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  #76    
Old March 29th, 2011, 01:25 PM
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Echidna
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Quote:
“Right.” There was a pause. “Are you going to tell me about it?”

No.
I love how Puck repeatidly refuses to tell Kester anything, its dead funny

Quote:
“What the hell is that?”

Er... an albino Sableye? suggested Puck.
HAHAHAHA
man, again you made my day, and albino sableye ? where do u come up with this stuff ??

This here line is what i like to call (only in your case, cause i have never laughed this much), the peak of 'funny'...

Quote:
my first thought was that she must have been torturing someone.
Yep.... very sapphire like of her, this is awesome...

I mean seriously, the humor in this story can be used to kill someone, and the suspense can literally rip someones head off if not monitored carefully...
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  #77    
Old March 30th, 2011, 01:22 PM
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even more to my amusement:
Quote:
You have all the stamina of an anaemic earwig, he told me.

“What’s an earwig?

Oh, for the love of—!
hahaha...kester is so calm in his own way, even though puck is insulting him, all he's thinking about is what an earwig is, and that apperently enrages puck ... lol....
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  #78    
Old March 30th, 2011, 01:58 PM
Cutlerine
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Thanks for your feedback, PEDRO12. It's very much appreciated.

Chapter Thirty-Six: All Things Bright and Beautiful

Darren Goodwin lay awake in his bed, the cool of the pre-dawn air playing across his upturned face. It was Saturday, his favourite day of the week, and next to him, Melissa was asleep, her arm unconsciously looped over his chest. Moments like these were his favourite times in life, but this one was more bitter than sweet: the higher-ups had decided that he had had a long enough break, and now it was time for him to begin again his search for Kester Ruby and Sapphire Birch.

Outside, birdsong rose and fell in high trills; the leaves of the old oak tree brushed the side of the house with a sigh. Mild-eyed and melancholy as a Lotos-eater, Darren sat up and slid out of bed. He needed to get ready to leave.

---

Fabien blinked once, twice, and then a third time. His eyelids felt rather like someone had varnished them: stiff, uncomfortable and unaccountably shiny.

Shiny?

Fabien sat up and looked around. Shaken into full consciousness by the startling realisation that his eyelids were shiny – something he now realised wasn’t true, and had probably been a mistake born of the fact that he was staring at a lit lamp – he took in his surroundings at a glance. This was a hotel room. There was a bed in it, which contained Fabien; on the floor was Blake. This seemed about right; Fabien usually managed to talk his partner into leaving the comfortable places to sleep for him.

The second thing of note in the room was a table. There were an alarming number of bottles on it, which seemed to indicate that Fabien and Blake had got very drunk the night before. There was also a Crobat on it, which indicated—

“Hang on,” Fabien said aloud, “a Crobat?”

He got up, realised his head hurt and sat down again, holding it gingerly. Either he had a hangover (and this hypothesis was supported by the bottles on the table) or someone had offered him a choice of pills last night, and he had chosen to dream on and take the blue one.

Fabien blinked. No. It had to be a hangover. Didn’t it?

Thinking about it, it could well be that this reality was a mere illusion. After all, he had been starting to get concerns about whether or not he was a main character. That could mean he’d been starting to uncover a terrible secret: that they were perpetually living in a dream of the year 1999...

No. That couldn’t be right. After all, they had much better computers than they had in the nineties.

“Hey,” he said, “I forgot about the Crobat.”

And he got up again and went over to investigate, putting his existential worries out of his head for a while.

The Crobat was, as Crobat are, large, purple and rather unattractive to all those who don’t particularly enjoy the sight of oversized bottom incisors first thing in the morning. It also had a strange blue symbol spray-painted onto its back, which could only mean—

“Goishi?”

The Crobat blinked and hoisted itself onto all fours. In this position, it reminded Fabien quite a lot of the pterodactyls from Jurassic Park, only smaller, less beaky and more purple.

“E-eeeeek?” he asked blearily.

“Goishi... why are you a Crobat?”

EEEEK?!

It seemed to be as much a surprise to Goishi as it was to Fabien, and the ensuing screech of shock woke Blake, who jumped upright, thought he was being attacked and reflexively punched Fabien to the floor.

“What the hell are you doing?” cried Fabien, rubbing his jaw and scrambling up again.

“Wha’ – ’oo – oh, sorry,” said Blake contritely, overcoming his confusion. “I though’ – I though’ we was under attack.”

“From who? We’re lying low, remember?”

“Oh yeah.” Blake scratched his head. “Didn’ think of tha’.”

“Honestly.” Fabien massaged his jaw, then returned to his temples, which actually hurt considerably more. “Right. It seems that Goishi has evolved. Do you remember why?”

“No,” answered Blake. “Maybe ’e go’ really drunk and decided ’e liked you enough to evolve?”

Fabien considered this. It could well be true; Goishi was what is known as a happy drunk. If he had got even half as drunk as Fabien seemed to have done, then it was very likely that his friendliness could have increased to the point where he was ready to evolve.

“Ee-eee-ee-e-e-ee-ek,” Goishi said, which probably meant something like ‘will no one consider my feelings in this matter?’ He followed this up with ‘Eee-eeeeeeeee-eek’, which almost certainly meant ‘actually, forget it. You never care about what I think.’

“Well, leaving that mystery to one side,” said Fabien, completely oblivious to Goishi’s sentiments, “we need to decide what we’re going to do today. Something that’ll keep us off the radar.”

“Si’ in ’ere and take painkillers?” suggested Blake. “No one’ll find us, an’ we could use the res’.”

“Blake, Blake, Blake,” Fabien said, with a friendly shake of the head, “that’ll never do. Come on, man. Think about it. We need to keep moving; doubtless, there are Aquas working to track us down as we speak.”

“There are?”

“There are,” confirmed Fabien. “No doubt about that. When you’ve been in this business as long as I have, Blake, you get a sense for these things. A sixth sense.”

“Eee-eek?” Goishi asked snidely, meaning ‘Oh? You see dead people, do you?’

“A sort of criminal-vision,” Fabien said, and it was plain to see that he was warming to his theme. “Yes, that’s it. What do they call it in the business now, ah, it has a name—”

“Eek?” (‘A blatant lie?)

“Yes! That’s precisely it, Goishi!” Fabien cried, snapping his fingers and misreading the great bat completely. “They call it C-sense. For Crook, or criminal, or lots of other things. That’s the beauty of the abbreviation – it stands for all sorts of criminal things. Like... crime, and culpability, and – and cookery.”

“Cookery?” asked Blake, puzzled.

“Yes,” replied Fabien gravely. “Cookery is very important to criminals. Why, back when I first joined the Magmas, I, er, heard of a master thief who habitually robbed banks using nothing more than a good lasagne.”

Goishi slapped one wing across his face and let out an ultrasonic groan. He hated it when Fabien got carried away. Unfortunately, Fabien seemed to be permanently carried away, and so he was in a state of continual hate. Doubtless, this was bad for his soul, but he’d heard it said that Pokémon and animals didn’t have those, so that was one less worry.

“Righ’.” Blake seemed uncertain, but he trusted Fabien, and voiced no doubts. “So what do we do?”

“We find us some aspirin,” Fabien said, counting things off on his fingers. “That’s a prime consideration. Important stuff. Then we hit the brochures and see what the doubtless manifold attractions of Fallarbor are, and spend our day moving from location to location, always one step ahead of the blues, like ghosts in the night.”

He’d painted quite the image, and it was with deep satisfaction that Blake told him it was one of the best ideas he’d heard in a long time.

“You do ’ave these good ideas, Fabien,” he said, slapping the smaller man on the back and almost knocking him over again. “An’ this one’s a cracker, ain’ no doubt abou’ that.”

“I know, I know,” Fabien said, modestly waving his compliments aside. “It comes with practice. One day, Blake, you too will have these ideas. You too, Goishi.”
Goishi gave Fabien a look of great loathing and power, but his target wasn’t looking and so the effort was wasted.

“Now,” Fabien said, picking up the sheaf of complimentary brochures that stocked the bedside cabinet, “let’s see what they’ve got here. I’m sure we can find somewhere to hide out at...”

---


“Puck? Are you awake?”

I’m always awake. Mostly.

“Can we talk?”

It depends what you want to talk about. If you’re going to ask me about my past, or about what I might or might not be hiding from you, then no.

“I want to talk about Sapphire.”

Oh. Puck made a strangely indescribable noise, of which all that I could tell was that it was avuncular. The Jeanie to my Ferris. What do you want to know about Sapphire?

I stared at the ceiling for a while, collecting my thoughts. I wasn’t entirely sure why I’d gone to bed already; I didn’t feel tired at all.

“You know something about her that I don’t.”

We’ve been through this sort of thing before. I’m perceptive, you’re not. I’ve worked out we’re not real, you haven’t. So I know a lot of things about her that you don’t.

“What do you mean, we’re not real?”

It’s a philosophy thing, don’t worry about it. Or maybe it's a plot device. Puck paused. What specific thing that I know about Sapphire that you don’t did you want to talk about?

It took me a second to extract the meaning from his sentence.

“Earlier today, I asked if she would be waiting for me at the Centre, and you said—”

I bet she will, Puck finished for me. I remember.

“And then yesterday, she was—”

Surprisingly pleased to see you, Puck interrupted.

“Yeah.”

So what’s your point, Kester? I assume you’re not a broken pencil or an Uwe Boll film, and that you actually have one.

“Hilarious. I don’t know how you do it. My point is – is it me, or does she hate me less than she used to?”

Definitely, Puck replied immediately. It might help that you’re no longer a captive Pokémon. It’s so much easier to treat someone as an equal when they’re a free being.

“Mm.”

I mean, it’s like in that film... Puck trailed off. Damn it! I can’t remember it!

“You actually forgot a reference?” I asked incredulously. “You?”

I – hey, it’s not impossible! Puck cried defensively. I’m not perfect, however much you might like me to be.

“Than I might like you to be? You’re a narcissist!”

Narcissist? I’m no narcissist! I’m – I’m Echo, goddamn it – I love crazy people!

“Who’s Echo?”

Echo – Narcissus – don’t you get it? No? Gah, no classical education at all.

“I’m not Roman.”

Neither am I. Puck sighed. No, let’s not fight. I can’t be bothered. Go to sleep, Kester.

I looked at the clock on the bedside cabinet. The hands glowed in the gloom, and I thought they were pointing to the one and somewhen past the four.

“It’s gone one o’clock,” I murmured. “Weird.”

Go to sleep, Kester. Puck sounded tired, and I wondered how the mood had suddenly become so serious. We need to get up early tomorrow, to get to the peak of Mount Chimney.

I winced.

“Damn. I’d forgotten about that.”

We’ll take the Fiery Path. It’ll be OK, Sapphire’s Pokémon will take care of the wild ones – if they even dare attack us after today.

Using a clever yet nonsensical blend of amateur psychology and plain bribery, Sapphire and I had inveigled Stacey into giving the inhabitants of Mount Chimney’s interior a serious beating. She had KO’d every Pokémon in our path until one Slugma proved less lethargic than the rest, and had set her on fire with a belch of astonishing ignitive power. Stacey had flown around screaming, crashed into my head and collapsed unconscious on the floor. Before this disaster, though, she had managed to gain a level or two.

Is ‘ignitive’ a word? wondered Puck. If it isn’t, it should be... No! Go to sleep, Kester. Your body works better when rested, and it’s in both of our interests for it to be running well.

“Fine,” I murmured. “I’m sleeping now.”

Liar. Relax... Your eyes are feeling very heavy... limbs like lead... wait, that should have been eyelids, not eyes... your eyelids are very heavy... hey, this is actually working!

There might have been more, but I didn’t hear it: I was already asleep.

---

Felicity was very quiet during the train journey. She could sense people staring at her, but whenever she looked up they looked away; they didn’t want to seem insensitive.

Zero sat opposite her, reading a newspaper in Japanese. He was a widely-travelled man; Felicity doubted that anyone in the carriage other than he and herself could have read that paper – and she didn’t count, because she was actually from Japan.

The scene was not unusual. To the uninformed observer, they appeared to be father and daughter, or maybe uncle and niece; Zero’s silver-grey hair looked like it could have been related to Felicity’s white locks. As she thought of that, Felicity picked up a strand of her hair and stared at it. She wished it hadn’t changed colour, or grown so long; however, that was beyond her control. It was the thing within her that had altered it.

Felicity took in her reflection in the window, and was unable to suppress a shudder. Snow-white hair and skin, utterly bloodless; circles of purple flesh around blue-and-yellow eyes; arms and legs unnaturally thin. There was more, too, that couldn’t be seen: the patches of blotchy flesh that that had appeared around her waist, the twin aches that burned on either side of her head – and the way her hair would move when no one was looking, twisting itself into ropes and snatching at nearby objects.

“Oh, by the way,” Zero said, bringing her back from her trance, “I saved this for you.”

He lowered his paper and held out a single grey headphone. Felicity snatched it from him in her eagerness, and, clipping it back to her ear, pulled out the antenna once again.

“Say thank you.”

“Thank you,” Felicity replied. She didn’t need any prompting. She knew, and Zero knew that any rebellious spirit in her was broken. Maxie had seen to that.

She gave up on trying to tune in to the radio station she wanted – its signal didn’t seem to reach this far – and listened instead to the music that was already on there.

Zero watched her for a moment, an odd expression on his face, then he smiled to himself and went back to the paper. The train sped on into the night, and another piece of the plan fell into place.

---

“I don’t believe it!” Fabien exclaimed. “Boys, we are in luck today!”

He held up a glossy brochure and waved it to and fro; the front bore the words FALLARBOR ZOO.

“A zoo?” asked Blake.

“A zoo,” confirmed Fabien. “Not just any old zoo, either. This zoo has actual animals.”

“Animals?”

“Animals.”

“No, wha’ d’you mean, animals?”

“You know. Animals.” Fabien looked confused. “Like Pokémon, only... not.”

Blake looked blank.

“Blake,” began Fabien, in a patronising sort of voice, “have you ever left the country?”

“No,” was the reply.

“Have you ever seen any non-Hoennian films?”

“I’ve seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

There was a long pause.

“That was possibly the most unexpected thing you’ve ever said to me,” Fabien said, staring at Blake. “But... seen any other non-Hoenn films?”

“No. Bu’ Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was good.”

“Right.” Fabien glanced at Goishi, and the bat stared impassively back. He saw no reason why he should even try and aid his master. “Er... animals, animals...” Fabien stroked his chin and mused. “How do I explain what an animal is?”

“Maybe a dictionary migh’ ’elp,” suggested Blake. Fabien snapped his fingers.

“Right! Let’s find one. To the bookshops!”

Fabien bounded over to the door, forgetting his hangover, and collapsed in agony on the floor mid-step, clutching at his skull.

Akkkk, God, that hurts,” he said in a strangled whisper. “OK, first we go to the chemist’s, and buy some aspirin. Then we’ll hit the bookshops.”

Thirty minutes and one transaction later, Fabien and Blake were standing in a bookshop, leafing through the A section of a copy of the Epimetheus Hoennian Dictionary. It was not that Epimetheus had compiled it, but for reasons best known to himself, he had lent his name to the text. Goishi was outside, since he was too large to bring in, and his wings would have fanned up all the pages of the books.

“Animal,” Fabien said, pointing it out. “Any member of the kingdom Animalia, typically being complex eukaryotic multicellular organisms that differ from plants in lacking the capability to photosynthesise and requiring complex nutrients such as proteins. See also Pokémon.”

“Well, wha’ did all tha’ mean?” asked Blake. “I still don’ get it.”

“Hum. OK, this first bit, ‘complex eukaryotic multicellular organisms’ means they’re made up of more than one cell – that’s the ‘multicellular’ bit. The ‘eukaryotic’ means... it means they all have these things called eukas.”

“What the ’ell’s a yooka when it’s a’ ’ome?”

“A euka is... a special organ,” Fabien told him, “found in the brain of animals, and people too. It, er, contains their natural power.”

“Eh?”

“Well, people can’t use Pokémon powers, can they?”

“No...?”

“So there you go. The euka is what’s stopping you.”

“Can’t we ’ave it removed?”

“No. It also... controls your limbs. So if you take it out, you get paralysed.”

“Oh. I see.”

Fabien mentally patted himself on the back.

“Wha’s this ‘photosynthesis’ thing?”

“That’s what plants do. They can make light into energy.”

“Righ’.” Blake nodded warmly at Fabien. “You’re learned, you know tha’?”

“Oh, no,” Fabien said demurely. “Not me.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Oh, if you insist.” Fabien patted himself mentally on the back.

“Bu’ I still don’ understand,” Blake said, “wha’ animals acherly are.”

“You know what Pokémon are?”

“Yeah.”

“And you know what humans are?”

“Well, animals are a lot like Pokémon, only they’re like humans in that they don’t have any superpowers.”

There was a pause.

“Bu’... wha’ if they get attacked?” Blake asked. “Don’ they just die?”

“Oh, they’ve got ways of defending themselves,” Fabien said. “Some are very fast, some have thick shells and things. Some are very strong, some are very big, some are poisonous, some have sharp teeth and claws – they can take care of themselves.”

“Do they ’ave types?”

Fabien gave a short and very patronising laugh.

“No, Blake, they don’t. It gives them a massive advantage over Pokémon – they’re much more common in most parts of the world. It’s just that Hoenn is one of the few places where there aren’t very many of them.”

“We ’ave some?”

“Yes. Mostly insects and fish and things.”

“Oh,” said Blake, and the light visibly dawned on him. “I always wondered where fish came from.”

Fabien wondered if perhaps Blake had been replaced like a pod person since they had left the hotel room. Surely no one man could claim to have seen and enjoyed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and also to not know where fish came from?

“Hey! You two!”

A tall and irritable man in horn-rimmed spectacles came over to them; according to the badge on his shirt, his name was Mazuza. This struck Fabien as singularly unlikely, but he supposed it took it all sorts.

“What is it?” he asked.

“This isn’t a library,” he said. “Are you going to buy that or not?”

“We were just looking up the definition of ‘animal’,” Fabien explained. “My friend didn’t know what they are.”

“I’m still no’ a hundred per cen’ sure,” Blake added confidingly.

Mazuza stared at them.

“Don’t know what animals are?”

“I know, it’s surprising,” Fabien said. “It threw me at first, too.”

“Why, animals are like Pokémon, only they have different superpowers,” Mazuza said.

Fabien stared.

“No,” he replied, “that’s not true. They don’t have any superpowers.”

“I have a cousin who has a friend who has a sister who has a boyfriend who has a brother who has a pet dog,” Mazuza said haughtily, “and they got him in America.”

Fabien had to take a step back. This was getting serious. Bringing in America like that... Mazuza’s cousin’s friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother must be rich. Fabien knew all sorts of things about America (some of which were even true) and one of them was that everyone there was rich, and so it followed that the dogs must be very expensive.

Still, he couldn’t let a mere shop assistant bring him down like that. He would have to fight back, and establish his supremacy. It was his duty as a learned man.

“Well I,” he said, in a dignified voice, “I’ve actually stroked a rabbit.”

Mazuza’s eyes widened, Fabien noted with satisfaction. That ought to show him. It wasn’t even a lie – he actually had. He’d been on an English exchange trip, and the host family had had a rabbit. It was one of the most amazing things he’d ever seen. All the rumours and the legends had been true: the ears really were long and pointy, and it really did eat carrots and hop around. The only thing it didn't do was say 'What's up, doc?', but Fabien had never really thought that one was true anyway.

“You’ve been abroad?” Mazuza asked respectfully. “To... America?”

“To England,” answered Fabien proudly. It was the opinion of most people in Hoenn that America was the pinnacle of civilisation, but the English people he’d met had been so secure in their superiority over Americans that he’d worked out that their country must have been the real best in the world.

“Ah,” said Mazuza. “I’ve never been.”

It was true that it was difficult. The exchange trip had been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; Hoennian Airways planes tended to stop working after being in the air for more than an hour and a half, and so it wasn’t really practical to leave the country unless you could get a seat on another airline’s plane – and those were rare, and highly sought-after.

“Well, then,” Fabien said, “I say that animals have no superpowers at all. Now, Blake, let us leave. We have a zoo to get to.”

He held his head high and swept out past Mazuza, eyes half-closed in an imperial manner. This and the head-lifting meant that he didn’t see the small table in front of him, and consequently suffered some injury, but he left the shop with his dignity, unlike his legs, intact.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; May 13th, 2011 at 07:20 AM. Reason: Chapter revised as part of an ongoing project. Stay tuned.
  #79    
Old March 30th, 2011, 02:15 PM
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Echidna
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just one question, where did the name 'goishi' come from ?? and how is it pronounced exactly ?? ok maybe that's two questions... lolol
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  #80    
Old March 31st, 2011, 01:21 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PEDRO12 View Post
just one question, where did the name 'goishi' come from ?? and how is it pronounced exactly ?? ok maybe that's two questions... lolol
I made up the name 'Goishi' on the spot. And you can pronounce it 'Goy-shee' or 'Go-eeshee' or any other way you can think of. I'm really not bothered.

I usually end up pronouncing it 'Go-eeshee', though don't let that influence you. I may not be right, and indeed am often wrong.
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For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #81    
Old March 31st, 2011, 01:16 PM
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Echidna
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well i have gotten used to reading it 'Goy-shee' , so that'll do, lol
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  #82    
Old March 31st, 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 must be crazy to try and post this today, but it's a special chapter and can't wait.

Also, I'm going out of the country to the wilderness when there is no Internet for five days, so there'll be no more updates until next Thursday.

I hope this word-substitution thing doesn't cause any lasting damage to the syntactical integrity of this story...

EDIT: My hopes were unfounded. Now I have to go through all the posts I edited/made on April Fool's Day and fix them manually. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not laughing.


Chapter Thirty-Seven: Pulp Friction

“Two adults,” Fabien said to the man in the ticket office, “and one Crobat.”

“You have to put it in its ball,” the man replied. “Pokémon aren’t allowed in here.”

Since Fabien’s ego had been inflated quite considerably this morning, he did not take this well.

“Not allowed!” he cried incredulously. “Not allowed!” He turned to face the people in the queue behind them, and repeated it once more for their benefit: “He says that Pokémon aren’t allowed!”

His comment was met with well-feigned disinterest, and so he turned back to the ticket man in order to pursue justice.

“Er – you could jus’ recall Goishi, Fabien,” Blake pointed out. “We don’ wan’ ter attrac’ attention.”

“No,” said Fabien, raising one finger to eye level. “No, I’m defending my rights as a citizen of Hoenn! I have the right to carry a weapon and defend myself at all times—”

“You do spend qui’e a lot of time infringin’ other people’s righ’s as citizens of ’Oenn,” Blake pointed out.

“Whose side are you on?” asked Fabien furiously. “No, this is unaccept—”

“Sir, the animals don’t like it,” interrupted the man. “Now, there are other people waiting. Either you can put your Crobat away or leave.”

Glowering, Fabien obeyed, paid and the two Magmas moved on into the zoo itself.

There was a small square near the entrance, where one could purchase food, drink and souvenirs; at its centre was a rather nice fountain in the shape of a lion.

“Wha’s up with tha’ Luxray?” asked Blake, pointing at it. “’Is mane’s all weird.”

“It’s not a Luxray, Blake,” answered Fabien, his good humour returning in an instant now that an opportunity to prove himself knowledgeable had presented itself. “It’s a lion.”

“A lion?”

“A lion. They’re like Luxray, only – look, let’s go and see them. The map says this way...”

On the way to see the lions, they passed penguins, crocodiles and kangaroos, all of which Blake marvelled at. One thing he didn’t understand was why animals were often so similar to Pokémon – why, for those three species alone, he could think of Empoleon, Krookodile and Breloom as analogues.

Fabien wasn’t entirely certain of the facts, but he was damned if he was going to admit it, and answered Blake with as much certainty as he could muster.
“No one knows,” Fabien had answered, with a wise shrug of his shoulders. “It’s one of life’s great mysteries; the fossil record shows that Pokémon have always existed alongside animals, and they’ve always resembled a few of them – lots of ancient Pokémon looked like dinosaurs, for example.”

Blake had been very impressed at this, and had remained silent for quite some time afterwards, presumably turning the thought over in his head.

At last, they came to the lions, and they were indeed something like Luxray, but also completely different. Blake was especially impressed by this, and waxed eloquent – or as eloquent as he could – on their beauty and probable multiplicity of virtues.

“Heh,” said a passing zookeeper of tender years, hearing his little speech and deciding to stop and enlighten him, “that’s not so true. There’s nothing noble about a lion.”

“I beg your pardon?” replied Fabien, drunk on the success of his morning’s lies and forgetting who he was talking to. “I assure you, lions are very noble. Probably the most noble of all beasts. That’s why they’re called the Kings of Leon.”

The zookeeper gave him a long look, and tried hard not to laugh.

“You mean the Kings of the Beasts?”

“No,” said Fabien, doggedly sticking to his guns, “I meant the Kings of Leon.”

“’E’s a zookeeper, Fabien,” Blake said cautiously, “I think ’e knows wha’ ’e’s talkin’ abou’.”

“Blake, have I ever let you down before?”

“Yes.”

“All right, I have, but have I let you down today?”

“No.”

“Well then. Let me argue my corner.” Fabien cracked his knuckles, in the manner of one who is about to do mighty things, and turned his attention back to the zookeeper. “They are called the Kings of Leon because they come from Leon, and they’re the most noble things there.”

“It’s really funny,” the zookeeper said, deducing correctly that he was dealing with a moron of the first water, “how someone can confuse two completely unrelated concepts like that. You must be the kind of person who knows a little bit about the West and pretends to know a lot.”

“I didn’t come here to be insulted!” cried Fabien. “We’re the customers here. That means we’re always right!”

“It would if I were being paid,” agreed the zookeeper, “but I’m on work experience and I’ve decided I’m never, ever going to become a zookeeper, so I don’t care if they kick me out.”

Fabien’s face fell.

“This is an outrage!” he proclaimed.

“I’m more used to hearing those words from the mouth of a weird pink octopus-head thing,” the zookeeper said, “but you’re still wrong. About the lions, I mean. They’re not noble at all. If a new male joins the pride and gets rid of the old one, he kills all the cubs so they don’t compete with his own cubs.”

“Tha’s nasty,” Blake commented.

“Don’t agree with him!” Fabien said. “Oh yes, I’ve got your game, sir,” he told the zookeeper, narrowing his eyes at him. “You think you can get us with your mind games? Turn my friend against me? Well, it isn’t happening. Lions are very noble beasts, that’s the truth of it. They fight against the evil hyenas who steal other animal’s kills, or they did until the hyenas got marshalled into an army by a lion who turned to the dark side.”

The zookeeper let out a loud guffaw.

“You do realise that’s a Disney film, right?” he gasped through his laughter. “It’s not real!”

“Oh, it’s not real, is it?”

“No, it isn’t,” the zookeeper said, wiping a tear from his eye. “It’s true, hyenas are scavengers – but they also hunt for themselves, and often lions steal their kills because they’re too lazy to hunt.”

“Well that’s clearly just not true,” Fabien said. “I should know. I’ve been to England, you know!”

“I was born there,” the zookeeper said, “and I lived there up until last year.”

Too late, Fabien recognised the accent; too late, he realised that here was someone he couldn’t bluff his way past. For one moment, he was frozen, a like a rabbit caught in headlights; then his mind flickered over possibilities and he took the only course of action he perceived as available to him: he turned on his heel, vaulted the fence and dropped into the enclosed pit that contained the lions.

---

As they so famously did on the towering heights of the Hills of the Chankly Bore, storm-clouds were brooding above the Madeira Mountains; the sky was black and bruised as if the Altaria flocks had turned their bloodthirsty tendencies heavenwards, and it felt overall like the perfect day for an evil plot to go ahead.

We had once again ascended to the peak of Mount Chimney, this time by the more sensible route of the Fiery Path, and had concealed ourselves, as I had done yesterday, behind a large boulder. The Magmas had been coming up the Jagged Pass from their lair since long before we had arrived, and were busy doing something with the octopus-y machine that Puck and I had discovered on Friday.

“Do you have a plan?” I asked Sapphire in a low voice.

“I thought we’d try and work out what the machine will do,” she whispered back, “and then, once they’ve powered it up, have Puck destroy it.”

Now, I find it morally repugnant to destroy any piece of machinery, began Puck, but I interrupted:

“That’s a good idea. We’ll do that.”

“Ssh!” hissed Sapphire. “Listen!”

I listened, and heard two Magmas talking.

“... so important about this rock anyway?”

“Not sure. Only Maxie knows.” The second one stopped and sniffed; it sounded like he had a cold. “Apparently, he’s going to tell us all when he gets here. A big speech or something.”

“So that’s why we had to get our uniforms cleaned yesterday.” This issue seemed to have been preying on the guy’s mind for a while.

“Yeah.” He coughed. “Damn. Can you believe it? The height of summer, and I’ve got a damn cold.”

“Maybe it’s hay fever.”

“Maybe you should shut up.”

“How old are these guys?” Sapphire asked incredulously. “Twelve?”

I suppressed a chuckle, and marvelled. Whether consciously or not, Sapphire had made a joke.

Big surprise
, Puck said sarcastically. She is human, you know.

I keep forgetting.


Time wore on; the machine was successfully set up, and the Magmas – what must have numbered around fifty or so by now – were wandering around, looking bored. If I hadn’t been so afraid that one of them might find us, I would have been complaining about how long it was taking Maxie to get here. As it was, I sat rigidly in a state somewhere between abject terror and extreme boredom – certainly one of the stranger feelings I’ve had.

These things happen, Puck said. I mean, I was buried in lard once. Never been the same since. About anything.

I was at a complete loss as to how this remark ought to be answered, and so I made no reply. I wasn’t even sure if it counted as a legitimate piece of conversation. Thankfully, I was saved from too deep a contemplation of the comment by the arrival of Maxie.

He rose up over the lip of the mountaintop like a sun-god, the arched wings of a Golbat spreading out behind him and his feet a full yard from the ground; no cut legs and bruised limbs for him, then. Behind him limped the tall, hooded man from Meteor Falls, and a very pretty young woman with coal-black hair and dead-fish eyes.

The woman’s Courtney, one of the Magma Administrators
, Puck informed me. We saw her outside Spectroscopic Fancy. Briefly, I admit – we went through some unpleasantness with a Mightyena – but we did see her. I presume the man’s the other Admin.

“Friends, Magmas, countrymen,” Maxie cried out theatrically, descending to earth and letting his Golbat fall from his back with a thin, exhausted cry, “lend me your ears!”

The Magmas hurriedly arranged themselves in rows, lining up to hear whatever speech their leader had ready for them.

“Listen carefully,” whispered Sapphire. “This is when he tells us what’s going on!”

“I know,” I replied. “I was listening earlier.”

“Many of you will know why we are here today,” Maxie said loudly, “but those of you what do not...” He paused, grinning broadly. “We are here today to bring our Team into a new era.”

A murmur ran through the assembled grunts.

“I’m sure you’ve all heard the rumours,” Maxie went on. “The ones about the blues and their attempt to take control of a superweapon that could annihilate us once and for all. This is our pre-emptive strike. Mount Chimney is close to eruption, and the machine we have set up here will utilise and redirect the power of the magma flow – to awaken the beast in the belly of the mountain itself!”

A cry went up from the Magmas: I had no idea what Maxie was talking about, but it was obviously something very surprising, and very welcome.

“We shall then bind it to our will, using advice given to us by our kind Benefactor,” Maxie continued. “After that... well, Archie had better find his superweapon quick, because ours will be marching on Lilycove within the week.”

The Magmas were cheering now, and my head had started to spin. Superweapons, beasts in the mountain – what was going on here? And what was all this about finally managing to destroy Team Aqua? A glance at Sapphire told me she was as confused as I was.

The beast in the belly of the mountain... Puck sounded pensive. Maxie’s an idiot. That thing moved on ages ago; what’s left now is just a shell. It’s gone when all good souls come to rest – the mountain called Monkey.

“What? Puck, do you know what he’s talking about?” I asked. Sapphire looked at me inquiringly.

Something old went to sleep in this mountain, long before you humans ever came to Hoenn, he said. But it died in its sleep, and all that’s left is the husk of its body. I suppose that could be quite dangerous, if Maxie gains control of it.

I relayed his words to Sapphire, but they confused her just as much as they had me. There was no time to consider them, though, because the action was beginning again.

“Now, let me pass!” Maxie cried, holding up a large, pitted chunk of rock. The Magmas parted before him, and he strode down the aisle thus formed to get to his machine.

Beside me, Sapphire gasped.

“That’s the Meteorite,” she said. “The one they forced Professor Cozmo to find for them!”

“By the power contained in this Meteorite,” Maxie went on, pressing a button and causing the dome atop the machine to slide open, “let our plan begin!”

He placed the Meteorite in the clamps, and the dome slid shut again; he pressed a button, and something deep within the mountain began to shake. With my hand against the rock, I could feel it quivering ever so slightly, and I caught Sapphire’s eye.

Something was happening, and I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good.

---

In the heart of Mount Chimney, in the chamber when the stony shell of a once-great being reposed, the magma was flowing. It powered up towards the surface, drawn by the inexorable pull of the eruption; it forced its way through narrow cracks, up vents and shafts and mines, sweeping confused Slugma along in its wake.

It was headed for the crater.

The plug of petrified lava that held the volcano shut quivered under the onslaught, the pressure beneath it rising to levels more commonly found at the bottom of the ocean. The caged fire raged and lashed tentacles of heat against its prison, and it seemed as if the plug must surely give way – and then the pipes opened.

Now a strange celestial force, conveniently inexplicable, coursed downwards through the snaking tendrils of the Magmas’ machine; the magma hissed at its touch, curled in on itself, rolled and swayed in an attempt to get away – and started to flow downwards.

Down it went, down and down and down some more, back down the vents, down the shafts, down the mines; it flowed and rippled and bounded like a great fiery tiger, until it poured in through the roof of the central chamber again—

---

There was a distant boom, and the Magmas started to cheer again, even as the ground gave a violent lurch; Sapphire and Kester were tipped over by the quake, and came to a rest sprawled out in the open on the peak.

Immediately, they were on their feet, but no one seemed to have noticed in the revels; Sapphire grabbed Kester’s hand and dragged him back behind the boulder, then on past it towards the quivering machine.

“You’ve got to stop it!” she cried. “Puck, stop the machine!”

Kester nodded, took a deep breath and grabbed hold of the machine with one hand; it was then that Maxie noticed him.

“Who the devil are you?” he roared. “Get out of here!”

This had the unfortunate effect of drawing the attention of all the Magmas, and suddenly Sapphire and Kester found themselves surrounded on all sides. Poké Balls and guns appeared with frightening speed, and Sapphire uttered a brief prayer to whatever higher power might conceivably come to the aid of a committed young atheist such as herself—

BOOM!

Everyone looked up, and Sapphire with them. The sound had shattered the air, blown away the smoke from the crater; it was the noise of the earth moving, of a mountain dragging itself out of its own long slumber – the sound of the plug that held in the lava giving way.

Only what was rising out of the mountaintop wasn’t lava.

It was a colossal hand.

Unimaginably vast, it blotted out the sun with its ponderous wavings; it was the shape of a massive shovel, a series of sequoia-sized claws forming a great spade on the end of an expanse of rocky red skin.

Sapphire stared. Kester stared. The Magmas stared. Maxie stared.

The pilot of the helicopter did not.

Twin missiles shot from beneath its blue-painted belly and struck the hand amidships; it shattered like a dropped pot, bursting into a thousand house-sized chunks of rock and revealing itself to have been hollow. As the deadly boulders rained down, everyone dived for cover; Sapphire wrenched Kester away from the machine just as one car-sized piece of reddish skin landed on it, reducing it to a heap of twisted metal.

They flung themselves to the floor and slid painfully across the stones, ending up in a hollow between two wedged rocks; all around them were the sounds of destruction. Screams, crashes, explosions; with the giant monster and the rain of death, it was like a horrible, nightmarish mixture of Cloverfield and Reign of Fire – neither of which, Sapphire thought detachedly, she had particularly enjoyed.

In the tiny hole, in the midst of the apocalypse, Sapphire shut her eyes, and waited for death, or for the noise to stop. She no longer particularly cared which came first.

It felt like she’d waited forever, but in actual fact it was only fifteen minutes. The noise ceased abruptly, and slowly, cautiously, she crawled out of the hollow. Kester followed in silence.

The scene was one of utter devastation: the crater had doubled in size, and the peak was covered in chunks of the red rock that had once been the giant hand. The Magmas were scattered over the area, but were regrouping, weapons in hands, in order to combat the Aquas what were getting out of their helicopter. In the centre of it all, Maxie and Archie were standing barely a foot apart, foreheads inches from each crazy and roaring so loudly that their words were lost in the general noise.

A cacophony of animal cries rang out through the air as Numel, Carvanha and Golbat were summoned; the Teams looked like they were about to have a full-scale battle amidst the ruins of the Magmas’ great plan.

But at the last moment, Archie backed down. He let out a long, loud laugh, which surprised Maxie and his Magmas so much that they forgot to kill his crew, and walked off back to the helicopter. In a moment, they were no more than a buzzing dot on the horizon.

“What the hell is going on here?” Maxie demanded to know of someone. He grabbed Tabitha by the front of his jacket and hauled him off the floor. “Tabitha! Answer me!”

“I – um – we should contact the Benefactor...”

Maxie dropped him abruptly.

“That’s right,” he growled. “The Benefactor. The old bratchny’s double-crossed us!”

A roar of rage went up from the assembled Magmas, and they began to storm down the Jagged Pass, presumably heading back to their lair. Sapphire wondered if it had been flooded with lava or not, but it seemed a moot point: they were leaving, and that was that.

“Wait.”

At the sound of Maxie’s voice, they stopped and turned to follow Maxie’s eyes. They were locked on Sapphire and Kester, and both were full of fire.

“You two,” he said, raising a quivering finger. “You interfered with my machine!” His hair seemed possessed of its own motive tendencies; it waved in the air like the arms of an octopus. “Kill them!”

That was a cliché in the movies. In real life it was terrifying. A shot was loosed, and just as Sapphire started to run, Kester tumbled over backwards beside her.

---

It took just four minutes for the lions to realise that an unexpected toy had been dropped into their enclosure; unfortunately for them, it didn’t last long before it fell apart, and they left it alone, bored.

Somewhere, a long, long way away, the old man was still dreaming about the lions.


---

Sapphire froze, and time stopped. It didn’t even slow, it just stopped.

Kester was lying behind her, a neat round hole in his chest, above the heart.

If this had been a movie, he would still be alive; he would pull through despite overwhelming odds, or live long enough to say a pithy goodbye—

This was real life, and he was dead.

The next bullet was headed straight for her head, but it bounced away at the last moment: a blue sphere of energy had formed around her. Sapphire turned listlessly to see when it had come from, and saw a small orange light floating over Kester’s body, blue lines of lightning connecting it to the sphere. It had large blue eyes, and the look in them pleaded with her to run before the Protect failed.

Sapphire couldn’t run. Kester was dead.

Another bullet ricocheted off the Protect, and it flickered a little before regaining full solidity. The Magmas were running towards her, very slowly and very distantly, as if at the end of a long, long tunnel. Knives were out; a Carvanha bounced off the Protect and brained itself on a rock.

The Rotom’s eyes told her to run, but Sapphire couldn’t run. Kester was dead.

The world was soundless right now, but Sapphire saw the next shot coming. The Protect dissolved as it hit it, and it blurred towards her face—

—only to be destroyed in midair with a flickering line of energy.

“Shock Wave,” murmured Sapphire mechanically. “It never misses.”

Perhaps it was the sound of her voice. Perhaps it was the way sound came back to the world, and she could suddenly hear curses and gunshots directed at her. Perhaps it was just the selfish desire to keep living kicking in at last.

Whatever it was, she ran.

She ran faster than she knew was possible, Puck following close behind; every few steps, he’d pause to fry another couple of bullets, or kill a Golbat that flew too close; when it seemed sure to work, he started setting up Protects behind them at regular intervals.

Sapphire stumbled onto Jagged Pass, and she ran, and she fell, and she rolled and got back up, ignoring her cuts and bruises and the swelling pain in her arm; she lost her hat and one of her trainers, but she ran on and fell again, and got up and ran some more...

When did she stop? When did she get away? She could never afterwards point the moment out. Things had gone horribly, horribly wrong, that was all she could tell, and Kester was dead.

Sapphire came back to herself in the pine forest north of Lavaridge. She was lying on the ground, and her mobile phone was ringing.

Habit forced her to answer it, and when she did she heard an unfamiliar voice – but it was one she recognised at once.

“Yo, Sapphire,” said Puck. “You’ve broken your arm.”

Sapphire lifted up her left arm. He was right.

“He’s dead,” she said.

“I know.” The Rotom was nowhere to be seen; Sapphire guessed he was in the phone. “Kester’s dead, baby. Like Zed.”

Sapphire made no reply.

“Sorry,” he said. “I don’t mind, but that was too soon for a human, wasn’t it?” He sighed. “Get up, Sapphire. You need medical attention.”

“He’s dead, Puck.”

“That doesn’t mean you give up. when’s your willpower, girl? You’re the strongest-willed human I’ve ever come across.”

“Puck, he’s dead.”

“I know! So’s my father, and one day I will be too, and you and Maxie and Archie and all the rest of them! It doesn’t matter, Sapphire – just get up and go!”

Sapphire climbed slowly to her feet, but made no attempt to move.

“Move it,” Puck ordered. “Because we like to move it move it. I mean, because you need to go. Get to Lavaridge.”

“He’s dead.”

Her mind was magnetised by the concept; it orbited it in slow, lazy rings, looping around the image of Kester on his back with a hole in his chest.

“I’m going to live in your phone,” Puck said. “I need to hide out for a while, and your quest seems pretty cool. Definitely exciting – did you see what went down up there?”

Sapphire took the phone away from her ear and threw it into a pond, then she walked away. Whatever was going to happen, it wasn’t going to involve Puck; whatever she did now, it wasn’t going to involve either of the Teams.

She walked away, and left her heart behind.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; May 13th, 2011 at 08:16 AM.
  #83    
Old April 2nd, 2011, 12:29 AM
callumjames3
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Gender: Male
Killing off the main character, huh?
Either a very brave move or an April fools joke.
  #84    
Old April 2nd, 2011, 01:24 PM
Echidna's Avatar
Echidna
Community Supporter
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Vaniville Town
Age: 20
Gender: Male
Nature: Brave
ok, my fault i read the last post here, KESTER DIES ????? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

hmmm i think collumjames3 is right, either this is an april fools joke, or he is going to come back in some manner.... cause if he's gone, i will jump off the roof of my house, which won't really kill me but will hurt a lot !!
__________________






  #85    
Old April 3rd, 2011, 01:23 AM
callumjames3
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Gender: Male
Sorry if I spoiled anything for you. 'spose I should have put it into spoiler tags. It would be quite long winded to do a whole April fools chapter. Maybe Kester really is dead. Ah well, I'm sure he knows what he's doing with it. Brilliant story btw Cutlerine, I've enjoyed it loads so far. The whole realistic twist on the Pokemon world is very welcome, and it's almost professionally well written.
  #86    
Old April 3rd, 2011, 02:41 AM
Echidna's Avatar
Echidna
Community Supporter
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Vaniville Town
Age: 20
Gender: Male
Nature: Brave
no worries man, its my fault i read it !!! lol
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  #87    
Old April 6th, 2011, 02:11 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
¡Hola, chicos y chicas!

I have just returned from an art trip to sunny Córdoba, and am royally displeased with the Pokécommunity's April Fool's joke. It's ruined two of my chapters, and I'm going to fix them up tomorrow.

Spooky, eh? Kester dead and all that. Took a right turn for the serious there.

Well, see y'all later. I've got some cracking dialogue lined up for use at some point in the next couple of chapters.

Cutlerine out, F.A.B.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #88    
Old April 7th, 2011, 02:35 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Fixed all those word substitutions, I think. It's not done much to improve my mood, I can tell you.

Chapter Thirty-Seven: In the Car, the Mighty Car, the Lion Sleeps Tonight

“Two adults,” Fabien said to the man in the ticket office, “and one Crobat.”

“You have to put it in its ball,” the man replied. “Pokémon aren’t allowed in here.”

Since Fabien’s ego had been inflated quite considerably this morning, he did not take this well.

“Not allowed!” he cried incredulously. “Not allowed!” He turned to face the people in the queue behind them, and repeated it once more for their benefit: “He says that Pokémon aren’t allowed!”

His comment was met with well-feigned disinterest, and so he turned back to the ticket man in order to pursue justice.

“Er – you could jus’ recall Goishi, Fabien,” Blake pointed out. “We don’ wan’ ter attrac’ attention.”

“No,” said Fabien, raising one finger to eye level. “No, I’m defending my rights as a citizen of Hoenn! I have the right to carry a weapon and defend myself at all times—”

“You do spend qui’e a lot of time infringin’ other people’s righ’s as citizens of ’Oenn,” Blake pointed out.

“Whose side are you on?” asked Fabien furiously. “No, this is unaccept—”

“Sir, the animals don’t like it,” interrupted the man. “Now, there are other people waiting. Either you can put your Crobat away or leave.”

Glowering, Fabien obeyed, paid and the two Magmas moved on into the zoo itself.

There was a small square near the entrance, where one could purchase food, drink and souvenirs; at its centre was a rather nice fountain in the shape of a lion.

“Wha’s up with tha’ Luxray?” asked Blake, pointing at it. “’Is mane’s all weird.”

“It’s not a Luxray, Blake,” answered Fabien, his good humour returning in an instant now that an opportunity to prove himself knowledgeable had presented itself. “It’s a lion.”

“A lion?”

“A lion. They’re like Luxray, only – look, let’s go and see them. The map says this way...”

On the way to see the lions, they passed penguins, crocodiles and kangaroos, all of which Blake marvelled at. One thing he didn’t understand was why animals were often so similar to Pokémon – why, for those three species alone, he could think of Empoleon, Krookodile and Breloom as analogues.

Fabien wasn’t entirely certain of the facts, but he was damned if he was going to admit it, and answered Blake with as much certainty as he could muster.
“No one knows,” Fabien had answered, with a wise shrug of his shoulders. “It’s one of life’s great mysteries; the fossil record shows that Pokémon have always existed alongside animals, and they’ve always resembled a few of them – lots of ancient Pokémon looked like dinosaurs, for example.”

Blake had been very impressed at this, and had remained silent for quite some time afterwards, presumably turning the thought over in his head.

At last, they came to the lions, and they were indeed something like Luxray, but also completely different. Blake was especially impressed by this, and waxed eloquent – or as eloquent as he could – on their beauty and probable multiplicity of virtues.

“Heh,” said a passing zookeeper of tender years, hearing his little speech and deciding to stop and enlighten him, “that’s not so true. There’s nothing noble about a lion.”

“I beg your pardon?” replied Fabien, drunk on the success of his morning’s lies and forgetting who he was talking to. “I assure you, lions are very noble. Probably the most noble of all beasts. That’s why they’re called the Kings of Leon.”

The zookeeper gave him a long look, and tried hard not to laugh.

“You mean the Kings of the Beasts?”

“No,” said Fabien, doggedly sticking to his guns, “I meant the Kings of Leon.”

“’E’s a zookeeper, Fabien,” Blake said cautiously, “I think ’e knows wha’ ’e’s talkin’ abou’.”

“Blake, have I ever let you down before?”

“Yes.”

“All right, I have, but have I let you down today?”

“No.”

“Well then. Let me argue my corner.” Fabien cracked his knuckles, in the manner of one who is about to do mighty things, and turned his attention back to the zookeeper. “They are called the Kings of Leon because they come from Leon, and they’re the most noble things there.”

“It’s really funny,” the zookeeper said, deducing correctly that he was dealing with a moron of the first water, “how someone can confuse two completely unrelated concepts like that. You must be the kind of person who knows a little bit about the West and pretends to know a lot.”

“I didn’t come here to be insulted!” cried Fabien. “We’re the customers here. That means we’re always right!”

“It would if I were being paid,” agreed the zookeeper, “but I’m on work experience and I’ve decided I’m never, ever going to become a zookeeper, so I don’t care if they kick me out.”

Fabien’s face fell.

“This is an outrage!” he proclaimed.

“I’m more used to hearing those words from the mouth of a weird pink octopus-head thing,” the zookeeper said, “but you’re still wrong. About the lions, I mean. They’re not noble at all. If a new male joins the pride and gets rid of the old one, he kills all the cubs so they don’t compete with his own cubs.”

“Tha’s nasty,” Blake commented.

“Don’t agree with him!” Fabien said. “Oh yes, I’ve got your game, sir,” he told the zookeeper, narrowing his eyes at him. “You think you can get us with your mind games? Turn my friend against me? Well, it isn’t happening. Lions are very noble beasts, that’s the truth of it. They fight against the evil hyenas who steal other animal’s kills, or they did until the hyenas got marshalled into an army by a lion who turned to the dark side.”

The zookeeper let out a loud guffaw.

“You do realise that’s a Disney film, right?” he gasped through his laughter. “It’s not real!”

“Oh, it’s not real, is it?”

“No, it isn’t,” the zookeeper said, wiping a tear from his eye. “It’s true, hyenas are scavengers – but they also hunt for themselves, and often lions steal their kills because they’re too lazy to hunt.”

“Well that’s clearly just not true,” Fabien said. “I should know. I’ve been to England, you know!”

“I was born there,” the zookeeper said, “and I lived there up until last year.”

Too late, Fabien recognised the accent; too late, he realised that here was someone he couldn’t bluff his way past. For one moment, he was frozen, a like a rabbit caught in headlights; then his mind flickered over possibilities and he took the only course of action he perceived as available to him: he turned on his heel and fled into the crowd, an idiot beset on all sides by iniquity and the tyranny of evil men.

Blake turned to the zookeeper, and saw his own confusion mirrored in the young man’s eyes.

“Sorry,” he said. “Don’ know wha’ came over ’im.”

“That’s all right,” the zookeeper said, smiling brightly. “It was definitely an interesting way to pass the time.”

---

As they so famously did on the towering heights of the Hills of the Chankly Bore, storm-clouds were brooding above the Madeira Mountains; the sky was black and bruised as if the Altaria flocks had turned their bloodthirsty tendencies heavenwards, and it felt overall like the perfect day for an evil plot to go ahead.

We had once again ascended to the peak of Mount Chimney, this time by the more sensible route of the Fiery Path, and had concealed ourselves, as I had done yesterday, behind a large boulder. The Magmas had been coming up the Jagged Pass from their lair since long before we had arrived, and were busy doing something with the octopus-y machine that Puck and I had discovered on Friday.

“Do you have a plan?” I asked Sapphire in a low voice.

“I thought we’d try and work out what the machine will do,” she whispered back, “and then, once they’ve powered it up, have Puck destroy it.”

Now, I find it morally repugnant to destroy any piece of machinery, began Puck, but I interrupted:

“That’s a good idea. We’ll do that.”

“Ssh!” hissed Sapphire. “Listen!”

I listened, and heard two Magmas talking.

“... so important about this rock anyway?”

“Not sure. Only Maxie knows.” The second one stopped and sniffed; it sounded like he had a cold. “Apparently, he’s going to tell us all when he gets here. A big speech or something.”

“So that’s why we had to get our uniforms cleaned yesterday.” This issue seemed to have been preying on the guy’s mind for a while.

“Yeah.” He coughed. “Damn. Can you believe it? The height of summer, and I’ve got a damn cold.”

“Maybe it’s hay fever.”

“Maybe you should shut up.”

“How old are these guys?” Sapphire asked incredulously. “Twelve?”

I suppressed a chuckle, and marvelled. Whether consciously or not, Sapphire had made a joke.

Big surprise
, Puck said sarcastically. She is human, you know.

I keep forgetting.


Time wore on; the machine was successfully set up, and the Magmas – what must have numbered around fifty or so by now – were wandering around, looking bored. If I hadn’t been so afraid that one of them might find us, I would have been complaining about how long it was taking Maxie to get here. As it was, I sat rigidly in a state somewhere between abject terror and extreme boredom – certainly one of the stranger feelings I’ve had.

These things happen, Puck said. I mean, I was buried in lard once. Never been the same since. About anything.

I was at a complete loss as to how this remark ought to be answered, and so I made no reply. I wasn’t even sure if it counted as a legitimate piece of conversation. Thankfully, I was saved from too deep a contemplation of the comment by the arrival of Maxie.

He rose up over the lip of the mountaintop like a sun-god, the arched wings of a Golbat spreading out behind him and his feet a full yard from the ground; no cut legs and bruised limbs for him, then. Behind him limped the tall, hooded man from Meteor Falls, and a very pretty young woman with coal-black hair and dead-fish eyes.

The woman’s Courtney, one of the Magma Administrators
, Puck informed me. We saw her outside Spectroscopic Fancy. Briefly, I admit – we went through some unpleasantness with a Mightyena – but we did see her. I presume the man’s the other Admin.

“Friends, Magmas, countrymen,” Maxie cried out theatrically, descending to earth and letting his Golbat fall from his back with a thin, exhausted cry, “lend me your ears!”

The Magmas hurriedly arranged themselves in rows, lining up to hear whatever speech their leader had ready for them.

“Listen carefully,” whispered Sapphire. “This is when he tells us what’s going on!”

“I know,” I replied. “I was listening earlier.”

“Many of you will know why we are here today,” Maxie said loudly, “but those of you what do not...” He paused, grinning broadly. “We are here today to bring our Team into a new era.”

A murmur ran through the assembled grunts.

“I’m sure you’ve all heard the rumours,” Maxie went on. “The ones about the blues and their attempt to take control of a superweapon that could annihilate us once and for all. This is our pre-emptive strike. Mount Chimney is close to eruption, and the machine we have set up here will utilise and redirect the power of the magma flow – to awaken the beast in the belly of the mountain itself!”

A cry went up from the Magmas: I had no idea what Maxie was talking about, but it was obviously something very surprising, and very welcome.

“We shall then bind it to our will, using advice given to us by our kind Benefactor,” Maxie continued. “After that... well, Archie had better find his superweapon quick, because ours will be marching on Lilycove within the week.”

The Magmas were cheering now, and my head had started to spin. Superweapons, beasts in the mountain – what was going on here? And what was all this about finally managing to destroy Team Aqua? A glance at Sapphire told me she was as confused as I was.

The beast in the belly of the mountain... Puck sounded pensive. Maxie’s an idiot. That thing moved on ages ago; what’s left now is just a shell. It’s gone when all good souls come to rest – the mountain called Monkey.

“What? Puck, do you know what he’s talking about?” I asked. Sapphire looked at me inquiringly.

Something old went to sleep in this mountain, long before you humans ever came to Hoenn, he said. But it died in its sleep, and all that’s left is the husk of its body. I suppose that could be quite dangerous, if Maxie gains control of it.

I relayed his words to Sapphire, but they confused her just as much as they had me. There was no time to consider them, though, because the action was beginning again.

“Now, let me pass!” Maxie cried, holding up a large, pitted chunk of rock. The Magmas parted before him, and he strode down the aisle thus formed to get to his machine.

Beside me, Sapphire gasped.

“That’s the Meteorite,” she said. “The one they forced Professor Cozmo to find for them!”

“By the power contained in this Meteorite,” Maxie went on, pressing a button and causing the dome atop the machine to slide open, “let our plan begin!”

He placed the Meteorite in the clamps, and the dome slid shut again; he pressed a button, and something deep within the mountain began to shake. With my hand against the rock, I could feel it quivering ever so slightly, and I caught Sapphire’s eye.

Something was happening, and I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good.

---

In the heart of Mount Chimney, in the chamber when the stony shell of a once-great being reposed, the magma was flowing. It powered up towards the surface, drawn by the inexorable pull of the eruption; it forced its way through narrow cracks, up vents and shafts and mines, sweeping confused Slugma along in its wake.

It was headed for the crater.

The plug of petrified lava that held the volcano shut quivered under the onslaught, the pressure beneath it rising to levels more commonly found at the bottom of the ocean. The caged fire raged and lashed tentacles of heat against its prison, and it seemed as if the plug must surely give way – and then the pipes opened.

Now a strange celestial force, conveniently inexplicable, coursed downwards through the snaking tendrils of the Magmas’ machine; the magma hissed at its touch, curled in on itself, rolled and swayed in an attempt to get away – and started to flow downwards.

Down it went, down and down and down some more, back down the vents, down the shafts, down the mines; it flowed and rippled and bounded like a great fiery tiger, until it poured in through the roof of the central chamber again—

---

There was a distant boom, and the Magmas started to cheer again, even as the ground gave a violent lurch; Sapphire and Kester were tipped over by the quake, and came to a rest sprawled out in the open on the peak.

Immediately, they were on their feet, but no one seemed to have noticed in the revels; Sapphire grabbed Kester’s hand and dragged him back behind the boulder, then on past it towards the quivering machine.

“You’ve got to stop it!” she cried. “Puck, stop the machine!”

Kester nodded, took a deep breath and grabbed hold of the machine with one hand; it was then that Maxie noticed him.

“Who the devil are you?” he roared. “Get out of here!”

This had the unfortunate effect of drawing the attention of all the Magmas, and suddenly Sapphire and Kester found themselves surrounded on all sides. Poké Balls and guns appeared with frightening speed, and Sapphire uttered a brief prayer to whatever higher power might conceivably come to the aid of a committed young atheist such as herself—

BOOM!

Everyone looked up, and Sapphire with them. The sound had shattered the air, blown away the smoke from the crater; it was the noise of the earth moving, of a mountain dragging itself out of its own long slumber – the sound of the plug that held in the lava giving way.

Only what was rising out of the mountaintop wasn’t lava.

It was a colossal hand.

Unimaginably vast, it blotted out the sun with its ponderous wavings; it was the shape of a massive shovel, a series of sequoia-sized claws forming a great spade on the end of an expanse of rocky red skin.

Sapphire stared. Kester stared. The Magmas stared. Maxie stared.

The pilot of the helicopter did not.

Twin missiles shot from beneath its blue-painted belly and struck the hand amidships; it shattered like a dropped pot, bursting into a thousand house-sized chunks of rock and revealing itself to have been hollow. As the deadly boulders rained down, everyone dived for cover; Sapphire wrenched Kester away from the machine just as one car-sized piece of reddish skin landed on it, reducing it to a heap of twisted metal.

They flung themselves to the floor and slid painfully across the stones, ending up in a hollow between two wedged rocks; all around them were the sounds of destruction. Screams, crashes, explosions; with the giant monster and the rain of death, it was like a horrible, nightmarish mixture of Cloverfield and Reign of Fire – neither of which, Sapphire thought detachedly, she had particularly enjoyed.

In the tiny hole, in the midst of the apocalypse, Sapphire shut her eyes, and waited for death, or for the noise to stop. She no longer particularly cared which came first.

It felt like she’d waited forever, but in actual fact it was only fifteen minutes. The noise ceased abruptly, and slowly, cautiously, she crawled out of the hollow. Kester followed in silence.

The scene was one of utter devastation: the crater had doubled in size, and the peak was covered in chunks of the red rock that had once been the giant hand. The Magmas were scattered over the area, but were regrouping, weapons in hands, in order to combat the Aquas what were getting out of their helicopter. In the centre of it all, Maxie and Archie were standing barely a foot apart, foreheads inches from each crazy and roaring so loudly that their words were lost in the general noise.

A cacophony of animal cries rang out through the air as Numel, Carvanha and Golbat were summoned; the Teams looked like they were about to have a full-scale battle amidst the ruins of the Magmas’ great plan.

But at the last moment, Archie backed down. He let out a long, loud laugh, which surprised Maxie and his Magmas so much that they forgot to kill his crew, and walked off back to the helicopter. In a moment, they were no more than a buzzing dot on the horizon.

“What the hell is going on here?” Maxie demanded to know of someone. He grabbed Tabitha by the front of his jacket and hauled him off the floor. “Tabitha! Answer me!”

“I – um – we should contact the Benefactor...”

Maxie dropped him abruptly.

“That’s right,” he growled. “The Benefactor. The old bratchny’s double-crossed us!”

A roar of rage went up from the assembled Magmas, and they began to storm down the Jagged Pass, presumably heading back to their lair. Sapphire wondered if it had been flooded with lava or not, but it seemed a moot point: they were leaving, and that was that.

“Wait,” Maxie growled. “You two.

His eyes and outstretched finger were locked on Kester and Sapphire. They looked at each other, collectively gulped, and decided that the best course of action was fleeing.

Which they did, making a break for the edge of Jagged Pass.

---

Now, I don’t know if you were paying any attention to my descriptions of Mount Chimney, but I’m pretty sure you must realise that it would be impossible for us to reach Jagged Pass and descend it without the Magmas catching us up. It wouldn’t have been possible even if we hadn’t been so confused about what had just happened; as it was, my head was going around and around faster than Colonel Dedshott’s.

Consequently, I’d only got a few paces before I was completely and utterly surrounded by Magma grunts, and my arms were seized and I was marched back to Maxie.

“Who the hell are you!” he roared. “What did you do to my machine!”

That’s loud, remarked Puck distantly. I mean, those didn’t even sound like questions, they were so loud. Any louder, and we’d have been blown over like Marty McFly at the beginning of Back to the Future, Part One. God damn, I love that film.

Not helpful! I thought furiously. Then, aloud:

“Er... I’m not entirely sure.”

This was said in reference to the machine. I really wasn’t sure what Puck had done to the machine. I wasn’t even sure what had happened as a result of it – only that something weird had happened.

“What do you mean, you’re not sure?” Maxie asked. He had killer cheekbones, I noticed as if from a distance, a lot like a young Elvis.

That’s my kind of comment, Puck said approvingly. And you’ve raised yourself in my eyes, because you know who the King is.

“I mean, I’m not sure,” I replied more strongly, surprising myself with the strength of my voice. “What do you think I mean?”

Maxie went scarlet and crimson by turns – by which I mean that he flashed in different shades of red, in the grip of some unimaginable fury. The Magmas around me shifted uneasily.

Kester, I think you might have made an error of judgement there, Puck said nervously. Maxie’s renowned for his temp—

I know what I’m doing, I replied, and to my surprise I was right. I actually did have something of a plan. Perhaps I wasn’t so bad at this adventuring stuff after all.

No, this is suicide—

Ssh!


“You,” Maxie managed at last, voice choked in the brambles of his rage, “you—”

He got no further. With an extreme effort, I forced a Charge Beam out of my eyes, hitting him in the chest and throwing him over backwards into the wreckage of his machine; the Magmas’ grip slackened, and I twisted free and turned to face them, feeling myself glow orange.

“Any of you move, and I swear I’ll kill him.” My hands were crackling with sparks, and I kept my left hand steadily aimed at Maxie, who was getting slowly to his feet and groaning. The Magmas were very, very still; in the front row, Tabitha looked shell-shocked. He had just worked out that I was the Rotom-kid, I guess, and was cursing his stupidity in not catching me earlier.

“An Aqua plot,” Maxie said slowly, wiping dust from his face. “Grazhny blues.” He regarded me with those piercing eyes; there was no fear there, or anger either. I had the sudden feeling that he was the real deal – he wasn’t like the bumbling goons who had been chasing us, he was a genuine criminal, with actual intelligence and the capacity for real forward planning. “You’re the Rotom-boy, aren’t you? Kester Ruby?”

“That would seem to be the case,” I agreed.

Pointlessly well-phrased, Puck said. I like it.

Maxie didn’t blink.

“What is it you want, then?”

“Let my friend go,” I said, pointing to Sapphire. The Magmas who were holding her looked at Maxie, who seemed rather put out that they’d consider letting him die just to keep hold of a prisoner.

“Well, let her go, you morons!” he snapped. Hurriedly, they did, and Sapphire looked at me for instructions. There was a respect in her eyes, I noted with satisfaction, that hadn’t been there before.

Congratulate yourself later, Puck said tersely. We’re not out of the woods yet.

“Get out of here,” I called to her. “I’ll follow – er – when I can.”

That ‘er’ really spoiled the effect, Puck remarked. And there I was, almost convinced that you were getting the hang of this ‘cool hero’ thing.

Sapphire nodded and the Magmas parted to let her past; she vanished onto Jagged Pass a few moments later.

Now, how are we getting out of here? Puck inquired.

I’m working on it, I replied.

“So what now?” Maxie asked me. The hint of a smile was playing on his lips. He knew that if I moved, I would no longer have a clear shot at him, and if I tried to grab him, I’d just end up killing him anyway. The problem with Charge Beam was that it had to charge – and so I had to hold the charge in my hand. Touching Maxie would discharge the beam into him, and not only would that lose me my hostage, it would make me a murderer, which was something I wasn’t overly keen on.

“Er...”

Then I had an idea, which Puck flat-out refused.

No, Kester. Not that.

Got a better plan?

Er... no.

Well, then.


I took a deep breath, and concentrated. The sparks around my hand started to flicker and crackle; the Magmas and Maxie looked concerned. Then came a terrible, awful sound, one that I’d heard too many times before and which, despite the fact that my plan needed it, I never really wanted to hear again.

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; May 13th, 2011 at 08:21 AM.
  #89    
Old April 7th, 2011, 11:44 AM
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mew_nani
Flying out of the sun...
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
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That there was the best April Fools joke I have ever seen. Now please don't do that agan.

Pardon me. I have been reading your story the entire time from the shadows. I just have never found myself able to say anything until now. :D

I find it extremely entertaining. You should do this for a living. :D
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  #90    
Old April 7th, 2011, 01:50 PM
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Echidna
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hmm, mentioning that this was an april fools joke makes me wonder, does kester come back ?? oh and i'm at chapter 21 now !!
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  #91    
Old April 9th, 2011, 02:58 AM
Cutlerine
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Updates will slow down now. I repeat, they will slow down. Probably just once or twice a week.

You see, I will be taking a series of rather important exams, starting in May, and I need to raise the level of revision I'm doing to a level where it will no longer be practical to maintain my current update level.

Updates will return to normal once my life does. Now for the chapter:


Chapter Thirty-Eight: Humming the Bassline

Yeah! This is DJ Professor K, baby, the master of mayhem, you know what I’m sayin’, bringing you another Tokyo under-ground pirate radio broadcast from... Jet Set Radio! I'm gonna bust into your head through your cute li’l ears and blow your minds with my sexy voice and out-of-sight sounds! Those of you prone to nosebleeds should keep those tissues handy, suckas!

Nah, in all serious, this is just me, your friendly neighbourhood plasma Ghost, Robin Goodfellow.

First up, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing this and not Kester. See, the thing is, the kid’s not here right now, and I’m seizing my chance to jazz up this narrative a bit. I’ve possessed the computer, and I’ve got to say, it’s a pretty comfortable ride. Better than a washing machine, anyway – I never liked getting water in me. I told you about that way back in Chapter Seven, if I recall correctly.

Anyway, back to the point. That’s the thing about me; I’m unconstrained by petty human values like ‘narrative technique’ and ‘not waffling’. I write what I please – though that’s not at all the same as saying that I please what I write. Although, it does work with I eat what I like, because I also like what I eat.

Er...

Where was I? Oh yes, back to the point. I thought I’d regale you here with a little story of the old days, long before I met Kester in that accursed hospital in Rustboro – long before I’d even thought of ever going to Hoenn. This was in the demon days of the middle Noughties, and I’d just finished using my considerable talents as a computer virus to put a stop to the Gorillaz world tour before it had even happened – made a tidy profit out of that, I can tell you, though to this day Murdoc won’t speak to me. That’s the problem with existing mostly in the virtual plane – people who aren’t even real can interfere with your life.

So this would have been around 2006, 2007, something like that. It was then that I had this brilliant idea. I was going to steal something that everyone thought was unstealable: the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

All right, so I was a shade overambitious. After all, the ceiling’s still there, so you already know I didn’t pull it off. But I want to tell you it was through no fault of my own, it was the damn Swiss Guard. When you’re incorporeal like me, you tend to rely on hired hands – and hired hands don’t tend to be bulletproof. Thus, they get shot up by the Swiss Guard.

Wait. That’s not what ‘shot up’ means. Never mind, I’ll use it how I want. Like Humpty Dumpty, I can make a word mean whatever I so choose. Impenetrability, that’s what I say.

Er... Oh yeah, the Sistine Chapel. So it goes like this: I possessed this Boeing 747 – and this time I actually mean a Boeing 747, not a school bus full of orphans – and had it gutted. Everything taken out, to make it as light as possible.

Actually, there’s an interesting story about the debris from the gutting. I sold it off in Holland for five thousand pounds, then bought myself about a hundred and fifty thousand punnets of strawberries. I swapped those for a load of Béarnaise sauce in Mongolia, sold that to a restaurant in Kanto for six thousand, bought up shares in a Sinnoh company mining the Underground and sold them off a month later for eight hundred thousand. It was one smooth bit of business, I can tell you. Nothing illegal, and very, very lucrative.

Anyway, back to the Sistine Chapel ceiling. So I hired up these goons to secretly saw through the roof supports, so that I could fly over, attach the whole roof to the plane and fly away with the ceiling.

But yeah, as you can imagine, that’s where the plan came down. I flew over, had my guys parachute down – a couple of them broke limbs/necks/spines in the fall, but it was OK, I’d factored that in – and they got sawing, but the Swiss Guard got wind of it all, and they were kind of uncooperative.

Now, I’d considered hiring something like a team of crooked Kadabra to just levitate it off, since they could repel bullets with their minds, but I assumed the Swiss Guard would have Pokémon too. They did, as it turned out – a fleet of Zuppenkrab from Germany. Apparently the only thing that’s worse for hired goons than being shot is being sliced in half by a giant crab made of iron. So yeah, the plan was something of a dismal failure. Oh well. Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never jam today, eh?

What do I mean by that, I wonder? I’m not entirely sure. The White Queen seemed to know what it was all about, so I guess I’ll just trust in her. I couldn’t do much better, after all – she was the one who taught me how to believe impossible things. Great woman. One of the few meatfaces for whom I have any modicum of respect.

So... back to the Sistine Chapel ceiling theft. That was a bit of a failure, but I can assure you it’s not representative of my work overall. I’m mostly an art thief, and I’m really, really good. Promise. I’m like Thomas Crown. Better, even. I’ve stolen works of art from almost every major museum gallery in the world, except the Dallas Museum of Art because whenever I go anywhere near Dallas I end up getting chased by packs of hungry Decoyote.

That reminds me, there was this one time back in ’98 when—

Ah, damn it, Kester’s back! Speak to you later, boys and girls. Stay tuned, and don’t go anywhere!

---

Pop!

Pop!

Pop!


I stepped forwards and punched the nearest Magma as hard as I could. On either side of me, my clones did likewise.

Pop!

Pop!

Pop!

Pop!


My personal army was ever-expanding; now there were around fifteen of us, and we walked forwards, lashing out at the Magmas with wild abandon. I had become lost in the mass; I doubt that anyone knew which one was the real me any longer.

Pop!

Pop!

Pop!


Faced with over twenty Kester Rubies, with more on the way, the Magmas decided that it wasn’t going to be possible to extract me from the mass. My clones pressed tight around me, keeping me at the centre of a defensive ring. It was like being in the world’s strangest hall of mirrors, and rather disorienting – but we ploughed forth through the crowd, our number ever-growing. Several of my clones were shot, knifed or hit with Pokémon moves, but always more sprang up to take their place as they flickered and vanished.

“Stop!” called Maxie wearily, looking at his minions’ pathetic efforts. “This isn’t working. It would seem young Kester has beaten us today.”

My clones and I paused, and turned to look at him with the Magmas. Around us, the red-suited goons were starting to grumble; they didn’t like to give up, though they could see their situation was fairly hopeless.

“You are a worthy adversary,” Maxie said, looking directly at me. For a fleeting moment, I wondered how he knew I was the real one, but the thought was pushed out of my head by what he did next: in the midst of his Team’s utter failure, he smiled. “It seems the blues are kicking it up a notch,” he went on mildly. “Well, good! I appreciate the challenge.”

He looks like a shark, Puck commented, and he did: his eyes had gone very dark and his smile very broad; his face seemed to be stretched unnaturally across a carcharine skull. I shivered, and so did my duplicates.

“Until we meet again, Kester,” he said, making a small and probably ironic bow. “Until we meet again.”

‘Probably’ ironic? queried Puck. You mean to say you can’t detect irony with 100% certainty? Shame on you, Mister Ruby.

I turned and left. I’d had enough of the shark-faced leader and his red-suited grunts to last me a lifetime.

---

“Didi.”

“Yes, Gogo?”

“My foot really hurts.”

Vladimir gave Estragon’s foot a cursory glance.

“Boots must be taken off every day, Gogo – I’ve told you this before.”

Barry gritted his teeth and mined harder, but not even the rhythmic drilling of the excavator could block out the two men’s inane banter.

“But,” Vladimir continued, warming to his theme, “there’s man all over for you. Blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.”

“Didi.”

“Yes?”

“Haven’t we had a conversation like this before?”

“Only about seventy times.”

“Ah.” Estragon drilled in silence for a while. Then: “It’s funny how hard habits die, isn’t it?”

“Habit,” pronounced Vladimir, in the tones of someone delivering a momentous truth, “is the ballast that chains the dog to his vomit.”

“That’s a good one.”

“It was Beckett, writing on Proust.”

“Beckett. Now there’s a name.”

There was another long pause, and Barry was just settling down to some nice, peaceful drilling when Vladimir spoke again.

“Do you mean that it is a name, which it is, or that it’s a good name?”

Barry let loose a warning rumble that carried right over the relentless hammering of the excavators. Vladimir and Estragon each gave him a long, concerned look.

“I’ve a feeling he doesn’t like us.”

“Does anyone?”

“They do now,” Vladimir affirmed. “We moved on, remember?”

“Oh yes.”

There was a third long pause. If Barry had been a better-read man, he might have made some sort of remark about Harold Pinter at this point, but he wasn’t, and didn’t.

“What’s it all about?” pondered Vladimir, after some time had passed.

“The weasel under the cocktail cabinet?” suggested Estragon.

“Wrong playwright,” Vladimir countered.

“Ah!” cried Estragon, but he had nothing further to say, and the pair lapsed into further silence.

It was not long afterwards that Barry’s excavator hit something that produced an entirely different sound to crunching rock: the sharp clang of struck metal echoed through the shaft.

Immediately, the three men stopped drilling. The Gorsedd had been known to lay mines before, and it wouldn’t do to go smashing those up without due care and attention.

Barry hefted his excavator over his shoulder – a feat that required two hands, even for such an improbably muscular man as he – and tossed on the ground behind him. Vladimir and Estragon laid theirs down more gently, and they gathered around the piece of metal protruding from the end of the shaft.

“What is that?” wondered Estragon.

“I’m not sure,” Vladimir replied. “Pozzo would have known, I know it. He seemed a bright enough fellow.”

“I’ll tell you who would know,” Estragon said.

“Who?”

Him.” Estragon made meaningful movements of his eyebrows, and Vladimir nodded slowly.

“Yes,” he agreed, “he would.”

“It’s a mine,” growled Barry, resisting the urge to dash the two foreigners’ brains out against the wall. “Go and tell the boss.”

“I’ll go,” offered Vladimir.”

“No, I shall—”

Both of you go,” ordered Barry, and perhaps the blood in his eye was showing more obviously than usual, because neither Vladimir nor Estragon cared to debate the point, and left with unusual alacrity.

Alone at long last, the giant Aqua sat down and leaned against the wall, keeping a watchful eye on the mine. It was a mark of how low he seemed to have sunk that he would choose to stay in the presence of an unexploded bomb over any of the other options available to him right now.

Barry considered Vladimir and Estragon. Their presence was like a set of iron barbs in his skull; they made his very brain bleed with annoyance.

Then there was Shelly. She wasn’t nearly as bad – she treated her workers right, which was more than you could say for most bosses – but she was a woman. And Barry’s fierce chauvinism rankled at the idea that he was under the command of a member of the fair sex.

And then there was the final member of the little crew down here. The one whom Barry loathed above all people, the one who had led him to this accursed place in the first instance.

“Hi Barry!” said Scarlett, coming around the corner. “It’s me!”

“I can see that,” rumbled the giant, regarding her with steely eyes. “What do you want?”

“I came to see if you had any more sweets.”

A series of embarrassing outbursts, which shall go unrecorded in this chronicle, had left Barry owing a great many sweets to the blackmailing ten-year-old, and he had so far succeeded in paying off half of his debt. The only good to come of it, Barry mused sourly and with unusual intellect, would be felt by her dentist.

“I don’t.” Barry’s voice was so low that it passed out of the range of human hearing in places. “Go away. There’s an unexploded mine here.”

“Fine.” Scarlett stuck her tongue out at him. “I was going to tell you that another Aqua has arrived, but I’m not even going to show you the picture now.”

Barry’s heart leaped. Another Aqua? A companion in this wilderness of insanity? This was the best news he’d had for a long, long time.

“What kind and how many?” he asked, referring to sweets.

“Two packets of fizzy cola bottles,” Scarlett said briskly, “the big ones.”

“All right.” Barry held out a hand, and the diminutive artist pressed her open sketchbook into it. He looked at the page, and his eyes widened. Then he looked up, and saw someone coming around the corner, just behind Scarlett.

Barry looked at the person, and looked at the paper, and then looked back at the person again.

“Hello Barry,” said Felicity, pushing her sunglasses further up her shapely nose. “How... nice to see you still alive.”

---

“OK,” said Fabien, pulling disconsolately at his beer, “I might not have been telling the whole truth back there.”

He, Blake and Goishi were in a small, run-down bar that they vaguely remembered having spent some time in last night; at one o’clock, it was probably too early for decent people to lose their sobriety, but none of them fell into that category, and consequently were unbound by social convention.

“Well, I be’ you were jus’ misinformed,” Blake said consolingly. “I mean, you’ve never been wrong before.”

“Yeah.” Fabien sat up. “Yeah! I should go right back and say—”

“I don’ think we should go back,” Blake said. “The cops’ll be there by now, won’ they?”

After deciding that running away was the coward’s way out, Fabien had released Goishi and gone back to make the zookeeper see sense; however, the Crobat’s presence had several of the smaller animals into shock, and spooked the zebras in the next enclosure so much that they’d tried to stampede, found it was impossible in their small home and ended up with a variety of injuries between them. At this, the zookeepers had shown up and shot Goishi with a tranquiliser dart, not realising that no noxious chemicals really affected Poison-types, and then there had been something of a difference of opinions. This had ended badly for all concerned, but worst of all for the young intern zookeeper; after that, Fabien and Blake had decided that it would be best to flee before the police showed up.

“Yes, that’s true,” Fabien said thoughtfully. “Well, that kid should know better than to mess with his elders and betters. I mean, I was perfectly polite.”

EE-eee-ee-ek,” Goishi put in, which probably meant ‘no, you weren’t. You were savage and unreasonable and a great many more things besides.’

“Quite right, quite right,” agreed Fabien. “I understand entirely.”

“E-E-E-eek.” (Sure you do.)

“Mind you,” Fabien said, “it’s lucky I came to my senses when I did. After all, I don’t know my own strength when I’m in a mood like that. I could have killed him.”
Blake and Goishi exchanged glances.

“Righ’,” said Blake. “Well, wha’ we doin’ now?”

“Getting drunk,” replied Fabien. “Isn’t it obvious? There’s been an unpleasantness, and I find that the best way to get over an unpleasantness is to drink. So. Barkeep! Another round, if you please.”

“Oh.” Blake sat back. This sitting around thing seemed very similar to what he’d had in mind for the day, but who was he to argue with a criminal genius like Fabien? He had C-sense, after all.

He took up his beer, leaned on his elbows and closed his eyes contentedly. However Fabien felt, the world was all right by Blake today.


---

Sapphire and I were looking at each other across my room at the hotel. I was sitting on the bed, she was sitting on the chair.

The atmosphere was weird.

Weird, repeated Puck. That the best you can do? ‘Weird’? How about ‘tense’? ‘Charged’? He stopped suddenly. Hello? Are you listening? Hello?

I wasn’t. My eyes were fixed on Sapphire’s face, hypnotised by the contortions it was going through. I knew exactly what was going on.

She was trying to congratulate me.

Our escape from Mount Chimney had been entirely my doing – I’d even managed to dismiss my clone army, which was quite an achievement – and we’d come straight back here afterwards, without a word passing between us. All the time, Sapphire had been trying to say thank you, and as of yet, she hadn’t managed it.

Ordinarily, I’d say you’re being arrogant and presumptuous, Puck said, but I think you’re right.

“Kester,” said Sapphire at last, and I started. I’d been betting on at least another hour.

“Yep?”

That’s my trademark cheery tone! cried Puck, scandalised. Give it back – nah, just kidding. You can use it if you like. But not too much, he added in a disquietingly dark tone. Because if you threaten my position as the funny man...

A brief mental image of something unspeakable flashed before my eyes, and I had to struggle to resist the urge to throw up.

“I want to say... thanks,” Sapphire managed.

“No problem,” I answered. I wanted to add ‘See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?’, but felt it unwise and somewhat tactless.

You have tact?
Puck asked, shocked. When did this happen? Why wasn’t I informed?

“I thought I had you down as a useless coward,” Sapphire went on, choosing each word carefully. “But then you decided we’d go after Zero, so I knew I’d got that wrong. So I got another image of you, but now I think that was wrong too.” She stopped. “Is this making any sense?”

“Mostly,” I affirmed. “Carry on.”

“I don’t know what else to say.” Sapphire seemed to be at something of a loss. “Er... thanks again, I suppose.”

It’s a start, Puck said. We can haz character development, no?

“It’s OK,” I said, ignoring him and his Internet meme references. “I get it.” I smiled, partly at her discomfort and partly because it was, well, pretty nice to be appreciated for once.

“Right.” Sapphire looked at the clock; it told her in no uncertain terms that it was 13.12. “Shall we get something to eat?”

“Yes,” I said, “let’s do that. And then maybe you” – I was talking to Puck – “can shed some light on what the Magmas were up to.”

Sapphire looked puzzled.

“I don’t know what they were doing.”

“Not you. Puck.”

I’m sure I had no idea that Maxie was trying to call forth the Earthmaster. Puck stopped suddenly and swore. Damn my flippancy! I gave it away.

“You can tell us all about that over lunch,” I said, hard-eyed. He couldn’t see them, but it was the thought that counted – especially as he was reading them. “And if not...”

He read my mind.

Oh Zekrom no, he gasped, appalled. No, not that. I don’t think I can take that again.

I was going to muse long and hard on the business that had occurred last year, in all its glorious depravity and improbability. Especially on the part where—

No! All right, all right, I’ll tell you. Puck shuddered. That part... it’s wrong on so many levels. Morally, spiritually, dermatologically...

That’s enough, I replied. Then, to Sapphire: “Let’s go.”

We left, and spoke no more until we were comfortably installed in a small restaurant just off Lavaridge’s main street. I wondered how Sapphire’s bank balance could stand the sustained assault of repeated dining out, but in the end decided it didn’t matter. It was her money, after all, and if she wanted to spend it feeding me then that was all right in my book.

The restaurant appeared to principally cater to the tastes of old people, and so its dishes seemed to be based on the notion that softness was supreme. I ordered something squishy, and Sapphire something else equally squishy; Puck looked on with the faint disgust of the well-mannered.

All the restaurants in all the world, he began, then stopped. No, I already made that joke.

“Here,” said Sapphire, putting her mobile in my hand. “Have him speak through this, so we can both hear.”

“Thanks. OK, Puck,” I said, taking a long draught of my Coke, “tell us what’s going on.”

“All right,” he said, voice crackly through the phone’s inferior speakers. “The first thing you have to know is that I’m not sure. I can’t be sure about any of this until I see a few more pieces of the puzzle. But it has to do with an old Hoennian legend – a legend that I think you’ll find familiar. The legend of Rayquaza.”

At this, Sapphire’s eyes widened.

“I knew it couldn’t be a coincidence,” she said, though I’m not sure she had actually thought anything of the kind. “Rayquaza’s murder, the raising of that hand – they were connected, right?”

“Our survey said...” An unpronounceable noise that seemed to signify the affirmative came from Sapphire’s phone. “It isn’t common knowledge, because only Rayquaza has ever been seen by humans, but because I’m so amazing, I know it. Settle down, boys and girls, and listen to my story.

“A long time ago – though in this galaxy, not in one far away – there were two Pokémon. Groudon, or Behemoth, the lord of the earth. And Kyogre, or Leviathan, the master of the ocean.

“Land and sea have never coexisted happily. You can see it in the way the waves erode the shoreline, or rock flows up from underground to expand the landmass. They’re always fighting each other, and the battle began with Groudon and Kyogre.

“Groudon and Kyogre fought. Their very essences opposed one another: fire and soil versus rain and wave. Groudon raised up massive continents, trying to cover the globe with earth so that Kyogre would lose the water it needed to survive; Kyogre tried to drown Groudon in its sea. Their battle was bloody and the losses unimaginable. Millions and millions of creatures, animal and Pokémon alike, were caught up in the storms and earthquakes and perished by the thunder and the stone.”

“So what happened next?” Sapphire’s voice was low, almost a whisper; looking back now, I think she always had a better imagination than I did, and I’m sure that she could see the devastation in her mind's eye, a brutal Golgotha that stretched for a thousand miles in all directions. For me, Puck’s words were just that: words. I don’t think I even believed them at the time. After all, legends are... well, they’re not true. That’s why they’re legends.

“Something had to be done,” Puck replied simply. “So people prayed.”

“Prayed? To whom?”

To whom. I would just have said ‘who’, but I guess that was me being ignorant.

“Anyone they could think of. The Psychic-types of the time were fairly advanced, though none of them are alive today. The story says the species was called Utalion, but I don’t know how much of that is true.

“Anyway, their prayers were answered. No one knows who by, but current scholarly opinion inclines to Arceus, though from what I know of it that guy wouldn’t lift a finger to save a drowning orphan – he’s just so deist.

“Er... yes, so Arceus created a third Pokémon, Rayquaza of the sky, to counterbalance Groudon and Kyogre. And Rayquaza ended their conflict.”

“How?” I asked.

“It flew up to the very limits of the stratosphere, and Hyper Beamed a meteor, bouncing it off-course and sending it crashing into the Earth. It killed off millions more of the inhabitants, but since it landed on Groudon and Kyogre, it knocked them out. After that, Rayquaza separated them, sealing Kyogre deep under the ocean and Groudon inside a mountain – which subsequently became a volcano.”

“Mount Chimney!” cried Sapphire.

“Precisely.” Puck sounded smug – but then, he almost always sounded smug. “Maxie must have found out about the legend – probably from this Benefactor guy, who I’m going to guess is Zero – and tried to raise Groudon to use as a weapon against Team Aqua.”

“But... what happened?” I asked. “It didn’t work, did it?”

“Because Groudon died,” Puck stated baldly. “Nothing lives forever. What Maxie raised was its fossilised skin, a massive hunk of rock that looked like a Groudon. Hold up, the food’s coming.”

As we took our plates from the waiter, I tried to wrap my head around what Puck had just told me – and to my surprise, I succeeded. I supposed that after all I’d been through these last two weeks, I was ready to believe just about anything.

“Right,” Puck went on once the waiter had left, “where was I? Oh yeah, the Groudon thing. Now, Groudon’s dead, but... it isn’t dead, if you know what I mean. It’s an Osiris sort of thing. His... life force, or soul or whatever you want to call it, has left and gone elsewhere.”

This I couldn’t believe, and, it seemed, neither could Sapphire.

“His soul?” she asked, raising one eyebrow. “Those don’t exist.”

“She’s right,” I confirmed. “Nothing is permanent.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, throw your Buddhist ‘anicca’ stuff around all you like—”

“I’m not a Buddhist,” started Sapphire, but Puck carried on:

“—or your godless heathen stuff, if that’s your bag, but it’s true. You’ve probably even seen his soul. It’s in a museum, and it glows red with the power of magma.”

That stopped me dead in my tracks. I actually had seen it before. Everyone had.

“That can’t be true,” I said in hushed tones. “Can it...?”

“You’d best believe it, baby,” Puck said. “The Red Orb in the Pyre Memorial Museum is the soul of the planet core.”
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; May 13th, 2011 at 08:43 AM.
  #92    
Old April 12th, 2011, 02:25 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
For those of you who actually believe that stuff about a picture being worth a thousand words, there's now one in the first post. It's big, so it's in a spoiler. Have fun.

Now, back to the increasing scale that is TMG2DW:

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Raiders of the Lost Kester

There had been some pretty protracted silences so far on our trip. There had been some pretty stunned ones, too.

But this one took the biscuit.

At a conservative estimate, it lasted well over a minute, throughout the whole of which Sapphire and I just stared at the phone that was, for now at least, Puck’s mouthpiece.

“Well,” I said at length. “That was... unexpected.”

“What, you were expecting some sort of temple that can only be found if you use a jewelled staff to focus rays of light onto a secret map of the area?” Puck asked. It wasn’t up to his usual standard of quip, but I put it down to having an idea in his head that he couldn’t get rid of, or something of the sort.

“No, but... something more secret,” Sapphire said.

“Well, it doesn’t matter what you expected,” Puck replied. “Because we need to get a move on and safeguard that Red Orb sharpish.”

“What? Why?”

Because,” Puck explained, with the exasperated patience of one who is intellectually light years above his companions, “if you recall, this isn’t Maxie’s plot. This is Zero’s. Remember what Felicity said: Zero is using both Teams for his own ends. There’s no way someone who plans things out as well as Zero wouldn’t know that the real Groudon is at Mount Pyre.”

“So why did he get the Magmas to go after its corps—?”

Think, Kester. It doesn’t even seem that Groudon’s Zero’s main aim. Everything he’s done so far has been whipping the Teams up into a frenzy, setting them against each other with more fervour than they’ve had since the gang wars of ’98.”

I remembered those. Things had got so bad that the government declared martial law, and the country almost descended into civil war, with the army fighting the Teams. No one left their homes for a week, and by the time we could go out again both the Magmas and the Aquas were reduced to a near-literal handful of members hiding out in disused warehouses. It had taken them thirteen long years and a pair of spectacular new leaders to reach their previous size, but they had learned from the mass arrests and shootings: they hadn’t fought seriously again.

“So, is Zero trying to destroy them again, or...?” I couldn’t quite see what the objective was. Setting the Teams against each other could only be a good thing in the long run; it was pretty much the only way to eradicate them. They would smash each other to pieces, and the government would mop up the bits. Simple, neat, effective.

“That much I don’t know,” Puck said. “But I have a sneaking suspicion that it must be something more, and something worse. Remember, there’s a beast other than Groudon that Rayquaza sealed in sleep. Kyogre, the sea monster. Which is under the sea. Now, I don’t know what you think, but Team Aqua like the sea, and we found out in Slateport that they were having a submarine built. I leave it to you to put those pieces together.”

“So either the Magmas or the Aquas—”

“—or Zero,” I put in.

“Or Zero,” agreed Sapphire, “has Rayquaza killed so that it can’t interfere, and then both Teams try to raise one of the legendary Pokémon...” She swore softly. “Team Aqua are going to know now that Groudon and Kyogre are dead, aren’t they? So they’re going to be—”

“—heading for Mount Pyre as well,” I finished, shaking my head. “Because if Groudon’s soul is the Red Orb, I’m willing to bet that the Blue Orb—”

“—it’s Kyogre’s soul, yes,” Puck said. “In short, the forces of evil will converge on Mount Pyre, and Zero’s pulling every single string going to make sure they pull it off. Doubtless he’s going to arrange for them to arrive at the same time, so there’s some sort of battle.”

“And we’ve got to stop them,” I said uneasily, “or they call up two Pokémon with whose power they’re going to end up killing thousands and thousands of people just to get at each other.”

“Pretty much,” confirmed Puck. “Not to put a downer on the conversation or anything, but yeah, the safety of all Hoenn rests on your little teenage shoulders.”

Sapphire and I stared at our plates. Neither of us had much of an appetite any more.

---

“What do you have to say for yourself, Zero?” snarled Maxie.

The masked man stared back impassively. Either he was very stupid or very brave, because Magma men held a gun to each side of his head.

“Well?” Maxie’s voice was at its most dangerous, the low tone that he used after he had passed through the unthinking stages of rage and entered the cold, logical end phase.

There was a third reason why Zero might not be bothered by the guns. He might have been very confident.

“My dear Maxie,” he said, “this was a test run. I couldn’t let you know, or the Aquas would have found out. They now think they’ve stopped you getting at Groudon – my mole confirms this. She is quite tractable now, after you gave her that little session.”

“Don’t mess with my head,” Maxie snapped. “The blues have stopped us getting at Groudon. We’ve failed. And it’s your fault.”

Simultaneous clicks sounded on either side of Zero’s head. The guns were ready to fire.

“But they haven’t,” corrected Zero mildly. “I think you’ll find this was a scam, a decoy test mission. Maxie, Groudon is sleeping still, and is ripe for the taking. All it needs to return to life is enough raw flesh to rebuild his body.”

“Where is it? What is it?”

Zero held up a photograph, and Maxie’s eyes widened.

“There? Really?”

“Yours for the taking,” Zero said, eyes hooded. “Almost defenceless.”

Maxie waved a hand, and the guns were removed. He was smiling again now.

“You slimy old bratchny,” he said with relief, slapping Zero on the back. “Damn good plan.”

“Planning is what I do best,” Zero said, and his eyes were laughing at a joke no one else could hear.

---

Tchaikovsky tapped the steering wheel with his fingers, and sucked in a thoughtful breath through his teeth. He was certain now. Something was definitely up.

One of the benefits of working as a driver was that he was pretty anonymous, even with his strange habits. He had seen both the Magmas and the Aquas at work, neither of then suspecting for a moment that he drove for the others too, and he was sure now that there was someone controlling the actions of both groups. The same person, playing the Teams off against each other for their own ends, the king or queen of the butterfly collectors.

Tchaikovsky nodded thoughtfully. He was going to get to the bottom of this. He had to break out of the conflict between his head and his tail and get the cool shoeshine.

The driver frowned. That wasn’t right. That song had come out after the year 2000.

Feeling that this was a sign, and probably a bad one at that, Tchaikovsky drove on, brooding.

---

“Look, Fabien,” said Blake, “we should prob’ly move on now, righ’? Given tha’ we’re bein’ pursued an’ all?”

“Pursued?” It took Fabien a while to work out what he meant, then he said: “Oh yes, pursued.”

They had been in the bar for three hours now, and Blake was getting worried. He didn’t want to get caught by those Aquas whom Fabien was so sure that were pursuing them; his gun hadn’t been replaced since its loss in the Meteor Falls debacle, and Goishi, although powerful, could only protect them so well.

“Well,” Fabien said, “I think we might have outrun them. So it’ll be fine.”

“Outrun ’em?”

“Yes.” Fabien drank deeply, and stared ahead moodily. “You know, if they go to the zoo they’ll lose our trail, because of all the confusion.”

“Oh. Righ’.” Blake supposed that Fabien did know best, but this abrupt change of direction seemed a little unlikely, to say the least. “Are – are you sure? I mean, you said they wouldn’ give up.”

“They won’t, but they won’t find us.” Fabien looked dead at him. “You have my word as a C-sensor.”

That was all right, then, Blake supposed, but he still had a few doubts; today, Fabien had swung from genius to idiot and back again with such frequency and regularity that it had done more harm to his image than good. For the first time, Blake was beginning to think that perhaps Fabien wasn’t entirely the master criminal he claimed to be, and a small, unexpected thought was creeping into his head.

“Fabien...”

“What is it?” snapped the smaller man.

“Er... are you sure there’re Aquas after us?”

Fabien gave him a long, inscrutable look.

“Blake,” he said at length, “do you want to know something?”

“Yeah?”

“Absolutely nothing I said today is true,” he said despondently. “I’ve lied and cheated every step of the way, and I got caught out by that zookeeper, and it’s put me in an awful mood, and I’m seriously considering sitting here for a few more hours before walking out of Team Magma, leaving Hoenn and going to Korea to study linguistics.”

“Why Korea?”

“I can speak Korean.”

Blake paused, uncertain about whether or not this was true.

“Was any of tha’ true?”

“No. All lies. I speak nothing but the truth. Forget I said anything.” Fabien returned his attention to his drink, and Blake wondered what to do next. He glanced over at Goishi, who rolled his yellow eyes and motioned for him to ignore him.

Full of doubt, Blake hunched himself up on his bar stool and pondered. It seemed there was more than one dimension to his partner after all, and he wasn’t sure that this one was one he cared to know about.


---

“We’ll call the police,” I said suddenly. “This isn’t something we can do. Call the police.”

Sapphire didn’t say anything, and I felt a wave of anxiety break on my skull.

“Sapphire? You agree, right?”

She raised her head to look at me, and her eyes told me everything I needed to know, with a little more besides.

“What do you think they’ll do, exactly?” she asked.

“Well...” I said. “They’ll, um, arrest them or something...”

“OK,” Sapphire said, “that’s assuming they believe a story we’ve based on an ancient legend that was relayed to us through a terminally facetious ball of plasma.”

“None taken,” said Puck huffily, and I put Sapphire’s phone down. He would only make things worse.

“When you put it like that,” I said, “it does sound kind of unbelievable.”

“That’s because it is,” Sapphire pointed out. “Two monsters of unimaginable age and power, being summoned by rival underworld factions to kill each other off, and the whole being orchestrated by a criminal genius with some unknown but grandiose goal? That isn’t real life, that’s a film.”

Or a novel
, Puck added.

“Isn’t that what Trainers do?” I asked helplessly. “I thought you said weird things happened to Trainers all the time!”

“Weird, yes. Insane, no.” Sapphire’s face suddenly twitched along one side and broke into that lopsided grin. “So the police won’t do anything,” she said, and I could tell that in her heart she’d already accepted the challenge. “But that just means we have to do it ourselves, don’t we?”

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” I said, putting my head in my hands. “I was OK to go up against a criminal mastermind for the sake of helping one person break free, and stop some little plot or something. But stopping what amounts to civil war? No. No way, that’s beyond me.”

“After what you did on the top of the mountain?” cried Sapphire. “Come on, Kester, that was proof enough, wasn’t it? You aren’t a normal person, surely you’ve noticed that by now!”

She’s right, Puck said. You attract weird Pokémon, you have all the powers of a Rotom, you keep going through adverse conditions despite all the opportunities to turn back... I hate to break it to you, buddy, but if this was High Fantasy, you’d be the dragon-riding protagonist. You couldn’t make a worse job of it than those losers already did, he added. I think that it was meant to be a compliment, but I couldn’t work it out.

“It’s stupid,” I said, standing up. “I – you know what, I really don’t know why I haven’t gone home already.”

If this was one of those teenagery vampire novels, Puck went on thoughtfully, you’d be the alluring guy who sparkles in the sunlight and fights werewolves.

“Forgotten about Devon?” Sapphire asked. “Sit down, Kester.”

Or, Puck continued, apparently desirous of covering as many genres as possible, if this was a wizards-at-school kind of story, you’d be the kid who survived the unsurvivable death-spell.

“They haven’t come after us for ages now,” I argued. “I haven’t even seen Darren Goodwin since Thursday.”

“Oh? Missed me, did you?”

My blood froze. I knew that voice.

It was Puck who vocalised our thoughts the best.

By the many tentacles of Davy Jones’ beard, he cried floridly, it’s the Goodwin!

---

It wasn’t hard for Darren Goodwin to track down Kester and Sapphire. An anonymous tipster had told Devon of the Magma plot, and they’d had a Xatu in place to spy on the action, relaying the images back to Rustboro via its psionic powers and a satellite. Regrettably, the so-called Psychic had failed to foresee its death at the talons of a flock of rapacious Altaria, and had perished mid-communication – but they had seen the Magmas gathering, and, crouched behind a rock, the two people they wanted most to find in all the world.

Kester Ruby and Sapphire Birch.

If any confirmation that they worked for Team Aqua was needed, this was it. They had obviously been sent there to foil the reds’ scheme, whatever that had been. So Darren had shrugged on his green overcoat, polished his spectacles and taken the express train to the Cable Car station. Two Magma grunts had attempted to persuade him that it was closed, but, with the Raiders’ assistance, he had convinced them that they were wrong, and had made his way to the top of the mountain.

By then, the action was over, and all that was left was more devastation than Darren would have felt entirely comfortable shaking a stick at. Huge chunks of red rock were scattered around the peak, and, oddly enough, they were withering, like cut flowers. A red fog rose from their decomposing shapes, and all in all, the Goodwin had decided that it was probably not the best of ideas to hang about up there. He had made his way swiftly down Jagged Pass – the rocks were no obstacle to him; his extensive training had included a course in hostile-terrain hiking – and immediately set about combing Lavaridge down for his targets. Since it was so small, he had found them within the half-hour.

And that is where we left off, and where, for those of you who are looking forwards to a battle, the good bit begins.

---

I hadn’t seen him for a while, and I really didn’t feel like seeing him now. The lab coat and overcoat, expensive black shoes and shining eyeglasses; the details of Darren Goodwin’s appearance flooded back into my mind with the terrifying familiarity of the business from last year.

The lone waiter quietly vanished from his corner into the kitchen, and I heard the door lock behind him. He knew trouble when he saw it.

“Toro.”

Sapphire was on her feet beside me, and the Combusken materialised between us and Darren, bouncing on the balls of her feet and limbering up for a fight.

“Raiders,” replied the Devon man, and something like nine Magnemite poured out of a Poké Ball, floating around each other in loose synchronicity. A cloud of cutlery immediately flew up to hover around them, performing lazy orbits around the powerful magnetic field.

“Puck,” I whispered, “what is that?”

It’s a Magneton, Puck replied. They’re natural aggregations of Magnemite that occur when three or more decide to bind permanently. It’s rare to see one with over five constituent Magnemite; my guess is that these ones have been artificially fused by Devon. Either way, we’re no match – Toro’s the best bet here.

“I’m going to give you one last chance,” said Darren Goodwin. His face was expressionless; he might have been asking for a pint of milk at the corner shop. “Give me back the Master Ball, and I will leave you alone.”

Sapphire pulled the halves of the ruined ball from her pocket and tossed them across the room; they were caught in the Raiders’ magnetic grip and Darren gave them a cursory glance.

“I meant with Kester still in it,” he clarified, with a trace of annoyance. He let out a long sigh. “This is probably going to get very boring for me, very quickly. And when I get bored, I make things interesting. When I make things interesting, the people around me very swiftly discover precisely how much they dislike being in pain.”

I’m... at a loss. Is that a good line or a bad one? It’s certainly threatening.

“Look here.” Darren suddenly became very businesslike. “There are two potential outcomes here. One is that Kester comes with me, we leave and no one gets hurt. The other is that the Raiders and I comprehensively beat you, recapture Kester and leave with everyone having got hurt. I’d like you to make the decision now as to which one you’ll take.”

Sapphire appeared to give the matter some serious thought, which wasn’t exactly comforting, but certainly understandable.

“Er, how about – Toro, Ember!”

Ah. It had been a ploy.

Before Darren or his Magneton could react, Toro had darted forwards and a gout of flame had shot across her foe’s metallic surface; emitting a noise like gears grinding, the orbs that made up the Pokémon drew together and raised themselves higher up off the ground, obviously in pain. Their steel surfaces blackened with soot, they whirled on the spot and shot a Thunderbolt straight down with a thunderous blast.

The room filled with blinding light and the smell of burned carpet; squeezing my eyes shut, I blundered backwards, desperate not to be grabbed by Darren. I tipped over a table and heard it crash behind me. Something warm brushed my wrist – so I grabbed it and discharged a Charge Beam through it.

KESTER!”

The howl was full of agony and anger, and also in a very familiar voice. I let go of Sapphire’s arm abruptly and cried out:

“Sorry!”

Thank the heavens for your low level, Puck said. Seriously, Kester, you could have killed her!

“Now is totally not the time for that!” I hissed back, forcing open my eyes. I was just in time to see Toro being hit by something bright - Flash Cannon, explained Puck - and dived out of the way as she flew through the air towards me.

I hit the floor, twisted and fired a Charge Beam in the direction where I thought Darren was; I still couldn’t see properly.

“Where the hell did you go?” he roared, which seemed to indicate I’d missed.

Sapphire tripped over me and fell onto my face, which hurt a great deal, and I struggled out from under her in a welter of confused swearing. I had just regained my balance and taken in the scene around me when I noticed that Darren had recovered his wits and vision, and had taken a Master Ball from his pocket; thinking quickly, I grabbed a nearby chair and threw it at him with every ounce of strength I had.

This did the trick: the ball bounced off one leg and landed amid the leaves of a pot plant on the windowsill. The chair kept going, but Darren’s Magneton rose up and let it splinter over its iron-hard bodies, apparently suffering no ill effects whatsoever.

“Toro!”

Sapphire was back on her feet, and emitting a strong smell of burned flesh; I glanced at her arm and looked away again hurriedly.

Whoa, Puck breathed, if she doesn’t get that seen to she’s going to end up with the same number of arms as the drummer from Def Leppard.

Way to be reassuring
, I snapped back, as Toro leaped forth in response to Sapphire’s command, legs streaking forwards to crash into one of the Magneton’s constituent orbs, the Double Kick crumpling the steel into scrap and throwing the ball clear of the rest of the organism.

The Raiders tipped its eyes skywards, making a loud and very unpleasant screeching sound; the creature looked visibly pained by the extraction. This was quite an achievement, since it could only really communicate with its eyes – and those seemed to be painted on.

Darren blanched.

“No!” he cried. “Don’t—”

“It’s artificial, isn’t it?” snapped Sapphire. “The links between the Magnemite are weak. Together, I bet they’re stronger than any normal Magneton. But apart...”

The Raiders were shivering and twitching uncontrollably, sparks bouncing off its surfaces; it did not look at all well. It reminded me of a broken machine on the verge of exploding, or a small crate that contains a large and angry Salamence.

Toro rounded on it for another volley, but this time her feet never met steel: Darren Goodwin had whipped off his greatcoat and caught the little bird mid-flight in its folds, holding it out like a toreador. With a flick of his forearms, he had her firmly entangled, and let her momentum carry her on into the wall. Something cracked inside the tangled coat, and Toro let out an almighty screech, thrashing wildly in her prison.

Sapphire’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped slightly; I think she might not have entirely grasped the Devon man’s skill until then. For me, less used to Training, it didn’t seem so strange, but it was almost unheard-of for a human to mess with a strong Pokémon mid-move and come away as the victor.

“Two down,” Darren said calmly. He wasn’t even out of breath. “I suppose it’s time for my third Pokémon now, isn’t it?”

He recalled the Raiders – all of it, including its lost orb – and produced a white Premier Ball from somewhere. There was a large sticker, emblazoned with a number ‘3’, stuck to the upper half. Rather than throw down the ball immediately, though, Darren hesitated.

“One more chance,” he said. “Give in now?”

I glanced at Sapphire.

“What are you looking at me for?” she asked tersely. “It’s your freedom.”

“But your Poké—”

Look out!

Puck’s words came just a little too late. Distracted by my conversation with Sapphire, I had no chance of evading the Master Ball, and consequently was captured within the second.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; May 13th, 2011 at 10:07 AM.
  #93    
Old April 13th, 2011, 01:55 PM
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Echidna
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Vaniville Town
Age: 20
Gender: Male
Nature: Brave
hahaha, awesome image man !!! its AWESOME, but i can't make out if the guy in the glasses is the devon guy or someone else, and where's the big grumpy aqua guy ??
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  #94    
Old April 14th, 2011, 12:41 AM
Cutlerine
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PEDRO12 View Post
hahaha, awesome image man !!! its AWESOME, but i can't make out if the guy in the glasses is the devon guy or someone else, and where's the big grumpy aqua guy ??
The guy in the glasses, as you can tell by his green coat, is Darren Goodwin. And the picture's really old; I drew it before Barry became an important character. Originally, he wasn't going to appear much, but he had too much comic potential to leave out.

Its age also explains why Steven's in there. He was originally going to play a bigger role than he does now.
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  #95    
Old April 16th, 2011, 03:03 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
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Nature: Impish
New chapter's here, and it's mostly devoted entirely to one of my favourite characters!

Chapter Forty: Giga! Drill! SAPPHIIIIIIRE!

Sapphire launched herself at Darren Goodwin, hands outstretched to rip the Master Ball from him; however, something solid slammed into her chest, knocking her back down.

Cold black eyes stared down at her from above an empty smile; a plump, compact cow stood over her on its hind legs, a little shorter than the Devon man but much broader. Sheets and packs of muscle strained and rippled beneath the creature’s pinkish skin, and blunt, stubby horns rose from its forehead. Between its massive thighs hung its udders, pendulous and bloated with milk. This was a body, like Tom's, capable of enormous leverage, and it was supported by a pair of solid black hooves, as thick around as bollards and heavier than lead.

“Third ball,” Darren said with a faint smile, as Sapphire scrambled upright. He bent down and pulled his coat away from Toro; the Combusken struggled gamely to her feet and looked around for enemies, but she held one arm stiffly, and it was probably broken. The Miltank’s great head swung around towards her, and Sapphire took the precaution of recalling her before the larger Pokémon could attack. Then, while Darren and the Miltank were still turned away, she threw another ball – onto the cow.

Rono exploded out of nowhere and landed on the Miltank’s back; several hunded pounds of stone and steel performed a brief trick in cooperation with gravity, and the Devon Pokémon was crushed to the floor with an anguished bellow. Darren whirled, startled, and Sapphire ran forwards, stepped up onto Rono’s heaving back, leaped forwards—

—and snatched the ball from his unresisting hand, landing on the floor, twisting to recall Rono and bursting out of the door in one fluid movement.

“Cal—!” Sapphire heard the curse through one ear as she slammed the door behind her. A crunch told her she’d fulfilled a running gag and hit Darren Goodwin on the nose yet again, but right now she didn’t care; the previous times she’d done this, he hadn’t actually stopped giving chase, and she didn’t expect him to stop now.

Sapphire sprinted all the way down the street and part of the way down the next, then ducked into a shop and watched as Darren and his Miltank thundered past, her heart apparently somewhere around her ears, to judge by the sound and the feeling. Then she left, breathing easily at last, and made her way back to the Pokémon Centre by the most meandering and circuitous route she could find.

And she went back to her room, and she looked at the Poké Ball in her hand, and she turned the colour of ash.

Because she was holding, not a Master Ball, but a Premier Ball with a large ‘3’ on it.

---

I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more—


Except of course I don’t walk, Puck explained. I float. I tried to tell them that, but they wouldn’t listen.

“You had a hand in the writing of that song?” I asked.

Do you know which band wrote it?

“No.”

Then yes. Yes I did.

“Something tells me that’s a lie.” I looked up, and half a breath escaped from between my lips in a pfft sound. “Sapphire’s sure taking her time with the ‘releasing me’ thing.”

Maybe she changed her mind about having you around as a free being.


“I thought she was starting to warm to me?”

You think a lot of things.


“All right, calm down.”

Oh, I’m calm. I’m completely cool. Cold, even. As ice, and willing to sacrifice, but that’s a different story. Puck paused, as he often did, to stop himself getting carried away with the joke. No, in all seriousness, perhaps she wants to force you into helping her stop Zero now you’ve got cold feet.

“It’s a stupid idea!”

It was your idea.

This was true. I’d been the one to decide we were going after Zero. However, when it came to matters such as these, I was willing to admit I’d been wrong; after all, what is man without humility?

Don’t even start telling me about how you were wrong, Puck cautioned. Self-deprecation suits you – I mean, you’re pretty pathetic and all – but it’s a stupid human thing and it annoys me. A lot.

“Ah, shut up.”

Oh! Telling someone to shut up, Kester, is the last refuge of the beaten man.

He was right. I’d lost this argument, and I knew it.

I sighed and drummed my fingers on the steel wall.

“You know what’s weird about this? It actually feels really familiar. Like I’ve come home.”

It’s a prison, but it’s your prison, Puck said philosophically. The only weird thing about it is that you got used to it so quickly. Then again, you’re human. Your species often finds it easier to adjust to things than others.

“You’re such a – a psychologist.”

Is that an insult? Anyway, I have a PhD in psychology. So yeah, I am a psychologist.

“That’s definitely not true.”

How do you know? Here, share a memory.

A mental image of a lecture hall floated into my head; a man of advanced years stood at the front, and behind him a massive Venn diagram had been projected onto the wall. He was pointing at the left circle with a cane, and in the middle of his student audience a small orange creature was floating above a chair, connected to its laptop by a string of blue electricity.

“That... might not be real,” I said cautiously.

He’s delivering a lecture on stimulus generalisation and Pavlovian reinforcement, with reference to the ‘Little Albert’ experiment.

“OK, I believe you.”

His tone was so authoritative that I had to believe him, strange though it seemed; Puck really had gone to university. I wondered how it had happened – and then wondered at how little I really knew about him. Puck was an art thief, and he was English, and he had studied psychology at university.

Wait. That was crazy. He was a Rotom – a Pokémon, for God’s sake. No non-humans but Kadabra ever participated in human society as equals; either they weren’t intelligent enough or they preyed on us, like Gengar. Puck was something that couldn’t possibly be.

And yet here he was...

I frowned, and resolved to do some research on Rotom when I got out and back to the Pokémon Centre.

If you don’t want me to fry your brain, I wouldn’t do that, said Puck. His voice was dark and serious, like a pompous chocolate bar.

“Why?” A chill ran down my spine, and for once it was mine and not his. “What do you have to hide?”

Everything, he replied. I’m special, let’s just leave it at that. So special... but you’re a creep.

And with that vaguely ominous statement tempered with a popular musical reference, Puck ceased to talk, and I could get no more out of him than from the walls.

---

“Fabien, are you payin’ for all this?”

Fabien inspected his glass, then inspected the long line of empty ones spread out along the bar. He might not be the tallest of men, but he could hold his liquor well; he was barely even drunk yet – or at least, he didn’t think he was, which was often enough to fool himself at least. It was a trick that had been taught to him by a rather bad Buddhist monk who had been one for sneaking illicit beers, shortly before that monk died in mysterious circumstances that were in no way connected to Fabien at all.

“No,” he said at length, “I don’t think I am.”

“I think you are,” said the bartender, and Fabien looked up at him. He was well over six feet tall, and built like the Balrog, only without the flaming wings.
“You shall not pass,” murmured Fabien, and punched him on the nose.

It was unusual for Fabien to be so proactive, and even more unusual for a plan of his to work. On this occasion, however, it did: the bartender staggered back a step, and Fabien leaped to his feet and left the bar in a flash.

Blake, slightly slower on the uptake, sat there for a moment, then jumped up after him. The bartender was shouting and going for the door, so he punched him smartly between the eyes, laying him out across the bar, and fled the building.

---

“Fabien!”

“I don’t want to hear it, Blake.”

“Fabien, wha’s up with you?”

“Blake, this is a threshold!” Fabien stood in the middle of the street; it seemed he was more drunk than he’d thought. “It’s a point past which I must progress, as the main character!”

“There ain’t no main character!” Blake yelled at him. “You’re drunk!”

“I am the main character!” Fabien proclaimed. “This is one of those tests, you know? It’s the point halfway through the film where things conspire against me and I begin to lose heart! I’m – I’m Ron Weasley in the forest!”

“He ain’t the main character, Fabien!”

There was a group of people gathered now, watching in a kind of disturbed fascination; to see two grown men so serious about something so utterly outlandish was an opportunity rarely to be had, and not to be passed over lightly. They were sure it must be a film – this was Fallarbor, after all, the home of Hoennian cinema – but there was no crew to be seen, no cameras, no microphones. Some said it was real, and that they were looking at two people blessed and cursed with lives and dialogue ripped from film scripts.

“I have to overcome it, Blake!” cried Fabien. “This day is a one-dimensional threshold guardian designed to stop the plot from developing, or maybe it’s some sort of strange event pasted in to cover a gap in the narrative where something else once was! Either way, I can’t back down now. My name is Fabien Barnaby Latch, grunt in the Magmas of Hoenn, former chairman of the Fortree Flower Arranging Club, loyal servant to the true leader, Maximilian Aurelius. Son to a murdered father, brother to a divorced sister. And I will have my closure, in this life or the next!”

He finished his speech in a shout, one fist raised high into the sky and his head pointed down, with closed eyes; he must have stayed there for half a minute afterwards, as the silence filled the street. Then, hesitantly at first, and then more strongly, applause took hold in the audience. Soon, the entire crowd was cheering, and Fabien gave a long bow, thanked everyone profusely and passed out.

Goishi, watching from the bar, gaped and stared. Surely, this could not be happening? His master was crazy and deceitful, he knew that much. He also knew that he had a tendency to become eloquent when drunk. But this...? This was something on an unprecedented scale. This was his pet theory about being the main character elevated to the rank of obsession.

Also, half of Fallabor had heard his speech, and that mean the Aquas too. Goishi could only deduce that Tabitha was going to be angry, and that whether or not there had been Aquas chasing them before, there definitely would be now.

Blake was helping Fabien up now, and supporting him as they staggered away down the street; Goishi flapped lazily out to drift along behind them. The crowd parted before them and began to disperse, and Goishi realised just how stupid this whole thing had been. The day had been bad, it was true; it had put Fabien in low spirits, it was true; but how had ranting in the street made anything better? It was cinematic, that was true, although it would have been better shot in pouring, all-obscuring rain – but nothing had changed. Fabien was still a liar, a cheat and an overall failure as a man. He wasn’t just bad at lying low – he was bad at life.

The only thing to come out of it all, Goishi reflected, was that Fabien had somehow convinced himself that everything was better. At least, he thought he had.
He shook his head and sighed. This was getting far too complicated, and far too ridiculous. He’d thought it before and he thought it again: he missed Stheno, and the comfortable days before he’d met Fabien.

Ten minutes later, Blake stopped and answered his phone, which had begun to ring, then winced. Goishi watched with interest as he spoke.

“It’s Tabitha,” he said. “An ’e’s abou’ as ’appy as a leekless Farfetch’d.”

---

“A Rotom,” Sapphire said. It was almost the truth, she thought. “Charge Beam.”

“Hmm,” the doctor replied, peering myopically at the blob of agony that currently constituted her arm. “I think that’s a superficial partial thickness burn. It’s quite big, though.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.” Sapphire glanced at her arm herself. From the wrist to the shoulder, it was a vibrant red and twisted into a series of clear blisters; it was as if someone had boiled and skinned a Seismitoad, and inconsiderately grafted its skin onto her arm.

“Miss, if you’re going to be like that—”

“Sorry. It just... hurts.”

That seemed to placate him, because the doctor then spread an oily white lotion over her arm, which hurt considerably; as he did so, he explained to her that this medicine was taken from a distillation of the active ingredients from Blissey egg yolk. They were good, he said, for pretty much all minor superficial injuries.

“Fascinating,” replied Sapphire, through clenched teeth to mask the pain. “Are you done yet?”

“Nope,” the doctor said cheerily, and proceeded to swathe her arm in bandages up and down its length. They felt far too tight, and they stung against the blisters, but Sapphire bore it; she had a feeling that it would be worse without them. After all, this guy was a doctor, and she hoped that meant he knew what he was doing.

“Now,” he said, “take this.” He handed her a pill, and Sapphire stared at it.

“What’s this?”

“A painkiller.”

“You couldn’t have given it to me before torturing my arm?”

“Oh yes,” the doctor said earnestly, “I could, but you see you didn’t come across as a very likeable person, so I didn’t.”

“I’m sure that sort of discrimination’s illegal for doctors,” Sapphire muttered, and swallowed the tablet.

“I’m sure it is, too,” the doctor agreed. “Now, here’s some bandages, and here’s some of that Blissey lotion. Apply it twice a day and change the bandages daily. Now get out.”

“Do I get a supply of painkillers?”

“What d’you think this is, a pharmacy?” The doctor snorted and pointed at the door. “Leave. Now.”

Sapphire pulled her shirt and coat back on, grabbed her bag with her good hand and stalked out, muttering darkly to herself about the ethical standards of those who went into the medical profession.

However, as she left the Accident and Emergency ward, more pressing issues came into her mind: namely, Kester and his whereabouts. She was pretty certain that Darren Goodwin wasn’t going to leave without his Miltank’s Poké Ball, so he’d probably seek her out; maybe she could trade or something.

“Right,” Sapphire said aloud. “Where would I go to look for me if I were a Devon researcher?”

The answer was obvious: the Pokémon Centre. Sapphire headed back there, left arm hanging limply – and now, with the painkiller kicking in, a little numbly – at her side. She asked the receptionist if her Combusken was back from seeing the doctors yet, was informed she was, and received her; then she asked if anyone had come looking for her while she was out.

“Oh yes,” the receptionist replied. “There was a nice young man here – your cousin, he said.”

“Darren?” Sapphire chanced. If not him, it could be anyone. She wouldn’t have called him young – for Sapphire, ‘young’ meant twenty and under – but she did suppose that the Devon man couldn’t have been much past thirty.

“That was him,” she confirmed. “I told him you were out and I didn’t know when you’d be back, so he left a message that he’d be waiting for you at nine o’clock tonight outside the helipad.”

He must want to head back to Devon as soon as possible, reasoned Sapphire. God knows I would.

“OK, thanks.” Sapphire smiled prettily and went into the lounge, where, since there were no other Trainers in the building, she let out all four of her Pokémon and tried to pass the time by watching TV. Rono stretched out like a lizard in front of the sofa, ignoring the sounds and images; he’d never had much time for television. Toro, on the other hand, was a borderline addict – placing her in front of a TV was one of the few ways to keep her still for extended periods of time. She sat on Rono’s hard, cold back and stared with fascinated eyes at the screen. Stacey, keen to give the impression she was, in fact, a small feathery human being, perched next to Sapphire and did her best to pretend she understood what the TV was; the nameless Sableye, Sapphire discovered, had a mortal fear of the idiot’s lantern and hid under the sofa with his Dustox doll.

For her own part, Sapphire found it hard to put her coming encounter with Darren Goodwin from her mind. There were seven and a half hours until they were due to meet, and it didn’t seem nearly long enough. She flicked mindlessly through channels, not taking in any of them – until a familiar face filled the screen.

“... same specimen as has been spotted in towns across the country,” the newsreader was saying. “Nicknamed ‘Stripe’ for the band of white fur on his head, it seems this Sableye is at the heart of the recent insurrection...”

Sapphire watched the news for a disheartening five minutes, in which she’d learned that from Verdanturf and Mauville, the sociopathic Sableye had come to Lavaridge, rendering the Cable Car unusable along the way. A few had gone to Fallarbor, but had turned up dead and covered in vomit near broken drains. This had been leapt upon by the conspiracy theory community as evidence for the unproven rumour that there was a rogue Serperior, once an exotic pet and now a predatory menace, that roamed the city’s sewer network.

“Oh good,” she said unenthusiastically. “Another thing to feel bad about.”
She turned off the TV, to Toro’s dismay and to Stacey’s secret relief, and stood up.

“I need to get out of here,” she said decisively. “Stacey!”

The Swablu looked up at her with large, dark eyes that marked her out as a Bird of Very Little Brain. If ever she Thought of Things, she might have found that when those Things got out and had people looking at them, they seemed a lot less Thingish, but that is enough of that.

“On my shoulder. Now.”

Startled by the sudden command, Stacey actually obeyed. Sapphire recalled Rono, Toro and the useless Sableye, and left at a pace that was close to a march. She was going to find something to fight now, and make Stacey evolve. And then, if there was time, she was going to use her map to get back to Spike, and battle her again, and win. And then, if she could, she was going to figure out what had happened to her to make her change herself so much, and, if it was something bad, she would help her change back again. If there was time.

Sapphire was a girl on a mission, and it showed in the grim, determined set of her face; the boy in the lobby picked up on it right away and jumped a clean foot back from her, flung aside by the intensity she carried with her.

A boy in the lobby?

Sapphire halted and gave him a piercing look. He was fifteen or sixteen, with straw-coloured hair and wide-open eyes that gave him the look of a perpetually-startled fish; he wore battered clothes with fashionable English writing on, and his feet were as outsize as his eyes. At some point during his career as a Trainer he’d lost three fingers from his left hand.

“Er... did you want something?” he asked, startled.

“You’re a Trainer?” Sapphire demanded to know.

“Yes. That’s obvious, isn’t it?”

It was. He had the belt, only his was more of a bandoleer – he wore it across his chest. The effect was slightly ruined by his sparseness of frame; it reminded Sapphire of a newborn Cubone she’d once seen, far too small for its mother’s skull. As it was, the fact that there were six balls there was the sole impressive feature; it was difficult to travel with six Pokémon in tow, since all of them needed feeding and care. Sapphire guessed he must have been Training pretty much constantly since he turned ten.

“Do you have any Pokémon in the late twenties?” she asked. “I’ve been looking for a battle to strengthen myself for the Gym Leader here – she beat me last time – but there’s no one else here.”

“By a happy coincidence,” the boy said, “I was looking for a battle, too, because I’ve just come from the Gym, and the Leader just beat me. And I’ve got a couple of Pokémon at that sort of level in the PC.”

And so it was that ten minutes later, Sapphire and the boy – whose name, it transpired, was Lodovic – stood facing each other across the stretch of grass at the back of the Centre. In most Centres, this would have been a large area; here, there was barely room for two simultaneous battles.

“OK,” Lodovic said. “Just so you know, I’m not going to let you win just to strengthen you.”

“Neither am I,” retorted Sapphire. “I’ll even give you the advantage and play white.”

Trainer jargon was as rich and varied as any you might find; playing ‘white’ or ‘black’ was a term borrowed from chess, where the white side moves first, and designated the order in which the combatants sent out their Pokémon.

“Go on, Stacey,” said Sapphire encouragingly. “Evolution will bring you one step closer to being human.”

A sudden, glittering light appeared in the Swablu’s eyes; she fluffed her wings and swooped down to float above the grassy sward like a piece of cotton caught in an updraft.

“Being human?” queried Lodovic. “That’s not weird at all.”

“She’s got a thing,” Sapphire said, and then added, somewhat despondently: “Almost all my Pokémon do.”

“Interesting,” Lodovic said. “I look forward to seeing them.” He threw a Poké Ball down, and a pale green monstrosity appeared, half as tall as its Trainer and leering out from beneath a broad head-mounted lily-pad; it resembled nothing so much as an evil monkey wearing a sombrero, and its eyes were full of disdain.

“Lombre,” Sapphire said. “OK. Stacey, Peck!”

“Stanislaus, Ice Beam,” ordered Lodovic coolly.

The Lombre drew back its heavy head and vomited forth a stream of white-blue energy, pencil-thin and icy-cold; Stacey banked sharply and it missed her by a full yard. Once any Beam attack was started, it took an experienced user to cut it off short, and so the Lombre kept up the Ice Beam despite the fact that it was simply petering out a few metres away; Stacey swooped around to the side and Pecked it sharply on the side of the head. She came away with blood on her beak.

“Again!”

Stacey was only too eager; she darted around the Lombre’s head, Pecking wildly – so wildly, in fact, that she didn’t actually hit it.

“Slow down!” Sapphire ordered, and just as Stacey spread her wings to brake Lodovic cried out:

“Now! ThunderPunch!”

The Lombre swung around and drove its fist into Stacey’s little body; lightning crackled and flared around her small form and she flew backwards with a despairing cry, landing hard on her back and skidding along the ground for a full six feet before coming to rest against a rock.

“Stacey!”

Sapphire needn’t have worried. Stacey might have been weak to Electric moves, but her blood was up now and she wasn’t going to submit to some Grass-type punk with ideas above its station. The effort required for her to launch herself into the air was visible, but she wasn’t beaten yet; her wings still worked fine, and that was all she needed.

“OK, Stacey, new tactic: Sing.”

“Cover your ears!” Lodovic said, but it was too late. There are few Pokémon with such a natural aptitude for Singing as Swablu – Jigglypuff, perhaps, is one – and though Stacey may have believed she was human, she was still a master of the art. Her little beak opened, a stream of golden notes poured out, and the Lombre’s large eyelids slid downwards, its hands halfway to its ears. A moment later, it slumped down onto the ground, snuffling slightly.

“All right,” Sapphire said. “Peck him up.”

In an official match between Trainers, it was forbidden to use items on Pokémon mid-battle, and it was all over in a few minutes. Stanislaus the Lombre passed from sleep to true unconsciousness under a relentless rain of Flying-type moves, and Lodovic recalled him with a scowl.

Sapphire tensed as he reached for the next ball. She knew that one more hit – of any type, super-effective or not – would finish Stacey off; it was a marvel that she had taken the ThunderPunch so well. Whatever it was, she would keep Stacey out against it just long enough for her to gain a little more combat experience, and then switch to either Rono or Toro. Absently, she scratched her bandaged arm, and then jerked her hand away as it ignited in a burst of searing pain.

“Bassiano!”

A crescent-shaped boulder rose up slowly from the earth, a beaky nose fixed between its crater-pocked horns and a pair of blood-red eyes staring out from either side of it; a chill ran down Sapphire’s spine and she looked away from those eyes hurriedly. It was a well-documented fact that if you looked into a Lunatone’s eyes, you would become transfixed with fear; once, her father had been stuck to the spot for so long that the Lunatone had become bored, and decided to amuse itself by stealing his clothes with its psychic powers. That, Sapphire recalled, had been the first and most embarrassing of the times she’d had to go and collect him from the police station...

“Rock Slide!”

Sapphire jolted back to the present and held out Stacey’s ball.

“Return!”

Points of light appeared above Stacey, grew inexplicably into boulders and fell downwards to fade away after hitting the ground; Sapphire always avoided thinking about how moves like Rock Slide actually worked, if possible, and the concentration required to recall Stacey and send out Rono one-handed helped.

“Iron Head,” she commanded, and the Lairon gave a gravelly roar before curling into a ball and rolling in the direction of the Lunatone; evidently, neither it nor its Trainer had ever encountered a Lairon that utilised Rono’s peculiar method of locomotion before, because it stayed floating on the spot, transfixed by surprise, as Sapphire’s Pokémon uncurled and leaped straight for it, smashing his steel skull into the psychic boulder and cracking it so badly that one of its horns fell off.

“What the—?” Lodovic seemed confused for a moment, but he soon changed to grinning instead. “That was so cool,” he said. “Never seen a Lairon that could move that fast before.”

Sapphire grinned back.

“I told you,” she said. “All my Pokémon have a thing. Stacey thinks she’s a person, Rono can roll... actually, Toro doesn’t have anything weird, but the other one does.”

“Other one?” queried Lodovic, recalling his Lunatone. “I thought this was a three-on-three match?”

“It is,” replied Sapphire. “That one... doesn’t need training. And he won’t for a very, very long time.”

“You’re a really interesting person,” Lodovic said, narrowing his eyes at her. “All right. Kuchi, let’s turn this match around!”

To Sapphire’s surprise, Kuchi did. It was a cute little Pokémon, barely two feet tall, and doll-like with large, soulful eyes. Coloured in yellow and grey, it sauntered up to Rono with a disarming look, and so disconcerted was the Lairon that he wasn’t able to react in time when the monster spun around on one foot to reveal that one of its horns was, in fact, a gigantic, toothy mouth, snapping and straining at the root that tethered it to the skull.

“Brick Break!”

The mouth scythed downwards and crumpled Rono’s back inwards with its side; he staggered back, roaring in pain, and kicked up a cloud of obscuring mud out of habit. Unfortunately for him, the mud hit the mouth, and so none of it went into the little creature’s eyes. It simply spun around, looked at where he was, and leaped over to him before smashing its great maw into his comparatively soft rocky underbelly.

Whatever the monster was, two of its Brick Breaks were too much for Rono; he bellowed mournfully, like a wounded cow, and collapsed unconscious at the monster’s feet.

“What is that thing?” asked Sapphire, recalling Rono.

“Mawile,” replied Lodovic, “the Deceiver Pokémon. Come on, send something out.”

Sapphire took up Stacey’s ball again and threw it down. The Swablu didn’t make it into the air this time; she flapped her wings once, weakly, then decided that she couldn’t really do it and flopped forward onto her belly, gently perspiring. It was an obvious fact to those to whom it was obvious that she was on the verge of evolution; her body was slightly larger than usual, and its blobby ovoid shape was starting to lengthen.

“You really want to level her, huh?” Lodovic said. “Fine. Kuchi, Crunch!”

The little monster ran forwards, tiny feet pattering across the grass, and Sapphire recalled Stacey as quickly as she’d sent her out; the Mawile’s jaws snapped shut on thin air, and it gave a frustrated whine.

“Toro!” Judging from its behaviour and epithet, Deceiver, Mawile was probably a Dark-type; that type was the most inclined to sneak attacks and lying. Ghosts did it too, but few of them were as solid as this creature was – even those with feet would have glided across the ground rather than run as Mawile did. Sapphire supposed it could have been a Normal-type – but her instinct told her it wasn’t; there was something in the hard bones that showed through its soft, delicate skin that spoke of greater exoticism than that.

Judging by the look on Lodovic’s face when the Combusken appeared, she’d guessed right – he looked like someone had just informed him that he had three weeks to live. Still, it couldn’t do any harm to play cautiously.

“Bulk Up!” Sapphire commanded, and prayed Toro got it right; this was a move that they were in the process of learning rather than one they had actually learned. The Combusken gave it her best shot, tensing her muscles and glowing bright orange for a half-second; it looked like it had worked, but Sapphire knew from experience that that didn’t mean anything. Often, Toro only managed to raise her Attack or Defence, instead of Attack and Defence.

The time it took to do the Bulk Up was all that Kuchi the Mawile needed to start a Rock Slide going, leaping up into the air and spraying luminous flecks from its massive mouth; they coalesced into boulders and fell towards Toro like dead comedians.

“Dodge them!”

Toro was fast, Toro was quick; doubtless Toro could have jumped over the candlestick. She bounded up and grabbed onto the side of the first boulder, then leaped up onto the second and to the third; the whole thing was, as Pokémon so often are, highly improbable and very impressive to look at. In a trice, Toro was six feet in the air and above every boulder, and from there she launched, unasked, a flying axe kick at Kuchi. This was not technically a Pokémon move, but as Toro’s taloned heel snapped the Mawile’s head down into the grass and left it unmoving, it didn’t seem proper to argue the point.

The battle was over, three-one to Sapphire. And Stacey’s Poké Ball was beginning to rattle as if a demon were trapped inside, and couldn’t get out.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; August 16th, 2011 at 03:35 AM.
  #96    
Old April 21st, 2011, 12:51 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
I hate this chapter so much it's not even believable. Unfortunately, it's a necessary one, so all I can do is hope the next one's better.

Chapter Forty-One: The Cow and the Cauliflower

Lodovic recalled his Mawile glumly, despondence settling across his face like a wet blanket.

“Damn,” he said. “You’re good. I wasn’t expecting that. Especially not the rolling thing with that Lairon.”

“You weren’t so bad yourself,” Sapphire said. “Now, I think I need to get Stacey and Rono to the Nurse Joy.”

“I’ll come too,” said Lodovic. “Stanislaus, Bassiano and Kuchi need healing as well.”

After they had had their Pokémon healed, Lodovic retired to the computer room – he needed to reorganise his PC storage and also retrieve the Pokémon he was currently training – and Sapphire, Stacey fluttering along by her side, headed for Spike’s Gym. The time was quarter past three; the afternoon was young yet, and she had plenty of time to get to the station to meet Darren Goodwin.

Stacey was swelling visibly, like a slow-inflating balloon, or a time-lapse film of an apple growing; she was gradually acquiring a neck, and her stubby tail-stump was lengthening into a series of long feathers. The ribbon-like plumes atop her head were growing longer and longer, and her beak was deepening to the great hatchet-blade of the adult Altaria.

Sapphire watched her progress with satisfaction. Hopefully, once the Swablu had evolved, her weird obsession with being human would be swamped beneath the mindless bloodlust that characterised her adult form. Those who had never seen one assumed Altaria were birds; what you had to remember was that they were dragons beneath all the feathers and song – and dragons were the strongest-willed and wildest of all Pokémon. Training history was littered with men and women who had underestimated the power of the Dragon-type, and perished under their fire and talons; the only man who had ever truly mastered them was the Dragon Master Lance, Champion of the Indigo Elite Four. He had tamed the untameable Gyarados and Dragonite – the latter three times over; he had obtained the first Aerodactyl, and tamed the first wild Charizard for sixty-three years. Right now, he was seeking to train a Tyranitar, and if he succeeded he would increase the number of ‘untameable’ species he had tamed to three. He himself owned an Altaria, Sapphire thought, as well as a Garchomp...

Sapphire reached the Gym, and shook herself from her thoughts. Right now, she had to face Spike.

She glanced at Stacey. Her evolution had progressed much faster than Toro’s – Swablu and Altaria needed less time and training than Combusken – and she was now pretty much fully-evolved. She stalked alongside her Trainer on hooked talons as long and sharp as bread knives; from her powerful legs, her body was held in a graceful S-shape, so that the head was perpetually raised and ready to strike out at an enemy. Her wings were fully-feathered now, though a thin coating of down still clung to them in places, and she bore them folded at her sides, the tips of her broad feathers crossing over her tail. Her eyes were small and narrow, and Sapphire thought she could discern the faint fire of berserker blood deep within their inky depths.

Sapphire nodded approvingly. Now this she could work with.

“Stacey,” she said, “I think I’m warming to you.”

---

“Back again?”

“Yes.” Sapphire paused. “Spike—”

“Flannery.”

“—Flannery, can I ask you a question?”

Spike’s face was blank; Sapphire, never the best at considering the feelings of others, couldn’t tell if she was hiding something or not.

“I reserve the right not to answer,” she replied guardedly.

“Why did you change?” Sapphire asked simply. “What’s going on here?”

Spike said nothing.

“Are you exercising your right not to answer?”

“Yes.”

“OK,” Sapphire said, and for once wished Kester were there; he’d probably get the story out of her somehow. He might be a moron, but he was a lucky moron; he stumbled across the most unusual Pokémon, and he overheard crucial snippets of information, and he got things right by accident. “Whatever. Let’s battle.”

“Two on two?”

“Yes,” confirmed Sapphire. She wanted Spike to think she had the same team as last time; that way, she’d have a better shot at predicting what was going to happen. She waited for Spike to pick up a ball from the chest, then threw down her own and sent out Stacey.

Spike’s eyes widened as she saw the Altaria, but only slightly; something shifted in her features, and the ghost of a smile passed over her face.

“Can’t escape it, huh,” she said, so quietly that Sapphire almost missed it. “All right. Pallas!”

The candle-ghost from before, the Litwick, materialised and floated up to Stacey’s eye-height; the Altaria peered at it curiously. Sapphire watched the flame for a moment, mesmerised, then suddenly realised what was about to happen—

Shut your eyes!” she shouted.

Whether Stacey had come to accept Sapphire as her Trainer or whether she simply picked up on the urgency in her voice, she obeyed, and Sapphire shut her own eyes just as Spike snapped:

“Flash!”

Sapphire could see the light through her eyelids; the darkness flared red for a moment, then it passed. She opened her eyes and, without waiting to see where the Litwick was, ordered:

“Peck!”

Stacey’s long neck snapped forwards like that of a striking cobra; her head tore through the candle, snapping the soft wax clean in two. The candle gave out a disconcerting shriek and hurriedly flew backwards, mending itself with hot wax, but Stacey had tasted blood now, and she wasn’t holding back.

They say an Altaria can reach speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour when diving. Rarely, if ever, has one attained this in level flight, and certainly not within a metre and a half of a standing start.

This would explain why Stacey didn’t achieve that speed when she threw herself forwards at the Litwick. However, she certainly went fast; neither Spike nor Sapphire were entirely sure of what happened. It was something Dragon-related, of that we can be certain: blue flames were gathering in her beak, and streaming back around her head. The end result was that the little candle ended up as a splattered mess on the floor, and Spike recalled her with a grin.

“All right!” she cried, and her voice seemed more normal again, strident and rough-cut. “Now this is fun!”

She tossed the Litwick’s ball aside and picked up another, seemingly at random, then threw it down so hard it bounced before it opened; the Magcargo within was released in midair, and landed on Stacey’s back.

The Altaria immediately collapsed on the floor, screaming and thrashing, but the great weight of the lava snail held it pressed to her back. Stacey was strong, but she was built like a bird and couldn’t shift the stony monster; this placed her in the category known as distressed, and when Altaria are distressed, they scream.

Now, it is a well-known fact that the scream of the adult Altaria is rivalled only by that of the Exploud in terms of the damage it can cause to the human eardrum. In the well-known experiment carried out by Professor Birch in the late nineties, a microphone placed in an Altaria nest exploded a mere half-second after the birds began to sing. Imagine that scream, if you will, let loose in a small area, with nowhere to go but into the two pairs of human ears around it; then double it and triple it, and quadruple it for good measure, because you cannot possibly conceive of what it felt like to be in that room with Stacey screaming.

A distant window shattered and a trickle of blood escaped Sapphire’s ears as Stacey emptied her impressive lungs. The awful smell of burning feathers rose into the air, and Sapphire gagged; somewhere in the middle of the nausea and the pain, some tiny part of her brain had the presence of mind to raise her right arm and recall Stacey before the Magcargo burnt right through her. Most dragons were fireproof, but Altaria were the exception, being altogether too feathery.

The noise disappeared, and both Spike and Sapphire gasped with relief as the pain faded from their ears. Spike, though, soon started grinning even more broadly.

That’s what I’m talking about,” she said. “Racing with death.”

Sapphire fumbled for another ball, confused; she pulled out Rono’s, and threw it down.

“Iron Head,” she said, and Rono lurched forwards obligingly.

“Invert yourself!” commanded Spike, and the Magcargo proceeded to wrap its liquid body around its vulnerable rocky shell, defending its stone internal organs from the Steel move; Rono’s head sank into a cubic foot of lava, and he staggered back, the metal on his forehead blistered and plastic. He bellowed in pain, and swung around to look accusingly at Sapphire.

Her only response was four letters long and unprintable. She had just realised that she should have sent out Toro: being a Fire-type, she was the only one of Sapphire’s Pokémon who could have touched the Magcargo without burning. But since it was a two-on-two battle, and she’d already sent out two Pokémon, there was no way to get Toro onto the field. She was stuck with Rono and Stacey.

“Earth Power, while it’s disoriented!” cried Spike.

The floor began to tremble a little, and, thinking fast, Sapphire shouted out a command:

“Rono! Roll around!”

Despite his softened face, Rono wasn’t injured seriously enough to be out of the running yet. He curled up obediently and started rolling erratically around the podium; behind him, jets of liquid fire and soil spurted up through rifts that opened spontaneously in the floorboards. One clipped his tail as he uncurled, and blew a circular hole straight through it; he roared in pain, and Sapphire frantically wracked her brains for a move he knew that might actually be useful.

“Mud-Slap!”

Dirt flew up from nowhere, kicked up by Rono’s forefeet; the Magcargo, far too slow to dodge, vanished into a swirl of airborne mud. It gave out a slow bubble of pain, but Sapphire knew that it wouldn’t be seriously injured. Even with the snail’s Ground weakness, Mud-Slap was just too weak.

“Again! Before it clears its eyes!”

“Get in your shell!”

The Magcargo withdrew into its shell as more mud spattered over it; Spike didn’t want it blinded. Sapphire grinned wolfishly.

“Now! Iron Head!”

Spike’s eyes widened, and she started. Without the Magcargo’s fiery coating, the rocky part of it was exposed and vulnerable—

Rono’s steel cranium slammed into the snail’s shell and cracked it from top to bottom; lava trickled from the split and Spike recalled it reluctantly. She knew when she was beaten – and this was one of those times.

“All right,” Sapphire said, taking a step forwards and looking Spike in the eye. “Now I want you to tell me what’s going on here.”

And Spike looked at her for a long moment, and then Spike made her reply.


Let’s play I-Spay, Puck said.

“There’s nothing to spy in here,” I said. “I mean, it would be like, I spy something beginning with ‘W’. Is it ‘wall’? Yeah, how’d you guess?”

No, I said I-Spay. It’s where we take it in turns to spay stray cats.

“The hell kind of game is that? And what’s a cat?”

Kester, Kester, Kester, I just don’t know what to do with you, Puck said sorrowfully. If he’d had a corporeal body, he’d have been shaking his head. My God, if you were a puppy – sorry, Poochyena – you’d have been drowned at birth.

“No, you just keep talking about foreign things that no one’s ever heard of.”

I think a lot of people have heard of cats. Just putting that one out there.

“I think you’ll find they haven’t.”

Don’t make me take a global survey. Seriously, Kester, drop it.

“Whatever.” I sniffed, secure in my superiority; whatever a cat was, it was something that had never entered my life before and would probably never enter it again.

We sat in silence for a while. Then:

Yo, Kester.


“What is it now?”

Can I ask you a question?

“That is a question.”

I’ll take that as a yes, Mr. There’s-No-Such-Thing-As-Cats. Well, it isn’t really a question. It’s more of an open request.

“Get on with it.”

Now, we’ve been together a long time now—


“Two weeks.”

—a long time, nearly three hundred and fifty pages, and I’ve been flicking through these memories of yours – but only the interesting bits. So, tell me about yourself.

“You want to know about me?” I couldn’t keep the incredulous tone out of my voice. “What the hell do you want to know about me for?”

Because we’re friends. You know, we make graphs together and all that. Dum dum dum dum. Ping.

“What?”

Just tell me, would you? I’m on tenterhooks.

“What do you want to know? My name’s Kester Ruby, I’m seventeen years old, my birthday’s in January, I live in Rustboro, my favourite colour is—”

Oh, please. Not that stuff. I want to know you. Tell me your life story.

“Is this one of those weird TV shows where they trace someone’s family tree?”

Yeah, yeah, and I’m Piers Morgan. Ouch, he added, aside. That was a bad reference. Now get on with it, meatface.

“OK, so... I’ve lived in Rustboro all my life. Centrazine District. Er... I’m learning to ride a Vespa—”

You call that riding? snorted Puck.

“Do you want me to talk or not?”

What?

“Do you want me to talk or not?”

You know that thing where you think you didn’t hear someone, but then you realise you actually did, and they’re already halfway through saying what they were going to say next, and you’re, like, oh, shall I interrupt them and set it right, or not, because I know that it’s just going to get more complicated if I do...
Puck trailed off. Yeah, that was one of those things. Please, continue.

“I really don’t know what you want me to talk about.” I sat up a little. “Wait, do you have some kind of hidden agenda here? Is there something you’re trying to find out about me?”

No, I’m just making conversatio—

“You are, aren’t you!”

Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute!
Puck protested, affecting a brash, accented voice. I say, I’ve got no, I say, I got no hidden agenda boy – keep your thoughts together, you’re trippin’ over them – I say, this is ’bout as rummy as a pirate in a wenchin’ house—

“Enough of the jokes!” I cried, getting up. “Take this seriously for once, please!”

Serious? I’m so serious I’m delirious! His accent had changed again; this one I recognised. It was Australian.

New Zealand, actually – a Kiwi pretending to be a Yank, if you want to get even more precise, not to mention more colloquial.

“Shut up!”

Ah, let’s not fall out. We can be friends. Look!

I felt a stabbing pain in my head and a large blue cauliflower materialised in front of me.

This arrested my rage immediately. I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, and reached tentatively to touch it.

Damn it. Wrong neurons.

I stopped, fingers a few inches away from the cauliflower.

“This is a hallucination?”

I was trying to make a picture of a TV appear. I was going to show you some movies that I’ve been referencing. But... yeah, I’m a Rotom, not a Gengar. I can’t work with this organic stuff.

“Make it go away!”

I’m trying, I’m trying...

The cauliflower acquired a mouth-like split down the middle, and a pair of eyes appeared on it.

“Puck,” I said in a low, warning voice, “it’s looking at me.”

Sorry! I’m trying—

“Stop trying, it’s making it worse!”

All right.

I stared at the cauliflower, and the cauliflower stared back.

“Puck,” I said, “you’ve screwed up my life. Again.”

---

“So, any plans for this summer?” asked Tchaikovsky, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. “Going to sail the seven seas, or fly the whole blue sky?”

He was hoping that this tactic would disarm his passengers into revealing something about their plans. The downside was that you had to be an idiot to fall for it; the upside was that he was riding with Blake and Fabien.

“Jus eradicatin’ Team Aqua,” replied Blake. “I mean – nothin’. Not going nowhere. Or doing nothin’.”

The car was bouncing along the dirt track that wound through the valleys of ash east of Fallarbor; they were to meet with Courtney, Maxie and a group of other grunts at the northern end of the Bone Desert. They had been selected to travel with them in the assault on Mount Pyre, for they were the only ones who had real experience of Kester Ruby’s powers.

Tabitha had given them a lot to mull over in a very loud and angry voice, and Blake was desperately trying to avoid doing so; if he did, he was sure, he was going to end up feeling rather queasy. After the protracted lecture, their instructions had been given – almost as an afterthought. Blake had called up a Magma ‘fixer’, though he’d had to try and prise the number out of the inebriated Fabien first, and got him to arrange a car to pick them up. Fabien had progressed past the coherent stages of drunkenness, and had repeatedly informed Blake that he was ‘the best person ever, no really you are’; in the end, Blake had managed to get him to sleep, and finally got some respite from the endless drunken banalities.

But Blake was not Fabien. Fabien was the intellect, he was abundantly aware of that; with him out of the picture, Blake was feeling more and more insecure about his ability to cope with situations like these. Hence his rather inadvisable slip-up a moment ago.

“What was that you said?” asked Tchaikovsky, forgetting to reference anything in his excitement.

“Nothin’. Nothin’ doin’ at all. Ain’t tha’ righ’?” Blake turned to Fabien, but he was, like Florence, drunk in the grip of a hurricane; however, he was more in the eye of the storm, and consequently very, very still and silent. “A’righ’, well, we’re not doin’ anythin’.”

“Oh. I see.”

Inside, Tchaikovsky was leaping for joy; this was it! He knew there was something going down; when he’d driven that Aqua girl with the headphone to Plain Rooke, he’d got the idea that the blues were up to something that meant trouble for the reds. They were working against each other, and if his hunch about there being someone pulling all the strings was right, then that someone was setting things up for some kind of war.

The only question now was: who?

---

There is one member of our little cast whom we have not visited since Thursday; a boy who was currently spending rather a lot of his time wandering around an artificial island south of Sootopolis in a desultory kind of way.

The boy with jade eyes was right now walking down a path in the ornamental gardens, and the lumbering monster he’d named Coast was plodding along behind him.

He had been in almost constant training for the last few days. On Wednesday, the tournament would begin; not counting the few hours left in the current day, that meant he had just two days to finish bringing Coast up to speed with the rest of his Pokémon, and teach him the difference between Aqua Tail and Aqua Jet. He was beginning to suspect that the monster might be partially deaf.

The boy with the jade eyes came to a gate, and stopped. There was an aged, aged man a-sitting on it. His look was mild, and his hair whiter than snow; his face was positively corvid in aspect, and his eyes glowed like cinders.

“Who are you?” he asked suspiciously. The old man gave a secretive smile.

“I look for sleeping butterflies in wheat fields,” he replied in English. His speech was mumbling and low, and slow with it. “I make them into mutton-pies, and sell them to sailors.”

The boy with the jade eyes stared at him. When he replied, he too used English.

“You what?”

“I burn mountain-rills, and they make something called Rowlands’ Macassar-Oil from it.”

“This sounds familiar,” the boy said, scratching his head. The old man looked startled.

“Eh? But... no one gets these things! This is Hoenn!”

“I’m not from around here,” the boy said. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers. “That’s it! You’re the aged man who spoke with the White Knight!”

At this, the old man snapped something unprintable, vaulted his gate and wandered off. The boy stared after him, half-relieved to be away from the insanity incumbent upon travellers in Hoenn, and half-sorry that he’d lost the company of someone who originated – sort of – from the West, as he did.

“What is wrong with this country?” he wondered.

“Currrrr,” Coast offered.

“Shut up.”

“Currrr?”

“You are the stupidest creature it has ever been my displeasure to train,” the boy with the jade eyes said, voice drenched in malice.

“Curr.”

The boy nodded, and pushed open the gate.

“I suppose you’re right. In all fairness, Mantyke was dumber.” He stopped. “God. I’m talking to a Pokémon.” He shook his head. “It’s not even an intelligent one. It’s Coast.”

With a sigh, he held open the gate for Coast and walked off, heading for the beach. There was training to be done.

---

Here, cauli-cauli-cauliflower, said Puck. Here, cauli-cauli-cauliflower.

“I’ve already told you, that doesn’t help!”

No harm in trying, he said, wounded. At least I’m trying to help.

“It isn’t—”

The ball shook, and blue light gathered at the edges; the next thing I knew, I was standing next to Darren Goodwin in a twilit car park, and there was a knife against my throat.

There was also a cauliflower floating three yards to the south and smiling down at the proceedings, but I was trying to ignore that.

“OK,” Sapphire said – she was standing a few metres away from me, and had a Premier Ball held in one hand. The other arm, I noticed with a pang of guilt, was tightly bandaged. “I guess that is his ball, then.”

I wonder if I can Charge Beam him, I thought.

Don’t even think about it. With your sort of power, you might incapacitate him, and you might not; after all, it doesn’t take much current to disrupt the heart and kill a human. You might hit him, and you might not. The only certainty is that he’d manage to knife you before he went.

On second thoughts, I decided against struggling.

“Put his ball on the ground,” Sapphire said. She laid the Premier Ball on the tarmac, and took a step back; Darren dropped the Master Ball I’d been incarcerated in, and did the same. I stepped back hurriedly, and tried to ignore the cauliflower.

There was a pause so pregnant with tension I thought it must surely give birth to an explosion, or something similarly noisy – but as it stretched on, I was forced to reconsider.

“Vanda,” said Darren Goodwin at last. I would have jumped, but I was afraid of cutting my throat. “Go and get that ball.”

“Kester,” Sapphire said straight afterwards. “Get your ball and come over here.”

Slowly, cautiously, I edged forwards; I scooped up the Master Ball and went over to Sapphire. At the same time, a five-foot cow lumbered over from Darren’s other side, somehow grasped the Premier Ball in its hooves and went back to him. That was, if I remembered my farm animals correctly, a Miltank. I remembered reading something once that said that wild Miltank were surprisingly dangerous – they were, after all, sisters of Tauros.

“What’s going on?” I whispered to Sapphire; all the response I got was:

“Sssh!”

“All right,” began Darren Goodwin, and Sapphire grabbed my arm.

“Now, run!” she yelled, and yanked me away just as the Miltank lunged forwards.

I swore violently and broke into a run; hooves the size of my face slammed into the tarmac where we’d been just a moment before. Sapphire was tearing across the tarmac already, ducking and weaving between a few parked cars; I saw what she was doing and followed. Behind me, I heard the sound of screeching metal as the great beast forced its way through the gaps after us.

Doesn’t look like she’s going to be stopped by any mere physical obstacles, Puck observed, as if it were irrelevant. She’s seen a fair few battles. Probably at least six, seven years old.

“That’s so not helpful!” I gasped as harshly as I could. “And get rid of that cauliflower!”

It was floating just ahead of me, its round eyes mocking me with every step I took. I was beginning to think it was more scary than incongruous.

Sapphire burst free of the cars and I followed; a fence rose up in front of us, separating us from some sort of covered area, and she vaulted it effortlessly. I tried, banged my shins and scrambled over with all the grace of a lobotomised Silcoon. Apparently this amused my cauliflower-hallucination, because it giggled. That, if anything, was more frightening than the Miltank. It was certainly more disturbing.

“Hurry up!” hissed Sapphire, running along a darkened platform – it seemed we were in a train station. “It’s coming!”

Something broke, and bits of wood skittered over the ground around my feet. The Miltank was not slowing down.

“Are we – getting on – a train?” I gasped, clutching at my pounding heart.

“Just follow!” Sapphire snapped, and flung herself into the ticket office. I ran in after her, ignoring the surprised cry of the lone clerk within, and heard glass shatter behind us as the Miltank discovered that doors are not the only way to enter a room.

Puck swore.

OK, now I’m a little concerned, he said. She’s gaining on us.

Sapphire reached the other door, kicked it open and burst out. I followed, and felt something hard touch my back. A moment later, I was flying through the air and fervently wishing I was somewhere – anywhere – else.

Even back at that party from the business last year?

Even back there.

---

Sapphire heard the bellow of the Miltank before it hit Kester, and was already holding the ball out behind her when he started to fly.

“Return,” she panted, and felt the ball shake with the impact; she’d got him before he hit the ground. At least, she hoped he hadn’t hit the ground. It might well have killed him.

Alone and unencumbered, Sapphire was more than a match for the great cow in terms of speed; it was strong, but it was slow, and its quarry had long years of experience in the ancient art of fleeing. She darted down alleys and back roads, using the Miltank’s size to its disadvantage, and soon she was away.

Sapphire stopped to catch her breath, leaning against a lamppost and bathing in its pond of cold light. She swore softly, and rubbed her face; her arm burned, but she didn’t care.

“This is getting serious,” she said. “I wish I could hear Puck. I could so use a facetious comment right now.”

Then she heard a low snuffling, and she turned to see twin lights burning out from the darkness.

Sapphire uttered an oath so mighty that it would probably have condemned her mortal soul to the very blackest depths of perdition if she had believed in it, and started to run again.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; May 13th, 2011 at 12:01 PM.
  #97    
Old April 24th, 2011, 12:08 AM
don1993
Beginning Trainer
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Gender: Male
Your stories are awesome. This one is a little light hearted but i loved your grey characterisation in the other 2 i read.please try to complete the rocket revival one.
  #98    
Old April 24th, 2011, 02:20 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by don1993 View Post
Your stories are awesome. This one is a little light hearted but i loved your grey characterisation in the other 2 i read.please try to complete the rocket revival one.
Yeah, that has a really good ending. Which has been in my head since November, and shows no signs of moving out any time soon. Though I do now have a strange urge to finish it, probably because you've reminded me.

Well, if I do, you'll be the first to know.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #99    
Old April 24th, 2011, 10:56 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Ah. I like this chapter better.

Chapter Forty-Two: The Land of Milk and Fire

As fast as it had begun, Sapphire’s sprint ended: she smacked face-first into the tall figure of Darren Goodwin, and was stopped abruptly.

“Guh,” she gasped, and staggered back a step just as Darren’s knife whipped up; had she not stepped back, she would have found herself in the unenviable position of being held at knifepoint. “Cal,” she said. “You’re fast, aren’t you?”

“Oh, very,” the Goodwin said amiably. “Now give me that ball.”

Sapphire twisted the two halves of the ball apart, permanently releasing Kester for the second time; as soon as he appeared, she yanked his arm up so that it was pointing into the Goodwin’s face and yelled:

“Shoot!”

The effect was instantaneous and electric. Darren yelped and ducked as a surprised Kester shot a Charge Beam over his head. The Miltank rumbled up behind them and lashed out in defence of its master – but Sapphire was already running again, dragging Kester behind her.

“What the hell is going on?” he cried.

“Tell you later,” Sapphire gasped back. “For now, we just need – to – run!”

“Best idea I’ve heard all day,” Kester said, and they turned down an alley and back into the back streets of Lavaridge.

---

This is awesome! shouted Puck. It’s like your head is the Nemesis Inferno, and I’m in the front seat!

Shut up! Fleeing is a delicate art, and you’re interfering!

Oh, I like that answer. Unexpected. Just the way I like them.


It seemed we’d put our pursuers behind us again, but I didn’t dare slow, even though my back was starting to throb where the Miltank had punched me. How my spine had survived the impact I didn’t know.

Yeah. That Pound was powerful – even with STAB, it shouldn’t have been that strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d been modified by Devon, like the Magnemite.

Something about that didn’t ring true with me, but I was too busy running and being in pain to think about it. The cauliflower, which was still there, was also something of a distraction.

“Where – are – we?” I gasped.

“Don’t know,” replied Sapphire. “Need to get you to the Gym.”

She didn’t seem at all out of breath, I thought enviously.

Oh yeah, how I wish I was living in a human with such superior lung capacity
, Puck said sarcastically. Kester, the fact that you haven’t stopped yet shows that you’re doing OK. You don’t need to continually compare your precise levels of fitness with Sapphire’s.

The cauliflower grinned. I think it could read my thoughts.

Er, Kester? It isn’t real...

I ignored Puck. He had already proven his lack of authority on matters pertaining to the cauliflower, and I was going to deal with it myself now.

“Wait – a moment,” I panted, “why – do we need – to get – to the Gym?”

“Tell you when we get there,” was the sole reply.

At that moment, we turned onto the road where the Pokémon Centre was to be found, and a huge dark shape vaulted off the roof of a nearby house; the Miltank crashed down onto the ground, its hooves sending a crazy spiderweb of cracks over the tarmac.

“This is ridiculous!” I managed to shout, as we turned around and started running in the opposite direction. An answering bellow from the Miltank assured me that whether it was ridiculous or not, it was certainly happening, and also very dangerous.

If I was tired, I was too scared to slow down; there was a cauliflower ahead of me and a cow behind, and both seemed to have my worst interests at heart. In addition, there was a lone Devon researcher of the third-strongest kind somewhere in the town, presumably about to pop up and detain me.

Then I saw it: the Gym. Standing in front of it was a young woman I didn’t recognise, her pale face defiant in the dark.

And next to her was a colossal beast wreathed in white smoke, supported by great cracked columns of scaled red skin; somewhere in the midst of the fumes I saw a pair of burning eyes and a gaping dark spot that must have been its mouth.

“Hit the floor!” yelled Sapphire, and simultaneously tripped me up. One or the other would have been necessary, I thought – and then I thought nothing but ouch, because my elbows had just made contact with the road and decided to leave it a gift of their skin.

Better than what would happen otherwise
, Puck said. I mean, that’s a strong Torkoal. And I think it’s going to—

The air above us shimmered and rippled; a blast of heat haze rolled overhead, so thick I could scarcely see the sky above. I screwed my eyes shut and heard a long, angry bellow, then the sound of heavy, retreating footsteps. Whatever had just happened, the Miltank hadn’t liked it – and it’d left.

There was a long silence.

Yep, Puck said with satisfaction. I was right. Then again, I always am, so I shouldn’t be surprised. But... it’s still nice, y’know?

“For the sake of every major deity the world has ever worshipped,” I said hoarsely, climbing slowly to my feet, “please don’t say anything. It would mean so much to me if you could just... let me recover.”

Can do. Why, there’s no one in the world so good at not talking as I am.

I looked over at Sapphire, who was getting up awkwardly, holding her left hand close to her chest. The cauliflower hung over her head, but I ignored it as best as I was able.

“What just happened?” I asked.

“Long story,” she said, and stopped talking to look at the woman running over.

“You two OK?” she asked, and I did a double take: I knew that voice, and it belonged to Spike.

“Er... yeah,” I stammered uncertainly. “What – er...”

Wow, remarked Puck mildly. I guess if you take the piercings out, her face doesn’t fall off. Who knew?

The cauliflower gibbered a horrifying response, which was fortunately utterly unintelligible.

“I wanted you to talk to her,” Sapphire hissed into my ear. “You get things right by luck, right? So convince her to change back.”

“What?” I said, looking helplessly from one ridiculously headstrong girl to the other and back again.

Kester, the Arbitrator, Puck said, in the tone one would use to announce the arrival of a foreign dignitary. Yeah, that’s got a ring to it. Like Calvin’s ‘Christ the Mediator’. Ah, for the simple joys of philosophy.

“She thinks there’s something wrong with me,” Spike said. There did seem to be something different about her – beyond the abandonment of her punk outfit and piercings. I think it was her voice: it had been rough, probably ready to slip into street Nadsat at a moment’s notice, but now it was peculiarly smooth and well-spoken. Was this an affectation, or had the other voice been an affectation? Or were they both real? Or had the latter been real once, and then submerged under the other, only to resurge now?

“What – what’s wrong with you?” It was the wrong thing to ask. Spike fixed me with a glare that was... well, I guess the only word that really fits is stormy. It looked like a pair of thunderclouds had taken up residence on her brow, and were thinking of simultaneously giving birth to a torrential downpour.

“Nothing,” she said. “But Sapphire doesn’t seem to know that.”

“Because it isn’t true,” Sapphire said pugnaciously. I was slightly warier of offending Spike when the great smoky monster still stood behind her; if it was a Torkoal, it was the biggest I’d ever known, and I wouldn’t get on the bad side of anyone who controlled it.

They grow continually throughout their life, Puck said. You know, like lobsters.

Lobsters?

Er... Crawdaunt. Like Crawdaunt.

Are Crawdaunt the ones that evolve from Corphish? Like the one that killed the children down at Pacifidlog?

You
could have picked a more cheerful example there. Like, er, Crawdaunt as in the one that sunk that rowing boat just off the Philippines. No, wait. I meant as in the one that they serve in really, really high-class restaurants.

I became aware that Spike, Sapphire and the cauliflower were staring at me, and then that my conversation with Puck had been going on for longer than usual.

“Sorry,” I said. “Just, er, zoned out for a moment there. Are we going to stand around and wait for Darren Goodwin to come back?”

“The Goodwin won’t come after you now,” Spike said distantly. “Not while I’m here. I turned his Miltank with one attack, and I could have beaten it if it had stayed a minute.” Her eyes focused on me. “What’s going on with you two, anyway? Why are Devon after you?”

I looked at Sapphire; her face told me I had permission to tell her.

“Do you mind if we go somewhere?” I asked. “This might take a while to explain...”

---

“So you see, sir,” Tchaikovsky concluded, “it seems something’s up in relation to the reds and the blues.”

The superintendent looked at him through tired, watery eyes.

“So,” he said, laying his spectacles on the desk and rubbing his temples, “you’re saying that some criminal mastermind has popped up out of nowhere and is setting the gangs up for a war?”

“Yes, sir.”

There would be no references now. Tchaikovsky was, after all, a cop, and he had standards to maintain – at least in front of the higher-ups.

“Well, where’s the crime?” asked the superintendent placidly.

This stumped him. Tchaikovsky wasn’t entirely certain where the crime actually lay.

“Er... it would probably mean civil war,” he said at last. “You know that.”

“Yes, but not a very big one. The common crooks won’t fight for them this time around; they remember what happened last time. A war would just get rid of the Teams, and that’d be just fine, thanks.” He paused. “That’s assuming this happens. Sanders” – that was, unlikely though it may seem, Tchaikovsky’s surname – “I didn’t like to say before, because it seemed a little petty, but your evidence is... patchy... at best.”

“What is it at worst, sir?” asked Tchaikovsky, fearing the answer.

“Well...” The superintendent hesitated, unwilling to deliver the final condemnation – and then said, almost apologetically: “I’m afraid it’s a bit Rachmaninoff.”

At this, Tchaikovsky drew in a sharp breath. Rachmaninoff was not, as was more commonly thought, a Russian composer, but another policeman, renowned in the service for disregarding evidence completely and going entirely with hunches. He had been killed in a terrible accident two years previously, as the result of a hunch that the guards at a Magma safe house weren’t going to be packing heat.

“With all due respect, sir, that’s just not true,” Tchaikovsky protested. “I mean – if you’d seen it all, then you’d agree...”

He stopped, aware that he was sounding pretty damn Rachmaninoff, and that this meeting was rapidly spiralling into the well-worn police drama cliché that would see him suspended from duty.

“Er, you’re probably right, sir,” he amended. His superintendent gave him the tired-eye look again.

“Are you going to do one of those things where you tell me one thing and then keep on investigating?” he asked.

“In all honesty, sir, that’s exactly what I plan to do.”

Tchaikovsky kicked himself under the table. He hated the way that the superintendent had of making you say things like that. It was those tired eyes, burning like fire. Tchaikovsky kicked himself again. That song wasn’t even British.

“Well, keep at it, then,” said the superintendent wearily. Tchaikovsky didn’t think there had ever been anyone so tired for so long as he; in all the years he had known him, the superintendent had always been tired. “I’m not sure I care, to be honest. I mean, it’s not like you’re not allowed to investigate this. You’re an undercover agent doing important work for the good of... someone, I’m sure...” He tailed off, exhausted by the effort of stringing so many words together; this left Tchaikovsky somewhat unsure as to what he meant by it.

“Can I continue, then?” he asked.

“Sure, sure. Whatever.” The superintendent sighed, and leaned back in his chair. “Send Caroline in on your way out, would you? She’s waiting to be told her request for a transfer has been denied.”

“I could just tell her,” offered Tchaikovsky as he got to his feet.

“That’s a good idea. It’d give me a little while to... I don’t know... have a nap or something.”

The superintendent closed his eyes, and so palpable were the waves of fatigue that rolled off him that Tchaikovsky had to stifle a yawn. It seemed an indication that the meeting was over, and so he walked out.

---

“That’s... quite a story,” Spike said, chewing a thumbnail. “I don’t think I believe it.”

I cupped my hands and filled the space with the dancing, globular sparks of a ThunderShock; the flickering light cast strange shadows onto Spike’s astonished face.

“Perhaps I was too hasty,” she admitted. She’d been speaking in those false educated tones all evening, and it was starting to get on my nerves. I had enough aristocratic speak coming from Sapphire.

She doesn’t sound that posh, Puck said. Neither does Spike. I’d say... middle-class? Upper-middle? Something like that.

We were in her house, a tall, imposing hybrid of haunted house and church; the architect appeared to have used both Salisbury Cathedral and the Bates Motel as his primary inspirations.

Don’t start this whole ‘stealing architectural descriptions’ thing again
, groaned Puck. It was bad enough the first time.

The interior was meant to be carpeted, but the wooden floorboards kept peering through the threadbare fibres. I liked the sofas, though; they were new and upholstered in ominously blood-red leather. The curtains matched, and the wallpaper alternated between yellow and pale orange. The result was that I kept getting the terrible feeling that I was back in the burning Calavera Tower in Slateport.

“You haven’t said everything though, Kester,” Sapphire said.

I knew what she meant, but I didn’t really want to say. The cauliflower sniggered with unholy relish at my discomfort.

“You tell her.”

“No, you tell her.”

You tell her.”

“No, you tell her or I’ll hit you.”

“All right, all right!” I took a deep breath and turned to Spike. “OK. This is the bit where you come in.”

She raised her eyebrows.

“Oh?”

“Felicity said,” I began, “that Team Magma killed Uriah Moore.”

Spike looked like she’d been punched.

“Wh-what?” Her voice cracked; the refined edge dulled in an instant and the whole coarsened to its usual timbre. “They – they said it was – was a stroke...”

I didn’t know what to say, so I just kept going.

That’s right, agreed Puck. Better to get it all over with.

“They were going to select the new Gym Leader and control them – make them a puppet, so they could pull off their plan on Mount Chimney. But” – and here was where I impressed myself with a flash of pure, unadulterated genius – “that wasn’t true. They must have known that you would claim the Leadership, and that you’d be so torn up with grief that you wouldn’t see what they were doing right under your nose.”

There was a long pause. I shifted uncomfortably on the sofa under Spike’s gaze; her eyes were watery, but she made no noise. Above her head, the cauliflower was slowly rotating clockwise, pulling hideous faces; it was really ruining the moment.

“Half right,” she said, after the longest minute of my life, and her voice was completely back to normal. “I was being stupid. Trying to be the Leader I’m not, and got too distracted to notice them. It was so, so stupid. I thought they’d hate me here.” She stared up at the ceiling for a moment. “They didn’t when I turned up normal.” Her gaze returned to me. “It was stupid,” she said colourlessly. “So stupid.”

“Er...”

“But thanks,” Spike said, relieving me of the burden of responding. “Thanks so much. I’m not gonna change for them. I’m me, and I’m a Gym Leader too. I’ll do what I want, and change the town if I have to.”

That’s the ticket, Puck said happily. The god of punk will be happy again now. Not sure if there is a god of punk, or if he’s listening, but if there is and he is, then he’ll be happy.

“Good,” I said, unsure if I meant what I was saying, but sensing it was the right thing to say. “That’s... great.”

After that, we wrapped things up fairly quickly, and left half an hour later. On the way down Spike’s driveway, Sapphire did something unexpected.

“Thanks,” she said, and when she looked at me sincerity and satisfaction lit up her eyes like a pair of flames.

“Oh. Er, OK. No problem.” I paused.

Forgetting something?
Puck asked.

Hm?

You’ll get it. Just think a moment.


“Oh!” I exclaimed, and touched Sapphire’s arm. “Sorry. About that.”

She looked at the bandages and sighed.

“All right. It’s OK.”

“It isn’t, is it?”

“No.” She hesitated, and I waited expectantly for whatever it was she was going to say; however, when the words finally came, they weren’t anything special: “See you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow,” I repeated pleasantly, and turned away to walk back to the hotel.

You are so blind, Puck said as we and our cauliflower wandered back through the dark, but he wouldn’t tell me why.

---

Hi hoooooooo!
Hi hoooooooo!


“Whargle!” I cried sleepily, jerking awake at the sudden noise.

Hi ho, hi ho,
It’s off to work we go—


“Oh, it’s you,” I mumbled, sinking back into the pillow.

We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig—

“Seriously, where do you get this stuff?”

America, mostly. Sometimes England. That time, it was America, but the original story’s probably from Germany or something like that. I’m afraid I’m not an expert on fairy tales.

“You’re not?” I asked, with exaggerated incredulity. “But I thought you knew everything!”

I’m sorry, Kester, replied Puck with equal irony. But there comes a point in every boy’s life when his heroes must let him down.

That seemed a good enough time to stop, since I wasn’t after getting into a slanging match with a ball of sentient plasma. I looked at the clock and scratched my head; where was I supposed to be?

In the shower would be a start, Puck said. After that, you could try in front of the bathroom mirror so you can shave and brush your teeth. Then, I’d advocate heading over to the Pokémon Centre to blag some money from Sapphire so you can have breakfast.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “that sounds right. It’s like... yeah, sorry. I think I’m bleeding. I mean, I think I’m still half-asleep.”

If I didn’t know better, I would have said you’d just pulled off two references to my favourite singer, Puck said, and I rolled out of bed to head for the bathroom. Halfway across the room, I stopped.

“Hey, Puck,” I said, “the cauliflower’s gone!”

Brilliant, he said. Just what I always say: a good night’s sleep makes everything better.

In a state that might well have been described as jubilant exultation, I continued on my way to the bathroom, and had a long and joyous shower.
Forty minutes later, I was on my way back to the Pokémon Centre, and the sun was burning like the fires of Hell; it was a glorious hot day, even up here in the mountains, but I couldn’t help glancing around nervously in case Darren Goodwin or his giant cow showed up again. They didn’t, and I reached my destination without incident.

The receptionist told me she hadn’t seen Sapphire coming down to breakfast yet, so she presumed she was still in her room; I used the same trick I’d used in Slateport to get to Felicity, and told her I was Sapphire’s boyfriend. It worked – it seemed to be a good plan for this sort of situation – and she let me past up to her room.

I knocked on the door, and asked if I could come in.

“Kester? One minute!” came the answer from behind the door. A few moments later, a head popped around the door, with long loops of wet brown hair dangling from it. “Kester,” Sapphire said breathlessly. “I – um – need your help.”

This isn’t at all suggestive, Puck stated, and I shushed him violently.

“What do you need help with?” I asked, somewhat apprehensively.

Something red and blistered sprouted from the gap in the door; it took me a moment to realise that it was Sapphire’s burned arm.

“This needs re-bandaging,” she said. “I have to change the bandages every day.”

“Oh,” I said, relieved. “OK, that’s fine.”

She opened the door further and I came in; today, probably for ease of arm access, she was wearing a sleeveless top. I winced as I saw the full extent of the damage – it reached right up to her shoulder.

“I’ve put this lotion on,” she said, holding up a bottle. “That much I can do. But I can’t bandage it one-handed. So... here you go.”

She handed me a roll of bandages, and I started to wind it around her wrist. I hadn’t been at it for longer than three seconds before she uttered a sharp curse and told me to stop.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It hurts, you idiot!” she snapped. “Carry on!”

I kept winding.

“Ah, cal! Stop it!”

I stopped. Sapphire glared.

“Don’t stop, you moron! Keep winding!”

“Look, do you want me to do this or not?”

“Fine,” said Sapphire, gritting her teeth. “I’ll shut up. Just – get it over with.”
I did, and, true to her word, she said nothing.

“Happy now?” I asked as I tucked in the end near her shoulder.

“It could have been tighter,” Sapphire grumbled. “The doctor did it tighter.”

“But you said it was hurting you!”

“That doesn’t mean you should have listened to me.”

I threw my hands up in the air.

“You know what? Forget it. Let’s move on before this becomes a full-fledged argument. OK. What are we doing now?”

Going to Mount Pyre, of course, Puck answered.

“Going to Mount Pyre, right?” Sapphire said. “That’s where the Orbs are, so that’s where we need to go.”

“OK. What about Spike?”

“What about her?” Sapphire asked. “You fixed her. Thanks for that. Really.” She looked serious. “I was worried.”

“You were worried about someone other than yourself or one of your Pokémon?”

As soon as I said it, I knew it was a bad idea. I just couldn’t help myself; a comeback sprung to my lips and I blurted it out without thinking.

Oh, Kes-ter, said Puck despairingly. Why did you have to do that?

Sapphire was ominously silent.

“Er – yeah,” I said. “Just realised that that was a terrible thing to say. Sorry. Really sorry. A thousand times over.”

You’re not getting out of this one without a black eye, my boy. I—

WHAM!

---

“So,” Barry said uncertainly. “What have you been up to?”

“I was horribly tortured and almost killed,” Felicity said, deadpan. “How about you?”

“Oh,” replied Barry with mild surprise. “That’s interesting. I’ve been digging in this tunnel.”

“How interesting,” said Felicity dryly. “I don’t even know why I’m here.”

Barry was inclined to agree with her there. After all, she was but a woman, and a decidedly puny one at that. Put an excavation machine in her hands and her she’d be shaken into bits.

They were sitting in the cave that served as a sort of lounge for the Aquas in the mines; it was furnished with two sofas, a table and a television that got no signal. Vladimir and Estragon were, thankfully, absent – they had gone, at Shelly’s request, to take Scarlett to school, for her half-term was over now, and she had to return to her studies. This was a blessed relief to Barry, but he was uncertain about how much he was going to enjoy spending a morning alone with Felicity.

“Hum,” said Barry. “Er – where were you tortured?”

Felicity stared at him from behind her sunglasses.

“If you carry on like that I’ll orchestrate a cave-in, squish you to a paste, then grout my damn bathroom with you.”

Barry’s eyebrows fell down in a thunderous line across his face, and he rumbled warningly; Felicity, however, produced a gun from somewhere, a replacement for her shotgun. It was a revolver, and alarmingly large: it was a Colt Single Action Army, a gun perhaps better known as the Peacemaker.

Barry’s words died in his throat. It was uncertain what he was about to say, but going on his performances in the past, it would probably have contained the words ‘woman’ and ‘shuddup’ in close proximity, along with a few choice oaths.

“Why does that always happen?” he asked irritably instead. Felicity gave a tired smile.

“Because I always get the gun,” she replied. “You get the Carvanha, I get the gun.”

“That’s not fair,” growled Barry. “I propose a trade!”

“Request denied,” said Felicity in a bored tone, pointing the barrel of the Peacemaker at the spot directly between his eyes. Barry rumbled, but acquiesced nevertheless. It wasn’t as if he had a choice.

“Fine,” he said grudgingly. “Have it your way.”

Felicity lowered the gun.

“What is it we’re doing here, anyway? I wasn’t given any information.”

“We’re tunnelling into the Weather Institute,” Barry said, anticipating with relish the look of shock that would soon spread across her face. “We’re going to fight the Gorsedd or something.”

Felicity looked blank.

“The Gorsedd?”

Barry stared at her.

“The Gorsedd!”

“The Gorsedd?”

“The Gorsedd. How have you never – ah, damn it, you’re foreign, aren’t you?” Barry swore a mighty mental oath and slapped a fist into the palm of one hand. “The Gorsedd’re—”

At this moment, there was a clump-clump of footsteps from outside, and Shelly walked in.

“Can I have a moment?” she said. She looked surprised. “Oh! You must be Felicity.”

“That’s me, ma’am,” said Felicity, rising to her feet, holstering her gun and shaking her hand simultaneously. The triple action made Barry feel dizzy to look at it.

“Right. I’m sorry for not seeing you earlier – I wasn’t aware you’d arrived,” Shelly said apologetically.

“That’s all right,” replied Felicity pleasantly. “I mean, you had that scare with the mine.”

Ah yes, Barry thought; the great mine thing. In the end, he, Vladimir and Estragon had been told to drag it away, and, due to a few euphemistically-titled differences in opinion, he had done it alone. He’d carried it off and thrown it at a rocky outcrop to vent some spleen; five minutes later, he’d regained consciousness and decided he should have stood further back.

“That’ll be it,” agreed Shelly. “Have you been introduced to everyone?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Felicity confirmed. “Including your lovely daughter. She’s sweet, isn’t she?”

Whether by luck or by design, Barry noted, Felicity had unerringly struck upon Shelly’s weak point; a compliment to her daughter was received as gladly as a thousand compliments to herself. He rumbled sourly for a moment or two, then shut up before anyone noticed.

“Ah yes, she is,” Shelly gushed, and would have gone on all day had not a thought struck her just at that moment. “Oh! I almost forgot – have you been briefed?”

“No ma’am. I don’t know why I’m here.”

“That’s easily explained,” Shelly said. “I need to tell this to you too, Barry.” The big man pricked up his ears. “There’s been an important message from Lilycove, which is why you were sent here; you were needed close to the site. An important attack is about to be carried out, and you two are wanted to go with the troops. Archie says you have some sort of important information on a weapon the Magmas might be using against us...”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #100    
Old April 25th, 2011, 01:03 AM
don1993
Beginning Trainer
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Gender: Male
Just read through whole of the stuff. If in anyway I told you that this was not as good as the other 2, I was wrong. 2 questions: if the miltank's move was a STAB it should not have hurt Kester owing to his ghost typing and please tell me you didn't spoil the ending of rocket revival story by writing that a trainer died in that one most probably silver.
 
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