The PokéCommunity Forums  

Go Back   The PokéCommunity Forums > Creative Discussions > Fan Fiction and Writing > Fanfiction Archive
Sign Up Rules/FAQ Live Battle Blogs Mark Forums Read

Notices

Fanfiction Archive Finished works are archived here for easy reading.


 
Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.  
Thread Tools
  #176    
Old August 6th, 2011, 01:47 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Mew_nani, the legendary golems being machines is kind of an adaptation I made. Like Jellicent being an area of water, and the apparent body just being a projection. If you think about it, it makes sense: the Pokédex entries state that the golems are artificial, and no one knows who made them or how they work. So my take on it was that they were organic machines, like Replicants. Only made of rock/steel/ice.

Anyway, I'm glad to see you're all excited about my impending climax. Allow me to ramp up the tension even higher, one chapter before the battle to save the world begins.


Chapter Seventy-Two: Rock of Ages


Sebastian backed away from the door slowly, mind racing. This was much, much better than he'd ever imagined. This Kester Ruby... he had to fight him, when he and his Rotom were in control of the golems. That would be it, he thought gleefully; the toughest battle in the world, against three legendary Pokémon acting with a single mind. Enemies of unparalleled power, backed by a human intellect. Yes, this would be perfect.

However, he would have to see what the reactions of the three men waiting for him outside was first. If it turned out that they actually wanted to capture Kester – which, given his remarkable abilities, seemed likely – then he would have to take steps to stop them. He'd be breaking the agreement, but Sebastian didn't think he really needed to honour contracts made with the sort of person who kidnapped other people.

So he made his way back out of the League headquarters and back to the gates; on the way, he noticed that the security guard he'd knocked out on the way in had slumped over his desk again, and so repositioned him in a more upright pose. Hopefully, thought Sebastian, no one would notice until it was too late.

Upon reaching the gates, he found no one around except Blake and Fabien's Crobat, which was hovering lazily above his head.

Eee-eee-EEE-e-ee-ek,” it said to him, and flapped off. Presuming that he was meant to follow it, Sebastian did, and came upon a small café, where his companions awaited him.

Well?” asked Darren Goodwin. “What did you find out?”

Sebastian sat down and calmly stole Fabien's muffin.

As far as I can make out,” he said, taking a bite, “a man called Zero is going to destroy the human race by causing two legendary Pokémon, Groudon and Kyogre, to battle over the top of Sootopolis, thus activating some sort of super-volcano that will destroy Hoenn and block out the sun with ash, causing the rest of the world to die.” He had another bite; it was a good muffin. “I think they're trying to stop this.”

You wha'?” asked Blake.

My muffin!” cried Fabien. “Also, what perfidy is this?”

Darren looked at them, and both shut up.

Zero,” he said. “That name again...” He fell into thought for a moment. “You say Ruby and Birch are trying to stop him destroying the world?”

That seems to be it,” replied Sebastian. “They're going to activate the legendary golems and use them to fight Groudon and Kyogre.”

Darren started.

The golems? Do they even work?”

Apparently Kester Ruby can make them work. He has a Rotom inside him.”

Darren nodded slowly.

Of course.”

Fabien and Blake exchanged glances.

Excuse me,” said Fabien crossly, “but what are these 'golems' of which you speak? And more importantly, can I have my muffin back?”

---


What on earth are you talking about?” Sapphire asked. “What are the golems?”

Three unique constructs,” Steven answered. “Artificial Pokémon, created... well, no one knows how long ago, or by whom. They are tied to Hoenn, to the land – Registeel, Regice, and Regirock. I believe the League has them stored in secure vaults around the country.”

That's correct,” Wallace affirmed. “They seem to work along the same lines as computers; the crystalline structure of their bodies forms a series of binary gates that...” He coughed, aware that no one was really following him. “Well, never mind that. The point is that they require instruction to move – it's just that no one has ever worked out how to activate them.”

It'll be easy,” Puck said arrogantly. “I could reprogram the Pentagon if I wanted to. A few million-year-old robots'll be no trouble at all.”

If you say so,” Sapphire said. “But I have a question. Kester, you need to maintain contact with the thing you're controlling at all times, right?”

I nodded.

So how will you operate three of them at once?”

Ah,” said Puck. “I... do actually need to think about that. Don't talk to me.”

Sapphire's phone started making that sound phones make when the line's gone dead, and so I gave it back to her.

Isn't there a way Kester could reprogram the golems to respond to other people?” asked Spike. “That way, three of you could do it.”

The Elite Four and Champion nodded and made appreciative noises at this; I was glad. I definitely did not want to be going anywhere near either Groudon or Kyogre; it was probably a move that would be bad for my health. Besides, I was sure that a proper League Trainer could do a better job of taking them down.

Oh no, Kester, said Puck. I insist we take one of them ourselves. You do realise that I’ll never get the chance to pilot one of these again, right?

I do now. And so it gives me even more pleasure to know we won't do it.

You...

Kester, could you do that?” asked Phoebe. “Or rather, Puck, could you do it?”

Could I? Child's play. But I insist that Kester pilots one, because I want a chance to drive.

I sighed.

He could do it,” I confirmed. “But he won't unless I operate one of them myself, because he really wants to drive one of them himself.”

The Elite Four exchanged glances.

Well, there's no problem with that,” Glacia said. “I mean, Rotom are supposed to be expert with machinery, aren't they?”

That's true,” Phoebe said. “In fact, Kester, you'd probably be the best operator out of all of us, with Puck with you.”

I stared, horrorstruck.

You must be joking,” I said, when I’d regained the power of speech. “There is absolutely no way I’m going anywhere near Groudon or Kyogre, even if I do have a super-powerful legendary Pokémon on my side.”

Sapphire kicked me under the table.

Kester!” she hissed. Then, to the League Trainers: “I'm sorry. What Kester means is that he'd be delighted.”

Are you sure?” asked Wallace. “You didn't sound very delighted to me—”

I'm not—!”

But he is,” said Sapphire sweetly. “Because he's acutely aware that if he doesn't, there's a very real possibility that everyone in the world is going to die.”

Puck gave a decidedly evil chuckle.

Looks like we're all against you, Kester, he said. Come on. Give up and be a hero. If you do this, you get to be the boy who saved the world. Aside from the fact that that's pretty cool in itself, that's going to get you a lot of girls.

What about Felicity?

Eh, you never know. Skuld's presence might have insulated her from full absorption. Maybe you could get her out again.

OK,” I said immediately. “I suppose I am delighted.”

Sucker, Puck snickered. God, humans are so easy to manipulate. All they need is hope, and they'll march off a cliff like lemmings. Or Lemmings, in which case four of them get little pickaxes and one gets a bomb. Wait, did I say that out loud?

Excellent,” said Steven, clapping his hands together. “I shall take another. You have no objections?”

No one did. He was Steven Stone, for God's sake. He had a Metagross.

You don't actually know just how impressive that is, Puck observed, yet you're still impressed. Weird.

Mister Beckett?” asked Sapphire. “Will you take the third one?”

No,” he said, shaking his head. At this, Drake looked up eagerly; he was the next strongest member of the League, if I remembered correctly. “Glacia will.”

What?” Everyone looked at Glacia, who in turn looked at the ceiling, embarrassed.

Think,” Wallace said. “These three Pokémon are Steel-, Rock- and Ice-type. Steven is the most qualified to pilot Registeel; Glacia is the most qualified to pilot Regice. They are both Masters of those types. That leaves Regirock for Kester and Mister Goodfellow.”

Ooh. Mister Goodfellow. I like this guy.

Drake slumped lower into his seat, and started visibly sulking.

Right,” said Spike. “We've sorted that out now. Shouldn't you three get going to the vaults where the golems are? Kester has to activate them all manually, and I don't know how long that's going to take.”

About half a microsecond, Puck said confidently. Assuming, of course, that they're still running antivirus software from a million years ago. If it's up-to-date, it might take as much as a whole second.

A fine suggestion, Miss Temulence,” exclaimed Steven. “We—”

Spike,” interrupted Spike.

Sorry?”

Please. Call me Spike.”

My apologies, Spike.” Steven made one of those elegant, apologetic bows he was so good at. “But you are correct, whatever appellation you prefer. We have no idea how much time we have or will need, and should move out with all haste.” He stood up. “Now, are the rest of you coming, or...?”

No,” replied Wallace. “Sidney, Phoebe, I want you to go to Mount Chimney and keep an eye on the Groudon situation; Drake, you're coming with me to the deep-sea cavern. For God's sake, be careful – I don't want any of you absorbed into them.” He turned to Spike. “Spike—”

I'll go back to Lavaridge with Sidney and Phoebe,” Spike said. “I grew up on that volcano. If anyone can help there, I can.”

Very good.” Wallace turned to Sapphire. “And Miss Birch, would you please come with Drake and myself? We may need your help in locating the cavern.”

Yes!” Sapphire cried eagerly. “I mean, OK. Whatever.”

I smiled; it was nice to see Sapphire acting like a normal teenager for once, completely starstruck.

What do you mean, 'for once'? She is a normal – ah, who am I kidding? She's a freak. It's a good thing you did, becoming friends with her. Mind you, you still need to properly resolve this tension about the whole 'she thinks she's in love with you' thing between you and her before all this is over, and you've only got a few more chapters to do that in.

Right!” cried Wallace, leaping to his feet. “There's no time to lose! Steven, you're a qualified pilot, I believe? The League jet is at your disposal! Everyone, we have an unspecified but rather short time to save the world, and I think we'd all prefer it if we got this done before the deadline. Now, let's go!”

With that, the meeting dissolved into a welter of confusion, and in moments I was back outside on the foggy airstrip, and Steven was talking swiftly about how it was going to be difficult to take off; I have a hazy idea that I might have said goodbye to Sapphire and Spike then, and before I knew it I was back in the jet, and we were rising high into the air, Ever Grande falling away beneath us like the house of cards Malvolio had knocked over, all those long days ago in Javier's house.

---

As Darren explained the secret of the three golems to his cannon fodder, his acute mind was already whirring away on a different level.

For our favourite Goodwin was no longer certain where he stood. What would Devon want him to do? For a start, Devon probably wouldn't want him to be striking out on his own like this. They would want him to return to Lilycove and resume work with Dahlia – but she was just a foil for Zero; working with her would only damage his cause.

The imperative for Devon, Darren decided, was probably that the world continued to exist. More importantly, it was what his wife would want. If the world was to be saved, then the success of the League mission was paramount, and that meant that if he should be doing anything, it was helping Ruby and Birch. He didn't know what he could do, but he was damned if he was going to let the planet freeze to death.

And besides, he could always capture them after the apocalypse had been averted.

Darren Goodwin nodded the nod of the man who plans treason; he told himself that if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly, and hurriedly concluded the explanation he'd been giving.

I see,” said Fabien, nodding sagely.

Do you?” asked Sebastian.

Fabien wavered.

Yes,” he answered defiantly.

I'm sure you do.” Sebastian raised his eyebrows. “Right. Does anyone else want to save the world?”

Darren nodded.

I think that's what we ought to do,” he agreed. “The interests of the people I represent would be best served by the world's continued existence.”

I also think we ought to save the world,” Fabien said, eager to have his say. “As the main character, it's my duty to participate fully and save the human race from destruction.”

Sebastian and Darren exchanged looks, but said nothing; both had decided already that Fabien was certifiably insane, and that Blake was a moron. If Goishi – who was perched on the back of Blake's chair – had been able to speak, he would probably have confirmed these suspicions to be true.

Right,” said Darren, fixing Fabien with a querying eye. “I suppose we should plan what to do next.” He took a sip of his coffee, and was about to say something else when Sebastian spoke.

All right, then. We have at least a day until the giant Pokémon appear. In that time, Kester, Sapphire and the League will be getting hold of, and reactivating, the golems – and then transporting them to Mount Chimney and this deep-sea cavern. The question is, what will we be doing to help in that time?”

We could,” Blake said with great clarity, “nick a figh'er je'.”

Everyone stared at him.

Why in the name of God,” asked Fabien, “would we want to steal a fighter jet?”

We could shoo' 'em,” Blake replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Migh' distract 'em while the League attack.”

I think we might use a different plan,” Sebastian said kindly. “I think that Groudon and Kyogre are a bit too bulletproof to be bothered by fighter jets.”

Oh, don't mind Blake,” Fabien told him good-humouredly, “he's harmless. Now, what's your idea, my child?”

Sebastian regarded him with the same look he used for unidentifiable sticky things on the sole of his shoe.

My name is Sebastian,” he said icily, “and my plan goes like this...”

---


Have you ever been to a secret government base before?” asked Glacia. I think she was trying to make conversation, because I probably looked very nervous. As it was, I stared at her.

OK,” she admitted. “That was a stupid question.”

We were in the League jet, heading west at ridiculous speed; Steven was a good pilot, but not a cautious one by any means. Even inside the plane, I could feel the speed we were going at.

Cool, isn't it? Puck asked.This is how I like to fly.

Look,” Glacia said, giving me a reassuring look, “I'm sure this'll be fine.”

And if it isn't?” I asked, and immediately wished I’d remained silent.

Then...” Glacia looked out of the window. “Well, it'll be quick, at least, since we're at the epicentre.”

Oh. That's... reassuring.”

Relax, Kester, said Puck. I've got this all figured out. I know what's going to happen.

Really?

Yep. You're all going to die.

I froze in my seat, fingers gouging deep into the armrests.

Kidding! Puck laughed. No, really, I’m sure you'll do fine. Just chill out a bit.

Kester! Glacia!” Steven called over the intercom. “We're coming in to land at Area 17, so please fasten your seatbelts!”

I hadn't removed mine. I’d been too busy worrying.

Area 17 is in the desert,” Glacia told me. “Regirock is waiting here. Your golem.”

Oh,” I replied weakly. “Fantastic.”

The plane touched down, and we got out into an ocean of heat; I would have complained, but Steven had already grabbed my wrist and dragged me across the tarmac and over to a low, nondescript grey building that looked like a garage.

This,” he said, turning to me, “is the first of the government's three most secret bases.”

With that, he opened the door and bundled me in.

I blinked. It was cool in here, and quite dark; to me, it looked like we were in a little concrete room with a set of stairs at the other end – and completely alone.

Odd, mused Puck.There'd usually be soldiers at a place this important. I can only assume there's some Pokémon-based defence.

Aren't there any guards?” I asked, stepping forwards. “I mean—”

Stop!” cried Steven, tugging roughly at my shoulder. “You'll be killed. Glacia?”

Yes, just get out of the way,” she said, and squeezed past us; once she was about a foot ahead, two little slots appeared in the far walls and emitted the tell-tale flash of an activating Poké Ball.

Immediately, two tall, lithe green men appeared; they had fierce, aquiline eyes, and they spun their forearms around to reveal swords growing out of their elbows. As I watched, these swords extended to an alarming length.

Ah, said Puck. Clever. The Gallade are kept in self-release balls, so when they sense someone coming with their psychic powers, they come out and attack. And let me tell you, they're deadly when they attack. They're like Sylar crossed with Zorro: they block bullets with their mind, and slice letters into your chest. And then they kill you and pull your powers out of your brain. Wait. No. Just the killing.

It's me,” Glacia said, standing very still. “Glacia of the Elite Four.”

The Gallade looked at her for a moment, then at Steven and I.

It's OK,” Glacia assured them. “They're allowed here.”

Yeah, I know the password,” I muttered. “It's 'swordfish'.”

OK?” asked Glacia, and the two Pokémon retracted their swords and vanished in pulses of red light. She turned to us. “All right,” she said. “Let's go and get this golem.”

Ooh, alliteration, Puck observed as we went downstairs. I like that. Almost as much as synecdoche, but I sincerely doubt that you're ever going to use any.

The staircase was very long; it must have taken fifteen minutes to reach the bottom – and when we did, I was disappointed again. This was just another blank concrete room, with a couple of old nineties computers against the walls. It did have a sixteen-foot-tall monster made of rock in the middle, though, which made up for things a little.

Regirock,” Steven said, as if it were something you saw every day. “It's quite nice, isn't it?”

Nice?” I repeated. “Nice? This thing... it's terrifying.”

Regirock was shaped roughly like a man – or, to be more precise, a gorilla. With no head. And no hands. And a big hump on its back.

What the hell happened there? Someone steal your descriptive capabilities?

Well, each to his own,” said Steven politely. “I happen to like it.”

I'm glad we're enjoying the discussion,” Glacia interrupted, “but I’d like it if you could activate it now, and then walk it upstairs into the plane's hold.”

I stared at Regirock apprehensively. Then I walked carefully up to it, and put one hand on one of its massive shins.

Yeah, baby! cried Puck in a weird voice, and sparks exploded out around my fingers. Oh. My. Arceus. This thing has organic valves made of stone! How is this even possible? I – sweet Palkia's pancreas! It doesn't use binary: it uses braille! Whoever built this was certifiably insane, and I want to bear their children!

That,” I muttered, “is far more than I wanted to know. I’m going to stop listening to you now.”

Oh, it can connect to the Internet! But... using Netscape? Man, that's outdated. Hang on, I’m going to upgrade to Firefox. No, let's be contrary for the hell of it and use Opera!

I'm not going to ask how it's possible that a Pokémon created millions of years ago by some unknown power can connect to the Internet, but I am going to ask if you'll shut up.”

I glanced over at Steven and Glacia, who were watching me with interest, and smiled in an embarrassed sort of way.

It's Puck,” I explained. “He's... waxing eloquent.”

Nicely put, Puck said admiringly. In other news: this thing is a Mac. Can you believe it?

No, I don't believe that,” I replied.

Oh, OK. It isn't.

Thanks for telling the truth.”

It has got the Nintendo logo printed on the inside of its CPU, though.

What?”

I said, I’m finished! Stand back!

I took a step back, and watched as the lines of lights on Regirock's face clicked on, one by one; with the sound of grinding stone, it straightened up, flexing its massive arms and experimentally pounding a hole in the floor. This last made everyone in the room leap back about a mile.

Oh my God,” breathed Glacia. “You did it. For the first time in a million years...”

It's... alive! shrieked Puck, and broke into an insane cackle. Now, grab hold of its foot again.

You did it,” I said, staring up at the giant creature. It stood there, motionless and humming slightly. “You really did it...”

Touch it already.

I reached out cautiously and put a hand on Regirock's foot; a second later, it reached down carefully with both arms, sandwiched me between the stumps of its wrists and picked me up.

Aah!” I looked around wildly. “Puck, what's it doing? Is it going to crush me? It's going to crush me, isn't it? Oh God, it's going to crush me!”

Er, no. It's going to put you in the driver's seat.

Oh,” I said, as Regirock lowered me into a hollow in the hump that stood up above its head. “Wow. We're really high up.” The golem let go of me, and I clutched at the sides.

Are you in?” called Steven. For some reason, he didn't seem excited at all; to look at him, you'd have thought he saw the resurrection of legendary Pokémon every day.

I think so,” I called back. “Puck, does this thing have seatbelts?”

Hm. Let me query the central database. Oh wait, Regirock was made about seventy million years before Health and Safety laws were invented. No, it doesn't have seatbelts.

Oh, good,” I muttered. “OK, how do I work it?”

Think, Puck said.It's sophisticated. It'll detect the electricity of your thoughts.

All right,” I said. “Um... Steven! Ms. Turnford!”

Kester, you can call me Glacia—”

Whatever, just get out of the way!”

I might have thought too hard. I’m not sure. But what I do know is that Regirock suddenly lurched forwards beneath me, bounding forwards like a gorilla and smashing its way up the stairs, scattering Steven and Glacia as it crashed past like only seventeen tons of living stone can.

---


OK,” I said, once the blood had stopped flowing, “we've established that these things require some practice to operate.”

You should have let me drive when I offered,” grumbled Puck through the plane's intercom. “I mean, that's the only reason we were asked to do this—”

I hardly think this is the attitude that the saviours of the world should have,” Steven said. “Have you stopped bleeding yet?”

We were back on the plane, which thankfully seemed to disobey the laws of physics and carry Regirock's weight – it had proved impossible to contain in a Poké Ball – and flying north now, heading for some secret airstrip in the middle of the Akela Jungle. It was about four o'clock, and we'd received our first updates from the rest of the League and Sapphire a short while ago: the quakes at Mount Chimney were getting more severe, while rings of ten-foot waves were radiating from the point above the deep-sea cavern. It seemed that activity was intensifying.

I think so,” I called back, feeling my nose. “You don't have a Potion, do you?”

Glacia had one, and handed it over; as I sprayed it on my face, I reflected that I would, in all likelihood, never get used to the sensation of a tooth regrowing at high speed.

We probably should get seatbelts fitted, Puck said thoughtfully.I don't think it'll help if you fly out like that again.

Puck, I think you might just be right,” I said. “Now shut up and let me feel nervous.”

Suit yourself, he sighed.I’m just being jolly in the face of the extinction of your entire species. Under the circumstances, I think I deserve a bloody medal, but never mind.

You don't care if we all die.”

Yeah, but I like to pretend. It humanises me for the readers.

What?”

Nothing.

It's very strange, only hearing half a conversation like this,” observed Glacia.

Sorry,” I said.

No, it doesn't matter,” she replied. “It's just strange.”

After that, nerves overtook me again, and we lapsed into silence. We had one golem. I could only hope that three of them would be enough, because I had a very, very bad feeling about this mission.

---


Will they manage to stop them, do you think?” asked Courtney.

Zero smiled.

Honey bunny, the golems are entirely incapable of matching even one of our legendaries in battle,” he said. “I have calculated it.”

But what if they do?” she insisted, looking up at him. Those eyes, thought Zero, usually looked so dead; now he was here, they glittered and gleamed, as if there actually was a soul behind them. Could it be, he wondered, that she really had fallen in love with him?

It's impossible,” he replied. “But naturally, I have a plan for that contingency. One of those golems is already mine.”

Courtney's face broke into an incredulous grin.

You mean...?”

Yes.” Zero smiled his cold smile. “At the last moment – at the point in the battle where they need just one more push to get ahead – then I will turn one golem against the other two, and watch their plans come crashing down.”
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; August 6th, 2011 at 03:44 AM. Reason: OK, for some reason fixing the formatting glitch caused another one. Which I can't fix.
  #177    
Old August 8th, 2011, 12:41 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Seventy-Three: The Big Four

By Wednesday morning, we had them all.

It was three o'clock, the rest of Hoenn was asleep, and I had just spent an hour manhandling a gigantic monster made of ice into the cargo hold of a passenger jet. To make matters worse, Regice appeared to levitate instead of walking, which meant that it was really, really difficult to brake. Consequently, I’d crashed into Registeel and fallen out. As Puck had pointed out, this did have the advantage of stopping Regice, but it had also broken my arm. Thankfully, Glacia kept a stock of Full Restores on her, but it was still something I was keen to avoid.

So instead of sleeping like sensible people, we got the guards from Regice's vault – it was protected by humans rather than psychic swordsmen – to help us install seatbelts, something which was easy enough on Regirock and Regice, which could be drilled into, but impossible with Registeel, since its body appeared to be completely indestructible. In the end we had to give up (we'd broken all the drill bits) and retired to the living quarters at the military base to sleep for a few hours. While we did so, the plane was placed under armed guard; no one wanted to take any chances with the golems' safety. If they were stolen by agents of Zero, then any hope of averting the apocalypse could be consigned to the scrap heap.

At the revoltingly early hour of eight o'clock, Steven woke me, and fifteen minutes later we were in the air again. This time, I was so nervous that I was actually sick; this time, I knew, we were heading towards the Madeira Mountains, to make our first attempt at subduing Groudon.

Two hours later, we were landing in Fallarbor; the jet couldn't land at Lavaridge, and we would have no choice but to continue by terrestrial transport. Evidently, the League had been busy in our absence: an armoured freight train was waiting for us, and I walked the three golems carefully onto it in turn. Having done that, I took a seat in one of the passenger carriages with Steven and Glacia, and chewed my fingernails, wondering if I was about to die.

Groudon can't absorb the golems, Puck reassured me. They're made of inorganic materials.

“What about me?”

Yeah, it can absorb you. But please don't let that happen.

“You care?”

Well, not in so many words. It's more the fact that if Groudon absorbs you, it'll get me too. And if it gets me, it gets enough power to start a small nuclear explosion, so it'll grow to full size fairly instantly. Not to mention that I’ll be dead, which is something I’m fairly keen to avoid.

I sighed.

“Sometimes, I think I liked you better in the beginning, when you at least pretended to be human.”

The words I uttered then still leave a nasty taste in my mouth.

I sighed again, and Glacia caught my eye.

“It'll be fine,” she said reassuringly. “Groudon can't fight back yet. It isn't fully-formed.”

“It could absorb us,” I pointed out.

Again with the whole absorption thing? All that's going to happen is that you'll be molecularly disassembled and then rebuilt into a cubic yard of tendon.

“That is correct,” Steven stated, looking up from the book he was reading. “I wouldn't underestimate the dangers of this mission, Glacia. However, if you are concerned, Kester, you would do well to remember that the golems will protect us as best as they are able. My research indicates that they automatically retreat if they detect extreme injury to their host.”

“Only extreme?” I asked anxiously. “What about if there was an injury that was more severe than light, but less severe than extreme, and which would still pose a significant threat to my health...?”

Steven gave me a long look, and I shut up.

“You're afraid,” he said. “But that's fine. So am I.”

“And me,” replied Glacia.

“No you're not,” I retorted. “You're reading a book.”

Steven blinked.

“Yes,” he said, “but it's a book on law. I’m reading through to make sure I've got my affairs properly in order, in case I don't return from this little quest.”

“Oh.”

“You see,” Glacia told me, “the point Steven's trying to make is that you're scared – but you're coming anyway.” She shrugged. “That shows something, doesn't it?”

It does indeed, Puck agreed. It shows that you're an idiot.

I said nothing.

“It shows courage,” Steven said. “An unexpected virtue from you, to be sure – but a welcome one.”

I frowned.

“Unexpected? What do you mean by that?”

“You're a schoolboy from central Rustboro,” he replied. “The most terrifying thing you've faced before this is probably so far removed from this situation as to seem completely absurd.”

“I wouldn't be so sure about that,” I muttered darkly, thinking of the business from last year. “I think I may have met flesh-eating aliens before.”

“Pardon?”

“Nothing.”

Flesh-eating aliens, eh? Is that what you think they were? From your memories, I would have guessed that they were a group of demons summoned by unrelentingly cheerful Cockney shamans.

I nodded deeply.

That also fits, I thought back to him.

At about half past twelve, the train arrived; as I disembarked, I saw that Spike was waiting for us.

“You got them?” she asked excitedly. I nodded dumbly. “Amazing,” she said. “Anyway, I've had the Cable Car closed on the grounds that it's unsafe, with all the earthquakes. The track it follows is one of the easiest ways up the mountain, so I thought you could take the golems up there – the crater's split open, and you can just about see Groudon, so I thought it'd be a good place to start.”

“OK,” I replied, looking nervously at the three colossal freight cars behind us. Soldiers in the acid-green uniform of the Hoenn Internal Affairs Army were rushing around, asking Steven and Glacia what they were supposed to be doing; it seemed that everyone except me was entirely focused on the job at hand, whatever Steven had told me.

Man up, meatface, Puck said. I mean, you actually are a man, in that you're a male human, so... you know. It should be easy.

Spike, sensing my anxiety, gave me the most reassuring look she could, given that her face was more metal than flesh.

“It'll be fine,” she said, squeezing my hand. “Look, I think Steven and Glacia want you.”

They did; I was to take control of Regirock now, and show them how to work the golems. As Spike looked on, mouth and eyes wide, the soldiers drew back the doors to the freight carriages, and I laid a hand on Regirock's foot. It lifted me into the hollow in its hump, and I hastily strapped myself in with the seatbelts, which, reassuringly, had been taken from a fighter jet. Less reassuringly, this fighter jet had crashed a year ago and left its pilot dead despite the safety precautions, but right now I felt I really needed to focus on the positive.

Following my example, Steven and Glacia swiftly mounted their golems, and I actually pitied both of them: Steven had no seatbelt, and Glacia had to sit on something so cold it should have given its operator frostbite.

Well, Steven's sheer awesomeness should give him perfect balance, Puck said thoughtfully, and if I read the code correctly, Regice has a system that removes the cold from around the operator.

“It didn't do that for me!”

I didn't turn it on for you.

“You...!” I shook my head and shouted. “OK, guys! Think what you want the Regis to do, but don't think too hard or it'll go crazy.”

I’d had some practice, and so I managed to walk Regirock onto the platform without damaging the train or station too badly. The golem had some impressive shoulder blades, and these made a couple of holes in the station roof, but that was about the sum of it.

To my chagrin, both Steven and Glacia got the hang of it immediately: Registeel swung itself forwards on its long, flexible arms and landed next to me almost without a sound, and Regice simply leaned forwards slightly and glided out.

“Oh,” I said, a little bitterly. “I suppose you don't need my help, then.”

“No, it's remarkably easy,” replied Steven from his perch atop Registeel's globular body. “Spike! Fly ahead, if you would, and tell Sidney and Phoebe that we're coming!”

Spike called back her assent, and sent out a gigantic bird of prey that apparently had two beaks, one atop the other; a couple of seconds later, she was riding out ahead of us, dwindling to a dot in the sky as she ascended in the direction of the peak.

Staraptor, said Puck. That's from Sinnoh, or California; I never remember which. Either way, it isn't a Fire-type, but they're excellent for riding because of their size.

“OK,” I said, looking at the Internal Affairs soldiers, who were all looking up at us and awaiting instructions. “Um... would you all mind getting out of the way? I think you might get squashed otherwise.”

They promptly scattered (in a precise military sort of way; it was the neatest scatter I’d ever seen) – and, feeling like I was about to be sick again, I urged Regirock forwards, and we were soon out of the station and climbing the mountain.

This was singularly unpleasant. Regirock had many features, but good suspension was not one of them: it leaped and bounded from slope to slope, and every time we hit the ground I felt a jolt run through my entire body. By the time we had gone a hundred yards, I felt like I’d fallen down the Jagged Pass all over again.

You know, Puck said diffidently, I could drive. Then maybe I’d figure out how to enable Regirock's shock absorbers.

“You bratchny!” I yelled – or tried to yell; unfortunately, we landed mid-word, and my teeth snapped shut on my tongue. I looked up and saw that there were several hundred feet still to go before we even reached the base of the Jagged Pass; I sighed, and handed over control to Puck.

Immediately, the ride became smoother: Regirock still climbed like a rabid monkey on crack, but now I didn't feel it half as much. The main problem now was that I was already very sore, and even the small jolts affected me.

I glanced to my right, and saw that Steven had managed to make Registeel break a series of steps in front of it as it climbed – the advantage, obviously, of having very long and very hard arms. I sighed, and looked right to see that Glacia was simply rising beside me, without Regice even touching the ground. It also glittered fiercely in the afternoon sun, and so bright was the light reflecting off its facets that I was temporarily blinded.

Yeeaaaahhh! cried Puck, casually bringing one of Regirock's fist-stumps down on a tree and turning it into matchsticks. This is awesome! Finally, I've possessed something that'll beat the Rotom who stole that battlesuit in Johannesburg!

I had a fleeting glimpse of a huge, vaguely humanoid shape running through a shanty town, then the memory faded. I sighed, gritted my teeth, and prayed I’d still be alive by dusk.

---

They were like the Three Musketeers, thought Sebastian. The thought made him smile, but it was true: there was Darren, reserved and noble, like Athos; Fabien, vain and pompous, like Aramis; and Blake, a little slow but huge and obviously useful in a fight – in other words, a perfect Porthos.

“Sorry to interrupt,” said Fabien, shouting to be heard over the helicopter's rotors, “but where exactly are we going?”

“To see Zero,” replied Sebastian, from his perch in the co-pilot's seat.

“Won't he realise we're coming?”

“Definitely. The way we found out his location is bound to have drawn his attention.”

This seemed to worry Fabien, but Sebastian took no notice at all, and concentrated on the speck on the horizon that was to be their destination. It was a mere dot in the sea for now, but he knew that it was, in fact, extremely large, and also abandoned; it probably appealed to Zero's doubtless swollen ego. (It here must be made known that while Sebastian was quick to note flaws in others, he was decidedly slow in perceiving those same inadequacies in himself.)

“We'll have to be careful,” said Darren, fiddling with the helicopter's controls. “He will probably have defences.”

“No, be bold – but not too bold,” Sebastian replied. “Zero will have defences in place, but he might disable them for us. I expect he's curious to meet us, since we found out where he's hiding.”

Darren glanced at him, and a strange look passed over his face.

“What?” asked Sebastian, irritated. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” replied Darren, looking back out of the windscreen. “It's nothing.”

Sebastian made a small tch of annoyance, crossed his arms and refolded his legs in the opposite direction. He didn't like being left in the dark; after all, he was the leader of this project. It was regrettable that he couldn't get the information out of Darren, but he didn't want to risk causing the helicopter to crash into the ocean, which would be detrimental to everyone's plans.

The time passed, and the speck in the distance turned into a line; a while later, it became a little finger against the horizon; half an hour after that, when the sun was about to set, it turned into a old, weathered tower, built of huge blocks of brown stone. There were pilasters set into the bottom floor, but most of them had cracked into several parts; almost all of the arches of the windows had fallen in, leaving streaks of scratched stone down the sides of the tower. The longer you looked at it, Sebastian thought, the sooner you estimated its time of collapse to be.

“Sky Pillar,” he said aloud.

“Along with Mirage Tower, the oldest artificial structure in Hoenn,” Darren Goodwin said. “Also the least-visited, again along with Mirage Tower.”

There had been attempts, Sebastian gathered, to preserve Sky Pillar; however, as with everything in Hoenn, things didn't really work out as planned, and President Loganberry had embezzled all the funds and diverted them to the building of a new chain of government-run sandwich bars. As very few people in the country apart from a couple of ageing academics actually cared about Sky Pillar, the decision had been widely applauded, and Loganberry had gone on to be re-elected for his sixth consecutive term.

Now, it seemed that Sky Pillar was almost entirely forgotten, and housed a criminal genius the like of which had not been seen on earth for quite some time.

At the helicopter's approach, clouds of what appeared to be security cameras billowed out of the windows and formed into a loose swarm above the tower's cracked roof; immediately, Darren brought the chopper into a hover, watching carefully.

“What the devil is this?” wondered Fabien. “Why would anyone use a swarm of flying security cameras as their defence system?”

“Who the 'ell 'as flyin' security cameras?” asked Blake, more pragmatically.

Sebastian peered at them. The cameras were a long way off, but they looked angry; their lenses flashed red, and they bobbed and swayed in an evil sort of way.

“Fly towards them,” he said.

Darren looked at him askance.

“What?”

“Keep going,” Sebastian said confidently. “Zero will want to see us.”

“What?” cried Fabien. “Never! We'll all be killed!”

“Well, that is what we brought you two along for,” Sebastian replied indifferently. “You're cannon fodder. But that's not really important now; we won't be killed. Fly on.”

“I hope you know what you're doing,” Darren muttered, and did so.

The helicopter surged forwards again, and the cameras shook harder; now, just a few hundred feet away, Sebastian could see that they weren't cameras at all, but Beldum – hundreds and hundreds of them, more than he knew even existed in the whole world. Of course, that made sense; Zero would have to have had more than one of them – but still, there were so many...

The swarm of Beldum hovered for a moment, then withdrew, retreating back into the tower. Sebastian smiled, and Blake and Fabien looked astounded; even Darren widened his eyes a little.

“How did you...?”

“I told you,” Sebastian said. “Zero wants to meet us now.” As Darren brought the helicopter down onto the rooftop, he leaned forwards over the dashboard and looked eagerly at the approaching tower. “Now,” he said quietly, “let's see what we can find out tonight, Zero...”

---

I think it's safe to say we made a pretty impressive entrance.

I won't go into details; suffice to say that Puck figured out how to make Regirock jump about fifty feet into the air. Steven and Glacia were less flashy, but I don't really think that mattered. Sidney and Phoebe were still blown away.

The top of the mountain hadn't been a prepossessing sight when we'd last visited, but now it was completely ruined. The crater had split wide open, and vast cracks had spread from it all over the peak. Vile-smelling fumes were billowing out of them, and in the depths of this nebula bright cinders winked momentarily.

Like Rotom existence, added Puck poetically. Life is so short. Unlike you humans; you live forever, unless a couple of million-year-old giant Pokémon come back to life and destroy your planet.

“The hell—?” Sidney leaped back and almost toppled into a smoking crevasse; as fast as lightning, Registeel's lithe arm darted out and steadied him.

“We have the golems,” Steven shouted down, a little unnecessarily.

“So we see,” Phoebe replied, staring. “Kester, I have to congratulate you! And you, Puck!”

Aw, you shouldn't have, said Puck, sounding pleased. It was nothing, Ms. Lácimere.

Ms. Lácrimere? What's with this sudden respect for a human?

She's a Friend to Ghosts, Puck replied simply. I treat her as I would another Ghost: I don't necessarily like her, but I have a certain level of respect for her.

I shook my head, and called down to Phoebe:

“Thanks! Where – I guess it's down there?”

“Yep,” replied Sidney. “Judging by the way you came up here, you should be able to jump down there no problem.” He looked from one golem to another and then to the next. “Glacia, is Regice going to be OK? It won't melt, will it?”

“According to Mister Goodfellow, it possesses a core temperature of -200 degrees,” Steven told him. “I sincerely doubt it will melt. Besides,” he said, looking over at Glacia, “Groudon is a Ground-type. Regice will be our strongest weapon here.”

“OK!” she said. “Got it. Everyone ready!”

“Yes,” replied Steven.

“No!” I cried.

Steven and Glacia gave me twin looks; such was the force contained in their eyes that my reaction made Regirock itself give a mighty shudder, and accidentally hurl a boulder into a distant Altaria.

“All right, I’m ready,” I said, resigned. “Let's go—”

I grabbed hold of Regirock's hump as it leaped forwards beneath me, Registeel and Regice following in its wake; for a brief moment, it felt like I was flying, soaring through a cloud of foul-tasting gas—

—and then all three of us were falling, down towards the boiling heart of the volcano. Gas rushed past me, choking any screams I might have wanted to make, and then suddenly we hit solid rock with a bone-shaking impact. Regirock crouched to absorb the brunt of the blow, but even with that and its shock absorbers, I felt like every bone in my body was being shaken loose, and I shouted out a mighty oath at the top of my voice.

Wow, observed Puck mildly. That curse is actually new to me, which is quite something.

I looked up, blinking blearily, and perceived dimly that we were on a ledge somewhere on the side of the volcano's shaft, surrounded by more choking fumes; all at once, Registeel slammed into the ground to my left, and Regice drifted calmly down on the right.

“Are you two OK?” yelled Glacia. Down here, the hiss of the gas and the rumble of cracking rock made conversation difficult – or would have, if I could have brought myself to say anything intelligent.

“Perfectly well!” returned Steven. “Kester!”

“Why aren't I dead?” I howled, which probably surprised them both. It was a valid question, though – I’d just fallen about three hundred feet and was now in a pit full of toxic gas and boiling heat. By rights, I should have died before I hit the ground.

“That's the power of a legendary!” cried Steven. “They're Safeguarding us!”

“Oh, brilliant,” I muttered. “I'm riding into hell and I can't even die.”

I’d have thought that would be an advantage, Puck said. Come on, ramblers, let's get rambling!

And with that, Regirock bounded forward and flung itself off the ledge once again.

Three times, we fell like that; three times, my coccyx was rammed up into my brain; three times, I bit my tongue nearly in half. After all that, I was about ready to give up and call it a day; how Steven was still holding onto Registeel, I had no idea.

But then I saw Groudon, and all thoughts left my head.

We were below the smoke now, in the ruins of what must have been Team Magma's base. All around us were shattered walls, broken chairs, spilled files; wires hung from the ceiling and sparked optimistically, and I could even hear a TV or radio that was still working somewhere, blaring out foreign music.

I took all that in distantly, with a level of detail that I've never experienced before or since. I can remember the gurgle of a burst pipe, the pattern of a cobweb that had somehow evaded destruction just above my head. If I close my eyes, I can see the whole chaotic mess exactly as it was.

And I can see the huge, fluid shape of the embryonic Groudon towering above me.

It was colossal, at least four times the size of my house – and I knew it wasn't even half-grown yet. Its flanks were great quivering masses of white jelly, looming constructions of pallid corpse-flesh studded with half-absorbed bones, veins, limbs. There were no limbs, not yet – or at least, not as I knew them: four or five great, fat cords extended from Groudon's body, snaking away through the wreckage and down the tunnels that threaded through the mountain. Every so often, a slow bulge would travel down the top of one of these cords, drawn into the main body, and I knew Groudon had found another Magma, or a hapless Pokémon.

And above this ghastly column rose a head.

This was not a nice head. It wasn't like Felicity's, which I could happily have stared at for a very long time. This head was one that also drew my gaze – but not voluntarily; there was so much horror packed into its jagged form that I couldn't help but look. Ridges ran down the top, and two great flat spines projected down below the jaw; the eyes were unformed, milky and filmy, and set deep inside translucent sockets.

“My God,” breathed Steven. “This...”

“So this is it,” Glacie whispered. “Groudon...”

All right, sightseeing over, Puck said, and lobbed a rock at it.

It wasn't a normal rock, you understand: Regirock had created it from nothing, and it was very sharp – which was why it sliced into the Groudon-embryo's side like a knife through butter, and let out a vast gout of unnaturally red blood. Groudon roared, which brought down part of the ceiling on its own head, and suddenly we were in motion.

If it bleeds, we can kill it, Puck said grimly, and took us to one side as a bloated white appendage formed from the beast's flank and shot towards us. God damn, I've always wanted to say that one.

Regice levelled one massive arm at Groudon, and a freezing wind sprang up behind it; half a second later, a tidal wave of snow and ice was howling into the monster's neck, freezing great chunks of the embryonic flesh and making it crack as it drew back to strike—

“Move!” yelled Steven, and Regirock and Regice shot left and right respectively, as Groudon's huge flabby head smacked against the ground where we'd stood a moment before. It didn't seem to have true bones yet; as it hit, it squashed down, like a dropped beanbag, before wobbling back into shape as it rose again.

Half a second later, a beam of brilliant white-grey light shot into Groudon's eyes, and it screamed and recoiled hurriedly. Another pseudopod snaked towards Registeel, but Steven remained calm and actually caught it in his Pokémon's long, twisting arms. They coiled right around it, squeezed – and sheared it clean off. This might have been a major blow, only another blobby tentacle caught and reabsorbed it.

Kester, are you crying? asked Puck. I don't have a problem with it if you are, but I think you might want to snap out of shock and give me a hand here. We're meant to be working as a team here.

I blinked and touched my face. He was right; I was crying. Since I was seventeen and male, this was embarrassing, even if right now I was piloting the closest thing in the world to a mecha and fighting a giant monster.

Actually, phrasing it like that made it sound like I had less than no right to be crying. I ought to have been screaming battle cries and talking about how my drill would pierce the heav—

Kester! Duck!

Having learned by now that when Puck said duck, Puck meant duck, I did so immediately, and Regirock crouched too, tipping me forward in the seatbelts. Simultaneously, a pseudopod rushed by overhead.

“Oh my God!” I shrieked, returning fully to the present. “Puck, if I die I’m going to kill you!”

That's the ticket, replied Puck, as we leaped up high and punched an oncoming tentacle into droplets of fleshy goo. That's the Kester I know and love. Actually, better make that just the Kester I know.

I wiped Groudon-goo from my hair – it was trying to eat me – and looked around, trying to get a feel for what had been going on while I’d been in shock. I saw Regice, hovering and circling Groudon's half-formed head, launching repeated Ice Beams at its face; Registeel was nowhere to be seen, until I saw it valiantly wrestling with a bunch of massed tentacles off to my left. Steven still looked calm, I noted.

Where were we? It looked like we'd climbed to the top of a pile of rubble next to a load of tunnel entrances, from which protruded an alarming number of Groudon's pseudopoda. The TV I’d noticed earlier must have been nearby, because I could, incongruously, hear it.

Ooh, MTV, noted Puck, making a cluster of boulders form in midair and crush one of the tentacles to mush. Is that Ke$ha? Who the hell spells their name with an unpronounceable character, anyway?

“It doesn't matter! Just don't let me die!”

Calm down, Kester. You're such a worryw— whoa!

Groudon had got a grip on Regirock's leg, and hauled it off its feet; the stony Pokémon crashed backwards onto the rubble, abruptly silencing the TV and almost snapping my spine.

Kester, give me a hand! Think hard!

Another tentacle slapped down across Regirock's chest, and I slammed its arms down on it so hard I chipped some of its abs off; the tentacle fell apart into a sort of cellular soup and trickled off us as we got back to our feet.

“All right,” I said, in a low voice, “let's fight.”

All right! cried Puck enthusiastically. Your fighting spirit levels just went through the roof! Row, row, fight the pow-AH!

I turned Regirock on one heel. Glacia and Regice had been struck down, and one of the spines on the latter's back had been smashed; Registeel was grappling with Groudon's flabby head, arms wrapped around its neck as the big beast attempted to swallow it.

Then I took a deep breath, pounded Regirock's giant fists together and leaped for Groudon's throat.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; August 9th, 2011 at 02:49 AM.
  #178    
Old August 8th, 2011, 11:41 PM
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
/ Whoa it's Virus Groudon! I think it's great how the story just focuses in on it at just the right time.

Well about affecting the plot / slowing you down I noticed some errors but Screw the Rules. I've actually come to like how crazy the story is. And the updates almost every other day. Anyway you could just excuse it as an Unreliable Narrator or something like that.

So I have another guess.
Spoiler:
256 Metagross networked on a hypercube topology
  #179    
Old August 9th, 2011, 02:43 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
/ Whoa it's Virus Groudon! I think it's great how the story just focuses in on it at just the right time.

Well about affecting the plot / slowing you down I noticed some errors but Screw the Rules. I've actually come to like how crazy the story is. And the updates almost every other day. Anyway you could just excuse it as an Unreliable Narrator or something like that.

So I have another guess.
Spoiler:
256 Metagross networked on a hypercube topology
Errors? Please let me know about them. I want my story to be insane, but I want it to be sensibly insane.

As for updates every two days... that's just me, getting excited that I'm almost at the climax.

Also, I have no idea what you mean by the guess in your spoiler, but I can assure you that the only Metagross in this story is Steven's one, Deep Thought, whom we saw (if you recall) back on Dewford Island.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #180    
Old August 10th, 2011, 05:23 AM
olih's Avatar
olih
Who says you can't go home?
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: everywhere
Gender: Female
Nature: Adamant
Love the climax. It's really dramatically insane, but uninsane enough to seem realistic.
__________________
Stop Kony!
  #181    
Old August 11th, 2011, 04:09 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
I know, I know! It's completely insane, and I love it. Especially the bit that's coming up in a couple of chapters.

Chapter Seventy-Four: Understand Understand the Concept of Failure

We slammed into the side of Groudon's neck like a living landslide; this was in fact what we were, so I should probably have expected it. Crashing through a sheet of blubber, I pulled us back just as Groudon recovered from the attack and attempted to bludgeon us to death with a boulder. In doing so, I tripped over Steven and Registeel, but Puck's technical mastery turned our fall into a very cool and inordinately painful backwards somersault.

“Steven!” I yelled. “Get back!”

But Registeel was motionless, arms frozen in place; I looked closer, and saw that Steven wasn't moving, and that there was a thin cable of pallid flesh connecting him to Groudon—

“Cal!” I swore, slipping into Nadsat, and leaped forwards again, ducking under a ham-fisted attack by Groudon and hurling a magically-generated boulder at the link between Steven and the monster. “Damn it, Glacia, you said it couldn't fight back yet!”

“I guess I was wrong!” she cried from behind me, as Steven jerked back into life, staring around wildly and then finally pulling the remnants of Groudon's tendril from his neck. A lot of blood came with it, and I wondered what Groudon had done...

“User death imminent,” said a tinny voice. “If you can hear this message, it is probably too late to save your life...”

The voice was coming from Registeel; as it spoke, it wheeled around and fled the room, heading down one of the corridors that led deeper into the Magma base.

“Well, I guess you were right about them protecting their users,” I muttered, taking a step back and pulverising another tentacle with a Stone Edge.

Yeah, Puck said, but we needed Registeel. Without Steven helping, Groudon's growing faster than we can break it.

I looked up at the colossal foetus, and knew it was true: already it was noticeably taller than before, and large sections of its surface were beginning to harden and darken in colour. It looked like solidifying lava.

“Kester!” shouted Glacia. “Over here!”

I swung Regirock around to the right, and saw that Regice had taken on the appearance of a Lego set, in that part of it consisted of a great many pieces that looked like they'd be painful to step on, and was scattered across the floor. It had lost three of the spines on its back, and one of its legs – and, from the desperate sort of way Glacia was firing Ice Beams at the encircling tentacles, I didn't think it would last that much longer.

“What the hell? I’m the least competent, and I’m the only one not in trouble?” I brought Regirock over to her and sliced through corpse-meat with one scything arm. “Can you still move?”

“We have to get out of here!” replied Glacia, rising upwards. “It's too strong, Kester! We can't take it.”

“What? Can't we just—?”

A tentacle caught me full in the face, which threw my concentration somewhat; thankfully, my reflexive Astonish seemed to be enough to throw it off before it started eating me. Regirock caught it between its fist-stumps and battered it flat.

“You were the one who said it couldn't fight back!” I shouted at Glacia, aggrieved.

“There's a time to dwell on the shortcomings of others, and now is not it!” replied Glacia, swerving to avoid a questing pseudopod. “Look, do you want to leave or—”

“Let's get out of here,” I said hastily. Glacia nodded, and Regice soared upwards and disappeared into the smoke. Meanwhile, Puck turned Regirock around and set us running towards one of the tunnel exits.

If we can just get out of his reach, we can easily tunnel to the surface, he said rapidly. Or we could find the exit path, it's your choice – hell's teeth! To the left!

As if sensing we were close to escaping, Groudon seemed to have focused all of its resources on us;a nest of tentacles burst from under a pile of rocks to the left, and Regirock, to avoid them, leaned dangerously far to the right, balancing on one leg. Since it was top-heavy and made of stone, it naturally toppled over, which resulted in my cracking my head against his shoulder blade. This was exquisitely painful, and caused me to see stars.

Why is it that you always end up with some sort of concussion? Puck sighed, making Regirock scramble to its feet (a singularly ungainly manoeuvre).

“I'm not concussed,” I mumbled, blinking. “I'm just in agony.”

Same difference, Puck replied as Regirock entered a tunnel and immediately began punching its way through the scattered remnants of the ceiling. I ducked my head as best I could to avoid the flying chips of granite; for about five minutes, we were surrounded by what seemed to be a sandstorm composed of gravel, and then, all at once, I felt the sun on my face and I looked up, blinking.

There was the sky, clear and blue; there was Jagged Pass, red and spiky. The Lone Altaria circled up above, and the only sound I could hear was his screeching – Groudon's roar had completely faded away.

I sighed, and closed my eyes.

“Puck,” I said, “get me back to Sidney and Phoebe and Spike.”

Can do, skipper, he replied, which was very confusing, and Regirock started to make its way up Jagged Pass at a sedate pace, rocks crunching underneath its feet. Maybe it was the shock, maybe it was the head injury, maybe it was the warm stone beneath me and the sun above; whatever the cause, I was asleep before we'd gone twenty feet.

---

There had been an entrance into the tower proper down a short flight of steps, which Sebastian had led the way down; Darren had followed warily, and Fabien, ever-conscious that he might hypothetically need to make a quick getaway at some point, brought up the rear with Blake (and Goishi and even Morgana, for extra protection. Not that he would need protection. Obviously.)

Now, our quartet of unlikely comrades stood on the tower's uppermost floor; it was shaped somewhat like a square doughnut, with a large hole in the centre that, upon examination, appeared to descend all the way down to the ground floor.

Everyone was standing near the walls.

“Zero!” called out Sebastian. His voice echoed up and down the tower, and the volume of this reply made everyone present wince. “Where are you?”

One of the Beldum from earlier floated up out of the gaping pit, and came to hover near them; it blinked twice, and drifted away towards a doorway in the far wall.

“I suppose we follow it,” Sebastian said, and began to do so; however, he was stopped by Darren's voice.

“That door was not here a moment ago,” he said. Sebastian halted, and looked back at him.

“So? An illusion, maybe? Does it matter?”

“I don't trust this place,” Darren said abruptly. “We shouldn't be here.”

“I second that,” put in Fabien.

“Do you want to save the world or not?” asked Sebastian.

This shamed everyone into silence, and they followed him without complaint – though, in Darren's case, with visible reluctance.

The door led to stairs, which led to another doughnut-shaped floor; here, they found another door, which led to more stairs, and thence to another level. So they continued, their only point of reference the Beldum that glided along before them; such was the time-bending nature of their journey, they might have walked for five minutes, or a hundred years, and never known the difference.

At length, though, one of the rooms turned out to be different: this one had new railings around the hole in the centre, and glass in the windows. It also had a rich shag carpet, and a full set of living-room furnishings, from curtains to sofas to a working television. In fact, it was as if they'd just wandered into someone's house.

Sebastian stared. Whatever he'd expected, it hadn't been this. He glanced back at the door that they'd come through – but it was no longer there, having been replaced by a wall painted the same tasteful cream colour as the rest of its fellows.

The Beldum made an indescribable sound that reminded Sebastian of tearing linen and backwards Chinese characters, and sank into the abyss.

For a long moment, no one said anything, or moved.

“Er... what's goin' on?” asked Blake, evidently puzzled.

“I believe you were paying me a visit,” replied Zero, and everyone jumped. He had definitely not been lounging in the armchair a moment ago; nor had there been a pretty young woman sitting on the sofa nearby. “Well?” he went on. “You seem rather ill at ease. Might I suggest you sit down?” He indicated a free sofa, and, somewhat confused, the four would-be world saviours took seats on it. “Wonderful.” Zero stood up. “This is Courtney, as I’m sure you know.”

“Hello,” she said warmly; feeling oddly empty, Sebastian replied:

“Uh, hello.”

Darren said nothing, just narrowed his eyes; Fabien and Blake attempted to look as inconspicuous as possible.

“Yes, I believe you two already know Courtney from work,” Zero said. “Though I gather you were fired recently. It's lucky, really; if you hadn't, you would right now be making a progress through Groudon's partially-formed bowels.” He paused meditatively. “But enough of that. I suppose you have some questions to ask me.” He leaned forwards, elbows on kneecaps. “Fire away.”

“Why – this is too easy,” said Sebastian suspiciously. “There's some trap here, isn't there?”

“Indeed there is,” Zero admitted. “But traps are such unpleasant things. Can't we leave that until the end? Ask the other questions first.”

“Who are you?” asked Darren.

Zero took off his mask and brushed his hair out of his eyes; Darren flinched, while Blake, Fabien and Sebastian looked nonplussed.

“You,” whispered the Goodwin. “What... why?”

“Someone you know?” asked Sebastian.

Darren shook his head.

“Someone that you should all know,” he replied darkly. “But more importantly – why are you destroying the world?”

“That's easy,” replied Zero. “Because I can.”

“That's not an answer.”

“Is too,” said Zero; the childish tone was evidently intended, because he twisted his lips into an exaggerated pout as he spoke. “I was rather bored after my accident, and this is quite entertaining. The only problem is that I don't have any plans about what I’m going to do afterwards. It doesn't matter, though; I think I might be immortal, so I could just wait around until more sentient life evolves for me to torture.”

His four guests stared at him.

“You're insane,” Sebastian said at length.

Zero shook his head and wagged a finger.

“I am a great many things, Mister Emerald,” he said, “but insane is not one of them. I speak nothing but the truth – or my perception of the truth. I find it to be a very malleable concept.”

Sebastian shook his head.

“You said you had an accident. What do you mean by that?”

“Well. We both had an accident,” Zero replied. “It was the same accident. I was investigating reports of a giant in Scotland, and I was behind the reports.”

Sebastian closed his eyes and held his head together; it felt like it was about to collapse in on itself.

“What on earth are you talking about?” Fabien demanded to know. “Who is this? You and Courtney?”

“Courtney?” Zero looked over at where she sat; she hadn't moved since she had first greeted them. “No. Me and myself.” He chuckled to himself for a moment, then broke off abruptly and said: “Next question, if you please.”

Sebastian thought for a moment.

“Is there a way to stop the destruction of the world right now?”

Zero considered.

“Perhaps,” he admitted. “Even with my foresight, I can't guarantee anything. There is still room for a deus ex machina situation to arise. But if you are thinking about, for example, the League's plan – that will fail. The golems cannot match either of the continental legendaries.”

Sebastian sat up and bit his lip. That was not the most hopeful thing he'd ever heard.

“If you were trying to stop the world's end—”

“I'm not.”

“I know, but if you were,” Sebastian went on, “how would you go about it?”

“I see.” Zero nodded. “I suppose I should have expected this question. The answer would be, Mister Emerald, that I would probably knock Groudon and Kyogre unconscious again. How I would do that would be somewhat difficult. I would have to break a piece off the moon, and crash it into their heads. Unfortunately for you, this would most likely have much the same effect as the super-volcano's eruption – which, by the way, is due to happen in about five hundred years, regardless of human input.”

“All of us will be dead by then, so it doesn't matter,” Sebastian said. “Look, is there any way to stop this apocalypse that doesn't involve everyone dying?”

Zero looked thoughtful.

“Very probably,” he replied amiably. “But I’m afraid I don't really work that way. I find it difficult to conceive of scenarios that leave many people unharmed.”

The quartet stared.

“You are insane,” said Fabien bluntly. “Completely and utterly insane.”

“Withou' a doub',” agreed Blake.

“Eek,” added Goishi.

Zero sighed.

“I assure you I am not,” he replied. “Do you have any more questions?”

“Yes,” said Darren. “Just one.”

“Go on.”

“Why has your girlfriend turned into a fish?”

Everyone's eyes crawled slowly, so slowly, over towards Courtney, dreading that Darren's words would actually be true; regrettably, they were, and where the former Magma Administrator had been was a large, dead tuna.

Zero leaned forwards.

“Do you remember how you found out I was here?” he asked.

“Of course!” cried Fabien. “We...” He trailed off, uncertain; Sebastian waved a hand dismissively.

“Idiot,” he said. “We...” He blinked. “Oh.”

“'Oh' indeed,” Zero said. “You see, you never found my location at all. I’m not really in Sky Pillar. Neither are you, for that matter. This is nothing but an extended hallucination. Hence Courtney's somewhat piscine qualities.”

Sebastian stared, dumbstruck; beside him, Darren rose to his feet, one hand on a Poké Ball, and Fabien and Blake looked at each other as pairs of fools are wont to do.

“Don't even bother trying to attack me,” Zero said, casting a pitying look at the Goodwin. “I'm not even Zero. I’m something that Zero created that looks and talks like Zero. For the most part, anyway. I was constructed with approximately 20% too much crazy; I think Zero was trying to make some sort of joke. Probably a very clever one, though of course I don't get it, being a two-dimensional representation of a man that even four dimensions don't do full justice to.”

“Must you end a sentence with a preposition?” asked Fabien, sounding pained. “Say 'to which even four dimensions don't do full justice'.”

“Yes, because obeying the rules blindly is always the best solution,” retorted Zero sarcastically. “If you have no further questions, this hallucination is over.”

“Wait! One more!”

All eyes were once again on Sebastian.

“Why exactly did you show us this?” he asked.

The faux Zero smiled.

“Because I wanted to tell you something,” he said. “You see, I like to see how close I can get to failing without actually failing. It's a little game inside the bigger game.”

“What? You mean you'll tell us how to save the world?” Sebastian leaped up. “Tell me!”
“If you want to save the world...” Zero paused, just so he could see the tension building on his audiences faces. “If you truly want to survive – well, I suppose that you'd better learn braille.” He waved. “God rest ye, merry gentlemen; happy apocalypse.”

And then he sort of wavered upwards into the ceiling, and the Beldum was back, only it wasn't a Beldum but a bowl of petunias that kept sighing, and everything tasted really strongly of purple...

...and then Sebastian was picking himself up out of a pile of trash in an Ever Grande alleyway and realising that someone had mugged him while he was out.

---

“Is he OK?”

“I don't know, help me get him out—”

“Kester! Are you all right!”

I opened my eyes, and found that, much to my surprise, I was.

“I'm fine,” I said, sitting up and thereby inciting a terrible headache. “Ouch. OK, I’m not fine.”

I looked around, and found that I was lying on the ground next to Regirock and a plume of noxious smoke. The top of Mount Chimney, then; this wasn't too bad. There were worse places to be, though of course there were better ones too. Like anywhere that was further away from Groudon.

“There was a lot of blood,” Spike said – unnecessarily as it turned out, as I’d just brought my hand away from my head and found it was stained red.

“So I see,” I replied. “What – what's happening?”

“We couldn't beat Groudon, even half-formed,” Glacia told me. “Remember, we retreated?”

You fell unconscious on the way back up the mountain, Puck added.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “I remember.” I held my breath against the pain and got up; I was a little wobbly, but with Spike's help I managed to stay on my feet. “Where's Steven?”

“We're not sure,” Spike said, biting her lip. “On the way down the mountain, I got a call from the Gym to say that a giant had just run through the town, but it had gone by the time we got here.”

“You think it was Registeel?”

“It was telling anyone who'd listen that if they could hear that alarm, they were about five seconds away from being trampled.”

“OK, so it was Registeel.” I blinked. “Where did it go?”

“I don't know. I let some of my Trainers borrow two of my Staraptor to go looking, but I haven't heard back from them since.”

“Glacia told us that if Registeel ran, Steven must be pretty badly hurt,” Phoebe said. “Did you see—?”

“He lost a lot of blood,” I cut in, suddenly nervous. “Oh God, I hope you find him soon...”

Way to reassure them, Kester, Puck said, as the League Trainers paled before me. Why not tell them they're adopted while you're at it, and that their parents hate them?

“We're doing our best,” said Spike reassuringly, clasping my hand between both of hers. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I hit my head on a giant living boulder,” I replied. “Look, can I ask what we're doing now?”

“No idea,” said Sidney frankly. “Looks to me like we're finished. If all three of you couldn't defeat Groudon even before it was full-grown... Well, it doesn't look like there's a way out of this.”

I suddenly felt weak at the knees, and had to sit back down; a sense of light-headedness washed over me, and I took a deep breath to try and calm myself.

“No,” I said. “No, we can't have lost... come on, isn't there anything?”

“I don't know,” Phoebe replied helplessly. “No one knows.”

“The only people who might are Steven and Wallace,” Glacia said. “I think – there has to be something more that they know about...”

There doesn't have to be anything, Puck said. But I don't think all is lost. Not yet.

I started.

“Puck has something to say,” I told everyone. “Does someone have a phone he can use? Thanks, Ms. Turnford—”

“I already told you to call me Glacia.”

“Right. Sorry. Glacia.”

“Shut up, Kester,” said Puck. “OK, so our first plan failed. That's OK. Because a true hero always has a Plan B.”

“What is your Plan B?” asked Sidney.

“I'm trying to think of one as I talk,” Puck admitted carelessly, “so... OK, OK, I got one. We've tried to get Groudon. If we can't get it, even with Regice's super-effective moves, we have no hope of getting Kyogre, who resists everything we could throw at it except Rock, which it can kill anyway. So we won't get them right now.

“But there is a chance we can take down Groudon. You see, in order to get to Kyogre it's going to have to cross the sea. It would take time for it to create land to walk on – time that it could better spend fighting its enemy – so I’m going to guess it'll go straight through the sea. And while it's in the water, at its most vulnerable, we'll take it down.”

Silence greeted Puck's proposition.

“Um... how?” asked Spike.

“If we can knock it over and keep it down for long enough, it'll drown,” said Puck simply. “Then Kyogre won't have any reason to fight, and hopefully it'll just swim away. And if it doesn't, we're screwed – but the human race goes down pretty valiantly, because drowning a gigantic dinosaur that can raise continents at will has to be one of the best middle fingers to God that a dying species can make.”

Again, there was silence.

“Puck,” said Spike, “I don't think that's going to work.”

“Wait, wait.” Sidney held up a hand for silence. “Think about it. This worked in Star Wars, when they were getting rid of AT-ATs on Hoth.”

I stared up at him from the floor, and I’m pretty sure I looked horrified.

“You're seriously suggesting we base our valiant last stand against a world-destroying volcanic eruption on a Star Wars film?”

Sidney shrugged defensively.

“It was Puck's idea.”

“Hey, don't shift the blame onto me,” Puck said warningly. “I've dealt with your kind before, you kno—”

“Glacia, have your phone back.”

Damn you!

“Look,” said Phoebe, “I think you're all forgetting that making something as big as Groudon fall over in the sea will cause a tidal wave that'll hit everywhere around the caldera's rim.”

“So the plan wouldn't work anyway,” concluded Glacia. “Fine, so we're back to square one.”

“Someone call Wallace,” I suggested. “He might have an idea.”

Phoebe nodded and wandered a few yards away to make the call; half a second later, Spike's phone rang, and she listened for a moment, worried, then said:

“OK. Be there in a minute.”

She lowered her mobile and looked up at Glacia.

“That was one of my Gym Trainers,” she said. “They've just found Steven.”

---

“I'm fine. Really, I am – no, I must insist that you desist—”

There came a crash from inside the emergency room, and Steven strolled out, buttoning his shirt.

“Dear me,” he said. “What trivialities you can be hospitalised for these days!”

Spike and I stared at him.

“Steven, you were partially devoured by a world-destroying monster,” I said. “How can you call that a triviality?”

He started knotting his tie and shouldered open the door. From this angle, I could see the round, bloody hole on the side of his neck – and so could everyone else in the waiting room, who were all staring at him in the sort of way usually reserved for the living dead.

“Because I am fully recovered,” Steven said patiently, halfway into the corridor. He began to straighten his cuffs. “Or at least, the world is in too much danger for me to be lying around being helped.”

“Hey!”

Spike and I wheeled around to see the doctor limping out into the waiting room, trailing a stethoscope and rubbing his bruised head.

“At least let me bandage that!” he cried.

Steven looked at him, sighed and turned to us.

“Please,” he said. “Can we get back to the others? With my dangerous blood loss came a brilliant idea, and I’d rather like to pass it on before Armageddon comes around.”

I looked at Spike, who sighed and shrugged.

“OK,” I told Steven, “let's go.”

So we walked out the door, down the corridor and out of the hospital, accompanied all the way by the shouts of the doctor, who trailed after us like the world's most unsubtle stalker.

---

Sapphire looked out over the sea, and shivered. Storm clouds were gathering above them, and had been for hours – but they stubbornly refused to break. When the storm came, it was going to be enormous.

“Is it safe to be out here when the storm breaks?” she asked Wallace. He was standing a little further ahead on the Wailord's back, and shrugged.

“We won't be able to avoid it,” he replied. “This is Kyogre's storm. Wherever it goes, the rain follows. It's the same with Groudon – it causes sunshine.”

Sapphire sighed.

“It sounds like it would be nicer to be where Groudon is.”

“It's desert-level sunshine.”

“Oh.” Sapphire thought. “On balance, I think I prefer the rain.”

Wallace shrugged again.

“Neither sounds good.”

Drake harrumphed and looked at the waves emanating from the spot above Kyogre.

“Shut up, Drake,” said Wallace wearily, and went over to thump him.

Sapphire chewed a fingernail and stared out to the north-west.

“Desert-level sun,” she muttered. “Kester, I hope you're OK...”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #182    
Old August 13th, 2011, 07:52 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Seventy-Five: D'Artagnan

To give him his credit, Steven did manage to make it all the way back to Spike's house before collapsing.

Huh, Puck said, as he pitched forwards and fell heavily into the door. Behold, Kester, your so-called Messiah.

“What?”

“I'm fine!” called Steven, hauling on the door handle and managing to get back to his feet. “Really, I am.”

“Are you sure?” asked Spike. He had gone very pale; he was part Kantan, so he was fairly pale compared to us to start with – but this was the sort of pallor people usually acquire after being drained by a vampire.

“Mostly,” admitted Steven, with surprising candour, and went inside.

We had moved to Spike's house once the top of the mountain began to collapse with the earthquakes; the golems had been left in her back garden, hopefully cloaked from sight by her trees. Glacia had gone with them, and was currently engaged in restoring Regice with the aid of her Walrein and its Blizzard.

“Steven!” cried Phoebe, when he breezed into the living-room. “You're OK!”

“Never better, my dear, never better.” Steven sat down rather heavily, rubbed his neck absently, and went on: “Just a little blood loss; Registeel shielded me from the worst of it.” He looked inquiringly at me. “Did—?”

“I brought it back for you, yeah,” I told him.

“Excellent. Firstly, I must ask – did you defeat Groudon?”

I shook my head.

“As I suspected. I suppose someone suggested drowning Groudon?”

“Puck did,” Spike said, throwing herself down into an armchair. I experienced one of those awkward moments when you realise that you're the only one standing up in a room, and there appear to be no free chairs; however, Spike saved me by pointing out one that for some reason I'd thought was a lamp, and saying: “You can sit down if you want, Kester.”

“Thanks.”

“Well,” said Steven, “I have a plan that is infinitely riskier, but which might actually work.”
Sidney leaned forwards, intrigued.

“Go on?”

“Groudon and Kyogre won't set off the volcano immediately,” Steven said. “I'm not sure how long it will take, given that I have no way of precisely knowing their power, but we should have a few minutes at least before Groudon's land-raising efforts cause the volcano to erupt. In those few minutes, Kyogre will be hitting it with all the force it can muster – and I propose that we send all three golems against Groudon in those minutes, when it is buckling under the strength of Kyogre's tsunami.”

“Are you out of your mind?” asked Phoebe. “That's... that's incredibly dangerous!”

“Indeed it is,” agreed Steven. “Do you have a safer idea?”

There was an uncomfortable silence. We had called Wallace, but he hadn't come up with anything, and had said he would get back to us.

“Well, then,” Steven said. “It will be simple. I should think that both Regirock and Registeel are capable of learning Ice Punch; together with Regirock's Blizzard, we may be able to bring Groudon down. This also has the added advantage of confining any damage to Sootopolis city; the crater should absorb most of the tsunami that will follow Groudon's fall.”

I love this plan, Puck said. This is one of those things that in films people say 'that's so crazy it might just work' about.

Could you rephrase that so I can understand it?

Puck thought.

No, he confessed. I can't.

“I think I’m with Phoebe on this one,” Spike said. “This is crazy. A lot of people could die—”

“Which is why we need to decide whether or not we're doing this right now,” I interrupted, surprising myself. “Because we're going to need to get Sootopolis evacuated as soon as possible.”

You are supporting Steven's madcap scheme? asked Puck, amazed. Whoa. Move on over, Harry, I just found a new boy hero.

Shut up.

But that's a compliment!

In that case, continue.

I don't want to now.

“That's right,” said Steven. “I appreciate that this is a monumentally large decision – but that is why we must decide right now. It will take the combined efforts of the League and the military to get the inhabitants of Sootopolis.” He looked around the room, sharp eyes alighting briefly on each face. “The only people who will be in any danger will be us, though Sootopolis will suffer significant structural damage. I put the question to you now: will you risk yourself? Or will you condemn the world?”

---

“Does anyone have any money left?” whined Fabien. “I'm quite hungry—”

“If I had any money,” Sebastian said, “I would probably spend it on a mace, so that I could smash your head in.”

At this, Fabien shut up, for he sensed that the boy was in a very bad mood – something that did not combine well with the capacity to set very well-trained and powerful Pokémon on people.

The four men were walking through the streets of Ever Grande, minds full of Zero's words and the knowledge that someone had stolen their wallets while they were unconscious. Thankfully, Sebastian had deliberately infected his mobile phone with an Austrian Pokémon named Vyral, which was trained to deliver painful electrical shocks to those its Trainer did not want to touch it. Thus, he had been able to call the bank and have his credit cards cancelled before the thieves started stealing any more than the few thousand Pokédollars he kept in his wallet.

Still, the incident stung – but Sebastian couldn't afford to dwell on it. He had Zero's conundrum to solve.

“Braille,” he murmured. “What did he mean?”

“I think the golems are connected to Braille,” offered Darren.

“In that case, we head for the library and research them,” decided Sebastian. “Take me to a library, and read the books for me.”

His three compatriots stared at him. Sebastian stared back.

“What?” he asked. “I'm American. Of course I can't read Hoennian.”

“You can speak it,” pointed out Fabien.

“So? Lots of Hoennians can't read Hoennian.”

Blake nodded deeply.

“I know,” he said with feeling. “I can'.”

It was Blake's turn to be stared at now.

“I'm sure that that probably forms a plothole,” Fabien sighed, “but it doesn't matter now. Shall we go to the library now?”

“Yes,” said Sebastian firmly. “To the library.”

And so it was that, twenty minutes and one argument over unpaid fares with a bus driver later, the four would-be world saviours walked into the Ever Grande Public Library in search of computers. Some librarians might have pointed out that they needed to register with the library before they were allowed to use its resources; however, they would have been brave souls indeed, for few librarians dare question those who enter their domains with Crobat and monkey wrenches, as Fabien and Darren did.

An hour of strenuous research later, several theories had been drawn up. The first was that giving the golems instructions in Braille would summon some sort of sentient meteor that would demand to speak to Gary Coleman before brushing its teeth and leaving; the second was that instructing the golems to read Braille would activate a hidden power deep in their crystalline matrix that would give them world-class break dancing skills; a third was that inscribing Braille script onto the golems would transform them into facsimiles of famous fascist dictators of the twentieth century.

Having ascertained that they now knew precisely no more than they had known earlier, the four agreed to come back tomorrow and possibly use books instead of conspiracy theory websites. Their day was considerably less exciting than Kester's, but, when summarised, sounded somewhat funnier.

---

“...I see. No, we'll get right on it.”

Wallace put his phone away and turned to Drake and Sapphire.

“It seems Steven has a plan,” he said grimly.

“Why did you say that so grimly?” asked Sapphire cautiously.

“It's a last-ditch sort of plan,” Wallace replied. “It's the kind of plan the writer of an action movie might come up with for the end of his script.”

This was not a reassuring answer, and Sapphire's stomach fluttered uneasily at it.

“Typical,” snorted Drake. “For God's sake, what's wrong with the man—”

“When you come up with ways to save the human race, you can criticise his, Drake,” said Wallace smoothly. “For now... Sapphire and I are going to Sootopolis.”

“We are?” asked Sapphire. She was really quite nervous now; where the fate of all humanity was concerned, she, like most people, liked to have a secure grasp of the specifics.

“We are,” confirmed Wallace. “While you, Drake, are going to Lilycove and contacting the military about evacuating Sootopolis.”

Evacuating Sootopolis?” cried Drake. “We're going to let those giant bratchnies storm the city?”

“As I understand it, there isn't any choice. Just remember that this is secret: the country – and indeed the world – is going to panic if they find out what this is all about. Keep the knowledge that the world is about to end between yourself and top brass, would you?”
Drake harrumphed and stamped his feet, but, since he did not particularly wish to perish in a countrywide explosion, he had no choice but to depart on his mission. Doubtless he complained to the Flygon that carried him throughout the trip, but since it is known that he reached his destination, we must assume that the bug-eyed dragon did not despair of life and drown itself in the ocean to escape its master's voice.

Once he had left, Wallace turned to face Sapphire.

“Actually, thinking this through,” he said, “I find myself wondering whether I ought to ask you before I assume you're coming to Sootopolis with me.”

“What are we doing there?” asked Sapphire.

“Helping the population evacuate,” Wallace said. “I have five Wailord of varying sizes; the military can't get them all out on their own.” With his white cloak flowing around him and his wild turquoise hair, he looked, Sapphire thought, like a moderately powerful wizard. By the laws of the universe, then, he was exactly the sort of person to sort out the apocalypse. “Will you join me?” he asked.

Sapphire thought. It was a tricky decision, but only if you didn't take into account that you'd be saving the world, and helping the Champion of Hoenn into the bargain.

“OK,” she said, crossing her fingers and hoping she wasn't going to have to pilot a Wailord covered in frightened, angry civilians out of Sootopolis. “Let's do it.”

---

Well. If someone phrases their argument like that, then there's no arguing with them.

Spike stayed behind to monitor the situation, while Sidney and Phoebe flew on ahead to Lilycove to help Drake with the military, and to make sure he didn't forget to do it out of spite. Glacia and I talked Steven into staying the night at Spike's house instead of jumping into the action, and stayed with him for good measure. It also made transportation of the golems easier, since it would be far more efficient to move them all at once.

The next morning, there was more colour in Steven's face, though there was also a lot more colour in the bed in which he had slept – he seemed to have bled in the night. Unfortunately, that was the only good news, because we were all woken at nine o'clock in the morning by the sound of Mount Chimney collapsing.

The whole of Lavaridge must have rushed en masse to see what was happening; for my part, I stumbled out of bed and over to the window, where I wondered for five whole seconds where the sun had gone before I realised that there was a dinosaur blocking it out.

It was too big to comprehend – at least twice the size Mount Chimney itself had been. I saw red, and black, and ridges and scales; that was all I could really take in before Groudon started to walk and I was almost flung out of the window by the resultant earthquake.

The world rattled up and down and part of the ceiling came loose; it missed me by a hair's breadth, and let in a stream of sunlight so bright and aggressive that if it could have spoken, it would have threatened to give me and my family skin cancer if I didn't get out of its way.

Wow, said Puck. So this is the end of the world. I have to say, it's pretty cool. Except for this sunlight, which is about 90% ultraviolet rays and 10% angry, and very, very hot with it.

“Cal!” I screamed, and the bedside cabinet fell on me.

About half a minute later, the tremors had subsided enough that I could stand, though the floorboards were still thrumming. I pushed the cabinet off me, climbed shakily to my feet and was about to flee the room for safer ground when Puck stopped me:

Er... you might want to get dressed first, Kester.

I woke up properly, agreed, dressed and left – to walk straight into Spike, almost taking my eye out on one of her eyebrow studs.

“Sorry,” she said, taking a step back. “Are you OK? Has anything broken?”

“The ceiling fell in,” I replied, “but other than that, I think I’m OK.” I noticed that I was trembling and concentrated on stopping. “That's it, isn't it?”

Spike nodded, and she looked every bit as terrified as me.

“Groudon,” she said. “This sun...”

“Ah, Spike! Kester!” Steven had materialised, looking mysteriously perfect; it was as if he'd been up for hours, and had showered, shaved and laundered his suit prior to revealing himself. “I see you've all met Groudon.”

“Met Groudon? Met Groudon?” I’d never heard anyone pack quite so much incredulity into four words as Spike. “It's demolishing my house!”

“That's just one danger,” Steven said. “Thankfully, Groudon's path shouldn't take it near any other towns; I don't think anyone outside of Lavaridge will be in danger from collapsing buildings. The real threat is this sunlight.” He indicated the blazing rectangle that had formerly been the window.

I knew it, said Puck. This light's a real mean motor scooter. It's the only sort of light that can outfight Steven Seagal.

“The legends say that Groudon sears the land,” Steven went on. “It seems they were true: sunburn, skin cancer, heatstroke – the incidences of all of them are going to skyrocket across Hoenn.” He chewed the knuckle of one index finger for a moment. “Spike, would you mind awfully if I put you in charge of disseminating information to the public? The TV crews will almost certainly be here soon, and I need you to tell everyone to stay indoors, to draw the curtains – you know, to generally avoid the sun.”

“OK,” Spike said. “But my house—”

“I don't think that's what we need to worry about right now,” cut in Glacia, coming out of her room with one hand over her left eye. “Groudon's on the loose, and I expect Kyogre is as well. Also, a lamp fell on my face.”

“I'm sorry,” said Steven. “But right now, we need to get moving.” He glanced at the window, winced and looked away, closing his eyes. “Because, as you say, Groudon is moving, and at this rate it's going to reach Sootopolis by mid-afternoon.”

I looked at Spike's watch, and realised that it was now twenty past nine.

“Oh hell,” I breathed. “We have...”

Oh yeah. You know you want to say this, Kester. It's one of the ultimate lines.

I didn't usually agree with Puck on matters like those, but I did now, though I said the words with more trepidation than gusto:

“We've got less than twelve hours to save the world.”

---

It was a good thing that Sapphire, Wallace and Drake left when they did, because now, at nine o'clock on Thursday morning, the storm broke.

There was no one around to see it, no one who saw the rain driving harder than gravity alone could manage; there was no one to watch the lightning fly in daredevil arcs across the sky; there was no one to see the great humped back, as wide across as Mauville, break the surface for a moment and submerge again, the only trace of its presence the storm and the V-shaped wake that pointed north-west, to Sootopolis.

---

By ten o'clock, Hoenn was in a panic, and by half past ten, the rest of the world had joined in. I’d seen Spike on a hundred different TV screens, acting as the League spokesperson and telling everyone what they needed to do to stay alive; from what Puck could pick up while he was connected to Regirock, the Internet was aflame with theories, photographs and hypothetical explanations.

I didn't see much of it at the time, of course: I spent the morning in a military transport helicopter, which was pretty cool but extremely nerve-wracking. Steven, Glacia and I were flying to Sootopolis in an effort to get there ahead of Groudon.

We saw the monster on the way, naturally. From this high up, I could actually see it properly: a colossal dinosaur-like beast, red skin cracked deeply like solidifying lava, with gigantic shovel-shaped claws the very image of the one that had risen out of Mount Chimney so long ago. I also saw that on the front of Groudon's head was, disturbingly, something that looked like Maxie's face. It was stretched across the ridges of the skull, rising and falling like a storm-tossed galleon, and as soon as I saw it I looked away, suddenly finding it hard to breathe.

Easy there, Kester, Puck said. No need to be alarmed, as Roman Polanski doubtless said. It's just a vestige of its host's genetic code. If we'd absorbed Groudon's soul, that would be your face.

We made good time – we had to, or we'd have been caught in Groudon's sunlight, which would have blinded the pilot and probably killed us all before we even crashed – and by noon, we were dropping over a wide, white ring of rock in the centre of the East Hoennian Ocean. The Sootopolis volcano had been dormant for God knows how long; in fact, as Steven said, geological surveys that showed it was still growing came as a surprise to Hoenn's volcanologists.

No one cares about Hoenn's volcanologists, Puck said. They don't get invited to the cool parties.

The city itself was unnaturally quiet, save for the roar of helicopter rotors; hundreds of them were flying away to the north, with a few Wailord swimming along beneath them, backs covered in people.

“They're leaving,” Glacia said. “Oh God, this is a disaster. An entire city's going to be destroyed.”

I thought about it: ruined streets, broken buildings, flooded homes – and then I realised that Sootopolis wasn't just going to be wrecked. It was actually going to cease to exist: Groudon and Kyogre would be standing on it, and I was certain nothing humans had ever built could withstand that sort of pressure. A sense of nausea rose in my throat, and I looked away from the window, shivering.

It's going to be so cool, said Puck. I hope I live a couple more months so I can take a look at all the wreckage.

That interrupted my thoughts.

What? I asked. Live a couple more months? What do you mean?

I’m a Rotom, Puck said, as if I were being incredibly stupid. Rotom are fleeting, like the attention span of your generation. We fade into existence, hang around for about a decade and fade away.

But you're twenty-one
, I protested.

I know. I’m special.

Puck, is this one of those things that you say isn't important and then turns out to be something you should have told me ages ago?

Absolutely not. Hey, look! Sootopolis is pretty cool, isn't it?


I looked out of the window, and had to agree that he was right: the city spiralled down the interior sides of the crater like air down the neck of a tornado. At the bottom glittered a deep blue lagoon, almost perfectly circular, and in the centre of that was the shining, fairytale castle of the city's Pokémon Gym. It didn't look like it was from Earth; it was beautiful, but I couldn't help but qualify that with the knowledge that it was going to be reduced to rubble by five o'clock.

Cheer up, Kester, Puck said. Distract yourself by thinking about how anyone's meant to gain enlightenment in a future rebirth if the human race no longer exists.

I spent about half a second thinking about that, decided that I didn't care and returned to worrying as the helicopter sank down into Sootopolis' military base, on the highest level of the city.

I brought Regirock out and watched as two more helicopters landed, from which emerged Steven, Glacia and their respective golems. Brief words passed between Steven and his pilot, and the three helicopters rose up with a thunderous whirr and flew away – it had been previously decided that as few people were to be here as possible, for when (if) Groudon fell, it would very likely crush anyone nearby.

In their absence was dead silence.

I slipped out of Regirock and went over to the fence; through the chain link and razor wire, I could see a completely still city. The streets rolled away below me, cars stationary, bereft of pedestrians. Everything in the city was silent and still, and it was so wrong that I shivered violently and shouted as loud as I could, just to try and put some noise back into the world:

“Hello!”

“Disturbing, isn't it?” said Steven, coming over to me. “A city with the heart cut out. It looks like it's waiting to die.”

“Don't say that,” I replied. “It's... I don't know.”

It is waiting to die, said Puck matter-of-factly. I mean, Godzilla and Moby Dick are about to have a battle on top of it.

“Sorry,” said Steven, patting my shoulder. “Let's not think of that.” He turned to Glacia. “Do you have the TMs?”

“Here!” she replied, fishing a couple of discs from her pocket. “Ice Punch for both of your golems.”

At that moment, Steven's phone buzzed; he removed it from his pocket and glanced at the screen.

“Our friends in the military estimate that Groudon will be here in an hour and a half,” he said. “That means Kyogre will be here at much the same time.”

I sat down on Regirock's foot, my knees suddenly weak.

“Oh my God,” I said, the magnitude of what I was about to do suddenly hitting me. “It's really happening, isn't it? That monster... We're going to kill it...”

Screw your courage to the sticking-place, Puck said, and we'll not fail.

“Don't worry,” Steven said. “If we succeed, we shall be heroes. And if we lose... no one will remember, for we shall all be dead.” He shrugged. “The end will be swift. We are right on top of the volcano; I expect we'll be incinerated instantly.”

“Steven, you're doing that thing where you try to be reassuring and end up being really scary,” Glacia said. “Now please stop before I get on Regice and fly away.”

“Sorry.” Steven pulled a TM Case from his pocket. “Shall we get this done?”

A few minutes later, the golems were battle-ready. There were eighty minutes until the fate of the world was going to be decided.

And I, one of the three heroes who had to save everyone – I, Kester Ruby, with a set of decidedly underwhelming magical powers and a talking Ghost in my head – I was about five seconds away from fainting in terror like a particularly ditzy fairytale princess.

---

“Have you found anything yet?” asked Sebastian.

“No. Stop asking,” replied Darren tersely.

Sebastian sighed, and went back to trying to learn written Hoennian from a book that was intended to teach Hoennians English. It was a little like working out who got killed based solely on who Poirot said the murderer was at the end; he'd been trying for about four hours, and had got no further than understanding that that character that looked like a squid meant 'green'.

“What about you?” he asked Fabien.

“Well, soylent green is made of people,” the former Magma replied. “Is that news to you?”
“Charlton Heston already told me,” said Sebastian sourly. “Keep looking.”

They had spent the night in a rather nice hotel, their stay in which they had, of course, been unable to pay for. To overcome this problem, they had left via the windows of their rooms, just before dawn. After a stolen breakfast – the morality of which troubled none of them, as one was slightly amoral, two were criminals and one was so self-centred that they believed it was all right if they needed it – they had returned to the library, and resumed their search for lost wisdom that might explain Zero's exhortation that they learn Braille and save the world.

“Hold up!” cried Fabien, a moment later. “What about this?”

The librarians were clustered in a group near the front desk, and discussed amongst themselves whether or not to shush the noisy group by the computers; however, as yesterday, the Crobat that hung silently over their heads persuaded them not to.

“What is it?” asked Sebastian, in the bored tones of the professional teenager.

“Well, have a look,” Fabien said, and the other three young men crowded around to look at the screen of his computer. “It's about these Braille writings they uncovered in this old temple under the sea, and another one they found in Sinnoh.”

Three jaws hit the floor simultaneously.

“My God,” breathed Darren. “This could actually work.”

“But the League don' know,” said Blake. “They don' know how to do it...”

“They're going to die,” concluded Sebastian. “And we're all going down with them.”

He stood up and tossed Learning English for Beginners aside; next to him, Darren put his overcoat on. They exchanged the look that passes between men who know the fate of the world rests on their shoulders, and strode out.

Fabien and Blake stared after them.

“Er... do you think they're comin' back?” asked Blake, confused.

Fabien sighed.

“Blake, my dear fellow,” he said, “they're going to the end of the world. They're either not going to come back, or they'll come back covered in glory.” He blinked. “Glory... yes, like...” Fabien leaped up and ran for the door. “Wait for me!” he cried. “I want to save the world too!”

Now alone, Blake and Goishi looked at each other for a long moment. Many things were communicated in that look; Blake had his first idea that Fabien just might be a little less intelligent than he claimed; Goishi had his first idea that Blake just might be a little more intelligent than he looked – and then, to cap it off, a sort of weary solidarity formed between them, as it can only between two men who live in continual close proximity to a raving lunatic.

Then, of course, because they were Blake and Goishi, they got up and followed Fabien with no more than a deep and melancholy sigh.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #183    
Old August 15th, 2011, 08:58 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Seventy-Six: Colossus Ex Machina

Of course, people had told Sapphire that it was far too dangerous to go anywhere near Sootopolis right now. They had told her that the sun would burn her, that the rain would drown her, and the earthquakes drop buildings on top of her.

So naturally, Sapphire had climbed onto Stacey's back and flown south from Lilycove to Sootopolis. After all, she was damned if she was going to miss the battle for mankind's survival.

This had not been easy. First, she had had to evade the League and the military, both of whom were keeping people firmly on the mainland; this was quite easy, since Wallace had given her a position of such responsibility. As she so often did, Sapphire had abused this power, and been able to sneak out of the chaos of Lilycove's main military base. Then, she'd had to get Stacey to carry her. This had necessitated giving her a bottle of mineral water under the pretence that it was a magical 'humanising potion'; once Stacey had this firmly in her talons, she had consented to bear Sapphire on her back, and to let her steer.

When she was but halfway there, she saw Groudon for the first time; Stacey, sensing danger, doubled her pace. (As an Altaria, she belonged to one of the few species on earth that actively sought out peril; there was an instinct, buried deep in their minds, that compelled the feathery dragons to find danger and beat it senseless.)

At this distance, Groudon was nothing but an indistinct shape, a mountain silhouetted by a corona of searing light. But the closer she got, the more Sapphire could see – and the more afraid she became. She wouldn't admit it, of course – she was far more prideful than Kester, who had no qualms about confessing his fears – but she was. The end of the world had seemed so far away when the only evidence was a gathering storm; now, with the behemoth wading out to sea, covering miles with every pace, it seemed a very present reality.

“Oh my God,” whispered Sapphire, when she was close enough to see the searing red skin and the yellow, stony eyes. “Kester's going to die, isn't he?”

Stacey screeched with mingled joy and bloodlust, and flapped all the harder. She could see the whites of Groudon's eyes, and her warlike idiocy gave her an unquenchable desire to peck them out.

“Hold on, Kester,” Sapphire said, as bravely as she could. “I'm coming to help...”

---

They came at six past two precisely.

It was strange. Once they actually turned up, all my fears vanished, replaced by a strange sort of detached determination. There were monsters here, and I had to slay them, and there was nothing at all daunting about that.

This is actually mild shock, Puck said, as Groudon stepped calmly over the crater wall and flattened fifteen blocks of houses. But it's helpful, so I’ll roll with it. Kester, put on your sunglasses.

I did, just as the sunlight intensified a thousandfold; I’m almost certain that the asphalt actually sizzled behind me.

“Right,” said Steven. “Everyone ready?”

“Yes!” replied Glacia.

“Yeah,” I called, in a daze.

Groudon was now almost directly over the lagoon at the bottom; in its vast shadow, I could see the water beginning to bubble.

“Just as I thought,” said Steven. “Kyogre's coming in through the water... It's almost ready. On the count of three! One!”

Groudon roared, deafeningly loud, and I saw something even darker rise in the darkness of its shadow. I could see little landslides all over the city, stone, brick, glass, steel all coming down like leaves...

“Two!”

Regirock was climbing Groudon's side, I noticed; we were getting higher and higher, with Steven and Registeel beside us. Regice was far below, taking careful aim, and the bubbles under Groudon were writhing and rising into columns...

“Three!”

Water from below, shooting upwards like a jagged glass fountain; ice swirling all around, something roaring, someone screaming; the next minute was a blur of confused snatches of reality. A girl's voice, shouting from above; the smell of salt water, the sound of fire; a babble of cries from the back of an ape and bright green eyes—

WHAM!

We hit the ground like a meteor, Regirock's foot-boulders exploding with the force of the impact. Seconds later Registeel crashed into the tarmac next to us, Steven hanging limply from its back. I looked up, suddenly wide awake, and realised that Groudon still stood above us, pillars of light falling all around it, burning the lagoon and the dark blue back within. Something had gone wrong.

“What happened?” I yelled, as Regirock stumbled backwards, legs crumbling. “Puck!”

Steven pulled out! he cried. Either he pulled the punch or Registeel malfunctioned – I don't know! He swore loudly in English. Regirock's done for! The fall's destroyed its legs!

“What do we do?” I asked, looking around wildly. The scene was unreal; the water and the light beams rose all around us like the bars of a cage. I could hear a low boom and a savage roar, but I could barely see a thing. Maybe I was dreaming, but I thought I could see a huge shadow leaping through the spray, and a circling shape high above...

You die, said Puck simply. I’m sorry, Kester. We tried.

“What? No! I—”

It's over!he shouted, as the noise grew louder; one of the light-beams struck especially deep, and something that I assumed was Kyogre boomed deeply. The noise was followed by a splash and half an oceanful of water falling onto us. Listen, Puck said, voice quiet and serious. Kester, I’m really sorry. But your species is doomed.

“Puck...”

And then the shadow that I’d seen behind the mist broke through the water, and revealed itself to be a huge ape with a sodden white beard, carrying four people in its arms. It stayed upright just long enough to set down its passengers – and then it collapsed unconscious.

A Slaking? queried Puck. Just about the only thing in Hoenn tough enough to walk through these water spouts... What's it doing here?

“You!” cried one of the people who'd dropped from the Slaking, struggling to his feet. “Kester Ruby! Where's Regice?”

I stared from atop my crumbling golem.

“What?”

“I have no time to explain!” he yelled fiercely. “Where's—?”

Regice fell out of the sky and crashed into the road between us and the four men with the Slaking, sending shards of ice flying. Glacia hung limply from the straps, and I wondered vaguely if she and Steven were dead.

“That'll do.” The boy looked around. “Well? They're all together! Wake up!”

“I think we may have to wait,” said one of his companions, recalling the Slaking; with a jolt, I realised he was Darren Goodwin. “We—”

The ground shuddered.

I don't know what these guys think will happen, Puck said, but this is it. The volcano's starting to erupt.

The back of Groudon's foot came into view through the water; it tore through all the buildings on one side of the street and vanished again. A moment later, I heard a colossal thump and an angry boom as it connected with Kyogre's head.

Now the ground was really shaking, vibrating with a vengeance; the road cracked and fell apart beneath us, and chunks fell from Regirock as the tremors shot through its body. As it toppled over, a dying monolith, I felt a strange calm come over me. I was going to die; so was Sapphire, so was everyone.

At least, I thought as I wriggled out of the seatbelts, we were all going together.

“I wonder if I’ll see Felicity,” I said absently, sitting on Regirock's cracked arm and watching, high above me, Groudon's massive claw come swinging down onto a dark dome that rose up out of nowhere. “She'll be reborn too, I guess.”

“What the hell are you doing?” cried the boy. He had very green eyes, I noticed. Like Steven's. “This is—”

It was then that the ground opened up beneath us.

---

Somewhere deep under Hoenn, six lights clicked on, two by two. Six thick fingers flexed, and two arms pulled themselves slowly away from the arms of a throne. They had been there so long that rock had formed over them and their owner, fusing it to the chair it sat in; now, millions of years after its long sleep had begun, the huge creature pulled away, house-sized pieces of limestone falling from its body.

And then it stood up, and turned its eyes upwards.

---

No one had ever seen it before; no one but a few very dedicated archaeologists had ever even heard of it. But it rose up from beneath us, from right beneath Sootopolis, and it beat the living hell out of Kyogre and Groudon for their trouble.

For when the ground opened up, it wasn't to release a tide of lava and ash. It was to disgorge a creature like the golems but much, much bigger, a colossus in white flesh. I didn't know what it was right then, and there was no way that I could ever have comprehended it, either. It rose beneath us and we slipped down its shoulder to its arm; thankfully, from here it was just a short drop to the top of Sootopolis' crater wall, and the beaten golems and the seven people with them weren't harmed. Or maybe we were. Such was my shock that I don't think I would have noticed even if someone had sliced me in half.

The being that had emerged was every bit the equal of Groudon or Kyogre, in power and in size: as it rose, it thrust one mighty hand upwards into Groudon's belly, and with a colossal rush of air, the huge dinosaur took off. It was amazing to see, this creature, bigger than most mountains, just flying away into the sky. It rose and rose, and rose – and then, in accordance with the immutable laws of gravity, it fell.

If there's one image of the end of the world that will stay with me forever, it's that long second that Groudon was falling. It was like the moon, like the sun – like the whole damn sky had been torn loose from its anchors, and was hurtling headlong towards us. It took a second and lasted an eternity: the sky blotted out by red and black, a lake-sized mouth open in panic and colossal eyes wide with fear—

And then the huge golem caught it, Groudon's belly smacking into the palm of its hand with a sound like a billion sumo wrestlers crashing into each other. It was beyond epic; this was biblical in scale. As Kyogre slid down the giant's body, it reached up and caught it in its other hand – and then, holding the whale-like beast by the tail, it started to bludgeon the hapless dinosaur with it.

That lowered the tone somewhat. A moment ago, we'd been watching the battle to end all battles. Now, it was just a standard brawl, magnified a few million times. Kyogre wailed, Groudon bellowed; they seemed completely stunned, which was fair enough. If someone twice as tall as me had suddenly picked me up and started smashing me into Sapphire, I would probably have been fairly surprised as well.

It didn't take long. I can't think of a way of writing this down shorter without making it seem less important, but that white giant was a fast bratchny. It fought like a toddler bashing its toys together, but when your enemies are the toys, that's a pretty effective fighting style. It could only have taken a couple of minutes for Groudon and Kyogre to stop moving, and for the gigantic interloper to discard their bruised, broken bodies on either side of Sootopolis, where they rapidly started to ossify. It was incredible: there they were, the two beasts that had held the whole country in a vice of fear, tossed aside as if they were nothing.

And then the giant turned around slowly, and bent its faceless body down so that it might see us, though as it appeared to have no eyes, I didn't know what it was looking with.

Everyone stared back.

“Did...” I struggled to find a voice. “Did that all just happen?”

“Yes,” replied the boy with the jade eyes. “This... is Regigigas, the creator of the legendary golems. When they're brought together, and someone is there to call for it – it awakens.”

I looked up at Regigigas, and realised slowly that I’d broken both of my arms and several ribs in the fall. My mind, grateful for an excuse to stop functioning, shut down, and I let myself tumble over backwards into unconsciousness.

Puck, for once, said nothing.

---

I woke up in a bed, which was a blessed relief. Last night seemed as far away as the stars; I could barely remember a time before the battle.

Rise and shine, Kester, Puck said. You're officially a hero. A failed hero, but a hero nonetheless.

I sat up, and realised we were still in Sootopolis; I could see the devastated city beyond the window. The building we were in, though, seemed to have largely escaped damage.

“Kester!”

A large blue bullet flung itself at me; I half-raised my hands to defend myself before I realised that it was hugging rather than killing me, and that it was Sapphire. Vaguely surprised that I wasn't in excruciating pain, I hugged her back.

“I think the world was saved,” I told her, feeling somewhat dazed. “What – what happened?”

“I was flying over and saw everything,” Sapphire said, pulling away to sit on the edge of the bed. “Regigigas took the golems and walked away. I think it went to mend them. I landed as soon as it left, and I gave you a Full Restore – but you were exhausted, so I let you sleep.”

“And Steven? Glacia?”

Sapphire bit her lip and gave me a serious look.

“Glacia's OK,” she said, “but Steven...”

A cold jolt ran through me.

“He... he's not—?”

“He's not dead,” said Sapphire quickly. “But he's not good, either. We don't – well, maybe Puck will know.”

Sure. For Puck knows all.

I got up and followed her out of the room; it seemed we were in a single-story hotel or something, because we came into a corridor lined with numbered doors.

“Sapphire,” I said, as she led me to another door, “the volcano didn't erupt.”

“I know,” she replied, smiling. “Isn't it – isn't it great?”

“Yeah,” I answered lamely. “It really is.”

And that, for those of you who've seen movies about people saving the world, is how people really react to it. Because once you've just lived through a narrowly-averted apocalypse, you don't have anything witty left to say. Hell, I still had the image of Regigigas beating the crap out of Groudon and Kyogre in my mind, and it's hard to think about anything with that in your head.

Sapphire opened the door and we went in; everyone else was in here. I took stock of the faces, since I wasn't sure who'd arrived earlier on the Slaking: Steven, on the bed; Glacia, next to him; the boy with the jade eyes, leaning against the windowsill; Darren Goodwin, checking Steven's pulse; and Blake and Fabien, looking out of place in the corner.

“What the hell are you four doing here?” I asked bluntly.

“We came to save the world,” replied the boy. “And I think we did it.”

“No, we saved—”

“Now is not the time!” snapped Glacia. “Kester, what can Puck say about Steven?”

“What's wrong with – oh.”

I looked at Steven, and saw that his skin was flickering and pulsing, as if he were a picture on a TV with a bad signal. As I watched, a line of what appeared to be his hair flared across his face and disappeared again.

He's... er... hell, I have no idea, admitted Puck.

“He doesn't know,” I told her.

Glacia swore and chewed her fingernails.

“Can't we just fly him out of here?” I asked.

“Our helicopter was destroyed as we landed,” Darren replied impassively. “And the only Pokémon we have that could get him to shore swiftly would be Miss Birch's Altaria, which she tells me she wouldn't trust with him.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “I wouldn't trust Stacey with a rubber duck, let alone a sick person... what's our plan, then?”

“We wait for the military or the League,” said the boy. “They'll be here soon.”

“Right.”

I looked around the room, and knew what I had to do next.

“I need to go outside,” I said abruptly, and walked out.

“I'll come,” offered Sapphire, but Blake, of all people, stopped her.

“I think this is somethin' 'e wants to do by 'imself,” he said helpfully. “Prob'ly somethin' to do with tha' pale girl.”

Oh,” said Sapphire, blushing slightly, and stepped back. “OK,” she said. “Go on.”

Conscious that all eyes in the room were on me and the little farce I had just played out with Sapphire, I walked out and headed for the remnants of Kyogre. As I closed the door, I could hear Fabien muttering:

“Damn it, that's the sort of emotional perspicacity I should have...”

---

“Puck,” I said, “can you explain something for me?”

What?

I was walking down the street from the hotel towards the region of Sootopolis that bore Kyogre's corpse; it was hard going, because most of the city appeared to have arranged itself in my way, and I kept having to climb walls of rubble, or take detours.

“When you thought the world was going to end—”

And it didn't. Talk about a happy ending, eh?

“—why did you say 'sorry'?”

Puck was silent for a moment. Then:

I meant nothing by it, he said guardedly.

Despite myself, I smiled.

“You quite like me really, don't you? You were sorry I was going to die!”

No! he protested. No, I would never be sorry at your death! I mean, I’d be free!

I shook my head and chuckled.

Oh, what's that? What's that, huh? One of those head-shakings that's meant to let know that you know that you're right? Well you're wrong, Kester, downright wrong. Why, I’d – I’d kill you without a second thought if I were free. Bam! Just like that. One of these days, Alice, right to the Moon...

“You're rambling.”

Yes. The ramble covers the truth. Burn the truth! Burn the truth!

“OK, shut up now.”

I had arrived at the edge of Kyogre's left flipper, which covered more neighbourhoods than I could have comfortably walked through in a morning. There was brine and something thick and blue leaking from splits in the skin, but nothing that might have been blood.

Are you sure you want to try? If you don't try, you can't fail...

“Yeah,” I said. “I really do like her.”

All right, he said. Just don't get your hopes up.

I took a deep breath.

“Felicity!”

Almost as soon as the words left my mouth, a trickle of water escaped the nearest cut, and formed into something vaguely recognisable – but it wasn't Felicity. It wasn't even human.

Hey, said Puck. Skuld reconstituted herself. Man, she's tough.

In her real shape, the Froslass looked significantly less human than I’d imagined; Skuld was a monster of a creature, legless, bloodless and strangely alluring.

“Sss,” she whined. “Ghost-boy woke me up.”

With that, she flitted away amongst the wreckage of the city; I never saw her again, but I can only hope she choked on a corpse and died.

She'll never die, Puck said happily. She's pretty much immortal.

“Did she shield Felicity?” I asked, straining my eyes to see anything else forming in the water. “Felicity!”

Nothing.

She's dead, then. Never mind, there's at least two eligible females of your species in our cast. You could mate with Spike or Sapphire.


“Felicity...”

She isn't coming back, Puck said. She's dead.

“She's not!” I cried, staring harder; she must have been concealed under a slab of whale or something. “She must have – you said Skuld would shield her!”

I said she might shield her! I promised nothing!

“She's alive,” I insisted. “She's—”

“Are you talking about me?”

I spun around, and saw—

—a girl who looked nothing like Felicity, covered in whale slime.

“Oh,” I said, feeling stupid. “Who are you?”

“It's me,” she said. “I am Felicity.”

I stared. The voice matched, but this – this wasn't Felicity. She had short hair dyed bright blue, and blue-black eyes; she was pretty, but nowhere near as beautiful as the girl she claimed to be.

“No, you're not—” I broke off. “Oh. That was all Skuld, wasn't it?”

Froslass are the world's best seductresses, Puck told me. So tell me: do you still like her? Or did you prefer the icky, ice-infected one who looked like a skeleton and turned into a killing machine when she got stressed?

“Yes, it was,” Felicity replied. She looked nervously at me. “Is that OK?”

I looked back at her, and thought.

Ooh, what will he say? What will he say? Will he accept her or reject her? It's the moment of truth – oh, I just can't bring myself to care. I mean, they're teenage humans. Even if they get together, they've got what? Two years in their relationship, tops? If this was a movie, they'd stay together forever, but humans are almost as bad as Rotom at monogamy.

“You know what?” I said, studiously ignoring Puck's rant. “It is. It's better than OK. Because you're alive, which frankly comes as a really, really welcome surprise.”

OK, so that was less than eloquent. But hey! That's real life for you. It just isn't as good as that stuff they sell you in the cinema.

Felicity smiled.

“That's good,” she said, and then looked around. “What happened? Did we save the world?”

“Yeah,” I admitted. “We did.”

“This is touching,” remarked someone behind me, and I turned around faster than I’d ever done before.

And, of course, I saw Zero.

---

“How long until people get here?” asked Sebastian.

“I don't know,” replied Glacia. “An hour maybe? That's assuming they started out as soon as Regigigas left.”

Sapphire wasn't really listening; she was looking out of the window, watching for Kester.

“You know,” said Fabien, to no one in particular, “it was me who found out how to summon Regigigas. Does anyone want to hear the thrilling true story?”

The room fell silent.

“But I’m the main character,” he said, crestfallen. “People are meant to listen to me...”

“I thought Steven was the man character,” replied Glacia, puzzled. “He's the hero who got horribly injured in the final battle.”

“Oh, for God's sake,” sighed Sebastian. “Isn't it obvious that I’m the main character? I was the driving force behind all of this.”

Darren was silent, but crept quietly towards the door; he felt it was probably time to make a swift exit. Meanwhile, Blake put his head in his hands and let out a mighty oath, for he was surrounded by the sort of people he loathed above all others: those who presumed themselves protagonists.

“Kester,” said Sapphire suddenly.

Everyone stared at her.

“Kester?” asked Fabien. “Kester?

“It's definitely not him,” Sebastian said.

“No!” cried Sapphire. “Not – not that stupid stuff. I mean, he's been gone a really long time.” She turned from the window and faced the others. “Do you think something happened?”

---

You can't say you didn't see this coming. Oh. Wait. This is Kester we're talking about, so you can.

I looked at Zero, and Zero presumably looked back, though I couldn't tell through the mask.

“Mister Ruby and Miss Kusagari,” he said, from his seat on a piece of masonry. “The two I started with, and the two I’m ending with.”

“You've lost,” I said.

Is that really the most witty rejoinder you can think of? 'You've lost'? Come on, Kester, you've got better in you than that.

Zero inclined his head.

“In the short run,” he admitted. “But this was only ever one game. I have some more planned.”

“A game? A game?” I took a step closer to him. “This was all a sodding game?”

“Nadsat is such an ugly language,” Zero remarked, as if that was the only part of my protest that he had registered. “Don't you think?”

“Don't avoid the question,” I growled. “I'm tired of this. Do you know what I did today? I tried to kill the unkillable and do the impossible.”

See the invisible, touch the untouchable, added Puck.

“I'm aware—”

I grabbed Felicity's arm and drew her closer.

“Felicity died,” I said baldly. “In fact, thousands of people died. They were made into flesh and blood and bone and you call this a game?”

“It is a game,” replied Zero mildly. “Perhaps not one for the faint-hearted, I’ll grant you that. Ages twelve and up.”

Nice, said Puck. A joke. For those of you who are perhaps a little slow, I like jokes.

“What were you trying to do, Zero?” asked Felicity. “Why did you do it?”

“I could tell you everything,” Zero said pensively. “In fact, that's why I came here. To talk to you, and tell you how I did it all. That way, you would know how to stop me next time, and I would be forced to think of an even more ingenious way to accomplish my goal – and that would provide me with no end of entertainment.” He looked up. “But first, let me show you something.”

He reached up to his face, and took off his mask.

Giratina's stripy belly, breathed Puck. He's...
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; August 15th, 2011 at 01:56 PM.
  #184    
Old August 15th, 2011, 11:30 AM
olih's Avatar
olih
Who says you can't go home?
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: everywhere
Gender: Female
Nature: Adamant
Another great chapter! So the world has been saved... The only thing is, the whole Regigigas-beats-them-senseless thing is an interesting idea, but I felt you could have done more with it. The after effects are good (shock, confusion, injury); the actual thing is only a paragraph or two long. I know it's meant to be quick, like it all happened in a flash, but making it short like that makes it seem like its not important. That's what I think, but if you feel that you did fine that's okay.
'Giratina's stripy belly.' That's the best oath I've heard so far!
__________________
Stop Kony!
  #185    
Old August 15th, 2011, 01:40 PM
callumjames3
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Gender: Male
Zero is.... Mr Stone. No, wait, Watson! You heard it here first, people! But honestly I have no idea who he is. What I enjoy about this story is it's both funny and dramatic without seeming self important. That last chapter proved that. One thing I must ask about, is the scaling of Groudon and Kyrogue. Looking at their pokedex entry, Groudon is only meant to be 11 foot tall. In your story I assume they are much bigger due to the description. You know, kicking houses with ease causing tidal waves with only their movement. Did you over look their smaller size?
Or change it to fit the story better?
It does make sense that they would be alot bigger, I just was curious.
  #186    
Old August 15th, 2011, 01:58 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by olih View Post
The only thing is, the whole Regigigas-beats-them-senseless thing is an interesting idea, but I felt you could have done more with it.
You're right, it was too short; I should have read that through after writing it and before I posted it. In fact, I just rewrote it and edited it in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by callumjames3
One thing I must ask about, is the scaling of Groudon and Kyrogue. Looking at their pokedex entry, Groudon is only meant to be 11 foot tall. In your story I assume they are much bigger due to the description. You know, kicking houses with ease causing tidal waves with only their movement. Did you over look their smaller size?
Or change it to fit the story better?
I usually ignore Pokédex sizes, because they don't make sense. There's no way that Groudon and Kyogre are going to be so tiny in real life; they're forces that can shape the planet itself. Same goes for Rayquaza, and for Regigigas. (Ugh, I hate writing the word 'Regigigas'; it always looks so wrong.) I also enlarged the regular golems, because they're only actually about six feet tall.

Seriously, can you imagine an eleven-foot-tall Groudon? You'd walk up to it and be all like, hey, you aren't impressive at all. And then he'd kill you, because he'd still be huge and he could slap your head off, which not many things can do. But still, it doesn't sit right.

My God! If that last paragraph's any indication, I'm turning into Puck...
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; August 15th, 2011 at 02:06 PM.
  #187    
Old August 15th, 2011, 02:41 PM
Sgt Shock's Avatar
Sgt Shock
Goldsmith
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Rokkenjima
Age: 22
Gender: Male
Nature: Calm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
I usually ignore Pokédex sizes, because they don't make sense. There's no way that Groudon and Kyogre are going to be so tiny in real life; they're forces that can shape the planet itself. Same goes for Rayquaza, and for Regigigas. (Ugh, I hate writing the word 'Regigigas'; it always looks so wrong.) I also enlarged the regular golems, because they're only actually about six feet tall.
I usually do the same thing when writing fan fiction. The Pokedex heights and weights for that matter just seem to be off in terms of realistic value. Not Pokemon are going to be the same height (my friend considers the one in the Pokedex of the average recorded by the Professors of the Regions). As for the Legendary Pokemon, I do not believe the professors or the Pokedex technology can accurately register them. For the sheer fact that they theoretically shouldn't exist so shouldn't be programmed in the Pokedex. That's my theory anyway.

As for you story, I'm really looking forward to the next chapter. You really know how to keep a guy hanging.
__________________

"To me, jumping out into the rainy sky on a mad night is nothing more than a bit of fun to go with a drink." -Kinzo
  #188    
Old August 16th, 2011, 12:31 AM
olih's Avatar
olih
Who says you can't go home?
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: everywhere
Gender: Female
Nature: Adamant
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
You're right, it was too short; I should have read that through after writing it and before I posted it. In fact, I just rewrote it and edited it in.

Seriously, can you imagine an eleven-foot-tall Groudon? You'd walk up to it and be all like, hey, you aren't impressive at all. And then he'd kill you, because he'd still be huge and he could slap your head off, which not many things can do. But still, it doesn't sit right.

My God! If that last paragraph's any indication, I'm turning into Puck...
Now it's a lot more dramatic and important. I love your description of Groudon falling. I just can't imagine it, or I start to laugh too hard!

Groudon's eleven feet tall? Something that created pretty much all of the land of Hoenn is only a bit more than twice the size of an adult? Your resizing makes much more sense.

You're turning Puck-ish! Oh no! Wait, that wasn't a good adjective... Puck-y, Puck-ness, Puck...

I can't wait to see what'll happen next. I wonder what happened to poor Steven?
__________________
Stop Kony!
  #189    
Old August 17th, 2011, 10:47 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Seventy-Seven: The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World

I stared.

“But you're...”

“Back in the building with the others, waiting for someone to arrive and take us away?” asked Zero. “Yes and no, Mister Ruby.”

“I don't understand,” said Felicity. “How...?” Here, Hoennian seemed to fail her, and she spoke swiftly in Japanese.

“It's an ingenious trick of mine,” said Zero carelessly. “You must surely have suspected that I was not on your side?”

“But you helped us,” I said, frowning. “You...”

Mind blown, eh? Don't worry, I’m sure there's a cuh-razy explanation just around the corner.

Zero pointed at some pieces of building nearby.

“Have a seat,” he said. “This story could take us a while.”

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I asked Puck.

You want to distract him long enough for help to get here? OK, but he probably has a plan set up against that.

I sat down, and Felicity sat next to me; despite the situation, I still found time to (as casually as I could) wind my hand into hers.

“Now,” said Zero, “let me tell you how all this came to be. Let me tell you how I decided I should destroy the world; how I orchestrated my grand plan – and, what I’m sure you are most keen to know, how I became Zero, when you would call me Steven Stone.”

---

“I'm going to look for him,” Sapphire decided. “Is anyone coming with me?”

Glacia shook her head.

“I'm staying with Steven,” she said.

Fabien looked like an idea had struck him.

“We shall stay here,” he said, a cunning grin spreading across his face, “and commit ourselves to the safety of the League representatives that stop here.”

“Because then they migh' no' arrest us for bein' Magmas,” agreed Blake, smiling. “Clever.”

Fabien put his head in his hands, and mumbled something about ruining every good thing he ever came across.

“I'll come,” said Sebastian. “I could use a walk, and I want to see the ruins.”

“And me,” added Darren Goodwin. “I have something to say to Mister Ruby.”

Sapphire looked at him suspiciously.

“You're not going to try and catch him, are you?”

“I think I probably owe it to him not to.”

“All right, then,” said Sapphire warily, “but I’m keeping my eye on you.”

Darren could have made a cutting remark then about how she would probably fail spectacularly to stop him, but he didn't – which is much to his credit. Instead, he followed Sapphire and Sebastian out, and began the search for Kester in silence.

---

“It was about this time last year,” Zero – or rather, Steven – said, looking me dead in the eye. There was something strange about his eyes; they were a weird orange colour, and seemed to smoulder like unattended cinders. “Steven was in Scotland, where he found rumours of a giant appearing in the mountains. He investigated, and found me, amusing myself by scaring people with the illusion of a giant.”

That's what was so weird about him! cried Puck. I knew something felt a little off – he's a Ghost, hiding his presence!

“You're a Ghost?” I asked.

“In a manner of speaking,” Zero replied, which was a fairly confusing answer. “I was a Ghost. I was a Mismagius.”

I got a picture for you, said Puck, and an image flashed before my eyes of a dark, crooked shape swathed in cloak and hat; it looked like its mother was a witch and its father a Haunter, with the Devil as godfather.

“You are like us, then?” asked Felicity. “Or like Kester. I’m free now.”

She was very slimy, I suddenly noticed; she was oozing blobs of whale oil all over my arm.

“Correct,” said Zero. “There was an accident; I’m uncertain as to how exactly it occurred, but I ended up in Steven's mind. I am very strong, if I do say so myself, and it was not difficult, once I was inside, to suppress his mind. He put up rather a lot of resistance, so I took a chance and fused our minds.” Zero spread his arms. “This is the result, children. No longer Steven Stone, not quite Raelyn the Mismagius; we are a new creature. Zero.”

“You are completely insane,” I told him frankly. “Why would you do that? And if you're Steven – or were Steven, or whatever – who the hell is flickering back in the hotel?”

“A phantasm,” Zero said. “Since I retained all of my powers upon fusing with Steven, it was a small matter to create him. I needed a puppet Steven floating around so that I would be free to do as I pleased while he preserved outward appearances – so I made an illusion strong enough to fool all five senses, and then transferred Steven's remaining thoughts and memories over to it. In essence, I created a copy so good that even he believes he is Steven Stone.”

“You really are insane,” Felicity said. “What... how can you do this?”

“I am – or was – a Mismagius,” explained Zero. “We are masters of hallucination, just as Rotom are masters of machinery and Froslass are masters of seduction.” He smiled. “That was, in fact, where I got the idea. My conquest of Steven led me to believe it might be interesting to deliberately infect human hosts with Ghosts – less intelligent than myself, of course, so that they posed no threat.”

Why, you—!

“You see, I have always loved to play games with humans, to watch them run,” Zero continued. “I thought that now I had such a powerful position, I could orchestrate the biggest game of them all.”

“Armageddon is not a game,” I said angrily. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I mentioned that earlier.”

“I hired Mister Goodfellow to steal the Devon Goods when he landed in Hoenn,” Zero went on, ignoring me. “Then I set the Magmas after them too, which led to him being chased into the P-L.O.T. Device and ending up inside you. As for you, Miss Kusagari, I think I just pulled you off the street after you arrived in Lilycove. The only other person I approached directly was Courtney of the Magmas, whom I seduced with hallucinations so that I could get close to Maxie; he was not nearly as friendly towards me as Archie. Regrettably, it seemed Courtney was a little too in love with me, and I had quite some difficulty getting rid of her.

“As you have already worked out, I set the Magmas and the Aquas against each other so that they would end up reviving Groudon and Kyogre; I had gained knowledge of them through Steven's memories – a not inconsiderable resource that was one of the most valuable things I obtained from his mind.

“I set up illusions at every corner, to make sure things conformed to the plan: there was puppet-Steven, who from what you say appears to be degrading; and there were two other people whom I created in order to push Darren Goodwin closer towards figuring out the truth about whose side you are on. This brought him close to Sebastian Emerald and those two annoying Magmas – which ultimately allowed me to go as close to averting the apocalypse as I could without actually averting it.”

“Only you failed there,” I said. “We stopped you.”

Yes. Yes we did. You know why? Because we had Robin J. Goodfellow on our side. That's right. I’m just that good.

“Yes,” admitted Zero. “That was the main mistake. I stacked the odds a little too favourably for you. Still, I shan't do that next time. Well played, Mister Ruby.” He held out a hand for me to shake, and I stared at it as if he'd offered me a king cobra.

“There won't be a next time,” I said, puzzled. “You... we're not going to let you get away with this. Are we?”

Eh, I don't care.

“No, we're not,” confirmed Felicity. There was deep hatred in her eyes; it turned slowly, like molten lead, and rose up in a burning mass behind the blue iris. “You have done so much wrong, Zero.”

“There is nothing good or bad,” replied Zero, “but thinking makes it so.”

What the hell? Quoting Shakespeare is my job! That does it – get him!

“Zero,” I said, standing up, “in a few minutes, the military and the League will be here. There's nothing you can do.”

“Nothing I can do?” Zero raised his eyebrows. “Nothing I can do? Have you learned nothing from me? There is always something I can do. I could vanish, make myself seem to disappear in a flash of black fire; I could Shadow Ball everything around here until it was nothing more than dust. I could even,” Zero said, “show you exactly how I was able to calculate my plan so well.”

He drew a Poké Ball from his pocket and stood up.

“This was the only one of Steven's Pokémon that I kept,” he said. “The rest are in the hands of that duplicate. It is the world's most powerful supercomputer, honed by millions of years of evolution – and because he enjoys a joke, Steven Stone named it Deep Thought.”

Zero dropped the ball, and Felicity and I jumped back as an abomination in grey steel appeared, a pendulous body slung beneath four powerful legs; I recognised it right away from the image Puck had once shown me.

It was a Metagross.

Oh, like I didn't see that one coming, Puck said. Huh. Come on, it was obvious.

“Deep Thought was able to consider all the variables that came with three weeks of life in Hoenn,” Zero said, “and formulate a way of forcing them to interact. It can also fly on the wave of its own telekinesis, and so I was able to use it to kill Rayquaza back in London, by combining its Hyper Beam with a rocket-propelled grenade.” He smiled. “And now, if you don't mind, it's going to kill both of you. Deep Thought, would you be so kind as to Meteor Mash Mister Ruby into the ground?”

And Deep Thought locked its blood-red eyes on us, and my limbs froze in place.

“Oh cal,” I said, suddenly thrust back into danger. “Felicity, can you—?”

“I can't move,” she replied. “Um... I don't – Kester, I—”

“I know,” I told her, as Deep Thought slotted its legs back against its body and began to rise, humming, into the air. “I know.”

This is too sentimental, complained Puck. Squish the kids! Squish the kids!

“If it's any consolation,” said Zero, who looked, if anything, rather bored, “you're dying together. I believe lovestruck fools find that sort of thing rather romantic.”

“Piss off,” I said, which was about as eloquent as I could get at that stage.

Deep Thought raised one pile-driver leg high above its body; it moved slowly, but there was colossal power behind each movement. Points of light began to gather around its claws, and that was when it really hit home that in about five seconds, I was going to be a small pile of fleshy goo on the tarmac.

“Oh my God, we're going to die,” I said, and started screaming for help, just as the Metagross swung its heavy arm downwards—

---

My last conversation with Puck happened in less than half a second. We spoke at the speed of thought, just before the arm reached its mark, and the words that passed between us were possibly the most significant of my life.

Kester, said Puck, I think this is it.

Oh my God I’m going to die—


No. You're not. Puck paused, to let that sink in. Metagross is an organic mineral supercomputer. I’m going to possess it and shut it down.

What? Oh, thank God!


I can't say how relieved I was just then, because the emotion was very fleeting.

Wait, I said, what did you mean by 'this is it' if I’m not going to die?

Because Metagross have sophisticated immune systems made up of the most powerful anti-virus software in existence
, Puck replied. You're not going to die, but I am.

No, I said immediately. Puck, you can't—

You're a human, you'll live forever
, he stated baldly. I’m a Rotom. A very, very old Rotom. And I can't have more than a few months left in me. I am transience; I've always been ready to fade away.

Puck, you hate me! Don't do this!

Deep Thought's heavy claw was just inches from my face now; I was so immersed in the hyper-fast world of thought that the real world appeared to be moving in slow motion.

I did hate you, he admitted. Unfortunately, it seems my Ghostly purity has been contaminated from living with you. He sighed. I hate myself for it, but I like you, Kester. And Felicity, and Sapphire – the whole damn lot of your miserable race, even. And if I can save your life and help you stop Zero from trying to ruin it all again – well, that's fine by me.

The cold steel was less than an inch from impact; the lights twirling and buzzing around it seared my eyes and I felt Felicity squeeze my hand and say something I couldn't hear over the thoughts I was roaring back at Puck.

Puck! For God's sake—!

News flash: there is no God. I mean, you're a Buddhist, right?
Puck gathered himself for a moment, and then spoke again:

All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And Robin J. Goodfellow was the protagonist!


I felt the slightest brush of metal against my forehead—

—and then Deep Thought jerked its arm away, spun rapidly through the air, and crash-landed in a pile of ossified Kyogre fifty yards away.

“Puck!”

---

Sapphire saw it from down the street; she saw Steven Stone and Deep Thought, put two and two together and came up with a reasonably accurate three point nine recurring. Thinking fast, she let out a Pokémon – and found to her consternation that it was Malvolio. That didn't matter, Sapphire thought, she could deal with it; she held him up above her head and screamed abuse at him until he let loose a Power Gem comparable in power to the one he had used back on Route 110, against the Aquas.

What she couldn't have foreseen was what happened next.

The Metagross spun out of control before the move got anywhere near it and crashed off to one side, the lights in its eyes going out; consequently, the Power Gem passed straight through where it had been and hit Steven square in the face.

The effect was electric: he was lifted bodily from the floor, swung through the air in a graceless somersault and slammed hard into part of Kyogre's flipper. From this position – prone, face-down and rather inelegant – he did not rise, and Sapphire had just enough room in the back of her mind to hope she hadn't killed him.

“Kester!” she cried, and, accompanied by Sebastian and the Goodwin, rushed over to him, scrambling over bits of masonry and torn-up asphalt.

He did not respond.

Instead, Kester just stared at the husk of what had been a Metagross, eyes wide and quite possibly unseeing.

“He's dead,” he said softly.

“I know,” Sapphire said. “Are you OK? What happened? I just saw it fall out of the air—”

“No, Sapphire,” he said. “Not the Metagross. Puck. Puck's dead.”

“What?”

Kester looked at her, eyes oddly blank. Behind him, Darren and Sebastian began to investigate Steven.

“Puck invaded it and turned it off, but the anti-virus killed him.”

“Kester, I’m sorry—”

He cut her off with an upraised hand.

“He wasn't really there to you,” he said softly. “Or to anyone except me.”

It was true. Sapphire couldn't really envisage Puck in her mind; he had always been at some remove from her reality, dwelling as he did entirely within Kester's brain.

“I know how you feel,” said Felicity unexpectedly, taking Kester's hand. Sapphire blinked; she could think of a hundred different reasons why Felicity ought not to have been here, chief among them the fact that she was dead. “Sort of. I know what it is to have someone in your head, but not how it is to love them.”

“Thanks,” replied Kester, and let himself be hugged by her. If she'd been in his place, Sapphire would probably have declined the hug – Felicity was covered in a thick layer of sticky, slimy whale-stuff – but she supposed that he needed it. She did feel a slight pang of regret that it wasn't her doing the hugging, but then again, like Puck had worked out and Kester had said, she didn't really love him, so she guessed it didn't matter.

It was at that moment that Sebastian and Darren both flew away from Steven's body at about fifty miles an hour, and he rose into an upright position, floating about a foot off the ground.

This, as you can imagine, proved a worthy distraction from the tableau of woe, and Sapphire, Kester and Felicity all turned to look.

“What the hell is happening?” hissed Sapphire.

“Steven was possessed by a Mismagius and became Zero,” said Felicity rapidly. “The other Steven is an illusion.”

Sapphire spent half a second unravelling that in her mind, and was then distracted by Steven – or Zero – beginning to speak.

“That was very strong,” he said, sounding a little perturbed. “But I am immortal. Mismagius do not die.” He drifted back down to the ground and stepped towards Sapphire, in whose coat Malvolio was now attempting to conceal himself. “You won't stop me. I shall leave and concoct a second plan.”

“I think that you might find that difficult,” said Sapphire, noting movement behind him.
“What?” asked Zero, and then fell over abruptly, asleep.

Behind him stood a small Pokémon costumed in green and beige, and behind that stood a very angry-looking Darren Goodwin.

“Poké Ball number six,” he said, breathing heavily. “My favourite Pokémon, Shroomish.”

Kester seemed to snap out of his glassy-eyed trance state at this.

“Shroomish?” he asked, puzzled. “I was expecting a – a huge dragon or something.”

Darren shrugged self-consciously, and picked up his Pokémon, brushing the remaining Sleep Powder off its back and onto Zero.

“I like Shroomish,” he said defensively. “I go to Petalburg Woods and hunt for them.”

“Fascinating as this is,” called Sebastian, rising effortfully from where he had landed in the remnants of a vending machine, “I think we should probably all get the hell out of here right now.”

He pointed upwards, and everyone who was still conscious looked up to see a Flygon and a Staraptor descending from the sky, bearing a man and woman on their respective backs; seconds later, the helicopters were rushing in, and the saviours of the world finally found themselves leaving Sootopolis.

---

And that's how we saved the world, and how Puck died.

It's hard to believe, but life actually returned to normal after that. I went home the next day, and had a massive argument with my mum about the fact that she'd been willing to sell me out to Devon when they'd discovered I had Rotom powers. It wasn't the homecoming I’d imagined, but at least I was back.

Puck had been right about a lot of things, including a sudden rise in my popularity. After all, I was a hero now; like he said, though, I was a failed one. I hadn't really saved the world – none of us had. Every single one of us had done a little thing, and the sum of our chance actions had been just enough to rescue the human race.

I’d failed the worst, though. I’d stayed and listened to Zero instead of getting help. And because of that, Puck had...

Anyway. That's beside the point. I’ll move on to Zero: he vanished into government custody; I don't want to think about what they would have done to him, but I’m fairly certain he probably vanished into some nasty vault somewhere.

Sapphire went home for a couple of weeks, and then set off again on her journey as a Trainer. She visited me once – to tell me she was sorry, and that I could have Cassie the Castform back if I wanted – but after that, I didn't see much of her. We kept in touch, by phone and email, but that was all.

Felicity was a strange case. No one was sure what to make of her: an illegal immigrant, underage, who had, it seemed, been living on the streets in Lilycove before Zero picked her up. She wouldn't even tell anyone her real name. In the end, she vanished, which was disheartening – and then reappeared in Rustboro and, weirdly, started attending my school. I've no idea how she managed it, but it was great, because I could see her any time I wanted.

I have no idea what happened to Sebastian. He vanished as soon as the helicopters touched down in Lilycove, presumably to another country where he wasn't as famous.

Steven was strange too, in that he recovered, and claimed to have had a dream that he wasn't real. After that, I didn't really have any choice but to tell him that it was true, he wasn't; he took it surprisingly well, but left the country the next day. To this day, I have no idea where he went.

As for Darren, he came to tell me that Devon were no longer interested in me, since I no longer had super-powers, and also to apologise, which was very nice of him. Once he'd left, I pretty much settled back into my old routine: school, Luke, Beatrix, everything the same as ever, only now I had Felicity as well.

Except I missed Puck.

It was stupid – crazy, even. He had dragged me into the most hellish three weeks of my life, abused me continually, and laughed at every misfortune that had befallen me – and yet I still missed him. I’d never met anyone like him, and doubted that I ever would.

Then I thought about what Puck would have said if he'd caught me thinking that way, and decided that he would probably have laughed at me for being so stupid, and thrown in a reference to some Western movie that I didn't recognise as well. So I thought about leaving home and becoming a Trainer with Cassie; thankfully, I remembered then just how much I’d hated it all, and resolved to stay exactly where I was, in my comfortable city-boy life, and write all this down so everyone would know.

That is, until a Metagross crashed through my bedroom window one morning when I was still asleep – but after my mum had left for work, thankfully.

I leaped awake in an instant, gibbered incoherently and was about to make a break for it when it spoke to me.

In a very familiar voice.

“Yo, Kester,” it said, through a rectangular mouth on the base of its body. “How's it hanging?”

“You – what – Puck?

The Metagross, if such a thing was possible, looked smug.

“That's right, baby,” he said. “I faked my death! Now no one's hunting me down any more and I've got this sweet Metagross to play with. Aren't I clever?”

I punched him in the eye, found that it really, really hurt, and withdrew sharply, holding my hand and swearing.

“You faked your death,” I said, the world threatening to collapse around me. “You let me think that you were dead?

“Eh, you didn't seem like a good actor,” Puck replied through the Metagross, “so you know, I figured that if I made up some crap about being killed by anti-virus software, you'd be able to convince everyone that I really was dead.”

“You are the worst person in the world,” I told him, shaking my head. “But I guess I am glad you're alive.”

“Cool. Anyway, can I please drop this off here? I, er, just did something that's going to get me in a bit of trouble, and I really need to lie low for a while.”

He opened the mouth of his Metagross very wide, and a black bag fell out.

Now, I don't know about you, but for me, déjà vu always feels very unpleasant. Right now, I was feeling it, and it was more than unpleasant. It was horrendous.

“Puck,” I said in a low voice, “please don't tell me that you want me to look after stolen goods from the Mafia again.”

“Mafia? No way!” said Puck cheerily.

“Oh good.”

“I stole it from Devon,” he said. “It's—”

“What?”

I sank to the floor, buried my face in my hands and let out a piteous groan.

“Oh God, not again,” I cried. “Please, God, no...”

All at once, I heard someone start hammering on the front door, and looked up at Puck with murder in my eyes.

“Oh yeah,” he said blithely, “I stopped off along the way and invited Sebastian and Sapphire over. I thought they'd help.”

“Please tell me you're making this up,” I begged. “Please tell me—”

Puck grinned broadly.

“Just kidding,” he said. “That'll actually be the Devon people here to get their precious alien-virus-meteorite back.”

As I stood there, Metagross on one side and the sounds of door abuse on the other, I almost started to cry.

“I was home again,” I said bitterly. “I had a girlfriend. I was happy.”

“We can pick up Felicity on the way,” Puck offered. “Oh, I know! Let's get Sapphire too!”

“For God's sake!”

I should have known, really. Puck was far too egotistical to let himself die. And as long as he was alive, there'd always be some damn adventure waiting to suck me in and get me nearly killed.

But he could have at least given me some time to get dressed before carrying me off.

FIN


And that's all, folks. Tomorrow, I'll be starting something new, so tune in for an entirely different story.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #190    
Old August 17th, 2011, 01:10 PM
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 22
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
You mean I was right on my main theory, and you let me go on thinking that I was wrong?!

...In case you're wondering, I'm not mad at you at all. Far from it. I'm impressed, actually. But you tricked me. You tricked me so freaking badly it's not even funny.

And now Puck's a Metagross? Kester's going on another adventure with Sapphire and Felicity that has something to do with Deoxys. And I didn't know that you based Darren off of that researcher in Petalburg Woods. That, I must admit, was a very clever touch.

A part of me wonders why Kester would forgive his mother or tolerate living with her after she pretty much threw him to the wolves.

This, my friend, was a brilliant masterpiece, an amazing satire, and an un-freaking-believable story. Kudos to you, good sir.

Sincerely,

Mem.
__________________
Quotes are nothing but words.
  #191    
Old August 18th, 2011, 12:58 AM
olih's Avatar
olih
Who says you can't go home?
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: everywhere
Gender: Female
Nature: Adamant
That was a great ending. I thought Zero might have been Steven, but I wasn't really sure until now. So now they're going off on a new adventure? That should be interesting.
I seriously loved this story, and all the twists and side stories made it fun to read. So Darrin was the Shroomish Guy? I never would have guessed!
Great job. This is the best fanfic I have ever read.
__________________
Stop Kony!
  #192    
Old August 18th, 2011, 03:35 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Thanks, everyone who enjoyed this story. I'm starting another one now - another comedy, though I've no idea if I can make it as good as this one. Still, if you liked this, you might want to check it out.

Silent Memento, I actually let the ending evolve as I was writing it. I set up Steven as the obvious candidate for being Zero, and then, when people like you so kindly let me know that you'd worked it out, I wrote in several parts that proved that Steven couldn't have been Zero at all. Then I invented a way that Steven could have been Zero all along. I'm quite pleased at how it turned out.

I presume Kester tolerates his mother because he wants to stay at home. You see, he goes on a journey, but in the end, he's still Kester, he still likes the quiet life. That's one of the biggest differences between comedy and regular drama. Ordinarily, people learn from their experiences. In comedy, people just go round in one big circle. I decided to make that a big theme of the ending, with the whole thing starting again, just because I could.

Olih, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I'm going to work hard at making My Trip to the End of Time, by Pearl Gideon its equal. It'll be tough, but hopefully I'll be able to do it without just cloning my entire cast of characters.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #193    
Old August 18th, 2011, 07:02 AM
01
01
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Gender: Male
It was a truly great ending to a awesome story! I really liked the plot twist you pulled by revealing Steven as Zero. I honestly never expected Darren to be the Devon man in the Petalburg Woods. The concept of Zero being a Mismagius was extremely interesting. I'm guessing that your next fan fiction will be based on Diamond and Pearl games? I loved reading the story from start to end and wish you good luck in all other fan fiction endeavors.
  #194    
Old September 1st, 2011, 10:41 PM
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
I intend to make a longer reply eventually. But for now, just one question: What was Morgana again?
  #195    
Old September 6th, 2011, 02:25 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
I intend to make a longer reply eventually. But for now, just one question: What was Morgana again?
And so I return, after a week without Internet. Now, Morgana is an interesting case. I deliberately never revealed what she actually was, just to be annoying, but if you really want to know, she's a

Spoiler:
Mantyke.


Which is probably not what you were expecting.

And 01: thanks for reading, and for enjoying. It was you who did all the hard work, after all - all you readers. You took in the words and, utilising inconceivable powers of imagination, you turned what are essentially some squiggles on a screen into a living, breathing world. All I had to do to write those squiggles down.

So well done to you, not to me.
__________________

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

Sponsored Links


Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Minimum Characters Per Post: 25



All times are UTC -8. The time now is 06:55 AM.


Style by Nymphadora, artwork by Sa-Dui.
Like our Facebook Page Follow us on Twitter © 2002 - 2014 The PokéCommunity™, pokecommunity.com.
Pokémon characters and images belong to The Pokémon Company International and Nintendo. This website is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Nintendo, Creatures, GAMEFREAK, The Pokémon Company or The Pokémon Company International. We just love Pokémon.
All forum styles, their images (unless noted otherwise) and site designs are © 2002 - 2014 The PokéCommunity / PokéCommunity.com.
PokéCommunity™ is a trademark of The PokéCommunity. All rights reserved. Sponsor advertisements do not imply our endorsement of that product or service. User generated content remains the property of its creator.