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  #101    
Old April 25th, 2011 (04:30 AM).
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by don1993 View Post
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.
1) Vanda the Miltank's Pound attack shouldn't have hit Kester, I agree. Wait until the next chapter for an explanation of this mysterious trick.

2) Er... yeah, since no one ever read The Rocket Revival I thought I was fairly safe to ruin the ending. Besides, there's still quite a lot of twists and turns there that I didn't give away.
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  #102    
Old April 27th, 2011 (11:38 AM). Edited April 28th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Forty-Three: Many Spies Have Many Eyes

“You two!” cried the old woman, bursting from the water. “You two, stop!”

Sapphire and I stopped, and turned to look at the old lady who had just risen from the pond next to the Pokémon Centre. We weren’t speaking to each other right now, but we managed to find enough companionability to stare at each other incredulously.

“Er... hello,” I said, in the sort of placating tone you use to speak to lunatics. “What do you want?”

“You’re Trainers, aren’t you?”

“I am,” Sapphire said. “What is it?”

“I have here an Egg,” the old woman said, bringing something out from beneath the water. It was, as promised, a Pokémon Egg; dull brown and grey-speckled, and about six inches tall. “I’d hoped to hatch it by covering it in hot sand by the hot springs. But that doesn’t seem to be enough... I’ve heard it would be best if it were kept together with Pokémon and carried abou—”

“Not interested,” Sapphire said, turning to leave.

“You don’t know what I was going to say yet!” protested the old woman.

“You want to palm the Egg off on me,” Sapphire said, rounding on her with fire in her eyes. “I hate people like you! I mean, why the hell would you pick up an Egg and take it with you if you didn’t want to hatch it yourself? Huh? Stupid nazz!”

The old woman recoiled as if stung, then made a curious noise halfway between a Seviper’s hiss and a kettle’s whistle.

Is that an angry noise? wondered Puck.

I think so, I replied.

“Fine,” she snapped. “I won’t give you the Egg!”

“That’s exactly what I said,” growled Sapphire. “Now, Insensitive Moron! Come with me!”

She stormed off down the road.

“Um... she means me, not you,” I hastily explained to the old lady. “Sorry about that. Er... thanks for the offer.”

With that, I scurried off after Sapphire, leaving the woman to wallow with her Egg.

‘Scurried’? Really? Are you that dehumanised that you use verbs to describe your movement that better suit a cockroach?

Shut up.

I caught up with Sapphire just as she turned the corner – and we were stopped again, this time by a young woman with more metal in her body than Darth Vader.

Hey, you’ve seen Star Wars, too? Puck asked. That’s great! How about we do a Star Wars-themed reference-off, a bit like we did with James Bond?

No. Now shut up.


“Great! I didn’t miss you.” Spike was grinning; she looked so much happier and more comfortable in her old persona that I couldn’t help smiling too.

“Spike!” I said. “Nice to see you.”

“Whoa,” she said, looking at my face, “how’d you get that shiner? You get mugged on your way back home last night or something?”

“Uh, no. Sapphire punched me. Can we not go into that right now?”

“OK. I just wanted to say... thanks. Again.” Spike looked pretty awkward; my guess was that she wasn’t really used to this sort of situation. “I mean – you’ll be leaving now, won’t you?”

“That’s right,” said Sapphire. “Thank you, too.”

“Yes, thanks a lot,” I said. “That Miltank would’ve killed us.”

I was reminded of the way it had Pounded me last night, and wondered again why that struck me as somehow wrong.

It’s because we should be immune to Normal-type moves like Pound, Puck informed me. But Miltank has the special ability to hit Ghosts with Normal- and Fighting-type moves; it’s called Scrappy.

That would be it, I thought; it was nice to have a solved mystery for once.

“That’s fine,” Spike replied. “It’s my job.” There was a short pause, during which all three of us wondered what to say next. “Are you off to Mount Pyre?” Spike asked, after a while.

“Yes,” Sapphire replied. “We’ll see if the Cable Car’s been repaired, and if it has we’ll go back down to Mauville that way, then head east to Plain Rooke.”
“It’s still broken,” Spike said. “You aren’t going anywhere that way.”

“So we’re going to have to go via the helicopter to Fallarbor?” I asked. “That’s going to add a few hours to our travelling time...”

Spike thought for a moment.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “There’s more than two ways out of here.”

“I thought those were the only ways?”

“You think when I ran away from home I went on the helicopter or the Cable Car?” Spike asked, raising a pierced eyebrow. “Nah, there’s other ways. There’s a one-way route through the mountains that’ll get you to the foothills in twenty minutes. Then it’s about a quarter-hour hike to the Cable Car train station.”

’Cause she has a local knowledge of the local area – and that impressed you quite, Puck sang, then dissolved into giggles. Oh, that’s good. Because they did that other song as well, you know – Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby! He burst out laughing again. It’s funny because it’s your name.

“How do we get there?” asked Sapphire.

Spike grinned broadly.

“I’ll take you,” she said. “After all, I owe you one.”

It was right then, the second after the word ‘one’ had left her mouth, that it happened. A battered-looking white car roared out of nowhere and shot down the road towards us at something around eighty miles per hour—

Kester! No time for description – get out of the Kyurem-damn way!

I spun on one heel and flung myself to one side, a split second after Sapphire; Spike remained for a moment, and faster than I thought possible I shot back onto my feet and pushed her aside. Just as we hit the tarmac, the car swerved around the corner, so close we were covered in a swirl of petrol smoke, and vanished with a long, drawn-out scream of rubber on asphalt.

There was a moment’s silence, and then I realised I was squashing Spike, so I got up. Except for Sapphire, Spike and I, we seemed to be completely alone; ordinarily, I’d have thought that at least one or two people would stop at the sight of a near-fatal car accident.

“Th-thanks,” said Spike, shaken. “Again.”

“No problem,” I said, feeling very cool. “Sapphire, you OK?”

“Piss off,” she replied, picking herself up.

“All right,” I said, “that’s fine, too. Shall we get going?”

“Wait,” cried Spike. “What – who was – we almost died...”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Could’ve been any of a dozen people.”

Happens all the time, Puck said. Huh. When you can say that about attempts on your life, something’s gone seriously wrong with your affairs.

“It was the Sableye,” Sapphire said sourly. “I saw Stripe through the glass. They’re here in Lavaridge.”

“The Sableye from the news?” asked Spike.

Sapphire set fire to the apartment building they were living in,” I told her. “They escaped into the city, and they’ve gone all evil and stuff. It’s their leader, he’s an evil little bratchny.”

“They’ve been trying to kill us for a long time,” Sapphire added.

“You two,” said Spike, staring. “You two... I don’t know.” She tipped her head back and exhaled a long breath at the sky. “Right. Wanna go?”

Yes, best get going. The gremlins won’t rest for long.

So we left. I was getting sick of Lavaridge anyway, and with the Sableye involved I was keener than ever to get out of there.

---

“This is your secret way out of Lavaridge?” I asked, staring down.

“I did say it was one-way,” Spike replied.

“Yeah, but when that way is almost straight down, I can’t help but feel that my trust was abused a little.”

Zing! Now that’s a comeback. You’re learning, Kester, you’re learning. I’ll be Yoda, you be Luke – you can train in the art of wit, and I’ll watch you.

We were at the top of a series of almost sheer cliffs, each around forty feet tall; there were about ten or twelve of them, and they wound east between the mountains like a sleeping dragon. I supposed that if you really, really wanted to you could slide down their vertiginous inclines and thus leave Lavaridge, but it seemed a fast train to a hospital bed to me.

“I don’t really think this is a good idea,” I said.

“That’s because you’re a moron,” Sapphire told me.

“Uh, yeah, so this is the way,” Spike said. “I’d Fly you out, but I’ve got nothing that can Fly. Although,” she added, a thought dawning, “you could use your Altaria...”

“She’s not big enough yet,” Sapphire told her. “She evolved literally five minutes before I fought you.” She turned to me. “Come on then, yarble-litso. Let’s get going.”

Ouch. Was not expecting that, not from Sapphire. That’s actually quite obscene.

“Goodbye, Spike,” Sapphire said, and she actually smiled when she did it. Then, after receiving a farewell, she turned, sat down on the edge of the cliff and slid out of sight in a flurry of dust and gravel.

I darted to the edge and looked down. Sapphire was picking herself up at the bottom and rubbing her bandaged arm.

“Get down here, Kester,” she snapped up at me. “We need to go.”

I turned to Spike.

“Bye,” I said. She smiled, and I swear her lips clanked.

“Bye.”

I wasn’t expecting to be kissed goodbye. It might have been the surprise that made me fall over backwards off the cliff. That, or I could have been recoiling from the taste of steel; I’d never kissed a girl with a lip piercing before, and now I had, I didn’t think I’d missed anything.

Ah, that was nice, said Puck as my internal organs were pounded into jelly on the rocks, she’s obviously really grateful for all the help you gave her.

I made no reply. If I’d opened my mouth, I’d probably have bitten my tongue off.

When I regained full consciousness, I was lying on the grass at the base of the cliff, staring up at a distant, worried face that was about fifty per cent flesh and fifty per cent metal.

“Are you OK?” Spike shouted down.

“Fine,” I called hoarsely. “Nev – never better.”

My feet seemed a long, long way from the floor, and it took me a while to get them firmly underneath me. When at last I was upright, I shouted goodbye again to Spike and went for the next cliff. Sapphire, I saw, was about three cliffs ahead of me; I doubt she’d even noticed my fall.

Um... you sound kind of disjointed, Puck said. Brain damage, perchance?

“Shut up,” I whispered. “I’m being impressive.”

I really don’t think Spike was trying to seduce you

“Shut up, plasma-face.”

Ooh, that hurt, Puck replied, with an amount of sarcasm greater than what I could have generated in a year. It was like being hit by a hammer; I actually swayed with the impact. Seriously, though, you find it so easy to become infatuated, don’t you? First Felicity, then a little bit with Natalie, now Spike... and let’s not even go near that business last year.

“That’s off-limits,” I said, wagging a reproving finger at my own face. “Don’t talk about her. She was... different.”

I’ll say! She was barely even human!

I couldn’t think of an answer, so slid down the cliff instead. It was very, very painful, if you must know, and not an experience I’d want to repeat. Regrettably, there were about nine more cliffs to go.

Though on the bright side, I did find a large nugget of gold lying on one of the cliff-tops halfway down.

---

Darren Goodwin drank deeply of his coffee, and stroked thoughtfully of his chin. For he was a man who was musing, and a man who muses must look the part, or he might as well be merely pondering, or cogitating.

Men have mused on many things throughout history: the meaning of life, the origins of the universe, the nature of morality. Darren Goodwin, however, was musing on something higher still: where Kester Ruby and Sapphire Birch might have gone.

They would not, of course, have remained in town – not with him about. When he’d interrupted them at the restaurant, he had caught snatches of conversation about Mount Pyre, which might be a clue; however, he had no real evidence to back it up. Mount Pyre could have just come up by chance – after all, there were thousands of dead Pokémon in there, and one or both of them might have a lost pet entombed in its halls.

Darren nodded thoughtfully, and decided that he had best contact the Joyces.

The Joyces were a small group of Devon researchers, spread evenly throughout the towns and cities of Hoenn; as a general rule, there was one per settlement. That was all you needed: more were irrelevant.

For a Joyce was a spider who could hold an entire city in his thrall; in a city with a good Joyce in, no one could so much as sneeze without him knowing. He had threads everywhere, and the population were so many hapless flies. Their skills could not be learned; they were innate, and honed to the finest degree through careful training.

And so it was that Darren Goodwin dialled the number of the Joyce who had first informed him that his targets were in Mauville, back in that black hotel; the number of one of Devon’s most valuable current assets; the number of a woman who could not fail to miss a thing that happened within the borders of her kingdom.

Kathy Joyce, the woman they called the closest to Mephistopheles that any elderly spinster had ever come.

---

They take that stuff in Pokémon Marts, Puck said. Seriously. They’ll take it off your hands for a few thousand dollars.

Is that right? I replied. Hm. Next time we stop at one, then.

We were talking about the nugget of gold I’d found. It would be nice to have some money of my own for a change.

Then I realised something, and started in my seat.

“Sapphire,” I said, leaning across to her, “did we pay my hotel bill?”

“Nope,” she replied. “But that’s your problem, really.”

“I already said I’m sorry!” I cried. “What more do you want from me?”

She stared resolutely out of the window, and I leaned back with an exasperated sigh. There really was no arguing with her until she’d recovered from this mood.

I looked out of the window too, at the pine trees rushing past; we were on the train that ran south from the Cable Car along Route 112, and heading back to the city where the Devon goods debacle had occurred. I didn’t much feel like ever returning to Mauville again – a lot of people and Pokémon had tried to kill me there – but it would only be a brief stop, ten minutes at the train station while we waited for the noon connection to Plain Rooke. After that, we’d have to walk; there were no train lines running east from there.

I think that everyone else in the carriage was glad when we left; the atmosphere between us was so hostile that they were all continually on edge. One poor woman, who occupied the seat next to Sapphire, had scooted so far to the edge of her seat in a desperate attempt to get away that she’d fallen off when the train went over the points, and landed on the refreshments trolley; she’d smashed through a shelf of teas and coffees, and had thus had to spend the rest of the journey very wet and very stained, and, after a while, very cold.

Of course, Puck had laughed uproariously at that. He never did have any respect for humans.

Hey, he said. You were laughing too, hypocrite. You just tried to stifle it, and then you spent fifteen minute feeling guilty about finding it so hilarious.

OK. I admit it, it was pretty funny; even Sapphire suppressed a smile. But it was morally wrong to laugh, and so I didn’t.

Morals, schmorals. Oh. Wait. Morals are actually quite important, aren’t they? Yeah, scratch that comment.


I didn’t think you actually had any morals.

Are you kidding? Puck cried. I know all about morals! There’s Kantian ethics, and Act, Rule and Preference Utilitarianism, and the Euthyphro Dilemma, and divine command theory, and Fletcher’s situation ethics, and natural law, and Aristoteli

And knowing about morals isn’t the same as having them, is it?

That, I felt, ought to shut him up, and I was right; he stopped talking as soon as I’d said it. Perhaps he was examining his moral compass, and wondering where the needle had gone.

Sapphire and I reached Mauville without further incident or conversation, and passed our time on the platform without so much as looking at one another. My ill-will towards her had long since worn off, but I couldn’t engage her in conversation until her own flaring temper calmed down a bit.

Excuse me
, said a voice in my head.

“What is it now?” I snapped, then realised that it wasn’t Puck. I whirled, and came face to face with a Kadabra. “Oh. Er, sorry. I thought you were someone else.”

May I offer you some advice? asked the Kadabra. He didn’t accept the apology, but then again, I didn’t know if he was actually offended. Kadabra’s brains were just wired differently to ours.

“Um... OK,” I said. “Fire away.”

Keep your eyes open, the Kadabra told me, yellowed eyes blinking slowly – and laterally, too, which rather startled me. I hadn’t realised that their eyelids were perpendicular to the norm. There are things watching you.

“Kester!” called Sapphire. “Get over here!”

The train had just screeched into the station.

“Coming!” I called back over my shoulder, then leaned back over to the Kadabra. “What do you mean, things are watching me?”

I mean that things are watching you.

Oh, brilliant. I had come up against the cultural barrier.

“I meant – what’s watching me? Why?”

The Kadabra glanced up, and I did too. There was a flash of blue in between the girders that criss-crossed the roof, and then whatever was up there was gone.

Beware, the Kadabra said. Your enemies know where you are going now.

“Kester!”

I glanced at the train, and saw the doors had shut.

“Damn it!” I looked back at the Kadabra. “Thanks for the tip! Got to run!”

I dashed across the platform and thumped the button to open the door; the train had just started to move and so the door failed to acquiesce.

Allow me, said Puck, and sparks sank into the side of the train; it stopped moving abruptly, and the door sprang open. I jumped in, and it started going again.

“That,” I remarked, to no one in particular, “was way too close.”

That’s all right, Kester, Puck said. No need to thank me.

“Ah, shut up,” I replied, and began to wend my way down the carriages to find Sapphire.

---

The train rattled into the station at Plain Rooke, and we disembarked. I’d never been to the little village before, and was moderately interested to look around; unfortunately for me, there was very little to see. Three cobbled streets of small houses do not a spectacle make. Past the houses was a very pretty view of acres and acres of rolling farmland, and of the southern edge of the Akela Jungle to the north – but it was a bit of a let-down, to be honest.

What did you expect? Puck asked. This is just a simple hub for the farms, isn’t it? Or does this place have more significance than foreigners such as myself are aware of?

I thought it might be more... turkey-themed.


Puck was silent for a moment, trying to digest this comment.

No, he said at length, I’m not going to ask. Whatever it is, it can’t possibly be as good as what I can imagine.

I didn’t ask what he was imagining; I wanted to, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing I did.

Er... you know I can read your thoughts, right?

“Come on,” said Sapphire quietly, and I followed her out of the station and down the street. Three paces down the cobbles, though, she stopped dead and I almost walked straight into her back.

“What is it?” I asked.

Sapphire raised a finger, and pointed down the street. I followed her finger with my eyes, and my sight alighted on a man.

His suit was black, his hair was pale, his frame was tall and thin; his face was young and handsome, with no beard upon his chin. His presence was so great that it forced me, for a moment, into doggerel. When he turned his ultra-green eyes in our direction, I was transfixed for at least ten seconds.

“Who is that guy?” I asked Sapphire, in a low whisper. Whoever it was, he had more charisma than most of the rest of Hoenn put together.

“His name is Steven,” she replied, in a similarly awestruck tone. “And he’s the guy who saved me from Darren Goodwin back at Dewford.”

“He’s coming over,” I breathed.

“He must have recognised me,” Sapphire said.

I don’t get it, complained Puck. What’s the big deal? He’s just another human.

Sssh!


“Good afternoon,” said the young man – Steven, drawing close to us. “Sapphire, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Sapphire said eagerly; I could tell she lionised this guy, and I could see why. He was like a thunderbolt compressed into one man; he vibrated with energy and intellect to the extent that tendrils of it leaked out of him at the seams. “And this is—”

“Kester,” I interrupted, holding my hand out for him to shake, “Kester Ruby. I, uh, travel with Sapphire.”

“Delighted to make your acquaintance,” Steven said warmly, shaking my hand. “I met Sapphire at Dewford Island. You were fleeing from a Devon researcher, I believe?”

“That’s right.”

“Is he still on your tail?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Steven nodded slowly, a nod of infinite understanding.

“I see.”

Just then, a police car tore past us, bouncing over the cobbles; it was swiftly followed by an ambulance. Avoiding the question of precisely where they had come from – I hadn’t seen a police station or ambulance anywhere nearby, and certainly there was nowhere for them to be concealed in this tiny village – we turned to watch them pass.

“What’s going on?” wondered Steven, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “I’ve nothing better to do. Shall we investigate?”

If he’d asked Sapphire to jump off a cliff, I think she would have done it. Before thirty seconds had gone by, we were hurrying down the street to see where the emergency services were headed.

---

Five minutes earlier

Zero whistled as he walked down the street, a simple tune that brought to mind one-eyed assassins posing as nurses to kill former comrades. In the breast pocket of his jacket was a warm piece of metal, and in his heart was murder.

The man called Tchaikovsky was two streets away, and coming closer.

Zero turned into a darkened shop doorway; he melted away into the shadow, and no one on the sunlit street so much as glimpsed him.

“You like British bands of the twentieth century, don’t you?” Zero murmured, pulling the gun from his pocket. “Then you’ll like this.”

Tchaikovsky came into view, one slight figure amongst the many that thronged the street. Zero raised the gun.

“Dum, dum, dum, dum,” he sang under his breath, “another one bites the dust.”

Out of the doorway the bullets ripped, and Tchaikovsky’s midriff burst into spots of crimson. He fell over backwards, inelegantly, and came to rest in a crumpled heap of flesh a metre away.

Zero stepped out of the doorway and strode through the crowd, ignoring those who were screaming or fleeing; he reached the ring that had formed around the driver, and pushed his way roughly through. Looking down, he could see that the man was still alive, if in extreme pain.

“Did you get it?” Zero asked, and held up the gun. “Happiness is a warm gun.”

Tchaikovsky’s eyes widened, and the people around him backed off a step.

“You... you’re the one... in control...”

“Don’t feel bad,” Zero said kindly. “You gave it your best shot. It’s nothing personal, just that I don’t want you in the way.”

The gun bucked once in his hand, and Tchaikovsky’s eyes glazed over.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #103    
Old April 28th, 2011 (03:33 PM).
mew_nani's Avatar
mew_nani
Flying out of the sun...
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Far Lands
Gender: Female
Nature: Brave
Poor Tchaikovsky. Another pawn gets knocked over...

I love this story. Poor Ruby. That's like the only kiss he's gotten in this story. :\ And R.I.P Tchaikovsky.
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By DarkDoom3000.
  #104    
Old April 30th, 2011 (02:39 AM).
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Sad, isn't it? Well, this chapter's named in the dead cop's honour. Not British, but wholly appropriate.

Oh, and I can tell you that Kester gets precisely two more kisses in the entire story. No more, and no less. It's planned. Sort of. Not really.

Chapter Forty-Four: The Day the Music Died

Cobblestones. Blood. The crowd, twisting and roaring in a confused commotion. The paramedics loading the man onto the ambulance.

Kester?

I had had a stomach a moment ago, but it was gone now; it was floating away somewhere, leaving a horrible empty space tainted with nausea.

Kester?

My head was spinning; I felt like I’d just stared into the abyss, and the abyss had stared back at me.

Nietzsche?

I turned away and leaned against a lamppost, breathing heavily; though I wasn’t looking, I could see the holes in front of my eyes, dribbling redly over the white shirt.

“Are you all right?” asked a refined voice, and I turned to see Steven regarding me with anxious eyes.

“I – I didn’t want to see that,” I stammered, trying not to throw up. “I never want to see that again.”

Steven nodded.

“I quite understand. It’s a bloody sort of business. Nauseating.” He touched Sapphire on the shoulder, snapping her out of some trance. “Let’s go elsewhere. I think your friend has had more than enough.”

“I have too,” said Sapphire quietly. “Let’s get out of here.”

We left the crime scene and the crowd of onlookers, and retired to a nearby bar, where Steven kindly got me a glass of something unidentifiable that steadied my nerves – and stomach – a lot more than I’d expected.

I guess it’s probably a local specialty, Puck said. Carbonated Miltank milk or something. Actually, that would be revolting.

“Did you recognise that guy?” I asked Sapphire, once I’d calmed down.

She shook her head.

“Never seen him before.” A strange look crossed her face. “Why? Have you seen him before?”

I had, as well. When the cabbie had pulled alongside that Magma car and I’d Charge Beamed the engine to hell, I’d seen him; I’d seen him leaping from the car before it exploded; I’d seen him walking away from the wreckage back to Fallarbor; I’d seen him in the bar where Sapphire had caught Stacey.

“He’s that Magma driver,” I said.

“Magmas?” queried Steven, before Sapphire could express the surprise on her face with words. “You have been involved with them?”

“Yes,” Sapphire said. She didn’t even glance at me; she just poured out our whole story to Steven without a second thought. It took half an hour, and he listened attentively the whole time.

“I see,” he said at the end – and I was sure that he really did.

You mean, he wasn’t just saying it in the way that you always say it, Puck added snidely.

Shut up.

“Why haven’t you gone to the police before now?” Steven asked.

“You know them,” Sapphire said. “What’re the chances of them taking this up without any real proof? They don’t interfere with the Teams if they can help it.”

“That’s true,” Steven said, nodding. “What about the League?”

“You can do that?” Sapphire looked surprised.

“Yes, of course. Did you not know? We call them the Pokémon League for tradition’s sake, but their official title is the Ministry of Pokémon. If people are raising legendaries from the dead on Hoennian soil, they ought to be involved.”

Well, that’s a good idea. I wonder why we didn’t do it before? Oh wait, I just answered that – because it’s a good idea. Puck paused. Did you see what I did there? Did you see – ah, forget it. I’m wasted on you.

“Contact the League,” I said. “How would we do that?”

“Through me,” Steven said, smiling. “After all, I used to be the Champion.”

Whatever the sound of two jaws hitting the table is, that’s what filled the silence while Sapphire and I gaped. This guy was high in our estimation already, but if he had been the Champion – well, that raised him so high he was through the damn roof.

“I stepped down a couple of years ago,” he went on mildly. “To pursue my hobbies, you know. Rare stones and all that – I collect them.”

“You – were the Champion?” asked Sapphire. She seemed to need confirmation.

“Yes,” Steven said. “I was quite good, but it got a little dull after a while. I’m not the stay-at-home type. Anyway,” he said, “I will bring this matter to the attention of the League, you can be sure of that.”

He stood up.

“I’m afraid I can’t stop,” he said. “I’ve got a rather important appointment that I simply must keep. If you’re quite all right now...?”

We assured him that we were, and said our goodbyes; a few moments later, he was gone. It was like waking from a dream, and I was tempted to believe that he hadn’t existed at all. A former Champion, offering us an easy way out of this ridiculous predicament... it seemed so fortuitous that it just couldn’t be real.

I bet there’s a snag, said Puck. I just bet there is. I mean, where would the story be otherwise?

“Right,” I said uncertainly. “Shall we – shall we get going, then?”

“Yes,” said Sapphire. I suddenly realised that our encounter with Steven had calmed her down – another positive aspect of the enigmatic stone-lover. “Let’s.”

So saying, we started off east. It would be a long walk, and we didn’t want to fall behind the Teams.

---

“That’s all I know!” protested Fabien. “I mean, what else am I meant to tell you?”

This was not the answer that Courtney wanted. In consequence, her hand made contact with the back of Fabien’s head, and Fabien’s head made contact with Blake’s head, and Blake’s head made contact with the wall. It was as close as Courtney ever got to a Newton’s cradle.

“You’ve been following the kid for weeks,” Courtney snapped. “Why haven’t you got any more information on him?”

They were in the back parlour of the very same establishment that Kester and Sapphire were currently talking to Steven in; the Magmas had decided that here would be a good place to stop off before going to Mount Pyre, and had checked in saying that they were a party going east for business. To the inevitable question of ‘what sort of business?’, they had all simultaneously had the same thought, and replied:

“Da oil business.”

Since they all seemed to know what they were doing, the staff, though somewhat overwhelmed, accepted the explanation and let their party of thirty stay without further complaint. After all, they didn’t usually get this much custom in a month, let alone in one day.

And then, after the other Magmas had settled in to rest after the long first leg of their journey, Courtney had decided that this would be the best time to take Blake and Fabien aside, and find out exactly what they knew about Kester Ruby.

Unfortunately, that turned out to be disturbingly little.

“Are you professional crooks?” she demanded of them.

Blake looked at Fabien.

“Well,” began Fabien. “Well, we are—”

“Oh, right. That’s reassuring, because I was under the impression that I was talking to a pair of fatuous morons.”

Fabien mentally debated whether or not to ask what ‘fatuous’ meant, and decided against it.

“What does ‘fatuous’ mean?” asked Blake. Fabien shut his eyes.

“It means that if you don’t start giving me the right sort of information, I’m going to pull a Nurse Ratched on you.”

Blank faces greeted this remark, and Courtney’s hands jerked reflexively into fists. How was it possible for them never to have seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? It was famous even here in Hoenn.

“I’ll lobotomise you,” she snapped.

Blank faces again.

“Forget it,” Courtney said, despairing. “You’re too stupid. Get out of here. Go on. Leave.”

Fabien got up uncertainly, then darted out of the room as quickly as possible. Blake had got slightly wedged into his chair, which was too small, and quietly fractured one of its arms as he made his rushed escape.

Courtney watched them go with a look of wonder. Whatever their failings, she decided, they’d done well not to be thrown out of the Team by now.

---

The two worst spies since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern returned to their room in a mood best described as subdued exultation; subdued because they had just received what was technically known as a ear-bashing, and exultant because they had just survived one of Courtney’s attacks. Of all the organisation’s higher-ups, she was the closest to Maxie in terms of temper; she’d even argued against him, on one famous occasion – though she had, of course, lost. No one could win an argument against Maxie. He would simply shout so loudly that you wouldn’t be able to hear yourself speak, and since he couldn’t hear you either, he would assume he had won. And if you cared to say otherwise, that would result in another argument – which he would again win. It was quite a system.

“What’s lobotomised?” Blake asked of Fabien. He had forgiven him some time previously, when a rather vicious Cacturne had started menacing him and Fabien had offered him Goishi’s services in breaking its face in half.

“Something complicated,” Fabien said, in the manner of one who knows but who can’t quite muster the energy or words to explain. “Very... complicated. It’s to do with the heart. Nasty stuff.”

“Yeah,” agreed Blake. “Nasty.”

They came to their room, entered and sat down.

“Wha’ d’ya think o’ this thing?” asked Blake. “This attack?”

“I don’t know,” Fabien said, sucking in air through his teeth. “I mean, it’s all very well to say we’ll just storm the museum and take the Orb, but you know how it is.”

“Do I?”

“Of course you do! I mean, that is to say...” Fabien’s mouth opened and shut, but no words came out; a moment later, his brain re-engaged with his lips and he started to speak words again. “Anything could happen,” he said at last. “Anything. Why, the blues will probably be there.”

“They’re ev’rywhere,” Blake said helpfully.

“No doubt, no doubt,” Fabien agreed, with a carefully-calculated sorrowful shake of the head. “They’ll be there all right. We’ll have some sort of pitched battle in the halls of the museum, while they try and stop us getting the Orb. It’ll be very... Raymond Chandler.”

“’Ow?”

“I’m not sure, actually,” Fabien admitted. “I just like detective stories.”

“Ah.”

They fell silent for a time.

“Blake.”

“Yeah?”

“Do you think – I know it’s silly, but I have to get this out there—”

“Spi’ it ou’!”

“I was going to, but you interrupted—”

“Jus’ get on with it.”

“All right! I was just going to ask: do you think – and be honest, I don’t want you lying to spare my feelings – but do you think we really are the main characters?”

Blake groaned and rolled his eyes towards the redeeming heavens; there was a rather grimy ceiling between the two, but the message seemed to have got through regardless.

“This again?”

“It’s a serious issue!” protested Fabien. “I mean, if we’re not the main characters of our own lives, then who is?”

“The protagonis’,” suggested Blake, eager to show off a long word.

“Well, yes, naturally, but I was thinking more of a specific person than a general ‘protagonist’.”

“This ain’t a story, Fabien,” Blake said. “This is real life. Ev’ryone’s their own main character.”

Both Magmas fell silent, surprised by the philosophical depth of Blake’s response.

“Blimey,” Blake said, in hushed tones, “did I jus’ say tha’?”

“You did,” confirmed Fabien gravely. “I have to say, I’m very impressed. Keep that sort of thing up and you’ll be going places, of that I have no doubt.”

“Goin’ places...” Blake nodded happily. “Now that’ll be worth seein’. Show them ’oo’s boss, eh?”

“Ye-es,” agreed Fabien, uncertain of exactly what his partner meant, or of who ‘them’ might be. “That’s... definitely something to consider...”

He had no idea what he meant by that, but it had never stopped him before, and he was damned if it was going to stop him now. Fabien managed to struggle gamely on through five more minutes of abstruse conversation before quietly making his excuses and walking out.

---

“So when are they coming to pick us up?” asked Felicity.

“They said a delegate would be here tomorrow morning, at nine,” Shelly replied.

“But that only leaves us an hour to get to Mount Pyre, ma’am.” Felicity frowned. “The attack is going to begin at ten o’clock, isn’t it?”

“That’s true,” admitted Shelly. “But they must have some idea of what they’re going to do.”

“Naturally,” Felicity said.

letseatheryoumetogetherwebeSTRONG...

“Are you OK, dear?” asked Shelly, looking concerned; at the sight of a young girl in distress, it seemed she flipped over to ‘mother’ mode automatically. Felicity was leaning heavily against the wall, and her breath was coming in short gasps.

“I’m... fine,” she managed. “I have a... little cold.”

“Do you want to lie down?” asked Shelly, taking her arm. Immediately, she let go again. “You’re as cold as death!” she gasped, putting one hand to her mouth.

Felicity gave a grim smile, and Shelly noted for the first time that her teeth were very sharp.

“You don’t know... the half of it,” she muttered.

“You need to lie down,” decided Shelly. “Didi! Gogo!”

The former tramps appeared suddenly and silently from side tunnels, as if they were the final trick of a cut-price stage magician. Felicity noted that some fog rolled out of the caves with them – or was that perhaps her eyes misting over? It had happened before, sometimes...

“You called, madame?” asked Vladimir.

“Take this young lady to her room,” instructed Shelly. “And get hold of some medicine, some hot food – something!”

She sounded as concerned now as if Felicity had been her own daughter. Felicity remembered having a mother, once. They hadn’t got along.

notblockmeout...timetoplay...

Felicity gagged a little, and the twin pains that accompanied her everywhere, one on each side of her head, swelled as if they were about to burst into antlers. As Vladimir and Estragon escorted her along the tunnel – and that was putting it lightly; they were virtually carrying her – she became aware that something was tightening about her midriff, and all sensation in her arms was melting away, and there was a cracking feeling in her throat because there was something in there and it was pushing through the flesh—

---

Whispers floated on the edges of her mind, but they were too far away for Felicity to hear; she was dimly aware of water, and of cold, a horrible cold that ripped through her like a storm through leaves, but that was all.

Am I crying
, she wondered distantly, from the centre of her palace of ice. Am I dead?

The world was all in black and white, and the only things that mattered were the glaciers...

letsplay...

A blur of mist rose around her; Felicity couldn’t move her limbs to see them, but she could feel them melting, like the first frost of autumn in the morning sun. She thought it might be pleasant to lie here amongst the icicles forever, and slowly melt away into water, to run along and trickle into the streams—
Where were all the people now, she wanted to know. The thought came into her head very suddenly, but it stayed; where was everyone? All her friends. Weren’t they meant to be here?

theyalldead...

That was right, Felicity thought distractedly. Lots of them had died. But weren’t there some left? Some of the old ones? And weren’t there some new ones? Those two...

A soundless whisper escaped her lips.

“Que dit-elle?” asked a distant voice.

“Je ne sais pas,” came the equally distant reply.

Where were those voices coming from? Somewhere outside the ice?

dontgolooknowanttosee...

“I have to look,” said Felicity. The words fled her mouth so quietly that her onlookers missed them entirely; since she spoke in Japanese, it is unlikely they would have understood anyway.

dontleave!

Felicity looked around at the ice and the pain, and she got up from her bed in the meltwater; she could move now, because she wanted to, had to – she had to leave here and see who was talking about her. She took one unsteady step – and then another, and another, and the further she went the more she remembered, and the more she remembered the faster she went, and suddenly she was opening her eyes and looking up at the stony ceiling, and her face was drenched in ice-cold sweat.

---

Courtney dropped onto her bed and closed her eyes. They would leave at sundown; she needed to sleep, but anger and anxiety were keeping her up.
The curtains swished.

She sat up, eyes open, and saw Zero standing by the window, mask in one hand.

“You...” Courtney trailed off. “How did you get here?”

“Ways and means,” replied Zero, smiling affectionately. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” admitted Courtney. She started to get up, but Zero motioned for her to remain where she was, and came to sit next to her. For a long moment, Courtney let herself get lost in those eyes, and then she asked the question. “Why did you come?”

“There are complications, honey bunny,” he said. “Current calculations indicate the League might become involved.”

Courtney sat up, worried.

“No! That – that would ruin everything—”

Zero pressed a finger to her lips.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll sort it out. I’ll make sure that no message gets to them.” He glanced towards the door. “Someone’s coming,” he said. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

Zero melted away like dry ice, sliding out of Courtney’s grip and under the bed.

There was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” Courtney asked.

“Room service,” snapped Maxie’s voice. “Who do you think it is?”

“Oh. Come in, sir.” Courtney sighed and sat up, pushing back her temper. That was the main difference between her and Maxie: she could actually squash her fury if she wanted to.

The door clicked open, and the Magma boss walked in; he looked, as usual, vaguely bitter and not a little tired.

“Problem,” he said.

“What is it?” Courtney asked.

“The museum. Our Benefactor informed me just a few minutes ago that the blues are heading there too. They want to stop us getting the Orb, and they’re going to be there tomorrow morning. Same time as us.” Maxie smiled grimly. “I thought you’d better know.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Maxie got up and left, which was abrupt but not unusual. If he didn’t have anything to say, he usually went to do something else; he was a busy man, after all.

Courtney closed the door after him, and turned around to find Zero back on the bed.

“Hello again,” he said. “Trouble with the Aquas?”

“I don’t care,” sighed Courtney, coming to sit with him and leaning exhaustedly into his shoulder. “I’m just so tired. I want all this to be over.”

“Soon, honey bunny,” Zero promised, smoothing her hair beneath pale fingers. “We’re almost there. You just need to play your part, and everything’s going to go just fine.”

“I know,” Courtney said. “That’s what I like about you. Everything you say, you do... nothing ever goes wrong.”

She yawned, and Zero slid her off his arm and onto the bed.

“Sleep,” he said softly. “There’s work to be done tonight, and you’ve been up for almost twenty-four hours now. I’ll visit you again when I can.”

He kissed her goodbye, and disappeared in that mysterious way that only he could. Reassured and calm, Courtney shut her eyes, and let herself lose consciousness.

---

The path east from Plain Rooke was pleasant enough to walk on, while you were still amongst the farms. There was a small lake to the north, and rolling fields all around; the path was in pretty good condition, and there was a light breeze to balance out the pulsing sun.

But by three o’clock, we were out of the farmland and onto the rocky dirt track that only Trainers ever used. Now our surroundings leaned more towards scrubland, and rocky outcrops jutted up from the ground, wrapped in shawls of climbing Leppa plants. Ahead, I could see miniature cliffs of the kind we’d encountered on our way out of Lavaridge, and steep, rock-strewn hills to go with them.

“How long is this trip going to take?” I asked Sapphire. “I mean, I’m not complaining or anything—”

“You are complaining—”

“Fine, I am complaining, but if we have to climb over all those hills, it’s going to take us at least a week just to get to the other side,” I pointed out. “And I’m pretty sure the Magmas are going to want that Orb as soon as possible.”

Not to mention the Aquas, Puck pointed out.

I know. That’s why I didn’t mention them.

“I know, I was just thinking that.” Sapphire stopped and half-sat, half-leaned against a rock. “We need to get there quickly.” She thought for a moment. “Can you drive?”

Hah!

“Learning,” I said, ignoring Puck. “I’m learning – but how to drive a Vespa, not a car.”

“That’s no use,” Sapphire said, more to herself than me, but I still managed to take some offence.

“Hey, you don’t drive anything,” I pointed out.

“I can ride a Doduo,” she retorted. “Or a Rapidash.”

“That’s no use.”

“Don’t copy me!” Despite her raised tone, Sapphire didn’t actually seem to be getting angry; in fact, if I hadn’t known better, I would have had to say she was positively happy.

“Are you smiling?”

“Well, yes,” Sapphire said, “that’s what people do when they’re amused, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but...” I shook my head. “I don’t know. I thought you got angry when I said things like that, not ‘amused’.”

“Depends on my mood,” Sapphire said. “And today’s been quite good. Except for that guy—”

She stopped herself, and both of us stopped smiling.

“Um, shall we get moving again?” I said quietly, after a moment or two.

“Yes, let’s do that,” Sapphire replied quickly, and we started walking again.

Meloetta’s wavy hair, sighed Puck. Humans, eh? Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Oh wait, I could totally live without them.

We pressed on for another two hours in silence. I was surprised how well I was bearing up; blisters didn’t really seem a major concern any more, what with the amount of pain that was inflicted on me these days, and I seemed to be getting fitter – I didn’t get nearly as tired as I did on that walk to Mauville. Well, ‘not nearly as tired’ might be an exaggeration. I got less tired. A little bit. A very little bit.

By five, we’d reached the first of the long line of steep inclines that blocked our passage east, and were discussing whether or not to rest here tonight. The advantage was that we’d be rested and ready to tackle the slope tomorrow morning; the disadvantage was that this would be handing time to the Magmas on a plate, and that we’d have to spend the night worrying about climbing thirteen-odd hills. In the end, we both reluctantly agreed to keep going, and started to climb the hill.

And it was a steep one, let me tell you. I’m not sure it would have been safe to drive up it, even if there had been a road; driving down would probably have been a shortcut to a brutal death. Walking up on sore feet after a day of travelling...

It’s torture, cackled Puck, with a carefully-calculated amount of lunacy, and I’m so happy to see you suffer! Mwahahahaha!

Is that a referential joke? I asked, too weary to speak.

No, just me being weird, he answered, which was remarkably frank for him.

The hill seemed to stretch on and on; it was endless, interminable, never-ending, perpetual...

Careful now
, warned Puck. You’ll run out of synonyms. And there ain’t nothin’ worse than runnin’ out o’ synonyms.

What accent is that?

Missouri, I think. That’s where
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is set, isn’t it?

How would I know?

Fair point, fair point. In that case, just take it as gospel that it’s Missouri.


At this point, I stubbed my toe on a rock, and interrupted our conversation with a startlingly loud expletive that roused a sleeping Oddish from nearby; it shrieked horribly, exactly as the textbooks say they do, and scampered off to find somewhere quieter.

“I hate Oddish,” Sapphire remarked, grabbing hold of a sturdy rock and hauling herself up a few more feet. “So noisy.”

“We used to have them in our garden,” I told her. “Back in Rustboro.” A dark thought crossed my mind. “We used to have a Skitty, too.”

Sapphire frowned.

“I don’t see the connection...”

“They ate him,” I said baldly. “Nasty little bratchnies.”

“That’s awful,” replied Sapphire, and she sounded genuinely sympathetic. Perhaps it was because a Pokémon had been hurt. “I didn’t know they ate meat.”

“You can tell you’ve never lived in a big city,” I said. “They eat anything there. Trash, pets... the Taillow usually keep them in check, but we had to call in the pest control guy and get our garden Hurricaned by his Pidgeot. One hundred per cent death rate.”

“Efficient,” noted Sapphire.

Like a gas chamber, noted Puck, less wholesomely.

“Mind you,” I added thoughtfully, “it ruined the herbaceous border.”

For some reason, this struck both Sapphire and I as unspeakably funny, and we stopped our climb for a full five minutes, in hysterics; Sapphire almost fell off the side of the hill in her laughter, and it was only because I caught her wrist that she didn’t.

Come on, boys and girls
, Puck said after a while. We need to get to the top of this hill at least.

“You’re right,” I agreed. “Sapphire, we need to get to the top of the hill today. We’d better keep going.”

“Right.”

It took a further twenty minutes to reach the crest, and once we’d done so, we sat on the patchy grass there and looked west, to where the sun was starting to dip and the sky beginning to gather in bright bunches preparatory to sunset. Below the celestial warm-up act was Plain Rooke and the surrounding farms, looking lovely in the dimming light.

“We’re not going to make it to Mount Pyre in time, are we?” I said.
Sapphire shook her head.

“No,” she said. “We’re not. If only Stacey was a little higher-powered, she could fly us there...”

“Couldn’t you train her a bit? Make her grow faster?”

“She needs time, not training. Besides, this is a terrible area for training.” Sapphire made an expansive gesture with her good arm. “Look at it!”

I looked around. If I were a wild Pokémon, I wouldn’t have chosen to live here, but that meant nothing; I wouldn’t have chosen to live in the Arctic or the Sahara Desert, either, and things lived there.

Just then, I spotted something speeding towards us from the distance, down the track that led from Plain Rooke.

“What’s that?” I wondered, and Sapphire peered at it.

“Not sure,” she admitted. “Let’s get the Sableye out.”

“Do they have good eyesight?” I asked, surprised.

“Of course!” she answered. “They have keen eyes.”

The Sableye appeared in a flash of blue light, and seemed rather surprised to find that there was nothing around to be afraid of; he sat quietly in Sapphire’s lap, clutching his Dustox doll and sucking on his left-hand set of white claws.

“OK,” Sapphire said, lifting him up and looking him in the eye, “have a look at that thing over there, will you? If it’s a truck or something we can hitch a lift on, nod once. Got it?”

The Sableye stared at her blankly, and Sapphire nodded encouragingly. He nodded back.

“No, don’t copy – Puck, can you explain better than me?”

A hissing, scratchy sound came out of my mouth without my input; I blinked, surprised, and the Sableye leaped into the air, startled. For a moment, I thought he was going to run and hide in his ball again, but he made a squawking reply, and turned to look at the truck.

“I didn’t know you spoke Sableye,” I said in a low voice.

You didn’t know I was one of the X Factor judges, either, but that didn’t stop me.

The Sableye bounced up and down and turned to me, then squeaked dismally.

“Is that bad?” I asked.

No, it’s good. It’s a car, as far as he can make out. Or possibly a van.

“Good news,” I told Sapphire. “It’s a car or a van.”

“That’s good,” she replied, smiling with relief. “I hope they’re going all the way east...”

About twenty minutes later, the truck – for such it turned out to be – came close enough for us to work out that it was in fact three trucks; twenty minutes after that, the convoy started to climb the hill. Evidently made for off-road work, the trucks conquered the incline in less than half the time it had taken us, though at times it looked like they might topple over and fall down the slope. We flagged the first one down as it reached the crest of the hill, and the driver wound down the window.

“Hi,” Sapphire said. “We’re trying to get east to Mount Pyre, and we were just wondering if you were going in the same direction and if you’d mind giving us a lift?”

From beneath the canvas roof that covered the back of the truck poured out several men and women with set faces and red suits. Two that I recognised stepped forwards, and my heart sank.

“That’s them,” said Fabien. “That’s Ruby and Birch, right there!”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #105    
Old May 1st, 2011 (10:06 AM).
mew_nani's Avatar
mew_nani
Flying out of the sun...
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Far Lands
Gender: Female
Nature: Brave
...You never can go very long without running into those two can you? :\

I find it rather crazy, whatever's happening to Felicity. I hope the poor thing gets better before it overtakes her. (Or she or.. whatever that weird telepathic watery icy thing is.)
__________________
Game Over!
You failed to restore peace to the planet Algo.

(press SPACE to continue.)
I support

By DarkDoom3000.
  #106    
Old May 2nd, 2011 (03:42 AM).
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
It sure is crazy, mew_nani, but I think I've already proven that Hoenn is crazy. It's full of freaks for some reason.

All right, let's kick off with some Twelfth Night!

Chapter Forty-Five: Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle—


OK, Puck, that’s enough, I thought tiredly. I can’t take much more of that.

Oh, but it’s advice
, he protested. You know, on how to get through trying situations, such as being crucified, or being handcuffed to the guard rail on the inside of a Magma truck under the guard of a Golem. Hey, that’s kind of like that business from last year, isn’t it?

Don’t mention that – oh, crap!

As if it knew we were talking about it, the granite monster thrust its lizard-like face close to mine, and blinked angrily at me. It was a slow blink – it’s hard to blink fast when you’ve got eyelids made of basalt – but the threat was clear enough. From the same documentary that had taught me about Altaria, I had learned that Golem could crush walnuts with those eyelids. It was a defence mechanism – since their eyes were their only weak spot, their eyelids had evolved into something resembling a tiny bear-trap.

Next to me sat Sapphire, also cuffed, and glaring angrily at our Magma captors, who seemed mostly oblivious to her gaze. Doubtless, they were relying on the Golem to keep us both quiet – and it would do that just fine, since Sapphire’s Poké Balls had been taken from her, and I couldn’t really do much against a Ground-type.

It could be worse, Puck said. I mean, you’re about Level 26, 27 now. That means you’d still be instantly killed by the Golem if it attacks, instead of having to live through the pain of the first attack before it finishes you off.

That’s so reassuring, I thought sarcastically. Thanks a bunch.

Any time, Kester, any time.


The truck bounced on over the hills, and I wondered what was going to happen next. The Magmas had been ominously silent on that front, and I hoped against hope that we weren’t just going to be thrown over to Maxie and his Mightyena.

Yeah, agreed Puck. That would probably be quite low down on my list of good ways to die.

There’s no such thing as a good way to die! I’d rather not die at all!

You really are a bad Buddhist, aren’t you?

Screw you!


How eloquent, observed Puck cuttingly, and fell silent.

I sighed. It was going to be a long ride, and I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it any more than I would have enjoyed the walk.

---

The white Sableye was scared.

Now, this was the normal state of affairs; he would probably have been scared of not being scared if he hadn’t been scared, after all. Instead of worrying about the minor paradox thrown up by that statement, it might be more productive to consider what he was doing while Kester and Sapphire were abducted by Team Magma.

The Sableye had, as soon as the trucks drew near, scampered off Sapphire’s lap and hidden behind a large rock. He had witnessed the taking captive of his mistress and her apparently multilingual companion. And when the truck that bore them had driven away, he held a conference with his Dustox doll.

The doll was in favour of chasing after them and saving them; it stated its case bluntly, and listed the pros of its espoused course of action on the Sableye’s fingers (it had none of its own): there would be continued protection from the frightening things of the world, which were, as the Sableye knew, multifarious and out to get him; there would be continued regular meals – though not, regrettably, of gemstones, as his mistress appeared to be lamentably badly-off in that respect; he would remain in the presence of The Kester, who appeared to be better protection than most humans, as there was a stupendous amount of lightning bottled up inside him.

However, the Sableye countered, The Kester was sometimes the cause of distress, not the solution. He recounted a case that had occurred when he had disrupted some cardboard house in a darkened room last week; The Kester had attempted to find and beat him for that.

The Dustox doll couldn’t argue against this. It hadn’t witnessed the incident, but there seemed no reason for the Sableye to be lying. It did insinuate, however, that the Sableye might well have been rightly persecuted in that instance. After all, it had been a very large and intricate cardboard house, and since cardboard houses did not spontaneously form, it must have been some creature’s nest. Probably, the doll concluded, the nest of some human dear to The Kester’s heart, for wasn’t it true that houses were the nests of humans?

The Sableye considered this argument, and found it compelling. But, he rejoined, it was irrelevant to the current discussion: what was being debated was whether or not he ought to go to the aid of his mistress and The Kester. Doing so, he argued, would inevitably involve exposure to Terrible Things, so frightening that he would probably become paralysed with terror and be of no use to anyone.

The Dustox doll asked him if he was a Sableye or a mouse, and the Sableye replied that he was a Sableye, and that the doll had been born out of wedlock; they descended briefly into a slanging match, fell out and sat for five minutes not facing each other. (This, by the by, is the danger of too much realism in games of make-believe; if you know a young child, or a particularly dreamy adult, then caution them against it.)

Eventually, they made up again. The decision couldn’t wait, of course: if they were going to set off in pursuit, it would have to be soon, when the last of the three trucks came over the hill. It had become wedged on a rock a little earlier, and so had fallen behind the others; if the Sableye was going to go after his companions, he would have to hitch a ride on it.

The Dustox doll opened this second round of the argument with a quotation from Tennyson: ‘To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.’ The Sableye, surprised that he even knew the line, wondered what its relevance was, and was met with silence; the doll had simply wanted to quote, it seemed. However, it did have this argument to offer: it would be night-time in a few hours, and if the Sableye stayed behind on this lonely hillside, he would probably be subject to attacks by vampires, werewolves and other assorted creatures of the night; since a new moon was due tonight, it might even happen that it would be pitch black, and that the Sableye would be eaten by a grue.

That decided it. The Sableye grabbed his doll, leaped out from behind the rock and launched himself at the side of the truck, which was just going past; his claws might have been small, but they were sharp: they pierced the steel side, and the little gremlin hung on for dear life as the truck bounced from wheel to wheel over the rocky hills.

---

This was a bad idea.

The Sableye knew this, but there was nothing to be done now; he was sitting on the roof of the truck, tucked neatly into the spot where the canvas of the roof met the cab. Here, the wind didn’t bother him too much, and he could devote the proper amount of time to berating his Dustox doll. He poured out his fear and rage in a great torrent, and almost considered hurling the doll away, like Satan from th’ethereal sky; in the end, though, he decided against it.

It had been about two hours since the kidnapping, and the sky was stained with sunset; the Sableye was concerned about the encroaching night, but was trying not to think of it. Tonight, he told himself, he had to be brave. Of course, he actually said something more akin to dark dark dark NOT SCARED, but there must, of course, be some artistic licence taken when transcribing the thoughts of a Beast of Inordinately Little Brain, such as a Sableye.

Twilight seemed imminent, and the Sableye gnawed on the edge of the cab, wondering what to do. He had to get to some light before it was totally dark, he knew, for in the dark come ghosties and ghoulies, and long-legged beasties – not to mention the things that go bump in the night.

And then, of course, there was always the fact that if it were pitch black, he would be likely to be eaten by a grue...

That did it. The Sableye took a deep breath, and, clamping the Dustox doll firmly between his teeth, began to climb over the roof of the cab. Instantly, he was hit with the full blast of the wind, but his claws dug deep, and he hauled himself along, inch by terrifying inch, until he was at the other end. Below him was the windscreen; in front, nothing but the vast expanse of rushing air, distantly punctuated by the taillights of the truck in front.

The Sableye almost screamed and gave up, then and there. Almost. But he couldn’t scream, because his Dustox doll was in his mouth, and if he screamed it would fall out. And then he would be even worse off, for he would have lost his only friend.

It took him a full minute to calm himself enough to begin to crawl down over the side of the cab, abseiling down a cliff of steel and glass without a rope; to make matters worse, the cliff kept jolting and bouncing with the rough terrain, and more than once, the Sableye was thrown almost clean off. If it hadn’t been for his experience of climbing sheer faces from his time in the Calavera Tower, he would probably have been hurled to the ground and dashed beneath the wheels a hundred times over; as it was, he reached the handle without falling. Here, he rested for a moment, then raised his head to peep into the interior of the cab. The driver’s face was dimly lit by the colourful blue and red lights that highlighted the intricacies of the dashboard, and the Sableye sighed in relief. Now, there was a safe haven! No monsters would venture in that snug space; the light would see to that.

The Sableye inched his way to the right of the door and hung there, reaching out with his left foot for the handle. He found it, kicked at it – and felt the door click and shift. It wasn’t yet open, but it was in that curious half-shut state that means that, when disembarking, one has to turn around in vexation and slam it before the car can be locked.

The driver didn’t seem to have noticed; he must have been tired, and the sound of rocks flying up against the truck’s wheels and chassis perhaps masked the sound. The Sableye fought against the wind once more, pushing towards the crack in the door, and forced one hand through the gap. Then, being Level 84 and wildly underestimating his strength, he tore the door from its hinges and leaped inside.

---

In the distance, I heard something that sounded like a Skarmory’s shriek, and then a crash. The Magmas all looked up at it, too; the Golem, however, didn’t. He was probably mostly deaf, which is an occupational hazard of having an inner-ear structure made entirely out of lapis lazuli.

In the old days, they killed Golem for those ear-bones, Puck said, with the air of an old man reminiscing about his youth. They had to stop when the corpses started spawning Andesytes.

A mental image of a thin, grey Pokémon, all spindly crystal legs and needling mouthparts, flashed before my eyes, and I shivered.

Stop it, I thought.

It’s true! Puck said. Andesytes are these nasty little beasties that lay their eggs in Rock-types like Golem, and then they hatch out and consume them. Live Golem have rather unsanitary but highly effective ways of dealing with them, but dead ones just end up spewing out hundreds of Andesytes. And that led to Spain being overrun with the things... to this day, no one goes to some of the rural areas. You see, full-grown Andesytes attach themselves to the spinal column—

I can guarantee I don’t want to hear this.

“That noise,” murmured one Magma. “I wonder what that was?”

“A Skarmory landing?” another suggested.

“Yeah, that might be it,” the first one agreed. “You sometimes get them around here, don’t you?”

If I remembered rightly, Skarmory were usually found in the Akela Jungle; it was conceivable that one might fly out this far, though why it would bother was beyond me. I’d never thought that Skarmory flew that much; being made entirely out of stainless steel is generally an impediment to avian flight.

—actually goes right through the face, you know—

I told you I didn’t want to hear about that.


I tuned Puck out, and rested my head against the wall. My arm was uncomfortable from being held up against the rail for so long, and I was frankly somewhat terrified, but amazingly, I managed to fall asleep in just a few moments.

---

The Sableye was panicking. The driver was unconscious – for he had been swatted on the temple by the little gremlin’s paw – and now the truck was veering wildly off to one side, rocking violently as it jolted over boulders and bushes.

There was only one course of action available, the Dustox doll said, and that was to take the wheel. So the Sableye girded his loins, gathered his courage and hid in the glove compartment.

Thirty seconds later, there was a great crash! and the truck came to an abrupt halt. The engine cut out and, bruised and battered, the Sableye poked his white head out of his hiding-place and looked around.

All was calm, and all was quiet. It seemed like things had returned to a state of more or less complete normality.

Wait, the Dustox doll cried, for they were not out of the woods yet. The sound of voices came to the Sableye’s ears, and of a radio crackling. Footsteps sounded around the sides of the truck, and he hurriedly withdrew his head, shutting the lid behind him. He crouched down and shivered as someone got into the cab.

“What the hell?” they said. “What were you – hey, are you OK?”

There was no reply, and the man cursed.

“I’m gonna need some help in here!” he called out of the cab. “I don’t think Steve’s gonna be doing much more driving.”

There followed a period of scuffling as the driver was removed, and then rumblings as the Magmas tried to see if the truck was still working. Someone dialled a number on a mobile phone, and said:

“It’s OK, boss, the truck’s still going.”

Distant sounds of fury reached the Sableye’s sensitive ears.

“We’ll catch up right away. And we’ll – yes – no – of course sir. We’ll find out what the problem was as soon as Steve comes round. OK. OK. Yes sir. We’ll be with you shortly.”

There was a beep as he hung up.

“OK,” the voice went on, “let’s get this truck moving! We gotta get back to the others sooner than is humanly possible!”

The truck started to move again, first backwards and then to the right, moving back to the trail left by the other two. The Sableye curled up tightly in his little den, and hoped he was on the right track. If not, his mistress and The Kester would be very angry, and possibly very dead.

And neither of those outcomes were acceptable.

---

Something whacked the back of my head, and I woke up with a start; it took me a few moments to realise where I was, and another second or two to realise that we’d gone over a particularly big bump and the side of the truck had been the thing that assaulted my head.

I blinked and looked around. It still seemed pretty dark – the lantern was still on, so it couldn’t have been day already – and I wondered how long I’d been asleep, and where we were.

There’s a little window up there.

With Puck’s direction, I found the window: it was, as he’d said, little, and there wasn’t much to be seen through it except a red-orange sky. Still, that told me we were approaching dawn.

I glanced across at Sapphire, and saw to my surprise that she was asleep too, leaning uncomfortably into the crook of her cuffed arm. I supposed we had had something of a long day.

Since her position looked so painful, I thought I’d try to move her; I pulled her over towards me, so my shoulder was taking her weight instead of her arm. That done, I sat there and looked around some more.

The Magmas were all either asleep or close to being so. I don’t think they were allowed to sleep on the truck, because every so often one of them would wake up with a guilty start. So sleepy were they all that I would seriously have considered making a break for it if the Golem hadn’t been wide awake and watchful as ever.

So, Kester, said Puck casually, as if asking the time of day, what’re you planning to do when we get to Mount Pyre?

I don’t know
, I admitted. Try and stay alive? That seems like a good idea right now.

Yep, yep
, agreed Puck, that’s definitely a plan. But I meant more along the lines of: how are you going to get free and stop the Magmas from getting the Orb?

I’m... working on a plan, I said defensively. I mean, nothing concrete yet. It’s sort of... an adaptable plan. I’ll make it up depending on the situation.

Nice
, Puck said. Very nice. Lateral thinking and all that. But I can’t help but feel something more... real... might be better.

I hear you
, I said. I hear you. But...

There was a pause.

You going to follow that up? Only it sounded like you were going to say some more.

Nope, I said assertively. Not going to say anything else. I’m going to... work on my plan.

Ah, said Puck. Now there’s an idea. I’ll let you get right to it.

There was a thump, and we suddenly stopped. Those Magmas that were asleep were shaken into wakefulness by their comrades, and the door at the back was flung wide.

“We’re getting off,” said a voice from outside. “Come on, everyone off! We’re going to the boat.”

The Magmas filed off, one by one, and a young woman in Magma uniform with long black hair came in. I thought I recognised her from somewhere, but I couldn’t remember where.

She’s Courtney, Puck said. For the third time, she’s one of Team Magma’s administrators.

“You two,” she snapped, and Sapphire jolted into wakefulness. She sat up slowly, rubbed her eyes laboriously with her bad hand, and looked intently in Courtney’s direction.

“What – oh yes, we got caught,” she said dismally.

The Golem growled, and Sapphire fell silent.

“Don’t speak to each other, and don’t do anything without being told,” Courtney told us. Her eyes were very hard; I’d never seen eyes like hers before. They were like pieces of diamond: shiny, and unbreakable. “Is that understood?”

We nodded.

“Good.” Courtney crossed the distance between us and unlocked the handcuffs; she then used them to link our wrists, so that Sapphire’s left arm was cuffed to my right. “Come with me.” She turned to the Golem. “Don’t let them out of your sight.” The Golem made a sound like grinding millstones, and followed us out.

It was dawn or thereabouts, and we were on the southern shore of Witch’s Lake. It was wreathed in wisps of cold, wet mist, and far out on its lonesome waters I could make out the massive bulk of Mount Pyre, rising up like the Hall of Doom.

Why is it called Witch’s Lake?

Because it’s full of ghosts.


As I watched, a skein of dark shapes flitted over the surface of the waves, and something laughed a gurgling laugh disturbingly close to my ear.

Oh yeah, Puck said. I can feel them. Man, that’s a lot of ghosts. That’s something strange, and it don’t look good – so who you gonna call?

What?


Ghostbusters, Kester, Ghostbusters. That’s who you gonna call.

“Where’s the boat?” asked a loud voice on the verge of anger, and Sapphire and I winced. There was no way to mistake it: Maxie had arrived.

“Sir!” said Courtney, grabbing my arm and dragging me away from the Magmas milling around on the shore, “look what we caught on the way here!”

Maxie was getting out of the second truck at the time – it seemed he’d been riding in the cab’s passenger seat – and the look on his face was truly brilliant. At least, it would have been if the situation hadn’t been quite such a threat to my continued existence on this mortal coil.

Ah, it doesn’t matter if you shuffle off it, Puck said consolingly. Although I’ve heard the dreams you get are enough to give you pause. Then again, that guy was a bit weird in the head, so he might have been talking rubbish.

“You two,” he said, disbelievingly. “You two...” He turned sharply to Courtney. “This is good work, Courtney. Very good.”

She gave a thin smile, and somehow I didn’t think she actually valued his praise all that much.

“They didn’t realise who we were,” she said, “and tried to hitch a lift.”

Maxie gave a short, sharp bark of a laugh, and looked at me.

“Well, Mister Ruby,” he said, “I suppose this is the end of your little game. I’ll have time to question you later.” His eyes flickered over to Sapphire. “Also her. I haven’t worked out what purpose she solves yet.”

Anger flashed across Sapphire’s face, and if she hadn’t been cuffed to my wrist I might well have had quite a job in stopping her leaping for the Magma boss’s throat.

“For now, though...” Maxie looked out over the lake. “That damn boat ought to be here.”

“It’s there, sir,” Courtney pointed out, indicating a particularly foggy region. “It’s coming.”

“It’s still not good enough,” fumed Maxie. “I send him over a day early, by Crobat, and he doesn’t manage to get a boat and sail it over here by dawn?” He strode off angrily towards the lake, muttering something about having words with the boatman, and about showing him the true meaning of pain. It was all very hackneyed, as Puck gleefully pointed out.

“You two!” snapped Courtney, and we looked around – but she was talking to Fabien and Blake, not us. “You see those two?” She pointed at us, and the Magmas nodded. “Stay with them and keep an eye on them. That Golem’ll help you.”

The Golem rumbled and shifted on its massive feet.

“Yes, ma’am,” said Fabien, tipping his hat to her.

“And take off that hat. It’s ridiculous.”

Fabien looked like he’d been punched in the gut, but he did as he was told. When Courtney wandered off, he put it back on again.

“So,” he said brightly, in an effort to start a conversation, “how’ve you been keeping?”

I let him know in no uncertain terms what I thought of him, and earned myself an unprecedented high-five from Sapphire. An expression of mingled anger and distress crossed Fabien’s face, and he pulled a Poké Ball from his pocket; I shook my head.

“That’s a Golbat,” I said smugly. “I know what you have, and I know I can beat him.”

“I’m letting him out anyway,” Fabien replied. “I almost always keep him out.”

There was a flash of red light, and something that wasn’t a Golbat appeared; it had a smaller, sleeker body, and no giant tongue. It had four wings that beat at such speeds they were close to invisible, and it was utterly, eerily silent.

“He evolved?” asked Sapphire with interest.

“What is that?” I asked her.

“A Crobat. Evolves from Golbat.”

“EEE-ee-ek,” the Crobat said. I had the feeling it was trying to say something, but I couldn’t work out what it was.

You should be careful of that one, Puck said grimly. He’s way stronger than he was as a Golbat. Unless you can master Shock Wave, we’ll never defeat him – and even if you do, you’ll have to survive his attacks for quite a while, because you won’t take him down with just Shock Waves. His battle level is completely unreadable; I think it changes to suit the plot. Right now, if I had to guess, I would say he’s Level 60.

I regarded the Crobat with new respect. With the threat he and the Golem represented, I was beginning to think I might have been a little too hasty in my wholesale slandering of Fabien’s character.

Just then, there was a shout from down by the shore: the boat had arrived. The six of us turned to look, and saw a ferry about two hundred yards out on the water, a ghostly white shape in the fog.

Her ghost in the fog, Puck said thoughtfully. Very appropriate. It’s by Cradle Of Filth, which ranks just below Orifice of Nefarious Purpose in terms of weird band names. Or it would, if Orifice of Nefarious Purpose actually existed. Now I think about it, I wish they did. I would so buy – well, steal – their albums, just for the name.

There was a hurried conversation with the boatman by radio; it seemed that the ferry could come no closer without running aground. At this, Maxie cursed, sent out his own Golbat and flew himself over to the boat. Those Magmas who had Crobats or Golbats soon began following suit.

Fabien turned to his own bat.

“Goishi,” he said, “fly those two over, would you? And then come back for us.”

“Eee-ee-e-e-eeek,” agreed the Crobat – Goishi – and I swear he actually sounded reluctant. With such speed that I couldn’t actually see him, he rose up over Sapphire and I, grabbed our shoulders with his stubby feet and whisked us up into the air.

I’d never experienced such speed before, and I certainly didn’t want to again; I was standing on the deck so soon after takeoff that it seemed most of my organs had been left onshore. Evidently Sapphire felt the same way, because we fell over simultaneously upon being set down – only we fell in different directions, which made the handcuffs bite painfully into my wrist. I can only imagine what it was like for Sapphire, with her arm burned like it was.

A moment later, Fabien and Blake were standing before us, and we were climbing to our feet; the remaining Magmas were being shuttled over to the ferry by the team of blue and purple bats, and it was only a few minutes before we were all aboard. The Golem was recalled by someone, taken over in its ball and let loose again; its great bulk caused the boat to dip perceptibly.

The ferry began to move, and Fabien and Blake escorted us belowdecks, where we could all sit down, and they could keep an eye on us. I think it was the same model of ship we’d travelled on to get to Dewford and Slateport, because it was virtually identical. The two Magmas helped themselves to the bar while their Crobat looked on disapprovingly. Sapphire and I, for our part, sat near the Golem and looked out of the window with the other Magmas at the approaching monolith of Mount Pyre.

“Sapphire, we’re in a really bad situation,” I whispered, the full significance of our situation hitting me.

“I know,” she replied quietly, shivering. “No Pokémon. No chance. No way out.” She looked directly at me, and I thought I detected a hint of fear at last in her eyes. “Kester, I think we might have lost.”

If anything could make my blood run cold, it was an admission of defeat from Sapphire. I looked away, at the mountain, and wondered if we would make it through the morning.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #107    
Old May 5th, 2011 (01:46 AM).
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Faster than a laser bullet, louder than an atom bomb!

Here's where the real fun begins, boys and girls...

Chapter Forty-Six: Enter the Karanadon

Darren Goodwin smiled tiredly.

“Thanks a lot,” he said. “I’ll be going now.”

He put down the phone, rubbed his temples for a moment and walked out to go and charter a helicopter. And since he was with Devon, ‘charter’ was a word that could be very, very loosely interpreted.

Twenty minutes later, he was flying into the night, and there was a trail of unconscious bodies at Lavaridge’s helipad. Darren smiled again at the memory. The monkey wrench truly was a researcher’s best friend.

The helicopter clattered east, and bore the Devon man on towards Mount Pyre.

---

Felicity had been having some trouble walking lately, so against her wishes and Barry’s, the big man was carrying her. Both were outside the Baba Yaga-esque hut that hid the entrance to the mine, and waiting expectantly for the person who was going to come and pick them up.

In consequence, they had their eyes on the path – or at least, Barry did; Felicity’s eyes were closed. She was not asleep – she was too frightened to sleep, in case the thing came out and took over while she was gone – but her eyes were tired. Her whole body was tired, in fact, and there was an ache in her bones and in her heart. She had a good idea of what was happening, but she didn’t want to talk about it. Not after what she’d discovered after she’d woken up yesterday. And with regards to that, I will merely say that Felicity was now wearing a hat, and had no intention of removing it any time soon.

The person did not come from the path, however. They came from the sky. The Aquas got some warning of their arrival, in a sudden rush of air and a great whirring of rotors, and then they realised that they were to be picked up in a helicopter – which made much more sense than anything else, now that they thought about it. It didn’t land; to save time, the helicopter simply hovered over the clearing and lowered a rope ladder. This proved aggravating for Barry, because he had to climb up one-handed, and a little bit terrifying for Felicity, who had to be taken a very long way into the air in the crook of one arm. However, they both made it up there without incident, and before long a second helicopter was speeding east to Mount Pyre.

---

The Sableye stood on the shore and kicked lamely at the dirt. The ferry was a couple of hundred yards out, and it didn’t look like he was going to get a chance to get aboard. Perhaps he should give up after all, he thought, and voiced this opinion.

The Dustox doll rejected it soundly: he had come this far, it argued; surely it was worth seeing the thing through now? He just had to get to Mount Pyre, and it would definitely be easier to free his mistress and The Kester when there.

Mount Pyre? Mount Pyre? They were going to Mount Pyre? The Sableye started in shock. No, no, no; no one had said anything about going to Mount Pyre. There were ghosts there – and not friendly ones. There were Shuppet, and even some Banette, and they were always angry with humanity; the circumstances of their creation ensured that. No, the Sableye was not going to Mount Pyre, not for all the gems in Hoenn.

He was a fool, the Dustox doll said. How could he be attacked by ghosts if The Kester was present? Surely he represented enough of a threat to spectres that they would not dare come near?

This might be true, the Sableye conceded. But he wasn’t going on the strength of something that might be true; he wanted certainty. He would be like the wise man and build his house upon stone, not sand.

The Dustox doll told him he was being stupid. Didn’t he know that there were no certainties in this world of theirs? Nothing was set in stone; everything was cast in mutable shades of grey. The closest you could get to certainty was a good chance that something was true, and there was a good chance that his mistress and The Kester, once liberated, would be able to protect him from any ghosts and suchlike.

Besides, the Dustox doll added, he might have made it through the night, but it was daytime now, and that was when things like Skarmory might start hunting.

The Sableye ran a thin tongue nervously over his teeth. Fine, he would do it, he said; but if this thing went wrong, he knew who he was going to blame. He crouched, trying to fit himself as closely as he could within the confines of his own shadow, and then clung to it tightly. He took a deep breath, and focused for a moment.

The next second, a black-and-white streak flickered briefly across the surface of the lake; the second after that, there was a little pale figure clinging onto the side of the ferry.

---

We reached the mountain at around nine-thirty, or something like that. It took us longer than anticipated, because the guy driving the boat didn’t really know what he was doing –which was also why he’d taken so long to get the boat to the south shore in the first place.

Needless to say, the delay put Maxie in a foul mood. He had wanted to begin the attack earlier, I gathered – the Aquas were expected to show up later, and he would have liked it if he could have avoided them.

On the south face of the mountain was the entrance, a quietly unobtrusive building in grey stone, set atop the only piece of flat ground on the mountain’s lower slopes. Several jetties extended out from this into the fog, and it was next to one of these that the Magma ferry moored. It was the only boat there; at this hour, no one was here except the graveyard attendants and, on the mountain’s fog-obscured peak, the museum staff.

Maxie got off first, then Courtney, then the rest of the Magmas; Fabien, Blake, Goishi and the Golem came last, with us. Together, we traipsed down the jetty to the entrance building, our footsteps eerily muffled by the spectral fog.

Whoa, whispered Puck. Ghosts.

I could feel them too, there were so many; they thicked the air and the waves, their eyes following us wherever we went. There was hostility in their eddying forms, in their glinting minds, and I realised why visitors to the Mount Pyre graveyard were given Cleanse Tags to take in with them.

These aren’t friendly ghosts, Puck said with a shudder. These are Shuppet. Did you ever have a toy you loved loads, as a kid? One you took everywhere with you, and everything?

Yeah...?

It had been a plastic Feraligatr; I hadn’t seen it in years, but as soon as I thought of it I could feel it in my hand, sticky and warm from the constant attention of my six-year-old self.

Where is it now?

I don’t know.

You’ve got a Shuppet somewhere who wants your blood, Puck said unsettlingly. Toys like that are loved so much a little bit of life rubs off in them, and when you set them aside, like you do when you grow up, that life has to go somewhere. So it comes out and forms a Ghost – a Shuppet. Shuppet are entirely made of angry thoughts; they just want revenge on their former owner for abandoning them. They’re the saddest and the most hostile Ghosts of all. Puck sighed. They can’t be tamed easily; they have the memory of their greatest loss preying on their minds, and they never want to be left alone again. If you do manage to train one, you’d better not ever try and release it, because that’s the final straw as far as they’re concerned, and they just snap. They’ll track you down to the end of the world and make you pay for what you did.

Charming.
I shuddered. Puck, you’ve told me nothing but scary things today. You want to shut up for a bit?

Whatever, he said huffily, I won’t scatter any more pearls before this swine.

When thirty-odd rather obvious members of a criminal syndicate enter your building, you pretend not to notice; the clerk at the front desk absorbed himself in today’s copy of The Lilycove Times and ignored the stream of red-suited crooks walking by. I tilted my head and glimpsed the cover headline:

PROMETHEUS WINS APPEAL, ZEUS TO FACE CHARGES

I’d have liked to read some more, but Sapphire and I were nudged in the back by Fabien, and we had to go on. I tried to catch the clerk’s eye and get him to go for help, but he resolutely avoided looking at me. In the end, I mouthed a potent oath at him and carried on walking.

Past the lobby was a room with two large stone doors, as old as the graveyard itself; one led through to the grave-caves, where hundreds of dead, well-loved Pokémon were buried, and the other – which we went through – led into an elevator that would take us up the bulk of the mountain, to the bottom of the road that led to the museum.

We went up in batches, since the lift could only take ten at a time; it couldn’t have taken the Golem at all, and so it was recalled for a little while. Unfortunately, there still wasn’t any real scope for escape when we were in such a confined space, and as soon as we got to the top the boulder-beast was sent out again.

Ooh, that’s a good word. ‘Boulder-beast’. What’s your name, son? FEAR ME, FOR I AM BOULDER-BEAST! Puck made an appreciative noise. That’s almost as good as that time I met a Crawdaunt with multiple personality disorder.

An image flashed across my eyes: a massive, battle-scarred monster rearing over my field of view. I could hear it shouting faintly, as if from a great distance:

My name is Langoustine, for we are prawn!

I shook the misplaced memory off and followed the Magmas out of the elevator. Before us was what almost seemed a tangible wall of mist; I realised that we were standing atop a tiny projection from the side of the mountain, and all that separated us from a long drop and a sudden stop was a flimsy-looking guard rail. I could see nothing beyond that point due to the fog, and if this trip had taught me anything, it was that the unknown is to be feared, loathed and escaped from at the first opportunity.

“This way,” said Fabien, and led us up a winding path that hugged the mountainside; I expect it was picturesque if you weren’t scared witless of missing a step and falling to your death.

It’s not very wheelchair-accessible, was Puck’s verdict. They wouldn’t allow this back in England. They’d have a ramp somewhere.

I thought of someone in a wheelchair freewheeling down a spiral ramp around the mountain, like a crazy helter-skelter, and almost laughed. A ramp would have been about as wheelchair-friendly as foot-tall stairs.

I heard a whisper in the fog – we love you – but when I looked back, there was no one there. Sapphire looked at me inquisitively.

“Ghosts,” I said by way of explanation.

We shivered, and walked on, the situation looking bleaker by the second.

---

The spray crashed and rolled beneath him; the hull rocked and bobbed under his claws; the Sableye was out of range of the waves, but he was still having a rather tough time of it. His Shadow Sneak had been powerful enough to launch him across the rift between his own shadow and the ferry’s – that had been the easy bit. It had turned out to be far harder to maintain his grip on the wet metal.

And then came his cousins.

They were here, and there, and everywhere else; they flowed through the waters of the lake and the strands of the mist; they were out in force today because of their uniquely Ghostly visitors, and they had judged one of these and found him of no use except for baiting.

Turn back, they whispered in his ear, leave, go home. They don’t want you any more.

Yes, another bunch agreed, they hate you. They left you on your own... You’d just get in the way. Go home.

Home! They all took up the chant in thin, wavering voices. Home, home, home! Go home, home, home!

The Sableye knew they were clever, and he knew he was stupid; he knew they were dangerous, and he knew he was pathetic; he would have obeyed them in an instant and left, but he was paralysed with terror, his claws locked tightly into the steel of the hull. He could not move a single muscle.

The Ghosts were here, and they had found him.

Home, home home! they sang; it seemed like their minds were orbiting the idea in fast, tight loops, utterly fixated. Home! One day we’ll go home, and everything will be all right! Home, home, home!

Dimly, the Sableye realised they were talking to themselves more than to him now, and he relaxed just enough to lower his head and shut his eyes, so that hopefully they couldn’t see him. The Dustox doll tried to soothe him, a still small voice of calm through the fiery cloudy pillar of his surroundings, and he forced himself to listen to it, to lose himself in the rhythms of its voice—

He doesn’t want to talk to us, said one of them. He’s rejecting us.

The Ghosts started to hiss and crackle; small bursts of jet-black light flickered in the fog. They whirled furiously around him, and so strong was their ire that they began to solidify a little; the Sableye, his eyes dragged open by some inexorable fascination, could see round heads and flowing bodies, and occasionally a flash of eye so sickled o’er with the red cast of wrath that it chilled his tiny heart to the core.

We won’t be ignored! they screamed. Not again! Love us, want us, keep us! Watch us, cousin, or we’ll kill you. We are of one essence, you and we – act like it! Love us!

The manic ghost-dance went on, and the water burned like witch’s oils; looking down, the Sableye saw slimy things with slimy legs crawling upon the surface of the waves. Oh Christ, the Dustox doll said in a fit of well-read woe, that ever this should be!

Listen to us! Talk to us! Love us! Love us!

They would not stop; the ship beat on, but the Ghosts were always there, faster than fairies and faster than witches, and twice as malign as either. They howled in his ears, then whispered; they flew over and around and even right through him, their spectral cloaks trailing out behind them.

And then the Sableye felt a sudden lack of motion in the air around him, and sneaked a glance at his tormentors to see them all arrested in their wild flight. A shadow passed over him, and he looked up to see what new horror awaited him.

Down there flew a monstrous shape, as black as a tar-barrel; it frightened all the Shuppet so, they quite forgot their quarrel. They withdrew with quiet hisses as it passed, and when it stopped right by the Sableye, they retreated a good fifty feet.

The Sableye wished he could do the same; he was terrified. The apparition before him was like a bleeding chunk of the night sky, a blot of unimaginable darkness that swirled and eddied at the edges like ink in water. From within the dark two red lamps lit themselves, and shone forth; below them, a long line of yellowed, zip-shaped teeth, firmly locked together with the tag hanging down, formed from nowhere.

You can go on, the Banette said, and its voice was something awful: it was the voice of someone who has seen defeat, and who has overcome it to come out stronger; it was the voice of someone whose hatred has driven them for so long that all other aspects of their personality have long since dwindled to nothing. You are not Her who cast me off.

The Sableye said nothing, but quivered and hunched closer to the hull. The Banette turned from him, and floated away to address the Shuppet.

Leave him, it said, in that terrible, awful voice. He is not one of those who do not love us.

And the Ghosts wailed and hissed, but they obeyed, and they left, whistling through the fog like bullets of angst. The Banette rose up and faded away, for though it had spared the Sableye, it had done so through a logical process of elimination, not through compassion, and had no urge to see that he was well.

The boat’s side thumped gently against the jetty, and the Sableye fell the six feet to the spray-soaked slats to lie on his back, breathing hard. He lay there in silence for some time, gathering his wits and his meagre supply of courage.

Then he got up, and scurried off to wait until the passengers disembarked.

---

“You’ll have to pay admission,” said the man at the desk, looking up briefly at the crowd before him.

Maxie barked a laugh.

“Oh, we’ll have to pay admission?” He turned to the rest of the assembled company. “This guy says we’ll have to pay admission.”

There was an uneasy murmur amongst the Magmas; whatever Maxie was going to do next, I doubted it would be beneficial to the man’s health.

“Pay, or leave,” the man said. He was remarkably calm, or remarkably stupid; he sounded almost bored.

“Of course,” said Maxie, reaching into his pocket with an exaggerated movement. “Let me just get my wallet – oh wait, I’m a goddamn crime boss.”

The hand was out of the pocket, and in it was a gun; the tip was flat against the man’s temple. For the first time, he seemed to realise the gravity of the situation, and looked up slowly.

“That’s right,” said Maxie conversationally. “Now kindly piss off to the afterlife, there’s a good chap.”

He would have fired, of that I had no doubt. And I would have had to watch someone being killed, and I would have been scarred for life.

Except that at that moment the druids arrived.

What was really remarkable was the precision of the operation. The fire shutters slammed down behind us, sealing off the main entrance, and the druids appeared from the archway that led into the main hall of the museum. I knew they were druids because they were all wearing white sheets and more than one of them had mistletoe about their person. They were also bristling with advanced weaponry, and so Sapphire and I took one glance at them and made a break for it.

When the gunshots started echoing around the walls, we had a perfect chance: we ran as one to a side door, wrenching it open and passing through without caring where it led. There were shouts and confusion behind us, and the tangled roars and shrieks of Pokémon appearing, but we wanted no part of it.

“Hey!” I glanced over one shoulder to see Fabien and Blake rushing after us, the former clutching his hat and Goishi zooming along in front; the Crobat easily caught up with us, but didn’t seem inclined to stop. I don’t think he particularly relished the prospect of being shot by the Gorsedd.

We were in some sort of office, and weaving through a couple more doors we found ourselves back in the main museum – in the Egyptian exhibition, it seemed, for there were some imposing sarcophagi scattered around the place.

Wrong, said Puck. These aren’t Egyptian, they’re from Kanto. Don’t you know anything?

Bigger issues right now, Puck, bigger issues.


Sapphire and I stopped by one of the sarcophagi, judging that we were probably far enough away from the battle to be safe. Our Magma guardians halted just in front of us, looking as confused as I felt.

“What the hell is goin’ on?” Blake demanded to know.

“Druids,” I answered, not knowing what else to say. “For some reason, you’re being attacked by druids.”

“The Gorsedd? What the – why?” Fabien wondered. “It doesn’t matter, I suppose. I think we should probably lie low somewhere until either all the Magmas or all the druids are dead.”

“Aren’t you loyal,” said Sapphire sarcastically. “I like how you stand by your friends.”

“We are standing by our friends,” Fabien said, slapping Blake on the arm. “Blake’s my friend. So’s Goishi.”

“Eeeeee-eeek,” the Crobat said doubtfully, which made Puck laugh.

A distant explosion silenced us all for a moment, and then we heard the sound of rushing feet.

“What the hell is going on here?” I wondered. “Who was that?”

“It’ll be the Aquas, I expect,” Fabien answered. “They knew we’d be coming, so they came to stop us.”

Heh, Puck said. Magmas, Aquas, druids... the fun never ends here, does it?

Unidentifiable sounds, possibly some sort of battle in progress, were coming our way, I noticed; thinking that it was best to inform the others, I was about to say something when Sapphire said:

“We can’t stay here. Someone’s coming.”

She turned to leave, and I with her; we began to run again, then she stopped, which meant I had to as well.

“Oh, and I recommend you two come with us,” she said. “You know, if you want to live. We’ve got so much experience of surviving ridiculous situations that it’s not even funny.”

“You’re our enemies!” Fabien replied, outraged. “We can’t come with you – you’re Aquas, for God’s sake!”

“Uh, Fabien?” said Blake, coming over to join us. “I think we’re all in the same boa’ ’ere. Bes’ go along with it.”

“Goishi?” Fabien asked hopefully, looking at the Crobat; in a movement too swift for the eye to trace, the giant bat came to hover over our heads. “Oh, for the love of—”

At that moment, the Golem entered the Ancient Kantan exhibition through the wall, which had the effect of silencing everyone. Through the dust that filled the air, its blood-red eyes sought us out, and it opened its heavy jaws in a roar that blasted pieces of debris the size of my fist across the floor.

“Look, we’re not escaping with them,” Fabien tried to explain. “We’re just—”

The Golem swung one massive fist at him, and he jumped back smartly.

“Stupid creature,” he remarked. “Er, I think I might be running away with you charming people after all.”

He shot off down the corridor with alacrity, and the Golem gave a juddering growl; it tucked in its hands and threw itself forwards after us, curling into a ball and rolling forwards like Rono often did – only much larger, and consequently much deadlier.

Whoa! Indiana Jones moment! cried Puck. Haven't had one of these since I was in Paris. I mean, run guys!

“Run!” I cried at his prompt, and we did, following Fabien down the corridor, past sarcophagi and statues, death-masks and diagrams; my heart was in my throat, and ready to leave by my mouth if things got worse.

Unfortunately for us, the Kantan exhibition didn’t lead on to another one at this end, and so we had no choice but to turn, backs to the wall, and watch as the Golem came rumbling on towards us; the close walls and the tight-packed exhibitions meant that there was no way to get out of its path. This was the end. We’d been dodging death for two weeks, and now it was finally bearing down on us, with nowhere to run or hide.

So naturally we were OK, because as ever, something wildly improbable happened.

---

Courtney didn’t panic.

It was partly because she wasn’t the panicky type, and partly because she’d had experiences of ambushes before, but she saw everything laid out before her in an instant: the druids didn’t want them getting at the Orb, and had somehow found out that they’d be here today for them. But still, it was unprecedented for them to leave their compound in such numbers...

Courtney called together the nearest bunch of Magmas and had two of them send out Camerupts; the big beasts were spooked by the bullets, and started simultaneously erupting and stampeding. That was all Courtney needed: while the druids were busy getting themselves out of the way, she darted past them, sticking a knife in the neck of one as she went, and fled down the main hall, a small group of her subordinates following in her wake.

She ran into a side corridor, past an array of birds in glass cases, and came to a halt in what a sign told her was the Armenian Room. Its main feature appeared to be a selection of wardrobes from throughout history, and from within these popped up another array of machine-gun-wielding druids.

Courtney had just enough time to open her mouth before bullets sprayed out from behind her, and the druids’ white sheets fluttered redly with the impact.
Then there was silence, during which Courtney looked at the dead druids, and turned around to the six Magmas who had followed her out of the ambush, and who had slain the druids.

“What the hell is going on here?” she demanded to know.

---

At precisely the same moment, Barry Hawksworthy was thinking the same thing. For the Aquas had landed their helicopter on the helipad to the rear of the museum, and had stormed it via one of the back entrances – only to be met by, unsurprisingly, a group of machine-gun-wielding druids.

Now, Barry could take a lot of abuse, but being shot at by druids crossed a line in his book. Thus it was that he dropped Felicity and, along with his Carvanha, rushed the nearest druid; so surprised was the assailant that he had just stared at him while Barry picked him up and bodily threw him into a giant Grecian urn, which had shattered with the impact.

Aware that the druids had suddenly become a lot more focused on him and less focused on the rest of the Aquas, Barry beat a hasty retreat, Warfang the Carvanha speeding along at his side; he kicked down a staff only door and fled into a long, dull grey corridor, the sides of which were peppered with a great many other doors. He chose one at random, and burst out into a hall where a life-sized model of a Wailord hung from the ceiling, the centre of an array of animals and Pokémon that grew to prodigious size. Here, Barry dived headfirst into the broad mouth of a Gyarados, so as to avoid any druidic reprisals. He wasn’t sure what they might entail, but he had a feeling he’d probably end up being sacrificed alive to something.

A peculiar consequence of his diving into the Gyarados was a crunch noise and a yelp; it wasn’t until someone punched him in the face that he realised he’d landed on a concealed druid, and had broken his nose. The two men strained their eyes, trying to see each other in the belly of the serpent, and then began one of the strangest scuffles that ever took place: a bout of fisticuffs inside a Gyarados.

Barry had the advantage in that he had Warfang, who wriggled past his shoulders and proceeded to do something extremely nasty to the druid’s face; for good measure, Barry pounded what was left of his head until he could sink his knuckles right into the flesh without any resistance. When this happened, he found, it was usually safe to stop punching; it was a handy hint he’d picked up during long years of fighting, and a tactic that had got him kicked out of more than one bare-knuckle boxing tournament.

When he was done, he wiped his now-rather-messy knuckles on the side of the Gyarados, and let out a long breath.

“Something’s happening here,” he said to himself, and Warfang made a little fishy noise of agreement (if you can imagine such a thing). “Something nasty, and it looks like we’re stuck in the middle of it.”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #108    
Old May 5th, 2011 (02:54 PM).
mew_nani's Avatar
mew_nani
Flying out of the sun...
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Far Lands
Gender: Female
Nature: Brave
What. The. Heck. :\

Yikes, it looks like a 3-way war here. ...Say... if you combine the colors of all three comabatants, you get a patriotic popsicle! Or a british popsicle... whatever floats your boat. :D Wonder whose side the druids are on... I just can't wait for the finale!
__________________
Game Over!
You failed to restore peace to the planet Algo.

(press SPACE to continue.)
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By DarkDoom3000.
  #109    
Old May 8th, 2011 (11:18 PM). Edited May 9th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Funny story: a long time ago, years before I ever thought up this story, I decided that all the scientists in the Weather Institute were cyber-druids. That's all you'll get from me until the grand finale.

OK. Moving on.

Chapter Forty-Seven: Tramps Like Us

Do what you like ’cause a pirate is free,
You are a pirate!
Yar har fiddle dee dee
Being a pirate is all right to be
Do what you like ’cause a pirate is free
You are a pirate!

You ever watch LazyTown? Man, I love that show. I’ve never actually seen an entire episode, but the songs? Brilliant. I realise it’s meant for young children, and young human children at that, but still. That whole pirate thing really speaks to me, know what I’m sayin’?

Ahem. As you’ve probably guessed, this is your good friend Robin J. Goodfellow, the lovably mischievous and completely amoral main supporting character of The Thinking Man’s Guide to Destroying the World. I’ve just been reading through what Kester’s written so far, and I have to say, I’m liking it. I mean, I know it’s from his point of view and all, and so he’s represented me a bit less elegantly than I’d have liked, but he’s much better at writing than I thought he was. And I know about writing. I mean, there was this one time I got stuck in a mechanical pencil – yeah, turns out they don’t count as machines, and Rotom aren’t meant to possess them – and this woman was using to write this outline to a book, something about wizards. And I got to thinking all right, this is good, but I can make it better. So I worked my magic when she wasn’t looking, and now that woman’s apparently a world-famous author. Funny how things turn out, huh?

Where was I? Oh yeah, Kester’s quite good at writing. I didn’t really have him down as the type to write. I had him down as more of the sort of kid who’s a bit of an idiot, does stupid things to impress girls, and more often than not ends up on the worst end of whatever life throws at him.

Actually, that reminds me of a time I met this female Rotom back in London. Well, I say London – I think it was actually Manchester, but London sounds better somehow, don’t you agree? So yes, I met her in London/Manchester in the server of an internet chatroom. That’s where Rotom hang out, you know; we’re virtual, so we tend to live online even more than some of you humans.

So anyway, I noticed her because she had all these amazing designs going right through her plasma – sort of abstract pieces of data and chunks of hexadecimal that were just absolutely gorgeous. We got talking – I’m a fantastic charmer, I can get talking to anyone – and it turned out her name was Stephanie, and she was living in the data banks of a programming company a few streets away; that was where the code in her had come from.

Well, one thing led to another, we went back to her place, and we ended up exchanging data packets. The next morning, I left – I was in London on business, you see, and I had a painting to steal – but she contacted me a few days later to say she’d just got back from the doctor and discovered she had KLMYD-1A, this computer virus.

And that was nasty, I discovered – because she’d only gone and infected me too. My data was corrupt for weeks; I ran so much antivirus software over myself my plasma went hard, and all the while there was just this constant agony. It was a terribly bleak time of my life, but it taught me to always use a firewall and make sure any potential mates have performed a full virus scan.

Um... oh yeah, I was talking about Kester. Well, he’s pretty dull. Let me tell you about this time I was hanging around in a computer network in this American research facility. What was it called – Armature Science? Acanthus? I can’t remember. Either way, I ended up on this crazy adventure with this woman named... um... Shell? Something like that. Maybe it was short for Shelly. Anyway, I was in this machine she had with her. It turned out that there was no one else left alive in the facility, and there was an insane computer running the whole operation. I tried to possess it, but it was way too advanced – pushed me back before I’d got so much as a toehold in there.

So, long story short, we destroyed that computer with some amazing secret technology and escaped. Not sure what happened to Shell/Shelly/whatever after that, but I seem to remember someone thanking her and helping her on her way, which was considerate of them.

Er... Oh, wait. Kester’s here. Um, don’t tell him I wrote any of this, or he’ll delete it! Ciao for now, my ever-adoring public, and stay reading until my return.

---

A blur of white from a corner. The Sableye, standing in front of us, one tiny hand outraised in the path of the oncoming Golem—

CRACK!

The Golem shattered against his paw with the sound the walls of Jericho must have made, chunks of stone spraying over and around the small figure before it; they slammed into walls and crashed into sarcophagi, entirely ruining this end of the exhibition hall in less than two seconds. We flung ourselves flat on the floor as rocks whistled overhead; above us, Goishi dodged from side to side so fast he couldn’t be properly seen, pieces of granite zipping past his wings and embedding themselves in the far wall. Sapphire and I tried to cover our heads at the same time, found we couldn’t do it with our wrists attached, and closed our eyes instead.

And then the blast was over, and the Golem’s head rolled gently onwards to come to rest just in front of my face. I looked into its eyes, fixed now in a look of perpetual surprise, and shivered. Some low crook had stolen my knees and inconsiderately left me with water as a replacement, and I wobbled a little as I rose.

The Sableye scuttled over the wreckage, over boulders and ripped-up floor tiles, and climbed up my leg onto my shoulder, where he huddled closely behind my neck. I think he’d scared himself as much as anyone else.

I’ve already said that the longest and most pregnant silence was probably that one after Puck told us that Groudon’s soul was the Red Orb. I was wrong. Thinking over it, this one had it beat in every single category. Duration – a little over three minutes. Stunned rating – 10/10. Quietness – literal ‘hearing a pin drop’ level. It was definitely the winner.

“In the name of all that is holy,” whispered Fabien, raising a trembling finger and pointing it at the Sableye, “what is that thing?”

“My Sableye,” Sapphire said; she sounded matter-of-fact, but I could tell at a glance that it was just an act. It was fooling the Magma grunts, though – I think both of them would have rather swallowed a gallon of petrol and topped it off with a match than contested us now.

Huh. He’s a regular Malvolio, Puck said. Think about it – he wasn’t born great, didn’t achieve greatness – no, he’s had greatness thrust upon him, all right.

“Wha’ d’we do now?” asked Blake. “We can’ stay ’ere.” He glanced around. “Druids’ll’ve ’eard tha’.”

It was true. The Golem had made a lot of noise when the Sableye had broken it.

“Wait one moment,” Fabien said, holding up a hand. “There’s still the question of this – this Sableye – that defeats a Level 45 Golem in one hit!”

“He’s Level 84,” Sapphire said, as if that were the most natural thing in the world. “You know, as people’s Pokémon are. His name’s...” She broke off and frowned. He still didn’t have a name.

“Malvolio,” I finished for her. “His name’s Malvolio.”

Sapphire nodded slowly.

“Yes. Malvolio.” She sounded like she was trying the word out in her mouth; I shot her a questioning glance, and she gave a flicker of a half-smile. I think she approved.

Woohoo! cried Puck. You took my suggestion! Now, take another one, and get out of here, because I see London, I see Sam’s Town – I mean, I hear druids coming.

Now I’d been told, I could hear them too: footsteps on the floor above, coming closer.

“Incoming druids,” I said to Sapphire. “We need to get out of here.”
She turned to the Magmas.

“Come with us if you like,” she said in an offhand manner. “Up to you.”

Then she strode off, and I with her. If I hadn’t, she’d probably have dragged me over.

---

VOICES

Where was she? It was dark, and there was a wave going around and around in her head, spinning out of control like a runaway dervish.

NOISE

It was so cold in here, wherever it was. Her body was numb, and her lips were like a single solid mass glued inelegantly to her face.

HUNGRY

There was a deep emptiness all around her; in fact, she was beginning to think she was the emptiness. Where had her body gone?

KILL

And then the thing got up, and she realised with horrible certainty where she was.

She was in her own head, and the thing was on the outside.

They had switched places, and now Felicity could do nothing but scream long, silent screams that nobody would ever hear.

---

Barry heard screams from down the corridor; he almost got out of his Gyarados to take a look, but when he heard the sound of a Pokémon attack being discharged – and whatever it was, it made a colossal impact noise – he decided that he might be better off staying here and waiting the confusion out.

It took just a few minutes for the screams to subside, and the big Aqua gave it a further five before venturing out. He wriggled forwards, breaking one of the sea serpent’s fibreglass fangs, and fell heavily onto the floor. He shot back up, looking around to check no one had heard him – specifically, that the person who owned the Pokémon that had made that ridiculously powerful attack hadn’t heard him – and, finding himself to be alone, crept back down the staff corridor to peer around the door that led onto the rear entrance.

Whatever he had been expecting to see, he didn’t see it.

For though there were indeed a few bodies lying there – four Aquas and a druid – it seemed that still more corpses had been dragged away by some unseen monster: great tracks of smeared blood ran down the hallway, and rounded a corner at the far end. Gobbets of yellow gore were liberally spread across the walls and floor, and over all of it was a thin coating of hoar-frost, just starting to melt in the indoor warmth.

Barry glanced at Warfang and raised his muscular eyebrows. More than one person had seen those eyebrows and wondered how they had become so powerful; the secret, Barry had found, was clamping weights to one’s eyebrows and raising them over and over. It was an unorthodox method of achieving an unorthodox goal – but it worked.

“What happened here?” he wondered, stepping into the hall. He looked the trail of blood up and down. A normal person wouldn’t have followed it, reasoning that if a squadron of highly-trained Aqua shock troops and a group of Hoenn’s deadliest fighters, the druids, couldn’t handle whatever had made the trail, then neither could they.

Barry was not a normal person. He was much, much more stupid.

And so it was that he set off to find the other end of the trail of blood, Warfang humming along beside him.

---

“Ma’am, I think we’re safe for now,” said one of the grunts, nodding respectfully. The other Magmas were positioned around the exits to the cupboard exhibition, standing guard.

“All right,” replied Courtney, pacing. “Let’s think... we’re in a museum overrun by druids. I’ve just heard two explosions in the background, we haven’t got the Orb and it seems like most of the Gorsedd’s warriors are here.” She scratched her head with the tip of her knife. “This isn’t good.” She paced some more. “We need to find out what’s happened to Maxie and the others. So... we need to head for the Orb, since that’s where he’ll go.”

“You want us to move out?” asked the grunt. “But the druids...”

With a short deft movement, Courtney broke his nose with her left hand. Her face had no expression, but her eyes glowed like angry diamonds.

“You want to live?” she growled. “Then do as you’re told, because there’s more than one way to die in this museum. You could be shot by druids, or I could cut your fingers off and make you eat them til you choke.”

“R-right,” said the Magma, through a stream of blood. “Er... your plan sowds good. Led’s go.”

“Hey! Listen!”

The other Magmas turned to look at her.

“We’re moving,” Courtney said. “We need to get to the front desk and pick up a map. Then we’re going to use that to get to the Red Orb and, hopefully, Maxie with it. Any questions? If there are, you’re not listening properly, because I’ve told you everything, and therefore I’ll have to slice the cal out of you.”

The blade in her hand flashed in the dim light. There were no questions.
“All right then.” Courtney stalked over to the south door. “Ronald, go first. McDonald, go with him. If there are druids, feel free to get shot and fall over screaming. It’ll be a useful warning for the rest of us.”

Ronald and McDonald didn’t look best pleased about their appointed task, but went about it anyway. Anyone who knew Courtney knew that she only started to make jokes when she was really serious. In this sort of mood, she was beyond explosive tantrums; she would just maim anyone who happened to irritate her. It was all fairly brutal, but it did mean that people did their jobs without complaint. Some people had compared her to Joseph Stalin in that respect.

The all-clear came from Ronald and McDonald, and the Magmas moved out down a long corridor lined with fossilised shells; there were ammonites and trilobites, Omanyte and Kabuto, all laid out in five-metre-tall glass cases. At any other time, Courtney would have at least had half a second to spare gazing appreciatively, but right now, her entire mind was focused on druids.

There were two parts to the druidic problem in her mind: where they were and why they were here. Where they were was something she could only answer as they found them – they appeared to be hidden at strategic points around the museum, and it would be impossible to track them all down.

Why they were here was more interesting. It was obvious the Gorsedd Hoenn had ordered the Orb protected, but why? They didn’t care about the affairs of the Teams at all – they didn’t care about anything beyond the four walls of their compound. Even more importantly, how had they known that they’d be coming for the Orb today?

Courtney shook her head. There would be time to find out about the druids later. Right now, they just had to—

A twitch to the left; she flung herself at it without stopping to see what it was, and plunged her knife up to the hilt into soft flesh. Whatever it was wailed, and shrieked – and then something icy cold was running over her hand. Courtney withdrew sharply, and saw that what had emerged from the side door wasn’t a druid.

In fact, she wasn’t even sure it was human.

It looked like it might have been a girl once, but it wasn’t any longer; on the thin frame of its spidery limbs was draped the tattered, waterlogged remnants of a dark blue suit. Its skin was the pallid colour of death, and its eyes, deeply-set in blue hollows, burned with gold fire.

“The hell—?”

Courtney jumped back a step, dodging the sweep of a snow-white hand; it was formed, she noted, of hair, and rooted at the side of the monster’s head, just below its blue, crystalline horns.

“Hurts,” whined the creature, “blade hurts...”

“Ma’am?” asked a Magma; Courtney noticed that they were all backing away, forming a semicircle around the monster.

“Don’t just stand there!” she hissed, eyes not leaving the creature’s face. “Kill it!”

They opened fire without a word of protest; jets of clear liquid spurted from its body and the monster thrashed and screamed, rising a foot from the ground in a paroxysm of fury and pain.

“Hurts!” it screeched. “Hurts! Hurts! Stop don’t hurt!”

The bullets kept thumping into its flesh, but they didn’t do anything except make the monster angry. Lashing out with one of those white hands, it caught Ronald around the skull, and squeezed hard with flattened fingers; half a second later, he was slumped on the floor, his head split and leaking like a burst water balloon.

“New plan,” Courtney said grimly, thrusting another knife into the monster’s face and darting away down the corridor, “run!”

The Magmas knew when they were beaten: the creature was not something they could kill, or possibly even something that could be killed; as they turned to run, it shrieked, plucking the knife from its cheek, and swooped after them, trailing its hands behind it.

Hate you!” it screamed, and that awful voice was so loud, so close, that Courtney felt herself slowing, as if some chain of ice had caught her limbs in its grip...

She could see the door now, the one that would lead out of this hall; it was closed, just a few steps away. She dared not look back, because if she did she knew she wouldn’t be able to turn around again: the monster would have her in its chill white hands, and it would crush the life from her as it had Ronald...

Just ten steps to go!

Someone screamed from behind her, and she heard herself bark out an order – something about not stopping. It was unnecessary; no one was going to stop while that thing was still there.

Courtney wrenched at the handle with the door, and it wouldn’t open; she pushed instead of pulling, and it burst from the frame so violently that it banged against the wall. The other Magmas were piling through, and then she slammed the door—

—only there was a skinny arm, undoubtedly human, sticking through. It broke with a crack when Courtney shut the door on it, and she heard a voice cry out – a human voice.

“Aaaow!” It couldn’t be faked; it was pathetic, utterly contemptible – a real cry of pain. “H-help me...” The words were mixed with sobs, and the Magmas looked at Courtney.

“Don’t open the door,” she snapped, brushing her hair from her face; she found an elastic band in her pocket and tied it back in a ponytail to keep it from her eyes. She would need them unobstructed from here onwards.

“But—”

“Open that door, and that monster gets through,” Courtney growled.

“Help me,” said the voice; a girl’s voice, Courtney now realised. “Let – let me get my arm out... aah, it hurts...”

Someone pushed weakly at the door, but Courtney held it shut.

“Get me something to wedge under the handle,” she said.

“But that girl’s trapped,” protested McDonald.

“Oh... oh God,” gasped the girl. “There’s someone here... no, something... help me, help me please!”

“Get a chair or something!” yelled Courtney, as the door handle began to rattle.

“Led er oud!” The Magma with the broken nose hauled on Courtney’s shoulders and pulled her away, the compulsion to help a child in danger overpowering even his fear of his superior. He pulled on the handle and opened the door—

The human arm fell back to the side of the monster; a pair of great white hands shot out and grabbed hold of the Magma, dragging him back through the doorway with a shriek. Courtney kicked the door shut and put her back against it once more.

The sudden burst of sound was gone. From the other side of the door there was the sound of a heavy object moving across the floor, and an occasional quiet moan.

The Magmas stared at Courtney in shock.

“Now go and get me that goddamn chair,” she said in a low voice, and as one they jumped to find one.

---

“What was that?” I wondered. “All that banging and screaming?”

Someone found a druid, maybe, suggested Puck. Or maybe all the exhibits have come to life – you know, just to make Ben Stiller’s life hell.

“Probably the Aquas, or the druids, or something horrible like that,” Fabien said. He and Blake were hurrying along behind us, Goishi keeping pace overhead.

We had left the Ancient Kantan exhibition far behind us, and were heading for the nearest lifts, which were supposed to be in a place called the Blue Corridor. We’d take these up to the top floor, where a ‘You Are Here’ map had told us the Orbs were kept – and see if we could stop the Magmas getting at them. We also hoped Courtney would be heading there, because she had all of Sapphire’s Poké Balls, money and supplies, and we really needed them back. We had passed through the main hall, down a side passage and were now in a corridor full of traction engine parts, at the other end of which the Blue Corridor lay, if you believed the little sign above the door.

“Wai’!” cried Blake. “Lis’en!”

We stopped dead in our tracks, and listened hard. The footsteps on the upper floor had gone.

“Why’ve they stopped?” I asked, alarmed.

“Who can say?” Fabien shrugged extravagantly. “Most likely, they’ve found us.”

It was at that moment that the doors to the Blue Corridor burst open, and three druids and a green man with a big hat came out.

This was an unexpected turn of events, and my first response was to raise both hands, jerking Sapphire almost off her feet, and fire Charge Beams at them. I didn’t particularly relish the thought of killing them, but I really didn’t want to get shot, either – and all three druids had machine-guns.

The druids ducked, and the energy bolts impacted harmlessly on the door-frame. They opened fire, and Sapphire and I took refuge behind a tractor wheel as a line of bullets ripped up the parquet flooring. Across from us, Fabien and Blake ducked under an engine of some kind, and Goishi flew directly at the druids. Malvolio, terrified, hid inside my T-shirt and quivered warmly.

This surprised us all, and we watched as he struck down upon the green man in the hat with great vengeance and furious anger – much like Samuel L. Jackson, Puck said – and that was when Sapphire said:

“Oh! It’s a Cacturne!”

I looked again, and I realised that it was indeed a Pokémon, and not a man: a sly-looking creature with bright yellow eyes and spiked arms. Goishi slashed his wings in an X-shape across its body, and it crumpled to the floor, purple fluid collecting in the slashes. The druids fired wildly at him, and he beat a hasty retreat to where Fabien was hidden.

Cross Poison, Puck said. That’s cool. Now shoot those druids, while they’re distracted!

What I kill them?

You won’t kill them, they’re druids – they’ve got, er, mistletoe, and... magic... and something. Look, do it or we’re dead, right?


I stood up before I got too scared to do it, and shot the nearest druid in the chest with a Charge Beam. He fell over backwards with a cry, dropping his gun, and the other two wheeled around to face me; I ducked and bullets bounced off the tractor wheel.

“That’s so unlike you!” hissed Sapphire, though I couldn’t tell whether that was a compliment or not.

I edged around the wheel until I could just see the druids – and shot again; I missed but blew a chunk out of the floor and startled them. This gave Goishi the distraction he needed to dart forwards again and swat a druid on the head; he was knocked clean over, and didn’t get up again.

The remaining druid, sensing the tide of battle was turning against him, attempted an escape by the simple expedient of flinging himself headfirst through the nearest door; unfortunately for him, it was a pull door, and he staggered back again, clutching at his head and groaning mightily.

We got up and advanced on him; the sight of two Magmas, a Crobat, a magical lightning-boy and an angry teenage girl seemed to unman him somewhat, because he sagged where he stood, like a puppet whose strings have been cut.

Blake snatched him up by the throat and slammed him against the wall; it was like something out of the movies.

You ever see Bullit? Puck asked. No, of course you haven’t. Anyway, Steve McQueen plays this ridiculously serious cop called Bullit, and he’s about as badass as badass can be... er, what was the relevance of this again? I’ve completely forgotten.

“You wanna question ’im?” he asked Sapphire and I; at this, Fabien looked indigant.

“Hey, surely it’s my job, as the responsible adult—”

“When you can shoot lightning from your hands or defeat a Golem with a Sableye,” Sapphire told him, “you can be the leader too. Until then, we’re in charge.”

We. That was something, something new. There was never any sharing of control before. It was me or her, and usually her. This was different, and I liked it. If the situation had been different, I might even have hugged Sapphire.

Steady on. Don’t do anything you might regret later.

“All right,” I said, and cracked my knuckles. (That, by the way, is a life skill, and is totally worth the time spent learning how to do it, because it makes you that much cooler.) “Listen,” I told the druid, a half-smile playing about my lips and sparks flickering on my fingers, “we’re going to ask you a few questions now. And you’re going to answer us, or things are going to get really unpleasant for you...”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #110    
Old May 9th, 2011 (01:52 PM).
mew_nani's Avatar
mew_nani
Flying out of the sun...
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Far Lands
Gender: Female
Nature: Brave
Congratulations!

Your Felicity evolved into... Froslass?!

...Well crap. Where's your Ultra Ball when you need it, eh? That sure would make things easier... :\

Well, at least Kester and company haven't gotten hemselves killed yet. :D I love the Portal references. And Ronald McDonald... XD
__________________
Game Over!
You failed to restore peace to the planet Algo.

(press SPACE to continue.)
I support

By DarkDoom3000.
  #111    
Old May 15th, 2011 (03:24 AM).
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Forty-Eight: Day at the Museum

“Ah, I fold.”

Archie threw his cards down onto the table and looked out of the window, at the museum.

“What’s taking them so long?” he wondered aloud.

“Do you want me to go in and check?” asked one of his guards – the very same one, in fact, who had just five minutes ago won thirty thousand dollars from him.

“Ah, don’t bother,” Archie said dismissively. “I’m sure they’re doing fine. Anyway, if they get in trouble, they got radios. You can pick them up on this thing, right?”

The helicopter pilot nodded. It was indeed so.

“Then we’ll wait.” Archie turned back to the table. “All right, let’s keep going. Truman, your turn...”

---

The trail of blood led around the corner, along another corridor and up a set of stairs. Whatever had made it had been strong and willing to drag a lot of corpses a very long way.

Barry crept up the stairway, turned at the landing and came up onto the second floor, into a long corridor that ran down the western side of the museum. To his right were windows, through which very little could be seen due to the fog; to his left were display cases, which would, if perused, have furnished him with some very interesting facts about the history of sawdust.

He was about halfway down the corridor when it happened. It was all very sudden. One minute there was peace and calm – and the next, the air was full of shrieks and whines and dust, and there was a helicopter sticking through the wall.

It tore through the masonry with so much ease that Barry half-expected it to keep going; however, it became stuck halfway through, and shuddered a little with the impact before settling down amongst the rubble to die.

Barry stopped, and stared. The glass of the cockpit was so fractured by the crash that it had become opaque; he could see nothing at all through it.

“You all right?” he called out cautiously, in case there was someone inside. “Anyone alive in there?”

He came closer, picking his way between the broken bricks and smashed floor tiles. He was just about to reach out and open the cockpit when it exploded into a storm of glass shards, and he leaped back, arm over his face, to trip over a piece of stone and fall over backwards. Struggling back up, Barry blinked through the glassy dust in the air and beheld—

THUMP!

Something hard drove savagely into his gut, and he flew backwards into a display case; it shattered around him and rained down glass over his head and arms.

“What the—?”

Barry had just enough time to register that it was a Miltank that had burst from the helicopter and tried to kill him before it made another attempt on his life; this time, he flung himself to one side, and the massive hoof made contact with Warfang instead, knocking him out in a single hit.

Scrambling to his feet, Barry adopted a fighting stance. He knew how strong Miltank were, but he also knew he was stronger; he’d once fought one for a bet. It wouldn’t be hard to beat this one.

The hoof swung towards him, and Barry caught it two-handed, holding it at arm’s length; the impact nearly knocked him off his feet, and every muscle in his arms was straining harder than it had for a long time, but he held it back. The Miltank lowed in surprise, and pulled away; that was Barry’s chance, and he took it. Pushing the cow’s arm aside, he barrelled into it shoulder-first, catching it in its chest and knocking it down. What surprised him was the meat under the skin: Miltank were usually covered in a thick layer of protective fat, but this one felt far too hard – it just had muscle. That meant it would be stronger—

The Miltank rolled easily onto all fours and charged like a bull, catching Barry in the shins and flipping him over its back. He turned and grabbed hold of the cow’s ear as he went, grimacing at the pain. To his surprise, the Miltank wasn’t stopped by his weight: it dragged him along, even from its ear, as if he weren’t there at all.

A new plan was necessary; Barry let go and got back up. The Miltank got back on its hind legs and turned to face him, snorting gently; the two circled each other like professional boxers, each searching for an opening in their opponent’s guard.

The Miltank made the first move, lunging forwards to ram Barry in the gut; he sidestepped and caught it under the belly with one arm, using its own momentum to fling the beast into the wall. Meat met stone and won the contest: it hit so hard that great chunks of plaster cracked and fell away.

Apparently unfazed, the cow climbed to its feet and rounded on Barry, bellowing fiercely; its piggy eyes glittered, and its cranium began to gleam with an inner light. Barry felt his limbs slow down, and wondered what was going on; then he realised that this wasn’t just a wrestling match. The Miltank had Pokémon moves. And he didn’t.

Therefore...

WHAM!


Two hard heads met, and it turned out that the Miltank’s was the tougher; Barry’s eyes rolled up into his head, and he slumped to the floor, unconscious.

“What in God’s name was that for, Vanda?” asked Darren Goodwin, extricating himself from the wreckage of the helicopter. He would have entered the building by the doors, but they’d been sealed off – doubtless the work of the Aquas. He knew they were here; he’d seen one of their helicopters parked outside. “That man had nothing to do with us.”

The Miltank looked as contrite as four hundred pounds of tight-packed muscle can, and slumped on its hooves.

“Never mind.” Darren glanced up and down the corridor. “Come on. If there was one Aqua here, the others won’t be far behind. We have to find those kids. Also,” he added, more to himself, “learn how to land a helicopter. I seem to be a little rusty.”

And he swept off down the hall, Vanda lumbering along behind.

---

“OK,” said Courtney. “This is where we are.” She pointed at a spot on the map: the first floor, at reception. “This is where we need to be.” Her finger travelled up four floors and then came to rest on the Orbs’ exhibition. “In our way are Ruby and Birch, if they’re still alive, a swarm of druids, and that monster.”

The four remaining Magmas under her command shuddered involuntarily.

“Know your enemy,” Courtney continued. “That’s what they always say. So firstly, what do we know about the monster? It’s fast. It can’t be harmed with bullets or knives. It can talk in a human voice if it wants to trick us, like it did with that guy.”

She couldn’t remember his name. If anyone else could, they didn’t tell her.

“From the looks of things, it’s wandering the museum.” Courtney stood up. “There are plenty of druids to keep it occupied, but we need to be prepared. We cross its path, we run. Nothing else. Do you understand?”

Four silent nods.

“Good.” Courtney reached into her pocket and drew out a Poké Ball. There was a collective intake of breath from the Magmas: Courtney never used Pokémon, preferring to fight herself. It was rumoured that she had one, but she’d never been known to use it; if she felt the need to do so now, it meant that this situation was just about as dire as it could ever possibly be.

She dropped the ball, and a disc of golden fire spread out from the point of impact; there was a Fire-type in there then, and it was a strong one – perhaps even the equal of Maxie’s Mightyena.

The creature that appeared was long and lithe and sheathed in golden fur; he was a solar flare in vulpine clothing, a beast wrought of compressed energy just waiting to be released. He started in a thin muzzle and ended in nine great, sweeping tails, and in between was a slender body that fairly vibrated with the force within. He was a Ninetales, and he didn’t look like the friendly type, either: his eyes were red and burned with fury from beneath a network of massive scars that criss-crossed his head and neck.

“All right,” said Courtney, resting one hand on the furless chunk of scar tissue between the Ninetales’ ears, “let’s move out.”

Keeping one eye apiece on the giant fox, the Magmas obeyed, and set off for the east wing. Here, they’d find stairs; it was likely that the druids had cut the power to the elevators, in order to restrict their movements, and also that they would have the main stairway especially well-protected, since it was the most obvious route. The stairs they were heading for were fairly out of the way, and there wasn’t a great chance of the druids having placed it under any special protection. There might well be druids between them and those stairs, but that was a different matter. On level ground, Courtney knew, there were very few things that could match her Ninetales.

The halls were deathly silent; it was unnerving to think that there were so many enemies in the building, so many ways to die, all hidden in these noiseless corridors. The calm ate away at the Magma’s nerves, Courtney could see that, but she didn’t falter. Her priority now was getting out of here in one piece, and if her team died, it was no concern of hers.

All at once, the calm was shattered: a distant explosion sounded, as if a bomb had gone off somewhere in the building. Immediately, guns came up and eyes scanned the area, but Courtney sighed and pushed firmly down on her Ninetales’ head; he had been spooked by the blast, and if he got spooked he tended to set things on fire. He never had liked explosions since the accident.

“Ssh,” she said. “Calm down.” Then, louder: “Ignore it. It doesn’t concern us.”

Shaken, the Magmas obeyed, and pressed on, instinctively drawing closer together; they had their guns almost perpetually up now, ready to fire if any threat should appear. Courtney watched them with hard eyes. By the time they got to the top, she was sure, almost all of them would be dead.

---

“So you didn’t want either Team getting their hands on the Orbs,” I summarised, “and someone told you they were going to be here today. Therefore, you set an ambush.”

The druid nodded. He might perhaps have spoken, but he was currently engaged in fearing for his life, and this seemed to make him clench his teeth.

“Fair enough,” I said. “That seems reasonable. What do you think, Sapphire?”

“I think I’d have to agree with you,” Sapphire said. “Their interests kind of coincide with our own.”

“Well, you’re wrong there,” Fabien stated. “You’re Aquas. You want the Blue Orb, as this fellow so kindly pointed out.”

“Did it ever occur to you that we weren’t Aquas, and instead were just really unlucky?” I asked him. He shook his head.

“No. Because that’s a filthy Aqua lie.”

Forget it. He’s not going to change his mind. Unlike in that film where that guy changes his mind.

Seriously? That’s such a god-awful joke.

I know
, said Puck, sounding genuinely shocked. I think I was referring to The Nutty Professor, but that was... damn. I feel I ought to wash out my mouth with battery acid or something.

It’s all right, don’t worry about it.

“Look,” I said to the druid, “I’m sorry about this, but you’re going to tell the other Gorsedd members about us, and we can’t have that.” I bit my lip.n“So... well, sorry, but – can someone knock him out for me? I’m afraid I might kill him.”

Can’t stop caring about others, eh? Well, no man is an island. Not even Hugh Grant, and he was bloody Ibiza.

Blake thumped the druid on the head, and he slumped to the floor in the folds of his sheet. I stared at him for a while, all pale and white beside his comrades, and wondered what was so important that the druids would risk death for it. I knew that if they’d run into anyone other than us – the Aquas or the Magmas, for instance – the fight would have lasted until one side was removed from the mortal coil.

“Shall we go?” asked Fabien. “I don’t really want to stay here.”

“Oh. Yes. Right, let’s do that.”

Hoo, he’s cold, Puck remarked. Makes me shiver, with every paper I deliver. Doesn’t even care about these guys. Mind you, neither do I; nothing’s touched me deep inside since the day the music died.

We left, heading into the Blue Corridor and, in my case, thinking furiously about the druids. The person who’d gone to the Weather Institute and told them what was up had to be Zero. It just had to be. No one else would have done that.

But he must have known that the druids didn’t want the Teams getting their hands on the Orbs, he must have known that the Gorsedd Hoenn were militaristic and zealously devoted to the preservation of the nation’s natural order. He would have had a plan – and one that obviously didn’t involve the raising of Groudon or Kyogre after all. Or was he anticipating the druids’ failure? If so, why had he sent them here?

“What’s Zero up to?” wondered Sapphire; obviously, she was thinking along the same sort of lines as I was.

Don’t know, Puck said. But he’s a pretty tricky customer, that’s for sure. I bet all the kids at school think he’s a righteous dude.

“We’re here,” Fabien announced. “But I don’t think this lift is working.”

He had pressed the button, and it had come off at his touch. The doors juddered open a crack, and absolutely nothing else had happened.

“Kester?” asked Sapphire. “Do the honours.”

“My pleasure,” I replied, putting one hand on the metal panel where the button had been. Right. Puck? Work your magic.

But you’re taking the credit!

Doesn’t matter, OK? Just do it.

I want credit, Kester! I’m full of myself and I want credit!

OK, OK, I’ll give you credit.

Deal.


Sparks popped out of my fingers and melted into the steel; a second later, there was a grinding noise from below us and the lift started moving up. It arrived a moment later, and the doors slid open.

“Get in,” I said. “Come on.”

Kester...

I’ll give you your credit, just hang on a minute!


We got in the lift, and I very quickly transferred my hand from the metal plate to the panel with the buttons inside the lift; Puck needed continual contact with it or his control would fail.

Where to, guv’nor?

Fourth floor.

Comin’ up.


The doors shut, and the lift began to move.

“How do we know,” Fabien began, “that you aren’t taking us into a horrible Aqua trap?”

“Because we’re not members of Team Aqua,” Sapphire told him.

“I can’t believe you’re still sticking to that story,” he said, shaking his head. “You must think I was born yesterday.”

Eeee-ee-e-e-eee-eek,” Goishi said despondently. He had folded up his wings as best he could, and was clinging to Blake’s back.

“You said it,” Fabien told him, though I doubted he knew what the Crobat meant. I certainly didn’t.

We lapsed into an uneasy silence, broken only when Puck started speaking.

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


At that, the doors slid open to reveal a long section of brown wooden hall, punctuated with a single ‘You Are Here’ map.

I didn’t say ‘there’, Kester, I said ‘DARE.’ It was a joke.

Ssh.


Oh yeah, where’s my credit?

I lied. Deal with it
, I told him as we got out of the lift, looking around cautiously. We seemed to be alone, but I knew there must be druids here; this was where we’d find the Orbs, after all. Then again, they’d broken the lifts, so perhaps we would catch them off-guard by coming up in a way they would have thought impossible.

You little—! Why, I ought to pull a Freddy Krueger on you. Remember, I’m going to get you where you can’t defend yourself... in your dreams.

Puck, you’re about as good at messing with my dreams as I am at baking cakes.


Puck shuddered.

Don’t remind me about that business from last year. I’ll never get that memory out of my essence. You know, if I ever share data with another Rotom again, I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.

You shouldn’t have looked.


“Eek,” Goishi said, and bobbed forwards a bit, indicating the map; Sapphire and I studied it for a moment, and decided that the swiftest way to get to the Orbs’ room would be through the dinosaur and prehistoric Pokémon exhibition.

“Found you!” came a voice from behind us. “And it looks like you managed to get captured by a couple of Magmas, too. How convenient.”

So I turned around and shot Darren Goodwin in the belly with a Charge Beam.

---

The Devon man folded in half like a piece of paper and flew off his feet, slamming back-first into the wall; he coughed, groaned and mumbled something, and his Miltank popped up from nowhere and punched me in the face.

OK, I’d been thrown down the world’s longest fire escape. I’d been electrocuted. I’d been set on fire. I’d even had my hand broken and had the tips of my fingers torn off.

But the most painful thing was definitely having my nose broken by the bovine equivalent of Brawly Stoner.

My head snapped backwards and I fell heavily onto Fabien, dragging Sapphire with me; together, we knocked him to the floor and squashed him flat. Through the blinding pain that was ripping through my face, I perceived the Miltank rising above us, and rolled out of the way just as its hoof came swinging down. I landed face-first on Sapphire, which was painful for both of us, but Fabien took the worst hit: the giant cow’s punch connected squarely with his solar plexus, and he gave a hissing, strangled cry before going limp.

“Get up!” cried Sapphire.

Fuzzy-headed, I staggered upright and saw the Miltank rounding on me; Puck barked out a command and I ducked as it swung at us again. It had put a lot of its weight behind the punch, and took a moment to regain its balance – and in that moment, Sapphire started to run, taking me with her.
We got about three steps down the hall when the druids turned up, attracted by the noise; a group of about twenty rounded the corner, machine-guns up and ready to fire.

“Don’t shoot!” I cried hastily. “We’re – um – what are we?”

“Captives!” Sapphire finished for me. “Look!”

She held up our handcuffed wrists for the druids to see, and there was a long moment of silence. Blake held Fabien behind us, Darren and his Miltank were paused, surprised by the appearance of the sheet-clad army, and in front of us were the druids. It was a fantastic tableau that had no place in reality; it belonged in a painting, a novel, a movie script, something that you could believe in but never really think was real. I felt half like I was dreaming, and half like my face was caught in a blender; I think the blow to my head had affected me more than I thought.

Earth to Kester? Earth to Kester? We’re not trying to help that guy earn a set of feathery wings, we’re trying to survive... I need you fully conscious!

The Goodwin made the first move. He pointed at Blake, and his Miltank floored him with something Puck called a Zen Headbutt; with both Magmas out, he stepped forwards and started to speak.

“Now this is unexpected,” he said. “Druids, Aquas, Magmas... what could possibly be going on here?” He held up a hand to forestall answers that weren’t forthcoming. “No, don’t bother answering. I can see you don’t trust me. That’s understandable, since I don’t trust you either. But I’m not here to fight you. I’m just here to take these kids with me. They’re no one you need to be concerned about – they’re not Magmas. I represent a group of people with a vested interest in them, and I’d like to remove them from here. So, if you’ll let me...?”

The druids made no reply at all, just stared at him inscrutably as he stepped closer.

“Don’t let him have us,” Sapphire said. “Don’t. He’s one of the bad guys here. He works for Devon. They—”

“We’re here to protect the Orbs,” I managed to say, through the faint and fuzzy mess that was my face.

You’re losing a lot of blood, Puck said grimly. Kester, I’m worrying here. Can you even feel the pain any more?

My comment seemed to stir up the druids, but I didn’t really get what was happening; I seemed to be on the very verges of consciousness. Doubtless, if it weren’t for my status as a semi-Rotom, I’d have passed out already.

“If that’s true, then we’re on the same side,” one of the druids said at length. “What are your intentions?” This question was addressed to Darren Goodwin.

“I have nothing to do with the Orbs,” he said with a frown. “I’m just here for the kids.”

“Then we won’t stop you.” The druid glanced at his fellows. “Right, guys?”
“Well, I don’t know,” said another. “Shouldn’t we help them?”

“I don’t see how it’s any of our business,” the first argued. “It’s between them.”

“But they’re here to protect the Orbs, too,” a third druid said.

My head was spinning around and around like a leaf caught in a tornado; the whole situation seemed at some remove from reality. How could the druids stand around talking as if nothing strange was happening?

Because they’re in control here
, Puck said. There’s nothing in here that could stop them: not the Aquas, not the Magmas, not that Goodwin. At least, not yet. If he had the element of surprise I think he could probably take a good few of them out.

The druids were now deep in argument, and, taking advantage of the confusion, Darren grabbed hold of my wrist.

“I’ll just take them, then,” he said to the druids. “Vanda, take care that the other one doesn’t fight back.”

The Miltank wrapped its meaty arms around Sapphire’s waist, and it and the Goodwin started heading back towards the doorway they’d appeared from. I can’t remember it too well on account of the head-smashing I’d received, but I think we got about three steps away before the druids noticed what was going on.

“Hey!” one cried. “Stay there, we haven’t decided if we’re going to let you take them away yet!”

“Really,” said Darren, and he sounded exasperated now. “I think you have. Vanda, Earthquake!”

Immediately, the druids fell upon the exhibits, grabbing hold of anything they could; they didn’t want to be caught up in the quake. As soon as they did so, Darren and the Miltank rushed off towards the doorway, taking Sapphire and I with them. Of course, the druids realised that there wasn’t going to be an earthquake then – but it was too late, and the door was shutting behind us.

I barely knew where we were, or what was happening; all I could tell was that it was darker in here, and there was some sort of loud noise. Slowly, the noise resolved itself into running footsteps, and Sapphire’s indignant shouts, and a rolling, rumbling roar in my ears.

Uackkk, groaned Puck. Oh no, she’s out...

I fell down heavily, my knees loud against the hard floor, and the world shook and bucked around me as if trying to throw me out; I saw blurred faces at my sides, and a big black hoof, all superimposed on each other and flickering into three or four different outlines. My stomach leaped into my mouth, and I was violently and painfully sick.

Kester, there’s something here, Puck was saying, and I could almost hear him. Something’s coming... something so strong... Kester, can you hear me? She’s coming, she can feel us – oh Ho-oh, it hurts...

It was like there was a fracture in reality, and it was coming closer. I felt sick and dizzy, and dimly I heard voices, like long-forgotten friends whispering on the beach. High in a white tower... the king’s daughter...

The ice was coming.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #112    
Old May 18th, 2011 (08:13 AM).
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
This chapter's quite different. None of it's from Kester's viewpoint at all. Ho hum.

Chapter Forty-Nine: By the Pricking of My Thumbs...

“They’re taking a real long time,” Archie said, glancing again at the museum. “And there have been some explosions.”

“Maybe we should take a look?”

Archie thought for a moment as the pilot dealt.

“Hmm...” He seemed on the verge of saying something, but he picked up his cards then and lost his train of thought, eyes widening. “Oho!” he said, then hurriedly feigned disinterest. “Uh, let’s play. Come on.”

And so no Aqua reinforcements were forthcoming, and everyone apart from Archie folded during that hand.

---

Sapphire tugged at Kester’s wrist, and grabbed his shoulder, pulling him up a little; his head lolled grotesquely from his shoulders, his eyes unfocused and trails of vomit hanging from his mouth. Malvolio squeaked in fear, and leaped across from his shoulder to Sapphire’s.

“It’s coming,” he said, and his voice was that of a man who has lost all sense. “Closer...” He broke off to be sick again, and then he slipped out of Sapphire’s hands and fell straight onto the floor.

“What’s happening to him?” asked Darren Goodwin sharply.

“I don’t know!” cried Sapphire frantically, heart pounding. “Something—!”

An idea struck her, and she dug her phone out of her pocket and put it in Kester’s hand. Immediately, it crackled with static electricity, and she heard Puck talking.

“Finally!” he cried. “It’s a madhouse in here! She’s so strong that even Kester can feel it, and he doesn’t seem to be taking it well—”

“What is?” Sapphire demanded to know. “What is it?”

“A Ghost,” Puck said. “By the way, why would you store the nation’s most valuable historic treasures in a mountain full of human-hating ghosts? It just occurred to me that that’s – aaacckkk, that hurts. She’s so strong it hurts...”

“Who is this?”

“A Ghost,” repeated Puck weakly. “She’s coming...”

Sapphire and Darren Goodwin stared at each other; the former was slightly less confused than the latter, but that wasn’t saying much.

“Don’t just stand there!” shouted Puck, nearly bursting the phone’s speakers. “Pick up Kester and get us out of here! The thing that’s coming – she won’t just kill you, she can kill me as well, which is a whole different thing.”

“Which direction is this threat coming from?” asked the Goodwin. It was doubtful that he fully understood the situation, but he knew there was a dangerous foe approaching, and that was enough.

“Directly below us,” Puck said. “She’s felt my presence, and she’s confident in her abilities now. In approximately five seconds” – Darren Goodwin hauled Kester from the floor and thrust him into the Miltank’s arms; they and Sapphire started to run down the corridor – “she’s going to come up through the floor.”

The expected crash never came: there was instead a strange crunching sound, like ice under stress; when Sapphire glanced over her shoulder, she was so surprised that she almost stopped: the floor behind her was giving off a cold mist, and a cobweb of cracks was spreading over its surface.

“What is it?” she wondered aloud, and then had to concentrate on running or have her hand pulled off by the cuff that connected it to Kester.

“She,” corrected Puck; Sapphire’s phone was still clasped loosely in his host’s hands. “She’s very old, and very hungry, and very far from home. We’ll talk about this later, I promise – for now, just run!”

The cracking sound got louder, and then there was a small crash as the frozen floor gave way; a blast of frigid air rolled out of the rift and something hissed. Out of the corner of her eye, Sapphire could see something white and blue, but she dared not look back; she rounded a corner, half-running, half-dragged by the Miltank, and turned into a small room full of preserved insects.

Darren swore loudly.

“Dead end,” he growled. “Fine, nothing for it. Vanda, put him down!”

“You’re not going to try and fight her, are you?” asked Puck, but the Goodwin didn’t listen; his Miltank laid Kester on the floor at the back of the room, and from his side Sapphire watched as man and cow took up fighting stances near the door. “Believe me, Natalie, listen Natalie, this is – a really, really bad idea. This river is wild, Goodwin – you’re not going to win!”

“Shut that thing up,” ordered Darren.

“Puck, be quiet,” hissed Sapphire, “or I’ll take my phone away, and I don’t want to do that in case you need to say something important.”

“Oh, fine,” said Puck. Then: “Aauugh! She’s here!”

And Felicity floated in through the doorway.

Sapphire blinked. No, it wasn’t Felicity: it looked like her, but she didn’t have those little horns made of ice, or those dark, malign eyes, or those giant hands in her hair...

“Ghost,” she murmured, “Ghost in here...”

Darren’s Miltank stamped one huge foot against the floor and bellowed out a deafening challenge; the Felicity-thing gave it a cursory glance and drifted over its head.

“Can’t hurt me,” she said. “Normal.”

It seemed that the Miltank took exception to this, for it launched itself at the Felicity-thing and smashed its blunt horns into the monster’s back; surprised, the Felicity-thing flew across the room and hit a display case hard, coming to rest amid a sea of broken glass.

“Sss,” she whined, pulling herself back onto her feet. “Cheater.”

She clapped her massive white hands together and a sphere of perfect cold grew within them; it had no colour, but you could feel its presence, a space so utterly without heat that flesh would have shattered when touched by it. It swelled to the size of a basketball in less than half a second, and then discharged in a long beam of barely-visible energy, travelling across the room with a soft swish and clipping the Miltank’s shoulder as it dived out of the way. Where it connected, the skin froze over, and a chunk of it fell off with the impact when the cow hit the floor.

“Ice Beam,” Sapphire breathed, eyes locked on that strange, familiar face in its frame of white hair.

“A strong one, too,” Puck said. “Sapphire, I’m going to try and wake up Kester. As soon as I give the word, let’s be ready to run.”

The Miltank was up and on its feet in a trice, and it charged at the Felicity-thing; the target darted upwards and swiped downwards at the cow’s head as it passed, arresting its forward momentum and slamming it face-first into the floor.

In an instant, Darren Goodwin had climbed onto a display case and leaped onto the monster’s back. His weight forced her to the floor, and she screeched in dismay, perhaps realising what was to come: the Miltank lashed out with one hoof and connected squarely with her face, smashing the delicate features inwards and turning it into a soggy mass of water.

Water? Sapphire had been expecting blood – she had turned away in a half-flinch, afraid – but the fluid pouring from the monster’s face was definitely clear. Darren rolled swiftly off her back and leaped to his feet. The Felicity-thing floated upright, but effortfully; it seemed to be slightly dazed, and its next Ice Beam went far wide of either Darren or his Pokémon, giving the latter the chance it needed to Zen Headbutt it into another display case.

“Man, there are a lot of beetles on the floor,” noted Puck. “I’m not cleaning this up. Oh, and I’m almost done. Hopefully that Dizzy Punch will keep her confused long enough for us to escape.”

“Her! You keep saying—”

“Explanations are best delivered over a cup of coffee and a Marie biscuit,” said Puck tersely. “Y’know, when we’re not about three seconds away from dying.”

“All right, all rig—”

“Duck!”

Sapphire did, and the Felicity-thing smacked lightly against the wall above her, splattering her with the clear liquid she used as blood; it was water after all, Sapphire realised.

However, the impact seemed to have cleared her head: the Felicity-thing immediately screeched and flew directly at Darren’s Miltank, the air around her thickening and whitening like milky tea. Something bounced off Sapphire’s cheek, stinging, and she realised the room had somehow filled with mist, and a hailstorm was – impossibly – starting.

“I’ve always wondered how that’s possible,” Puck observed. “I mean, of course I accept fire-breathing or shooting balls of shadow at each other as par for the course, but hail? Indoors? Come on, that’s just silly.”

The Miltank, surprised, got a glob of icy energy in the gut; the flesh froze, and the Felicity-monster swung one fist into the solid mass, shattering the udder and creating a great gaping hole, packed with bloody crystals. The cow collapsed on the floor amidst the wreckage of its belly, and lowed softly in pain.

Immediately, Darren recalled it; Sapphire remembered how he’d done the same for his Magneton. Did he care about them that much, she wondered; there were many Trainers who would have kept a Pokémon out on the battlefield until it physically couldn’t fight any more. Hell, she herself had often pushed Rono or Toro right to their limits. Darren, on the other hand, always took them back in before—

“Oh yeah! Who’s the man? Not me, ’cause I’m a Rotom, but still, I fixed him!”
Sapphire felt a tug on the handcuff chain, and looked down to see Kester’s eyes opening. Without stopping to think about whether this was a good idea or not, she reached down and hauled him to his feet; he was unsteady, but he didn’t fall.

“Ready?” she asked.

“Ready to do wha...?” Kester trailed off as he caught sight of Darren and the Felicity-thing, circling each other in the centre of the room. The icy monster seemed warier of him than of the Miltank, and neither of them had made a move yet. “Ah!” he cried, one hand flying to his forehead. “My head...!”

“Get ready to run,” Sapphire said. “Count of three—”

“One for the money! Two for the show! Three to get ready! Now go man go!”

Puck’s count was unusual, but it sufficed: on three, Sapphire bolted, Kester trailing behind a little. They fled past the Goodwin and the Felicity-thing, whereupon both howled in rage; they left the hail-filled insect room, turned left and headed as fast as they could in any direction that seemed likely to put distance between them and their two pursuers.

The corridor led out into a hall full of druids; this situation would probably have ended with their deaths, but fortunately Maxie was there too, flanked by a pair of Camerupt at the head of a squadron of Magmas, and in the heat of their battle Sapphire was able to slip past, pulling Kester along with her, and into the next room.

Behind them, the noise of battle ceased for a moment, and something compelled them to turn back and look for a second; Sapphire’s eyes fell on the Felicity-thing, hanging over the fight like the angel of death. Then a line of bullets shredded her arm to meltwater, and the spell was broken: the battle began anew, only now all the combatants were focused on killing this monstrous interloper.

Sapphire turned away and kept running. There was no time to lose; besides, if she’d looked longer, her gaze might have travelled down, away from the monster, and down towards the ground. She’d missed the figures that lay there on first glance, which could only be a blessing. There were many things Sapphire wanted to see before she died, but corpses weren’t one of them.

“Keep going!” cried Puck. “Get to the Orb room – if I know anything about museums, and I do, then the security will be heavy there – we might be able to lock ourselves in!”

That sounded like a good idea, and Sapphire hurriedly turned on her heel to shoot through a door that led right. She would have managed it too, only Kester, suffering an acute lack of coordination after his Ghost-induced trance, stumbled and almost fell, yanking her off course with a painful jerk on her injured arm.

“Sorry!” he cried, but Sapphire had already heaved him back up, almost popping her arm from its socket, and shot through the doorway.

And there they were: the first things she saw. The two Orbs, side by side in a bulletproof glass case, fenced off with soft red rope. For a moment, she paused – and then Puck’s voice rang out stridently in her ears:

“Sapphire! Right now, those Orbs are like a Hieronymus Bosch painting: staring at them isn’t going to help. Find a door control and get the fire shutters down!”

Thankfully, the druids were outside, fighting Maxie’s Magmas and the Felicity-thing; Sapphire was alone save for the semi-conscious Kester as she ransacked the room. Eventually, she found a steel box mounted on one wall; it looked like it was usually locked, but bullet holes in the wall argued for the lock having been shot off. Pulling it open, she saw a series of buttons, and, not knowing what to press, pushed Kester’s hand against them.

Thin streaks of lightning danced around his fingers, and there was a grinding noise from behind her; Sapphire turned to see a steel door clang down over the entrance.

She also saw Darren Goodwin, tugging at the hem of his greatcoat to free it from the bottom of the shutter.

And she saw the Poké Ball in his hand.

And she saw that they had just locked themselves in with him.

And she saw that they were, in a word, screwed.

---

Courtney was surprised. Aside from a few druids, who had proved not to be fireproof and hence were easily defeated by her Ninetales, they had met with no opposition during the ascent. A strange, ominous feeling was growing in her gut; such a lack of enemy aggression surely argued for some great, horrific ambush on the top floor. Perhaps the entire stock of druids was there, waiting for the Magmas to reach the top...

As she and her band of men rounded the last bend in the last flight of stairs, the sounds of war came to their ears; it sounded like Maxie had already got here.

“Stop,” Courtney ordered. “You. Go up and see what’s happening. If you get shot, do me a favour and fall backwards down the stairs so we know what’s going on.”

The man gulped, but he obeyed, creeping from stair to stair as quietly as he could.

“Some time this year would be nice.”

He quickened his pace and reached the top. Once there, he stared for a long moment, eyes wide, then turned abruptly and rushed back down.

“Th- that monster,” he said, “it’s up there. Fighting the druids, and the boss.”
“I see.” Courtney thought for a moment. “Fine, we’ll go up and help. We have a duty to the boss, after all.”

She ran lightly up the stairs, carefully tuning out any doubts she might have had; the only way out of this situation was to defeat all the enemies in the building, take the Orb and run, and she had to focus on that goal or face failure.

The hall she emerged into should have been a regulation battle. Magmas and druids should have been swapping bullets from opposite ends, crouching behind chunks of ancient rock or time-worn fossils, while Pokémon duelled in the space between, Camerupt and Golbat against Cacturne and Zangoose. That was how fights like this worked.

But the monster had ruined everything.

It was at the centre of a knot of Camerupt, each one trying to hit it with plumes of searing flame; owing to the fact that their blasts of fire always went straight upwards, the monster was dodging them easily. Smaller Pokémon darted around the Camerupt’s feet, jumping upwards to launch attacks at the creature, but it swayed this way and that, twisting and turning like a ribbon on the wind. Icy beams left its palms, freezing Golbat and Cacturne solid, and as they fell back, parts of them shattered; it was clear that, given enough time, it would be able to defeat all those who had the temerity to attack it. Its powers seemed to be exponentially increasing; it hadn’t been anything like this powerful the last time Courtney had seen it.

And because of this, the battle was broken: the Magmas and druids were both firing wildly at the monster, bullets singing through the flames and chaos to impact harmlessly on its pallid flesh. Its regenerative capabilities had to be seen to be believed; the watery substance that formed its body simply flowed back into place, growing new skin over itself in a matter of seconds.

Courtney took in all of this in less than half a second, and snapped a command:

“Fire Blast!”

Her scarred Ninetales leaped forwards, scattering Cacturne with the fire that dripped like blood from his paws and teeth; he leaped up onto the back of a Camerupt, passed unharmed through its fire and opened his mouth wide, giving vent to a vast column of flame that hit the monster square in the chest.

The fire exploded on impact, spreading out in five directions to curl around the ice monster’s body; it let out a long, horrible wail and crumpled, falling from the air and vanishing between the bodies of the Pokémon packed tightly around it.

Silence fell across the room like a sudden downpour: fingers slackened on guns, moves fizzled out mid-execution. A group of Cacturne backed hurriedly away from the fight, sensing a potent threat had emerged; as the rest of the Pokémon withdrew from the Ninetales, the remnants of the monster were revealed: a puddle of water, and a bundle of ragged clothes in the centre. It had melted clean away under the withering fire of the fox’s attack.

“Anyone who moves gets a faceful of fire,” Courtney said, stepping forwards; her Ninetales prowled back and forth, red eyes fixed on the line of druids. “You understand?”

There was no response, just a large quantity of surprised looks.

“I’ll take that as a yes. Where’s the boss?” asked Courtney, looking around.
Maxie unfolded himself from behind a cart-wheel-sized ammonite and came over, taking advantage of the calm to reload his gun.

“Excellent work,” he said. “You finally used the old bratchny, eh? I should have brought my Mightyena, but I wasn’t expecting the Gorsedd.”

“It’s just my job, sir.” Courtney could have killed him then and there. She had her Ninetales, she had her knives, and she had the element of surprise – and she had a motive, the burning hatred that smouldered within her. But she didn’t; she knew there was too much at stake. Zero’s plan necessitated Maxie’s continued existence in the realm of the living. “We encountered that thing before.” She pointed at the puddle that had once been the ice monster. “It held us up a little.”

“No matter.” Maxie turned to his Magmas. “Right! Get these Pokémon out of the way and subdue those druids. Then let’s get that damn Orb.”

At this, a Cacturne leaped forwards angrily, the needles on its arms extending, ready to be fired – but a sudden burst of flame engulfed its chest and it fell back with a fearful shriek, wreathed in dark smoke. The Ninetales growled angrily, and those druids who still had Pokémon out recalled them hurriedly.

There were no further attempts to escape; in fact, the druids were oddly complacent. It was as if they didn’t care at all that they had lost. Soon, the last of them had been rounded up and handcuffed, and as Courtney shut the door to the side room they had decided to incarcerate them in, she could have sworn they were smiling.

She was about to say something to Maxie, but she stopped. It didn’t matter. All the druids were locked up; from what they could understand, there were no more further on – they had all come here to fight.

Of course, neither she nor any of the other Magmas had noticed that the smoke and flames that exploded out of the Cacturne had provided a very good cover. And they certainly didn’t notice that someone had taken advantage of that cover, and slipped away.

---

Barry stumbled up the stairs, head pounding; he felt like he’d challenged a Rampardos to a headbutting contest. Thankfully, nothing seemed to be broken – even his forehead was muscular, and the muscles seemed to have cushioned the blow a little – but it was as painful as anything he’d ever experienced before, if not more so.

Normally, Barry had a very limited intellectual capacity, and now this was limited still further by the head injury. Consequently, he was unable to think of a better course of action to pursue than continuing to follow the trail of blood. Even an idiot would have known better than to do this, but Barry after a knock on the head was more than an idiot. He was barely sentient.

So he staggered up the stairs, down a long corridor that bore signs of having once been occupied by hidden druids (in that they were now sprawled, dead, across the floor) and ended up in a room that purported to contain a reconstruction of the islands north of Sinnoh as they appeared three thousand years ago – when the climate was colder, and megafauna still prevalent.

Contained in this room were an eclectic mixture of animals, Pokémon and people: a dire wolf and a mammoth rubbed shoulders with a Mamoswine and its attendant herd of Piloswine; a group of primitive tribesmen lay tipped aside by their huts, which had a number of people in white sheets and blue suits draped over it. These people were also the only ones in the room not made of fibreglass, and so Barry knew that he had reached the end of the trail.

However, there didn’t seem to be anything here. In fact, aside from the bodies and the unnatural cold, there was nothing at all amiss in this room.

The cold?

Yes, it was cold, and it felt like it was getting colder; perhaps it was his aching head interfering with his senses, but Barry could have sworn that the temperature was steadily dropping. He searched his pockets for a thermometer, and took three full minutes to realise that he didn’t, in fact, have a thermometer, and that it wasn’t something he habitually carried around with him.

By the time he’d done that, there was no mistaking it: it was definitely colder in here than when he’d come in. Frost was beginning to form in the mammoth’s fur, and when Barry moved his feet, they crunched on a thin layer of ice.

“I think it’s time to leave,” Barry said effortfully, holding his head, and stumbled out via the other exit. Now, he found himself at one end of a long hall, and at the other end were a group of four or five Magmas, with a large, scarred Ninetales pacing along in front of them. With commendable presence of mind given his current state, Barry turned on his heel and returned to the ice room, shutting the door quietly behind him. As he entered, he noticed that there was a large hole in the ceiling, which was another unexpected thing – but the situation in the museum was so strange that it almost didn’t look out of place.

“The stairs,” he heard from the hall. “They’re over here. Come on.”

Then he heard footsteps going up, and Barry gave the Magmas a good head start before coming out of the ice room and venturing up himself. If asked why, he wouldn’t have been able to furnish you with an exact answer besides vague curiosity, tempered with some idea that, if any of his fellow Aquas were still alive, they might be up there, going after the Blue Orb.

When he reached the top, Barry was surprised to find that there was no one there, just bullet holes in the exhibits and the walls and scorch marks on the floor. The only other thing of note was some sort of shapeless mass in the centre of the room, but upon inspection, it turned out to be nothing more than a ragged Team Aqua uniform, size S, without a name-tag. It was also soaking wet, though that was probably due to the fact that it was in the middle of a puddle.

Barry stood up and made a small noise that could have signified absolutely any emotion at all (with the possible exception of grief).

“What,” he said, slowly and very deliberately, “is going on here?”

This was a question that could only be answered, he felt, by further investigation; however, before he could decide where those investigations ought to take him, he heard a quiet tapping sound. Looking around, he divined its source to be a door on the right-hand side of the room, and walked slowly over.

“Hello?” he said.

“We’re locked in,” came an unfamiliar voice. “Would you mind letting us out?”

Barry considered. How did he know these weren’t druids, or, worse, Magmas?

“Who are you?” he asked.

“Who are you?” the voice came back, and there were murmurs of approval; it seemed there were quite a few people in there.

“I asked first,” Barry insisted.

“But you need to let us out. It’s in your best interests.”

“Is it?” someone else asked, only to be shushed violently by the first voice.

“Why is it in my best interests?” Barry asked.

“Well, I’m just guessing it is. If you tell us who you are, we can tell you whether or not it would be a good idea to let us out.”

This seemed reasonable. After all, decisions could only be made correctly when one had all the facts. If Barry had been more well-read, he might have recognised this line of thought as being part of Aristotle’s reason for the nonexistence of akrasia, but he wasn’t, and so didn’t.

“I’m a member of Team Aqua,” he said.

“That’s all right, then,” replied the voice, and it sounded relieved. “We’re Team Aqua members who’ve been imprisoned here.”

“Oh,” said Barry. “Well, that’s good. I’ll let you out.”

He applied his powerful shoulder to the door, and the two had a brief struggle for supremacy. As usual, his shoulder won, and the door popped open to reveal a large group of handcuffed druids, the foremost one of which was holding an antique scapula of prodigious size.

Barry had a split second to contemplate his own stupidity before the lead druid whacked him over the head with the bone, and he fell into oblivion for the second time that day.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #113    
Old May 27th, 2011 (07:05 PM).
don1993
Beginning Trainer
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Gender: Male
Great turn of events and the 'tea and marie' joke was really good. Damn, all of Puck's jokes are great. Please update the fic and you told me you will complete the rocket revival fic. On a side note, if there is any grammatical mistake in my post, plz ignore it. English is actually my third language.
  #114    
Old May 28th, 2011 (08:25 AM).
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Exams are over and I'm ba-aack!

Chapter Fifty: One Orb, Two Orb, Red Orb – Damn It, I Used That Joke Already

DRIP

It was very cold here, but that didn’t bother her any more. She couldn’t feel it.

DRIP

She’d been doing a lot of thinking since she’d been confined to the inside like this, and she thought she’d found a bright side to the situation.

DRIP

When the monster was in control, she was effectively cut off from the world, and with its strength, she was practically untouchable. This meant she was immortal – and more importantly, safe from Zero.

DRIP

It wasn’t so bad. She could taunt the monster the way it used to taunt her – only it had always been better at it, and it also had the power to shut her up if it wanted to.

DRIP

Actually, the dripping was annoying. It had been going on for a while now, and she didn’t know what was happening. They weren’t moving anywhere, either.

DRIP

A dark thought crossed her mind: had her body died? Was she lying dead somewhere, trapped forever in the cold and the dark with no more company than the ravings of a homicidal ice-ghost?

DRIP

No, that couldn’t be right. Everyone had to rest, so the monster was just resting. That had to be it. Nothing could kill it, and she couldn’t be dead, she just couldn’t...

DRIP

She tried to calm down and look around, to push out from within the dark and find her eyes – but they didn’t seem to be there. In fact, most of her body seemed to have disappeared. How – what was going on?

DRIP

She wasn’t dead. She wasn’t dead. There was no way she could be dead.

SSSSS...

Hear that? That was the monster! So... she wasn’t dead? That meant she wasn’t dead, didn’t it? Didn’t it?

QUIET YOU TOO NOISY

What’s going on, she wanted to know. Where are we? Why aren’t we moving? Am I dead? I’m not dead, am I?

NEED TO HEAL, SHUT UP

She wasn’t dead. She wasn’t dead! She’d known there was no way she could be dead, and it was true! If she could have laughed, she would have; she wasn’t dead!

DRIP

Although...

DRIP

Even though she was alive—

DRIP

—there was still that monster in her body—

DRIP

—using her face—

DRIP

—and her eyes—

DRIP

—and with all that—

DRIP

—it was probably killing everyone—

DRIP

—oh God, that she were dead!

The dripping turned to gurgling, and a kind of poor man’s transubstantiation took place; rather than wine and wafer to blood and flesh, it was the cheaper water and ice. And as thin arms rose from the puddle, and long locks of frozen white hair, Felicity’s mind caught up with reality, and she lapsed back into that primal panic and despair that had gripped her when Skuld had first taken over.

---

“Damn it!” roared Maxie, banging on the fire shutters. “Is there no end to this druidic perfidy?”

This was an unexpectedly eloquent roar of rage, but since it was still a roar of rage, and it was Maxie making it, no one commented on it.

“Can we melt them?” wondered Courtney, but Maxie pointed out in a voice borrowed from the minotaur that these were fire shutters, and that they were designed specifically to stop fire.

Maxie’s idea was that they should get the Camerupt to charge the door and try and smash it down, but since the Camerupt had a top speed of approximately seven miles an hour, the plan was somewhat flawed. They gave it a try anyway, and found that the giant camels just bumped their heavy heads gently against the shutters, moving it the same total distance that Sisyphus had ever managed to move his boulder.

“This isn’t working,” Courtney pointed out.

“I noticed!” Maxie snapped fiercely, rounding on her. “I—”

At this moment, something slammed hard into the other side of the fire shutters, creating a large, rough dent; there was a cry of pain from within and a muffled curse. Ribbons of bright orange-yellow light, like the contents of a valuable briefcase, forced their way out around the edges of the shutters, and there was a soft whumph that indicated that either a giant marshmallow man had just blown up or something had very suddenly caught fire.

The Magmas stared at the doors, and wondered what was going on.

---

I wasn’t fully conscious up to this part, but I had to wake up pretty quickly if I wanted to stay alive and free. You see, almost as soon as we’d seen Darren Goodwin – albeit hazily in my case – we heard the shattering of glass, and turned to see a Cacturne standing next to the ruins of the Orbs’ display case, blowing smoke from its stumpy hand.

“DynamicPunch?” asked Sapphire incredulously, but no one answered; the druid that attended the Cacturne grabbed the Blue Orb and ran. He stopped below a ventilation shaft I hadn’t noticed before, threw the Orb up into it and then scrambled up after it before recalling his Cacturne and retreating rapidly.
Darren Goodwin, Sapphire and I stared.

“What was all that about?” wondered the Devon man, then shook his head. “No matter.” He held out the Poké Ball. “Give up, kids. There’s no way out of this situation for you.”

That’s what they said when they put me in Sing-Sing, muttered Puck, but they were wrong then and I’ll bet they’re wrong now. Kester! It’s clobberin’ time!

Huh?

Shoot him, you idiot!


I raised my hand and fired a Charge Beam at the Goodwin, but it was weak and the charge too obvious; he stepped aside almost without a thought. I heard a frightened squeak from Sapphire’s neck, and remembered with surprise that Malvolio was there, clinging on. I’d forgotten all about him.

“I said give up.”

Sapphire glanced around, and her eyes fell on the ventilation duct, but Darren shook his head.

“No. That won’t work, I’m afraid. Think about it: you two are handcuffed together and one of you is barely conscious. Your chances of escaping through that duct are almost nonexistent.”

He stepped forwards.

He’s coming closer, noted Puck. Like some sort of not-giving-up child-catching machine... Whoa. He’s like the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang crossed with the Terminator. Now that’s what I call scary.

“We won’t give up,” said Sapphire, but she sounded uncertain now.

“You’ll have to.”

Now! Give him a shot now, while he’s too close to dodge!


Without thinking, I did, and there was a terrific flash and a whumph noise; the room filled with blazing light, and Darren Goodwin flew backwards across the room to crash hard into the fire shutters – so hard that he made a dent, like a cartoon character.

Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno!
cried Puck. Set your phasers to stun, not kill!

“What happened?” I asked, concerned.

“A critical hit,” said Sapphire. “Come on. I don’t want to be here when he—”

“You – you bratchny!”

Darren climbed effortfully to his feet, brushing soot from his coat and coughing. Sapphire and I stared: I’d honestly thought he might actually be dead.

Oh, no, Puck breathed. Devon did succeed, then... man, I ought to have seen that one coming

“What?”

“If that hadn’t been me you shot, the person standing here would be dead,” growled the Goodwin. He was angry, and if he was telling the truth, he had good reason to be.

“Look,” I said apologetically, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean to—”

I stopped as I saw him stoop and pick up the Poké Ball he’d dropped during his brief flight; with wits considerably quicker than mine, Sapphire grabbed my hand and pressed it against the door controls – which Puck, divining her plan, hacked instantly, causing the fire shutters to rise and a group of Camerupt to topple over forwards into the room.

As you might imagine, this was a pretty good distraction as distractions go, and Sapphire and I took advantage of it. Now that the fire doors were open again, a staff door at the back of the room had become accessible; we headed for it, shouldered it open and tried to put as much distance between us and Darren Goodwin as possible.

Unfortunately, as soon as we turned a corner, we ran straight into a group of druids coming the other way. They were battered, bruised, and had broken handcuffs dangling from their wrists. They also looked very angry, and probably deeply mistrustful of strangers.

Guess today’s just one of those days
, Puck sighed. Don’t you hate it when you can’t go anywhere without running into homicidal maniacs?

With alarming speed, a horizontal forest of machine-gun barrels sprouted from a bed of white sheets, their tips pointed squarely at us.

“Don’t shoot!” I cried. “I think we went through this before... Just don’t shoot!”

“Who the hell are you two?” demanded the lead druid crossly, putting up his gun. “You keep showing up here—”

“We’re here to stop the Magmas,” Sapphire interrupted. “So I guess we’re on the same side. Now, please stop the guy in the green coat from—”

Darren Goodwin came hurtling around the corner from the Orb room, almost skidding on one heel; he caught sight of us and the druids, and seemed to put two and two together to get a pretty accurate three point nine recurring. Before he’d even stopped, he’d turned and fled into a side corridor.

“Yes, thanks for that,” Sapphire said lamely.

Yeah. Much appreciated.


There came shouts from the direction of the Orb room, and the druids glanced at one another.

“Have they—?” the leader asked.

“I think they’re in there, yeah,” I replied, and was immediately swept up in a tide of white sheets and mistletoe to be borne back in the direction of the Orb exhibition.

---

The sight that awaited us would ordinarily have been surprising, but taking the events of today into consideration, nothing short of a man-eating Wurmple with a shotgun would have fazed me. The Magmas had swarmed in, their Camerupt lowing softly in amongst the crowd, and were removing the Red Orb from the remnants of its case. That wasn’t the surprising bit, obviously – that was the giant golden fox with multiple tails and hideous scars that was, for no discernable reason, filling the room with as much fire as possible.

“Damn!” exclaimed the lead druid. “Any ideas about how to get past that barrier?”

Oh. So that was what they were doing.

Maxie turned to us, and through the fire his shark-like features looked truly demonic.

“You made it back, I see,” he said, giving a small, ironic bow. “But there’s not much you can do. I mean, you could shoot us, but I don’t think you’d get more than a couple of us before you were fried by Sol.”

The fox-monster growled at the sound of its name.

It’s called a Ninetales. Puck snorted. We could take him. His strategy seems to be mindless violence, straight-up Fire attacks. Strong, but there’s no thought behind it. Courtney hasn’t trained him well – a bit of lateral thinking and we could take him out.

“You can’t have the Orb!” the druid cried, stepping forwards and then backwards again as Sol exhaled a puff of flame from his nostrils. “All right,” he conceded, “it’s not like we can take it from you. But you can’t have it!”

Lugia’s fingers, Puck said in exasperation. Doesn’t he see he could just shoot Maxie and Courtney? Killing them would panic the Magmas, and the Ninetales would go crazy, and he could probably get the Orb in all the confusion. Though all the druids would die, of course.

You’re one sick creature, you know that?

Oh, I’m nothing special. You should meet Mandy. Now
she’s evil.

“Anything else you want to say?” Maxie asked. “No? I thought not. Now, Courtney, keep that Orb steady and let’s get out of here before the rest of the freak show turns up.”

Naturally, it was at that moment that the Felicity-monster entered the room.

---

“Murderers!”

The voice was loud and clear and high: it belonged to the thing that had once been Felicity, and it ripped through the air like hail. She swept forwards, long hair-arms lashing out at the nearest Magmas, and Sol went straight for her throat.

We wasted no time: without the Ninetales keeping it up, the fiery barriers went down almost instantly, for the tiled floor wasn’t flammable. Sapphire and I rushed forwards with the druids, Malvolio screeching in terror, and almost immediately we were in the centre of a crush of bodies.

Right before me was Courtney, and without thinking I grabbed Sapphire’s bag from her; Sapphire snatched it from me and a moment later Magmas were falling like skittles before a steely bowling ball: Rono was out and rolling.

Somewhere above all the confusion, I heard a hiss and that cold voice shouting:

“You killed me!”

There were shouts, and someone was pushing me, and my head was hurting again because of the Ghostly monster; as if from a great distance, I heard roaring and fire, and then suddenly my head was spinning around and around, and all I could hear was Puck’s deprecating voice.

Oh, great. I’ve always wanted an unconscious meatface.

---

Sapphire knew when she was in over her head, and she was there now. If she stopped, though, she’d never start again, and quite possibly might die – so no matter how far above her head the surface was, she wasn’t going to stop.

All she cared about right now was getting out of there; the Magmas were retreating steadily, the Red Orb in Courtney’s arms, and the druids were advancing on them. Around her, guns sang deadly staccato songs and Pokémon screeched and roared; Sapphire desperately didn’t want to be here, and looked down, retreating as best she could through the tight-packed druids behind her.

Suddenly, Kester slumped at her side, and her task became that much more difficult. Swearing, Sapphire called out to Rono and he came bounding back over, crushing a hapless Numel on the way and probably gaining a level. With him as cover, Sapphire began to make her way out to the side, half-dragging, half-carrying Kester along with her as best she could. With the Lairon helping, it was surprisingly easy to clear a path, and in moments she had managed to work her way out of the conflict and back into the staff entrance to the Orb room.

Here, she sat down heavily on the floor, dropping Kester, and leaned back against the wall, exhausted. As she did so, she felt something dig into it; reaching behind her, she found Malvolio still there, staring blankly into space, shivering and clutching his Dustox doll so hard that it looked like it might tear. Sighing, Sapphire pulled his ball from where Courtney had put it in her bag and recalled him, then replaced it and her others on her belt.

“This is getting heavy,” she remarked, which would probably have made Puck reply, ‘Great Scott!’ if his host had been awake to hear it. “I hope the druids have it covered.” She stroked Rono’s cold head absently. “I don’t like going up against guns with just Pokémon.”

Rono bit her hand very gently, which was as close as he could come to licking her; his tongue was essentially a giant file for grinding down rocks, and would have destroyed her face had it been applied to it.

“Thanks.” Sapphire patted him one last time and turned to Kester. “We need to wake him up,” she said, then stopped and winced at an especially loud crash and scream from the other room. “I can’t move properly unless he’s moving too, and Puck’s usually quite useful.”

At this point, the door to the Orb room opened, and Sapphire jumped clumsily to her feet, but it was only the druid whom Kester had previously identified as the lead one. There was an unpleasantly bloody sort of stain on his pristine white robe, but Sapphire thought it might be impolite to comment on it.

“Oh,” he said. “There you are. That’s all right then. I thought you might have been burned up or something, and I’m not really one to go in for getting kids killed. Unless we need a human sacrifice, but the high druids don’t let us talk about that.”

“Thanks for saving us,” Sapphire said, leaning against the wall. “What’s happening with the Magmas?”

“One of them must have pressed the wrong button on the door controls,” the druid replied. “All the fire doors have opened up, and they’re making a run for it with the Orb.” He slammed a fist angrily into the wall. “It’s that Ninetales! We can shoot them, but we can’t actually get past the fire – and the Ninetales was too fast to hit. It’s ridiculously strong.”

“But you have the Blue Orb, right?”

“How did you...?”

“We were in the Orb exhibition when one of your guys came and stole it.”

“Oh. Yes, we have that. Anthony radioed his success from his helicopter; by now he must be well away from here. Another half-hour and the Blue Orb will be safe and sound back at our Weather Institute.”

“Can I ask... why? Why is all of this happening?”

“Later.” The druid extended a hand. “Right now, let’s get out of here. We’ve abandoned chasing the Magmas; we’ve lost too many men. I’m assuming you want out, right?”

“Oh yes!” Sapphire cried, with feeling. “That would be great!”

“OK then.” The druid pulled Kester to his feet, told Sapphire to hold still, and fired a couple of bullets through the handcuff chain, snapping it in half. “Now, what’s up with your friend?”

“He... reacts badly to Ghosts,” Sapphire said, thinking quickly. “He’s a Psychic.”

“Ah, I have a daughter who’s a Psychic,” replied the druid knowledgably. “She has Ghost problems too.”

“Ghosts!” cried Kester, sitting bolt upright all at once. “She’s coming – what?” He looked around, then got up unsteadily, putting one hand on Rono’s broad back for balance. “We got away?”

“The druids are offering to take us with them,” Sapphire explained tersely. “Let’s go.”

“All right,” Kester said, rubbing his head. Then: “Shut up.” This last was presumably addressed to Puck.

“Right, you two,” the druid said. “Follow me.”

---

Oh. My. Keldeo.

We were on the roof of the museum, in the midst of a wind-tossed sea of gables and slates; above and around us was the fog, a slow pale storm without clouds that writhed in a series of sluggish contortions.

So many helicopters!

Before us were the fleet of helicopters that the druids had flown in on; there were a good five or six of them, and many were now, I guessed, filled only with the dead or dying. Puck, being the machine enthusiast he was, was practically bouncing up and down in my head, rapturous with delight.

Let’s steal one. You zap the druids, I’ll hotwire it, we’ll leave this sorry mess behind. We’ll fly free on the back of the North Wind—

Puck—

—maybe even catch up with Suicune—

Puck—

—and kill him for what he did to my sister, the cad—

Puck! Shut up!

Sorry. You don’t need to know about that.
He paused. No one needs to know about my sister.

I was curious now, but I wasn’t going to say so; besides, the druid who’d found us was waving Sapphire and I over to one of the helicopters. We walked towards him, and began to climb on – and when I had one foot inside and one foot on the roof, I heard a high, thin wail from within the building, and I stopped.

Felicity.

No, Puck said immediately. Not on your life. Or even on mine, which is of infinitely more value.

“Sapphire,” I said, stepping back out of the helicopter, “do you have an empty Poké Ball?”

She pulled an Ultra Ball from her bag and handed it over, puzzled.

“What are you – no!”

She’d realised too, then.

“What is it?” asked the druid crossly. “Come on, we’re leaving!”

“Can you wait fifteen minutes?” I asked him, taking a couple of steps back towards the roof exit.

“What? Why? What’s going on?”

“My friend’s still in there,” I told him, turning to leave. “I have to go back for her—”

“Don’t you dare!” shouted Sapphire, grabbing my arm. “I order you—”

“I’m going back,” I said quietly. “You can’t stop me.”

Rotom are fast; I knew that from Puck’s gloating. I didn’t know how fast until that moment, but it was very, very cool: I slipped free from Sapphire’s grasp and took three steps back, all in the space of a second. She stared at me, half in anger and half in surprise – with a hint of something that might have been fear. For whatever reason, the lead druid didn’t seem to notice that I’d just done something impossible for a human; perhaps druids did such things all the time. I didn’t know. No one knew what the druids did in their Weather Institute, only that visitors were not welcome – the landmines and the flak towers were proof enough of that.

“Look, Sid, what’s going on here?” asked another druid, coming over. “We’re about ready to leave in #5 – are you going to give the signal or what?”

“We’re waiting fifteen more minutes,” answered the lead druid – Sid. “There’s another kid in there.”

“Another kid?” The second druid seemed unconcerned. “But that’s no worry, Sid, the Magmas are gone—”

“That monster’s still in there,” Sid replied sharply. “I’m not leaving a kid in there with it.”

Suitably subdued, the other druid turned away and started shouting something about waiting a few minutes at a crowd of subordinates. It seemed Sid was someone of importance in the druidic community.

“I’ll come with you,” Sid said, leaping down from the helicopter. “I—”
I held up a hand.

“No,” I said. “I don’t think you’ll be able to help. That monster isn’t something you can beat with bullets. I have my own ways of dealing with it.”

I spread my arms and let lightning charge on my hands; for the first time during this crazy quest, I felt like a hero. This was the stuff of legends – I had ascended to the ranks of Beowulf and Heracles, Theseus and Frodo.

Don’t steal my descriptions, Puck snapped. And turn back! This is a ridiculously stupid idea!

I have a plan
, I told him, which shut him up.

Meanwhile, Sid and the other druids were staring at me as if they’d seen a ghost, which they kind of had.

“Right,” Sid said at length. “I guess – I guess you’d know more about that than I would.”

Sapphire stepped forwards from the helicopter, but I shook my head and Sid held her back; she took a step back again and glowered.

“All right,” she growled after a moment, “but if you don’t come back alive, I’m going to kill you.”

I smiled.

“Great. Can I borrow your phone to see the time?”

She tossed it over and I caught it clumsily, then strolled down the steps to the fourth floor.

And there, in the corridor, I realised that I’d been really stupid, and that I wanted to go back up there and fly away in the helicopter.

Well, you can’t do that now, Puck said caustically. You’ve really put us in a corner here. He sighed. Come on. The phone’s clock says fourteen minutes thirty seconds remaining.

“You can read it if I touch it?”

Yep. Just keep hold of it and I’ll keep track of the time for you. He made an indescribable noise that had probably never hit human ears before. Right, let’s get this over with, then. Maybe you’ll tell me all about this plan you’ve been cooking up?

I started off in the direction of the stairs; a faint, tugging nausea told me that the thing that had once been Felicity was down there. I didn’t know how I could help her, but she was definitely a Pokémon now – and if she was a Pokémon, I could catch her, and hopefully stop her condition getting any worse until I found someone who could help.

“Yeah,” I said nervously. “About that plan...”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #115    
Old May 31st, 2011 (06:43 AM). Edited June 3rd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Fifty-One: Of Ice and Men

Barry Hawksworthy. Goon, son, brother, qualified electrician.

Also unconscious.

With a mighty groan, he opened his eyes; with a rather more feeble erp, he rolled onto his side. From here, he was well placed to undertake the laborious process of getting up, and that is just what he did. Rough hands on the floor, push downwards, avoid moving too fast (overbalancing would be undesirable) and ease upwards onto the feet. There. He was up, if a little unsteady, and with a throbbing head; he had been knocked out more today than most days, and the strain was getting to him.

“Not a good day,” he mumbled. At least, he tried to mumble it. What he actually said was something more akin to, “Noggerdy.”

Barry rested there for a while, and tried hard to remember what exactly he’d been doing. He recalled a bloody trail, and white sheets—

Druids.

The word came to him as if from a flaming bush.

Druids.

There were druids here, and they’d knocked him out, and they’d overrun the museum.

Why were there druids here?

Barry gave a second mighty groan and sat down heavily on the wreckage of a Basaltisk skeleton; it was uncomfortable in the extreme – Basaltisk, the plaque had once read, were renowned for being one of the spiniest of all dinosaur Pokémon – but right now he didn’t care. He needed to sit down, marshal his thoughts and nurse his battered brain.

How long had he been out? That seemed a good place to start. Barry couldn’t hear any battle noises any more, which meant that the fighting was probably all over. In fact, when he remembered the crashes, shouts and gunshots of earlier, the museum right now was downright spookily silent. Now, that meant that everyone had already left. Which, in turn, meant that he’d been unconscious for quite some time.

Barry stood up suddenly, ignoring the way the room pitched and swirled around him.

“Damn,” he rumbled anxiously, “the cops might already be here!”

There were Aquas here, there were Magmas here: regardless of the involvement of the druids, this was a Team conflict, and that meant the police would give both parties half an hour after the end of battle before moving in to clear up the mess and arrest any stragglers.

Barry looked at his watch, then remembered he didn’t wear one; he cursed and made hurriedly for the door. The cops might even be in the building itself. He had to get out and back to the helicopter, or he would actually be arrested. And while no one bothered guys as big as Barry in jail, it was still an inconvenience.

Barry peered around the doorframe, saw the coast was clear, and sneaked down the stairs. It was time for stealth, and while that didn’t come naturally to him, he was going to damn well try his best at it. Otherwise, his career as a crook was going to come to a very undignified end.

---

“Come on now.”

Archie was standing by the helicopter, looking out towards the museum’s great Gothic side.

“What happened in there?” he wondered, then turned to the Aquas in the helicopter. “All right, we’re going in. Something’s obviously gone wrong, and we’re going to need to try and salvage the situation.”

The four Aquas looked unenthusiastically at each other, but got up anyway, taking out guns and Poké Balls.

“Move it! No, not you!” This last was directed at the helicopter pilot, who was getting up too. “You stay here and be ready for a quick getaway. Winston, you keep in radio contact with him.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Winston unhappily.

“Now,” said Archie, turning to the museum with the gleam of the conqueror in his eye, “let’s see what’s been going on in this place.”

---

I trod as lightly as I could, trying not to make any noise at all; I wasn’t sure how good the Felicity-monster’s hearing was, and I didn’t want to chance it.

It’s pointless, Puck said. She’s way stronger than I ever was; it comes of being about five hundred years old. She’ll sense our Ghostliness a mile off.

I stopped.

“What? How the hell am I meant to sneak up on her?”

You were the one who said you had a plan.

“My plan was to sneak up on her!”

Oh, don’t worry, I know that. That’s why I made my own plan.

There was a pause, during which I tried to resist giving Puck the satisfaction of asking what it was.

I can read your mind, Kester. I know you want to say it.

“Fine! What is this plan?”

Right. You need to know a little bit more about Rotom for this. We are not like other Pokémon: we don’t have fixed types. We change our types when we possess things. If I possessed a washing machine, say, I would go from being Electric/Ghost to Electric/Water. If I possessed an oven, I’d be—

“Electric/Fire?”

Give the boy a cookie. Do you see what that means?

“You wouldn’t be a Ghost, so... she couldn’t sense your presence?”

You’ve got it! I wouldn’t be able to sense her either, but we’d have a chance at catching her unawares this way.

“For someone who didn’t want to do this, you sure came up with a good plan.”

I’m just fantastic like that – it’s a family trait. You’ve not met my sister, have you? She’s even more fantastic than I am.

“Someone’s better than you? Surely not!”

Credit where credit’s due, said Puck. Look, we need to get going. I’m going to force myself as fully as possible into Sapphire’s phone – I hope I can get in there enough to change my type. It should make me Electric/Electric – in other words, pure Electric-type, which she can’t sense. I won’t be able to communicate in your head after then, so keep the phone next to your ear and I’ll talk from there.

“Gotcha.”

I put the mobile to my ear, and a weird feeling arose in my head; it wasn’t painful exactly, but definitely uncomfortable, as if there were a rock in my brain and I was trying to push it out by sheer concentration. Then, all at once, it left, and I felt just the same as ever.

“Testing, testing, one two three,” Puck said. “Oh, fantastic. I haven’t done a real possession for a while now – just minor controlling, like that TV and that car. Feels good to be in some circuitry for once. Right, let’s go. Keep searching – we’ve got twelve minutes.”

Prior to our conversation, I had been following the trail of bloody water that had formed puddles along the corridors of the fourth floor, and I resumed this pursuit now. The blood actually gave me hope: if the monster could still bleed, that meant Felicity was still inside it somewhere.

The trail led me down a set of wide stairs, past the room where the Magmas and the druids had done battle; I guessed this was the way the Magmas had taken to get up here. From here, I passed through a room full of various types of clown suit and into the corridor beyond; here, the water trail joined one of thick-smeared blood, running to the right through a set of doors that were just ajar. There were also a fair few big bloodstains in places on the floor and walls, and I could smell something foul from the next room. All in all, I felt sick, and pretty weak at the knees.

“Man up,” Puck said, disgusted. “You haven’t even seen a corpse yet. The Magmas and the druids took all the bodies with them when they left, for a hero’s burial. Or possibly cremation to fuel a green power station, I don’t know. They’re both pretty big on ecology and stuff.”

“O-OK.” I took a deep breath and composed myself. “She’s in there, isn’t she?”

“Keep your voice down! And yes, she is. She’s very weak; I’m willing to bet that Ninetales hurt her pretty badly. It’s the perfect time to capture her.”

“She’s resting?” I whispered, creeping closer to the door. The stench was getting worse, and I tried hard to breathe through my nose. I could also hear little ripping noises now, but I couldn’t work out exactly what was being torn. In my free hand, I started charging a Beam – if the Felicity-monster was capable of movement, I wasn’t going to take any chances.

“Not quite.”

I slipped through the gap between the double doors, heart pounding like a war-drum, and bit my tongue hard before I cried out.

“She’s eating,” whispered Puck.

---

Something had happened to the Felicity-thing since we’d last encountered her. She’d been thin before; now she was beyond skeletal. Her body was a thin white tube, with a broad red stripe around the midriff; her arms and legs hung limply from it, little more than skin-wrapped bones. The difference between skin and hair was gone now, with her skull sweeping back into a rearward-facing spike and forwards into some sort of mouth that was halfway to being a beak. Twin horns of ice sprouted from the sides of her head, and so did those long, weird arms.

I didn’t take all that in at the time, of course – these facts are pieced together from fragments of memory. I wasn’t even looking at her. I was looking at what she was eating.

This room had once been an Ice Age exhibition, with model mammoths and things, but now it was something it was never meant to be – a larder.

“Like the shrike,” Puck said, as if doing the voice-over for a nature documentary, “Froslass are given to collecting the bodies of their prey in scattered locations throughout their territory, for later consumption. Heh heh, David Attenborough’s got nothing on me.”

I wanted to tell him to shut up, but I couldn’t. I was frozen to the spot in real, soul-shaking fear; my eyes wouldn’t stay still, roving over bodies draped over models, piled in corners, held between white fingers while a bloody mouth scraped at the flesh...

“Don’t you dare chicken out now,” Puck said angrily. “You wanted to do this – save her life, like a little human. I’ll be seriously pissed off if you waste my time like this. Plus, we’ve only got nine minutes.”

I raised my hand very, very slowly; it felt like time had slowed down, or I was trying to move through treacle. I saw the sparks falling from my fingers one by one, slowly, like confetti. And then, with a crackling whirr, the Charge Beam left my palm and hit the thing that had once been Felicity right between her white shoulder blades.

I was expecting her to round on me, but instead she fell forwards, collapsing headfirst into the remnants of her grisly meal; effortfully, she pulled herself upright, hissing weakly, and turned to face me.

“Now!” cried Puck, and I threw the Ultra Ball. Whether it was my poor aim or her good dodging, it missed by about a metre, and the Felicity-thing swooped towards me, giving a weak version of her usual wailing battle cry. “You moron!” yelled Puck. “Dodge her, drop the phone!”

I flung myself to the right, instinct taking over and blocking out my conscious thoughts of horror; Sapphire’s phone clattered to the floor and Puck was, all of a sudden, back in my head.

Well, you sure managed to screw up my plan, Puck snapped. Let’s try to make the best of a bad situation, hmm? You’ll probably manage to make the worst, but let’s try anyway.

A white hand slammed into the door where I’d been standing a moment before, and it burst open. Without pausing, the Felicity-monster fled, and I leaped to my feet, grabbing the Ultra Ball and phone, and followed.

Now you’re talking! Let’s move it out, like cops in the movies!


I was running on adrenaline by this point; if I’d stopped to think, I would never have been able to move, paralysed by fear and shock. I saw the Felicity-thing flee into the room full of clown suits, and I made to go after her – but she turned suddenly and made a sweeping motion with one hand, scattering a series of tiny sea-urchin-like things over the floor between us. I was about to keep going anyway, when Puck cried out:

No!

I froze, and the ice monster took the opportunity to make good her escape.

“What is it?” I asked.

Spikes, Puck said. Tread on any one of those and your feet get pretty messed up. You wouldn’t be doing any more chasing.

I inspected the little spiky things. They were pyramidal, with spikes on all sides, and I had to say that he was right: if I had trodden on them, I wouldn’t have been able to continue my pursuit.

Find another way around. And quickly – you’ve only got seven minutes thirty seconds!

I snapped out of whatever trance had gripped me and flung myself into the nearest non-Spiked room; I can’t remember what was in there, but it took me out into a corridor that led back up to the stairs to the fourth floor. I raced up them two at a time, following the sound of dripping water and low murmuring, and glimpsed a white shadow at the other end of the hall when I got to the top.

There!

I wasn’t sure how, but somehow I was drawing out Puck’s Rotom-speed again; my feet flew over the floor almost without touching it. I felt the monster’s presence again, a sickening wave of nausea that threatened to overwhelm me, and I stumbled – but I refused to fall. I had had enough of passing out today.

Good for you. Now, left here!

I turned as directed, and there she was: back against the wall, at a dead end.

Book ’em, Danno, Puck said. And before you say ‘what?’, that was a joke, and it means catch her now.

I threw the ball, and this time it flew true: it hit the monster in the shoulder, and exploded into a storm of red light. I’d never actually seen a capture from the outside perspective, and was surprised at how violent it was: long tongues of red light lashed around the Felicity-thing, stifling her shrieks and binding her limbs – and then it was over. She was gone, and the Ultra Ball lay on the floor.

Then everything hit me. The corpses, the blood, the way a human had been so twisted. It was all too much, and I half-fell, half-sat down on the cold, wet tiles, trembling and breathing heavily.

So much for being a hero, remarked Puck dismally. Never mind, you caught her. With a good six minutes to spare, too. Take a moment to catch your breath, and let’s go back up.

Then something blue flashed in the corner of my eye, and I looked up just in time to see the air whiten slightly in front of me before everything went black.

---

“How long has it been?” asked Sapphire. Sid started; it was the first thing she’d said since Kester had left. He checked his watch.

“Ten minutes,” he said. “He’s got five minutes left.”

Sapphire stared at the roof entrance and bit her lip.

“Why would you go back for her?” she murmured under her breath. “Her...”

---

Kester?

...

Kester?

...

Oh, for the love of—! We’re frozen, aren’t we?

...

This is bad. This is very, very bad. ‘Worse than that guy in the pit with the pendulum’ kind of bad. We’re in a worse situation than – than Desdemona halfway through Othello.

OK, that wasn’t helpful. Look, Kester, can you at least think at me? Or are you completely out of it?


...

All right. Looks like I have to save your sorry hide again. Right. How to do this, how to do this... Ah! Take stock of available supplies. One mobile telephone, one – actually, that’s it. OK. I can free us with one mobile phone. Just put a massive current through it, and—

BZZT!

Oh dear. Sapphire won’t be best pleased. But on the plus side, we’re thawing out. At least, your hand is. And hopefully that’ll give you enough leverage to do an Incredible Hulk and sort of explode out of the—

CRASH!

Yeah, like that.

My breathing restarted and I pitched over forwards, gasping for air and drenched in icy water. I felt like I’d died and been unexpectedly resurrected; I couldn’t remember why I was here or how I’d got so cold and wet, and a vague sense of unreality pervaded everything around me. For a long moment, I had to concentrate on getting my breath back, and making sure all my limbs worked, and then I asked the question.

“What – gasp – the hell – pant – happened to me?”

The Froslass got you
, Puck said. You know, the one that’s taking over Felicity’s body like some sort of lycanthropy, only she’s an evil snow ghost instead of a wolf.

That was it. I remembered now: I’d thrown the ball and she’d somehow got out and hit me with an Ice Beam.

Yeah, and you’re lucky she was so weak, Puck said warningly. If she’d been at full strength, that Ice Beam would have frozen your flesh all the way through and shattered you into little fleshy ice cubes, suitable for putting in cannibalistic cocktails, or for crushing up to make the world’s most revolting sorbet.

“Shut up,” I said weakly, struggling to my feet. My arms and legs were still fairly numb, and it was a real challenge. “How did she get out? I caught her.”

Even in her weakened state, she can fight back, Puck said. Only a Master Ball guarantees capture. Now quickly, let’s get back to the roof – I had to destroy Sapphire’s phone to defrost you, but I think we’ve only got a minute or two left.

“I’m not giving up,” I said stubbornly, and reached down to pick up the Ultra Ball. It had survived the failed capture intact, which was lucky; I was knowledgeable enough to know that balls often broke when Pokémon burst free of them.

Kester, you can barely walk, Puck said urgently. Get to the damn roof!

“I can’t leave her here,” I replied. “Besides, she hasn’t gone far, has she?”
He was silent; he couldn’t argue. We could both feel her presence nearby, a great, crushing weight that made the gorge rise in my throat. She wasn’t moving, either – so she might have passed out or something.

One shot, Puck said reluctantly. Then we go.

I was already moving, leaning heavily on the walls and dragging frozen feet across the tiles into the Orb room. It wasn’t hard to find the monster: she was lying in the middle of the floor, limbs outspread, motionless in the midst of a sea of broken glass and corpses.

She was trying to feed, Puck guessed, to restore her strength. Looks like she didn’t make it in time. The Ice Beam probably took a lot out of her.

I threw the ball, and this time I was sure she’d been caught. The red light barely flickered, and the Felicity-thing was sucked into the interior of the ball. I heard a click, and Puck told me that was the sign the capture had been successful.

It was anticlimactic, but there was no time to ponder it. I had to get out of here, and fast. Pocketing the Ultra Ball, I stumbled away and back towards the stairs.

---

“Sid!”

“He’s got thirty more seconds,” the druid replied grimly, looking out towards the building. “Then we’ll leave.”

“Come on, we need to get going!”

“Just wait!”

The heated exchange passed entirely over Sapphire’s head. Her eyes were locked on the roof entrance, and her teeth were clamped so tightly onto her bottom lip that they were drawing blood.

---

Kester, do you hear helicopter rotors?

I listened, then swore loudly.

“Wait!” I yelled at the top of my voice, redoubling my efforts to mount the stairs. “Wait, I’m coming!”

There was still a whole flight of stairs to go, and the helicopters seemed to be getting ready to leave; I willed myself to go faster, to use the Rotom-speed, but with my numb legs it was all I could do to keep up my current pace.

“Wait!”

Twenty steps to go, and I could have sworn that some of the rotor-sounds were getting further away; were they taking off already?

Oh, this is great
, Puck said. And you actually managed to catch her, as well! You’re basically snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

“Shut up!”

Ten steps, and the rotors were growing louder now – were they coming back, having heard me? Or was I imagining it?

Less weird quasi-existential crap, more running!

Five steps...

Three...

One...

And then I tripped over a slate and fell face-first into the comparatively blinding light of the grey, fog-wreathed museum roof. I pushed myself up a little, and looked out as far as possible; through the fog I could see—

Oh, Kester, I hate you sometimes. I really do.

---

Kester could help her. If she was caught... well, at the very least, she’d stop killing.

nofairgotmewhileiweak...

That was why she’d done it. She’d pushed as hard as she could, and though Felicity wasn’t sure if she’d got back into her body, she’d definitely done something to the monster. She knew this because they were lying face-down in the dirt of the floor, and she could feel her limbs again.

givebackbody...

“It’s mine,” Felicity said, and her eyes widened. “Wait, what?”

She sat up and felt herself. Yes, this was human skin. Soft, relatively warm – hah! Her arms and legs were working, too!

Felicity ran her fingers through her hair, and found that the arms there had dissolved back into individual strands. She could feel two tiny points on her scalp, but other than that, the ice horns had almost entirely gone.

Felicity lay back and laughed. It was hysteria, it was relief; it was thanks and praise and everything else besides. She was crying through the laughter, and she couldn’t stop running her hands over her body – her own body, with her back in control, firmly behind the wheel.

“Yes!” she cried, as soon as she could spare the breath. “Yes, yes, yes! Take that, ice monster!”

Skuld’s reply was nothing more than a long, sulky sort of hiss. This had the effect of making Felicity even more jubilant; she even jumped for joy, and it was when she hit her head on the ceiling that it crossed her mind to wonder where exactly she was.

“This is the inside of a Poké Ball?” she said aloud, feeling the walls. They were of metal, it seemed, and cold everywhere except where she’d been lying.

Skuld hissed again.

“Shut up,” Felicity said. She made to turn up the volume of her headphones, and realised when her finger brushed her temple that they were gone. Actually, come to think of it, so were her clothes. They had been an ugly Team Aqua uniform, but still... Felicity was glad she was alone in here.

ialwayshere...

“You don’t count,” said Felicity forcefully. She spoke in her native Japanese now; there were no Hoennians around to pander to. She was also somewhat flushed with relief in her release, and found Skuld’s eerie presence infinitely less disturbing than before. If nothing else, this incident had proven that the change could be reversed. And that meant that she might even be able to get rid of the monster without Zero’s help after all...

Felicity sat down, and began to think. She was determined now. There was no reason to work with Zero for a moment longer. She would find a way, and she would set herself free.

---

“What is it?”

Zero glanced over to the computer, which had been emitting a rather irritating beeping noise for the last few minutes. His eyes alighted on the screen, and he paled beneath his mask.

“What?”

He half-rose from his seat, but made no move towards the computer. He was almost entirely paralysed with shock.

For there on the screen, a short message was flashing in bold red letters. A message that Zero had never expected to see, and had no idea how to combat.

SYSTEM ERROR
CALCULATIONS INCORRECT
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #116    
Old May 31st, 2011 (02:50 PM).
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
"doomsday.exe has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down."

So I finally signed up here. Hi.
  #117    
Old May 31st, 2011 (11:44 PM).
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
While Puck still happens to be my favorite character, there's another character who's really growing on me: Skuld. She's like a little kid...a sadistic, evil, monstrous little kid who likes to possess Felicity and kill everyone in her path. Maybe it's because I love ghost-types. Who knows?

Anyway, I don't think that she's going to stop being evil just because Kester caught her. Hell, I don't know if anything's going to stop Skuld from being one of the most psychotic Pokemon I've ever seen. Not that I'm complaining; that's a part of her charm.

Zero's reaction at the end of the chapter was priceless. Puck was as enigmatic and eccentric as ever. Kester and Sapphire were their usual selves. And best of all, the subtle humor that made this story unique is back. So, I've tried to find things that are wrong with your story, but I must admit that you've done a damn good job. Kudos to you, good sir.

Sincerely,

Mem.
__________________
Quotes are nothing but words.
  #118    
Old June 1st, 2011 (01:30 PM). Edited June 3rd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
"doomsday.exe has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down."

So I finally signed up here. Hi.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
While Puck still happens to be my favorite character, there's another character who's really growing on me: Skuld. She's like a little kid...a sadistic, evil, monstrous little kid who likes to possess Felicity and kill everyone in her path. Maybe it's because I love ghost-types. Who knows?

Anyway, I don't think that she's going to stop being evil just because Kester caught her. Hell, I don't know if anything's going to stop Skuld from being one of the most psychotic Pokemon I've ever seen. Not that I'm complaining; that's a part of her charm.

Zero's reaction at the end of the chapter was priceless. Puck was as enigmatic and eccentric as ever. Kester and Sapphire were their usual selves. And best of all, the subtle humor that made this story unique is back. So, I've tried to find things that are wrong with your story, but I must admit that you've done a damn good job. Kudos to you, good sir.

Sincerely,

Mem.
Hello, you two. Nice to see you here.

SilentMemento, I see myself as the provider of a service to a customer. You don't pay, but I still live by the maxim that what you people want is what you ought to get. You wanted subtlety? It's there. That's my job as the writer of comedy: in the context of this story, I exist purely to entertain.

Oh, and regarding Skuld: I kind of like her, but then again, I kind of hate her. I'm really not sure how I feel about her as a character. There certainly is a disarming innocence about her murderousness. One of the side role's she's accidentally taken on is that of being a mechanism for pushing the form of the story beyond conventional narrative, which I do appreciate, because it makes it more interesting to write.

(tries to resist temptation to make Thunderbirds reference and fails)

- Cutlerine, F.A.B.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #119    
Old June 3rd, 2011 (06:22 AM). Edited June 3rd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Fifty-Two: Does Not Compute

“All right.” Zero ran a hand through his hair, agitated. “Calm down. There’s a way to fix this. There always is.”

There had been minor glitches before – the most notable of which was Kester Ruby’s failure to be picked up by the Magmas – but he’d managed to adapt his plan to fit. The calculations had worked out fine. This time, though... the computer itself was unable to foresee an ending that worked out in his favour.

Zero bit his lip.

“Let me see... Run a full computation of all current variables. See how it ends as things stand.”

The screen told him it was calculating, and then flashed up a message:

KESTER RUBY: RETURNS HOME
SAPPHIRE BIRCH: PARTICIPATES IN EVER GRANDE TOURNAMENT
“FELICITY” KUSAGARI: DEAD
WORLD STILL EXISTS
OVERALL STATUS: YOU LOSE


“That’s not really what I’m after,” Zero said, scratching his temple nervously. “How about if I delay the Magmas’ use of the Red Orb...?”

---

“This is bad,” I said, staring up at the sky. “I guess we took longer than I thought.”

The helicopters were no more than ink blots against the fog, and it looked like I was alone here.

So much for your heroic last-minute entrance, Puck sighed. I told you to forget Felicity and head for the roof.

“Shut up.” I sat down on a conveniently low gable and rested my chin in my hands. “Damn it! I’ve braved untold horrors and they don’t even wait?”

‘Untold horrors’? You saw a couple of corpses, and a monster eating them. OK, that is actually fairly horrific, but still, you’re pathetic. You’re about as manly as lip gloss.

“I thought I told you to shut up?”

Yeah, well, you told me you were in a coma.


“What?”

God, you are so freakin’ pop-culturally illiterate!

I sighed. Somehow, I didn’t care that much any more.

“All right.” I paused. “What now? Won’t the police come here soon?”

“They will,” said a voice from the fog. “But I think I’d be more worried about your friend, because she’s going to kill you.”

And I looked round, and I saw two silhouettes in the mist, and one of them ran forwards and punched me in the eye.

“Ow!” I cried, half-falling off my gable. “What the hell?”

“That’s for being an idiot,” Sapphire said angrily. “And this one’s for being an idiot and late.”

Her fist hit my other eye.

“Ow!”

See what I mean? Totally pathetic. You’re being beaten up by a girl.

“What – I was saving someone’s life!” I cried, getting up and raising my hands in a weak sort of defence. “I did catch her!” I held up the Ultra Ball.

“What’s that in your other hand?” Sapphire asked; she must have already guessed, because I only had to look at it to realise that it was something that could only further her anger.

“Er... it might be your mobile?” I ventured.

Yeah, it is pretty hard to tell through all the melted plastic.

“Did it look like that when I gave it to you?”

“I’m going to say, ‘yes’?”

“Wrong answer. This one’s for breaking my phone.”

“I don’t have a third eye— ow!”

I staggered back a step, clutching my midriff, and glared at her.

“Look, I went back in there, risking my life and seeing more corpses and horrible things than I ever wanted to see ever, and all you can do is punch me? Just leave me alone, would you?”

Sapphire glared back.

“Why would you do that?” she snapped. “You’re so stupid!”

“I promised I’d help her,” I retorted. “You said you would too, if you think back to it.”

All the fight seemed to go out of Sapphire at that moment; her face flickered through about twenty different expressions and then she stepped forwards and hugged me.

Ah! Puck cried. It’s happening again! Get it off, get it off!

I have to admit, my first reaction was one of fear too: I thought she was about to strangle me or something. It took me a full three seconds to realise what was going on, and to work out that what I ought to do was hug her back. Which I did, albeit really, really awkwardly – this was, after all, Sapphire Birch I was dealing with. The same Sapphire Birch who had been roundly abusing me for something like two weeks now.

“Don’t ever do that again,” Sapphire said quietly, looking up at me.

Hey, you’re pretty tall, aren’t you? Sorry, I just haven’t really noticed before.


“Sorry,” I said to Sapphire. “Um... can you let go now? You’re kind of crushing me...”

“Oh. Sorry.” Sapphire disentangled herself and stepped away hurriedly. She looked embarrassed, which made sense; I was fairly embarrassed, too.

“Are you two done?” asked the voice I’d first heard, and the second silhouette in the fog stepped forwards. To my surprise, I recognised them: it was Sid, formerly known as the lead druid.

“What – what are you doing here?” I asked.

Sid looked faintly uncomfortable.

“Well, I know you said you could handle this yourself, but...” He shrugged. “I don’t know, it didn’t feel right to leave a kid alone here. When Sapphire refused to leave without you, I said I’d stay and wait a bit more too. I couldn’t keep the others. There were people on board who needed doctors. And some who needed undertakers.”

“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say. Two people concerned for my welfare, and one of them Sapphire? This was a day to remember. “Thanks.”

“You might want to save it for later,” Sid said. “We need to get out of here. It’s been about twenty-five minutes since the last fights ended, and you know what that means.”

“The police,” Sapphire replied. “They’ll be here soon.”

“Exactly.” Sid nodded. “We don’t want to be here when they get here.”

Suddenly, I became aware of the sound of a helicopter; over the last few days, it had gone from being something I’d never heard before to something that happened every few minutes. A second later, a dark blue helicopter with the stylised skull-and-crossbones ‘A’ of Team Aqua painted on the side rose into view and sped off to the northeast.

“The Aquas are out of here,” I said, staring after them. “Is there any other way off this island?”

“First, we need to get down to ground level,” said Sid. “There’re no more choppers up here.”

We headed back to the roof exit, and as we walked Sapphire rummaged in her bag; she took out a Super Potion and gave it to me.

“Here,” she said. “You don’t look so good.”

You’re the one who gave me two black eyes.”

“Do you want it or not?”

I took it and self-sprayed; as if by magic – which might actually have been how it worked – the pain melted away. Bruises vanished, cuts sealed and the chill in my bones disappeared.

I can tell that feels better. The chemical balance in your brain has changed. It was saying, ‘Ouchies!’ but now it’s saying, ‘Oh yeaaahh.’ Only not that cool, obviously, because it’s your brain.

We made our way back to the elevator on the fourth floor and Puck hacked it again so we could ride it down to ground level. Sid’s eyes widened, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to avoid the big question much longer. I was right. As we were passing the second floor, he broached the topic.

“Er... what was your name again?”

“Kester. Kester Ruby.”

“OK. Kester. Um... what – why do you – what’s with this lightning stuff?”

I looked at Sapphire, who seemed surprised.

“I don’t own you any more. It’s your choice if you want to tell him.”

Puck?

Eh, you’re going to end up telling him anyway; why should I care?


“OK. Er... about two weeks ago, I crashed my Vespa into a car...”

I kept to the bare bones of the story and didn’t reveal much about what Sapphire or I were actually doing; though Sid was undoubtedly one of the good guys – he had stayed to help us, after all – I didn’t know how much control the Gorsedd had over its members, and I thought it would probably be best if they didn’t know about it.

The story lasted until we reached the main hall of the first floor, where I petered out lamely and Sid said, after a suitable awed pause:

“Wow. I guess that means you’re not a Psychic after all?”

“What? Why would I be a Psychic?”

“Sapphire told me you were.”

We both looked at Sapphire, who shrugged defensively.

“What? He asked why you were sensitive to Ghosts, and I didn’t want to give anything away.”

“Fair enough,” I replied.

“Damn,” Sid said. “If you’d been a Psychic, I’d have been able to put my daughter in contact with you. She’s a Psychic too, you see. Apparently it’s lonely.”

“Right.” I thought back a week or so. “Is your daughter called Jaclyn, by any chance?”

Sid looked surprised.

“Yeah. How’d you know?”

“I think we met before. I beat her Abra on Route 110.”

We came to the main entrance, and I could see the grassy mountainside through the open doorway; I sighed in relief. It would be great to get out of here, and leave this museum behind.

“Hurry up,” urged Sapphire. “The police will be here any minute.”

She was right, and we hurried on. No one wanted to get caught up in a police investigation; all three of us would have to face some pretty awkward questions.

About ten minutes later, we were back down at Mt. Pyre’s main entrance, walking out towards the jetties. Through the spectral fog that lay thick over the waters, I could see the silhouettes of approaching boats, topped with flashing lights, and hear the distant wail of sirens.

“They’re coming,” I said unnecessarily. “Er – any way off this mountain, then?”

Sid looked around, as if hoping a ship or helicopter might conveniently materialise.

“Uh... doesn’t look like it.”

Steal a police boat.

“What?!”

Sid and Sapphire both stared at me.

“It’s Puck,” I explained. “He wants me to steal a police boat.”

“That’s probably going a little far,” Sid said.

“Yeah,” agreed Sapphire. “Definitely too far.”

Aw. You’re all losers.

The leading boat reached the pier, and a swarm of men and women in the uniforms of the Hoennian Police Force poured out. With a curse, Sid threw his machine-gun into the lake before they could ask any questions.

“Halt!” cried one. “This is the police...!”

---

“That... could have gone better.”

Sid, Sapphire and I were sitting on the steps of one of the boathouses on the docks on the northern shore of the lake. Beyond us stretched a wharf that was utterly inconsequential in comparison to the one at Slateport, and behind us was a cluster of boathouses, ticket offices and ice-cream stands. We had just been thrown out of the police boat, and I use the phrase ‘thrown out’ advisedly – we were definitely not welcome by the time we left.

“Maybe if you hadn’t tried to tell them about a secret plan cooked up by a sinister mastermind, they wouldn’t have accused us of wasting police time,” Sapphire said.

“But all that stuff in the museum – people are dying, Sapphire! Something needs to be done—”

“Steven said he’d tell the League,” Sapphire interrupted. “That’s good enough for me.”

“Uh, pardon me, but I’m getting really, really confused here,” Sid put in. “I listened to everything you said back on the boat and all, but I still don’t understand any of it. There’s someone trying to get the Teams to fight each other...?”

“It’s a long story,” I said wearily; it was only half past one, but it had been a long day already, possibly the longest Tuesday of my life. “I wouldn’t worry. You can forget all about it once you’ve got back to the Weather Institute.”

“Yeah, about that...” Sid smiled uneasily. “Sorry, but you two kids will be coming back there with me.”

Uh-oh. This doesn’t look good. In fact, it looks downright bad. If only Banquo had had this feeling – he might have survived.

“What do you mean?” Sapphire’s voice was level, but it had a threat in it. Her hand was on her belt, ready to snatch up a Poké Ball.

“I’m not threatening you,” Sid assured us, holding up a hand. “Look, I’ve got no weapons. But you need to come with me. I don’t really understand what you’ve been saying about this plot to make the Teams fight, but the druids need to hear this. The Orbs are our responsibility. We’ve looked after them for hundreds of years, and we thought they’d be safe in the museum.”

They got that one wrong, then, Puck said. Biggest mistake since The Matrix Reloaded.

Was there a big mistake in that?

No. It
was a big mistake.

“What if we refuse?” Sapphire asked.

“Why would we refuse?” I asked her. “The druids are on our side, right?”

“I think so,” Sid said. “If you want to put the Orbs back where they belong and stop the Teams fighting – or, worse, figuring out how to use them – then yes, we’re all on the same side here. But we need to know more.”

There was a long pause.

“All right,” Sapphire said at last. “We’ll go. But there’s one condition.”

“What is it?”

“Get some proper clothes,” she said. “You’re about as far from incognito as a Tyranitar in a shopping mall.”

---

What do you do if you wake from impact-induced unconsciousness in a wrecked museum, with no idea how you got there?

If your name is Fabien Latch, you jump inadvisedly swiftly to your feet, look around for approaching enemies, and call wildly for your Crobat.

It will not have escaped the perceptive reader that Goishi has not figured prominently – or indeed at all – in the narrative since Fabien and Blake were knocked out. This is because he had sense, and had gone to ground as soon as he’d detected that Darren Goodwin’s Miltank was likely to beat him up very soon. Now, as Fabien shouted his name, Goishi detached himself from a light fixture in the next room and flapped lazily in with an unconcerned eek.

“Goishi!” cried Fabien. “Am I glad to see you!” He paused for a moment to catch his breath. “Something terrible has happened. I have no idea where I am.” He paused again, this time to let the full impact of what he’d just said sink in.

“Eek,” replied Goishi, as equably as he could.

“Where are we?” Fabien asked.

“Eee-eee-ee-e-eeek,” Goishi said. This probably meant something along the lines of: ‘How in God’s name am I supposed to tell you, you stupid little man?’

“The Slateport Oceanic Museum?” cried Fabien. “No! What devilry has brought us here? The last I remember, we were in Fallarbor!”

Goishi sighed and gritted his teeth, then remembered he couldn’t, since he possessed only bottom ones.

“Blake!” Fabien knelt at his friend’s side and gave him a good shaking. “Blake, wake up!”

Blake mumbled something, then sat up sharply, banging his head on Fabien’s; the two Magmas recoiled sharply from each other.

“Blake, we’re in the Oceanic Museum,” hissed Fabien urgently, rubbing his forehead. “Can you remember why we’re here?”

Blake’s brow furrowed deeply.

“No,” he said at length. “Last I remember, we were in Fallarbor.”

“Damn,” said Fabien. “I was hoping you’d remember.” He gave Blake a hand up, and the two Magmas looked around. “Wait a minute,” Fabien said. “Listen.”

Blake did.

“Footsteps?”

“Footsteps,” confirmed Fabien. “We should investigate – with extreme caution.”

“Extreme caution?”

“Extreme caution.” Fabien crept over to the nearest doorway and peeped around the edge; a second later, he jumped back, swearing.

“Wha’ is it?” Blake asked. Fabien turned to him with a desperate look in his eye.

“It’s the Aquas!” he cried. “Lots of them! Run!”

But before they had put more than a couple of yards between them and the door, the Aquas were there, and a mumbling, faux-American voice called out:

“Stop right there!”


Blake blanched.

“Cal,” he whispered, stopping dead. “It’s Archie.”

“Don’t worry,” Fabien replied, “I just thought of something.”

And he turned around and strolled over to the Aqua leader and his guards, ignoring their guns.

“Thank God,” he said with feeling. “I thought you’d never get here, sir.”

“Don’t touch me, you grazhny red.”

Fabien withdrew his hand hurriedly; it seemed patting Archie on the arm had been a bad idea.

“Right, sir. Deep Undercover Agents Fabien Latch and Blake Henderson, at your service.”

Archie stared at him.

“Deep Undercover Agents?”

“Yes, sir.” Fabien’s grin never wavered. “Deep Undercover Agents.”

“Do we have Deep Undercover Agents?” Archie asked of a nearby guard. The guard shrugged.

“You do, sir,” Fabien said. “We’re very deep undercover in Team Magma. So deep that only our immediate superior knows we exist.”

“And who was your immediate superior?” asked Archie suspiciously.

A bead of sweat appeared on Fabien’s forehead.

“I, um, only know his code name. It’s... Battleship.”

“James, do we have anyone called Battleship?” asked Archie of a different guard, who replied that he didn’t know.

“Only the Clandestine Spying Operations Division use code names, sir,” he said. “And that’s basically one person, and he was one of the people we found near the back entrance.”

“So he’s dead?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Battleship is dead?” exclaimed Fabien with melodramatic horror. “Egad! This is awful news. He had our report memorised for safekeeping!”

Archie stared at him, and then at Blake, who did his best to look sad.

“James,” he said, “have these two killed.”

---

Sid had wanted to go straight to the W.R.I., but Sapphire and I put our feet down there: we’d just had one of the worst mornings of either of our lives, and desperately needed food, rest, and – in my case – a new set of clothes, since the Felicity-thing’s Ice Beam had ruined those I had on.

You get through those at a rate of knots, Puck remarked. Like Daisy Fay, your voice is full of money; it’s expensive to maintain you.

“I don’t get references to classic American literature,” I told him under my breath, as we waited on a bench at the train station; we were going to go to Fortree and recover for a while. If I hadn’t been so tired, I might have been excited – Fortree was supposed to be amazing.

But you – I thought – never mind, he sighed. I’m tired of pointing out the inconsistencies.

We attracted a great number of very strange looks on the train, and I supposed we were a pretty strange-looking trio: a still-damp, blood-spattered boy, a battered-looking girl (both with the remnants of handcuffs still around their wrists) and a man in dressed in bloodstained white robes. Now that I think about it, it was pretty clear why we were given such a wide berth.

After a couple of hours of north-northwesterly travel through a monotonous backdrop of green leaves and brown trunks, we stopped, seemingly in the middle of nowhere; I knew, however, that this station was actually right in the centre of Fortree.

It was just underneath it all.

We got out in the face of a blast of humid jungle air, and managed to get into a crowded elevator on the way up. The shaft it travelled along had been cunningly disguised to look like a tree, but the fact that they’d used plastic for it kind of spoiled the image.

That’s Fortree all over for you, Puck said. Lovely idea, badly executed. Much like the French Revolution. More precisely, like the aristocracy in the French Revolution.

Then the elevator stopped and the doors opened – and Fortree lay before us.

It was a marvel of human ingenuity, a testament to the creativity and adaptability of our race; between the tops of the hardwood trees ran long wooden bridges, and in their branches nestled buildings, as if they were families of birds. Leaves and wood were everywhere, and the rich, heady scent of jungle flowers lay thickly over everything like dust in a long-abandoned library. I could see temples, houses, shops, even primitive skyscrapers, breaking through the treeline to rise triumphantly in silhouette against the bright sky. Fortree rose before us in green heaps and spires above wooden legs – and most remarkably of all, people were walking all around us, apparently without noticing that they lived in one of the most remarkable cities in the country.

Disgusting, pronounced Puck in ringing tones. Utterly revolting. I mean, look at all this wood! It’s ridiculously organic. Where’s the metal? Where’s the plastic?

I told him he had no taste and followed Sid and Sapphire out of the lift.
Despite our drive to find a hotel in which to pass out for a while, it was impossible not to linger on the bridges, or pause in the broad, wooden squares; this city was a child’s dream, the miracle treehouse that all of us imagine at some point in our lives. I know I did: there were about three trees in our garden, all of which were too small to even climb, so I felt the nonexistence of my dream treehouse especially keenly.

Somehow, we fought past our confused tourist instincts and reached a plaza dedicated to Trainers, where Sapphire checked in at the Pokémon Centre; about five minutes later, she came out again to accompany Sid and I while we found a hotel a couple of streets away. All the way, Puck protested vociferously that he had a soul of plastic and was dying inside from the lack of artificial materials.

I’m a ghost of the Y generation
, he complained. I need electricity to live, I need plastic to breathe, and I can’t stand to see all these people living in such close communion with nature. Gah! This place is like a poor man’s Coruscant!

After we’d found accommodation, the next order of business was food; however, we were denied entry to every one we tried to enter, on account of how we looked like an assortment of lunatic homeless people. So Sapphire gave Sid and I a few thousand dollars and went back to the Pokémon Centre to change while we went and bought new clothes, an experience that, with Puck complaining and Sid reluctant, is perhaps best described by the word ‘torturous’.

“I don’t need new clothes,” Sid protested as we walked. “These robes are fine.”

“They’re stained with blood. You look like an escaped mental patient,” I snapped.

“All right, I’ll buy new robes—”

Normal clothes. The druids never leave the Weather Institute, do they?”

“The Weather Research Institute,” Sid corrected sulkily. “And no, I guess they don’t.”

“So what will people think when they see a guy walking around dressed as a druid?”

“That he’s a druid?”

“Well, er, yeah, they might think that – or they’ll think he’s a madman. Either way, you attract too much attention.”

“What is your obsession with staying incognito?” Sid asked, as we entered a clothes shop.

“For us, it’s much the same thing as staying alive,” I replied, which I thought was brilliantly witty.

It’s not, Puck said bluntly, but I ignored him.

“In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re wanted by Team Aqua, Team Magma and the Devon Corporation,” I told Sid. “It helps if we keep a low profile.”

“Huh,” said Sid, but he let me buy him new clothes; I guess the message got through.

Half an hour later, feeling even more tired but a whole lot better-presented, the three of us (four, if you included Puck) reconvened on the same street where the restaurants had earlier rejected us. The same establishments now welcomed us with open arms; there was something sinister about their sudden about-face, and I shivered as we chose one and went in.

That’s what hobos feel like, I bet, Puck said. You know, after they reform and get back into society.

Ignoring this pointless comment, I joined the others in eating; we had a window table, and therefore enjoyed a view of Fortree. This, in fact, could safely be called a spectacular view of Fortree, since all views of Fortree were spectacular, almost by definition.

I dunno. Everywhere looks much the same from inside a body bag.

Puck seemed to be in a particularly bad mood that afternoon; he kept making annoying comments throughout the meal, and indeed during the rest of the day. We went back to the hotel and the Pokémon Centre to rest after we’d eaten, but he didn’t shut up; he was still talking when I fell asleep in a chair, telling me about the time he’d tried to assassinate the President of the Ealing Horticultural Society.

---


Status update...
Connecting to server...
Error: cannot connect.


“Blast!” Zero glared for a moment, and the problem resolved itself rather than face his wrath.

Connected successfully.
New variables identified.
Downloading 12%...55%...87%...
Download complete.
Calculating variables...
Results:
SUCCESS
WORLD DESTRUCTION INEVITABLE
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #120    
Old June 3rd, 2011 (11:14 PM).
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
I was wondering about this for a while, but there was no recent chapter where it would be appropriate to ask . . . until now. So here is the question:
If Sapphire beats Kester up, then heals him with a potion, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
  #121    
Old June 4th, 2011 (12:33 PM).
mew_nani's Avatar
mew_nani
Flying out of the sun...
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Far Lands
Gender: Female
Nature: Brave
Yes, becaus Puck is there to hear it. And laugh at it all. :D

...on closer observation... darn I'm late. :\ I can't wait for the next part! :D
__________________
Game Over!
You failed to restore peace to the planet Algo.

(press SPACE to continue.)
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By DarkDoom3000.
  #122    
Old June 6th, 2011 (05:40 AM). Edited June 8th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Fifty-Three: This is Not a Reference. Or a Pipe.

“Puck,” I said, for what seemed like the hundredth time, “we need to talk.”

Oh joy, he replied glumly. What have I done this time?

I’d woken up about half an hour ago to find it was somewhere close to nine o’clock; I hadn’t realised that one morning could tire me out so much. Sid had been nowhere to be found, and since that left me alone and in a position where I could do what I wanted for a while, I had a shower and then settled down to interrogate Puck.

“This is about Felicity.”

Ah, he said. You want to know why I never told you there was a Froslass growing inside her?

“Er... yeah.”

I waited. The whole procedure had something of the air of a farce that has been played out so many times that not even the newcomers find it funny any more.

“Puck, you can fry my brain, and I can torture you with what I choose to think about. We can’t beat each other. Why not work with me?”

Interesting new approach, Puck said. But I’m afraid I’m not human. So, according to the theologian Thomas Aquinas, I don’t share in God’s rational nature, so reason doesn’t work on me.

“What?”

I mean that you won’t get a thing out of me. Puck sighed. Look, Kester, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll tell you everything I know about Felicity and the monster within her, and then you won’t ask me any more questions that I say I can’t answer. He paused, waiting for my reply, but I gave none just yet. Do we have a deal?

“All right,” I said reluctantly. “I don’t understand you at all, but... OK.”

Far out! cried Puck. Ugh, never let me say that again.

“Tell me about Felicity.”

She’s not really called Felicity. I don’t know her real name. She comes from Tokyo – that’s in Japan, Kester—

“I know where Tokyo is!”

Just making sure, my little moron. Wow, it’d be funnier to send you abroad than Karl Pilkington... He trailed off, thinking, then snapped back to the present. Uh, anyway, Felicity fled Japan because she was part of a gang that got caught up in a really, really nasty gang war. Zero picked her up in Lilycove and tricked her into drinking a five-hundred-year-old Froslass – that’s the ice Ghost in her – named Skuld.

“Wait. She drank a Froslass?”

Correct. I don’t know much about that, but I’m guessing Zero found a way of melting Skuld down. She’s made of ice crystals, so she breaks down to pure mountain water. Felicity drinks that, and Zero has a hostage: Froslass aren’t like Rotom. They were born of a different zeitgeist; they’re the evil Ghosts you get in fairy tales and things.

“Why?”

Why? Ghosts are born from the zeitgeist, the great human collective spirit; we spring from the soul of humanity. Gengar are old, old creatures, formed when people feared the demons in the night; Froslass are much the same. Rotom are the newest class of Ghost – your generation made me. We embody the spirit of the youth of the twenty-first century: immersed in pop trivia, at home around technology, and contemptuous of old people. We are the now generation; we are the generation now.

“Er... that’s not really what I meant. I meant, why did Zero take Felicity hostage?”

What Puck said definitely had some ramifications – for one thing, I didn’t think anyone had ever worked out where Ghosts came from before – but I didn’t want to think about that now; it would be distracting, and a good way for him to slither out of actually answering my questions.

Why he chose her is uncertain. Psychologically, she’s pretty unstable: she ran away from home at a young age, and she hasn’t enjoyed the same standard of life as you have. She’s been through a lot, some of which has messed her up pretty badly. I’m guessing that Zero saw that she’d be able to suppress Skuld, and also that Skuld would be able to suppress her – in short, that there’d be this dynamic switching of personalities. Like you saw in the museum.

“Why would he want that?”

Simple. Skuld kills people, Felicity wakes up and feels even more horrified – so she’ll obey Zero in the hope of a cure. Also, you’ll feel sorry for her – something that was helped along by Skuld, because Froslass have the ability to attract men at first sight. That’s probably why Sapphire doesn’t think she’s that pretty; she’s actually just a few shades above average in terms of looks.

I put one hand to my head; this was all too much. Puck knew everything – but how? Who or what was he?

I’m not going to answer that beyond what I’ve already said. I’m a professional art thief named Robin Goodfellow, known to all and sundry as Puck.

“Puck... I don’t know. Do you know any more about Felicity?”

Let me think... He thought for a few seconds. She’s probably very grateful to you, he said eventually. From her Ghost presence in the ball, I can tell she’s back in control – Skuld has gone back inside her.

“Oh, crap!” I jumped up, eyes wide. “I’ve left her in the ball all day!”

Yeah, I realised that, but I wasn’t going to tell you. I thought it’d be funnier to see how you reacted.


I went straight for the bedside cabinet, where I’d left Felicity’s Ultra Ball, and snatched it up; I threw it onto the floor, stared for a half-second, stammered an apology and hurriedly turned my back on her. Needless to say, Puck laughed. A lot.

That, he said through his laughter, was priceless. Like things in credit card adverts.

“Uh... sorry,” I said again. My cheeks were burning; this was probably one of the most embarrassing situations I’d ever been in – and I had been in a great many embarrassing situations. Like that business last year.

“It’s all right!” said Felicity fervently. “You saved me. I can’t thank you enough.”

“Um, if you say so. It still might be less awkward if you were – er – wearing something, though.”

“Is there anything—?”

“I think there’s a dressing-gown in the bathroom.”

I heard footsteps on carpet and then on tiles, then the drag of fabric on skin and, finally, Felicity’s voice:

“I suppose you can turn around now.”

I did so, and she was indeed now dressed, in a manner of speaking. The synthetic white of the dressing-gown was actually almost the same colour as her skin and hair, which was kind of frightening.

“Puck?” I asked. “How do you—?”

Release something from a ball? Press both halves together really hard and twist them apart.

I did that, and the Ultra Ball that had once held Felicity broke in half.

“There. You’re free of this now.” I sat down on the bed and motioned that she could sit as well; I didn’t know what to say, but she looked so tired that this first step was easy to work out.

“Thank you.” Felicity looked at me, and I have to say I didn’t recognise the look on her face.

Really? Come on, Kester that’s an expression of – of – actually, what is that expression?

“Er... I don’t really know what to say to you,” I said helplessly.

“Why did you rescue me?”

Wow. Surprisingly direct and independent-minded – I thought she’d be more like Leatherface. You know, with a homicidal criminal mastermind instead of a cannibal homicidal family. Hey, the similarities are endless!

“I – I guess I just didn’t want to leave you there.” I paused to think some more. Why had I saved her? “I think,” I went on, “that I meant to help you. I made a promise, didn’t I?”

Oh no, said Puck, aghast, she’s leaking.

Felicity was indeed crying, which made things even more awkward. I had a brief flashback to when Sapphire had been crying, wished the situation were the same so I could apply the same technique, and wondered what to do.

I can understand crying for sorrow
, Puck said, but what the hell kind of emotion’s powering this? Happiness? Relief? He sighed. Guess you’d better comfort her. Go on.

“Um – hey, you don’t need to cry,” I said, somewhat lamely. I put a hand on her arm, and she grabbed hold of me with her thin arms, dragging me into a surprisingly strong embrace.

Second time today
, Puck remarked. This one looks to be more enjoyable, too. I mean, at least Felicity doesn’t beat you up before she hugs you.

“What – why exactly are you crying?” I asked.

Through the sobs I got the idea that it was relief, or the fact that no one had actually ever kept their promises to her before, or that no one had tried to help her before, or something of that kind. Half her words were in a foreign language, presumably Japanese, and that didn’t help things.

It took me about half an hour to get her calmed down again, and I was just about to ask her if she wanted anything to eat when Sid came in.

Ours was an awkward situation to try and explain, but I did my best. This was the girl who had been the monster in the museum; she was feeling a lot better now, and her name was Felicity. Felicity, this was Sid, a druid; Sid was travelling with us to the Weather Research Institute; we were going there because the druids demanded to know what we were doing.

“Right. Hi, Felicity. I was just visiting Sapphire. She wanted to know if you were hungry again yet, because she gave us this money to go and eat.”

“Isn’t she coming with us?”

“She’s eaten at the Pokémon Centre.”

“Can you go back there and ask if she has any spare clothes Felicity could borrow?”

Sid gave me one of those looks.

“Go yourself.”

“Oh, come on,” I said. “I’ve had a really bad day.”

“So have I,” he retorted. “I killed six people today and almost got shot.”

“I killed a Golem. Kind of. And I almost got Spiked.”

“I got hit in the face.”

“I got frozen solid.”

Sid had to think about that before answering.

“I can’t beat that,” he admitted. “But you can go yourself anyway.”

“Sorry,” I said to Felicity. “I’ll be back in a minute.” She nodded, and I turned to Sid. “You’ll at least wait for me, right?”

“Yeah, sure. Whatever.”

So I made sure Felicity was all right – she seemed far more emotionally unstable than the last time we’d met, which was, annoyingly, proof that Puck had been right about her – and set off for the Pokémon Centre. As I walked, I thought it was strange how our little group had suddenly doubled in size with the addition of Sid and Felicity. Hopefully, we’d be able to ditch Sid soon at the Weather Institute; it had been nice of him to worry enough to stay behind at the museum, but something didn’t feel right about the whole druidic involvement in this.

Hey, the group’s only doubled if you don’t count me, Puck put in.

“I don’t count you.”

Don’t be that way. I’m like Elle Driver – the crazy member of the group whom everyone really likes, despite the fact that you think you have good reason to hate me. Of course, the analogy breaks down when you realise that simple logic means that you’re probably Vernita Green – you know, as the most pathetic one. Hey, can I call you Copperhead from now on?

I ignored him and crossed a bridge in the hot, sweaty dark of the rainforest night; I hoped I was going the right way. On the first trip, I’d been too much in awe of Fortree’s overall epicness to work out how the streets – or rather, bridges – fitted together, and was consequently now quite worried about getting lost.

Can’t help you. I refuse to memorise the street layout – there’s too much wood around.

“You’re like a small child, you know that?”

In what way?

“You’re just so ridiculously petty.”

Hell yeah! Puck sounded pleased. Petty. That’s me all right.

“It isn’t a good thing. I’m not complimenting you.”

If I take it as a compliment, you can’t offend me.

“What – oh, never mind.”

After a few more minutes of wandering around, I found the Pokémon Centre, located Sapphire, explained the situation and headed back to the hotel with a bundle of clothes in hand. I got lost twice more, almost fell off a bridge (which made me wonder exactly how safe Fortree was) and finally ended up back in the hotel room, where I found Sid and Felicity sitting far apart, staring warily at each other. When I walked in, the tension hit me like a sledgehammer, and I almost fell over.

Ugh, said Puck. Copperhead, what’s going on here? Black Mamba – because Felicity absolutely must be the Bride – and, er, Sidewinder aren’t getting on. Mind you, if I’d been buried alive by someone, I wouldn’t be getting on with him either.

“Stop doing that reference thing,” I muttered under my breath, and then, aloud: “Er – I’m back.”

No one responded, which was not a little unnerving.

I guess Sapphire must be Cottonmouth, Puck went on. That seems about right. Which leaves... Oh yes. Zero’s Snake Charmer. Bill himself. Wow, it’s amazing how similar all these people are to the characters, isn’t it? I think there must be a conspiracy.

“I brought some clothes,” I said effortfully, and gave them to Felicity. Wordlessly, she got up and went into the bathroom to change. I turned to Sid. “What’s going on?” I hissed. “Coming in here’s like falling in a chest freezer.”

Or like meeting Martin Chuzzlewit, Puck put in. The elder, that is. Man, he was one frigid old man.

“For some reason, she’s decided she doesn’t like me,” said Sid, sounding aggrieved. “All I did was make some small talk.”

“About what?”

I had a feeling I knew already, but I had to have it confirmed.

“Druid things. You know. Mistletoe, human sacrifice, that sort of thing.”

“All right. I get it.” I turned away and sat down on my bed with a sigh.

“What?” said Sid. “It’s all I know about.”

“Druids,” I pronounced, with the air of one who knows, “are very blinkered people.”

Sid didn’t seem to know what to say to that, and settled for a haughty sort of stare.

Thankfully, Felicity came back in then, which forestalled any argument. She was taller than Sapphire, but the clothes seemed to fit all right; she didn’t have any shoes, though, and I made a mental note to stop and buy some on our way to find food that night.

Does it feel like this chapter’s dragging? I think this chapter’s dragging. A few funny bits, but I want something to happen.

“Shut up.”

We dined out in a nondescript and rather revolting restaurant in awkward silence; none of us really knew what we ought to be saying. I had a go at starting up a conversation, but Sid didn’t want to talk, and Felicity didn’t quite know how to keep the dialogue going, and soon the only sound was the clink of knives and forks on plates.

Once I’d survived that, I was ready to admit defeat and take refuge in sleep, but first I had to try and get a second room for Felicity to sleep in – something that proved far more of a trial than it ought to have been.

“You want another room?” asked the receptionist.

“Yes,” I said, “my friend’s turned up, and she needs a place to sleep. So can we have another room?”

“I don’t know.”

She turned towards the computer and poked a key experimentally.

Hey, said Puck, this receptionist looks remarkably familiar... oh my Darkrai, she’s off the TV.

“Computer says ‘no’,” she said dully.

“What?”

She gave me the sort of look you might give an inexpressibly stupid child.

“Computer says ‘no’,” she repeated.

“But there are lots of free rooms, I saw them—”

The receptionist sighed with enough force to kill a fly.

“Computer,” she said once again, “says 'no'.”

“Hey – hey, stop that!”

The other receptionist had just come out of a doorway, and proceeded to shove the first one rudely out of the way.

“Sorry about that,” she said apologetically. “She watches a lot of foreign TV. It gives her weird ideas. Right, you wanted another room...?”

That, I think, was the last stupid thing that happened that night, unless you count Puck waking me at four in the morning to tell me that he’d had a dream in which a man with a spinning top was trying to get him to break up his father’s energy conglomerate.

---

“Goishi! Do something!”

The Crobat darted forwards and vomited a stream of dark purple ooze towards the Aquas; reflexively, they ducked away, knowing that a Sludge Bomb to the head would cause the sort of facial injury that needed more cosmetic surgeries than they had days left in their life to repair. In the second it took them to recoil and dodge, Fabien and Blake cut and run, Goishi whirring above and in front of them, his wings no more than a blue-pink blur.

They flung themselves into the lift, pounded the button marked ‘G’ and waited impatiently for the doors to close. About five minutes later, they found themselves on the ground floor, whereupon they fled for the main entrance.

Ten minutes later, they had reached the docks; from here, if Fabien strained his eyes, he could just about see the shadow of the Magma boat retreating into the fog.

“Damn it!” he cried. “We’re trapped here!”

“Wha’ abou’ the cops?” asked Blake anxiously. Fabien smote his forehead with such force as would have done credit to Pharoah’s slave-drivers.

“They’ll be here soon, won’t they?” he said. “God damn it all, this is awful!”

Goishi rolled his eyes behind them. They would remember soon. They couldn’t be that stupid, could they?

“We’ll need to build a raft,” said Fabien decisively. “Blake, help me rip up some of these planks from the jetty.”

All right, thought Goishi, they were that stupid.

“E-e-eek,” he coughed, indicating himself with a wing. He had a wingspan of almost fourteen feet. Leaving aside the question of how he frequently managed to fly indoors, weren’t the implications obvious?

“Of course!” cried Fabien. “Goishi, you can help too.”

Blake cleared his throat uncertainly.

“Er, Fabien...”

“Less talk, more demolition!”

Blake tore a couple of planks loose before making a second attempt.

“Fabien—”

“My dear fellow,” Fabien said, fixing Blake with an avuncular eye and laying a similar hand on his shoulder. “The police will be here soon. Now, since you lost your gun, we have only Goishi to defend ourselves with. And he won’t be able to hold off the army of policemen that will be descending on this place.”

Goishi thought he could give it a try. Shooting down a Crobat wasn’t easy; his immense speed and incredible clarity of vision meant he could dodge bullets as if they were moving through treacle. It would take a regular Atalanta to hit him in the air – and he was reliably informed that she was dead, or transformed into an animal, or something similar.

“But Fabien, we could fly out on Goishi!”

Fabien froze, and then slowly gave an uneasy smile.

“Heh,” he said. “Yes, of course. I, er, thought of that a while ago. Just keeping you on your toes.” He turned to Goishi. “Right. Let’s get out of here.”

The Crobat emitted a noise very similar to a sigh, and, gripping Fabien’s shoulders in his blunt-clawed feet, flew off into the fog.

---

The next day saw us leave Fortree, which was a source of supreme relief for Puck. He hadn’t enjoyed his time in Hoenn’s most nature-friendly city at all. As the train pulled out of the station, he waxed eloquent on the merits of civilisation, and how glad he was that we were to be returning to it.

I wasn’t listening; I was occupied with trying to get the broken handcuff off my wrist. Satisfied that it was, for the moment at least, impossible, I laid my hand down with a sigh and looked around.

Sapphire was fiddling with her Pokédex, Sid was staring out of the window, and Felicity had her eyes shut, murmuring silently to herself. The few other passengers were reading, texting and sleeping respectively – except for one, a Kadabra with an impressive moustache. He – or she, I was bad at telling – was staring right at me.

You’ve attracted someone’s attention, observed Puck. It’s funny. You don’t see Kadabra very much any more, do you? I think lots of them have given up with fitting into human society and gone back to the reservations.

The Kadabra narrowed his – her? – eyes at me, and then looked away, shaking her – his? – head.

Don’t think he approves of us, Puck said. Probably thinks I’m some sort of malignant entity impersonating a human for some reason.

Does that happen?
I asked.

Not in Hoenn
. One of his shivers ran down my spine. But it happens all the time in Europe. There’s a nasty sort of Ghost called Doppler that sprung up from the battlefields during the wars, and they keep coming into the cities to feed on people.

On that unsettling note, he fell silent, and said no more for the rest of the journey.

It was a long one, and I was glad the train was air-conditioned: the Akela Jungle in summer was blisteringly hot, and humid with it. When we reached the Plaine Rooke station at three o’clock and stepped off, it was like falling into magma; we were only a few miles south of the jungle, and the heat spread like wildfire. It would probably have killed the crops if it weren’t for the frequent rain.

Kester, stop pretending you know anything about geography.

From Plaine Rooke there was no way north except walking, unless we happened to find a car, so once again I had to do the whole Trainer thing again, and start hiking.

The heat and humidity got worse as we neared the jungle, and once we’d entered, it was beyond unbearable. I’d been OK with hiking from Slateport to Mauville, but this journey was a different sort altogether. Within minutes, I was drenched with sweat – and so were Sid and Sapphire. Only Felicity, cooled from within by Skuld, remained unaffected.

The scenery was beautiful – verdant trees, brilliant flowers, and continual flashes of lively colour from birds and butterflies – but the air was so thick with water that I had to spend the energy I would otherwise have spent admiring it fighting for progress.

“Sid, the druids had better be able to help us,” I moaned, after the first twenty minutes. “Or I’m going to kill you for putting me through this.”

“Stop moaning,” snapped Sapphire, but without her usual conviction; she was about as happy with the rainforest climate as I was.

Urgh, Puck said, meat bodies are so revolting. You’re leaking all this weird-smelling water.

“Shut up,” I murmured. “You’re no better. I bet you sweat gamma rays or something.”

No! Puck cried, outraged. I don’t sweat at all. I do give off forms of ionising radiation if I absorb uranium or heavy water, though. It fries up inside me in a weird little nuclear reaction.

After a couple of hours, I’d reached my limit. I’d been going on for the last hour and a half on reserves of energy I didn’t know I had, and at ten past five I realised that it was just impossible to walk any further, at least in this heat. I sat down and leaned back against a tree.

“Kester, get up,” said Sapphire, but she sat down too. Sid looked like he was about to argue, then shrugged and sat down as well.

Felicity, ahead of all of us, stopped and turned around.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

We all stared at her, and she stared back uncomprehendingly.

“It’s really, really hot,” I said at last. “And very humid too.”

“Oh,” she said. “I – didn’t realise. Sorry.”

She sat down as well. It was kind of creepy; there wasn’t even the ghost of a flush on her pallid skin.

“How much further is it to the Weather Institute?” asked Sapphire.

“The Weather Research Institute,” corrected Sid. “And I’m not sure. I’ve never walked there. We don’t leave much, and always by helicopter.”

“Can we get there by the end of the day?”

Sid shrugged.

“No idea. We could try.”

“Then we need to go right now,” Sapphire said, but she didn’t get up; no one did, except Felicity, who looked around uncertainly and then sat down again.

“Yeah, right now,” I said unenthusiastically.

“Definitely,” agreed Sid.

We stared at each other a while longer.

You’ve all got such perseverance, Puck said scathingly. Dear me, these flesh-and-blood bodies are so useless. Just a little humidity, and wham! – you can’t walk any more.

“Right then,” I said. “Let’s get up.”

“Absolutely,” Sid said.

“Come on then.”

We sat in silence for a while longer. Insects buzzed and chirped around us.

“Um – are we going or not?” asked Felicity after some time had passed.

“Yes,” Sid said, and heaved himself up with a colossal effort. “Come on.”

I forced myself to my feet, and Sapphire got up after me.

“Come on,” repeated Sid. “Let’s go.”

“It’s hot,” I said unnecessarily, and we trudged off down the trail, heading north for the Weather Institute.

---

“...and in the red corner, Eli Zebul!”

The boy regarded his opponent with sharp green eyes. The first battle of the day – of the tournament – did not look set to be a challenge. He had a sense for these things, and Eli was not triggering it. No one had for quite some time, as it happened.

The crowd was restless, excited, and the boy smiled just a little. He was going to give them a show they had never dreamed of.

“If you are ready,” boomed the announcer through the PA system, “then on the count of three, the battle will begin. One...”

The boy with the jade eyes checked his Poké Balls. There were three – the regulation number for this tournament.

“Two...”

He noted the time on his watch. He thought he might be able to set a new personal best for this match.

“Three!”

Eli’s hand flashed to his belt and back again, and a razor-edged star with a jewel at its heart appeared before him: a Starmie.

The boy with the jade eyes smiled. This would be all too easy.

His hand jerked forwards and a Crobat blurred into existence between him and the Starmie.

“Psychic!” cried Eli; however, the Crobat was not only faster but already knew what his master wanted done, and swung his slim body in an intricate series of movements; The sky darkened with a crack like thunder, and rain began to fall.

“You know what to do. U-Turn out,” the boy with the jade eyes said, and the Crobat shot towards the Starmie, teeth glowing green; before the sea star had any chance to ready its psionic attack, the two Pokémon had crashed together, and the Crobat had retreated to its Poké Ball. The Starmie fell down, its gem cracked.

Silence fell over the audience; the whole manoeuvre had taken place so quickly that no one was entirely certain what had just happened. Not even the announcer spoke. The boy with the jade eyes dropped the next ball, releasing Machina and tapped his foot.

“Come on,” he said. “Next, please.”

“How did you – that fast...? In one hit?”

“Next, please,” the boy repeated, more forcefully.

Eli dropped the ball, but he fumbled it; the Golem appeared to his left, not in front. It didn’t save it; Machina burst forth so fast it disappeared, and knocked it out in a swirl of bubbling water.

Eli couldn’t take it; he threw down the last ball without any hope on his face whatsoever. He knew he’d lost, and when Machina cut his Exeggutor down in a single hit he turned and walked out without a word.

The entire stadium was still silent, save for the gentle pattering of the rain. The boy knew that every eye was on him as he checked his watch.

“Three minutes fifteen seconds,” he murmured. “Not a record. Might’ve been if he’d sent out the Pokémon quicker.”

“And the winner,” the announcer said shakily, “the winner is the challenger in the red corner” – then, as they say, the crowd went wild, and his next words were almost drowned out amongst the cheers – “the challenger in the red corner, Sebastian Emerald!”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #123    
Old June 8th, 2011 (07:05 AM).
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Fifty-Four: Institutional Fossilisation

The first inkling I had that we might not be welcome at the Weather Institute was when a large bolt of yellow lightning sizzled into the ground just ahead of us.

We stopped abruptly, as you tend to in that sort of situation, and looked apprehensively to the Institute; it lay a few hundred feet before us, a glass-and-steel block in the midst of military-grade fortifications, and atop one of the towers that sprung from its high concrete walls was a yellow creature that was smoking gently from a Thunderbolt. From this far away, it was impossible to tell what it was, but the message was clear: no oen was to come near the Institute.

“That’s weird,” said Sid. “We don’t usually fire at people until they actually try to get in...”

He took a step forwards, then hurriedly jumped back as a second Thunderbolt hit the ground where he’d been a moment before, vaporising a peony. I’d never seen a flower being vaporised before, and consequently watched with some interest.

Uh, Kester, you actually ought to be worried, not interested, Puck warned. Someone’s shooting at us.

“Guys!” shouted Sid, waving his arms. “It’s me, Sid! I got back from Mt. Pyre and I’ve brought those kids!”

I could just make out a figure popping up on top of the wall. It turned a little, probably conferring with someone out of sight, and then fell abruptly over the parapet.

My first instinct was to rush forwards to help – but then I remembered the trigger-happy Pokémon on the tower, and stopped myself. Next to me, I saw Sapphire and Sid do the same; Felicity just watched, with a blank sort of look on her face. She’d been strangely quiet since her outburst yesterday; something was probably up with her, but I wasn’t the kind of person who’d be able to tell what it was.

No, said Puck smugly, that’d be me.

“Sid!”

The faint cry came from a second figure who now appeared atop the wall.

“Hello?”

“Sid, get over here! Quick!”

“But the Raichu—”

Felicity raised a hand and, closing one eye, looked down her arm as if she were aiming a sniper rifle; a half-visible beam of energy shot from her fingertips and the yellow creature fell backwards out of sight.

“Get over here!” the figure cried again, and we ran over to the wall. Halfway there, I had to slow to a walk; running in this heat was like painting without numbers, in that I couldn’t do it. Sapphire, naturally, made it all the way in one go.

You can’t paint? At all? Come on, even little children can at least do finger painting.

I have an irrational fear of finger paints.


Puck considered.

Er... can I ask why?

My cousin ground up chilli seeds and put them in the paints when I was four. My fingers felt like they were dipped in burning oil for about five hours.

Is your cousin female, a Rotom and single?


Close up, we could see the person on the floor was wearing a blue Team Aqua suit, which was worrying; Sapphire checked and declared him unconscious, not dead, which was less worrying. The man above us was a druid, and he had, it seemed, punched this guy off the top in his desperation to talk to us.

“Sid, they’ve overrun the place!” he hissed loudly. “They came from underground – through tunnels. Must’ve been planning it for years.”

“Is the Orb safe?”

It wasn’t the most compassionate of questions to ask, an opinion that the druid above shared, and pointed out in no uncertain terms.

“But is the Orb safe?” Sid persisted.

“I don’t know!” the druid cried. “Just rescue us already, would you? You’ve got that lightning-kid with you, right?” He glanced behind him and swore loudly in Nadsat. “Cal! Someone’s coming. Use the secret entrance and get the hell out of sight!

With that, he retreated swiftly from view.

“Hurry,” urged Sid, turning to us. “This way!”

The three of us followed him along the shadow of the wall and around the corner, into a small, dark stand of trees that pressed right up against the Institute. As we rounded the bend, a large, brown monkey with gangly limbs and a long, flaming tail leaped from a bush and bounded away through the trees.

“A Monferno?” asked Sapphire, surprised, but we didn’t stop to talk about it; not until we were deep within the tree cover did Sid motion for us to stop.

“It’s somewhere around here,” he said. “A secret entrance to the Institute. It comes out on the lower level.”

Ah, a secret entrance. No fortress would be complete without one, at least by movie-logic.

Sid looked around, but aside from the wall to our right, there was nothing that looked even remotely man-made, let alone like an entrance.

Well
duh, Puck said. It’s a secret entrance, isn’t it? Like Troll 2, it works best if no one ever sees it.

“Do you know what the entrance looks like?” Felicity asked.

Sid shook his head.

“That isn’t very helpful,” Sapphire said. “All right, everyone start looking! Pull on leaves, or turn some branches – anything that might be a hidden button or lever.”

Five minutes later, we had more or less completely destroyed a small section of forest, and found nothing.

Huh. So
that’s what the ecologists are talking about. Save the rainforest!

“Come on, come on,” muttered Sid. “We have to find the entrance! If the Aquas get the Orb...!”

“We’re looking,” snapped Sapphire. “You’re the one who lives here.”

Suitably chastened, Sid turned around and kicked a rock; however, it wasn’t a switch, and no trapdoors opened.

“Cernunnos damn it!” He thumped a tree and a Parrodise fell out, straightened its feathers, and flew off with an indignant caw. I’d never seen one in real life before.

It’s nothing special. In fact, if it weren’t for the lack of detail, it’d look exactly like a regular parrot.

“Sid, we’re not getting anywhere like this,” I said. “We want to stop the Aquas getting the Orb too. No one wants that.”

“Least of all me,” put in Felicity quietly.

“I should remember this, though,” growled Sid, tearing at his hair. “I remember being told about it – there’s a password and everything—”

“A password?” Sapphire queried sharply. “Do we need to say the password for it to appear?”

“Might work,” I said. “Sid, what’s the password?”

He looked defensive.

“Sid...”

Still our druid said nothing.

“Sid, you’ve forgotten, haven’t you?” Sapphire asked.

He nodded silently.

“Well, that put paid to that,” she sighed. “OK, keep turning over stones...”

Swordfish.

I paused with my hand on a fern, and murmured:

“What?”

Say it, Puck said. You’re going to love this one. Say ‘swordfish’.

“Why?”

Just do it. For me.

“That’s no motivation, but...” I took a deep breath and shook my head. “Swordfish,” I said, loudly and clearly.

A tree to my right vibrated loudly, and a section of its trunk slid upwards; within, I saw a spiral – Helical! I’ve been through this with you before – staircase descending into the bowels of the earth.

“That was it,” said Sid, snapping his fingers and straightening up. “The password is ‘swordfish’.”

The password is always swordfish, Puck said contentedly.

“How – how did you know?” Sapphire asked.

“It’s a joke,” I replied. “I think. Puck told me.”

“We should go,” Felicity said, and I looked over to see that she was halfway into the tree already. “The Blue Orb...”

“Yeah,” I said, “you’re right. We need to get going.”

Do you have a plan?

If I said ‘yes’, would you believe me?

No.

Then no, I don’t.


And with that, we took our first steps into a place where no outsider had ever gone before: into the stronghold of the Gorsedd Hoenn, the famous Weather Research Institute.

---

The tunnel came out in a broom cupboard, its entrance concealed by a false wall. Upon opening the door a crack and peering out, Sid drew in his breath sharply and closed it again.

“OK,” he whispered, turning around to face us (with some difficulty, since four was probably too many for the cupboard). “OK, I have a plan.”

Oh! He’s prepared. Like a Boy Scout, or the Predator. And unlike you, Kester.

“You kids need to go on ahead,” Sid told us. “Kester and Felicity, you go first – you’ve got the most firepower. Sapphire, get out something that won’t be stopped by Water-types and follow them. Since I had to throw my gun in the water, I’m going to rely on you three to make sure I don’t get killed.”

“OK,” I said, “but what’s the plan?”

“This door leads out to the laboratories on the lower level—”

Laboratories? What on earth do druids study?” asked Sapphire.

Sid looked at her as if she’d sprouted an extra head.

“The weather, obviously. This is the Weather Research Institute.”

“You – you actually study the weather?”

“Yes – look, it doesn’t matter right now. This lab seems to have a fair few Aquas in it, that’s the important thing. Kester, the first thing you need to do is get to the door and hack the code system so that they all lock. That way, no one’s going anywhere – except us, because we’ve got you and your Rotom powers.”

Puck coughed.

You mean you’ve got me. But never mind. I’m a modest kind of guy.

I suppressed a derisory laugh and nodded.

“Felicity, Sapphire, take care of the Aquas,” Sid said. “If there are any who don’t look like they’ll kill me right away, I’ll beat ’em up a bit, see if I can make them talk.”

His hand descended to the door handle.

“Everyone ready?” he asked.

“Wait,” said Felicity quietly. “I – I can’t do more than a few Pokémon moves. If I do, I turn – I’ll turn back into the monster.”

There was an awkward pause.

“Er... OK,” said Sid. “That’s fine. Just stop when you reach your limit, and hope you don’t get killed.”

On that reassuring note, he flung the door open wide, and we burst through to the sound of Sid’s Gaelic war-cry. There were six or seven Aquas in the room, looking bored amidst the computers and desks, but I ignored them; to the right was a stainless-steel door with a little numberpad on the wall next to it, and I ran over to that. I should have been thinking about the danger, and what I was going to do – but the only thought in my head was about how utterly fantastic the air-conditioning in here felt.

I put my hand on the panel, and the door locked with a clunk; turning around, I saw Stacey fly headfirst into an Aqua man’s chest, and another one falling down, clutching his jaw, as a massive white fist formed of Felicity’s hair crashed into his face. Sid was kicking another one, and I almost thought they didn’t need me to help – but then a weedy-looking Aqua with glasses popped up in front of me.

At the same moment, my sparking hand and his gun came up. He eyed me nervously.

“Uh – is this what they call a stalemate?”

“I had this conversation with these guys a while ago,” I said pleasantly. “It was about which one was faster, bullets or lightning. I seem to remember that I won that particular debate.”

He gulped.

“You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t.” He looked relieved, and I blasted him in the abdomen, knocking him to the floor. “But I would hit a guy with a gun.”

That... wasn’t bad, actually, admitted Puck. Now disarm him before he gets up.

That was probably the highest praise Puck was capable of giving me, so I spent a whole millisecond treasuring it before I stole the Aqua man’s gun and hit him smartly on the head with it. This didn’t knock him out, and he almost wrestled it from my hand again – but repeated effort paid off, and eventually I had him unconscious.

Less than elegant, noted Puck, but it worked.

“You need to work on your technique,” Sapphire called from the other end of the room; over there, she, Felicity and Sid had already knocked out their Aquas.

“Shut up,” I said, weaving between the desks to get to her. “Where do I put this gun? And do we have a conscious one to question?”

“Give it here,” Felicity said; she examined it, pulled out the clip and stuffed it into her pocket. Looking closely, I saw that both her pockets bulged with stolen clips, and that she was carrying another looted gun.

“This guy’s name is Timothy,” Sid said, hauling a thickset man with a bloody nose and black eye up onto a swivel chair. “He’s going to talk to us.”

“Stacey,” ordered Sapphire. “Make sure he’s cooperative.”

The Altaria looked up from trying to operate the keyboard like a human and stared at her blankly. Sapphire sighed.

“Stand next to him and be ready to attack!”

This was something she could understand; reluctantly, Stacey abandoned her scientist impersonation and flapped up onto the desk next to Timothy’s chair, where he eyed her nervously. At ground level, her huge, downy wings were in the way; at waist height, she was free to arch them threateningly – and she did so, some hint of the Altaria predatory instinct awakening within her. For good measure, Felicity pointed her newly-acquired gun at our captive, and did a very good job of looking like she knew how to use it.

She does, Puck reminded me. She’s always had a gun before, remember?

“OK,” Sid said. “Where’s the Orb?”

“I swear I don’ know nothin’, man,” gabbled Timothy; the words were stumbling over his fast-moving lips in their hurry to get out of his mouth. “I don’ know nothin’ about no Orb—”

Sapphire motioned with a hand, and Stacey let out one of her quieter screeches. Three computer monitors shattered.

“Oh, that Orb,” Timothy said. “The Blue Orb? Right, I know all ’bout that’n. We came to steal it, man, an’ we was goin’ to this sacred chamber, an’—”

“Of course!” cried Sid. “The Shrine!” He thumped Timothy squarely between the eyes, and he fell unconscious with a quiet eep. “The Shrine is where we keep our standing stones,” he explained. “It’s the most well-defended part of the Institute.”

“The Orb is there?” I asked.

“I guess so,” Sid said. “I should probably have confirmed that before I knocked him out, but... well, let’s go there anyway.”

Wow. When you add yesterday and today, you get a pretty violent couple of days. It’s like going on an investigation with Shaft.

I unlocked – No, I did, actually – the door I’d sealed a moment ago, and locked it again behind us as we went. There was no hurry; the Aquas couldn’t go anywhere, not with the doors as they were.

We were now in a very bland corridor; the only two words I could think of to describe it with were ‘white’ and ‘long’.

There are also some windows on the left, added Puck helpfully. But they don’t let in any light, because we’re below ground here.

“This way,” said Sid, and we followed him down the corridor to another locked door. I unlocked this and we rushed through to find we were in another laboratory, this time with just one Aqua in, lounging against a desk in the middle of the room. She took one look at us, sighed, and raised her hands.

“I knew this would happen,” she said dolefully. “Nothing’s ever this easy, is it?”

“No,” Sapphire agreed as I locked – Kester, this needs to stop. I’m doing all this locking and unlocking! – the door. “It never is.”

Stacey fluttered over to the Aqua woman, wide wings knocking monitors and lamps from the desks, and, somehow twisting in midair, latched onto the ceiling above her with her claws. Her neck was arched downwards, ready to strike out at the woman. For a moment, I was surprised – and then I remembered that Altaria were mountain birds. They could cling to sheer cliff faces – ceilings wouldn’t be a problem.

“All right, I’ve already surrendered!” the Aqua cried, tossing her gun on the floor and placing two Poké Balls carefully next to it, lest the Pokémon within come out with the impact. “Look!”

“Where is the Orb?” Felicity asked.

“In a weird lab,” the woman said. She was slightly calmer than the other Aqua, and also better-spoken; she sounded like Sapphire. Maybe she’d been an unpredictably violent upper-middle-class teenager once too.

Do you have any idea how stupid that sentence sounds?

I’m not taking it out.

Huh. Your funeral.


“Can you be more specific?” I asked. “There are lots of weird labs here.”

“Are there?” Sid asked. “I thought ours were pretty normal.”

“They would be, if the computers didn’t have slots for magic herbs to go in,” I replied. “But in what way is this lab weird?”

“It was guarded by these weird creatures,” the woman said. “Pokémon, I think – but no one had ever seen anything like them before. They were like water, and they kept using these weird misty sort of attacks—”

“The Castform!” breathed Sid. “They – they’re not harmed, are they?” He grabbed the woman’s chin and twisted her head so she was looking him dead in the eye.

“N-no!” she replied, obviously startled. “We couldn’t really do much to them – they just melted into water and reformed... we sort of herded them back into their tanks.”

“What’s this?” asked Sapphire, her scientific curiosity arising. “A new kind of Pokémon?”

“The ultimate weather-controlling Pokémon,” Sid said grimly. “Castform. The biggest breakthrough in meteorology since the discovery of the cloud.”

Wow. That’s a pretty big breakthrough.

“It can manipu—”

“We can discuss the weather later,” interrupted Felicity. “I think we should get the Orb.”

“Yes.” Sid nodded. “OK then. The Castform lab is... this way. I think.”

He turned towards a door I hadn’t seen before, obscured as it was by some potted trees that were almost entirely engulfed in mistletoe.

Your mistletoe is no match for my TOW missile! Puck cried, then laughed. Hah, that was a good episode.

“Should we take her along as a hostage?” Sapphire asked. Sid shook his head.

“I don’t think the Aquas will care if she gets killed,” he said. “So it’d be useless.”

The woman’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open a little bit; she looked like someone had told her that her parents had secretly been baby-eaters.

“Sorry,” said Sid, patting her on the arm. “It’s true, though. Take my advice, get out of this line of business while you’re still young. Otherwise you’re probably going to suffer an untimely death.”

Ever wondered why there are no old members of Team Aqua? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because they have a good pension scheme.

Rather than knock her out, we tied the Aqua to a chair with a length of electrical cord and left her there. It seemed the kindest thing to do; she was clearly on the verge of tears.

This whole situation is mad, Puck sighed, as we left the lab for the Castform chamber. This is madness. It’s also Sparta, but that’s another matter entirely.

A series of stairs led us deeper underground, and came out in a small room with a locked door at one end, which a couple of Aquas were hammering on in a futile sort of way. They turned around expectantly at the sound of our footsteps, then blinked in surprise and pulled out guns. Stacey, who had been watching, snatched Felicity’s gun from her in her beak, and, performing a swift juggling act, managed to catch it in one talon and aim it at them.

Doubtless, these hardened criminals could have taken an Altaria; doubtless, they could have stared without fear down the barrel of a gun – but an Altaria with a gun was something else altogether, and they allowed Sid to knock their heads together without complaint. As they crumpled to the floor, Sapphire and Felicity wrestled with Stacey, trying to pull the gun from her grip; for her part, Stacey seemed to be under the impression that, since many of the humans she had seen had guns, she needed one too, and refused to let go. It was only when Felicity managed to point the barrel upwards and then pull the trigger that Stacey let go, frightened by the bang.

There goes an almost literal dumb chick, said Puck. Ah well, at least she isn’t as psychopathic as other Altaria.

I unlocked the door to reveal a corridor beyond, inhabited by three Aquas who were sitting on the floor and smoking. Evidently they had already ascertained that escape was impossible, and thought that they might as well spend their captivity in leisure. At our approach, they looked up, and one almost got his hand on his gun before Felicity shot three bullets into the wall, each one exactly an inch above an Aqua’s head.

“I’m a very good shot,” she said softly, though I had seen her unnaturally thin arms had struggled to cope with the gun’s recoil. “I wouldn’t move.”

Sid and I disarmed them while Sapphire tried to calm the hysterical Stacey; the big bird was trying to hide her entire body underneath her leg, which wasn’t working.

She really doesn’t like explosions, does she? Puck mused. I guess this is why you’re meant to keep your pets indoors when you have fireworks. Though last Bonfire Night, I actually let off my fireworks indoors, too. That wasn’t strictly part of the celebrations, though; I was trying to blow a safe and I was out of gelignite.

Sid did the obligatory head-bashing of the Aquas and, when they were unconscious, showed us which of the many doors on this corridor we needed to take.

For those of you interested in breaking into the Weather Institute, it was the third on the left. That’s the third on the left, people. Also, I can see what looks like a safe through the window in the fifth door on the right – you might want to try that for valuables.

“Stop telling people how to burgle our hosts,” I told him under my breath, but he was, as ever, unrepentant. I shook my head and pressed my hand against the numberpad, and the door slid open with a click and a whirr. The four of us filed in, weapons ready—

—to the sound of about twenty guns doing that click thing they do in films when the gunman’s ready to shoot.

I stared at the Aquas, arrayed around the room, and at the Carvanha floating around between them, and at their guns.

“She was right,” Sid said dryly, raising his hands. “Nothing ever is that easy.”

Note: The chapter title is a pretty obscure reference. Does anyone get it?
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  #124    
Old June 8th, 2011 (03:15 PM).
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
Ah, Sid: don't you know that the only easy day is yesterday? Pity, pity...

Well, I caught one grammatical error in the second-to-last chapter.

Quote:
It didn’t save it; Machina burst forwards so fast it disappeared
I believe that the bolded word isn't supposed to have an "s" at the end. It sounds rather awkward, to tell you the truth.

Stacey holding a gun and Felicity fighting her for it was hilarious. I also loved the 300 reference (that was probably the only good quote in that entire movie).

Overall, it was a nice chapter. Not as exciting or funny as some of your others, but it proved to be a good compliment; not every chapter in a story can be pulse-pounding or drop-dead hysterical.
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  #125    
Old June 8th, 2011 (08:55 PM). Edited June 8th, 2011 by teamVASIMR.
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
There are so many jokes and references I don't even try to get them all. (This is a good thing.) There is something for everyone.

I suppose I'll list some references I remember, off the top of my head:
Sherlock Holmes
James Bond
Star Wars
Jackie Chan
Portal
Inception

Quote:
Well, I caught one grammatical error in the second-to-last chapter.
Oh yeah? Well I caught one more! ♪Gotta catch 'em all~
Quote:
“then on the count of three, the battle will begin. One...”

The boy with the jade eyes checked his Poké Balls. There were three – the regulation number for this tournament.

“Two...”

He noted the time on his watch. He thought he might be able to set a new personal best for this match.

“One!”
Is the announcer counting up or down?
 
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