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Old August 18th, 2011, 03:25 AM
Cutlerine
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As one story ends, so another begins. Hot on the heels of The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World, here's the fourth of my adaptations of the main-series games. As ever, I'll rate it 15, since I know I'm liable to get dark and violent at some point. Also, there is swearing; as ever, though, most of it's in Nadsat, because I'm hopelessly weird. Also (oh God, I hate starting two sentences in a row with 'also') there are some drug references. The drugs in question don't exist and never will, but they're there.

Disclaimer: This won't be a straight-up comedy like my last story. This is because I've now written hundreds and hundreds of pages of comedy and am having difficulty writing anything else; I'm trying to train myself out of it and get back to something slightly more serious.

So, without further ado, here it is.

Chapter One: In Which We Meet a Student, a Professor and a Mysterious Stranger

'Skulduggery is a difficult thing to combat, if done right. After all, a competent criminal will have made an elaborate plan that pins the blame squarely on someone else, usually the butler. The good detective will be observant, think laterally, and, most importantly, not be afraid to consider the seemingly impossible...'
—Canola Grimes, The Art of Detectivery


I was walking through the back streets when I first met him – travelling between the bus stop and my apartment. It must have been close to one in the morning then; I’d meant to come straight home, but one thing had led to another and I’d ended up dividing the night pretty equally between drinking and dancing, with a touch of lecherousness. Actually, I was fairly unsteady on my feet right then, which made me move slowly – and that was probably the reason why we met.

I was leaning heavily against a wall and stumbling down one street when I caught a glimpse of something white down another; if I’d been walking normally I’m pretty sure I’d have missed it. I stopped, and because I was drunk, I dismissed the (high) probability of it being a mugging and had a look.

It was a mugging: a guy with turquoise bowl-cut hair and a silver space suit was menacing an old man in a three-piece suit. I blinked; I wasn't entirely sure this wasn't some sort of alcoholic hallucination. Then a woman dressed in the same way as the spaceman appeared, and I became fairly certain that this was reality. My imagination isn't usually so concerned with continuity.

“All right, Professor,” said the guy in the silver outfit. “You hand over your research now, and no one gets— ow!

The old guy – the Professor – had struck him a blow on the head with the stout stick he held in one hand.

“Dear God!” he cried. “Can the elderly not enjoy a walk through the streets of a large city in the middle of the night without being assaulted?”

“We haven't assaulted you,” the woman said. “At least, not— ow!”

He'd hit her too.

“Look at yourselves,” the Professor went on. “You're a disgrace to the population of Jubilife.”

“Professor, give us your briefcase and we won't have to— would you please stop that, Professor!”

“Don't interrupt others when they are attempting to converse!”

“We're the people you're conversing with— ouch!”

“All right,” said the man, rubbing his temple and gesturing to his companion, who pulled a very large gun from her pocket. “Just give us the briefcase— and stop hitting me!

“Don't think you've grown strong just because you're in a group— aaauuughh!

The gunshot was deafening. I would have run – I was terrified – but not even adrenaline could sober me enough; I tripped over one heel and fell heavily against a wall.

“Someone's here!” cried the woman.

“Oh, dash it all,” grumbled the man. “OK, get the case and run!”

I heard their footsteps retreating down the alley; I hauled myself up, hoping they wouldn't return to the scene of the crime, and with my heart throbbing high in my throat I stumbled over to the Professor.

He was sprawled against a wall, head lolling back on his shoulders; I listened, and felt a wave of relief rush through me: he was still breathing. There was a horrible splash of red along his shirt, but he was alive.

I pulled my mobile out of my bag and started dialling: 4-4-4, the number for Sinnoh emergency services.

“Hello?” I said. My voice was shaking. “Yeah, a-ambulance, please... there's a guy here who's been shot.”

I gave the address and hung up, then stood up, not really knowing what to do. I was unpleasantly sober now.

“I thought as much,” said a voice from somewhere behind me. I started and turned, and saw that a stranger was standing there.

He was tall and lithe, and his face was composed of delicate features that argued for ill health, or effeminacy. Perched on his nose were rounded, rimless spectacles, and there was a mop of longish chocolate-coloured hair all tumbled about his face. He might have been fifteen, or twenty-eight, or anything in between; I found it impossible to tell.

Now, at one in the morning, he was wrapped up in a long black coat, the twin of the Professor's, and looking at me as if I were a curious butterfly specimen. He opened his mouth to speak – and then stepped right past me.

“They already got him,” he said, looking down at the Professor. “I can't say I wasn't expecting this...” He sighed. “All right.”

With that, he turned and ran off, in the direction the two muggers had taken.

I didn't think he was anything much at the time, of course. I thought he was pretty, in a pale sort of way, but other than that, he'd come across as a fairly cold-hearted kind of person. He had looked right at a man with a bullet in his chest, and passed on as if he were nothing.

The ambulance arrived a few minutes later, and after that I don't remember anything much: it was all a wild blur of lights and sirens and doctors, and a jumble of confused words piling one atop the other, high into the night like a mountain of postmodernist poetry. I was in the alley, and then I was in the hospital – and then I was at home, staring up at the ceiling from my bed, fully clothed, wondering if I was still drunk or if I was just dizzy from the shock of it all.

---

“Pearl?”

“No, Pearl's not here. I’m... someone else.”

I turned over and pressed my head further into the pillow.

“Pearl, I can hear your voice.”

“No you can't,” I reasoned. “Pearl is out. I’m asleep.”

“I'm coming in.”

I heard the sound of a key turning in the lock, groaned and sat up. Seconds later, a young woman with dyed-blonde hair and an annoyingly bright smile bounced in. This was Stephanie, and she was way too much to deal with early in the morning, especially when you had a hangover.

“Christ, Pearl, haven't you got changed from last night yet?”

“How can you be so awake at nine o'clock?” I asked, holding my head and wondering if it was going to explode. “I...”

I stopped. I’d just remembered what had happened after I’d left the club.

“Oh, God,” I said, my hangover suddenly seeming very far away. “He got shot...”

“What?” asked Stephanie. “What are you talking about?”

“On the way home,” I explained. “I was going home, I saw this old guy getting mugged. He got shot.”

“What? That's terrible!” Stephanie sat down next to me on the bed. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah... I’m fine.” I sat there for a moment, putting my thoughts in order. “Damn. I think I was going to give – did I say it was nine o'clock?”

“Yeah, why?”

“See you later!” I cried, leaping up and scrabbling around to find my bag. “I have to be at the police station!”

“What? When?”

“Fifteen minutes ago!”

With that, I swung my bag onto my shoulder and burst out the door.

“Lock up behind you!” I yelled back into the apartment, and ran off down the hall.

Ten minutes later, I was running through the Waverley Avenue subway station; ten minutes after that, I was rushing up the steps of the Hinah District Police Station. I flung open the door, ran over to the policeman behind the desk and said, breathlessly:

“Hi, my name's Pearl Gideon, I was meant to be here about forty minutes ago to see...” I wracked my brains. “Er... well, it's about the professor who was shot last night?”

The officer on duty stared at me. I smiled as broadly as I could, and tried hard to look less terrible: my hair was a mess, the remnants of last night's make-up was spread fairly evenly over my face, and it was obvious that I’d slept in my clothes. I looked like a vagrant hooker.

“Let me just check for you,” he said, and tapped at the keyboard of his computer. “OK,” he said at length, “it seems that someone is expecting you.” He sounded surprised; perhaps he'd just thought I was crazy before. “Detective Inspector Rennet. Third room on the left.”

He pointed me down the corridor.

“Thanks,” I replied, hideously embarrassed, and left. In my haste to get away, I forgot to ask if there was a bathroom anywhere that I could clean myself up in, and consequently probably scared the life out of D.I. Rennet as I burst into his office.

He was sitting behind a desk looking pensive, and looked up sharply at my entrance.

“Eh!” he cried. “Oh. Are you Miss Gideon?”

“Yeah,” I replied, closing the door. “I'm really, really sorry I’m late—”

“Well, the important thing is that you got here in the end,” replied Rennet, with only a hint of unpleasantness in his voice. “Please, have a seat.”

I sat down opposite him, and looked him in the eye; he was in his late thirties, the first streaks of grey beginning to appear at his temples, and he looked, like me, as if he'd been sleeping in his clothes, or maybe not even sleeping at all. He regarded me with tired blue eyes, and said:

“OK, Miss Gideon. If you would, describe for me exactly what happened last night, from the beginning...”

There was a click as a tape recorder started, and I began to speak; I hadn't got more than a couple of sentences in when the door swung open and the man in the overcoat from last night walked in.

“I've got it back for you,” he said, dumping a briefcase on the desk between me and Rennet. “Don't thank me, they were morons.” With that, he turned to go, and then saw me, staring at him in amazement. Was this normal police procedure? Did people walk into their interviews all the time? “You were there last night,” he stated unnecessarily. “It's good to know your friend dropped by. You could probably use the support after watching someone get shot.”

And without another word, he walked out again.

“Who was that?” I asked Rennet. “What's this about?”

“This is the briefcase Professor Rowan was carrying,” said Rennet, tapping it. “And that was, er, no one of significance. Now, Miss Gideon, if you wouldn't mind starting again...?”

---

When I finally left the police station at around noon, my head was full of the mysterious stranger. He didn't seem to be a member of the police force, but he was definitely affiliated with them – so who was he? What did he have to do with this Professor Rowan guy? And, most importantly to me, how on earth had he known that Stephanie had visited me?

These thoughts were going round and round in my head as I headed back to my apartment; in fact, so distracted was I that I completely forgot I’d missed another lecture, something that was forcibly brought home to me when I checked my phone and found a message from Stephanie telling me that she had notes I could copy if I so desired.

I did so desire, but even more, I wanted to wash and change, and then have lunch (it was now too late for breakfast, I noticed with regret.) I did that, and immediately afterwards headed out to Stephanie's place.

She lived a couple of blocks away, in the heart of Bantam District; it was about a thirty-minute walk, during which I had plenty of time to consider the mystery of the stranger and of the mugging. It was clear to me that the latter hadn't been an ordinary mugging; that briefcase had been important somehow. But that still didn't solve the mystery of who the man in the black coat was.

When I arrived at Stephanie's, the first thing I asked her about wasn't the notes (which were important) but what she thought about the weird stranger (which wasn't). I gave her all the facts, and she listened very intently; once I’d finished, I could tell that she was on the verge of delivering an earth-shattering revelation.

“The lecture was on Nietzsche,” she said, holding out a notebook. “Here are my notes. Oh, and please don't miss another lecture, Pearl. I can't keep doing this.”

I stared from her to the book and back again. “Stephanie, this is important!”

“Hardly as important as your dissertation,” she countered.

“You are not my mother!”

Stephanie rolled her eyes.

“I might as well be,” she pointed out – which was, I had to admit, true. There was no way I would ever have succeeded at university without Stephanie. “Look, I’ll make you a deal: copy out the notes, and I’ll tell you what I think your mysterious stranger is.”

“Done.” I snatched the book off her. “I'll do it at home. Now, Stephanie...”

“Fine,” she sighed. “He's a detective, isn't he?”

I felt very stupid then. It was either because I was very stupid, or because I’d failed to see the obvious. Of course the mystery man was a detective; who else wore a long coat and chased criminals in the middle of the night? It also explained how he knew Stephanie had visited me: he'd doubtless used his formidable powers of observation to deduce it, probably from the shape of my earrings or the clasp of my bag.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “That makes sense.” I felt oddly cheated. My mystery had been solved. “Well... I guess I’ll go home and write this up, then.”

Stephanie raised an eyebrow.

“I'd like the notes back by five,” she said, “so I can get on with my essay.”

My blood froze.

“Essay?” I asked, as casually as I could.

Stephanie sighed.

“I've written the title, due date and a list of the books you'll need on the third page,” she told me wearily, tapping the notebook.

“Steph, you've saved my life,” I said fervently, which got a small smile.

“I know,” she said without conceit, “and you're a lost cause. Now go home and write!”

“OK, OK!”

And once again, I was rushing through the streets, only this time I was heading back to my apartment – which, as it turned out, had been broken into while I was out. I knew it had been, because the person who'd done it was still there.

It was my mysterious detective.

---

“Who are you?” I said suspiciously. Because yes, I’m the sort of person who treats people who break into my home with belligerence rather than caution. This sort of person is also known as an idiot, Stephanie likes to say, but I prefer to think of myself as merely action-oriented.

“The question is, who are you?” returned the detective. “And I can answer that quite easily now. You're Pearl Gideon, twenty years of age, and a student of philosophy and German at the University of Jubilife. You were also,” he went on, “present at the unfortunate incident last night when Professor Rowan was shot.”

“Yes,” I answered, not really knowing what else to say. “But... my question still stands. Who are you?”

“My name is Ashley Lacrimére,” he replied, sounding bored. “I'm an amateur detective, but the police use me a lot because the police in Jubilife are about as effective as damp tissue paper.”

“Ashley's a girl's name,” I pointed out, and a trace of irritation passed across his brow.

“It was originally a male name,” he said sharply. “Now it can be used for children of either sex. Look, this is beside the point. I want to ask you what you know about last night.”

“I already spoke to the police.”

“And I have already told you that the police in Jubilife are useless,” Ashley said. “Do you think D.I. Rennet actually remembered to put tape in that recorder?”

“They're not that bad, surely?”

“No,” replied Ashley. “They're worse. Sit down, let's talk like civilised people.”

It was very strange, being invited to sit down in my own apartment, but I did anyway; I wasn't really afraid, since Ashley looked like a fairly weedy guy, and if I had to I could easily have overpowered him. (I was remembering the fact that he had broken and entered; for all I knew he was going to try and kill me.)

Ashley sat opposite me and looked at me for a moment. Then he spoke.

“Have you ever seen anyone like those people in silver suits before?”

“No,” I replied firmly.

“Are you sure?”

“I'm pretty sure I’d remember if I did. They were quite distinctive.”

“I see.” Ashley paused again. “Do you know who Professor Rowan is?”

I didn't, and said so.

“So it really was an accident that you were there,” he mused. “But that can't be...”

“What? Why can't that be?”

Ashley pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket.

“Because according to this,” he told me, “you are a target of the organisation the thieves work for, and have been for the last five days.”

I took the paper from him and had a look. There was a photograph of me – one I’d never seen before – and my name, age, occupation, place of residence...

And some big red type that said 'KILL ON SIGHT'.

---

“So you see my concern,” Ashley said. “If you were there by accident, and have never encountered any of those goons before, then it's something of a mystery why you would be on their hit list.”

“They're going to kill me,” I said.

Ashley frowned.

“Miss Gideon, are you listening?”

“They're going to kill me.”

“Evidently not. They're not going to kill you,” Ashley said wearily. “Rest assured, I would consider it a grave error if I allowed that to happen.”

“A grave error? Are you stupid or something? This is a notice that they're going to have me killed!”

“Calm down—”

“Not really the ideal circumstances for calming down, are they?” I snapped. “Some mysterious criminal organisation wants me dead!”

“But they're not going to,” replied Ashley, “because this is the order to have you killed, and we've got it.”

I stopped mid-rant.

“Oh yes,” I said. “That makes sense.”

“Now sit down, give me back the paper and put down that lamp.”

I did all three and asked:

“So... what do you know about these people? What happens now?”

“This organisation is new; I’ve never encountered it before,” he said. “This is the only thing those thieves had on them, and the main thing it offers me to go on is this logo in the bottom right corner.”

He indicated it, and I looked; it was a stylised letter G, curled into a tight oval with projecting corners.

“Do you recognise that logo?” I asked.

“No,” Ashley replied, as if talking to a small child, “I don't, or I would have already solved the mystery. But rest assured, I will solve it. That was why I told you about the logo; I thought it might reassure you.”

“You're leaving?” I asked as he stood up. “Wait! You can't tell me all this and leave!”

He looked puzzled.

“Why not?”

“Because – because – well, this isn't how things are done,” I protested. “I'm supposed to join you on some sort of cross-city adventure, solving the mystery.”

Ashley blinked.

“That,” he said slowly, “never, ever happens. Ever. Now goodbye, Miss Gideon.”

“Wait!”

He paused with one hand on the door handle.

“Yes?”

“Why did you break in here instead of waiting outside?”

He shrugged.

“I like to keep my hand in,” he replied. “Is there anything else?”

“Yeah. Why didn't you stop and help the Professor last night?”

“You were already doing it,” he said simply. “If I’d stayed as well, the thieves would have got away. Presumably, they'd have come to your house next and had you killed. And if that's all, I’ll leave now, and keep you informed of any further developments that might be related to you.”

With that, he walked out, and I was left alone in my apartment with a spiral-bound notebook and a head full of thoughts.

I weighed the options in my mind. Which was more important: this shadowy organisation that had tried to steal the Professor's briefcase and have me killed, or notes on Nietzsche and an essay to match?

Five seconds later, I’d put my coat back on and was out the door again.

Well, it's not like I had any choice. No one else was going to go and demand answers for me.

---

If you were of an unusually inquisitive disposition, and perhaps if you knew something of the amusing nature of the hijinks that pairs of criminals invariably get up to, you might well be wondering if the antics of the pair of space-suited goons who had shot the Professor would be chronicled here.

And of course, they will be.

Right now, these two crooks were lying low, which for them meant hiding behind a dumpster and hoping that the people who'd come after them for the briefcase had gone away.

“Do you think they've gone yet?” whispered the female of the pair. Her name, for those who don't know (and that will be all of you) was Liza.

“I don't know,” replied the man, whose name was, if you are still interested, Tristan. “I think we should wait an hour or two more, just to be safe.”

They had been waiting for several hours already; since four past one in the morning, in fact. It was now past noon.

From this, we might deduce (as Ashley would have done) that Tristan was not the brightest of people. But then, there were few intelligent people who would have freely done what he did for the wage he did it for. Popular opinion says that Liza was the brains of the pair, but if that was so, we must ask why she acquiesced just then to Tristan, despite the fact that his idea was positively moronic.

This is one of those things that we may never know the answer to, like the meaning of life and why we always get the shopping trolley with the wonky wheel.

“Gurrrp,” said the small blue Pokémon that sat between them. This may or may not have been an expression of its contempt for his owners; taking into account that he was a Croagunk, it is perhaps more likely that he was just croaking for no real reason. He was, after all, only a frog.

“Ssh,” hissed Tristan. “We could still be in danger.”

“I'm quite hungry,” said Liza thoughtfully.

“Oh, actually, so am I,” agreed Tristan. “Shall we make a break for it?”

“All right,” said Liza. She and Tristan moved into crouching positions, ready to run. “Count of three?”

“Count of three. One...”

Tristan recalled the Croagunk to its ball, so they wouldn't have to wait for him.

“Two...”

Liza checked that her gun was properly concealed. It would be very inconvenient to be arrested and have to explain it, much like that time she had had to explain to the Mossad what she was doing with fifty pounds of Semtex in the Israeli Ministry of Defence.

“Three!”

And the two criminals took off and ran for the nearest café as if the hounds of hell were snapping at their heels.

In actual fact, this wasn't an unfair estimation. Something was following them.

And, having observed where they had gone, it slunk away into the shadows like a phantom into the night.
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Last edited by Cutlerine; June 10th, 2012 at 01:20 AM.
  #2    
Old August 18th, 2011, 04:47 AM
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olih
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Ooh, this new story sounds interesting. I like the twist on the D/P/Pl games. Liza and Tristan sound sort of like Fabien and Blake to me! And Croagunk is like ever-faithful Goishi... I'll definitely continue reading this story.
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  #3    
Old August 18th, 2011, 07:41 AM
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The beginning is quite interesting, it seems Liza and Tristan are inspired by Fabien and Blake. The Croagunk is the counterpart of Goishi, isn't he? Anyway, good luck and I hope it will be just as enjoyable as The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World is.
  #4    
Old August 18th, 2011, 11:47 AM
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Silent Memento
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I'm guessing that Ashley is supposed to be Looker's counterpart (or Looker himself; after all, he did state that it was a codename in Platinum and the B/W series).

While Tristan fit your description of an inept criminal to a tee, Liza seems more like a terrorist or a rogue agent than anything; you don't go into a government building with fifty pounds of Semtex if you're not going to blow the place to hell. The fact that she even got in the Israeli Ministry of Defense building with fifty pounds of Semtex under the Mossad's nose and managed to get out (obviously she did, or she would have been locked away for good - they don't negotiate with terrorists who threaten their homeland, and they sure as hell don't release terrorists that they capture - or killed. They're not picky on either one of those options) tells me a lot about her abilities; they take those threats very seriously. I would say that she's definitely more competent than Tristan is. Hell, I'd even say that she's more competent than the Croagunk; I think it's probably the one with the least amount of intelligence.

The point I'm trying to make is that she doesn't seem like an inept criminal at all, as you mentioned in the first paragraph of the Galactic trio's POV. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you were trying to portray her as such, I honestly don't think that she could have gotten anywhere near an Israeli government building with fifty pounds of Semtex; Mossad would have stepped in immediately and stopped her before she would have gotten close.

I'm very interested in seeing what you do with Pearl's character. I'm truly wondering what she's done to make Team Galactic want to kill her.

Sincerely,

Mem.
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  #5    
Old August 18th, 2011, 12:22 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Age: 20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
The point I'm trying to make is that she doesn't seem like an inept criminal at all, as you mentioned in the first paragraph of the Galactic trio's POV. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you were trying to portray her as such, I honestly don't think that she could have gotten anywhere near an Israeli government building with fifty pounds of Semtex; Mossad would have stepped in immediately and stopped her before she would have gotten close.

I'm very interested in seeing what you do with Pearl's character. I'm truly wondering what she's done to make Team Galactic want to kill her.

Sincerely,

Mem.
Indeed. Liza has hidden depths, as we shall see. Astute reader that you are, you have spotted my first clue, although I admit I didn't make it very hard to spot. (That's the reason I chose the Israeli government, rather than any other.) Her story will be unfolded as time goes on.

The fact that I mention inept goons is a reference to my old friends Fabien and Blake, who I'm silently crying for because I miss them. You're right that it does come across a little oddly when combined with my hint about Liza's background; I'll reconsider the combination. EDIT: Rephrased it. Now it's slightly weirder and probably gives more away than I wanted to just now, but never mind; it makes more sense.

Also, Ashley is not Looker. I really wish I could claim he was, because I've just realised that he has a French surname (that he shares with Phoebe in The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World, for kicks) and it'd be really cool. But no, Looker will appear, in his own bumbling Clouseau-esque character, because I find him too funny to make into anything other than himself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 01 View Post
The beginning is quite interesting, it seems Liza and Tristan are inspired by Fabien and Blake. The Croagunk is the counterpart of Goishi, isn't he? Anyway, good luck and I hope it will be just as enjoyable as The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World is.
Quote:
Originally Posted by olih View Post
Ooh, this new story sounds interesting. I like the twist on the D/P/Pl games. Liza and Tristan sound sort of like Fabien and Blake to me! And Croagunk is like ever-faithful Goishi... I'll definitely continue reading this story.
Just to clarify, guys, Liza and Tristan will not be like Fabien and Blake. I don't want to stoop to cloning characters from previous stories in order to make them amusing. Their Croagunk is not sentient, like Goishi; it's more like a frog than anything else.

But there is a funny talking Pokémon, so you can all rest easy there.
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Last edited by Cutlerine; August 18th, 2011 at 12:29 PM.
  #6    
Old August 19th, 2011, 04:13 AM
Cutlerine
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To celebrate the launch of this new story, have Chapter Two a whole day early.

Chapter Two: In Which Pearl Almost Kills a Man, and Meets a World-Class Practitioner of an Unusual Profession

'There was this one guy who was known throughout the underworld. He was one of those guys who's famous even outside of the country; he'd been to Europe and America, and made a killing there. It was a pity he wasn't a real person, or he'd have been the most respected guy in the business.'
—Griff Derre, The Collected Memoirs

I ran to the end of the street before admitting to myself that I’d lost him. I could say what I liked about Ashley, but he was excellent at vanishing; whenever he disappeared, I never had any idea where he went.

I swore petulantly, and went down to the police station. If this organisation had wanted me dead, there was no way I was staying out of the investigation.

“I want to see D.I Rennet,” I told the officer on duty. He looked puzzled.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I'm Pearl Gideon. I saw him earlier?”

“Really? The only person I can remember coming to see D.I. Rennet was this really ugly wom— oh God, that was you, wasn't it?”

I nodded wordlessly. It could have been me being an impulsive idiot, or I might have just been very action-oriented right then, but I was about five seconds away from punching him. I suppose I only had myself to blame, though; if I’d woken up earlier and spent some time fixing my appearance, I wouldn't have made such a bad impression.

“Uh, yes, sorry about that,” he said, scratching his head self-consciously. “I'll tell him you're here.”

He spoke briefly into a telephone, then nodded me through the doors.

“Sorry,” he called again, as I left the room; I considered making a snappy reply with an obscene gesture, but felt that doing that to a policeman was probably illegal.

“Miss Gideon,” said Rennet, as I slipped back into his office. “How can I help?”

“Why didn't you tell me that those spacesuit guys were under orders to kill me?” I demanded to know.

He looked like a chicken presented with a Möbius strip: mind completely blown.

“What?” he asked helplessly. “What?”

“Ashley showed me a paper they had that told them to kill me on sight,” I told him.

“Ashley? You know Ashley?” Rennet was now gaping like a fish out of water.

“Since about forty minutes ago,” I confirmed. “What's going on?”

Rennet blinked at me.

“Miss Gideon,” he said, with the deep dignity of a very, very confused man, “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, and I would very much appreciate if you'd tell me what's going on.”

So I sat down and told him all about Ashley and the death warrant.

“Well, he didn't tell us any of that,” he said when I’d finished.

“Why not?”

Rennet shrugged.

“He doesn't usually feel he has to,” he explained. “Usually, he just explains everything to us at the end. I thought we were already at the end of this case – just a mugging – but it seems there's more to it than that.”

“Are you going to investigate? This is important, it's my life on the line here.”

Rennet leaned forwards over his desk and smiled warmly.

“Miss Gideon,” he said, “the most competent agent in the city is on the case.”

“Who's that?”

“Ashley,” he replied, as if it were obvious. “Not much we can do. We're all completely useless here!”

He seemed to find that very funny, and laughed uproariously at it. Needless to say, being a citizen of Jubilife whose life was in danger, I didn't find it nearly as amusing.

“Right,” I said. “Er, is there any way I can contact him?”

Rennet shrugged.

“I'm sure there is,” he told me, “but I don't know it.”

I was now very close to leaping out of my seat and throwing it at him; perhaps he saw it in my eyes, because he hastened to add:

“But look, if you really are involved, I’m sure he'll be in touch. He'll want to keep you abreast of further developments.”

I was tempted to tell Rennet how useless he was, but I didn't because he was a cop; in the end, I contented myself with making my goodbyes, leaving and kicking a trash can really hard.

What was I to do now, I wondered. My investigations had got nowhere. I didn't know why or how I was mixed up in this, and I hadn't found Ashley. I sighed, and was about to go home and start copying Stephanie's notes, when I thought of someone else I could ask.
I smiled to myself and got on the next bus to the Albert Warner General Hospital.

---

“Professor Rowan?” I asked, putting on my talking-to-old-people voice. “It's me, Pearl Gideon. I called the ambulance for you last night.”

The Professor glared at me from under bushy white eyebrows. His eyes flicked to the left briefly, and I saw with some trepidation that they had been looking at his stout stick, which was at the end of his bed. I didn't think he'd be strong enough yet to start laying about me with it – I thought it was pretty impressive that he was looking as strong as he was – but I didn't want to take any chances.

“What do you want?” he asked gruffly. “Some sort of reward?”

“No, no,” I protested. “I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about it.”

“Ah. Are you with the police?”

“No, I’m sort of a freelancer.”

“Ah. Like that young man who came by earlier.”

I couldn't help but let my eyes narrow a bit. I was a bloodhound, and I’d caught my quarry's scent.

“Oh? Did you get his name?”

“Some French nonsense,” replied Rowan. “Lackey or something.”

“Lácrimere?”

“That's the one.” He sat up a little, and looked at me suspiciously. “Why do you ask?”

“Er... he's got some vital evidence,” I said carefully, “and the police have asked me to find him so we can get it off him.”

“Can't they just ask him?”

“They don't have his phone number,” I replied truthfully. “Now, Professor, did he say where he was going?”

Rowan thought for a moment.

“He got one of those things you get on your phone,” he said, “and said he had to meet a friend for lunch.”

“One of those things you get on your phone – a call?”

“No!” cried Rowan vehemently, as if I were an idiot. “With words on the screen!”

“Oh, a text,” I said. “OK. Did he say where he was going?”

“No, he did not,” Rowan said. “Is that all? You don't want to hear about the gunmen?”

“In all honesty, no,” I told him, biting back the words because, you know, I saw them. “Thanks for your time.”

As I left the hospital, I gave myself a mental pat on the back. Things were going well. I knew Ashley had met a friend for lunch: that was something I hadn't known before. Now I just had to figure out where.

“If I were a genius detective,” I muttered to myself, “where would I have lunch?”

This line of thought got me nowhere. I wasn't a real detective; I couldn't work out where Ashley would have eaten from the colour of his coat or whatever. In the end, I did a circuit of all the restaurants and cafés within ten blocks of the hospital, and predictably enough, I didn't find him.

However, I did find the muggers from last night, having an all-day breakfast at a place called Café Desolée.

To give them their due, they were quite well disguised. Their spacesuits were hidden beneath long coats and their weird-coloured hair didn't really stand out much; back then, it was fairly fashionable for Sinnoh's youth to dye their hair strange colours. Mine, for instance, was dark blue at the time.

I only noticed them because the memory of turquoise bowl-cuts was still strong in my mind from last night. Still, noticed them I had, and so I thought I’d go in and see if I could talk to them.

This is the point where you tell me I was stupid, going after two criminals who'd shot a man in cold blood the night before. But it was broad daylight and the café was pretty busy; I was sure they'd realise that shooting me – or just pulling out the gun – would cause more problems than it would solve. So I wandered in and sat down at their table, at which they both looked up from their meals and gave me long, penetrating looks.

“Who,” asked one of them – the man, “are you?”

“Add to that, what the hell are you doing?” put in the woman.

“I think you know who I am,” I said. “You were meant to come and kill me last night.”

The man choked on a mushroom, and I watched with increasing concern as he tried to dislodge it from his throat; eventually, when he had gone bright red, I leaped up and thumped him on the back a few times.

“Oh, God,” I said, panicking, “it's not coming out!”

“Do you know the Heimlich manoeuvre?” the woman asked. She had gone white as a sheet, and appeared to have forgotten the forkful of egg that was halfway to her mouth.

“No, I don't know the Heimlich manoeuvre!” I cried back.

By now, half the restaurant was in uproar; people were shouting advice from their tables, and I was wishing that I’d handled the situation better. I’d come here to find stuff out, not kill people.

“I'll try,” said the woman, throwing her fork down and grabbing the man from behind; he'd gone a very nasty colour now, and the choking noises he was making were getting weaker and weaker. She wrapped her arms around him and jerked a few times – but absolutely nothing happened except that her friend tried to yelp in pain and ended up choking himself worse.

And it was at that moment, when I was sure that I’d just accidentally killed a man, that Ashley sauntered over from the back of the restaurant, administered a swift tap to the man's back and sent the mushroom flying across the room.

“That,” he told me coldly, “was definitely not the way to approach a situation like this.”

The woman suddenly seemed to recognise him then, and, grabbing her friend's arm, hauled him past us and ran out the door, pushing through the crowd. The man fell over once or twice – he'd only just started breathing again, and could probably have done with a glass of water – but she never stopped.

“And now they're gone,” snapped Ashley. “Well, make yourself useful, then! Go after them!”

And that was how I found myself running past a bemused crowd, out of the café and down the road after a pair of criminals, all the while wondering how I’d managed to mess the situation up so badly with one sentence.

---

They didn't get very far, of course: one of them was barely able to walk, let alone run, and they'd got all of twenty yards down the street before Ashley and I caught up.
“This is so typical!” ranted the woman. “For God's sake, Tristan, what sort of criminal chokes on a mushroom at a critical moment like that?”

“I – was – surprised into – swallowing!” he croaked back, leaning heavily on a wall and gasping for breath.

“That's enough,” said Ashley sternly. “You two. Who do you work for?”

“I've got a gun,” warned the woman.

“She has,” confirmed the man – Tristan.

“There are at least thirty people on this street,” Ashley told them. “If you want to make sure you're caught, then I would advocate shooting either myself or Miss Gideon.”

“There's no reason we should talk to either of you,” the woman said. She seemed to be getting annoyed. “We'll just catch our breath and be on our way.”

“Perhaps I could turn you over to the police,” Ashley said. “They already know you're guilty of the attack on Rowan last night.”

“If you tried, I’d have to shoot you.”

“And then you'd get caught anyway, only your sentence would be worse.” Ashley raised his eyebrows. “So there isn't actually anything you can do.”

I had to admire him: that was clever. I supposed that this was what a real detective did, instead of making suspects choke to death on mushrooms.

“Well, that won't work,” said the woman. “Because Tristan's got his breath back.”

And they ran off down the street and vanished into an alleyway.

I was about to start after them, but Ashley held me back.

“Forget them,” he said. “I already got everything I wanted from those two.”

“You did?” I asked, surprised.

“Yes,” he replied. “I did.” He gave me a look. “Why did you come here?”

“I was looking for you, and I found those two instead – look, does it matter? I was doing some investigating?”

“Leave that to me,” he said. “I don't think you're very good at it. You almost killed a suspect, and you didn't even touch him.”

“All right, I accept that that went wrong,” I said, “but I still have a right to know about these people. They were going to kill me.”

“You very nearly ruined the investigation!”

“Then wouldn't it be better for me to join you so that you can make sure I don't?” I asked, in a flash of inspiration.

Ashley froze. He remained so still for so long that I thought I might have killed him too. Then he sighed, and said:

“If I let you tag along for a little while, will you promise never to cause trouble like that ever again?”

“Yeah,” I said, and nodded vigorously to show just how much I meant it.

“Then I suppose you can join me,” he said despondently, as if granting me this request could very well kill him. “Right. Come with me.”

“Come with you where?” I asked, following him as he turned to walk back up the road.

“To the alley behind that café,” he replied. “I have a friend waiting there.”

Now I was confused and intrigued, so I followed in silence. When we got there, I couldn't stop myself from staring in surprise.

Ashley's friend was a Kadabra.

---

I’ve always prided myself on being open-minded. I think I might have even written something staunchly anti-racist for a school newspaper once. But I was still a little bit unnerved by the Kadabra standing in front of me; it's just so weird to be looked at by an intelligent being who isn't human.

“Pearl, this is Iago,” said Ashley. “Iago, this is Pearl.”

“Um... hi,” I said, desperately trying to remember whether Kadabra shook hands or not. In the end, he held out his claw and I shook it.

“Nice to meet you,” he said. That was the second shock.

“You speak... out loud?” I asked. Most Kadabra communicated telepathically – in fact, I’d never heard of one who didn't.

“Yeah. I do. I suffer from a rare disability,” Iago said. “I have no psychic powers.”

I blinked in surprise, and asked exactly the wrong question for the situation.

“Why do you have a Jamaican accent?”

“Because I’m Jamaican.”

“Really?”

“No, you dumb nazz. I’m Sinnish. It's just, the way Kadabra mouths are shaped means that everything I say sounds like this.”

He seemed to be annoyed, so I thought I’d better apologise.

“I'm sorry.”

Iago snorted, which made his moustache ripple.

“Don't be. I prefer to hang around with humans anyway. You're easier to – actually, that's enough about that. You're the girl hanging around and asking questions, aren't you?” I nodded. “Yeah, I saw your performance in the café through the window.”

“I think we should return to the matter at hand,” said Ashley quickly, before tensions rose any further. “I only came here to pick you up, Iago. Shall we get back home?”

“Yeah,” agreed Iago. “Sounds good. I was getting tired of waiting out here; the last people who went past got into some trouble with me.”

“Did you speak to them?” asked Ashley, as we walked back towards the street.

“No,” replied Iago.

“Good. Then the police won't get you.”

I was intrigued and slightly scared by this conversation, but I said nothing. I had the feeling that Ashley might send me home if I started making trouble.

Ashley flagged down a taxi, and twenty minutes later we were pulling up outside a row of old terraced houses in the middle of Rana District. The taxi driver wanted to charge extra for taking 'that grazhny fox', but Ashley refused on the grounds that Kadabra were legally equal to humans; things might have turned ugly, but Ashley eventually talked so much and so confusingly that the taxi driver threatened to kill him and drove off.

“Did we just steal a taxi ride?” I asked.

Ashley paused on the steps of the nearest house, and looked back at me.

“You're not one to judge,” he replied. “You almost committed involuntary manslaughter. Besides, I provide a valuable service to the city. I’m owed a free ride now and again.”

“And I just don't care, because I have no morals,” added Iago.

“Is that part of your disability?”

“No, I’m just a sociopathic bratchny,” he said, with surprising honesty. The swearing was also surprising: I didn't think there were any Kadabra that were that integrated into human culture.

Inside, Ashley's house was more spacious than it looked, though it didn't look like it had been redecorated since the seventies. I suppose he just didn't care about its appearance; he was more bothered about his work.

“Sit down,” he said, “and I’ll tell you everything we have so far.”

I did, and Iago dropped down next to me; he was weirdly light for something his size, and barely made an indent on the sofa.

“Those two criminals are called Liza and Tristan,” Ashley said. “They came to steal Professor Rowan's briefcase, and to kill Miss Gideon and myself.”

“And you?” I asked, surprised.

Ashley pulled out a piece of paper just like the one he'd shown me back at my apartment, only this one had his name and photo on it.

“And me,” he confirmed.

“But not me,” gloated Iago. “I'm unkillable!”

“Actually, you as well,” Ashley replied, and drew out another piece of paper. This one had Iago's photo on it, and made the Kadabra gulp.

“OK,” he said, “so I’m not unkillable. That's a real blow to my self-esteem.”

Ashley ignored him and continued.

“Pearl, Iago and I gave chase to them, and Tristan, in a moment of panic, hurled the briefcase at me. I was therefore able to return it to the police; of course, I had a look inside first, and uncovered a lot of papers on Pokémon evolution and the energy given off when the process occurs.

“I went to meet you, and instructed Iago to track Tristan and Liza, since Kadabra can move with inimitable silence.”

Iago sniffed deeply; if he'd been a human, I would have said he was insulted, but Kadabra are different, and I think he was pleased.

“Iago then led me to the Café Desolée, where I took a table at the back and watched them. From their conversation, I deduced that they were both very hungry and on assignment from somewhere in Eterna City.

“Then, just as they were about to mention names, you walked in and almost killed Tristan.”

Iago chuckled, which sounded like a storm made of gravel.

“Yeah,” he said. “That was really funny.”

“It was freaking terrifying,” I retorted.

“That was what made it so funny.”

“Calm down, children,” said Ashley. “If you recall, I said you could only help if you promised not to cause trouble.”

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry.” I shut my mouth tight and sat up straight.

“Now,” he said, “do you remember when I told you that they wouldn't come to kill you because I had taken the warrant from them?”

“Yeah?”

“That was a lie. You are, in fact, in as much danger as ever. As are we all.”

“Oh, great,” sighed Iago. “First that racist nazz in the parking lot and now this. Today just keeps getting better and better.”

“Did you really think that they would just forget to kill you because they didn't have the warrant?” Ashley asked.

“I don't know. You tricked me,” I said, pointing an accusatory finger.

“I suppose I did. Well done me.” Ashley shook his head. “No, that's not the point. My point is that I have now told you everything I have so far discovered about these people. Now the only thing to do is to investigate this base in Eterna.”

“Great,” I said brightly. “When do we go?”

Ashley tilted his head on one side and gave me a look.

“What's that for?” I asked, feeling an ominous sort of sense come over me. “What's that look for?”

“You're a student,” he reminded me.

“Oh,” I said, suddenly remembering that I, in fact, was a student. And also that it was three o'clock and I had completely forgotten about Stephanie's notes. “I – no, I can probably manage. I mean, I could miss a day or two.”

“Really?” asked Iago. “Really? You think you're that smart?”

I couldn't think of a response that wouldn't involve a racist slur, so I ignored him and spoke to Ashley instead.

“I can do it,” I said stubbornly.

“No. I could do it,” Ashley replied. “You can stay here, and I’ll keep you posted.”

“I...” The problem was that Ashley was right. It was incredibly irritating, and I knew that there was absolutely nothing I could do to change his mind. “Oh, fine. I know when I’m not wanted. I’ll stay.”

“Excellent,” replied Ashley. “I think it's probably for the best. You don't seem to be the most competent of detectives.”

“Will you stop going on about that?” I asked, annoyed. “It wasn't even my fault!”

“You could have avoided it.”

“He's right,” said Iago. “You could have avoided it.”

“Stop blaming me! I’m new to this!”

“Fine.” Ashley smiled, which made him look surprisingly handsome. “I'll stop blaming you. Now go home and study.”

I sighed and got up.

“You'd better get to the bottom of this,” I said warningly. I might not have been able to continue the hunt, but I wasn't going to give up on working out why these spacemen wanted me dead.

“Trust us,” Iago replied. “There's a genius in this room. And Ashley's not half bad either.”

I lingered for a moment, then said goodbye and left. They were professionals, after all, and I had to trust them. Besides, no matter how much I wanted to go to Eterna, I had an essay to write.

---

“What do we do? What do we do?” asked Tristan.

“I'm thinking, be quiet!” Liza snapped, pacing.

They were currently occupying a garret on Tant Street, which was the sort of location where no questions were asked, no one went out without a weapon and no sane person ever visited. This was their base of operations for their tasks in Jubilife.

“OK,” said Liza at length, slowing her rapid pacing, “what do we know about these guys?”

“There are three of them,” replied Tristan. “That weird kid in the black coat, the girl and that fox. The kid's obviously clever, the girl seems stupid, and the fox is... I don't know. Does anyone know?”

“He'll be bitter,” Liza said. “All the Kadabra who live with humans are bitter.” She stopped and chewed her knuckle for a moment. “Look, they overheard us talking about the base in Eterna, so they'll go to Eterna, right?”

“Yeah...”

“So they'll take the train to Eterna, because that kid doesn't seem to have a car.”

“We'll blow it up,” said Tristan decisively. In the corner, the Croagunk croaked; his masters often spoke the words 'blow' and 'up', to the extend that he recognised them as portending something.

“Exactly,” Liza replied, smiling. “We blow it up and get rid of them.”

“Hang on, are we authorised to do this?” Tristan asked. “What will the boss say?”

“He hired me for this. He knows I won't leave any link between the explosion and the Team.”

Tristan nodded. It was clear that Liza was a professional when it came to this.

“There's just two things we need to do first,” Liza said.

“Which are...?”

“We need to find out what train they're taking – or bus, I guess – that's the first one.”

“And the second?”

“I need to go to 44 Ramsmith Road,” said Liza, looking out of the window.

“What? Why?”

“There's something I need to check,” she answered. “Do you want to come with me?”

“Not really,” replied Tristan honestly. “I'll just be happy to blow something up.”

The words 'blow' and 'up' had now been uttered so much that the Croagunk took refuge under the table. Doubtless, he thought, something was about to explode, and he wanted shelter.

“Come on, I’d like some company.”

“I don't want to go!”

“I'll buy you a Kinder Egg.”

Liza had calculated shrewdly. Tristan battled with his addiction for a moment – and then, as ever, it won.

“Fine,” he sighed. “Let's go.”

And they did, slipping away through the streets with such silent skill that it would have been hard to recognise them as the same crooks who had fled the scene of the shooting the night before.
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Last edited by Cutlerine; August 19th, 2011 at 03:18 PM.
  #7    
Old August 19th, 2011, 08:19 AM
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olih
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Nice chapter. The whole mushroom scene was really funny! I also like Rowan's and Iago's personality.
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  #8    
Old August 19th, 2011, 12:42 PM
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Silent Memento
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Huh. Iago the Kadabra, eh? You know, ironically enough, I wrote a fic (an unfinished one on FFN) about two Kadabra siblings. One of them happens to be a total arse who wants to systematically murder the entire human race. With those revelations of Iago's sociopathic urges (even though he pretty much revealed it himself), I find myself attracted to his character already.

Pearl seems like an impulsive ADD-afflicted ditz to me, which is pretty much how I am a lot of the time - without the impulsive ADD-afflicted part. She also seems like she genuinely wants to help instead of sit on the sidelines (which is commendable). Therefore, I'm still wondering why she would say that she needed to complete her essay, especially after what Ashley said. It completely contradicts the opinion she had the last chapter (why do the essay when people are trying to kill me? I'm an action-oriented person, and I don't want to sit around while people are trying to kill me. I should probably help the detective), and it makes her seem out-of-character, although I must admit that I don't have as good of a grasp on her personality as I do the others. Maybe it's the college mindset of having to get things done or her being a spacehead or her friendship with Stephanie, but I still think none of them would be enough for her to act like that. Everything I've seen so far suggests that doing the essay would probably be considered inconsequential in the face of her own mortality.

I'm wondering what a Kinder Egg is. To the normal part of my mind, it sounds like chocolate or candy, but the cynical jerk in me says that it's probably a lot worse than that.

I have to say that Liza is impressing me as a villainess (definitely more than the villains were in the beginning of The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World). That is some serious forethought that she showed. She's almost as astute as Ashley is, in my opinion. I don't know why she isn't an admin - or is she just pretending to be a grunt?

Ashley is already starting to annoy me with his know-it-all superiority complex, and yet I can't bring myself to hate him. He reminds me a lot of Agent Washington in Red vs. Blue (don't know if you've ever watched it, though). Like Washington, most people would probably have a very hard time trusting Ashley because of his arrogance, if they even wanted to. Like Washington, Ashley is mostly surrounded by people more incompetent than he is, and he has to bear the consequences of it all. Even their jobs sound very familiar; Washington is a Recovery Agent, whose job it is to investigate crimes - the murders of fellow agents and thefts of their AI. All of that makes me wonder what Ashley's motives are.

I wonder if the main characters (Pearl and Ashley) have any Pokemon of their own. I don't consider Iago to be Ashley's Pokemon, as he seems like more of a business partner than anything. Besides, he's probably not going to be of any use in a fight; the Kadabra line have notoriously weak physical strength, and it's stated as such in their Pokedex entries.

The plot seems to be fine. I just wanted to point out the characters and how I noticed them.

Sincerely,

Mem.
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  #9    
Old August 19th, 2011, 03:11 PM
Cutlerine
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Silent Memento, you're right. I've been thinking like a mixture of Kester and Puck for a long time now, and the sudden shift to a completely different sort of character has rather thrown me, I must admit; that's the sort of basic error I really ought to have caught as I was writing it. Gah. Anyway, I've fixed it now. Sort of.

(This is also why people like me, who absorb the characters they create and half-become them for a while, should probably wait more than two hours after finishing one story to start another. My mind has to clear properly.)

Your reaction to Ashley is exactly what I'd hoped for, which is excellent. He's annoying as hell, but sort of likeable at the same time.

Iago is an interesting one; I have a lot of fun planned for him later on, which may or may not involve institutional racism. I've always wanted to explore the relationship between Kadabra and humans, which I imagine is pretty fractured.

And Liza... well, if I told you about her, that would completely defeat the point of her subplot. For, as in my last work, almost every character in this tale has their own story to tell, and hers is large and sort of sad.

As for a Kinder Egg, Google them. They're nowhere near as sinister as you think. Regrettably, I share Tristan's addiction to them, which means I have a large bag full of worthless plastic toys that I have an irrational attachment to.
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Last edited by Cutlerine; August 19th, 2011 at 03:23 PM.
  #10    
Old August 21st, 2011, 12:11 AM
Cutlerine
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Chapter Three: In Which the Long Arm of the Law is Found to Extend to Sinnoh

'Name: classified. Codename: Looker. Place of residence:classified, classified, classified. classified is one of our most classified workers, possessing as he does admirable classified of many languages and remarkable powers of classified. There are a classified of classified relating to the classified of classified.
—International Police, Personnel Files


“OK, Pearl,” I told myself, placing Stephanie's notebook on the table in front of me and giving it a stern look. “You can do this. Just sit down, open the book and copy everything out.”

I took a deep breath. This was going to be one of those afternoons that required an iron will to keep under control.

“Pen – check. Paper – check. Studious attitude... OK, well, let's start and hope that that one comes with time.”

I opened Stephanie's notebook and read the first sentence, pen poised above my pad of paper.

“'In 1887, Nietzsche found out abou—' oh God, this is dull.” I slumped forwards, and my head thumped gently into the desk. Just as swiftly, though, I jerked upright again. “No! Must study! Right. 'Nietzsche found out about the work of by this point, Pearl, you've probably got really bored, but stick with it.'” I paused and re-read the sentence, confused. “How did she know?” I wondered.

Stephanie's message actually had the opposite of its intended effect; I wasted five minutes wondering how she'd known that I’d get bored at exactly that moment before remembering that I was meant to be copying her notes out. There followed ten minutes of furious scribbling, and then I started thinking about Ashley, Iago and Eterna.

I wondered if they'd left already. How long did it take to get to Eterna? Would they be there already? What would they find? A swirling mess of gangster movies whirled through my head: a long black car, a smoking gun, a man with a cigar, Marlon Brando...

“I have to do the essay,” I told myself. “Ashley doesn't want you there anyway. You'll get in the way.” I forced myself to write another couple of sentences. “Maybe I’ll go and check to see if they've gone yet,” I said. “You know, just go to their house, see if they changed their minds.” I stared at the page for a moment. “I mean, you never know. Maybe I can help after all. Yeah. I should check. Besides, this can wait a while. Can't it?”

Once those last two sentences had passed my lips, I couldn't have stopped if I’d wanted to. By the time my pen hit the desk, I was already halfway down the hall, shouldering my bag and hoping the door was locked.

---

“Where to?” asked the taxi driver. It seemed he wasn't unduly bothered by Iago's presence, which was refreshing.

“Dürer Station,” replied Ashley.

“Via the Conucom on Donatello Road,” added Iago. “I need to get some money out.”

“All right,” replied the cabbie, and the taxi started to move off.

Silence fell between Ashley and Iago for a while; then, Iago asked:

“Why didn't you tell her you know the name of the organisation?”

“Because I probably wouldn't have been able to convince her to stay here if I had.”

“Does she need to?”

“I went to her apartment. I’ve seen her essays. Believe me, she needs to stay here and work if she ever wants to graduate.”

“Right, right. Shall I start searching for 'Galactic' again?”

“If you would.”

In the lines of work Ashley and Iago pursued, one on either side of the law, the ability of total recall, common to all Kadabra, was a useful one. The only downside was that Iago had, over the years, filled his mind with so much information that it took him a while to sift through it all.

“Hey, did you know that Gardenia Willis has been engaged fourteen times?”

“I don't really care, Iago. Just focus on looking for 'Galactic'.”

Another silence. This one lasted until they got to the bank, where Iago got out, produced a wallet from somewhere in his enormously fluffy tail and took out a large quantity of Pokédollars before getting back in.

“There,” he said. “Now on to Dürer Station.”

“Right,” replied the cabbie amiably, and drove on.

“And Ashley?”

“Yes?”

“I've never come across any organisation called Galactic.”

"Ah. Well, I'm sure they'll reveal themselves in the fullness of time."

"If you say so," replied Iago. "If you say so."

---

I’d just got to the end of the road when I noticed a weird guy in a brown coat darting furtively from lamppost to lamppost, as if he could hide behind them; natural curiosity overcame my desire to get to Ashley's house, and I walked up to him and asked him what he was doing.

“Ah!” he cried, with a strong French accent. “You have discovered me! But please, tell me, how did you know I was actually a globe-trotting elite of the International Police?”

I stared.

“Um... I didn't,” I answered. “I just thought you looked weird.”

The man gave me an inscrutable sort of look.

“Ah, you say this,” he said. “But you, you are hiding the truth! Your perception is remarkable; you spotted me right away for what I really am!”

“If you say so,” I replied, realising that I was probably dealing with a lunatic. “Look, I won't bother you any further, I’ll just leave—”

“No, no. Do not leave just yet.” The man fumbled in his pocket and drew out a photograph. “My name is... ah, no, I shall inform you of my code name only. I am Looker.”

By now, as you can imagine, I was really regretting talking to him. That's the problem with being impulsive; half the things you do end up making things worse for you.

“OK, I’m Pearl. I really do need to go—”

“I have not yet told you why I am here. Look at this photograph. Have you seen this woman?”

He held it up, and to get rid of him I had a quick look – and then froze. I knew who that was. Sure, her hair was long and brown there rather than short and turquoise, but I knew her. It was Liza.

“Ah, I see you have seen her,” Looker said. “Tell me, where was she?”

“She shot someone last night,” I told him, staring at the photo. “But today I saw her near the Albert Warner General Hospital. She's working for some criminal organisation.”

“Indeed!” cried Looker. “Well, if you see her again, you must contact me.” He drew a business card from his pocket and handed it to me. “It is of the utmost importance that she gets put behind bars!”

“Why? Who is she?”

He shrugged.

“I am not sure,” he replied candidly. “Her real name, it is uncertain. What does she call herself now?”

“Liza.”

“Liza. Li-zaaaaa.” He rolled the word around his mouth a little, found he liked the flavour and nodded deeply. “Thank you.”

“What's she done?” I asked. “Why is the International Police after her?”

“That much, I cannot say right now,” Looker said self-importantly. “She is a very dangerous woman.”

“OK.” I looked at his business card. “Hang on. Where's your phone number?”

“Right here.” He indicated what I thought had been a barcode.

“But it's all ones,” I pointed out. “That's not a real number.”

“11111 111111,” he said. “It is a secret number. You must use it when you see this Liza again, yes!”

I was no longer entirely certain that he was a member of the International Police – there was a mental asylum on the other side of town, and he could have escaped from there – but I smiled, nodded and finally made my escape.

“Do not forget to call!” he cried after my retreating back. I started walking faster. “No, not because I am lonely – of course not. It is because of Liza!”

I broke into a run, rounded the corner and hurried along to the Waverley subway station.

“I am never calling that guy,” I muttered, waiting for the train. “Never, ever, ever. It's not even a real number.”

The train arrived, I got on and fifteen minutes later I was walking down Baker Street, trying to remember which house had been Ashley's. I had the funny feeling it might have been 221B, but there didn't seem to be one with that number; maybe I was thinking of someone else.

After a while I knocked on a door and asked the person who answered where Ashley Lacrimére lived; she told me that he was four doors down on the other side of the road, at number 17, but that she'd seen him leave a while ago in a taxi. I thanked her, thought, and decided that he was probably going to the closest major train station, which would be Dürer. He didn't seem like the type to travel by bus; in my mind's eye, I saw him in a first-class carriage, photographs, bloodstained scraps of cloth and other pieces of evidence spread out across a table. Yeah, that was how Ashley would travel.

I shook myself out of my reverie and headed back to the subway station. I had a detective to catch.

---

The cab driver watched Ashley and Iago as they walked across the square and into the train station; he even kept an eye on the entrances for a minute longer, to make sure they didn't come out again.

“OK Liza,” he said into his mobile phone. “They're definitely taking the train.”

---

Apparently, there'd been some accident at Dürer Station, so I couldn't ride the subway all the way there; I had to get off at the stop before and walk the rest. When I got there, I found the whole place cordoned off with reams of yellow police tape, and a restless crowd gathered all around it while desperate policeman tried to tell them that there was absolutely nothing to worry about. Since this was so obviously a lie, it was just making everyone even more determined to get in, and I got the feeling that a battle was about to begin.

Being the experienced denizen of inner-city Jubilife that I was, I knew how to get through a semi-violent crowd without getting hurt. (Here's a hint: it helps to be young, female and pretty.) Soon, I was at the front, and asking a policeman what was happening.

“Absolutely nothing to worry about,” he told me. “Absolutely—”

At that moment, there was a colossal boom and a wave of fire rolled out of the front doors of the station.

“—nothing to worry about,” the cop finished, somewhat weakly.

“What's going on?” yelled a man standing next to me. “What the hell was that?”

“I believe it's called an explosion,” replied the policeman. “But look, it was only a little one, there's nothing to be worried about—”

BOOM!

A second burst of fire came out of a ground-floor window.

“Jesus Christ, how many of them are there?” screamed someone from behind me.

I sensed a riot coming now, and since I had other things to do than join in, I started to make my way back out of the crowd; as I went, I passed people taking out flick-knives and coshes. Yes, there was definitely a riot on the way. I popped out of the back of the mob and walked off, thinking.

If Dürer Station had been bombed, I thought, then it was possible that Ashley and Iago had been caught up in it. I bit my lip. I didn't particularly like either of them, but that didn’t mean I wanted them dead – and they were, from what both they and D.I. Rennet had said, the only people in the city capable of solving this mystery before I ended up dead.

A group of people rushed past me, bricks in their hands; from Dürer Square, I could hear the sounds of violence. I actually kind of wanted to go back and participate – riots in Sinnoh are usually quite fun, and only a couple of people ever get seriously injured – but I had to find out what had happened to Ashley and Iago first.

Then again, I could go and riot. It's actually our non-official national sport, and I’m quite good at it; I rioted for one of the university teams. It's also a community event, like a football match in Europe or civil war in Kanto; it's a good place to meet friends and have fun with like-minded people.

No! I shook my head. Sure, most of my friends would probably be at the riot – but there'd be another one next week. It wouldn't hurt to miss it, and I had important things to do now. I dragged my eyes away from a man running towards the station with a metal pipe in his hands, and kept walking.

Where would Ashley go if he hadn't gone to Dürer Station, I wondered. Would he—

“Pearl! What the hell are you doing here?”

I stopped dead and looked right. There, leaning out of an alleyway, was Iago.

---

“I could ask you the very same question,” I said.

“No, you couldn't,” he replied. “Think about it. The train station we were going to was bombed, so we left. The police saw Ashley and asked him to tell them the how, why and who about the bombing. I can't go near the police because of my history, so I hid over here.” He shivered. “I don't like riots, anyway. I always get squashed.”

I could believe it. He couldn't have weighed more than eighty pounds; he was so light and frail that he might as well have been made of tissue paper.

“Well?” he demanded. “What the hell are you doing here? You're meant to be studying.”
“I came to see how you guys were getting along,” I replied defensively. “Nothing wrong with that, is there?”

“Ashley won't be pleased,” Iago said.

“Well, screw Ashley. This is my life and I’m coming too.” I’m not sure I could have said that to Ashley, but Iago wasn't nearly as intimidating. I felt better for saying it, too – I’d got it out in the open, and it helped to focus my mind: I was going to help, and no one was going to stop me. Not even Ashley.

“Fine,” snapped Iago. “You wait here with me and tell him that. Then we'll see how far you get.”

I stepped into his alleyway – the riot police were coming down the street now – and leaned against the opposite wall to him. There was an awkward silence for a while, punctuated only by the sound of rioters having a fun time without me, and, desperate to break it, I ended up saying:

“So... Iago. That's an interesting name.”

Iago gave me a weird look.

“Is it a Kadabra name?” I asked.

“Jesus, you are dumb,” he replied. “Kadabra don't have names, they have thought patterns.”

“I'm not dumb,” I protested.

“I think you probably are,” Iago said. “Let me guess: underneath that blue dye, your hair is blonde, isn't it?”

“Not all blondes are stupid!”

“No,” agreed Iago. “I apologise for my generalisation. Let me rephrase: all humans are stupid.”

“That's a worse generalisation,” I pointed out. “And anyway, what about Ashley? Is he stupid too?”

Iago paused, and I mentally punched the air in victory. I’d beaten him.

“Ashley,” he said quietly, “is different. He is different from all of you.”

Something told me not to pursue that line of conversation any further, so I changed the subject.

“Uh... Anyway, how did you know my hair was blonde?” I asked.

“I didn't,” Iago replied. “It was just an insult that happened to be true.” He smiled, which displayed an unnerving number of fangs. “I love it when that happens.”

“I guess,” I said uncertainly, thinking just how much I hated speaking to Kadabra.

“Iago is the name of a villain in a play,” he said abruptly. “He's cunning, manipulative, and crafty. All attributes that I cultivate in myself.”

“Why?” I felt that that was the question I had to ask if I was going to get anywhere with Iago. Why did he hate everything so much? Most Kadabra at least tolerated humans, so what made him different? What made him want to be a villain?

I got no answer, though, because Ashley wandered past right then, glanced into the alley, and groaned.

“What are you doing here?” he asked despairingly. “Miss Gideon—”

“Pearl.”

“Pearl, I was under the impression that you had work to do.”

“Yeah, I do. But I figured that protecting my life and figuring out who wants to kill me and why was more important.”

Ashley glared at me.

“Go home,” he said. “I don't need or want your help.”

“No,” I replied stubbornly. “I'm going to help you, whether you like it or not.”

Iago watched this exchange with the detached interest of a naturalist watching two beetles fighting to the death.

Ashley opened his mouth, and then closed it again. I don't think he was used to people not doing what he wanted.

“Don't tell me I can't come,” I said warningly. “Because I’m coming.”

“I...” He sighed. “Fine. Come with us, then.”

“Yes!” I hissed under my breath. Then, aloud: “Good. I’m glad we've come to an agreement.”

“Right,” Ashley said. “Come with me, then. Iago, meet us at the bus depot in an hour.”

“The cops want you?”

He nodded, and Iago slunk off.

“OK, Pearl,” Ashley said, turning to me. “You can come with me. Just don't touch anything or say anything foolish. In fact, don't say anything at all.”

“Where are we going?” I asked, willing to overlook the insult in my excitement.

“Back to Dürer Station,” he replied. “Liza and Tristan just tried to kill me.”

---

“Aw,” said Tristan, looking into the yellow capsule from his Kinder Egg with an air of deep disappointment. “The toy's a boat. I hate the boats.”

“Shut up,” replied Liza, chewing her knuckle and watching the smoke curl out of the station windows.

“You don't understand,” Tristan said. “The boats aren't even any fun to build. Their sails are really annoying.”

And he hurled the capsule and assorted plastic components out of the window of the cab and onto the ground.

Liza, however, had bigger problems than unwanted toys.

“Oh, cal,” she breathed. “How the hell did they manage that?”

“What – oh,” said Tristan, seeing it. “That is surprising.”

For there were Ashley Lacrimére and Pearl Gideon, walking into Dürer Station – and very much alive.

“Gurrrp.”

“Quiet, you,” hissed Tristan. “How...?”

“I don't know,” replied Liza. “But I think we might have come up against a very smart opponent here.”

“Look, we failed. It doesn't matter, there's nothing connecting us to the crime, right?” Tristan asked. “So we can just try again later. As long as they never get to the base in Eterna, no one will know.”

“You're right,” agreed Liza. “Let's get further away from this riot and think of a plan.”

“Taxi!” cried someone, walking up to them; Tristan was too slow to react, and the man managed to get in the back of the cab.

“Northvale, please,” he said, “and step—”

“Get out,” ordered Liza.

“What?”

“You heard her, get out,” said Tristan. “I'm... off duty.”

“Oh,” said the man. “Can't you just—?”

“No,” replied Liza brusquely. “Now get out before we make you get out.”

The man said something unprintable and left the car; the Croagunk croaked belligerently at him as he left, and waved one poison-drenched fist.

“I told you to be quiet,” snapped Tristan, and the Croagunk ceased his warlike gestures, abashed. “Now do up your seatbelt.”

The Croagunk shook his head.

“Do it or I’ll recall you.”

“Gurrrp!”

Liza turned around and gave the Croagunk a look; it had the desired effect, and in a second, the little Pokémon had buckled his seatbelt.

“There we go,” said Tristan. “That wasn't so hard. Liza, are you going to do up your— ow, OK, I guess you're not.”

“Life's too short for seatbelts,” Liza replied.

“It'll be even shorter without them,” muttered Tristan.

“Just drive before someone else tries to get us to take them somewhere.”

“OK, OK.”

And they drove off, just as someone else called out for a taxi, and was sorely disappointed.

---

“Ashley!” cried D.I. Rennet. “Where did you go?”

“I told you, I needed to speak to my associate,” he said tersely. “Look, here she is.”

“Miss Gideon?” Rennet looked as if his head were about to fall apart like a chocolate orange.

“My new... assistant,” Ashley told him, with obvious distaste. “Shall we go back inside?”

We were just outside Dürer station, having made our way past the riot; it was a fairly small and pathetic one, probably because it was still early, and it's really a night-time activity. From what I could see through the remnants of the fancy glass doors, the inside of the building had borne the blasts surprisingly well.

“I wish more citizens would solve their own crimes,” Rennet told me admiringly. “That'd be really helpful.”

I stared at him for a moment, and then followed Ashley through the wreckage of the doors.

Inside, the station was fairly unharmed; it was just a little scorched around the edges. The same couldn't be said of the trains, however: two of them were smoking husks, and the others had tipped over with the force of the explosion. Since trains aren't meant to be tipped over, they hadn't taken that too well, to say the least.

“Ashley,” I said, eyes wide, “what happened?”

“Do you remember I told you that Liza and Tristan tried to kill me?” he asked quietly, striding over to the nearest wreck. A few men and women were poking around it in a desultory sort of way, but seemed to be making little headway.

“Yeah?”

“I noticed that the taxi driver that brought us here was Tristan in disguise. Since he didn’t attempt to kill us in the car, I assumed he was there to decide where we were departing from to reach Eterna. Iago and I went into the station and left by the Dome Street exit; a few minutes later, the train departed, and then it exploded.”

“You think Tristan and Liza blew up an entire passenger train just to kill you?”

“Two trains,” Ashley replied. “There were two that went via Eterna. And they weren't trying to just kill Iago and I.”

“They weren't?”

Ashley halted next to the wrecked train.

“They probably thought you would come with us,” he told me. “They wanted to get you too.”

Before I had a chance to absorb this information, someone called out:

“Ashley! Where did you go?”

“I went to fetch my assistant,” he said, turning to face the SOCO people who were poking around the train wreck. “Here she is. Miss Pearl Gideon, an expert on explosives.”

This claim had the effect of distracting me from the fact that someone had just tried to kill me fairly instantaneously.

“What?” I said, but people were already nodding and welcoming me, and – most terrifyingly, asking what I thought about the situation.

“I – I need to have a closer look at the wreck,” I announced, casting a dirty look at Ashley, who nodded and smiled.

With everyone looking at me, I walked as confidently as I could over to the place where the train's door had once been, and peered inside. There wasn't much in there; if there had been any passengers, they seemed to have ceased to exist when the bomb went off. I tried hard not to think about that; these SOCO people thought I was an explosives expert, and I didn't really know how to back out of this situation now without looking really, really stupid.

“Gelignite,” someone whispered to me, and I leaped on the word like a pouncing Luxray.

“Gelignite,” I proclaimed, straightening up. “They used gelignite.” I hoped to God that my assumption that gelignite was an explosive was correct.

“Really?” asked a man standing nearby. “How can you tell?”

“There's...”

“Boiled potatoes,” the person whispered again. I looked around surreptitiously, but couldn't work out who was talking.

“Boiled potatoes,” I said knowledgeably, and suddenly realised that I could, in fact, smell boiled potatoes. “I, er, can you smell it?”

“Yes,” said one of the SOCO women. “I – oh, of course! The taggant!”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding sagely. “The taggant.”

“So we're looking for someone who purchases their gelignite from within the country,” Ashley said. “Thank you, Pearl. You've been very helpful.” He nodded to the (possibly superfluous) SOCO team, took me by the arm, and led me away, towards D.I. Rennet.

“What the hell?” I hissed furiously at him. “Why did you do that?”

“If you couldn't handle that, you should go home now,” he replied mildly. “Besides, I can't see what you're complaining about. Didn't I help you out?”

“You were the one giving me the answers?”

“Yes.”

“What the hell?” I hissed again. “And what the hell is a tagga— oh my God, the lunatic's here.”

For there, talking to Rennet, was the weird Frenchman who'd accosted me earlier in the street: the man who claimed to come from the International Police, Looker.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; September 6th, 2011 at 07:20 AM.
  #11    
Old August 21st, 2011, 03:48 AM
olih's Avatar
olih
Who says you can't go home?
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: everywhere
Gender: Female
Nature: Adamant
That's a slightly creepy signature... Oh well. Looker as a Frenchman is an inventive idea. I wonder how Pearl will react? Riots being Sinnoh's un-official sport is really weird (funny too)!
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  #12    
Old August 24th, 2011, 11:07 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over this curious narrative of criminals and the law,
As I was writing, mind a-whirring, I thought that I perceived a stirring,
As of something gently purring, purring by my chamber door.
'Tis just the cat,' I muttered, 'purring by my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

That's my way of saying that I was distracted yesterday and forgot to post this. I'm not sure why it had to be a parody of The Raven. I don't even have a cat.

Oh, and olih, I always envisioned Looker as being French. It fits him so well. I mean, he acts and speaks like Inspector Clouseau.

Chapter Four: In Which we Expose the Iniquity of Bus Conductors, and the Truth about Iago

'In general, buses in Sinnoh are not a reliable means of transport. Continuous roadworks, poorly-maintained vehicles and conductors that appear to be recruited from among the ranks of the demons all conspire to ensure that any trip taken by bus will be one that the passenger will regret for the rest of their life. The advice of this writer is to travel by train wherever possible.'
—Sir Topham Hatt, Bt, The World Guide to Public Transport


“Who is Looker?” asked Ashley. He seemed annoyed that I knew something he didn't, so I stuck my tongue out at him.

“Not telling.”

“Then I’ll ask him,” he said and walked off to speak to Rennet and Looker. Feeling faintly stupid, I stood there for a moment, and then ran to catch up.

“Ah, Ashley,” said Rennet, turning to him. “This is Looker. He's an agent of the International Police.”

Ashley regarded Looker with a level eye.

“Good evening, monsieur,” Looker said brightly. “I have been told you are in charge of the investigation here? The Diamond, are you not?”

“Bonjour, monsieur Looker,” replied Ashley. “Oui, je suis le Diamant. Et vous voulez...?”
Looker's face lit up like a Christmas tree, and he conversed rapidly with Ashley in French. Once or twice, both men glanced over at me, and Looker chuckled; I ground my teeth and shifted from foot to foot impatiently.

At length, Ashley was done; he took one of Looker's cards politely, bid him au revoir, and told Rennet that if he knew what was good for him, he would leave this bombing alone before he got into something bigger than he wanted. After that, he took my arm again and steered me gently out of the station.

“He's hunting for Liza,” he observed. “But then again, I think you knew that.”

“What were you saying about me?” I demanded to know.

Ashley sighed.

“This is why I don't work with a partner,” he replied. “I always have to explain things to them.”

“Just tell me!”

“I introduced you as a world-class assassin turned detective, and asked him not to tell anyone of your true profession for fear of compromising our investigation.”

I stared at him.

“Why would you do that?”

Ashley smiled again, which would have deflected the anger and melted the heart of a woman who wasn't quite so good at being cross as I was, and said:

“If I have to keep you around, I might as well amuse myself with you.”

“Bratchny!”

“Let's not get personal, Pearl,” he said as we walked out into the square. “I'd like to keep things amicable.”

The riot had dissolved; there was no sign it had ever even occurred. It wasn't the best part, but it was one of the rules: you always cleared up after your riot, otherwise it actually did become illegal.

“Ashley, why do you have to be so nasty?”

“I'm not being nasty.” We walked across the square to the taxi rank. “This is camaraderie, isn't it?”

“No, you're just setting me up in tricky situations.”

“Interesting.” Ashley nodded deeply and held out a hand for the nearest taxi. “I'll work on that.”

Somewhat nonplussed, I changed the subject:

“What's a taggant?”

“A chemical added to something – in this case, plastic explosive – to identify it. In this country, it's mandatory to tag gelignite with boiled-potatoes scent, because our police forces lack enough sniffer dogs to be sure of catching subtler smells. Northanger Road, please.”

The taxi began to move.

“Are all plastic explosives made to smell like food?”

“Yes. Semtex is bacon, for example.”

I gave Ashley a sideways look; I thought he might have been joking, but then again, I wasn't sure he was capable of it. Despite my suspicions, though, his face remained serious.

“Right,” I said slowly. “What are we doing now?”

“There is a bus leaving for Eterna forty minutes from now,” Ashley replied, showing me the timetables on his smartphone. “We will be on it, along with Iago. Once there, we'll investigate further.”

The cabbie nearly drove off the road.

“You're going by bus?” he asked in the low, husky voice of one who has a debt to the Devil, and has just seem him in the seafood restaurant across the street.

“Yeah, Ashley, I think that's probably a really bad idea,” I agreed. “You know what they're like.”

“Yes, I do. And that's why Tristan and Liza won't expect us to go by bus. They'll expect us to go to another train station, like Lattre or Volze.” Ashley leaned back in his seat.

“Don't do it,” advised the cabbie, slowing down for the traffic lights. “It ain't worth it. Nothing's worth that.”

“Really, Ashley, I think he's right—”

“Thank you, Pearl, but my mind is made up.”

“I'll take you to Lattre Station for free,” the cabbie offered. He sounded like he was on the verge of tears. “Please, just don't do this to yourself.”

“Ashley, I refuse to go by bus!”

“Then you can go home,” he replied. “Look, Tristan at least seems to be native to Sinnoh; he doesn't even have a trace of an accent. He will expect us to go by train, and by the time he and Liza have found that we haven't, we will be out of the city.”

The cabbie shook his head, and heaved a great sigh.

“Well, I’ll take you to the depot,” he said, in the sort of voice that suggested he was talking to a pair of condemned criminals. “But on your own heads be it.”

And with those ominous words, he drove us towards Northanger Road.

---

“Three singles to Eterna, please,” Ashley said. I watched the bus conductor's face carefully, and my heart sank as I saw his eyes flash yellow with Hadean fire.

In the end, we had come via my apartment, where Ashley had given me five minutes to get together anything I wanted to take with me; since I was me and not Stephanie, I’d decided that as long as I had access to money, I could buy anything I needed, and probably packed way too little. It's the excitement, I think – I always just want to skip the boring preparation and go straight ahead to the fun bit. Ashley raised his eyebrows when he saw me come out with nothing but the handbag I’d gone in with, but said nothing.
Now, we stood at the front of the queue with Iago, attempting to buy a ticket.

“The fox,” the conductor said. “Double for him.”

Iago looked like he was on the verge of striking him down with as much fury as Jules Winnfield, but Ashley stopped him with a look.

“I'm going to pay for three adults,” he said, “and if you want more, I shall loose Pearl here on you.”

The conductor looked at me, and made some remark about that plainly not being a bad thing. I felt that I was probably meant to play along with Ashley's scheme here, and threatened to ram his unnervingly sharp-looking teeth down his throat. Even if the man was a demon, he apparently feared injury, and gave us no more trouble for the time being.

“Thank you,” said Ashley unexpectedly, as we made our way down the aisle. “That was kind of you.”

I gave him another sideways look.

“Are you trying to be nice?”

“Is it working?”

“I'll get back to you.”

“More importantly,” said Iago, “we need to hurry up and get the back seats.”

“Why?” asked Ashley, puzzled.

“Because that's where the cool kids sit,” I explained, wondering how he had made it through his teenage years without learning this. (This was, of course, assuming he wasn't a teenager now; I still had no idea how old he was.)

“Is it?”

“Ashley,” said Iago, laying a friendly hand on his shoulder, “you're a fine detective. Almost a Kadabra, even. But sometimes you can be quite an idiot.”

And he guided him to the back of the bus, much to the relief of the queue that had built up behind us but didn't like to interrupt what looked like a decidedly shady interspecies gathering.

Naturally, Iago grabbed one window seat right away, and moments later Ashley took the other. I sighed and sat down in the middle one.

“It's hot,” I said.

No one said anything; the other passengers were busy arguing with the conductor and taking their seats, Ashley was staring out of the window, and Iago was tapping his claws impatiently on the seat in front of him.

“It's really hot in here,” I said, adding some emphasis in case it would make someone react.

Still no reaction. The guy in front of Iago turned around and asked him to stop tapping; Iago replied that he thought tapping on a chair paled into insignificance when compared to the genocide perpetuated against his race in the forties by humans, and the man was forced to back down.

Ashley stared at the concrete walls of the bus depot, and sighed.

I tapped the air conditioning button above my head.

“This doesn't work,” I said, hoping that this would attract some attention. I was right; it did.

“Pearl, we're in Sinnoh, and on a bus,” Iago snapped. “This is a machine designed by Satan specifically to torture poor saps who can't afford train tickets.”

This drew some unfriendly looks from the passengers ahead of us, and I scooted over a few inches towards Ashley, desperately trying to look like I wasn't with Iago.

“I don't know him,” I whispered conspiratorially to the people in front.

Ashley sighed again, and I heard the pneumatic hiss of the bus doors sealing.

“The bus will depart now for Eterna City,” said the conductor. Through his speaker system, he sounded like some hideous cross between Darth Vader and Jigsaw. “There will be no stops.”

I could have sworn I heard a note of malicious glee in his voice; however, I did nothing but settle down and try to get comfortable in my seat, which seemed to be made mostly out of broken glass and beach stones.

As the bus rumbled slowly and noisily out of the depot, I wondered if travelling with Ashley and Iago had been such a good idea after all. I gave it fifteen minutes before we had our first breakdown – which was, in fact, wrong. It only took ten minutes before the bus stalled, halfway down Mansard Avenue.

No one was allowed to get out; we remained in the stifling heat of the bus for the full ten minutes it took the conductor to get out, direct some infernal wizardry at the engine and get the machine started again. All the while, a storm of car horns blared behind us, and while the bus's walls did an admirable job of keeping the heat in, they didn't keep the angry noise out.

A baby started crying, and I slumped in my seat, defeated.

“God, I hate buses,” I murmured, and tried to fall asleep.

---

An hour later, we were driving slowly along the motorway, a few miles north of Jubilife. We had broken down twice more, the baby hadn't stopped crying, and the conductor's grin had broadened until it seemed to cover his face from ear to ear, which was not only unnerving but kind of scary.

Now we hit the roadworks.

Sinnish roads are not great. We're the first to admit it; it probably doesn't do much for our tourist industry, but the first thing any Sinnish person tells a foreigner is that they should go everywhere by train, if they can. For the government cares a lot about our road network, and therefore it's almost always being repaired.

So it was that we became stuck in a seventy-vehicle tailback on Route 204, while someone resurfaced the roads up ahead.

It was at this point that Iago rummaged in the fluffy fur that made up his tail, withdrew a small bag and pulled out an Oddish leaf joint.

“You smoke odd?” I asked, surprised. “I thought Kadabra didn't like distracting their minds.”

“In case you haven't noticed,” Iago replied, “I'm not an average Kadabra.” He lit the joint and stuck it in his sharp-toothed mouth.

I glanced at Ashley, who might have been dead, asleep or thinking; I didn't like to presume any one of the three.

“I don't think you can smoke here,” I said.

“Actually, I can,” Iago replied. “I need this to get through this hell without going insane.”

I looked at the other passengers. They appeared to be studiously ignoring Iago and the plumes of sweet-smelling smoke curling out from between his moustaches; in fact, more than one of them was smoking themselves, and at least two of those were smoking odd.

“Fair enough,” I replied.

Now, I could write down what Iago talked about after that, but it's basically drivel about how blue my hair was and how he wanted to enslave humanity, repeated for three hours as we drove past Floaroma and up to Eterna. Iago might have enjoyed his bus ride, but I think he made it significantly worse for all the non-stoned people on board. The conductor should really have thrown him off, but he was probably enjoying the way he was ruining everyone else's journey. Thankfully, I managed to fall asleep, only to wake up a few hours later with a horrible pain in my neck. I was fairly certain that the seats were designed to do that to anyone who slept in them, as punishment for trying to avoid the torture of the bus trip by sleeping.

When I came back to our depressing reality, Ashley still hadn't moved from the position he'd been in when we set off.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“About twenty minutes from Eterna,” Ashley said, without opening his eyes – or indeed moving his lips. I supposed that that was how he'd given me the answers back in the bombed train station.

My phone beeped, and I flipped it open, stared at the screen and shut it again with a sigh. Apparently I had seven missed calls from Stephanie, and one from Gareth; I didn't care so much about the first ones, since Stephanie had a key and could get her notes back – but whenever Gareth called, it meant I was missing a party. A big one. The kind that can leave people dead from exhaustion or alcohol poisoning. In other words, exactly the kind I like.

I looked over at Iago. He was staring intently out of the window, and occasionally making remarks about how futile all human endeavour was, because one day his people would rise up and destroy it all.

Uncertain whether he was still high or not, and sincerely hoping that he was mistaken about the warlike tendencies of the Kadabra race, I leaned back in my seat and tried to work out if there were several babies that were taking it in turns to cry, or whether there was just one with impressive stamina that had managed to keep it up all the way from Jubilife.

The closer we got to our destination, the slower the bus seemed to go. By now, it was about quarter past seven; the sun was starting to set, and I was beginning to go insane from the heat, the noise and the monotonously regular breakdowns. I wasn't the only one. A woman a few seats ahead of us was rocking back and forth, knees drawn up to her chest, and muttering about a happy place; a man two rows ahead of her and to the right was softly sobbing into his hands.

Something made a horrible grinding noise, and the bus glided to the side of the motorway and stopped.

“I regret to inform you,” the conductor said in his terrible voice, “that the bus seems to have broken down. Please bear with us while we see what the problem is.”

He got out; some desperate soul made a break for it, trying to rush out after him, but the conductor froze him on the spot with the force of his smouldering eyes and locked the doors.

“God give us strength,” I heard someone mutter, and wholeheartedly agreed, though I had doubts that any deity would choose to help us. After all, we were in a bus: if anything, God was punishing us.

At length, the bus started up, and finally the buildings of Eterna started to appear around us; a small cheer went up from the passengers who were still capable of hope, and in vengeance for this, the conductor deliberately guided us into a one-way street network that would take us away from the station. We made two circuits before he decided he had broken our spirit, and took us along to the bus stop.

When the bus finally drew to a halt, no one moved at first; we could hardly believe that our torment was at an end. Then Ashley, who didn't seem to have been affected by the horrors of the journey at all, got up and left, dragging me with him. Iago followed, pausing only to glare briefly at the conductor – and then slowly, everyone else got up too, heading cautiously to the exit like slaves who can't quite believe that they've just been freed. I noticed as we left that the conductor took a tape marked 'SCREAMING BABY SOUNDTRACK' out of the bus's cassette player; that was one mystery solved, and another black mark on the conductor's soul.

“Fresh air,” I said, hardly daring to believe it. “It's so wonderful...”

“I know,” breathed Iago. “Like scamming an old man out of his pension.”

“Pull yourselves together,” said Ashley sharply. He grabbed us both by the wrists and dragged our unresisting bodies down the road. “Come on. I want to start investigating.”

“Whoa. Wait.” I stopped in the middle of the moonlit street and raised a hand. “I'm not doing that tonight.”

“Yeah, I have to agree with Pearl for once,” said Iago. “There's no way I’m doing anything now.”

Ashley looked at us in astonishment.

“Why?”

“We're exhausted,” I replied.

“And still slightly stoned,” added Iago.

“Fine,” sighed Ashley. “You two find somewhere to stay, and I’ll find you later. Go and – and eat and sleep, or whatever it is you want to do.”

With that, he turned on his heel and stalked off into the night.

“Eat and sleep,” I said. “Sounds good to me.”

“Me too,” agreed Iago. “Let's go.”

We started walking away in the opposite direction to the one Ashley had chosen.

“Is he angry?” I asked. “Ashley, that is.”

“No. He just doesn't understand.” Iago twirled a finger around next to his head. “He's wired differently. Got more in common with an Alakazam with a human, or even a Kadabra.”

I decided not to reveal my lack of knowledge about what made Kadabra and Alakazam different from each other, and contented myself with nodding sagely.

“You don't know what I’m talking about,” Iago said. “Never mind. You're only human.”

“You're in a good mood.”

“I'm not in my right mind. I’m aware right now that I hate you, but I can't bring myself to put the theory into practice.”

“I like you better when you're stoned.”

“Funny you should say that. Everyone does.” Iago paused. “Left here.”

I followed him around the corner.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Food,” he replied succinctly. “Do you like Chinese?”

“Not really—”

“Great,” Iago said. “There's a nice Chinese restaurant somewhere along this street, if I remember right. And I always do.”

I sighed and followed. Maybe I didn't like Iago so much after all.

---

Ashley knew exactly where he was going. Though his work didn't usually take him outside of the capital, he knew the other major cities of Sinnoh fairly well, albeit in a completely different way to most people.

He knew, for instance, that in Eterna, the best place to go to ask about any nefarious doings was the Gardening Society headquarters on Sanck Street.

This building was small and understated; there was almost nothing about it that might reveal what went on within. In fact, it looked very much like the garden supplies shop of a Mrs. D. Periwinkle-Bazaar, open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This was the only indication that something out of the ordinary happened here, for there is usually no garden supply so urgently needed that it cannot wait until morning to be bought.

Ashley walked in and went over to the counter; Mrs D. Periwinkle-Bazaar was on the other side, and she looked up, surprised, from a magazine as he entered.

“Oh! I wasn't expecting anyone so late.”

“I wonder if you could tell me about this,” Ashley said, placing the torn-out Galactic logo on the counter and sliding it over to her.

Immediately, Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar's mouth tightened to a thin line, and she looked at him with renewed suspicion.

“I don't know anything about it,” she said. “This is a gardening store—”

“You know as well as I that this isn't just a gardening store,” Ashley cut in. “I want to know everything you do.”

“Who are you?” Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar's hand was creeping towards a pair of shears.

“I am the Diamond,” Ashley replied. “And unless you tell me what I want to know, I shall have no choice but to destroy your organisation, no matter how many old ladies attack me with garden shears.”

It did not do to underestimate the skills of a qualified Gardening Society member. Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar lashed out with the shears with the speed of a striking cobra; Ashley, taken aback, escaped a cut throat by the slightest moment. He ducked, lost half a lock of hair and took a step back, just as the pensioner vaulted the counter and swung the shears down towards his face.

“This is not how I wanted to talk to you!” Ashley cried, dropping to the floor and rolling left into a rack of flowerpots. He scrambled to his feet and grabbed hold of Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar's shear-wielding arm before she could raise it. “Now look what you made me do,” he said, annoyed. “I've damaged your merchandise.”

“I know who you are,” growled Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar, tearing her arm free and elbowing him viciously in the chest. “People like me have to protect ourselves—”

“I'm not here for you!” wheezed Ashley, staggering back a step and fumbling in the breast pocket of his coat. “Your organisation doesn't interest me!”

But the spinster was not to be stopped: the blades flashed towards his midriff—

—only to be stopped with a sharp snick as they met something hard, jammed between the blades.

Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar froze.

“Calm down,” said Ashley. “I don't want to have to use this, especially not on a woman of your standing. You have so much left to live for. Your crime syndicate, for example.”

“What do you want with us?” Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar asked.

“I don't want anything with the Gardening Society,” Ashley replied wearily. “You're too simple. Money-laundering and extortion, open-and-shut. I’m on the trail of something much more interesting. Now tell me about Galactic and I will leave this shop and most likely never bother you again.”

Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar straightened up and withdrew the shears, then went around behind the counter again. This done, she raised her weapon in the air.

“I'll put these down if you put yours down,” she said.

“I think not,” Ashley replied. “I'm feeling a little threatened, so I might just keep it. Now,” he went on, “I'm going to ask you one more time. Please tell me everything you know about Galactic...”

---

“Are you going to eat any of that?” asked Iago. For someone so small and so light, he'd eaten a lot already, and I was hoping that he would be footing the bill.

“No,” I sighed. “I told you I don't like this.”

“That's why I came here,” the Kadabra said happily, taking my plate and twirling his chopsticks. “I knew I’d get to eat yours too.”

“You're sober again, aren't you?”

“I have been for a while. I’ve just been screwing with you.” Iago grinned at me through a mouthful of fried rice.

I couldn't help but smile, even though he was being horrible.

“You're so nasty,” I said. “So why do I like you?”

“Because I make you like me,” Iago replied, motioning to the waiter and calling for more food. “See, I’m a con artist.”

I should probably have been surprised, but I wasn't. Instead I sighed, nodded and took a gulp of my beer.

“It's the perfect career for a Kadabra among humans, even if I don't have any psychic powers. I can read your faces and bodies like open books, and it's easy to make you do whatever I want. I grifted around the world, worked my way back to Sinnoh and scammed Wolstein's out of twenty million dollars.”

I widened my eyes.

“That was you?

“I guess so, but a psychiatrist once told me I’m a compulsive liar, so it might have been someone else.” Iago chewed thoughtfully. “It was a satisfying job, but it needed a guy they could trust, so I had to use a human frontman. Unfortunately, he double-crossed me, the bratchny, and ran off with the twenty million plus the nine hundred thousand I had left at the moment, then reported me to the police.” Iago snorted bitterly. “Ten years and that was the first time I was noticed. Of course, if you're a Kadabra who talks aloud, there's no disguising yourself; I couldn't get out of the country or dodge the cops. I went into hiding in Jubilife.”

He fell silent.

“I'm sorry,” I said, feeling monstrously inadequate.

“That's annoying,” Iago replied. “Why are you humans always sorry for things you didn't do?”

“All right, all right. What happened next?” I prompted. Perhaps it was the booze – he'd been drinking pretty freely, and he was a literal lightweight – but he'd been very open tonight.

“Next, we decided to leave the restaurant,” said Iago, and slipped out of his seat and ran outside.

I stared after him for a moment.

“You bratchny,” I breathed. “I...”

At this point, Iago reappeared.

“Look,” he said, hopping back into his chair, “if I’m going to mould you into someone I can bear to live with, you're going to have to learn to take a hint. I said we decided to leave. Note the inclusion of the word we.”

“We're not paying?”

“Do you have any money?”

“Some, but you ate about twenty thousand dollars' worth of food. If you want to dine and dash, I’m fine with that.”

“I thought you would be. You seem the impulsive type.” Iago's eyes flicked over to the waiter and back again. “Count of three. One... two... three!”

I can move pretty fast when I want to, and when I’m not drunk wearing high heels in the middle of the night. Iago and I were out of the door almost before our chopsticks hit the plates. The waiter shouted behind us – but we were racing down the street, and were out of his sight in less than ten seconds. Two minutes later, we'd lost him, and came to a breathless, giggly halt somewhere in Eterna's network of back roads.

“I haven't done that for ages,” I said through my laughter. “That was fantastic!”

“I know,” Iago replied. “I don't do that nearly as often as I should.”

“Ashley disapproves?”

“No, he just doesn't care. If he doesn't get a kick out of it, it's no fun.” Iago sighed. “Hotel and sleep?”

“Sounds good to me,” I replied, and we walked off. I wasn't sure whether we were friends yet, but it seemed that there'd been at least some improvement in our relationship.

---

At that very moment, in a building many miles away, there was a man sitting behind a desk and thinking. On the desk was another person; there was another chair, but this person, for whatever reason, wasn't using it.

Unfortunately, we join this couple halfway through a conversation, so we hear only a short, mysterious exchange that makes no sense to us without further exposition.

“How do you know all of this?” asked the man. He was very important, and so we shall henceforth call him the Important Man.

“We have our sources,” the person on the desk replied cagily. “We'll tell you when it's safe.”

“Well... all right. I trust you,” the Important Man said.

“If you can't trust us,” replied the other darkly, “then you can't trust anybody.”

“That's true.” The Important Man almost smiled. “Witty.”

“We know.” His companion's eyes smouldered. “It was our intention to be witty.”

“All right,” said the Important Man agreeably. “Now, I’d like to run through tomorrow's speech with you again...”
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; December 31st, 2011 at 08:12 AM.
  #13    
Old August 24th, 2011, 12:14 PM
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
...Wow. Iago's thoughts on humanity are exactly what I think a Kadabra would have. I mean, look at all of the Abra that humans (most likely poachers) capture and sell at the Game Corner. I can't exactly blame Iago for wanting to enslave humanity, nor can I blame him for his world-against-me nature. From what I can tell about him (which, admittedly, isn't much), he trusts Ashley to a certain extent, and he's willing to give Pearl a chance.

Spoiler:
Speaking of Iago, I have a theory about who betrayed him. That person is most likely rich, charismatic, and able to persuade a lot of people to do what he wants, including the police. Said person would probably have a legitimate job (for public purposes) and an illegal one (since he's a conman who's greedy and ambitious enough to bankrupt a very rich company and rob his partner blind while he's at it, I don't think he'd rest on his laurels).

I can think of only one person that fits that description: Cyrus. Apparently, in the anime, he has a legitimate job as a construction manager. In his spare time, he leads Team Galactic. He's extremely rich, and he has the same evil charisma as someone like Jim Jones, maybe more, since Cyrus used Galactic as a front for developing new energy, and nobody caught on to what he was really doing until the very end.

Yes, he's more like a machine than anything, but Cyrus has the ability to be a conman. The most important thing is knowing human nature and how to exploit it - and Cyrus can do that better than any Team leader in the Pokemon series.


While I didn't see any true errors, I would like to alert you to this sentence:

Quote:
After all, we were in a bus; we must have been being punished for our sins.
I don't know if it's grammatically-incorrect; I'm good with wild theories, off-topic rambling, and characterization, but I'm not particularly skilled at grammar and sentence structure. Still, it just sounds so awkward to read aloud. Maybe it could be slightly tweaked?

Oh, and I now have a favorite minor character: the cabbie who hates buses. I never knew your name, but you, my good sir, are my new fictional hero. I had to ride public transportation to and from school during my freshman and sophomore years; I know exactly how you feel.

Sincerely,

Mem.
__________________
Quotes are nothing but words.

Last edited by Silent Memento; August 24th, 2011 at 06:39 PM.
  #14    
Old August 26th, 2011, 11:18 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
I've changed the wording there, Silent Memento. Oh, and the conman who worked with Iago isn't Cyrus. I'll tell you that much.

In other news, there will be no new chapters until Tuesday/Wednesday next, for I am heading off to oh-so-sunny Wales for a week, and then participating in the 3-Day Novel contest, which will leave me no time to write this story.

Chapter Five: In Which the Gardening Society Get Their Comeuppance

'The threat of raptor attack has decreased in recent years, but is nevertheless still present. In Dane Valley in particular, one should always be careful, especially in the spring, when the males attempt to attract mates by making as many kills as possible.'
—Bobby Muldoon, The Sinnish Countryside


“Oh. I see. Yes ma'am. Yes. Of course.”

Liza slid her phone shut and turned to Tristan.

“They already left the city,” she said grimly. “They took the bus.”

“Seriously?” Tristan took a step back, stunned. “Wow. That's dedication.”

“So I gather.” Liza sighed. “Get in the car, we're going to Floaroma.”

“What? Why Floaroma?”

“Because Commander Mars says so.”

This was reason enough for Tristan, and he got into the taxi without further complaint. As they drove off, he did attempt to inquire what measures were being taken to stop the trio of investigators that had discovered far too much about them for one day's work – but this was met with the curt reply that he would 'see'.

Something was definitely up, Tristan decided – but what exactly it was remained, as Liza had said, to be seen.

---

Ashley was walking back through the moonlit streets, wrapped in thought. The Gardening Society had been most informative, and he had a lot to ponder. If he had not had so much to ponder – if he had not been working on a puzzle in the middle of his brain – he might have noticed how quiet the city was, or that he was the only person walking down this street.

Regrettably, this was the sort of thing that would have been very beneficial to notice before the old ladies emerged from the shadows.

There were eight of them, and they materialised from doorways, alleys, the crevices behind lampposts; each of them wore the silver trowel pin that marked them out as a member of the Gardening Society, and each brandished a different garden implement in a way that made it clear that they intended to use them for something other than the manufacturer attended.

“Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar evidently thought herself insulted,” observed Ashley. He didn't seem to be unduly concerned, despite the fact that was surrounded by a ring of vicious pensioners.

“It's not that,” said Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar, who was heading the delegation. “Ordinarily, yes, we would sell information about Eterna's underworld. But these people are different. There are some powerful people involved. People who do not wish to have their interests threatened. And so we've got no choice but to make you disappear.”

Ashley raised an eyebrow.

“Really. You don't think people might have tried to have me killed before?”

“They probably have,” replied Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar. “But I don't see any way out of this situation for you.”

Ashley turned slowly on the spot, taking in each old lady in turn. He saw shears, secateurs, pitchforks, even a small lawnmower. He considered briefly the possible effects of being mown to death, and concluded it would be very, very unpleasant.

“This does look bad,” he admitted. “But there wouldn't be any fun in solving the problem if it was easy, would there?”

“Kill him,” ordered Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar, and the Gardening Society members advanced.

---

“Good morning, Sinnoh, and let me just say, it looks like today's going to be a scorcher. The weekend looks set to be perfect...”

I groaned, reached out and thumped – but my fist didn't connect with anything, which was weird because I’d hit the snooze button on the radio alarm clock so many times over the past year that I never missed.

“A quick round-up of the top news stories: the investigation into the explosion at Dürer Station is ongoing; raptor attacks in Dane Valley and the Wolds are at their highest since 1998; and Prime Minister Lionel Walsh has today set himself at odds with the President by opposing the proposed military operation in the Middle East...”

“Shut up,” I moaned. “I can't absorb news right now...” I lashed out again, and this time hit something that swore and punched me. Thankfully, whatever it was had all the strength of an anaemic Magikarp, and didn't do much other than surprise me.

Now I opened my eyes, and remembered that I wasn't in my apartment. I was in bed in a hotel room in Eterna, and in trying to hit the alarm clock I’d thumped Iago on the head.

“What the hell?” he cried, sitting up. “Jonas, I told you, I’ll have your money by—” He stopped abruptly. “Oh. Morning.”

“Good morning.” I blinked and registered the fact that he was quite a long way away – in the other bed, in fact. “Wow. I didn't know my arms were that long.”

“Neither did I.” Iago rubbed his shoulder. “You humans. Long-limbed and brutish.”

“Shut up.”

“...and here's Tiffany with the weather,” the radio said. I got it firmly in my sights, held it still with one hand in case it made a break for it and put it out of action with a well-placed fist.

“That's better,” remarked Iago. “The stupid thing was almost as bad as you.”

I turned to look at him.

“Are you going back to sleep?” I asked.

“Definitely,” he replied, and we were both just about asleep again when Ashley burst into the room.

“We have to leave Eterna,” he said, gasping for breath. “Come on! Get up, the pair of you!”

“Oh, what? How the hell did you find us?” I groaned, sitting up.

“I'm a detective, how do you think? Come on! We're leaving the city right now!” Ashley grabbed hold of both bedspreads and whisked them away from us. “Both of you, get up!”

“I'm up, I’m up,” Iago grumbled. “Jesus. Why do you never just shake my shoulder? It's always about the duvet-whisking with you.”

“We're in a hurry,” Ashley said, and I noticed now that there was a nasty-looking cut above his right eye. “Or rather, I am in a hurry, and you ought to be in a hurry if you don't want to be brought down with me.”

“What happened?” I asked, getting up and looking around for my shoes before realising I was still wearing them. “How'd your investigation go?”

“I'd rather not talk about it,” replied Ashley stiffly. “But please! We must go. Now!”

“All right, I’m coming.” Iago dropped lightly from bed to floor, staggered for a moment and clutched at his head. “Ouch. Did you get in someone's way again?”

“There's no time to talk now. I’ll tell you when we're safe.”

That sounded ominous, and Iago and I sped up our preparations accordingly. Thirty minutes later, we were aboard a train and heading west to Floaroma.

---

“Right,” said Ashley, peering out of the window. “I think we might be safe now.”

“What the hell is going on?” I asked him.

“I went asking about Galactic in the Eterna under—”

“Galactic? What's that?”

“The name of the organisation that want us dead,” Iago replied. “We didn't tell you because... yeah, we didn't tell you.”

I resisted the urge to punch both him and Ashley, sighed, and said:

“OK. Carry on.”

“I went asking about Galactic in the Eterna underworld, and though I got some information, I also made some enemies.” Ashley indicated the cut on his forehead. “I made the mistake of treating Eterna criminals like Jubilife criminals. My reputation doesn't strike so much fear into people here.”

Despite myself, I smiled.

“You made a mistake,” I pointed out happily.

Ashley glared at me.

“I'm only human,” he replied irritably. “I'm allowed to do that.”

“Was it the Gardening Society?” asked Iago. Ashley nodded. “Yeah, those old ptitsas are crazy.”

I wondered what connection a Gardening Society could possibly have to the underworld, decided that the reasons my imagination constructed would always outclass the reality, and just asked:

“OK, so what did you find out?”

“People calling themselves Galactic turned up about a month ago,” Ashley said. “No one knows where they came from or who they're working for. They came into conflict with Eterna's main criminal syndicate, the Gardening Society” – I suppressed a giggle; the idea of a gang of gardening crooks was just too stupid – “but they got over it quickly, since they actually didn't seem to interfere with anything that the Society does. Apart from that, all I found out was that recently, Galactic has been sending people east to Floaroma.”

“Why?”

“I don't know yet. That's why we're fleeing to Floaroma and not back to Jubilife; we need to find out what they were doing.”

“OK.”

There was now a silence.

“Have you nothing else to offer?” asked Ashley. “At this point, Iago usually offers a scintillating insight.”

I looked at Iago, who shrugged.

“Hey, you're playing the part of the sidekick here,” he said. “For once, I don't have to think; I’m just tagging along for protection from Galactic.”

“OK,” I said. “Er... Galactic want to steal flowers?”

Ashley gave me a long look.

“Honey?” I hazarded.

The look continued, and I was officially stymied. I’d named Floaroma's only two products, and now couldn't think of anything else.

“What's the only significant thing near Floaroma Town?” Iago asked.

“The big meadow?”

“No, you damn nazz,” he snapped, “it's the Valley Windworks.”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “That. I forgot about that.”

“Now that you've remembered,” Ashley said dryly, “perhaps you'd like to apply your keen mind to the question of what Galactic might want there.”

“Do you already know the answer?”

“A process of deduction might have led me to a reasonable conclusion.”

“That's a 'yes',” clarified Iago.

“OK.” I sat back and thought hard: this was my chance to impress them with my skills as a detective. There was no reason why I couldn't do it; I’d been clever enough to get into the University of Jubilife, hadn't I? Besides, if I couldn't solve this one, I’d have to resign myself to being Ashley and Iago's idiot friend, which wasn't exactly what I’d had in mind when I followed them to Eterna.

“Some time today would be nice,” Iago said.

“I'm thinking,” I snapped.

What did I know about the Valley Windworks? It hardly ever showed up on the news, and it wasn't something I’d ever gone out of my way to research. I knew that they supplied Western Sinnoh with a large amount of its electricity, the way Sunyshore Electrics supplied the east; I knew that they used wind power, and I knew that the whole plant was almost entirely automatic from half a documentary I’d once been drunk enough to watch (though thankfully also drunk enough to almost completely forget).

“High-end windmill controlling technology?” I guessed.

Ashley looked surprised.

“I didn't expect that of you,” he said.

“Thanks,” I replied, sitting up straight in self-satisfaction.

“But you're wrong,” he went on.

“Oh,” I said, and slumped again. “What do they actually want?”

“I'm not sure,” he told me. “But your thoughts might shed some light on what they do want.”

“Why did you say you knew?” I demanded to know.

“If you were listening, he never actually said that,” Iago said. “He only implied. It's called a test, and, exceeding all expectations, you came up with something half decent.” He sounded sour. “Can I pay you Monday?”

“No. By the end of tomorrow,” Ashley replied.

“Were you betting on how intelligent I was?” I asked suspiciously.

“We might have been,” admitted Iago.

“I thought you thought I wasn't very clever?”

“And I still do,” said Ashley soothingly. “Don't worry about that. It's just that I thought you might posses some rudimentary deductive skills. And it seems you do, so Iago owes me seven hundred dollars.”

“That's not that much.”

“It is if you're broke. Which I am, because I’m unemployable.”

That cast a gloomy tone over everything, and we lapsed back into silence until Stephanie called me again, and I had to defend myself against the combined might of her angry worries and worried anger. She called me childish, selfish and moronic, after which I suggested that she could always write my essay for me. After that, she hung up, and I wondered whether I ought to apologise.

Some time later, we arrived, tired and hungry, in Floaroma's lone train station, which was about as busy as a graveyard at midnight. I think we were the only people who got off or on, and we were three of approximately seven people who were actually in the station, including railway staff.

“I feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere,” I complained as we stepped out onto the street.

“We are in the middle of nowhere,” replied Iago. “Which means... hey, I’ll see you guys later.”

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Gonna scam some hicks,” he called from halfway down the road. “I'll find you two later.”

With that, he vanished around the corner, and I turned to Ashley.

“So,” I said brightly. “Shall we get some breakfast?”

He looked startled, as if this word was entirely unfamiliar to him, and he suspected it might be a weapon of some kind.

“Breakfast?”

“Yeah. The first meal of the day, usually had before eleven o'clock so as to avoid confusion with brunch, elevenses, the mid-morning snack and, last but certainly not least, lunch.”

“Oh. Are you hungry?”

I decided that this was probably the reason Ashley was so thin and so small, and said that yes, I was hungry, as were all sensible people at ten in the morning when they hadn't had breakfast.

“Fine,” Ashley said. “You go and have breakfast, and I—”

“Nope,” I said cheerfully. “I came with you to be part of the investigation, and since I know for a fact that you didn't eat anything for lunch or dinner yesterday, I insist you come with me.”

“Food is uninteresting—”

“There are a lot of women who'd kill to be able to feel that way,” I observed, then grabbed his arm firmly and guided him down the flower-lined street. He seemed fairly resigned – he must have already worked out that I was much stronger than him – and so I steered him into the Cherrim Café without difficulty. As soon as I’d entered, I backed out again, for it smelled more like flowers than the street outside, and the girl behind the counter was wearing a hat shaped like a giant rose.

Eventually, I found a café that wasn't hideously weird, sat Ashley down and finally got to eat something. He barely touched his food, and eventually I had to admit defeat: I could lead Ashley to breakfast, but I couldn't make him eat. I said as much to him, and it turned out to be witty enough to make him smile, which restored any self-confidence I’d lost when he'd told me I was wrong on the train.

“Can we leave now?” asked Ashley, as soon as I was done. I said yes, paid, and left with him.

“Where are we going now?” I inquired.

“To the Valley Windworks,” he replied. “We'll see if we can't find out what Galactic wants there.”

“What if they're already there?” I asked, concerned. “I mean, if I were them, I wouldn't want to lie low in Floaroma any longer than necessary. It's... weird.”

“If they're already there,” Ashley said, “we'll spy on them.”

“Is that safe?”

“I've done it before. As long as you do what I tell you, it will be fine.”

“Oh. How reassuring.”

It was a half-hour walk down the riverside path to get to Dane Valley. Thankfully, the flowers that were omnipresent in Floaroma didn't seem to have penetrated too far into the surrounding countryside, so after about five minutes everything stopped smelling like an explosion at a horticultural show and started smelling more like fields.

The motorway was just a mile or two to the south, running parallel to the river and the trail, but you'd never have guessed; I felt like I was wandering through some untouched paradise in a far-flung corner of the globe, which inspired in me a good mood that was only a little spoiled by the fact that there appeared to be no mobile phone coverage here.

After a while, the ground sloped downwards, the river swerved away to the north, and the wind picked up; a sigh at forty-five degrees to the field it stood in told us we were entering Dane Valley, the windiest place in Sinnoh and consequently the home of the Valley Windworks. I could see it below us, a forest of white turbines, rotating as if in slow motion – and at the heart of the cluster, a long, low grey building.

But there wasn't really much time to look at the wild beauty of the valley. The sky demanded my attention, and since it was full of raptors I was going to give in.

Dane Valley, for whatever reason, had the highest population of Staraptor in Sinnoh. There had been a breeding colony here for longer than there had been records of their existence; one flock seemed to live there permanently, and hundreds more flew in each spring to find mates.

Because of this, there was very little animal life left in Dane Valley.

If the name didn’t give it away, Staraptor were one of the biggest dangers in Sinnoh. Fond of blood, high winds and blood – in that order – raptors were a lot like men, in that they, as far as behavioural researchers could work out, bragged a lot to each other about how powerful they were. Unlike men, however, raptors always capitalised on opportunities to prove it, and since this involved diving out of the sky and killing anything that moved, they were treated with a certain amount of caution.

“Ashley,” I said, staring at the mass of wheeling birds in the sky. “Why the hell did they build anything here?”

“Because it's perfect for a wind farm,” Ashley replied, following my gaze. “But don't trouble yourself about the Staraptor. There's a covered tunnel.” He pointed, and I saw that there was: the road that wound down to the Windworks vanished into a hole that I hadn't spotted before, because it was covered in grass. This was presumably so that Staraptor couldn't see the people walking through the tunnel, and therefore didn't beat themselves to death by falling on them.

“Oh,” I said. I actually felt disappointed. I’d thought that this would be the first bit of real action that we'd encounter on our journey: a frantic dash down the slope of the valley, a big stick in one hand and a pistol in the other, risking certain death to evade the deadly raptors diving all around us...

“Pearl?” called Ashley, from the tunnel mouth. “Are you coming?”

“Oh. Uh, yeah!” I replied, and ran to catch up.

Curse you, reality, I thought as I went. Why aren't you a detective film?

---

“Good morning,” said Iago cheerily. “My name is Lyle Langley, and I represent a charity—”

At this word, the door was almost shut in his face, but Iago knew how to get someone's attention.

“—that aims to put a torpedo in every classroom in the country by this time next year,” he finished.

The man opened the door again.

“What?”

“A torpedo in every classroom,” Iago repeated. “Did you know that 99% of Sinnish students don't have ready access to a torpedo?”

“Why on earth would you want to give students torpedoes?” asked the man.

Iago grinned mentally. He'd taken the bait.

“The question is, why is our education system depriving our children of full learning opportunities?” he returned. “In the UK, every child in full-time state education has access to all the necessary learning apparatus – torpedoes, railguns, monorails—”

“Monorails?”

“We're building up to that,” Iago told him. “We thought we'd start small.”

“And torpedoes are small?” The man was getting quite worked up now, Iago noted with satisfaction. Things were going well.

“If you compare them to monorails, then yes. Statistics show that high-speed single-track train networks are less expensive than torpedoes.”

“I could have told you that.”

“Then do you want to get involved?” asked Iago triumphantly. “We could use men like you, Mister...”

“Bennet.”

“Mister Bennet, you've got exactly the sort of perspicacity and forward-thinking nature that we need at Torpedoes 4 Kidz. You could easily reach the higher echelons of our organisation.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I'm talking about cold, hard cash,” Iago said. “I'm talking about torpedoes, railguns, monorails – and a child's happiness. Can you put a price on a child's smile?”

“Well, I—”

“Can you?”

“I—”

Can you?”

“I don't know—”

“All right then, how about you just donate,” Iago said, holding out his tin. “Whatever you can, that'd be great.”

The man stared at him for a long moment.

“Please get off my property,” he said at last, and slammed the door.

Iago turned away and strolled down the drive, snickering.

“Humans,” he said contemptuously. “So easy to confuse.”

He held up the watch he'd taken from the man's wrist during the confusion, examined it for a moment, and put it with the others.

“Right,” said Iago, rubbing his hands. “On to the next neighbourhood...”

---

Tristan was standing guard.

Now, Tristan did not appreciate this. For one thing, he suffered from hayfever, and standing outside anywhere within a fifteen-mile radius of Floaroma Town guaranteed that a hayfever sufferer would more or less melt into one fluid mess of bodily secretions. Consequently, his eyes and nose were streaming, and as he stood on the steel-roofed veranda of the Windworks, he wondered if it wouldn't just be better to give up and commit suicide by throwing himself to the raptors.

Just as he had this thought, however, things started to look up.

For Ashley Lacrimére and Pearl Gideon were walking out of the covered tunnel, and heading straight for him.

“Halt!” cried Tristan, as they got to the veranda. He let them get that far at least, because he had no wish to watch two people being brutally killed by giant hawks right in front of him. “Stay there! I’ve got... a really big frog, and I’m not afraid to use it!”

“Gurrrp,” croaked his Croagunk, hopping out from behind him.

Ashley and Pearl regarded the Croagunk without fear.

“That's... probably not going to stop us,” said Pearl.

“No,” agreed Ashley. “I mean, I have a gun.”

He did indeed, and as he produced it from his inside breast pocket, Tristan appreciated that the tables seemed to have turned.

“Ah,” he said. “Well – it's only a little gun.”

Ashley had a look at it, as if he hadn't seen it before.

“Yes,” he agreed. “But I think that if I shot you with it, you would still get hurt.”

“You have a gun?” asked Pearl. She didn't seem to be keeping up.

“Yes,” said Ashley patiently, keeping the gun trained on Tristan. “Because frequently I end up in dangerous situations, and a gun is quite necessary.”

While he spoke, Tristan's mind was racing; what could he do, what could he do...

“Look out!” he cried, an expression of horror crossing his face. “A Staraptor!”

So deeply was the fear of raptors ingrained into the Sinnish consciousness that both Ashley and Pearl looked; seizing his opportunity, Tristan grabbed his Croagunk, ran inside the Windworks and locked the door, feeling smug.

“There,” he said. “That's stopped you.”

And, wrapped in the warm glow of self-satisfaction, Tristan leaned against the door and resumed his guarding duties from the other side.

---

Mrs Periwinkle-Bazaar rose slowly to her feet, rubbing her head.

“What – what happened?” she wondered aloud.

It was close to dawn – faint bands of colour were appearing in the east – and she and her Gardening Society hit squad appeared to still be on the street.

The rest of them begun to rise, groaning and mumbling, and Periwinkle-Bazaar organised a swift retreat to the garden supplies shop, where they discussed how the hell they had come to be unconscious after charging at one unarmed young man with garden implements.

There was, they decided, no explanation that came to mind. However, they could be certain of one thing: Ashley Lacrimére lived up to his reputation.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; September 6th, 2011 at 10:49 AM.
  #15    
Old September 6th, 2011, 02:02 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
And, like the beating of that hideous heart, you just can't get rid of me: I return from my trial by fire, marginally less sane and suffering from the remnants of yesterday's RSI. To celebrate my return, here is a long-overdue chapter.

Oh yeah, and if you like me, go and nominate my stories for Fic of the Month. And then vote for them.[/shameless self-promotion]

Chapter Six: In Which We Come to an Impasse

'When you next turn on your lights, spare a thought for where the power's coming from. We work tirelessly, day and night, under the constant threat of raptor attack, just to safeguard your electrical supply. Think bravery. Think Western Electric.'

—Advertisement for Sinnoh Western Electric



I stared at the spot where Tristan had been for a moment, and then rounded on Ashley.

“You call that spying, do you?” I asked. “Now everyone in there's going to know we're here!”

Ashley shrugged.

“It can't be helped,” he said. “There was no way of evading him. The tunnel entrance is there, and the Windworks are here.” He pointed, to show me exactly where the tunnel and the Windworks were.

“I'm not blind,” I replied irritably. “But he's going to tell all the other Galactic people we're here, and—”

“I sincerely doubt that,” said Ashley. “Come with me. Quietly.”

We crept across the covered veranda, past the door and up to a window; Ashley pointed within, and sure enough, there was Tristan, staring intently at the front door as if it might leap forwards and attack him.

“He... what?”

“He's not very clever,” explained Ashley. “And he was told to stand guard. So he's doing so – from the inside now, because we're on the outside.”

“He's an idiot,” I clarified.

“More or less.” Ashley began to walk around the edge of the Windworks.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

Ashley looked at me as if I were as stupid as Tristan.

“Pearl,” he said, “I'm going to spy on Galactic. I did already point this out to you.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

All right, maybe I was as stupid as Tristan, if I hadn't got that. Smarting, I followed Ashley around the side of the building, along the wide veranda that was built along its walls; presumably, it was here to protect people from the Staraptor that wheeled and screeched above. Every time we passed a window, Ashley would stop, inspect it and the room beyond – but every time, he'd shake his head and move on to the next one.

“What exactly are you looking for?” I asked him.

“A way in that won't make too much noise,” Ashley said. “I have no idea where Galactic's people are in the building, and—”

“Get down!” I hissed, and pushed him over; a moment later, a man in the inexpressibly weird uniform of Galactic walked past the window.

“Ow,” said Ashley calmly. “Could you please warn me before you do that in future?” He got back up slowly. “They were at the window?”

“Yeah.”

He nodded, as if this were very meaningful, and continued to the next window. This one apparently met with his approval, for he bent down and had a look at the catch.

“Hm. Easy.”

Ashley pulled something that I vaguely recognised as a lockpick from his pocket, poked around with it beneath the lower edge of the window and put it away again.

“What's the matter?” I asked. “Not as easy as you thought?”

“No,” replied Ashley, opening the window. “I just unlocked it.”

So saying, he climbed up and swung himself in. Then he turned, leaned on the windowsill, and fixed me with his serious eyes.

“Now Pearl,” he said. “We are about to spy on a dangerous criminal syndicate who want us dead. If you want to come in with me – and I would be perfectly happy to find that you did not – you must be absolutely silent, and you must do everything that I tell you to. Is that understood?”

This was it. This was where reality would finally do the decent thing and turn into a movie. I tried very hard to keep the glee out of my voice when I replied.

“Yeah,” I said, nodding vigorously. “I get it. Silent and obedient.”

“Good,” replied Ashley, stepping back from the window. “Now get in here.”

The room the window opened onto was, like most of the rooms in the Windworks, full of pieces of abstruse machinery and computers that waited in silence until they calculated the perfect moment to beep. Some of them even had a little green light on. Yes, I thought, this was more like what I'd imagined. High-end windmill controlling technology.

We crept through this room and Ashley pressed one ear to the door; he then signalled that he heard nothing, and opened it onto a brightly-lit linoleum corridor. I say it was a linoleum corridor because not only was the floor covered in the stuff, but also the walls, and the ceiling.

“That's weird,” I said, looking around. “Very weird.”

Ashley gave me a look of intense frustration.

“Oh yeah,” I whispered. “Silence. Sorry.”

He slipped down the corridor, investigated a left turning and then beckoned me to join him. I followed, looked around the corner and saw a woman standing guard, wearing the stupid Galactic spacesuit and looking like she knew she was a walking fashion disaster.

“She's about the same height as you,” murmured Ashley, almost noiselessly, as we retreated back around the corner to confer.

I stared at him.

“You mean...?”

“Of course I mean that,” he snapped. He was still murmuring, but he snapped at the same time – it was a neat trick.

“Are you...?”

“No,” he said. “I'm not. Unless there are any child members of Galactic, we'd be very lucky to find one that fits me.” He had another look around the corner. “Besides,” he added, “the uniform looks stupid.”

I let that one slide.

“How do we do this?” I asked.

“You will subdue her, and then steal her uniform.”

“Subdue her?”

“Fine. Hit her,” amended Ashley.

“I'm not hitting her!”

“If I hit her, there is an eighty per cent chance she won't even feel it.”

“Is that a real statistic?”

“Quite possibly. Now go and hit her. You did,” he reminded me, “promise to do everything I asked.”

I sighed, for which I received an admonishing look, and stepped around the corner. I crept up behind the Galactic woman, hoped that her skull wasn't as hard as it looked, and whacked her over the head.

Cal, what was tha—?”

Oops. It seemed I hadn't hit hard enough.

I took a step back, shaking my sore hand and wondering what to do; the Galactic woman turned around and shoved a gun in my face. This showed pretty commendable presence of mind for someone who'd just been hit on the head, but I wasn't really in any mood to appreciate that.

“Who the hell are you?” she demanded to know. “And why did you just hit me?”

“Um – er—”

“Wait. You're Pearl Gideon!” cried the Galactic goon.

Oh, great. I'd forgotten about that 'kill on sight' order.

“Please don't shoot me,” I managed to say.

“I'm not going to,” replied the woman.

“That's good to know.”

“At least, not yet.”

That was less encouraging.

“I am going,” continued the woman, “to take you to Commander Mars.”

“Who?”

I didn't receive an answer; the woman just grabbed my arm, spun me around and stuck the barrel of the gun into the back of my head.

“Walk,” she ordered, and, as I wanted to remain outside my brains if at all possible, I obeyed.

Though I did curse Ashley very mightily as we walked past the spot where he'd once been.

---

Iago now had seventeen watches, one from every residential neighbourhood in Floaroma. His route had been worked out carefully beforehand: he never went twice down the same street, so that at no point would he run the risk of any of his marks spotting him. (Provided, of course, that they behaved like good little idiots and stayed at home to call the police – or failed to notice the missing watches at all. Either way was fine by Iago.)

Now, not daring to collect any more for fear of being recognised, he stopped in a park and hid in a bush, to give himself some time to run through his vast memory and locate the name and address of a suitable fence to sell the watches on to. Iago knew a great many fences, and the search took him a full ten minutes; eventually, he decided on a local crook with whom he'd had dealings in the past: namely, one Jake the Shaker. This was not an epithet that denoted cowardice, as one might expect, but one that instead made reference to the man's endearing habit of literally shaking his enemies to death.

Iago had witnessed it once. It was not a pretty sight.

But, whatever misgivings he might have regarding Mr Shaker, he was the only fence in Floaroma, and so he went in search of him.

---

“Are you going to kill me?” I asked.

“If you keep asking, then definitely,” snapped the Galactic woman. “Jesus, don't you ever shut up?”

We'd been walking for a while now, through what seemed like miles and miles of identical linoleum corridors; I'd got hopelessly lost a while ago, and sincerely hoped that Ashley hadn't, because I couldn't really think of anyone else who might pop up and rescue me before the Windworks got redecorated with the contents of my head.

“I'll shut up if you promise not to kill me,” I suggested.

“How about you shut up, and I don't kill you right now?” asked the woman, jabbing me firmly in the back of the head with her gun.

On further reflection, I thought it best if I stopped talking.

Soon, we came to a set of sturdy doors, guarded by two more Galactics, who, like the one who'd taken me prisoner, seemed to know who I was. To my surprise, I recognised one of them as well.

“Liza,” I said. “Hello.”

My captor paused.

“Liza, you know her?”

“She attempted to kill my partner with a mushroom,” replied Liza, deadpan.

“With a... mushroom?”

“She very nearly succeeded,” said Liza gravely. She didn't seem surprised to see me here at all.

“It's not really how it sounds,” I explained. “It was just this – oh, this huge crazy misunderstanding, and—”

“Shut up,” said the woman with the gun at the back of my head. “Go through the doors.”

I did, and entered what appeared to me to be the bridge of a spaceship. It was a great semicircular room, a single curved window running around the edge; there were computer terminals all over the place, with lights and buttons and other input devices that looked so technical that I doubted they could be named by anyone who wasn't a Star Trek nerd.

A lone technician was working at the biggest terminal, under the direction of a severe-looking woman with red hair and the impossibly large cat that strolled around next to her. Off to their right was a man who appeared to be the offspring of Albert Einstein and a rather burly clown, with a pale face, wild hair and a bright red nose.

I blinked, and pinched myself. Nope. They were real, and I wasn't asleep. It was just that – well, they didn't look that much like criminals, and I could have sworn that the severe woman had once taught me German in high school.

She looked up at our arrival, stared at me for a moment, and then said:

“Pearl Gideon?”

“Yes, ma'am!” cried the Galactic who'd brought me here. “She was sneaking around the Windworks!”

“So, Lacrimére shows his hand at last,” said the severe woman, steepling her fingers and looking over them in a distinctly sinister manner. “You are working for him, I presume?”

“No!” I cried indignantly. “I'm working with him.”

The severe woman raised her eyebrows.

“I sincerely doubt that.” She indicated a swivel chair. “Sit down.”

Since there was a gun and a Purugly the size of a small lion in the room, I did.

“You may leave, Miss – whatever your name is.” She waved a hand, and the woman who'd captured me left.

“I am one of the four commanders of Team Galactic,” she announced self-importantly. “My name is Mars.”

“What about me?” asked the mad scientist/clown in the corner. “I, whose genius even our glorious leader recognises—!”

“You're a consultant,” replied Mars shortly. “You are of no consequence.”
“Sorry,” I said, “but... you aren't a German teacher, are you?”

Mars looked surprised, and the man working at the terminal stole an odd glance at her. The Purugly took exception to this, and growled at him; he coughed and hurriedly resumed his work.

“You are not the one asking the questions,” she snapped.

“Sorry.”

I judged I was about thirty seconds from being mauled by a big cat, and resolved to adjust my attitude accordingly.

“What would you like to know?”

“I want to know what the Diamond knows about us,” replied Mars.

“The Diamond?”

I didn't know anything about any Diamond. And I certainly didn't know anything about a diamond with the mental capacity to know things.

“The Diamond, Gideon, the Diamond!” cried Mars, agitated. “Lacrimére!”

“Ashley?”

Why was it that everyone I met thought I was an idiot?

The mad scientist guy stepped forwards with a low snigger, which was singularly disturbing.

“Ashley Lacrimére is known to the law enforcement agencies and criminals of the world as the Diamond,” he said condescendingly. “Haven't you Googled him? He runs a consulting detective agency, like the late Mister Holmes. The Diamond Detection Agency.”

Maybe I was an idiot, or maybe everyone around me was an idiot – but I was certain that Sherlock Holmes was fictional, and said so.

“She's right,” said Mars. “He is.”

“He most certainly is not—”

“Just – just get back in your corner!” Mars snapped, and when the strange scientist had complied, grumbling, she turned back to me. “Look, what I was trying to say was: what does Lacrimére know about us?”

“You don't run this organisation very well, do you?” I observed, with approximately five times as much bravado as I actually felt.

“Silence!” thundered Mars. “Answer my questions!”

If the poor technician had been working all day under these conditions, I thought, he deserved a medal.

“All I know is that he knows you're called Galactic,” I replied, eyeing the Purugly. “And that you're trying to kill us. And that you're based in Eterna.”

Mars looked slightly taken aback.

“Is that all?” she queried.

“Yeah.” I nodded, to show that this really was all we knew, and that she had no reason to attack me with her cat. “It is.” I paused. “Can I ask a question now?”

Mars looked at her watch.

“I suppose,” she said. “I'm going to be here all afternoon, and there's nothing to do until we're done.”

“So you're not going to kill me?”

“Is that your question? Because it's rather stupid.”

Mars fixed me with a pair of glittering eyes, and I was reminded unpleasantly that she was a high-up in a criminal organisation, and therefore probably had no qualms about murder.

“No,” I replied nervously. “That's not it.”

“Then...?”

“Why are you here?”

Mars shrugged.

“I wouldn't worry about that, if I were you,” she said. “You'll be dead soon, and it'll be the Diamond's problem.”

“Please?”

If I was going to die, I might as well die in the knowledge that I'd solved a bit of the mystery.

“We are here on the orders of our glorious leader,” replied Mars.

“Those orders being...?”

Mars' face darkened.

“I seem to remember that you asked if you could ask a question, not some,” she said. “You've asked it, and got an answer. If it wasn't the answer you wanted, tough.”

“Mars?” said the scientist.

“Not now, Charon, I'm talking—”

“No, really,” he said, and now I detected a certain note of urgency in his voice. Mars did too, and we exchanged a glance – then turned to look at the mad scientist.

“Good morning,” said Ashley. “Or good afternoon, I suppose, since it seems we've passed midday.”

“Ashley?” I cried, at the same time as Mars said:

“Diamond?”

He was standing there with his little revolver against Charon's head, which was surprising for two reasons: one, I was pretty sure there was only one way in here, and two, I'd never imagined he could ever be so heroic. It might have been the shock of it all, but I suddenly noticed how attractive he actually was.

Out of the two of us, Mars recovered first.

“You haven't chosen a very valuable hostage,” she said. “I don't care if you kill him.”

“What? I care!” cried Charon.

“Your so-called glorious leader might think differently,” I pointed out, feeling pleased with myself. Mars glared at me, and Ashley nodded.

“Quite right, Pearl. You played your part admirably.”

“I did? I mean, I did. Yes.”

Mars looked from me to Ashley and back again.

“What? What?”

“The part of the helpless prisoner,” Ashley explained. “Pearl is a world-class actress, used by police forces around the world in sting operations.”

I ground my teeth. Ashley was doing that thing again; abruptly, I forgot that I'd ever thought him handsome. On the plus side, I was still alive, so I thought I'd forgive him this once.

“This is a set-up?” asked Mars, looking around in horror.

“Does – does this mean I'm free to go?” asked the technician at the desk in a timid voice.

“It certainly does,” Ashley replied. “After you've answered some questions, of course.”

Mars glared at him.

“I guess you win,” she said, sounding resigned. “I always knew – Jackson, hold that girl!

And with a startling burst of speed, the big cat leaped onto my chest, tipped my chair over backwards, and pinned me to the ground with its wide paws.

I stared at its little yellow eyes, and it bared a set of impressive fangs back at me.

“Um... Ashley?” I said, trying hard not to sound pathetic. “Help?”

“And now, if I'm not very much mistaken,” said Mars, drawing herself up to her full height and sounding smug, “I've just created an impasse.”

---

Iago strolled down the street, feeling pleased with himself and counting his earnings. Since he was a Kadabra, he knew within half a second of looking at the notes that he'd acquired precisely fifty-one thousand dollars and seven cents – but he liked to count it anyway. It made him feel richer.

The Pokédollar was not a particularly valuable unit of currency. There were around eighty of them to the US dollar, and so fifty-one thousand wasn't that much, really.

But considering that Iago had withdrawn his entire savings in order to pay for the bus tickets to Eterna, it was quite a lot to him. It was enough to pay back Ashley and much more besides. In fact, since Ashley was, for all his intellect, very good at wasting the not inconsiderable income his agency generated, Iago's windfall was probably going to leave him in charge of the group's finances for a while.

And that was the sort of responsibility that he liked.

“There's only one thing to do at a time like this,” he told himself, “and that's—”

“It's him! Lyle Langley!”

Iago's airy good mood turned to lead, and plummeted several hundred feet. He turned around, and beheld a policeman, in the ear of whom the familiar figure of Mister Bennet was shouting. As he watched, the former left the latter behind, and hailed the Kadabra in a loud voice.

“Hey, you!”

“Damn it,” said Iago, and ran.

---

“So,” I said nervously. “Is there a way out of this situation that doesn't get me killed?”

There had been about three minutes of utter silence since Jackson the Purugly had leaped on me. No one had spoken; no one had moved. Well, Jackson had yawned and dribbled on me, but I didn't count that.

“This is why I work alone, Pearl,” sighed Ashley. “I only have plots enough for one.”

“I have a solution,” said Charon. “You could get that gun away from my head. It's my considered opinion as a scientist that this would end the stand-off—”

“You're babbling,” said Mars. “Don't do that.”

“I'm sorry.” Charon fidgeted. “It's the stress.”

We lapsed back into silence. Jackson shifted its weight a little, and almost dislocated my shoulder; I knew Purugly were heavy, but this one seemed to weigh about sixteen tons.

“I suppose I'm not free to go, then,” sighed the technician.

“No. Get back to work,” Mars ordered, and he did.

“Someone's going to have to move eventually,” said Charon anxiously. “It might as well be you, Mister Lacrimére—”

“Do you want me to shoot you right now?” asked Ashley.

Charon shut up.

A few moments later, Ashley's hand moved stealthily towards his pocket.

“Whatever you're going after, don't,” said Mars immediately, and his hand froze. “Or I'll kill the girl.” She took a step closer to him. “Now hand it over to me—”

“Don't come any closer,” said Ashley, tightening his grip on the pistol. “Or I'll kill the scientist. Or is he a clown?”

“I'm an eminent scientist!” protested Charon.

“Obviously not that eminent, or I'd have heard of you,” pointed out Ashley. “Now be silent.”

Quiet descended over the room once more.

“Sooner or later, someone's going to come in here,” Mars warned Ashley. “Perhaps a grunt, who might shoot you. Then I could have both you and Gideon out of the way.”

“Er, Ashley, this probably isn't the time to be proud,” I said. “I'd quite like to survive.”

“Oh, be quiet,” he retorted crossly. “You're the one who wanted to come with me. And if you hadn't, I would have succeeded here.”

“You are so arrogant—!”

“You are an idiot!”

“And I have your gun,” said Mars calmly.

Ashley and I looked. She did, having purloined it while he was distracted.

“Pearl, you distracted me—”

“I think you probably ought to stop fighting amongst yourselves,” said Mars, putting the barrel of Ashley's gun squarely against his chest. “You're about to die.”

Ashley sighed, which I thought was a bit of an underreaction for someone who was about to become dead.

“Pearl, if I have the option of returning as a ghost, I am going to haunt you for the rest of your life.”

“Which will be about fifteen seconds,” Mars informed him. “Since as soon as you're dead, I'll kill her.”

And then she pulled the trigger.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; September 18th, 2011 at 02:22 AM.
  #16    
Old September 22nd, 2011, 05:10 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
My computer, the comely Sabine, is now back in my hands, and henceforth you crazy people who are amused by my scribblings can look forward to further chapters from me, in both this and that other one I do. Whatever it's called.

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

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


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

Click!

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

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

“Get up and run!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stared at him in shock.

“What kind of detective are you?”

Unexpectedly, he grinned back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley blinked.

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

“You're not answering the question—”

“I can prove it!” he shouted.

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

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

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Definitely.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stared at the ticket, and then at him.

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

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

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

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

“What if—?”

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

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

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

He looked bored.

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey! Wait!”

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

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

Still no answer.

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

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

Ashley sighed.

“You were found out?”

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

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

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

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

Iago looked from me to him and back again.

“He isn't talking to you?”

“No.”

“He wants you to go home?”

“Yeah.”

“And you don't want to?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“By train?”

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

“A suitcase?” I asked.

Iago sighed.

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

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

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

“A shop,” replied Ashley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iago shrugged.

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

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

I looked at Iago, then at Ashley.

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

--

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

This was no longer the case.

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

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

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

“Ah. No, sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Important Man ignored them.

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

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

“Very good.”

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

---

“Who was meant to be keeping watch?”

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

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

He was, the grunts noted, very big indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

“Tristan, ma'am – Tristan Shandy—”

“Who's your partner, Shandy?”

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

“Radley, ma'am – Liza Radley...”

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

Tristan looked relieved, and not a little confused.

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

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

Tristan, for his part, merely gulped.

“Yes, ma'am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because... I'm handsome?”

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

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

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

Liza closed her eyes.

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

“That's not—”

“I'll buy you a Kinder Egg.”

“Deal.”

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

---

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

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; October 29th, 2011 at 08:08 AM. Reason: Misspelled 'mademoiselle'. How is that even possible, and, more importantly, why didn't anyone notice?
  #17    
Old September 22nd, 2011, 08:50 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 thought that your computer was named Ophelia - or is this a totally different computer you're talking about?

I'll be combing through some grammatical errors:

Quote:
“And what's more, you haven't done anything except interfere with me work, and then tell me that it was all coincidence. I don't want to work with you.”
There's a small typo with the first bolded part. The second part would sound a lot better if you added an "a" between the two bolded words or turned "coincidence" into "coincidental".

Quote:
"It's like shaking up a bottle of fizzy cola and opening the top, only instead of cola it's raw anger that melts your brain.”
I'm not certain if the bolded words need a comma between them, but they look sort of awkward on their own.

Quote:
“We can't afford to be caught. Get the vans ready; I want to be out of here five minutes ago.”
Neither of the bolded words fit with each other. Maybe you could use the word "wanted" or reword the sentence as "I want to be out of here in five minutes".

Either way, I'm pretty impressed with the character development. Jackson looked impressive in his first two chapters (although it makes me shudder when I think of the next admin and what her Pokemon can do...)

Sincerely,

Mem.
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Quotes are nothing but words.
  #18    
Old September 22nd, 2011, 11:03 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Noted and changed - in the first two instances. 'I want to be out of here five minutes ago' is a stock phrase often used in films and suchlike. Have you never come across it before? People say it when they want to be out of here really really SOON!

And Ophelia went blind a long time ago; the backlight to her screen broke, so now I have the vastly superior Sabine at my disposal instead.

As ever, thanks for taking the time to read; there probably won't be any more chapters until Sunday at the earliest, since I have a major art commission to take care of - but it's still nice to get something back up online.
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For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #19    
Old October 1st, 2011, 07:24 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
And hast thou slain the Real Life beast?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
He chortled in his joy.

I'm back, though for how long I cannot say; things are still busy. However, I do have a chapter for y'all, so here it is. We're beginning to get into the meat of the story now. Mmm. Meat.

Chapter Eight: In Which Liza Continues Her Quest, and Pearl is Asked a Difficult Question

'For about two months, the tragedy of the Dennel family was famous throughout the country. In 1939, during a heavy thunderstorm, an unknown murderer chopped and sliced his way through six of the seven members of the family and the four servants. The only survivor, fourteen-year-old Ellen Dennel, escaped into the surrounding forest, where she was stalked and slowly driven insane by a Dustox. Today, the story is forgotten, and all that remains are the ghost stories.'
Erik Mulheim, Things that Lurk in the Dark

...and that's how you do it,” finished Iago, gesturing vaguely with his beer.

Whoa,” I replied, wondering if I was drunk and deciding that I probably was. “I never knew pyramid schemes were so easy.”

He blinked at me blearily.

Well, that's – that's what they say, you know? I mean – it's – I – you know.”

Yeah,” I agreed. “It certainly is.”

So this is where you were,” said Ashley, materialising from nowhere. “I leave you alone for five minutes, Iago...” He shook his head.

In my defence,” replied the Kadabra, with the solemn dignity of a drunk, “it has been twenty-four minutes. And thirteen seconds. Which is quite a while.”

Sober up. Now.”

Fine! But – but you're the oppressor, you know? All you geno – genoci – people who hurt Kadabra.” Iago put his palms on his temples and focused briefly; there was a sound like tearing linen and he sat bolt upright. “Oh. Ow. Man. OK, I'm back.” He glanced at me. “Pearl?”

I'm fine,” I said, getting up to show that I was. “Look.”

Either I wasn't as drunk as I'd thought, or I was a lot better at hiding it, because I didn't sway enough for anyone to catch me out. I suppose it did help that Ashley was ignoring me and had therefore turned his sharp eyes elsewhere, but I think I prefer the explanation that makes me sound better.

You know,” said Iago provocatively as we left, “I think I quite like Pearl. It's been a while since I found anyone who's willing to get drunk with me at a moment's notice.”

Yeah, I thought, I should probably stop doing that. I can't do that sobering-up trick.

Ashley ignored him, and said:

After some small unpleasantness with a faceless bureaucrat, I have traced the vans. They are registered to the Galactic Holding Corporation, which has its offices right here in Eterna.”

So did we actually find out anything new?” Iago asked. “We knew they were here—”

We now know exactly where these offices are,” Ashley replied. “84 Merlot Road.”

If, hypothetically speaking, I hadn't been me at this point, but some sort of omniscient narrator masquerading as a twenty-year-old university student, I might have made a remark about fulfilling a running gag here. But I wasn't, and so I didn't.

Merlot Road, when we got there, turned out to be a long, busy street that ended in a bridge over the River Semma; number eighty-four was a tall, imposing edifice that looked like it had once been intended as a modern office block, but had at some point been seized and worked over by an architect who really should have been confined in a padded cell.

That,” said Iago, staring up at it, “is what I really hate about humans. No taste.”

I agree,” replied Ashley. “Porticoes should not be that tall. Or thin. Nor should they terminate in a swan-necked pediment supporting a gigantic letter G.”

This might have been a second running gag, but I wasn't sure. And I didn't know anyway, not being an omniscient narrator or anything like that.

And those finials aren't even neoclassical,” Iago pointed out. “That's Gothic. Who designed this piece of cal?”

Are you two going to complain all day, or are we going to go in?” I asked.

I'm going to go in,” announced Ashley, and started to make his way around to the back of the building.

I stared after him for a moment.

How can he be so clever and so childish?” I asked Iago.

If I can't understand, then your meagre human brain will never work it out,” he replied. “Come on. We should follow him. I do owe him, after all.”

I thought you paid your seven hundred dollars' debt?” I asked, as we made our way over to a short alley marked 'Tradesmen's' Entrance'.

That was just one debt of many,” Iago replied slowly. “Do you really think I would still be with him if I didn't owe him so much? He might be clever, but he's human. You people are...” He broke off and shook his head. “You have no word for it. Kadabra have a special thinkwave just to describe the nature of humanity. And before you ask,” he added, “thinkwaves that don't exist in Sinnish are literally completely impossible to translate.”

We found Ashley at a little door about five yards down the alley, pressing the button for the intercom.

Hi,” he said, when someone answered. He'd suddenly acquired a Sunyshore accent, I noticed. “This is Dom Simmons of Sledder Pokémon Supplies. Makin' a delivery of food?”

What?” replied the voice from the intercom. “You guys delivered yesterday.”

Yeah, but I bin told to come here,” said Ashley. He really did sound completely different, I thought. “I got forty sacks of feed back here, and I bin told this is where they're goin'—”

But we've receivedthis week's supply—”

I'm gonna need to talk to someone abou' this—”

Fine! I'm sending someone down,” the intercom voice said. “They'll be there in a moment.”

Thanks,” said Ashley, and straightened up.

How did you know that those people deliver here?” I asked him. Then, when there was no answer: “Iago, how did he know?”

The Kadabra pointed to a nearby rubbish bin; it was stuffed to bursting point, and on top could clearly be seen empty industrial-sized bags of Sledder Pokémon Supplies' Patent Meaty Flakes.

OK,” I said, frustrated, “why is it that I only see things after people point them out to me?”

Because you're stupid,” Iago said, as if this were the most obvious thing in the world. “Positively moronic, even— oh, here's the guy.”

The door started to open and a Galactic man began to come out – but Ashley slammed the door hard on his head, and he slumped to the floor.

Is he dead?” I asked nervously.

Who cares?” replied Iago, which wasn't comforting; while he and Ashley climbed over the body and went inside, I checked the Galactic man for a pulse and breath, and was relieved to find both present. Satisfied, I followed them in.

We passed down a corridor unchallenged; the walls were grey and grimy, and I don’t think many people often went there. At the other end was a staircase, which we climbed with suitable caution; when we reached the top, we found ourselves in another, better-kept corridor, with a carpet and everything. Once again, Team Galactic were conspicuous by their absence.

Swanky,” said Iago, running one finger down the wall and scoring a line through the paint. He sniffed at his now-white-tipped claw and nodded appreciatively. “This is good stuff,” he went on. “Won’t fade for a good twenty years.”

Perhaps a long-term operation?” suggested Ashley. “Ah, no matter; we’ll find out.”

What’s that noise?” I asked, and both of them fell silent. There it was, in the distance: a sort of screamysound, with wailing and growling added in for good measure.

It’s coming from over there,” decided Ashley, and strode off down the corridor without actually telling us where he was going.

The hall was lined with doors, as such halls are wont to be, and it was in front of the last of these on the left that we stopped. It seemed Ashley had been right; here, the noises were much louder. I could make them out properly now, and realised they were Pokémon or animal cries: screeches and roars, bellows and moans.

Why would there be so many?” pondered Ashley, and pushed the door open a crack. He set his eye to the gap – and footsteps sounded from around the corner.

I’m quite pleased with what I did next. It was a classic piece of swift, adaptive thinking, worthy of the heroine in a crime drama; I threw myself against Ashley, knocked him through the doorway, dragged Iago in after me and slammed the door, all in a split second. I straightened up, grinned and was about to ask one of those rhetorical questions pertaining to precisely how well I’d handled that when I caught sight of the room’s interior, and my jaw dropped wide open.

Stacked against the walls were cages, and in these cages were Pokémon, each with their ball clipped to the bars. That wasn’t the surprising bit, of course – I had heard them all from outside.

What was surprising was the quantity.

I’d never seen so many Pokémon in one place; there were literally hundreds, stretching out in rows, columns, heaps, into the distance. The room seemed to go on and on, and then on some more until it vanished into infinity; no wonder, I thought, that there was such a cacophony. There must have been over a thousand in there – and they were all sorts, too: Starly, Stunky, Glameow, Buizel – and that was just a fraction of them. I could barely even recognise some, let alone put a name to them.

Jesus,” said Iago. “What poor bratchny has to clean out their cages?”

Ashley gave him a sharp look, so of course I had to laugh.

Silence,” ordered Ashley. “The Pokémon can’t mask all the noise we make.”

You’re talking to me?” I asked, as we started down the aisle between the cages.

Only because there really is no other option,” he replied with a distinctly sour note in his voice. “Now close your mouth and keep it that way.”

Stung, I was about to argue – but then I remembered that we were infiltrating the base of an evil criminal organisation who wanted all three of us dead, and decided that silence was probably the best course of action available to me right now.

That’s better,” said Ashley condescendingly. “Shall we play a game now? We’ll see how long we can go without saying anything.”

I made a rude gesture at him by way of reply; Iago sniggered and Ashley looked at me, unconcerned.

Pearl—”

Hah! You said something!" I pointed out.

Ashley sighed and walked off; Iago shook his head, smiling, and joined me in catching up.

---

Do you know exactly how stupid you are, Tristan?” asked Liza.

Tristan considered. It was rather a deep sort of question, he thought.

No,” he admitted at length. “But from the question, I’m going to guess... very?”

They were currently on the fast train to Eterna, and had just entered the forest that lay between it and Floaroma; here, the trees had dappled the light, and cast the undergrowth into a fantastical confusion of greens and browns.

A bit more than that,” Liza replied conversationally. “You’re so monumentally sodding stupid that your brain should be preserved after your death, so that future generations can look at it and say: ‘My God, look at that, it’s the brain of the dumbest sodding man in Sinnish history.’ Are you beginning to get the idea?”

Tristan gaped. Where had all this sudden aggression come from?

What?” he asked, after a while.

Is that the best reply you’ve got?” asked Liza.

Why are you so angry?”

Let me think... oh yes, you turned a secure operation into an unmitigated disaster,” Liza replied. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but that is a reason to be angry with you, isn’t it?”

Well – yeah, but—”

But what? What could you possibly have to say that might win me over?”

But... you’re not even a real member of the Team?”

Liza paused for a moment, then waved a hand dismissively.

Irrelevant,” she said seriously. “I made a contract with your Mr. Maragos, and I don’t break contracts. Life has taught me that much. So I’m fully committed to the success of his plan. Whatever that might be.”

I...”

Liza raised an eyebrow, and with that simple motion managed to take all the words out of Tristan’s mouth; finding there were none left, he ceased to speak and started gaping like a fish. And he stayed in this state for about five minutes, until Liza reached over and carefully pushed his mouth shut.

They travelled on in silence for a while longer; the forest blurred by like a series of Impressionist landscapes, and the wheels rattled and rolled beneath the carriage floor. Then, all at once and completely without warning, Liza leaped out of her seat, stared wildly out of the window and pulled hard on the emergency stop cord.

Immediately, a jarring screech of brakes screamed up from the track, and Tristan was flung heavily into the opposite seat. Liza alone seemed unaffected; she bounded out of their compartment, swung around the corner and hit the button to open the carriage door. A moment later – before the train had even finished stopping – she had leaped out onto the bank, rolled once and sprung up to run off to the north.

Tristan leaped to his feet with such force that he cracked his head against the window and fell over again; he got up a second time, more slowly, and in between some groanings and moanings he muttered:

What the hell is with you?”

So saying, he staggered out of the compartment, blundered out of the door and fell heavily into a bed of nettles.

Naturally, he landed face-first.

Some time later, when his vision had returned, Tristan climbed to his feet and set off in search of his errant partner. (We shall, of course, preserve his dignity and gloss over his bout of clawing at his eyes and screaming for the mercy of every god in every pantheon that the world had to offer.)

Liza?” he called. “Liz-aaaa!

No answer was forthcoming.

Really,” he muttered to himself. “She lectures me about wrecking missions, and now this...”

He wandered on a little more, and then stopped dead.

Oh,” said Tristan. “That's what she was looking at.”

An ancient manor house lay before him, wood-faced and weather-beaten and very, very Gothic. This was a house where one might reasonably expect a raven to taunt one from atop a bust of Pallas Athene; it was a house where a university student might build a monstrous creature from grave-flesh; it might have been a summer getaway for the Addams family, or a home-away-from-home for one of the lesser members of the vampire court. It was also falling apart around the seams, which put a slight dent in the effect, but Tristan still thought it was terrifying.

Liza stood in front of it, by the wrought-iron gate, and stared at the broken semicircular window in the attic wall.

Liza, what the hell is going on?” asked Tristan. He was beginning to feel that he ought to be alarmed.

I recognise it,” she said slowly. “I remember this place...”

You saw it from the train?”

Liza didn't answer. Instead, she reached into her bag and withdrew a battered leather wallet; she opened it, and pulled out a Sinnish passport that had a picture of her with long brown hair, named as Sophia Wright. It also gave her place of residence as Wickham Manor, Eterna Forest.

I wonder,” she said. “Is this the one...?”

She pushed open the gate, which shrieked and made Tristan jump.

You're – you're not going in there, are you?” he asked nervously. “Liza, that place looks like it's been abandoned for years – probably full of Ghosts—”

Creeping across summer lawns at midnight,” Liza said absently, and went down the garden path. A moment later, she had vanished into the blackness beyond the imposing double doors.

Tristan hesitated, confused. He had no idea why they were here, what Liza thought she was doing, or what was going to happen to the mission. Furthermore, he suspected that this house was evil; it was all Gothic and dilapidated, which pretty much sealed the deal for him. He had seen too many horror movies to trust any abandoned manors in forests.

And yet...

Liza?” he called, and took a step towards the door. “Liza, let's not go in – oh, screw it.”

He sent out his Croagunk, which took one look at the house and stared at him as if to ask if he had taken leave of his senses. As one, they gave a distinctly froggy gulp and took a few steps further. They were now past the gate.

What was that?” asked Tristan.

Gurp?”

That!” cried Tristan.

The Croagunk appeared to be listening, but it seemed to hear nothing.

It's the sound of witchcraft and devilry,” Tristan whispered in fearful tones. “I'm sure of it!”

The Croagunk looked alarmed, and turned around as unobtrusively as it could. This was, however, not very unobtrusively, and Tristan turned it around to face the door again.

Don't abandon me here,” he said desperately. “This is a serious matter!”

Gurrp.”

At this point, Tristan realised he was talking to a frog, and so preoccupied was he with thoughts of how stupid his conversation had just been that he failed to notice as he walked straight between the great doors of Wickham Manor.

---

...and I know it's all for the energy project, but aren't there easier ways of getting hold of 1.21 jigowatts of energy?”

After what had seemed like an endless trek, we'd reached the other side of the room, where two oblivious goons were chattering away to each other. We'd thought it sensible to conceal ourselves behind some nearby cages, with the result that we'd now heard quite a bit of inane and probably referential conversation.

What did you just say?” asked the second Galactic.

I said, isn't there an easier way of getting hold—”

No, after that. Jigowatts?”

Yeah. What of it?”

It's pronounced gigawatts.”

No, it isn't.”

Yes, it is.”

No, it isn't. I talked to a scientist, and he said 'jigowatts'.”

He can't have done. You misheard him.”

Shut up!”

You seem to have forgotten how an argument actually works,” observed the second man. “You need to refute a point properly, not just tell me to shut up.”

The first one glowered.

Shut up,” he repeated, after while. “Just shut up.”

The second one opened his mouth to speak, and their argument might have gone on longer – but somewhere far away in Jubilife, Stephanie chose that precise moment to call me.

And my phone rang.

Loudly.

Ashley seemed to melt away into thin air as soon as he heard it; Iago did likewise, and so I was left alone with the two advancing grunts.

I smiled in a friendly sort of way.

Hi,” I said. “I'm... uh... new?”

This gave them pause for thought.

You're new?”

Yeah,” I said, nodding vigorously. “I was looking for, uh, the way out.”

If you're a member of the Team, why aren't you in uniform?” asked one Galactic suspiciously.

I'm new,” I replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “So I don't have one yet. You know how it is. Falling standards and all that.”

She complains like a Galactic grunt,” one of the men said to the other.

Maybe she is one,” concurred the other.

Well, yeah. I complain like one because I am one,” I put in. “Look, are you going to help me find the way out? I'm going home.”

The two grunts looked at each other.

Why would you be going home? There're barracks in the building.”

I'm new, remember?”

They looked confused.

Oh. Yeah. New.”

Look, I won't bother you any more,” I said, backing away. “I'll find my own way out. Thanks anyway!”

I waved, turned around and left as quickly as I could without giving the appearance of fleeing.

The two Galactics looked at each other.

Hang on a moment,” said one.

Yeah?” replied the other.

That wasn't plausible at all.”

His companion blinked.

That's true...”

They exchanged glances.

Hey, you!” they shouted at my distant back, and ran off after me; it was, however, too late, and I'd already got past the entrance door and down the corridor beyond.

When doors seal behind you, there's definitely something nasty going on.

So thought Tristan as he advanced into the decaying entrance hall of Wickham Manor, Liza before him and the Croagunk behind. It was a truly spectacular entrance hall: decrepit chandelier; creepy statue; two sweeping staircases on either side of the room; and over all, a thick layer of dust that rose up in choking clouds with every step they took.

Liza, let's get out of here,” said Tristan uneasily. “This place is evil.”

I've been here before,” Liza said, and her voice seemed larger and hollower than usual. “There were people here... Someone called Anna...”

She ran her fingers down the side of the staircase, and left a trail of dark, unpolished mahogany. Tristan shivered; there was definitely something wrong with this place.

Someone wailed in the distance, and he jumped so hard that his teeth snapped shut on his tongue.

Yowch!” he cried. Then: “What the hell was that?”

I don't know,” replied Liza. She slipped softly down the mouldering carpet that led from front to inner door, and passed through as silently as a ghost. Tristan followed with some trepidation, and found himself in something that might once have been a dining-hall; now, there was nothing there but the old, dry bones of a roast chicken on the table. No one, it seemed, had been here for a very long time.

There's no one here,” Tristan said urgently. “Liza, come on! We should leave.”

I know there's no one here,” she replied, looking at him for the first time. “But I have to find out if this is the place.”

What place? You're not making any sense! In fact, you're making so little sense that it's terrifying!”

Liza gave him a long look.

I think I lived here, once,” she replied. “I need to know.”

What are—?”

Tristan broke off, staring behind Liza with undisguised fear. A moment ago, there had been nothing behind her but the table – but now, there was someone standing there. A tall pale someone in a black tailsuit. Someone who was staring right at them.

Tristan?” asked Liza. “What...?”

The man in black extended a white-gloved hand, and moved his mouth as if trying to say something, but no sound escaped his lips. Beads of cold sweat broke out on Tristan's brow, and he raised one trembling finger to point at the apparition.

H-he... it... look...”

Liza whirled on the spot, a gun appearing from nowhere in her hand – but in the space between one blink and the next, the man in black had flickered and disappeared.

What?” Liza looked at Tristan, who was rigid and shaking, like a stick in a cocktail mixer. “What is it?”

There was – it was like – ghost!” Tristan managed at last, bouncing up and down a little in his excitement. “There was a man there! A ghost man!”

A ghost? There's no such thing as ghosts,” Liza said dismissively. “Ghost-types, yes. But not ghosts.”

I tell you, there was a ghost!”

If there was anything, it was a Gastly playing tricks.” Liza put her gun away. “Look, I won't be long. You can wait outside.”

Tristan thought about walking back through the hall by himself, and decided that he'd rather stay with the person with the gun.

I'll stay,” he decided.

Then stop being stupid,” Liza said, and left the dining-room to explore further afield. Tristan scooped his Croagunk into his arms and hurried to catch up; so preoccupied with ghosts was he that he failed to notice the man in black standing by the door, holding out a hand and pleading silently with him.

---

Smooth,” Iago admitted. “You don't want to give up higher education and be the front man for some con artistry, do you?”

Nope,” I replied brightly.

His face fell.

Ah well. Suit yourself.”

We had ducked into a side room and evaded the Galactic men's notice; however, Ashley had noted, the Team now knew that we were in the building. He had then gone on to say that he had figured out all he needed to about the room full of Pokémon, and wanted to get some information from whoever was in charge. Hence, we were now on the top floor, where he was certain that the boss would be; it was a tradition or something.

As we climbed the last part of the staircase, I could hear the sounds of people moving around above us; I paused and asked:

Uh, Ashley? Should we really be going up there? It sounds like there are loads of people there...”

Ashley considered, and replied:

I'll go up there. You wait here.”

Iago's eyes widened.

You're going to—?”

Perhaps,” Ashley replied. “I need an audience with whoever is running this operation. It doesn't matter how I get that.”

I couldn't help but feel I was kind of missing something here.

What are you talking about?” I asked.

Ashley looked at me; his glasses were in the way, so I couldn't be sure – but for a moment I swear his eyes flashed pale yellow, iris, white and all.

There are certain questions that shouldn't be asked,” he said. “If you were to ask these questions, certain people might decide you were a danger, and have you eliminated. And believe me, they would be far better at doing so than Team Galactic.”

I blinked. He'd left me slightly confused.

Er... is that a threat? Or are you...?”

Ashley sighed.

Yes, it's a threat!” he said crossly. “For God's sake! This morning you wanted melodrama, now you fail to understand it – what's wrong with you?”

What's wrong with you?

This, I felt, wasn't really an unreasonable question.

Ashley ground his teeth, and kneaded his forehead with one hand.

Just... wait here, would you? Please?”

The sudden 'please' startled me; I was taken aback for a moment, then felt rather smug.

OK,” I said sweetly. “Since you ask so nicely.”

For a moment, Ashley looked like he was having trouble swallowing something, then he shook his head, turned on his heel and continued up the stairs to the corridor above.

Egad!” cried what I could only imagine to be one of the more pretentious of the Galactic grunts. “The Diamond is here!

There was then a certain fleshy thump, and then the sound of something hitting the floor. Hard.

Please do not attempt to stop me,” said Ashley, and there was something wrong with his voice; it was an octave lower than usual, and he had acquired the sort of foreign accent that not only implied he had never spoken Sinnish before, but that he had no real idea of how to pronounce words, or indeed how to work his tongue. “This is a matter of the gravest importance.”

I looked at Iago, a sudden chill running down my spine.

What the hell is that?” I whispered.

It's Ashley,” he replied cagily. “I can't really talk about it. Believe me, it's better you don't know.” He fiddled with his moustache. “He did try to warn you. You should go home as soon as possible.”

What? This isn't just about me interfering with his work, is it?”

Iago made no reply; he whistled a little tune and studied his claws.

Iago,” I said. “What does everyone else know that I don't? What's this investigation really about?”

He looked up at me with a wolf's grin, and I suddenly saw past the human in a fur suit, and glimpsed something wild and alien, something that made a bunched knot of fear tighten about the base of my spine.

Pearl,” he said, and I no longer heard a Jamaican accent but something more akin to a growl. “Let me answer your question with another question. I am a Kadabra. I hate your species with a passion so great that God himself couldn't rip it from my skull. So what possible reason could I have for swearing fealty to a human like Ashley?”

---

Tristan had never believed in ghosts before, but he had revised his opinion as soon as he'd set eyes on Wickham Manor, and the sudden appearance of the man in black had confirmed his suspicions.

Will you let go of my arm?” asked Liza in exasperation.

Tristan looked down. He appeared to be clinging to it in the same sort of desperate way as would a toddler to a favourite teddy.

Ah,” he said. “Er. Sorry.”

He let go, carefully wiped Liza's sleeve where he'd been holding it, and nodded courteously at her. She replied with the stare of one who has been annoyed for so long that their irritation has crystallised into exhausted disappointment, and then moved on.

They were investigating the bedrooms one by one, but had found no signs that any of them had been lived in at any point after the 1930s. It seemed that the house's air of evil had protected it from looters or vandals; they encountered more than one purse of valuable pre-decimalisation coins, and, in one bedroom, a solid silver breakfast service. However, Liza did not appear to be interested in making money from these discoveries, and Tristan had the distinct feeling that removing anything from the house might bring down the wrath of the ghosts on his head – a feeling that was cemented when, as he bent over a letter bearing a stamp that had only five siblings in the entire country, a young girl appeared sitting cross-legged on the bed, holding out her hands and mouthing silently at him.

This had naturally startled him, and when startled, Tristan tended to act erratically; he leaped backwards, turned a miraculous double somersault and landed on his feet. So surprised was he by the caprice of fortune that had enabled this remarkable evasive manoeuvre that he staggered back another step and almost fell out of the window; when he had recovered his balance and Liza had come in to see what the fuss was all about, the girl had gone.

Liza had promptly told him he was a coward and a lily-livered poltroon (well, actually she had just called him a coward, but Tristan thought that the latter insult sounded better) and dragged him out by the ear; just as they were leaving, he thought he saw the girl again, starting to say something – but then the door clicked shut and she was gone.

They continued their search, Liza increasingly desperate and Tristan increasingly useless, but to no avail; it seemed that no one had been here for a long time. If Liza had been here before, she hadn't stayed long.

It was close to three o'clock before they left Wickham Manor, and Tristan didn't stop walking until they were back at the train tracks.

Which, of course, were now devoid of any train.

Liza stared despondently at the rails.

We didn't find anything out,” she said unhappily. “And the train's gone.”

You must have seen that one coming,” replied Tristan cheerily; he felt rather good now that they were out of that House of Doom. (The capitals were his.) “We were there for ages.”

Liza sighed and threw Sophia Wright's passport into a bush.

Come on,” she said. “We can't be too far from Eterna...”

As they walked off, neither saw the pair of white eyes watching them from the shadows beneath the trees.
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Last edited by Cutlerine; October 2nd, 2011 at 11:16 AM. Reason: White eyes. WHITE EYES!!!!!
  #20    
Old October 2nd, 2011, 07:54 PM
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
This is really starting to get interesting. I'm going to go with a theory that's going to seem really, really weird (and I'm probably going to be extremely wrong, but bear with me here):

Spoiler:
Ashley has some sort of connection to Dialga. I don't know where the yellow eyes came from, but I'm figuring that it has something to do with his condition. What is his condition? Immortality or - to be more specific - eternal youth. That's why he's so reluctant to discuss his age, why he's absolutely brilliant, but has never developed his body or maturity past his teenage years, why he's known as "The Diamond". Dialga probably has a hand in it, and that's why Iago follows Ashley. He may not swear fealty to a human, but he'd definitely swear his undying loyalty to one of the most powerful Pokemon on the face of the earth.

Now, how did he gain eternal youth? That's debatable, and I don't have any idea as to how that could have happened at the moment. Perhaps more will be revealed with the plot. What I do know is that Pearl has gotten herself into something that's far beyond her comprehension. Team Galactic wants Ashley and Iago dead because of the fact that both of them are powerful and intelligent enough to screw things up for them. However, Team Galactic wants her dead as well, so she's probably hiding something as well. And now I just got another theory that's even wilder than the previous one. I'll explain that:

Pearl, of course, might be influenced by Palkia in some way. Obviously, the powers aren't there as of now, but it could explain why the Team would target an otherwise-normal college student. ...And I'm going to stop before I go off on a rambling tangent that makes no sense whatsoever.


Liza is an interesting case. Now we know that Team Galactic is merely paying her for her services instead of her joining them because of their goals. Still, she's going over to every abandoned house to search for an object that's unknown to the readers. A part of me believes that she was born in Sinnoh or lived there when she was younger. Another part of me says that it's way too soon to tell. Yet another part of me is telling the other two parts to shut up and pay attention to the story instead of going off on wild theories.

Otherwise, I have no complaints. You've got me hooked.

Sincerely,

Mem
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  #21    
Old October 4th, 2011, 06:38 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Oh, Silent Memento! Your crazy ideas entertain me so. The problem with me, as you well know, is that you never can tell whether or not you've guessed correctly.

On another note, I swear I've written, like, two more chapters - but they're stored on my external hard drive, Vinz Clortho, and because something's wrong with my only Internet-capable computer at the moment, I can't post them. So, uh, yeah. Looks like you folks are going to have to wait for all the exciting stuff that's happening.

F.A.B.
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  #22    
Old October 16th, 2011, 03:57 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
From the ashes of real life I emerge, a phoenix of online wit and weirdness, a veritable Lazarus and sentient compendium of pop culture references, a disciple of the Golden Sprout and proponent of Far Fetched Fiction.

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

Therefore, enjoy this (now very strange) story!

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


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

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

From the files of one Mister C. Maragos


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

Iago shook his head.

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

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

Yeah, but pickpocketing is useful too.”

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

What the hell is going on here?”

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

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

What's that supposed to mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

What? Er, no.”

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

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

Iago looked thoughtful.

No,” he said. “He backed down.”

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

That's a relief.”

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

I stared at him in shock, and he guffawed.

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

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

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

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

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

Iago sighed.

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

I know,” I agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iago withdrew the knife and leaned against the far wall.

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

What?”

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

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

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

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

That's good— aha, here he is.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I looked at him, surprised, and then asked:

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

He smiled.

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

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

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

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

But why?” I asked.

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

---

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

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

It is terrifying,” stated the Desk Sitter.

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

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

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

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

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

Technically, I brought you here.”

Do not quibble. We dislike that.”

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

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

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

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

Art provokes an emotional response that I disap—”

We have also categorised you as a philistine.”

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

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

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

That is an even more emotional response.”

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are set on leaving, then, madam?”

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

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

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

Bond inclined his head in the slightest of nods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it safe?” she asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

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

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

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

Tristan thought about it.

Yeah,” he replied. “You do.”

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

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

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

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

---

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

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

Hello? Steph?”

Pearl!”

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

Huh. What big lungs you have.”

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

It's kind of important—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if you get—”

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

What?”

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

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

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

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

O-OK. What am I looking for?”

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

Weird?”

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

Why am I doing this and not you?”

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

For a moment, Stephanie was speechless. Then:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley looked at me, puzzled.

What makes you think that?”

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

Iago? Iago, is that you?”

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

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

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

Ah,” it said, taking in Ashley and myself. “Good afternoon, assorted meat creatures. I'm an old friend of Iago's, and my name is Robin Goodfellow.”
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; October 27th, 2011 at 01:18 AM.
  #23    
Old October 19th, 2011, 11:14 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Ten: In Which a Certain Woman Appears, and the Plot Thickens

'From an early age, it was clear she was going to be someone big one day. No one can destroy that many buildings and not get some sort of recognition.'
—Stella Graffa, The Buckley Files: A Biography


If you live in Eterna City, chances are you believe in ghosts. You probably don’t show it, and if asked, you’ll always deny it – but in your bones, you know they’re there, in the shadows in the forest, slinking through the night like witches’ familiars.

Because if you live in Eterna City, you will have probably seen a ghost at least once; you will have seen the old house, Wickham Manor, a few miles into the forest, and the ruins of its once-proud estate, and as you went past, you might have seen a pale face at a window, or a flash of light where no light should be, or the locked gate creak slowly open as if under tremendous pressure. And if you are the brave sort, or the foolhardy, you might have thought to investigate further, and break open the lock on the old doors, and creep into the hall...

Yes, if you live in Eterna City, you are almost guaranteed to believe in ghosts. Ghosts like Ellen Dennel and her butler, Gabriel Bond.

Ghosts who were, even now, staring out at the city from their carriage in some dismay.

“Bond,” said Ellen, climbing slowly out of the carriage and up onto the driver’s seat for a better look. “How long have we been in the house, exactly?”

“I confess I don’t know, madam,” replied Bond, eyes fixed on the distant skyscrapers. “But I fear we may have been there for quite a while longer than we thought.”

They stood by the train tracks on their horseless carriage, Eterna laid out before them like a modern fairytale; everywhere, there seemed to be glittering towers and electric lighting, and square unfamiliar buildings with logos in a foreign language. Through the streets raced hundreds upon hundreds of motor-cars, all far more advanced than any Ellen had ever seen before, and much quieter too.

“Is this still Eterna?” she asked.

“I hope so,” replied Bond. “I think we have merely stayed at home for a long, long time...”

He trailed off and bit his lip in a rare expression of emotion; together with Ellen, he stared at the city for a while longer.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Ellen said at last. “We must still find them.”

“Yes, of course, madam,” agreed Bond. “But may I suggest that we do so on foot?”

“Walk?” asked Ellen, astonished. “Walk all the way through Eterna?”

Bond pointed at the motor-cars in the streets.

“It may well have escaped your notice, madam, but carriages appear to be a thing of the past.”

Ellen pouted, but had to concede that it was true; there wasn’t so much as a single horse to be seen.

“Fine,” she sighed, as it were the greatest concession anyone had ever made, “but I’m not leaving my books.”

Bond closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of what it would be like to carry Ellen’s books through a city on a hot September day.

“As you wish, madam,” he said eventually. “Perhaps we should get one of those motor-cars.”

This idea cheered Ellen up no end, and they set off for the city proper with one light heart and one heavy load between them, unequally and unfairly divided.

---

Iago jumped, darted a glance at Ashley, and whispered frantically to the Rotom; I made out the words ‘detective’ and ‘Diamond’, and guessed that this Robin Goodfellow was an old partner-in-crime of his whose secrets he did not want spilled here.

“Oh,” said the Rotom in question. “Ah. This is an awkward situation...”

“Shut up!” hissed Iago. He then turned to Ashley and I. “Heh. Uh, excuse us. We need to... catch up.”

The two of them retreated some way across the grass, and began a hushed conversation.

“I didn’t know Rotom were sentient,” I said. I’d known that most Ghosts were, of course, but I didn’t know that that applied to Rotom, or that Rotom showed any interest in human society beyond the usual Ghostly interest of using them for sport.

“They are,” replied Ashley, frowning. “And that one... there’s something familiar about him.”

“What accent was it—?”

“English,” said Ashley. “An English Rotom called Robin Goodfellow...” His frown deepened, and he dug out his smartphone to do some research. I turned my eyes back to Iago and Robin just in time to see the Kadabra start as if stung.

What?” I heard him cry. “What sort of...?”

He lowered his voice fairly quickly, and the rest escaped me. Soon enough, the conversation was broken up anyway: the couple lying in the grass to our right got up and came over, the boy calling out:

“Puck! Sapphire called, we’re going!”

At this, Robin looked around, and called out something indistinct; I assume he then said his goodbyes to Iago, because he left with the couple a moment later, and Iago came back, looking pale and slightly shaky.

“Ashley,” he said as soon as he was close enough for him to hear. “Ashley, I’ve found out something terrible.”

“I knew it!” cried Ashley. “He’s the art thief!” He looked up sharply, but Robin and his human friends (or perhaps he would have termed them ‘meat creatures’) were gone. “He’s wanted in most of the world’s countries...” Ashley actually looked upset for a moment – but that moment swiftly passed, and he shrugged. “Ah, well. He’s gone now.”

“Ashley, listen!” said Iago, grabbing his shoulders and shaking him weakly. “I know how...” He looked at me.

I looked back. This sounded interesting.

“Pearl,” said Ashley calmly, “would you mind catching up with that young man who just left with Mister Goodfellow and asking for his autograph?” He handed me a pen and autograph book, and I stared at them.

“Is this your way of getting rid of me so you can have a private conversation?”

“Yes,” he admitted freely. “But I would also like his autograph. So would you, but you don’t know it yet. Go and ask him.”

“OK, I’ll do it,” I said, getting up. “But only because I’m curious, OK?”

Ashley blinked at me, which was both disconcertingly effeminate and disconcertingly pretty.

“As long as you do it,” he said, smiling. “Now hurry up, or you’ll miss him.”

What’s with him today, I wondered. He hates me this morning, flirts with me this afternoon... OK, so he’s really weird, but does that really justify this?

This wasn’t a question that I could answer (although as a philosophy student, I could have taken a stab at it) and so I put it to the back of my mind and ran to catch up with the couple and their Rotom, who were almost at the gates. I noticed that the girl was wearing roller-skates, which was odd, since I’d never really seen anyone wear those anywhere before.

“—said she would meet us at the statue of a priest on Hanan Road,” the boy was saying in Hoennian. I’m quite a good linguist – that’s why I study German as well as philosophy – and am fairly close to fluent in Hoennian. Which was fortunate to the point of being a plot device. “Puck? Any clue where that is?”

“Nope,” replied the Rotom cheerfully. “If I still had the Metagross, I could access Google Maps and tell you. But since someone—”

The boy winced.

“That was an accident, I told you – besides, you were going way too fast—”

Suddenly, the blue-haired girl turned around, apparently without moving her legs, and looked me dead in the eye.

“Why are you following us?” she asked. Her Hoennian had a strong accent to it; she wasn’t a native speaker. Somewhere in Asia, maybe?

Robin Goodfellow and the boy turned to see what was going on.

“Hi,” I said, suddenly feeling very stupid. “Er, look, I realise you have no idea who I am—”

“Oh, right,” said the boy. “Autograph, right?”

I gave him an odd look, which caused him in turn to give me an even odder one.

“Yeah,” I said, trying hard to sound like I knew who he was. “I’m – uh – a big fan.”

“It wasn’t really me,” the boy said. “Not all me, anyway.”

“Mm. Yeah, I’ve heard that said. But you – you played a part, you know?”

Robin Goodfellow appeared to be having great difficulty containing his laughter.

“Ah. Ignore him.” The boy took the book and pen, signed it and handed it to his girlfriend. “I assume you want hers too?”

“Uh... sure. Go for it.”

The girl signed, and then Robin said:

“And mine? You want mine, right?”

Can you sign things?” I asked him.

“No,” he admitted. “But it’s nice to know that someone wants it.”

“Then I do want it,” I said gravely, “and am deeply sorry that I can’t have it.”

“That’s fine,” replied Robin magnanimously. “I forgive you.”

I took back the autograph book, thanked them all and went back to Ashley and Iago. On the way, I looked at their names: the boy was called Kester Ruby, and the girl...

“She’s signed in Japanese,” I muttered. “How helpful.”

When I got back, I found Ashley looking thoughtful, and Iago slightly calmer than before – that is to say, only really agitated instead of extremely.

“Here,” I said, tossing the book and pen back to Ashley. “Who were they, anyway?”

“Kester Ruby and Felicity Kusagari,” he replied absently. “Although I don’t think that that’s actually her real name...” He looked at me. “Sit down. We need to talk about Mister Maragos.”

“What were you talking about before?” I asked. “It was to do with what that Rotom said, right?”

“I believe Iago told you about asking questions earlier,” replied Ashley. “I’m afraid to say that he’s right. It’s why I tried to get you to go home; perhaps I should have phrased that better.” He fixed me with a serious look. “Knowing too much about me means danger, Pearl. So I think you’d better drop that topic and help us decide what to do next instead.”

“Fine,” I said; I could tell my assent made him slightly suspicious, but it didn’t matter: he didn’t know that I’d set Stephanie working on finding out his secret. I’d get to the bottom of this. “What are you suggesting?”

“You were telling me that you thought Mister Maragos was in Veilstone,” Ashley replied. “Why don’t you tell me why?”

---

“Look,” said Tristan, exasperated, “I understand that something’s happened. But what the hell is it?”

The guard looked down at him. He was a very big guard.

“Somethin’ ’appened,” he said roughly. “An’ now no one’s allowed in.”

They had arrived at the Galactic building in Eterna tired and ready to sit down for an hour or so, and now Tristan and his decidedly odd partner were arguing with the burly guards that had appeared outside the doors.

“We’re members of the Team—”

“Yeah, but you ain’t anyone importan’,” reasoned the guard. “So there ain’t no reason to let you in.”

“That’s a double negative,” said Tristan, momentarily distracted. “You shouldn’t do that.”

The guard bent down until his face was level with Tristan’s, and Tristan decided, after a second spend in searching the big man’s eyes for kindness and coming up short, that he would rather shut up and step back than be made into human meatloaf.

“You don’t have to let him in,” Liza said, taking over, “but let me in.”

The guard smiled an unpleasant sort of smile, looked across at his colleague, and asked her:

“And why would I le’ you in, little miss?”

Liza then put her mouth to his ear, shielded by her hand, and whispered certain words to him. And then the guard turned pale, stood up straight and saluted her before standing aside and letting her in.

Tristan and the other guard stared at him, amazed.

“What did she say?” asked the guard.

The first guard shook his head gravely.

“Ain’t no stoppin’ one like ’er,” he said. “She works for the Boss.” The second guard’s eyebrows rose. “An’ she’s a professional.” The eyebrows rose higher. “An’ she told me seven diff’ren’ ways she coulda killed me righ’ then.” The second guard’s eyebrows rose so high that they almost fell off the top of his head.

“Cal,” he said at length. “There really weren’ no stoppin’ ’er, was there?”

“Nope,” agreed the first guard. “None a’ all.”

Tristan looked first at one, and then at the other, and counted himself lucky he wasn’t Liza’s enemy.

---

Meanwhile, Liza herself moved swiftly through the building, wondering what precisely had happened. The few people she actually saw seemed jumpy and nervous, but there was no sign of any fighting – no wounds, no bullet-holes in the walls.

“What happened here?” she asked the nearest Galactic.

“The Diamond,” he replied shakily. “He came here and... oh God!”

That was about all she could get out of him, but it was enough to sharpen her curiosity still further. She went up to the top floor, intent on seeking out Jupiter and finding out what had gone on – but the lifts had been shut down, and there were more burly guards at the top of the stairs.

“What’s going on here?” Liza demanded to know, and got much the same response she had from the goons outside. This time, she couldn’t be bothered to do the cloak-and-dagger scare approach, and just told them outright that she worked directly under Cyrus; once one of them went off to confirm that this was true, it did the trick and she got past without further difficulty.

Up here, things looked different. There was a dark purple-black stain on the wall and carpet, which, when Liza sniffed at it, smelled faintly of rotting eggs. She looked left and right, and saw a couple of discarded guns on the floor, as well as a Poké Ball.

“What did he do?” she wondered. There had been a fight here – but no shots had been fired, and somehow Jupiter’s Skuntank had been taken down before it could flood the place with toxic gas.

There was only one way to find out the truth, Liza decided, and that was to ask: self-evidently, Cyrus had been called here, hence the security. She knocked on the door to Jupiter’s office and walked in without waiting for an answer.

“Ah, good afternoon, Liza,” said Cyrus pleasantly. “I thought you might turn up here; Mars said she’d sent your partner after Lacrimére, Gideon and that Kadabra.”

“Cyrus,” replied Liza. She didn’t call him Mister Maragos; she was a consultant and a specialist, not an underling. “What happened here?”

She surveyed the room: all the furniture was intact; there was no sign of a struggle at all. Jupiter was sitting at her desk, looking somewhat shell-shocked, and her colleagues Mars and Saturn were standing nearby, the latter attempting to comfort her and the former looking awkward, knowing that any attempt on her part to make a reassuring face actually came out looking more like a psychopath’s grin.

“The Diamond did,” replied Cyrus simply. “I have no idea what he did, but I know he was here, I know that he knocked out three agents and set fifteen more into a panic, I know he defeated Jupiter’s Skuntank in less than the three seconds it takes it to attack and I know that he extracted every last bit of information that she had from her in just a couple of minutes.” He looked at Liza with frank eyes. “I’m starting to see why he has such a reputation.”

“Sorry, sir, but – who is this woman?” asked Mars. “She looks like a grunt—”

“And as far as you know, that is all she is,” replied Cyrus with a dangerous smile. “Do you understand?”

Mars glanced at Saturn, who made a point of ignoring her, and nodded sullenly.

“Good,” said Cyrus. “Mars, Saturn, take Jupiter outside. Liza and I need to talk.”

“Outside where, sir?”

“Outside anywhere,” he replied. “I’m sure you must have some imagination in that head of yours. Use it.”

Mars acquiesced without further protest, and left with Saturn and Jupiter. Once the door had shut, Liza put her hands on the desk and swung herself up to sit on it.

“So,” she said. “What really happened here?”

“As I said before, it was the Diamond,” said Cyrus. “But of course, I know exactly what he did.” He held up a CD. “To stop the panic spreading, I have removed the CCTV footage of what exactly went on here. We’re treating it as hysteria, some mind-bending Pokémon that Lacrimére got in somehow – you know the sort of thing.”

“Yeah,” nodded Liza. She could do that. “I can sort that for you. Can I see the footage?”

“I don’t see why not.” Cyrus slid the disc into Jupiter’s laptop and moved the mouse about. The screen came to life, and a moment later the disc started to play.

Liza watched in silence, and growing consternation. There was something at the back of her head, a faint ringing in that dead space beyond Iraq...

No. The footage ended, and she couldn’t remember.

“That’s... impressive,” she managed. “What is it?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” replied Cyrus, and he almost seemed happy about it. “But it means we need to increase security.”

“I think... bullets should probably work,” Liza said. “If you see here” – she rewound the tape a bit – “look, here you can see a cut. And if it bleeds,” she added, which was reminiscent of the governor of California, “we can kill it.”

“I’ll have Mars keep that Purugly of hers handy too,” said Cyrus. “It’s the strongest thing we have, except for my Pokémon, and mine won’t answer to anyone else.”

“You can see Jupiter’s Skuntank get taken out in a single hit,” replied Liza. “Will the Purugly do any better?”

“It’s faster than it looks,” Cyrus told her. “It can dodge the attacks. Besides, it’ll be a useful distraction.”

Liza nodded; once again, it seemed Cyrus had thought things through properly.

“I’ll get onto the propaganda, Cyrus,” she said. “You handle security.”

He smiled and nodded.

“How is your work going?”

“Not well.” Liza sighed. “I haven’t found it yet. But,” she went on, shrugging, “I still have five more places to check before I give up hope.”

“And then...?”

“Sorry?”

Cyrus’ eyes were shining, as if they reflected a light that wasn’t there.

“What will you do afterwards?” he asked. “If you can’t find it?”

“I’ll join you,” she replied. “Because if that happens, I’ll be done with emotion forever.”

Cyrus smiled, and behind him, Liza thought she could make out a faint patch of darkness, a ragged shadow without anything to cast it.

“You’d be welcome,” he said. “I look forward to it.”

---

“You said Mars had been to Veilstone recently,” I pointed out. “You could tell by the grey dust on her shoes.”

“That’s right,” replied Ashley. “What an astute little creature you are.”

I bristled, but remembered that this was the friendliest he’d been to me in quite some time, and decided that for now at least I’d bear his condescension.

“It looks like we’ll need to go to Veilstone,” continued Ashley. “But I checked online, and it seems the pass has been blocked.”

There were only a handful of ways to get between West and East Sinnoh; down the middle of the island was a spine of jagged rock known collectively as Mount Coronet. Technically, it was about fourteen mountains, but they had all merged long ago and formed one colossal chunk of stone, dotted with peaks of varying height and shape. The inside was riddled with caves, which in turn were riddled with an alarming number of wild Pokémon; the upper slopes bore colonies of Abomasnow, and were too dangerous to traverse. This naturally meant that the only way across was through a few narrow passes that sat low down on the mountain, and that, of course, meant that the two halves of the nation were continually being cut off from each other, due to landslide, traffic accident or Exploding Graveler.

“Any flights?” I asked. It was a fairly vain hope – in East Sinnoh, it's always either raining or snowing, and air travel is dangerous – but it was worth checking out.

“Not until tomorrow,” Ashley replied. “The Abomasnow are agitated; there are snowstorms all the way up and down Coronet.”

“So what do we do?” I asked. “If we can't drive or fly?”

Ashley stood up.

“We seek alternative means of travel,” he said vaguely.

“Which is his way of saying that he doesn't know,” Iago confided. “Because there isn't anything we can do except wait. The storms'll clear up by tomorrow. Probably. Maybe. OK, they probably won't.”

Ashley walked off without saying anything, which was stupendously weird, and I jumped up to follow.

“Where are you going?”

“Back to Jubilife,” he said, frowning. “There's nothing more to be done here, and we can't get to Veilstone yet. In Jubilife, I'll be able to contact some East-side friends of mine, who can do a little investigating on my behalf.”

“On our behalf.”

Ashley gave me a look. I wasn't sure what sort of look it was, but it was definitely a look.

“On my behalf,” he said. “When we return to Jubilife, you are going to stay there.”

Ah. It had been that sort of look.

“No, I'm not,” I replied. “You really can't make me—”

“Would you care to put that to the test?” he asked sharply. I remembered where we had just come from: the fleeing Galactics, the information so easily obtained, the knife and the terrible secret; I remembered that I had no idea what Ashley could do, and that I was about three wrong words away from being killed.

Ashley smiled, though without any trace of humour.

“I didn't think so,” he replied, as we reached the park gates. “My apologies, Pearl, but your part in this ends here. I'll have someone come to guard you against—”

His last words were drowned out in a deafening roar; he broke off and looked testily down the road. I followed his gaze, and saw a huge black motorbike heading towards us at a speed that was probably not only in excess of the speed limit but also of Mach 1; it growled past pedestrians at breakneck pace and then suddenly swerved to a sharp stop right in front of the gates where we stood.

“OK,” I said, staring at the bike and its black-clad rider, who was now dismounting. “Ashley, is this an assassination attempt?”

He didn't reply, and I saw for the first time something approximating fear cross his face; that shook me, and I was about to make a break for it when Iago called out from behind us:

“Her again? What's she doing here?”

It was someone they knew, then. I relaxed a little, and watched the rider walk up to Ashley. The tension was electric; it wasn't just me standing and staring, but everyone else on the street. There was something about the biker (apart from her gigantic bike) that made you pay attention to her. Perhaps it was the way she was taller than everyone else, or the fact that she didn't remove her helmet; perhaps it was the confidence of her stride, or the way her leather-sheathed hands kept curling into fists – but whatever it was, it was potent stuff.

She drew close to Ashley, and he flinched away slightly; she grabbed his chin and tilted his head until he was looking up at her.

“Hello,” said Ashley, a note of uncertainty in his voice. “I can't say I didn't expect this, but I had my reasons—”

“Not now,” snapped the biker, and I could have sworn I'd heard her voice before somewhere. “We need to talk, Ashley.”

“Perhaps later—?”

Now.”

“That idea also has its attractions,” conceded Ashley. “I suppose we ought to go, then?”

“Shut up and get on the bike,” said the biker, and a second later, both of them were gone, roaring away down the road and out of sight.

Dead silence reigned over the street. People were staring at each other, wondering exactly what had just happened; I was looking at Iago, trying to gauge whether or not he'd kill me if I asked a question.

“I knew this would happen,” he sighed. “Damn it. Pearl, we need a taxi.”

“What? Why? Where? Who?”

“Don't forget How and When,” Iago replied, grabbing my wrist and tugging me ineffectually up the pavement. “Then you'll have all of Kipling's serving-men.”

“What?”

“If you were an English student, you'd get that. Come on, Pearl, you're too heavy for me to drag!”

I started walking so he'd stop complaining, and asked my questions again, only more clearly:

“Iago, what just happened? Who was that?”

“She'll tell you if she wants you to know,” he replied, flagging down a cab and pushing me in. “Look, I can't say, you must have figured that one out. We need to follow them.”

“Where are they going?”

Iago looked at me as if I were an idiot, and not for the first time I wondered if he were right.

“To the Gym, of course,” he told me. “And, speaking of that – driver! Eterna City Pokémon Gym!”

And so, very confused and not a little scared, I buckled my seatbelt as the taxi drove off in the direction of the Gym.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; October 27th, 2011 at 01:20 AM.
  #24    
Old October 20th, 2011, 01:39 AM
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Caliban
Trying to change my life, brb~
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
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Just dropping in to say that I'm once again reading and enjoying your current story!
To be perfectly honest, it is the only thing that I've been coming to PC for recently. xD;

And with that damned cliffhanger you just ended that chapter with, you may be sure that I will be checking the fanfiction forum frequently for your next chapter. <.<
  #25    
Old October 20th, 2011, 02:35 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caliban View Post
Just dropping in to say that I'm once again reading and enjoying your current story!
To be perfectly honest, it is the only thing that I've been coming to PC for recently. xD;

And with that damned cliffhanger you just ended that chapter with, you may be sure that I will be checking the fanfiction forum frequently for your next chapter. <.<
Glad you're still around and enjoying things, especially if I'm the sole reason you're here (oh my God I'm so important). Anyway, since I have my computer back now, I'm going to try and get back into my usual habit of posting at least once every three days, and usually every other day - so tomorrow, you shall have the resolution you desire. Though not, perhaps the clarification; if this story ends up even half as strange as I think it will, nothing's going to make sense until right at the end, where it'll all fall magically into place. Hopefully. If we're lucky.
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