erased it to prevent people like him from finding it, but it was still something to be wary of. Giving up on that approach, he had instead instructed his friend to search for information on Mister Zuckerman – and here, in the CIA service files, there had been one solitary page devoted to him.

And all it had said was this:


My dear Mister Goodwin,
You have no doubt realised by now that something is not quite right with your new partner, or her dislikeable superior. Since you won't be reading this until the day before I begin to put an end to this business, I suppose there's no harm in showing off a little and telling you that neither of them are real, and both are working for me.

I wish a very merry Armageddon to you and your lovely wife.

Yours,

Zero


So now, as he sat on the bench on Monday morning and watched the city come alive around him, Darren Goodwin had a new puzzle to solve, and another name to muse upon.

Hex,” he said, looking over at his ever-silent Shedinja, “this guy's been here all along, hasn't he? All of this... this Zero guy, Ruby and Birch mentioned him in the restaurant in Lavaridge. He's important somehow...”

The Goodwin sighed, and took a mouthful of coffee.

You're different,” said someone; Darren started and almost dropped the cup. He looked to the left, and saw a young man dressed entirely in black sitting there, pallid skin looking dead in the morning sun.

Who are you?” he asked suspiciously. It was not every day that someone managed to sneak up on a Goodwin-rank researcher without them noticing.

The youth's green eyes flashed.

My name is Sebastian Emerald,” he said. His voice, Darren noted, had an American accent; after his misadventures with Dahlia and Zuckerman, that naturally made him even more suspicious. “And there's something different about you. What is it?”

For a moment, Darren did not know what to say; then, he replied:

Nothing. Go away, kid.”

Fine. Don't tell me about that. Let me ask something else instead. Have you seen these two people?”

Sebastian held up a piece of paper with two drawings on it; they'd obviously been drawn from memory, but they were accurate enough that the Goodwin stared in suprise.

They were Kester Ruby and Sapphire Birch.

Ah,” said Sebastian happily. “I see you have. Where were they

Darren Goodwin caught the boy by the front of his shirt and stood up, hauling him to his feet.

Let me go—!”

What do you know about those two?” demanded Darren. “And why are you seeking them?”

Most people answered Darren when he did this. Some people quivered in fear. A select few fought back.

Sebastian Emerald did none of those things.

He just smiled.

---


It was so quiet, down here under the sea. The only noise was Percival's fins.

Are you OK?” asked Sapphire quietly, after she'd judged that enough time had elapsed for me to have recovered.

Yeah,” I replied. “I'm all right. I think.”

You're definitely all right. You might even say you were the full Bill and Ted – that is to say, excellent.

What – did you see what happened?” she asked.

I shook my head.

No.”

I know what happened. Kyogre's soul lost its host, but now he's awake he can't go back to sleep. He's looking for a body, and since there's nothing around that can take his soul as is, he's going to build one for himself.

I flinched; a very, very unpleasant image had just popped into my head.

Oh no,” I whispered. “Not—?”

Yep, Puck said cheerily. The old boy's going to disassemble Team Aqua cell by cell and recreate his old body. He's probably going to kill them all.

I wasn't certain what the right response was, so I sighed and then swore.

What is it?” asked Sapphire.

Puck told me what was happening,” I replied.

Oh.” She bit her lip. “At the risk of being really, really tactless... what was happening?”

Tactless? Sapphire? Surely you jest!

Kyogre was taking Team Aqua apart so he could build his new body out of their flesh,” I told her.

Sapphire stared for a moment.

Damn,” she said. It sounded more surprised than anything. “That's really... unexpected.”

Not really. You just had to think about it. Who was closest to Kester? Archie. So the soul defaults to him when Kester vanished, and, finding that he wasn't capable of holding it without being destroyed, started absorbing other people, one cell at a time, to

Puck, I can't think of anything you could say that I want to hear less than that,” I told him.

How about this: I slept with, and then brutally murdered, your sister?

If I had a sister, that would probably do,” I conceded.

What?” asked Sapphire.

Puck's being stupid.” I sat up straight, a thought suddenly striking me. “Oh, crap!”

What?”

We forgot Felicity!”

Now it was Sapphire's turn to swear.

She'll be fine, said Puck, in a voice that let me know precisely how little he cared. She's made of water, she can ooze her way out. Or feed off the life force of those Gastly, whatever floats her freaky human-ghosty boat.

I can't believe you don't care

She's tried to kill us at least three times, Puck said sharply. As Barry the Baptist might have put it, she's more than good – she's a liability.

Do you think she'll be OK?” asked Sapphire, looking worried.

I hope so,” I said.

Otherwise you'll never get the chance to copulate with her, said Puck caustically. What is the human obsession with reproduction, anyway? You live, like, forever.

I chose not to answer that.

She can swim out, can't she?” Sapphire said. “I mean, she doesn't need to breathe...”

We were both thinking the same thing, I knew, but neither of us wanted to say it. I suppose we hoped that Kyogre didn't have the power to assimilate meltwater into its body.

The best part is, it's impossible to save her, mused Puck. If you go back, you'll be absorbed into Kyogre.

Shut up, you boneless bratchny.

It wasn't long before we reached the surface; we rose straight up, just wanting to get as far away from the deep-sea cavern as possible. Thankfully, the Dive-bubble, Sapphire assured me, negated the need for decompression. Ordinarily, this would be the sort of point I’d ask for evidence to back up, but I didn't really feel up to it.

It was a relief to see the sky again, when it appeared. According to it, it was some time in the morning, and I supposed it must be Monday. We'd spent well over twenty-four hours underwater in all.

Is there any food left?” I asked, taking a breath of fresh sea air and realising I was starving.

We ate most of it on the way here,” Sapphire replied.

But there's still some left?”

No, it was all ruined when I fell in the water.”

You fell in?”

Sapphire looked away from me, and started looking intensely at her compass.

I didn't have you down as the type to fall in,” I said.

That way, Percival.” Sapphire nudged his glittering flanks with her knees, and he started swimming placidly in the direction of Mossdeep.

Come on, Kester. Not even you're this thick.

Sapphire.”

I dived in after you,” she muttered, not turning to look at me. “I thought you might be dying.”

I suppressed a smile.

I think I was,” I said. “But I also think Skuld dragged me out.”

That reminded us of Felicity, and we stopped talking for a while.

Oh, the long uncomfortable silence, said Puck. They were everywhere in '40s noir, but where are they now? In the middle of the sea, between two rather stupid teenagers.

You really like her, don't you?” Sapphire asked after a while.

I hesitated before replying. This wasn't usually the sort of thing I’d discuss with anyone outside of Luke or Beatrix, but Sapphire, after our two weeks together, seemed almost to be a third best friend, even if I did cordially despise her.

Give over, Puck said wearily. You don't hate her. You quite like her.

Yeah,” I said quietly, answering both him and Sapphire. “I suppose I do.”

There's nothing wrong with that.”

I know. I never said there was.”

But just so you know,” Sapphire persisted. “That's nothing to be ashamed of.”

Like being from Basingstoke, added Puck. Now there's a reference they won't get.

Why would it be?” I asked, puzzled.

No reason.”

Throughout the entire conversation, Sapphire had remained facing away from me; now she sighed, and settled down to steer Percival.

Boy, is this trip going to be a barrel of laughs, Puck said. I haven't had this little fun since that Parrish kid asked me over to play a board game.

The ominous sound of distant jungle drums popped into my head, and then faded away.

Sapphire?” I asked at length.

Yes?” She still didn't face me.

Oh dear. This is going to be one of those 'emotional' scenes that come across as being pasted together from a load of fractured rom-coms by a ham-fisted teenager who believes in love at first sight, isn't it?

I do know, you know.”

Know what?”

About you.”

Dear God, this is painful. If you need me, I’ll be quoting movie posters to try and distract myself from this.

What about me?”

I sighed. I was fairly emotionally drained right now; I was in no mood to tiptoe around the issue.

In space, no one can hear you scream.

You think you're in love with me,” I said tiredly. “But you aren't. This is friendship, and you're confusing it with something more than it is.”

I wrote twice before about the longest pauses we'd experienced on our journey, but I have to correct myself: this was the longest, most pregnant silence of all.

Nothing on earth could come between them.

Damn,” Sapphire said softly. “Puck's good, isn't he?”

I hate to say it, but... yeah. He is,” I agreed.

Sapphire turned around and gave me a long look.

Would you mind...” She trailed off.

It's as real as the feelings you feel.

Would I mind what?”

Never mind.” Sapphire blinked. “What do we do now, Kester?”

For now, let's just get back to land,” I said, glad to be back on more familiar ground. “We'll – we'll talk it over then.”

A Barry LevinsoAh, damn it, Rain Man didn't have a movie poster tagline.

After that, there didn't seem to be much else to say. We rode on in silence, and watched the sky flush into the full light of midday.

---


It was midnight again when we reached Mossdeep; we were ridiculously hungry, but we were even more tired, so we decided that sleep would, on this occasion, win the right to come first.

When morning came, I met up with Sapphire at the Pokémon Centre where she'd spent the night, and found her watching the news on TV.

...will doubtless be held as soon as all the pieces of his body are found,” Gabby van Horne was saying cheerily. “In other news, the gang of marauding Sableye that have been harassing citizens all over the nation have vanished entirely.” Stock footage of the Sableye ransacking shops played. “It is uncertain where they have gone as yet, but police urge everyone to remain cautious and watchful.” It cut back to Gabby. “Foreign affairs now, and it seems that the Volscians and the Romans have at last called for a ceasefire. It's said that a 'merrier day never yet did greet Rome'. In other news, the former Roman general Coriolanus was brutally murdered earlier today...”

Sapphire?”

She looked up from the sofa and blinked in surprise.

You're early.”

It was only nine o'clock; usually, neither of us would have woken for at least another hour or two.

I couldn't really sleep much.”

Neither could I.”

I sat down next to her.

So,” I said, trying hard to sound cheerful, “what next?”

I had a thought,” Sapphire replied. “Do you think Zero...?”

I’d had this thought too, and interrupted.

No,” I replied. “He planned this, I’m sure. He must have known what would happen. He knew Team Aqua would be... destroyed. Whatever he wants, it's not a war between Aquas and Magmas. It's something to do with Kyogre, and he definitely escaped before he could be absorbed.” I sighed. “I still don't really know where that leaves us, though.”

If anything, we know less than before,” agreed Sapphire. “Shall we list the facts?”

Oh joy, said Puck dryly. I just love it when we feel the need to recap for all those readers who weren't smart enough to pick it all up as we went along.

OK,” I said. “We know Zero is planning something with Kyogre.”

We know he's been using Courtney to influence the Magmas,” put in Sapphire.

We know he's really, really cool, Puck added.

That's not helpful. Or true.

Hey! It's not helpful, yeah, but it is true. He's a perfect example of the super-cool supervillain.

We know...” I trailed off. “We don't actually know anything.”

We know Felicity's gone, and that she was part of Zero's plan before she broke free.

I don't want to think about her right now. Mention her again and there will be consequences.

We know – hang on, what was that?” Sapphire's head snapped around to face the TV, and, somewhat bewildered, I looked to see what was going on.

...activity at Mount Chimney,” Gabby was saying urgently, as a banner bearing the words 'BREAKING NEWS' scrolled by beneath her. “The quake has destroyed part of the vihara on the volcano's southern slopes, but it is not known yet whether was anyone was injured.” Footage shot from a helicopter showed us that part of the vihara had indeed collapsed, and that there had been a large landslide on Jagged Pass. “Scientists believe an eruption may be imminent...”

I was no longer listening to her. I was staring at Sapphire, and she was staring back. We had both just had the same thought.

Groudon!”

---


Bravo, said Puck; I heard a slow clap from somewhere inside my head. It only took you 513 pages to work that one out.

You knew?” I said, thunderstruck. “Puck, did you know about this?”

Of course not, he replied. I just like insulting you.

Puck knew about this?” asked Sapphire.

No,” I answered. “Turns out he was just abusing us.” I stood up. “Sapphire, this is huge. Zero never wanted civil war. He didn't want to set the Magmas and the Aquas against each other. He saw that they were the only two organisations in Hoenn big enough to provide enough flesh to rebuild Groudon and Kyogre's bodies!”

So he started increasing the tension between the Teams—”

In order to make sure that they'd want to get hold of the Orbs above all else,” I finished. “He must have researched it all beforehand—”

And that way he could feed them information that would lead them steadily closer to the Orbs,” Sapphire concluded.

Finally, he had Rayquaza killed to get him out of the way, leaving no obstacles.” I paused. “That just leaves two questions.”

What?” asked Sapphire. I could tell she was very impressed; I was actually making it up as I went along, but it sounded like I was being clever. And, much to my surprise, all of what I was saying was making sense.

One: how does Zero manage to calculate every move we make in advance. That's what gives his plan such power,” I added knowledgeably. “And two: why? Why is he doing this?”

I’d have thought that was obvious.

Give me your phone,” I said to Sapphire. “Puck has ideas.”

It didn't work so well since its immersion in the sea, but it still had speakers and that was all Puck needed.

It's fairly simple, when you think about it,” he said in a very crackly voice. “How do Team Aqua and Team Magma – or how did they, given their current state of disassembly – feel about each other?”

They hate each other,” Sapphire replied. “Everyone knows that.”

And how do Groudon and Kyogre feel about each other?”

They... hate each other,” Sapphire said, the light dawning. I could see it myself, now; it was simple, now I thought of it.

So what Zero's trying to do—”

Is use the Teams' hatred of each other to kickstart Groudon and Kyogre into beginning their battle again,” I finished.

There was no need to interrupt,” said Puck sniffily, “but essentially, yes. Archie is the primary host for Kyogre; I’m willing to bet that Maxie is for Groudon. Their hatred of each other is strong enough that it'll probably get sucked into the mix and remind Groudon and Kyogre that they haven't finished killing each other yet. As soon as they're conscious again, they'll start moving towards each other, and when they meet...” Puck made a noise that clearly indicated that there were few things he would like less than being present at that meeting. “Well, let's just say that 2012 is going to look pretty tame in comparison.”

After Puck had finished speaking, both Sapphire and I were very still. My mouth had gone dry and there was a sort of roaring in my ears; I’m fairly certain I could no longer hear the TV.

Hoenn,” I said at last. “It...”

There won't be any more Hoenn,” Sapphire managed. “Between them... they'll destroy it, won't they?”

'Fraid so,” replied Puck. “Bummer for you guys. Won't affect me, though; once Kester's dead, I can hijack a satellite communication and bounce myself out of the country.”

Hoenn was going to be destroyed. It wasn't the sort of concept you could get your head around easily. This was harder to believe than the assertion that two prehistoric monsters could have their souls fossilised into Orbs and come back millions of years later.

It was... unbelievable.

So, how does everyone feel about fleeing the country?” asked Puck brightly. “Look, I’m being generous. If you like, we could stop off in Littleroot and Rustboro and pick up your friends and fami—”

I dropped Sapphire's phone; we could both do without Puck's jabbering.

Hey, what was that for? I’m actually suggesting we perform an action that will save your lives. Seriously.

We have to stop them,” I said.

Definitely,” agreed Sapphire.

We were silent for a little while longer.

How?” asked Sapphire.

I don't know,” I replied.

I can help you with that. Give me the phone; I promise I’ll be good.

I picked it up cautiously.

First off, we need to work out how long it'll take Groudon and Kyogre to rebuild themselves,” Puck said rapidly. “Now, no one can say for certain, but I reckon we've got a couple of days at least; they're pretty big. After that, Groudon will head south-east towards Kyogre, and Kyogre will head north-west towards Groudon, and that'll probably take a few hours.”

How will we know when they start moving?” I asked.

Do you really need to ask, Kester? We're talking about monsters bigger than the entire nation of Andorra here. When they start moving, they'll notice it in Turkey.”

But how do we stop them?” asked Sapphire, agitated. “Puck, this is our entire country at risk here!”

The thing is, the rest of the world will barely notice you're gone,” observed the Rotom. “That would be funny if it weren't so sad. Oh, wait, it's still funny.”

Puck!” I snapped.

Oh, OK, OK. Listen, there isn't really much you can do now except go to the government. Actually, go through the League; they're more likely to believe you.”

We couldn't contact them earlier,” Sapphire pointed out.

Look at the telly. I’m pretty sure you can contact them now.”

We looked, and and we saw a very familiar figure standing by Mount Chimney, talking to the camera in deliberately-roughened tones.

Spike,” I said. “Sapphire, we can get the number of her Gym from the website and call her! She's actually in the League, so—”

She'll be able to get us heard,” finished Sapphire, nodding furiously. “Kester, that's brilliant!”

Felicity and our awkward conversation at sea forgotten, we rushed out of the room and over to the Centre's computer room, where Sapphire logged on and searched for the Lavaridge Gym website. A couple of minutes later, Puck was forcing Sapphire's phone to keep working while we called her – and two hours after that, we were on a plane to the heart and soul of Hoennian Pokémon Training, the place where every wannabe Trainer dreams of ending up; the place where the elite test their mettle, and where the world-class Trainers come to find their equals.

Ever Grande City.

---


Zero settled deeper into his seat, and sighed to himself. Felicity was out of the picture now, he knew, which made one out of three threats destroyed. Granted, she was the least dangerous – but she was also the most driven, which made up for it. Both she and Skuld would be gone soon enough, nothing more than blood in Kyogre's veins.

That just left Kester and Sapphire, he mused. If his calculations were correct, they were even now heading to the League building at Ever Grande City. Steven would be there already, he thought, waiting for them. It was a risk to let him meet them at this late stage – but it didn't matter; there was very little that could be done now. Nothing could stop the two great Pokémon from resurrecting themselves; anything that came close would simply be assimilated into their bodies.

In fifty-three hours, Groudon and Kyogre would meet for the first time in sixty-five million years.

Within a week, the average surface temperature of the earth would be somewhere around minus eighteen degrees centigrade.

And twenty-two weeks after that, precisely six months after Zero had made the bet, humankind would be extinct.
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Last edited by Cutlerine; August 2nd, 2011 at 09:15 AM.
  #169    
Old August 2nd, 2011, 05:33 PM
mew_nani's Avatar
mew_nani
Flying out of the sun...
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Glitch Dimension
Gender: Female
Nature: Brave
...Yikes. Zero really thought of everything didn't he? :\ I hope Felicity and Skuld are OK...

It's been quite a while since I last responded. This is epic. I can't wait to see the climax!

P.S. I have a really silly question. What were Zero and Steven's father betting on? You know, when Zero made a bet that he could obliverate the world in six months. They had to be betting on something...
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  #170    
Old August 3rd, 2011, 12:20 AM
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
I'm wondering if Barry Hawksworthy is among the deceased. He probably is, though; he had to be at that meeting with the Aquas. Not that I actually care about him as a character; I'm just shocked that the guy would go out without so much as a whisper. Then again, physical strength alone isn't much help when your body is being stripped down at a molecular level and crudely reformed into something that doesn't even resemble you...did I mention that you write dark stuff really well?

I'm wondering where Fabien, Blake, Goishi, and Morgana are and what role they'll play. I wonder how Goodwin and Emerald will play into the plot. It's nice to see a cameo by Spike, and it'll be nicer to see Steven make an appearance. I've got to give credit to Zero: he really did do his research.

Oh, and the Alien reference won me over completely. I freaking loved those movies. I loved the Predator movies as well. The Jumanji reference was nice as well.

I apologize for my off-topic rambling. I just wanted to let you know that the chapter was rock-solid.

Sincerely,

Mem.
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  #171    
Old August 3rd, 2011, 01:29 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mew_nani View Post
P.S. I have a really silly question. What were Zero and Steven's father betting on? You know, when Zero made a bet that he could obliverate the world in six months. They had to be betting on something...
I'm sorry, I don't see what you mean. They were betting on whether or not Zero could destroy the world. If Zero wins, humanity dies out; if Zero fails, President Stone gets the satisfaction of knowing that everyone's still alive.

It's nice to see you back, though. Familiar faces are always welcome here. Actually, any faces are welcome here.

Silent Memento: I'm glad you liked my references. I love Alien too. I'm ashamed to say that I actually have the novelisation of it sitting on my shelf.

With reference to Felicity, Skuld and Barry, I shall reveal nothing, but our loveable morons Fabien and Blake are on the move. As for everyone's favourite Devon researcher and the spooky boy with jade eyes, I'm sure we've not seen the last of their stratagems to capture/battle with Kester and Sapphire...
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  #172    
Old August 3rd, 2011, 07:03 AM
callumjames3
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Gender: Male
Is the story really over 500 pages? That is an incredible work of consistency right there. The last chapter seemed quite significant, as if it's the beginning of the end.
I've loved the story from start to finish, and its both exciting and saddening to see it reaching its conclusion.
  #173    
Old August 4th, 2011, 12:28 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
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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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  #174    
Old August 5th, 2011, 11:20 AM
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
You know what? I'm starting to think that Kester and Felicity aren't the only ones with ghosts in their heads. Or maybe Zero is a ghost-type himself?

Spoiler:
Oh, damn, I just realized something: the group of Sableye! Now I'm certain what role they play. They haven't hindered Kester and Sapphire on a random whim; they're helping Zero.


I'm still wondering what Morgana is, and I'm excited to see what the quartet (Darren, Fabien, Blake, and Sebastian) are going to do. And now I'm truly interested in seeing who, exactly, Zero is.

This is an amazing climax. Truly amazing. You really thought this story out before you planned on writing it, and I commend you for that.

Sincerely,

Mem.
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  #175    
Old August 5th, 2011, 06:07 PM
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mew_nani
Flying out of the sun...
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Glitch Dimension
Gender: Female
Nature: Brave
Quote:
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.
Wow. I haven't seen a set-up this big since 8-Bit Theatre. EPIC! :D

Funny. In the games, the Regi Trio had no purpose whatsoever. Look at them NOW. You just made them awesome. (Had no idea they were machines. Maybe I should draw a picture of them... )
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