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  #76    
Old May 13th, 2012, 04:05 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
An oddly serious chapter, this time. Serious, and full of Pinter. Pinter Pinter Pinter. Say it enough and it stops sounding like a word.

Interlude: Recently


The year is 2008. In three years' time, I will meet Pearl Gideon for the first time. Now, I am meeting a different woman – no, not a woman. She is seventeen, still a girl, and she has come to view the monster she has inherited. I was warned she would be coming, and told to be nice. For once, I shall do as they say: she is young and naïve, and I am old and cunning, and I know that I can make her believe we are friends, or more than friends. And when she does that, she will let me go, and I can set my head back on my shoulders and see what new wonders have crystallised in the world outside. I can visit my enemy, in her house in Eterna City, and ask her how her daughter is. I can do so much – but only if I am free.

She approaches, and I concentrate, refining my eyes, my nose, my mouth into perfect versions of themselves, smoothing out every last flaw and enhancing every asset. In half a second, I have the most beautiful face on Earth, and as soon as the girl looks at me I know I have caught her.

I can't help but smile. This is far too easy.

“Ashley,” says Lucian, eyeing me with distrust, “this is Cynthia. She's the Champion now.”

I meet her eyes. They are grey, like mine; however, where mine are dull and cold with age, hers glow with youth and excitement.

“Cynthia,” I say, through cracked lips. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I hope we will get along better than your predecessor.”

Cynthia smiles, and my fate is sealed. In one week's time, my head will leave the vault for her office. Two weeks after that, I will be whole again, and one night after that, I will sleep with her. The morning after that, I will realise with a sense of dread that I am falling in love with her.

---

The year is 2009. One year ago, I met Cynthia Buckley for the first time. In two years' time, I will meet Pearl Gideon for the first time. Everything happens in autumn. All you have to do is follow the signs, and you will find a spine of leaves running through my life.

I am sitting in a kitchen, talking to my enemy. Her name is Alicia Walker, and fifteen years ago I ruined her life. I also ruined mine, but that is no concern of hers. I have many lifetimes to ruin; she only has one.

She wants compensation, she says. I nod. It can easily be arranged, and I would gladly give it even if it could not. What would she like? Of course. Money. Would she like a nicer house, a better car? Would she like her daughter to go to a good school, too? Would she like funds set aside for her later in life, so that she can do whatever she likes with her short human existence and remove one worry from her mother's head? Yes, that would be good too. Is there anything else I can offer? Yes. I could leave and never see her again. That would make the deal complete.

I hesitate, then nod. The contract on the table is amended, and I sign it. As I leave, I see a framed child's handprint on the wall. It is the size of my palm, and I reflect that I no longer have any conception of a time when my hand was that small. I remember it happened, but the nuances of it elude me.

I feel stupid. I wait until I have walked a block from the house, and then I cry. It is the first time in four hundred years.

---

I do not know what the year is, but everything is dark and I have forgotten my name.

---

The year is 2010. Two years ago, I met Cynthia Buckley for the first time. One year ago, I signed a contract and cried. In one year's time, I will meet Pearl Gideon for the first time. It is autumn again. Everything is linked; everything follows the same twisting fractal patterns. You just need to live long enough to see the shapes crystallise in the chaos.

I have just awoken from uneasy dreams of things past and things that may yet be. My heart is beating hard in my chest, and I remember now why I gave up sleep. I hate the dreams.

It is dark, but I can see everything perfectly: the framed print on the wall, the pattern on the curtains, Cynthia's hair, winding in long blonde rivers across the sheets. I can hear her heartbeat, a slow, steady pulse, and the breath of the Hoothoot outside. I can smell stale human bodies and distant sewage, and the delicate aroma of approaching rain.

I turn my head away and shut out the world, staring at Cynthia's face instead. I imagine it growing old as I stay young, the anguish increasing behind it. I tell myself that she cannot be different from the others. Everyone will hate me, in the end. Everyone will hate me and fear me, and then everyone will die. A list of names, stretching from now until doomsday, flickers through my mind: Amanda, Sally, Jane, Zyrie, Michael, Harvey – and hundreds more, the result of four hundred and fifty years of weakness. All dead.

Cynthia stirs in her sleep, and her arm snakes over my hip and around my waist. For a fleeting moment, I know what I should do: push it away, get up and leave. I will disappear completely, vanishing into the wilderness, and find someone who needs a God.

But I do not leave. I pull her close instead, and wrap my arms around her, feeling the warmth of her living flesh through my cold skin. Now, for tonight at least, I forget the future and the past, and drown myself in the moment.

I suppose I am a fool. But then again, who isn't?

---

Chapter Twenty-Seven: In Which We Discover the Importance of Being Gothic

'Sinnoh has a long and rich religious and mythological tradition, which has been almost completely obliterated by its readiness to embrace Western modernity. In fact, so complete was its conversion that by 1880, the state religion was Christianity and most of the current generation had never heard of Palkia, Arceus or Corthenus – names that would not be revived until the traditionalist revival of the 1960s.'

—Cynthia Buckley, The Undiscovered Land: Sinnoh Before Garborn


The ride was forty minutes of steadily-mounting depression as we drove through a series of increasingly derelict and run-down neighbourhoods; at the end, we were left standing in front of a pair of rusting iron gates in the centre of an industrial district that appeared to have been left to rot sometime around the year 1955. If the factory beyond them had ever produced ice cream during my lifetime, I would have been incredibly surprised; it looked old enough for everyone who had ever worked there to have died by now.

“This place is nasty,” I stated. “You'd better have a really good reason for dragging me out here.”

“Actually, you wanted to come,” Ashley replied. “And I never claimed this ice cream factory was still operational.”

Still operational? It looks older than the Lost Tower!”

“And that's not necessarily a bad thing,” he snapped, and I realised that he was older than the Lost Tower, too.

“Uh – no, it isn't,” I admitted. “I mean, my house is, like, three hundred years old, and I think it's great. Anyway,” I continued, changing the subject, “why are we here again?”

Ashley checked the time on his phone.

“We have twenty-six minutes,” he announced. “We have time. This way.”

He crossed the road, skirting a large pothole as he went, and Iago and I followed him for half a block down the street. After a while, he turned a corner and stopped, waiting for us to catch up.

“You wanted to know why we're here,” Ashley said. “This” – here he held up a folded piece of paper – “is why we're here.”

“What's that?” I asked.

“The paper he took from Schultze's wallet last night,” said Iago, frowning. “Ashley, what does it say?”

“'Magyor',” read Ashley, unfolding it. “'The meeting will take place at the abandoned Happy Miltank ice cream factory at half past one on Friday. I look forward to meeting you in person.'” He replaced it in his pocket, and said, “I think that's worth investigating, don't you?”

“So that's why you didn't want to question him until later,” I said. “You wanted to see what this was.”

Ashley shrugged.

“Something tells me this is worth looking into,” he told me. “And once I have that sense, I find it very difficult to leave a thing alone. You'll notice that the writer of the note has not met Schultze in person, so I think I ought to be able to fool them. We are roughly the same height and build, and I can do his accent easily enough.”

“What's my role in all this?” I asked eagerly.

“Stay back and don't give us away,” replied Ashley. “I hardly think the Great Magyor would ever be seen in the company of someone like you.”

It was disappointing, but it made sense; it just wouldn't be possible for me to join him. I was about as Gothic as a rubber duck.

Fine,” I sighed. “I'll stay out of the way.”

“I'll watch from the shadows,” said Iago. “You've been leaving me behind too much recently, Ashley. I need to keep a closer eye on you.”

Immediately, my suspicion that Iago was the Galactic mole flashed into my head: did he suspect Ashley of trying to hide things from him? I watched Ashley's reaction carefully, but saw nothing other than a casual nod.

“As you wish,” he said dryly. “It is your job, after all.”

“That's right, and without it I go straight to jail, so I need to do it properly.” Iago gave him an odd look.

“I'm perfectly well aware of that,” replied Ashley, with the faintest of smiles. “And as long as you don't compromise my disguise, I have no problem with you watching.”

“Good.” Iago rubbed his hands together. “Is it me, or is it getting colder?”

“It is,” I said, pointing at the black clouds gathering in the west. “Looks like the sun can't last in Pastoria.”

“More rain? Christ, wasn't it enough to rain all yesterday and last night?”

“Evidently not,” said Ashley. “Iago, get into position in the factory now. The person I'm meeting will probably turn up early and wait for me, so you need to get there before them if you want to hide.”

Iago nodded.

“Good idea,” he said. “But you have to come with me and stand just across the street, so I can still see you.”

“If you think it necessary.”

“I do.”

“What about me?” I asked.

“I'm not sure. Perhaps you could buy some coffee or something and wait?” suggested Ashley.

I looked around, and saw nothing but the endless wasteland of ruined factories.

“From where, exactly?”

“Alas, that is a question you must answer for yourself,” said Ashley, with a hint of the old sarcasm in his voice. “Pearl, I will tell you all that transpires, but now we have to go. Do what you will; I shall find you again.”

He turned and walked briskly away, his new coat catching a gust of wind and flying up behind him like the wings of a crow; Iago hurried after him, and as I watched them go, I couldn't help feeling like I was alone, that there was nothing really that connected me to them. They lived in a world of nocturnal investigation and clandestine meetings; I lived in the day, my existence predicated almost entirely on fashion and alcohol. All at once, I felt stupid: how could I ever expect to have participated in their world, to have solved any part of this mystery, to have ever done anything that they would consider worthwhile? Perhaps I should go back to Jubilife and beg the university not to kick me out, or perhaps I should just go right back to home to Corvada and forget the whole thing ever happened.

And then, as quickly as it had begun, the feeling passed, and I remonstrated with myself for being so ridiculous: my life was at stake as much as anyone else's here; I had a right to be here. Besides, this was easily the most interesting thing ever to happen to me. I wasn't going to give it up just like that.

“But I still have no sodding idea where to get a coffee,” I muttered crossly, and trudged away in search of a café.

---

In the sky, the sun made a valiant last stand against the encroaching thunderheads; in the streets, people began to eye the clouds with unease, reaching for umbrellas or doubling their pace; in the Pinter Café, Liza drank hot chocolate and wondered how long she was going to have to stay in this miserable city.

“Is it time yet?” asked Tristan.

“No,” replied Liza shortly.

“Is it close?”

“Yes.”

“OK.” Tristan shivered a little. “I don't like waiting here. I mean, if the Diamond doesn't solve this, we all—”

“Don't mention it,” interrupted Liza, looking around to make sure no one had heard. “It's secret, remember?”

“Oh. Yeah.”

“And I don't like being here any more than you do,” she continued. “It's not the danger – if anything, this mystery's probably too easy for Lacrimére – but this place is depressing.” She finished her chocolate, contemplated ordering another one and decided she'd have a blueberry muffin instead. “It's like a monument to the love of death.”

“I think that's why it's popular.”

“With Goths, yes. It's not a place for normal people.”

Tristan seemed to accept this, but Liza was now less certain herself: did she really consitute 'normal people'? Her memory only went back seven months, and those seven months had seen her kill more people than lived in the whole of Celestic Town – to say nothing of her occasional flashes of recollection of past years. She had a sneaking suspicion that 'normal' was not a word that could ever be applied to her.

Still, she wasn't a Goth, so she didn't care for the Victorian gloom that pervaded Pastoria. Normal nor not, that was something she could decide on.

“Can I get you anything else?” asked a helpful waiter, appearing at her side from nowhere.

“Yeah. Can I get a blueberry muffin, please?”

“Sure. Anything else?”

“No. Thanks.”

The waiter paused for a long time, and Liza had just begun to get a sense of what was being left unsaid when he walked away.

“What was that about?” asked Tristan, looking puzzled.

“The weasel under the cocktail cabinet,” replied Liza, surprising herself with her own knowledge. “Come on. This is a themed café, remember.”

“It is?”

“Yes, you imbecile, it's— you know what? I can't be bothered.”

A moment later, the muffin arrived.

“Here you are, ma'am.” The waiter paused significantly. “I used to serve muffins all over the world. Well, all over the country.” He paused again. “I served them here once.”

With that, he left again, bringing mint tea to the elderly couple two tables away.

“OK, what was that about?” asked Tristan. His brow was so deeply furrowed with confusion that he could have held a coin with his forehead. “I really don't get this—”

“It's Pinter,” replied Liza. “What do you expect?”

“What the hell is Pinter?” asked Tristan in frustration, far too loudly; he drew disapproving stares and a very long and ominous silence from everyone else in the café.

“Tristan,” said Liza at length, “shut up.”

Cowed by the strangeness of the attack, Tristan did, and a few minutes later, his phone rang.

“Hello?” Immediately, he went pale, and handed it silently to Liza.

“What is it?” she asked, knowing exactly who was calling.

“Why can't I get you on your phone?”

“The battery broke. What is it?”

“Just a little status update,” came the reply. “We're almost done here, so if you can get back by tomorrow evening, we'll begin on Saturday morning.”

“Really? You're done?”

“Yes.” Cyrus sounded breathless, as if just saying the words was as exciting as the deed itself. “We'll have the chain by Sunday evening, I think, and then I thought we could get to the Pillar and set everything up by Tuesday morning.”

“And then we can wipe it all away,” said Liza. She was looking at the muffin, but her eyes were focused on something far more distant. “Every last dashed hope.”

“Everything,” agreed Cyrus. “And the world ends with a whimper, to give way to the new.”

“Nothing to look for any more,” Liza continued, as if she hadn't heard. “No need to search, because there are new lives to be had. Authentic existences.”

“Yes, there are.” Cyrus paused. “Now, finish up there and come back to Veilstone. I think the Diamond will have the mystery solved before the time limit, but it no longer matters; by the time he does, we should have a strong bargaining chip to keep him out of our affairs until they are so far advanced that there's nothing he can do.” Another pause; perhaps the atmosphere of the café was leaking down the phone line. “I'll see you there, Liza.”

“See you.”

Liza slid the phone shut and gave it back, eyes still unseeing. Then she glanced at the clock over the counter, came to a decision and stood up.

“Right,” she said to Tristan. “Come on, we're leaving.”

“It's time?”

“Yes. Come on, I need to change before we get there.”

She strode over to the counter and settled the bill; as she was counting out the money, the waiter said:

“You know, you could stay here. We have no women here.”

“That would leave my associate there without a woman in his group,” countered Liza. “The irony would be wonderful, yes, but he's too stupid to be left on his own. He'd probably manage to choke on his own breath.”

With that, she turned and almost ran out of the door in her haste, leaving a slightly nonplussed waiter behind her and trailing a rather confused Tristan in her wake.

---

There was a question on Bond's mind. It was a question of some importance, and one that he was slightly concerned about the answer to.

Namely: where on earth were they going?

He had not looked at where the train he had so hastily boarded was actually heading, nor did there seem to be any sign on board; from the rising hills and mountains through which they had been winding for the last couple of hours, they were heading west, but the twists and turns of the track to avoid the mountains had made it very difficult to work out which city they might be travelling to.

Beside him, Ellen was asleep, curled up into the seat-back; she might not need to sleep, but Bond thought it could hardly be bad for her. She was still young, after all, even if she had been in existence for decades, and was due her rest. On his other side was Pigzie Doodle, now reconstituted and hovering uneasily above the cushion.

I don't like this, he said abruptly, though no one heard. We're going west, which is exactly the opposite of where we want to be going. It's like trying to go from Moscow to St. Petersburg by way of Adelaide.

He drifted up to the window, peered out and sank down again, dissatisfied.

Nothing but sodding mountains, he grumbled. Did I ever tell you about me and mountains? There was no reply. Well, I suppose it doesn't matter. It's not like you can hear me.

Bond, oblivious to the Duskull's attempts to communicate, glanced at Ellen to make sure she was still all right and settled down into thought. They had considered jumping off the train and heading back towards Pastoria to get the right one, perhaps hitching a lift on a train passing in the opposite direction, but if no such train were to pass, they would have a very long walk ahead of them, and it would delay them even more than heading to wherever they were and coming back again on the next train. In short, there was nothing to be done but wait – but it would be nice if they at least knew where they were going. One could prepare more easily if one had that much information at least.

“I suppose there's nothing we can do,” Bond said at last, leaning back into his seat. “Never mind. There can't be much further until we arrive.”

Well, technically you're right, Jeeves, but I like to know where I'm going. The last time I found myself on a train at random, I ended up in City 17. And I ain't no Free Man, so you can guess how that went. Pigzie Doodle sighed. I do realise you can't hear me, but I also find it hard to stop talking. Centuries of travelling alone does that to a person. Anyway, did I ever tell you about Mombasa? There was me, this Gastly and a Misdreavus called Sandy, and we thought it'd be a good idea to possess a couple of elephants...

As the train rattled on, his story continued, growing steadily more unbelievable and sadly no less unhearable.

---

Ashley leaned against a wall across the street from the abandoned factory, in the shadow of an alley-mouth; the only hint that he might have been there was the shine of the light on his spectacles. (He had put them back on so that he could see more clearly; he would remove them for the meeting.) Had you passed, you would not have noticed him; it was not due to the dark colour of his clothing, but rather his unnatural stillness, like that of a chameleon waiting for flies. No mammal could be so utterly motionless; not even his hair moved. The very air around him seemed to be dead; it was as if he had rusted in place, become no more than an extension of the wall.

Ahead of him, five minutes before the appointed meeting time, a figure in black crossed the road, climbed nimbly over the gates of the factory and dropped to the cracked tarmac on the other side. A second later, she was out of sight, and Ashley removed his glasses, slipping them into his pocket. He had seen what he needed to.

“A familiar gait,” he remarked to himself. “And I think that might be a wig.”

He crossed the street himself, felt his ears to make sure they weren't healing and forcing the earrings out, and jumped to the top of the gate; he balanced there for a moment, one foot on a corroded spike, and then dropped down, landing lightly on the ground below. He strode towards the doors, flung them open and advanced into the dark corridor beyond.

“You've been very naughty,” he said, pushing through another door and passing onto the factory floor. Without his glasses, everything was blurry, but he could still see straight through the dark, to the iron-beamed ceiling high above, and to the figure at the other end of the hall line, past the hulks of once-great machines and the broad, rusting vats. For some reason, his gift had enhanced his vision but not cured his short-sightedness. “You've made me waste a lot of Pearl's money on this disguise.”

“You saw through mine quickly,” replied the figure, turning to face him.

“I recognise your posture and the way you walk,” Ashley said, slowing to a walk and putting his glasses back on. “And you're wearing a wig, I think.”

“I'm not, actually.” She felt at her hair. “It's gone black.”

“How does that happen?”

“I dyed it. I think.” The figure frowned. “I'm not sure.”

Ashley drew level with her in the dark and sighed, taking hold of her arm.

“Who are you, Liza?”

“It doesn't matter,” she said, shaking him off. “I'm just here to make you waste time.”

“Let's waste some time, then,” said Ashley. “Come on. Come outside, and we'll sit in the sun.”

He moved to leave, but Liza remained where she was, and he turned to look back at her.

“What is it?”

“What are you up to?” she asked suspiciously.

“You intrigue me,” he told her truthfully. “I'd like to talk to you.”

“I'm not going to tell you anything.”

Ashley smiled.

“You can believe that, if you like,” he said. “Come on.”

Liza hesitated, then followed.

“You planted the note on Schultze?” asked Ashley conversationally, as they walked back to the door.

“Yes. When we kidnapped him.”

“Hm. I – oh!” While they were inside, the gathering clouds appeared to have burst, and now the rain was battering the world outside as if it were trying its best to kill it. “Ah. Well, we can sit here, I suppose.”

Ashley looked around the lobby, found the upper half of an office chair and set it upright on a crate for Liza to sit on; for himself, he dragged part of a broken desk over and dropped onto it with a satisfied noise.

“Please,” he said. “Sit.” Liza sat. “Good. Now, you want to waste my time. That's fine by me; we both know that I am going to solve this mystery and disarm the bomb before it goes off. I also happen to want to have a nice talk with you, because I want to find some things out about you. So you see how everyone's objectives coincide here – wonderfully convenient, I think.”

“I said I wouldn't tell you anything,” repeated Liza, though she sounded less certain now. She was already confused; she was an easy target. A little longer, and Ashley would have her.

“We are alike, you and I,” he said. “Out of place. Adrift.” He smiled. “I think there's more, too.”

“What? Where are you going with this?”

“How much do you know about me?” asked Ashley, changing the subject. Liza was highly intelligent, but he could tell she wasn't herself right now; keep attacking from different angles, keep wearing her down, and he would have her mind in his hand. All the while, keep up the stare, keep up the smile, and grind her willpower down. There had only ever been a few people Ashley could not break, and Liza, he knew, would not be one of them.

“Everything,” she replied. “We know everything.”

He nodded.

“My origins?”

“Yes.”

“You know how I became this way?”

“Yes.”

“Is that what you seek?”

“No—”

“Are you single?”

Liza started.

“What? What kind of question is that?”

Ashley gave her an innocent look.

“I'm finding out about you.”

“Why do you need to know?”

“Because I'm curious.” Ashley smiled again, more gently. “I take it you are single, then.”

Liza stared at him, confused. Her hands were twisted into a fidgety ball in her lap, and she had one foot pressed down atop the other; if she would just raise her hands to her mouth, Ashley thought, she would look like Carpeaux's vision of Ugolino. That was a sure sign he was getting to her.

“What are you talking about?” she asked, composing herself with a visible effort, forcing both feet flat on the floor. “Look, I'm going to stay here to detain you, but whatever weird tricks you use, I'm not going to—”

“You already have,” said Ashley matter-of-factly. “There's a fracture at the heart of your consciousness, isn't there? A hole in your head – a door, is it? A door at the back of your mind, where the memories hammer on the wood and howl to be let out.”

It might have just been the Goth make-up, but Liza seemed to have gone very white.

“How do you know about the door?” she asked.

“I am a detective now,” Ashley replied. “But I was once more. If we go back to the earliest days – well, you know what I was.”

“A God,” whispered Liza. “Jesus Christ. He was right. You really are...”

Ashley grinned broadly.

“Oh yes,” he said. “There's more of us, you know – there always were. You know the rule of three? Three Nornir, three heads of Cerberus, nine rivers of Hades, twelve labours of Hercules – and three Old Gods of Sinnoh. Mythology must always work in threes, Liza.”

Liza swallowed hard, and Ashley could see her knuckles standing out white through the skin of her hands.

“What do you want?” she asked shakily.

“Exactly what I said a moment ago. I want to know everything about you, Liza, and if you don't tell me I shall have to make you.” Ashley paused. “And I don't think you would particularly enjoy that. So, whenever you're ready...” He spread his arms in a welcoming gesture, and Liza licked dry lips.

“OK,” she said softly, voice cracking. “OK, I'll tell you everything. Just don't – please don't – you know...”

Ashley nodded calmingly. His yellow irises were growing, spreading out to drown the whites of his eyes in pools of incandescence.

“It's all right,” he said consolingly. “I shan't hurt you. Now, go on, Liza. Tell me everything...”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #77    
Old May 13th, 2012, 12:16 PM
sheep261
Beginning Trainer
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Gender: Male
Oh my god, I love this story so much!

This is my first review for you and your stories, but I've been a secret lurker since The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World, and now this story.

Anyways, I think I've clicked on to everything now, and it all comes down to the eyes.

Ashley is Giratina; they both have yellow eyes, Giratina is based on ghosts and deaths which Ashley revolves around, and that they have existed for agesssssssssssss. Liza on the other hand might be either Palkia or Dialga, but I'm not sure as of yet.

But anyway, love the story and keep it up! (And please get Puck back in the story somehow; I miss him and his witty comments)

~sheep261
  #78    
Old May 16th, 2012, 01:58 AM
Silent Memento's Avatar
Silent Memento
Memories are forever...
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Age: 23
Gender: Male
Nature: Timid
I'm seriously starting to hate Ashley for what he's done in the past. This chapter has shown me a whole lot about who he is as a person - and the shift from competent-but-immature detective to ruthless monster (or is it the other way around? I can't tell with him anymore) really surprised me. In my eyes, he's proven that he is a manipulative liar who has little-to-no qualms about destroying the lives of people who have done nothing to him. People like that almost never change their stripes, and he's been this way for hundreds of years. If I were Liza, I wouldn't trust anything he says. Unfortunately, she can't walk away from him at this point. Pearl can't either, but I'll get to her in a moment.

I'm definitely going back to my Dialga theory; he mentioned having "a thousand lifetimes to ruin". It seems to correlate more with time than space and antimatter. I wonder why he's taking such an interest in Pearl, though; on the outside, she doesn't display any extraordinary qualities other than being a rich girl who likes to party too much. I don't know what he sees in her...unless my previous theory about her unknowingly housing the spirit of Palkia is right. Which I seriously doubt at this point. She's obviously in way over her head, and I have no faith in her abilities at the moment. Kester, of all people, has been more competent than she has been - but then again, it's a part of who she is as a character.

Oh, yeah, and I'm still wondering what the hell she's going to do with that cave Drapion that was given to her by Cyrus. She totally forgot about selling it to Iago, didn't she? I can see that decision - or lack thereof - really biting her in the arse.

Liza, on the other hand...I'm definitely thinking that Ashley killed her in her previous life as a normal girl in Darkling Town. She knows how deadly he is, and I can see her fear taking over her killer instincts. Giratina has to have played a role in this; as lord of antimatter, he likely has all power over ghosts and souls and the like. Liza, in every sense of the word, is a ghost. And since there have been hints about Cyrus wanting to obtain god-like power similar to Ashley's...well, I'm thinking that that's how Cyrus managed to bring her into the fold (yes, I think that the Desk Sitter is an extension of Giratina). He has complete and total leverage over Liza, and that is what makes her story - like you said earlier - extremely sad. She got tangled up in a mess that she never wanted to be in, trapped by two men who take advantage of people for their own gain. I absolutely feel sorry for her.

Iago does seem like the perfect traitor, but I'm going to let that play out as it will. In my opinion, it could go one way or the other.

As it is, I really don't know where you're taking this. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but with your track record, I'm most certainly inclined to trust your vision. I'll be keeping tabs whenever I can.

Sincerely,

Mem.
__________________
Quotes are nothing but words.
  #79    
Old May 16th, 2012, 04:52 PM
c1234321's Avatar
c1234321
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Gender: Male
That was a fantastic chapter. Well done. You are by far one of my favorite authors, in both web and print. However, I have a question. After reading a decent portion of your other stories, I have noticed you have a certain...affinity for arrogant protagonist Pokemon. Like Puck, Tercier, even Goishi I found really arrogant. Also, Iago is probably the most arrogant of all. Now, I'm not complaining because I loved their arrogance and found it extremely relatable, but I still want to ask why do you put the arrogance in the Pokemon?

Also, I would like to reinforce, or perhaps improve, my earlier theory about Stephanie. I have had time to think about it and have decided that Stephanie has a very important role in this story. Also, if earlier theories about Pearl having similar powers to Ashley is correct, than this lends more evidence to my theory. I have decided that Stephanie is Pearl's Keeper, like Iago is Ashley's Keeper. I sincerely hope I am correct, but would be equally happy to be proven wrong, which is rare from me. Anyway, I am immensely looking forward to the next chapter, as your writing is brilliant. Ummm.....oh yeah I looked but I couldn't find any grammatical errors, so keep up the good work!
  #80    
Old May 18th, 2012, 05:13 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheep261 View Post
Oh my god, I love this story so much!

This is my first review for you and your stories, but I've been a secret lurker since The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World, and now this story.

Anyways, I think I've clicked on to everything now, and it all comes down to the eyes.

Ashley is Giratina; they both have yellow eyes, Giratina is based on ghosts and deaths which Ashley revolves around, and that they have existed for agesssssssssssss. Liza on the other hand might be either Palkia or Dialga, but I'm not sure as of yet.

But anyway, love the story and keep it up! (And please get Puck back in the story somehow; I miss him and his witty comments)

~sheep261
Don't worry; Puck will always return - I mean, he's left Kester, Sapphire and Felicity halfway through their plotline. He just doesn't have any appearances for a while, that's all.

As for this whole Creation Trio business... Well. Obviously I can't give anything away, but people are coming up with a whole series of interesting suggestions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
I'm seriously starting to hate Ashley for what he's done in the past. This chapter has shown me a whole lot about who he is as a person - and the shift from competent-but-immature detective to ruthless monster (or is it the other way around? I can't tell with him anymore) really surprised me. In my eyes, he's proven that he is a manipulative liar who has little-to-no qualms about destroying the lives of people who have done nothing to him. People like that almost never change their stripes, and he's been this way for hundreds of years. If I were Liza, I wouldn't trust anything he says. Unfortunately, she can't walk away from him at this point. Pearl can't either, but I'll get to her in a moment.
Good. I wanted Ashley to confuse people, to make some people like him and others hate him, and it seems from the collected evidence I'm getting that it's working. The only thing I'm not sure that you're quite right about is your assertion that he's been this way for hundreds of years. I think that time's his curse: the longer he lives, the less important everyone else seems, and the biggest thing in his life is avoiding the existential ennui of immortality and all emotional attachments, since all friends perish. I suppose he tries not to be a monster. I know I would. I'm also fairly certain I would fail after four hundred and fifty years. Read into that what you will.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
I'm definitely going back to my Dialga theory; he mentioned having "a thousand lifetimes to ruin". It seems to correlate more with time than space and antimatter. I wonder why he's taking such an interest in Pearl, though; on the outside, she doesn't display any extraordinary qualities other than being a rich girl who likes to party too much. I don't know what he sees in her...unless my previous theory about her unknowingly housing the spirit of Palkia is right. Which I seriously doubt at this point. She's obviously in way over her head, and I have no faith in her abilities at the moment. Kester, of all people, has been more competent than she has been - but then again, it's a part of who she is as a character.
I will say that Pearl does have a certain gift that she is not aware of yet. I won't confirm any suspicions as to what it might be, but she is not quite what she seems to be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
Oh, yeah, and I'm still wondering what the hell she's going to do with that cave Drapion that was given to her by Cyrus. She totally forgot about selling it to Iago, didn't she? I can see that decision - or lack thereof - really biting her in the arse.
The Cave Drapion thing is what is known in the trade as really, really, really obvious foreshadowing. There can't be anyone reading this story who isn't wondering when it's going to pop up again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
Liza, on the other hand...I'm definitely thinking that Ashley killed her in her previous life as a normal girl in Darkling Town. She knows how deadly he is, and I can see her fear taking over her killer instincts. Giratina has to have played a role in this; as lord of antimatter, he likely has all power over ghosts and souls and the like. Liza, in every sense of the word, is a ghost. And since there have been hints about Cyrus wanting to obtain god-like power similar to Ashley's...well, I'm thinking that that's how Cyrus managed to bring her into the fold (yes, I think that the Desk Sitter is an extension of Giratina). He has complete and total leverage over Liza, and that is what makes her story - like you said earlier - extremely sad. She got tangled up in a mess that she never wanted to be in, trapped by two men who take advantage of people for their own gain. I absolutely feel sorry for her.
Liza is... not to be underestimated. Pity her if you like, but never underestimate her. She might not be entirely sane, but she's not stupid, and she's not weak. She's definitely someone to keep an eye on, let's put it that way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
Iago does seem like the perfect traitor, but I'm going to let that play out as it will. In my opinion, it could go one way or the other.

As it is, I really don't know where you're taking this. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but with your track record, I'm most certainly inclined to trust your vision. I'll be keeping tabs whenever I can.

Sincerely,

Mem.
Thanks. I've only just worked out where we're going as it is, and it's pretty weird. I'm looking forward to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
That was a fantastic chapter. Well done. You are by far one of my favorite authors, in both web and print. However, I have a question. After reading a decent portion of your other stories, I have noticed you have a certain...affinity for arrogant protagonist Pokemon. Like Puck, Tercier, even Goishi I found really arrogant. Also, Iago is probably the most arrogant of all. Now, I'm not complaining because I loved their arrogance and found it extremely relatable, but I still want to ask why do you put the arrogance in the Pokemon?
Well, it's more of a coincidence than anything else. Tercier's a Smeargle, and the first thing I thought of when pondering how to write about Smeargle was the Pretentious Artist from the Kingdom of Loathing, so I made him a pretentious artist. Puck is arrogant because he has to be to sustain his character, and Iago is arrogant because he doesn't see humans as being of any real worth. He can map their minds and actions so well that I assume they're like sheep to him, or toys.

As for Goishi, he was more exasperated and frustrated than arrogant. I expect he used to be quite nice; spending a lot of time with Fabien probably does bad things to a person.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Also, I would like to reinforce, or perhaps improve, my earlier theory about Stephanie. I have had time to think about it and have decided that Stephanie has a very important role in this story. Also, if earlier theories about Pearl having similar powers to Ashley is correct, than this lends more evidence to my theory. I have decided that Stephanie is Pearl's Keeper, like Iago is Ashley's Keeper. I sincerely hope I am correct, but would be equally happy to be proven wrong, which is rare from me. Anyway, I am immensely looking forward to the next chapter, as your writing is brilliant. Ummm.....oh yeah I looked but I couldn't find any grammatical errors, so keep up the good work!
Well, I've confirmed that Pearl has some form of power already, so feel free to build your towering theory right up into the sky. With regard to whether or not it's correct, though, I will, as ever say nothing. However, the more theories that are put forward, the more I think about them and turn them into ideas that make their way into the story, so don't feel discouraged. With this theory about Stephanie, you've already given me a good idea to include in, like, Chapter Forty.

Oh, so many ideas, so little time! My exams start on the 31st, so I'm pretty busy, but I'll update as and when I can.

F.A.B.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #81    
Old May 20th, 2012, 01:51 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Twenty-Eight: In Which Liza Surprises Us

'The hunch is the single most important part of being a detective. If you have unreliable hunches, or infrequent hunches, a career in private investigation is pretty much closed to you.'
—Canola Grimes, The Art of Detectivery


It will not have escaped the notice of the perceptive reader that Stephanie, Pearl's more dedicated and rather less wild friend, was in a situation of no small peril when last we saw her – and indeed now, as she sat in the back of a car with darkened windows, heading to some unknown destination, it did not seem like things had improved in any substantial manner. When one factored in the man in black sitting next to her with his gun on his lap, one might even have concluded that things were slightly worse. After all, at least she knew where she was back in her apartment.

“Well,” said the man in black, after they had been driving for some time. “I s'pose you're pretty worried, ain't you?”

Stephanie nodded. She might have spoken – she wasn't quite scared into silence yet – but she was still gagged, which made it difficult.

“A'righ'. Well, you don' 'ave to be. I ain't gonna kill you.”

Under the circumstances, this came as something of a relief – but a relief that was immediately checked by a sense of dread about what exactly would be happening to her instead.

“No, you just 'ave to disappear for a bi', tha's all,” continued the man in black. “It won' matter after the nex' few days, anyway.” He grinned. “I mean, no one's gonna care wha' you say when the world's ended, are they?”

Stephanie's eyes widened, and she made a startled mmph noise through her gag.

“Oh yeah, the world's gonna end,” said her captor, offhand. “Didn' I mention tha' already? No? Well, it don' matter. It's no' like you're gonna be aroun' to miss it. Only the chosen go through to the new universe, an' I doub' you're gonna be one o' them.”

Stephanie's heart, already beating fast, broke into a full-on gallop. What the hell was this? The end of the world? It had almost happened that summer with the whole Groudon/Kyogre incident in Hoenn, but... the end of the world? It was still so hard to believe... And what about this new universe? What did the man in black mean?

“Now, I s'pect you're pretty curious abou' wha' all tha' means,” he said, “bu' I wouldn' worry if I was you. It don' really concern you, anyway.”

The car stopped, abruptly and without warning, and the man in black looked up.

“I think we're 'ere,” he said cheerfully, and wound down the window. “Yep. We are.”

Stephanie looked out, and saw, ominously enough, the hospital.

“Now, I know you prob'ly don' think you need to go to 'ospital,” said the man in black, “bu' don' worry, darlin', because you will.” His hand came up and all at once Stephanie felt it pressing down on her forehead, unnaturally heavy and bringing with it a deep dark wind of oblivion—

The man in black looked at her, slumped against the car door, and nodded in satisfaction.

“Job well done,” he said to himself. “Righ'. Let's drop 'er off and ge' ou' of 'ere.”

Half a minute later, he and the car were gone, and Stephanie was alone.

---

As ever, Ashley's appearance was wholly unexpected. I'd just ordered a blueberry muffin, and when I turned back from the waiter he was sitting in the chair across from me, giving me one of those intense looks he does.

“Jesus―!” I started so violently I almost threw my coffee in his face; however, his hand darted out at lightning speed and placed the cup firmly on the table without spilling a drop.

“Careful, Pearl,” he said. “You almost lost some."

“Don't – don't pop up like that!” I cried. “You almost killed me.”

“That's an exaggeration.”

“It's for effect!”

“I know. Well, how do you like the coffee here?”

“When I'm not throwing it in people's faces because they startle me? It's good, thanks.” I rubbed my brow in exasperation and leaned forwards, elbows on the table. “So what did you find out?” I asked, calming myself.

“Ah. My meeting.” Ashley was quiet for a minute. “Well, it turned out to be a ruse devised by Team Galactic to make us waste time; rather than some mysterious stranger, I met Liza there.” He smiled. “It was quite funny. We were both disguised as Goths.”

Actually, he was still disguised as a Goth, only he'd removed the make-up. The whole conversation – in a Pinter-themed café, talking to an immortal detective dressed as a Goth – was getting quite surreal.

“Yeah, sounds hilarious. You mean this was a wasted forty minutes?”

“Not at all. We had a lovely long conversation.”

“I presume your definition of 'lovely' is different to mine,” said Iago, materialising in the seat to my left. “Christ. I hate listening to you persuade people. It makes me worried that you could do it to me.”

“Where the hell did you come from?” I asked, almost spilling the coffee again.

“I arrived with Ashley,” he explained disinterestedly. “It's just that you notice him more when he's dressed in black with spikes. That, and you're mildly sexually attracted to him.”

“What?”

He shrugged.

“I have both a good understanding of human nature and an excellent sense of smell,” he said. “Those two things combined mean I can basically read minds.”

“I am not – you know what? I'm not having this conversation with you. Ashley, you were talking about Liza.”

“Yes, I was.” He would have said more, but at that moment the waiter returned with my muffin, and he paused until he left. “I found out quite a bit. I terrified her into telling me everything she knew about me and Cyrus' plan – which, as it turns out, isn't all that much.” He sighed. “I'm not sure whether it's because she's not particularly high-ranking in the Team or whether it's due to that strange psychological condition she suffers from, but she didn't have nearly as much to say as I'd hoped.”

“Psychological condition...?”

“Yes. She's not wholly sane, as it happens.” He shrugged. “I don't know what the problem is. May I have some of that muffin?”

“I'll get you your own.”

“Vanilla buttercream and toffee, please.”

“What if they don't have that flavour?”

“They'll have it,” said Ashley, in tones that indicated that there would be serious consequences if they did not. With some trepidation, I ordered it, and found to my surprise that they did have them. “Anyway,” continued Ashley, “Liza told me that the Team know my entire past in some detail, which explains why they're so easily able to push us around on wild bomb chases in Pastoria, and that I was right with my first hypothesis – Cyrus aims to draw on the same source of power that fuels me.” Ashley sighed. “My strength has been decreasing for the last hundred years, a process that has been greatly accelerated by the... uncouth... treatment I have received at the hands of the League. If another like me was to awaken, there would be no hope of my stopping him – and by extension, no real hope of him being stopped at all, for I can assure you that no one else will be able to, not when he is in the first wild flush of his strength.” He took a bite of his muffin. “Mm. I like toffee.”

I stared.

“How the hell can you talk about toffee at a time like this?”

“Whatever happens, I still like toffee,” Ashley told me. “Cyrus becoming a minor deity does not change that.”

“Ashley, you're being weird again,” said Iago. “Stop it.”

“Ah. Right. Sorry.” He took another bite of the muffin. “Sorry, but it is very nice. I'd forgotten food was like that. I really must start eating again one of these days.” Noticing me still staring, he set down the muffin and sighed. “All right, Pearl, what is it?”

“Why are we just sitting here?” I asked, trying very hard not to scream at him. “Why aren't we trying to solve the bomb mystery so that we can go and stop Cyrus from becoming a sodding god and taking over the world?”

“I never said anything about taking over the world.”

“That's not the point!”

“Very well,” said Ashley. “There's no need to worry really – we will solve this mystery in time, come what may – but I take your point. Shall we return to the police station and see what Siobhan has found?”

“Yes! We should go, like, five minutes ago!”

“Calm down,” said Iago infuriatingly. “You're not helping anyone like this.”

Struggling to resist punching him, I composed myself and called the waiter over to pay. As we left, he made a strange remark in reference to The Homecoming, and I gave him a look as I went through the door, which seemed to shut him up.

By ten to three, we had arrived back at the station; it was raining hard now, and the brief trips from café to taxi and taxi to doorway had left Iago and I soaked through, so it came as something of a relief to get inside. Needless to say, Ashley somehow contrived to remain perfectly dry. We went up to D.C.I. Rennet's office, where Ashley's presence guaranteed us an honoured greeting, and asked what she had come up with.

“To be honest, nothing much,” she sighed. “There aren't any links between them. These are just three randomly-chosen criminals, as far as I can see. We've been over their houses, relations, actions over the last few days – as far as we know them – but there's nothing.”

“That can't be right,” said Ashley, frowning. “No, there must be something we're missing... Where can I find all the information you have?”

Rennet opened a back door and indicated a larger room beyond, where four or five police officers were poring over stacks of paper and computer screens spread out over three intimidatingly large desks.

“Ah!” said Ashley. “This looks encouraging. Vast quantities of data are always welcome.” He turned to Rennet. “Siobhan, if you don't mind, I should like to spend a couple of hours among these papers with Iago here. We'll see if we can find anything your people might have missed."

“OK,” she said. “But – don't you want to interview Shultze? We've got the psychiatrist coming in to see him in an hour, and I think he's probably going to be taken to a mental institution or something. I mean, he's definitely not sane.”

“The law is incapable of acting that fast,” Ashley told her. “There will be time enough to talk to him later. For now, we must search for links. It is the path most likely to yield results.”

So he and Iago had got to work there, and once again I was left as the third wheel. I was getting used to this by now, so I decided to spend my time in a little investigation of my own, and called Stephanie again. However, I just got through to her voicemail, which was disappointing but not entirely unexpected; it was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, and she was probably working.

Sighing, I returned to Ashley and Iago to see if I could help; needless to say, I couldn't, and went out to find something to do for the afternoon. Saving Pastoria was a hell of a lot more boring than I'd thought it would be.

---

At eight, I went back to the Hrafn Hotel, exhausted; Ashley and Iago still hadn't found anything, and showed no signs of coming back any time soon. I fell asleep almost immediately, slept for twelve solid hours and woke up on Friday morning without feeling like I was about to die of fatigue, which was a definite improvement.

I took my time getting up, and it wasn't until nine that I worked my way over to Ashley's room; he was sitting cross-legged on his bed, staring vacantly at the wall and chewing pensively on the knuckle of his right index finger.

“Good morning, Pearl,” he said. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah – best I have done for a while, actually.”

“I did not.” Was it me, or was there a slight tremble in his voice? “I had nightmares.”

“Nightmares?”

“Apologies. My mistake. Memories, not nightmares.” He blinked, shivered and turned to look at me. “I remembered why I don't sleep any more.”

There was a pause. I had no idea what to say; I'd kind of forgotten that Ashley even had feelings, and didn't have the first clue about how to help him with them. I doubted I could conceive of them; they were probably strange, and old, and too alien to comprehend.

“Anyway,” he said, all emotion suddenly disappearing from his face, “that is enough of that. There is a mystery to solve and thousands of lives to save.” He slid off the bed and onto his feet, and I noticed he was still in his Goth disguise. Had he even taken those clothes off since yesterday? “We didn't find anything yesterday,” he informed me. “I have to say, I am starting to get a little concerned. There has to be something we missed – but what that might be, I have no idea. There doesn't seem to be any link between the three people except the fact that they are all criminals.”

“Nothing at all? Not even one of those really tenuous things that turns out to be incredibly important later on in the movie?”

“No. Not even one of those.” Ashley sighed. “You do realise that those don't actually exist, don't you?”

“Um... yes. Definitely. So what are we doing today?” I asked, changing the subject swiftly.

“I am not quite sure,” he admitted. “The usual avenues of investigation appear to have failed, and the teams of policemen who have been sweeping the city haven't managed to find it either.” He made a small noise of frustration. “If they had more time, they might find it, but that is precisely what we don't have!”

“So what happened to 'we will solve this mystery in time, come what may'?” I asked triumphantly, and Ashley glared at me.

“That is singularly unhelpful,” he said. “If you don't have any useful advice, then I suggest you leave and find something to do while I think.”

“Sorry, but you did set yourself up for that one,” I replied. “I mean, I expect it of Iago, but this sort of arrogance from you—?”

“I'm only human!” snapped Ashley, with a sudden violent movement. “Whatever else I may be, Pearl, I'm human and I make mistakes. I get things wrong. I feel foolish and guilty.” He broke off, stepping back from me, and then just as abruptly turned to face me again. “I can't do everything,” he said, quietly now. “I am just as worthless, in my own way, as any mortal creature on this planet.”

I stared at him for a moment.

“What brought that on?” I asked at length. “You're not worthless – you're the Diamond.”

“And by the same token, nothing on earth is worthless either,” he replied. “Both your assertion and mine are true. It is all a matter of perspective.” He was silent for a while – so long, in fact, that I almost thought he'd finished talking. “Think nothing of it, Pearl. It was just a bad dream. Now, we have more important things to focus on.”

“Uh – OK,” I said. “Shall we, I don't know, collect together all the information we have on one of those evidence boards with pins and string on?”

Ashley gave me a withering look.

“Are you actually capable of referring to the detective profession in anything other than a series of clichés?”

“I'm not sure,” I admitted. “No, but seriously, shouldn't we collate everything? Title, name, profession, place of residence – isn't that how it works? You line everything up and see if you can spot any patterns?”

“Pearl, I—” He broke off sharply, eyes widening. “Pearl!”

He practically flew over to the desk, grabbed a pen and paper, and started scrawling feverishly.

“It was so simple!” he cried. “All it was – title, name, profession – ah, we looked too hard!”

“What? What is it?”

I was getting that feeling that I often got with Ashley – that I was somehow being a massive idiot.

“You've just solved the case,” he told me, straightening up and flourishing the paper. “It was so very simple – too simple for me to even notice. But you! You, with your lesser intellect, were just perfect – and that's me being insensitive again,” he concluded, deflating. “Ah. Sorry.”

“I solved the case?”

I hadn't actually caught up with his words, and didn't pick up on the accidental insult for another half an hour. All I'd heard was that I'd solved the case – though how I'd done it I had no idea.

“Yes, you did. Keep up.”

“I... solved the case?”

“Are you a Chatot? You solved the case!”

My brain came unstuck then, and I cried out in joy, before suddenly stopping to ask:

“Er, how did I solve it, exactly?”

“Simple. Title, name, profession.” Ashley held the paper up for me to see; he'd written out the words 'The Great Magyor', 'Anne Richards' and 'Soldier/Hatter' on it. “Nestor Schultze calls himself 'The Great Magyor' – that's a title. Anne Richards – well, you know her name. And Ernest Sargasso has worked as a soldier and as a hatter. Take 'The Great M', the first letters of Anne Richard's name, and the first letters of 'soldier' and 'hatter', and what do you get?”

“Isn't an acrostic a bit of a tenuous—”

“What do you get, Pearl?” interrupted Ashley.

I sighed and thought for a moment.

“The Great Marsh,” I said, surprised. “Wow. It actually spells something.”

“Yes,” he replied. “Do you see now?”

“Well, yeah, but you could pick any random details from their life and use the letters on them to spell out anything you want! It's not like it's just their names or something – that'd be more conclusive.”

Ashley nodded.

“Good, you're learning. I agree with you – this was probably not how we were meant to discover this. I imagine this is a private joke on Cyrus' part, something he included to amuse himself.”

“How were we meant to find it out, then? Assuming it is right?”

“Because now that I think about it, all of these people have connections to the Great Marsh,” Ashley said, shutting his eyes and thinking hard. “Richards took her children there last week. Sargasso spends a week every summer camping there, to remind himself of his army days. And Nestor Schultze had a book of horrendously bad Goth poetry on him when he arrived in Pastoria. It's by someone called Gloomrainia Shadowdespair, and it's called The Rainy Miasma of the Great Marsh.”

“OK, so there's some evidence,” I admitted. “But that's still pretty tenuous, isn't it? Are you sure you're not just clutching at straws because you want an answer so badly?”

“Pearl, you were the one advocating tenuous links of the sort found in detective films a moment ago. I hardly think you're in any position to criticise my decision—”

“Shut up. You know what I mean.”

“Very well.” Ashley sighed. “You must remember that this is the only link between the three people,” he continued. “Cyrus chose them carefully: other than the Great Marsh factor, there is no commonality at all between them. I would love to know how he managed to find three such people,” he added. “It must have been incredibly difficult.”

“Well, if you put it like that...” It was starting to make sense now, but I still couldn't quite believe it. It was even more stupid than a line of clues based around cult movies.

“There is one more thing that tells me we'll find the bomb in the Great Marsh,” said Ashley, sensing that I wasn't yet satisfied. “Something that I think Cyrus was counting on to make me close in on the truth.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“A hunch,” he replied, and I stared in awe. Here it was in action: the mighty, unerringly accurate detective's hunch, pointer to a thousand truths, unearther of a million clues – the only reason that the movie detectives ever got anywhere at all.

“Oh,” I managed to say, after I'd swallowed most of my surprise. “That's all right, then.”

He laughed quietly.

“I thought you might say that. Come on, then – we still have to go and check to see if—”

At that moment, the door burst open and Iago bounded in, gasping for breath.

“Ashley!” he cried, brandishing a piece of paper. “I know where the bomb is!”

“Yes, so do we,” I replied. “The Great Marsh, yeah?”

“What?” Quickly, Iago crumpled up the paper and threw it away over his shoulder. “Uh, yeah. That's exactly what I thought.”

“Pearl solved it,” Ashley explained. “We just need to go and see if we're right.

“Pearl?” Iago stared at me, his triangular eyes opened so wide they were almost circular. “Whoa. I thought if that ever happened, reality would fracture and the universe would be destroyed.”

“Very funny,” I said. “Why don't you—”

“Let's not do this,” said Ashley swiftly. “Come on. We need to go!”

“All right, all right,” grumbled Iago. “Christ. Calm down.”

“You do realise that if this bomb is in the Marsh, and it does go off, it will probably kill you, too?”

“Right!” cried Iago, clapping his hands. “Time to go, people, and hurry! There's the life of a genius at stake.”

As we followed him downstairs, I caught Ashley's eye, and he gave me a secret smile.

“Easy,” he whispered. “Sometimes I wonder why they think he of all people can control me.”

I chuckled, and walked with him across the lobby, where Wednesday was telling someone about how a friend of his – Luke or something – had caught a fish. He nodded courteously to us as we went past, and seconds later we were getting into a waiting taxi. I had just enough time to wonder how Ashley seemed to be able to summon them at will before he gave the driver a three thousand dollar note, and the car lurched into the fastest cab ride I'd ever had in my life.

---

“How did it go?”

Liza laughed quietly.

“Well, you convinced me. I really didn't think it would work.”

“He believed it?” asked Cyrus, voice crackly down the phone line.

“Every word,” Liza said, shaking her head and smiling. “Hook, line and sinker.”

And if you had been there with her in the dim airport, watching her making the call, you would have seen, for the briefest instant, her eyes flash like emeralds in the sun.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #82    
Old June 3rd, 2012, 11:20 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Twenty-Nine: In Which We Behold Tristan's Handiwork

'I'm telling you, you really have to get into the evil Team business. I've just started with the Magmas over here in Hoenn and I've already earned more in a week than I would have in a month of muggings. And I've been given this fantastic Pokémon, too – a real Golbat!'
—From a letter to Tristan Shandy from Fabien Latch, dated March 2009


“Sir? We have her.”

Mars sounded tired, thought Cyrus; doubtless, her target had proved harder to catch than she'd anticipated.

“Did you need the Golbat?”

“Yes, actually,” she admitted. “It turns out she's an excellent flier. If she hadn't spent the day tiring out her Pokémon, we'd never have caught her.”

Cyrus made a satisfied noise. Lately, his plans had been going very well indeed.

“Excellent. We're ready to make a move on the lakes,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “This has to be a secret operation, you understand – I don't want to rush things and get caught while we do so. I'll have our forces moved to each location quietly, between now and Saturday afternoon, and we can get to work then. You know which lakes you and Saturn are going to, right?”

“Yes, sir!” Mars sounded excited. “This is – well, we're nearly there. All this time, and now all at once so much progress...”

“Yes, it's quite something,” Cyrus agreed, with a smile. “As for your captive, drop her at Iron Island. I think that's about as far away as possible from any of the lakes, isn't it? The Diamond won't get to us from there in time to stop us.”

“Just... leave her there? Will there be someone there to take her?”

“Yes. I shall be sending a couple of grunts up there to make sure she doesn't leave. They'll meet you at the dock, if you can just fly there with Saturn on those Golbat.”

“Understood. Is there anything else, sir?”

“Not right now,” said Cyrus, after pausing to think. “Just hand her over and get to your positions as soon as possible. But you must be stealthy. Don't fly to the lakes; we don't want any attention at all. Just take the train or something. Am I clear?”

“Yes, sir. I'll tell Saturn right away.”

“Good. I'll see you back here, just before the end of days.”

Cyrus put down the phone and turned to the Desk Sitter – who was, true to their name, sitting on the desk.

“Well,” he said, “soon we will have our freedom. You and I, in other sides of reality.”

The Desk Sitter grinned so broadly its face looked like it would crack in two, which was, to be perfectly honest, terrifying.

“Yes,” they said. “We will be free. It will be... glorious.”

“For you, maybe,” said Cyrus. “Glory will be meaningless where I'm going. No one will value it, so no one will notice it, and eventually the word will cease to exist. Imagine that,” he went on, half to himself. “Such a huge and ancient concept, reduced to nothing because no one can remember what it's like. Astounding.”

“Indeed,” agreed the Desk Sitter. “So many astounding things will be unleashed upon the world when we are done.”

Cyrus nodded, and they lapsed into silence for a while before he got up and headed for the door. He had to start giving orders; after all, spreading a couple of hundred idiots out across Sinnoh in secret would be a logistical nightmare.

---

“I think we found it,” I said, staring through the doorway.

In the middle of the room was a peculiar contraption that looked like it had been built out of junk that even the scrapheap had rejected. It must have measured three feet across, and at least five foot from top to bottom; in between, it was studded with bolts, mechanical arms, cogwheels, bellows and the occasional miniature keyboard.

“Yeah, I'm inclined to agree with you,” said Iago. “That definitely doesn't look like it belongs here. Also, that little digital display that keeps ticking down with an ominous clicking noise? That's sort of a hint as well.”

We'd descended upon the entrance to the Marsh with a small battalion of police officers and Gym Trainers, had it closed to the public and immediately set about searching through the rooms in its main building; there were a surprising number of them, since it incorporated a Pokémon Centre, regular hotel and restaurant, and it had taken us nearly an hour to find it here, in a tiny concrete cell at the back of a boiler room.

“Go get Ashley,” instructed Iago, approaching the machine with some caution – understandable, since it was quite intimidating. “Bring him here.”

“Already here,” said Ashley, just as I was turning to leave. “I heard voices.”

“What? Weren't you just in the basement?”

“Yes. Let me through.” He slipped past me and joined Iago in inspecting the bomb. “Hmm. Peculiar. I don't see what it – oh!”

“What was that 'oh' about?” I asked nervously. “It wasn't a very encouraging one.”

“Pearl,” said Ashley grimly, without looking up, “I need you to get Wake.”

“Don't avoid the question—”

“I'm not. I'll answer as soon as you get Wake. It's just that I need to show him something. Immediately.”

I sighed, rolled my eyes and trudged off down the hall to find Crasher; I found him in the process of accidentally breaking something in an upstairs room while Rennet stared helplessly, and brought them both back down swiftly by the simple expedient of telling them that I knew where the bomb was.

“I brought him,” I said. “And D.C.I. Rennet, too. Now what is it you've found?”

“That's it?” asked Rennet, staring at the strange machine. “That's the deadly bomb? It looks like someone stuffed a load of accordion parts inside an exploded shopping trolley.”

“Wake, come here and do not touch the bomb,” said Ashley, and I stepped aside to let Crasher past. He advanced very slowly, being very careful not to break anything, and joined him by the machine's side. “What do you make of this?”

“That's... Christ!” cried Crasher, straightening up and almost taking out the ceiling. “There are Poké Balls in there!”

“About thirty, if I'm not mistaken,” said Ashley.

“Thirty-two,” corrected Iago.

“Yes, all right. Thirty-two.” Ashley looked at Crasher. “Do you have one of those devices that can detect the contents of a Poké Ball?”

“Er... not on me.” He squirmed a little under Ashley's stare. “Well, I was expecting a proper bomb, not this – this – thing.”

“So was I,” said Rennet, stepping forwards. “I've never even heard of anything like this.”

“It's been done before, but not as well as it is here,” said Iago, staring hard at it. “Ashley and I have seen some of these, but this... this is sodding sophisticated. I'm not even sure we can touch this thing without it going off. See all these wire threads? It's covered in tiny little tripwires. Like a cat's cradle of fiery doom.” He shook his head in astonishment, and I detected more than a little admiration in his voice.

“What do you want to do then, Ashley?” asked Rennet. “I don't think the bomb squad are equipped to deal with this.”

“No, it's designed so that only I can do it, I think,” said Ashley, sighing. “Siobhan, Wake, get your people to guard this building and have it and the Marsh evacuated. No one must get in. Once that's done, I want you to get that machine, Wake, and bring it here. We need to know what we're up against if this bomb does go off.” He glanced at the timer, and I followed his gaze; it said 13:09:22 in red numerals, and the number was going down every second. “Well, what are you waiting for?” he asked, noticing Wake and Rennet were still there. “Do you want to destroy Pastoria? Get on with it!”

They left hurriedly, and I asked:

“So... what do I do?”

“A very good question,” replied Ashley.

“Which means 'nothing',” explained Iago.

“Shut up.” I looked at Ashley expectantly; there had to be something I could do, right?

“In some ways, Pearl, the job I am about to entrust you with is the most important of all,” he said, and my heart soared—

“I would like you to go and find the food with the highest calorific value you can possibly locate and bring lots of it here,” he said, and it fell again. Damn. I had no idea why he'd even want such a thing.

“What? Is that it?”

“It's very important,” Ashley said. “I will need to perform minute controlled shifts of shape to guide my fingers past the tripwires and defuse this. In order to perform this with optimum efficacy, I shall require a ready supply of energy. Hence, I must eat. So unless you do this, I shall in all likelihood fail to defuse the bomb.” He gave me a frank look. “Is that important enough for you?”

“Uh... yeah, I guess.” I wasn't entirely convinced, but he seemed serious, so I assumed he meant it. “Do you want me to go now or later?”

“Would you like me to defuse the bomb now or later?”

“All right, all right,” I said, turning to leave. “Jesus, calm down.”

“I'm perfectly calm. I'm merely being withering.”

“Well... shut up,” I told him lamely, and left sulking.

---

It was Friday morning, and the sun shone down upon Oreburgh with the kind of benevolent warmth more usually found emanating from religious leaders and the benignly arrogant; everything seemed to glow with the hyper-bright colours of a summer afternoon, from the cars in the streets to the coal in the heaps, and, as Bond opened his eyes from sleep, he obtained a certain satisfaction that this would be a day of truly glorious weather.

This sentence, of course, raises three questions. One, why was Bond in Oreburgh? Two, what had happened to Thursday? Three, why on earth was Bond waking up, when it was patently clear to all and sundry that the man never slept?

The answers are simple. Bond was in Oreburgh because the train had taken him and his two companions there. They were still there on Friday because weather conditions had once again rendered the motorways, airways and railways across Mount Celestic impassable, and they had nothing to do but wait. And Bond was waking up today because the events of the past few days had tired him to the extent that, though he of course could have continued (as a butler should) he had decided it would be expedient for him to sleep through the night, thus ensuring an increased level of service to Ellen. After all, one had standards to maintain, even if one's employer ranked among the most irksome he had ever encountered.

The day before, since they had not been able to leave the city, they had taken the tour of its most significant locations, and visited the natural history and mining museums – one of which had been significantly more interesting than the other. When night fell, it was agreed that a period of rest might be beneficial to all of them, and so they settled down to sleep in a hotel on West Bickerd Street. They were disturbed once during the night when a guest arrived at eleven and was given their room, but after a brief moment of terror (for it seemed he could see them) he left the hotel in a hurry, and they were left undisturbed by the now-alarmed hotel staff.

Now, at six, Bond arose and went to the window to draw back the curtains; a golden shaft of autumn sunlight flowed through the gap. So bright and so strong was it that Bond felt as if a palpable force was pressing on his chest, and he took a step back, shading his eyes to try and see through the window.

“A fine day,” he said to himself, which was the second-biggest understatement he had ever uttered, after the one about driving to the train station on Wednesday night. “The young mistress will be pleased.”

Could one, Bond pondered, as he continued to survey the glittering city, inherit a title if one was dead? He thought not, but the fact that Ellen was a ghost made things a little more complicated; while not strictly speaking alive, he was not sure if she was categorically dead, either. After all, the rest of the family were wholly removed from the mortal plane, and she was not.

This was a question that occurred to Bond fairly regularly, and it had to do with forms of address; as her employee, he really ought to know whether Ellen was the last Lady Dennel or not. As ever, though, working out the peerages of the deceased lay outside his capabilities, and he set the problem aside for a later hour, when perhaps boredom might threaten.

Ah, you're up, said Pigzie Doodle, suddenly drifting in through the door. He had not slept, of course; he was a Ghost, and Ghosts do not have the same needs as humans. I've been out all night – you know, wandering the streets of the city, rambling through the avenues of time. The usual stuff. He stopped himself. Wait. Why am I talking to you again? I suppose I like the sound of my own voice. That's usually a criticism, but I don't take it that way; it's a way of entertaining myself as I float along through time. That and committing to memory everything humans discover about swans – everyone needs a hobby, I say, and my distinct lack of hands and general lack of telekinetic prowess mean that mine has to be a bit abstract. Pigzie Doodle sighed. I'd never admit I was so bad at it, but I know for a fact that you can't hear me.

He floated over to Ellen and peered down at her face.

Quite unattractive, isn't she? he said dispassionately. I mean, I'm not much of a judge of humans, but still. When I was a kid people would've considered her a grown woman, and she wouldn't be getting many marriage offers looking like that, I can tell you. Then again, she died of Dustox poisoning, so she probably looked less... ravaged... while she was alive. After all, you've got a sword wound through your heart – though I have to say the tailsuit hides it well.

Pigzie Doodle flew over to the window and looked out.

Ugh, I'm so bloody bored, he moaned. How long is that child going to sleep for? I want to get going and make some progress – at this rate we're never going to claim my – I mean our – place in the history books!

It is a matter of some conjecture as to whether Bond would have cared about Pigzie Doodle's boredom; as he had no way of knowing of it, it is also something of a moot point, and will be glossed over without further ado.

At half past seven, Ellen awoke; Bond didn't quite know how she slept so much, since she did so much less than he did, but it did at least keep her quiet and well-rested.

“Ah, madam,” he said. “Good morning.”

“Good morning, Bond,” replied Ellen, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. “Where – oh yes, that nice hotel.”

“It is indeed nice,” agreed Bond. It certainly surpassed anything Sinnoh had had in the thirties: all this modern hydraulic wizardry in the bathroom, and five elevating chambers – which was as many as there had been in the entire country at his time of death. Remarkable. “Are you ready to leave, madam? I fear with all these delays, our mission may well be rendered unnecessary in a most unpleasant manner.”

“We certainly wouldn't want that woman doing anything,” said Ellen, nodding. “That would be... well. You know.”

Bond inclined his head. He most certainly did. After all, Liza Radley had stabbed him in the chest with a fragment of his own shadow; it wasn't the sort of thing you forgot in a hurry.

“Yes.” He indicated the door. “Well, madam? Shall we?”

“Of course.”

Ellen took his arm and they left together, closing the door quietly behind them so as not to wake any late sleepers. A few minutes later, they emerged from the hotel's grand glass doors with the silent footsteps of the dead, and were soon back at the train station. Happily, the storms in the mountains had calmed and the lines were once again open, and within the hour they were back on the rails, this time definitely headed in the direction of Veilstone.

---

“I have no idea what these are,” I said, shouldering open the door and stepping back into the bomb room, “but they've got about six thousand calories a bar. Is that good enough?”

“Perfect,” replied Ashley, looking up from where he was crouched next to the machine. “Did you pass Wake on the way here?”

“Yeah, I think I saw him in the car park—”

“My ring is the roiling seeaaaa...!” came a booming voice from down the corridor, and Ashley, Iago and I all winced simultaneously.

“Yeah, he's here,” said Iago. “I wonder why life put me in this situation instead of outright killing me. Perhaps someone up there doesn't like me.”

Crasher strode in cheerfully, humming his theme song and looking nothing at all like a man whose home city was twelve hours away from violent, bloody destruction. Under his arm was a large black box, and on his face was a merry smile.

“Why are you so happy?” asked Ashley suspiciously. “What's happened?”

“Nothing,” replied Crasher. “I just feel good.”

“You've forgotten, then, about the imminent destruction of a large part of Pastoria?”

The grin disappeared from Crasher's face in an instant.

“Oh,” he said. “Ah. Would you believe me if I said no?”

“Not at all. Give me the machine.”

“Oh.”

Crasher set the box down in front of Ashley, and I crouched next to him to watch.

“How does this work?” I asked.

“It's very simple,” replied Ashley, unfastening twin hasps and sliding back the lid. “The Poké Ball operates on the principle that energy is equal to mass multiplied by the speed of light squared. It converts a Pokémon to pure energy, reduces the energy and then converts it back to mass – thereby reducing its size. The beauty of the system is that this temporary suspension of the usual nature of the Pokémon only works within the confines of the ball's area, meaning that as soon as it is opened, the Pokémon expands back to normal size.” He pulled a series of wires from within the mechanical nightmare beneath the box's lid and began to wrap them around his fingers. “But of course, this leaves the engineer with a problem – how is the ball to encode every aspect of the Pokémon's atomic make-up so that it can reconstitute the shrunken version?”

“Of course,” I replied, feeling faintly dizzy.

“The answer is surprisingly simple,” Ashley continued, moving his hands into position close to the minute tripwires over the bomb. “This is where the Apricorn part comes in. You know that the fruit of Apricorn trees can be used as Poké Balls?”

“Yeah,” I lied.

“Well, they can function like this because the hard skin is actually a complex layer of silicon atoms, something like quartz in its molecular structure. This layer configures itself to encode, on an atomic level, the entire tree from which it came. When separated from the tree, it temporarily becomes reconfigurable – hence why it can be used as a Ball.” Ashley's fingers began to grow and extend, thinning out like stretching toffee and winding their way cautiously beneath the tripwires on the bomb's surface, taking the wires with them. I had to look away; it was really quite creepy. “The Poké Ball,” Ashley went on blithely, as if he wasn't currently engaged in a potentially lethal activity, “utilises technology drawn from the Apricorn. It encodes the material in a silicon matrix.”

“Uh huh...”

“This machine” – Ashley indicated the box with his head – “is capable of reading the silicon matrix and decoding it. It will find out what has been contained within the Balls.”
I was silent for a while, and then glanced up at Crasher.

“Um...?”

“Don't look at me,” he said. “All I know is that it works.”

“Iago?”

He sighed.

“So it isn't bad enough that I have to spend my life watching Ashley – I now have to consort with morons as well? Look, the balls store the information about the Pokémon within themselves, so that they can reconstitute them after they turn them into energy. This machine can read that information. Got it?”

“Oh, right,” I said, nodding in the manner of one who knows. “Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense.”

“Wouldn't you need a larger crystal than anything that you could contain in a Poké Ball to encode that much information?” asked Crasher unexpectedly.

“A very good point,” said Ashley, “and one that I am not currently at liberty to discuss, since my fingers are less than a millimetre away from certain death for us all.” He paused. “Or you all, at least. I shall probably be horribly injured, and take months to heal fully, but I expect to survive.”

I glanced down at his horribly extended fingers, and saw that they'd snaked all the way up the side of the bomb, coiling in weird, convoluted loops around the wires; their tips, and the cables of the machine, were almost at the Poké Balls now, heading for the single small hole in their plastic case.

“Ashley, that's really, really freaky,” I said.

“It's also very tiring,” he told me. “Get one of those Icelandic energy bars over there for me, please. My hands are occupied at present.”

“Is that what they are?” I asked, trying to take my mind off his distorted hands by looking at the labels. “I couldn't really work it out.”

“Yes. They're labelled as 'Dr. Einarsson's Medically-Engineered Energy Capsules'.”

“You speak Icelandic?”

“Yes. Now give me the bar before I pass out from fatigue and accidentally set the bomb off.”

I unwrapped it (revealing that it appeared to be made predominantly of gravel) and held it next to his mouth; somehow, he wrapped his tongue around it and sort of inhaled the whole thing in one go.

“Wow,” I said, staring. “That's... impressive. Don't you need to chew?”

“Only people who can choke need to chew – aha!”

My eyes flicked back down to the bomb, and saw that he'd finally managed to connect the cables to the Poké Balls; little suction cups that I hadn't previously noticed held them firmly in place as his fingers shrank and withdrew.

“Right!” cried Ashley, rubbing his hands together and inhaling another one of Dr. Einarsson's marvellous bars. “Now we find out what horrors this peculiar engine contains.” He flicked a switch and turned a dial, and a little screen lit up in the side of the box. For a moment, it displayed a little loading screen, and then said that it had detected attached Poké Balls, and would we like to analyse their contents? Ashley pressed a button that apparently meant yes, and it started loading again.

And loading.

And loading.

“How long does this take?” I asked Ashley.

“A little over two minutes per Ball,” he said, “so—”

“About sixty-four minutes,” finished Iago. “It's going to be a while.”

“Can we spare the time?” asked Crasher, looking concerned.

“We have to know what's inside,” Ashley replied. “It's more important than anything. If it's something I could contain on my own, we might as well trigger it and destroy it now, to spare the energy. It'll probably take me a couple of hours to disarm it, and I'd rather avoid that; single large shifts of shape are much easier than continual small ones.”

Crasher didn't look like he fully understood, but nodded anyway.

“OK.”

Ashley straightened up and stepped back to lean against the wall, running his hands through his hair; it was only then that I saw how tired he looked. There was sweat on his brow and his eyes seemed to have sunk an extra inch into their sockets; he looked like he'd just run ten consecutive marathons without a break – and come first in all of them.

“Ah,” he said, sliding down the wall into a seated position. “I think I need a rest.”

“You look like it,” I said.

“Yeah,” agreed Iago. “You look like something ate you, found out what a venomous bratchny you are and spat you out again in disgust.”

“Why the insults?”

“No reason – I'm just nasty. Remember?”

“Oh yes.”

Ashley closed his eyes and let his head fall back into the wall with an audible thunk.

“Ugh,” he sighed. “Why couldn't there just be a monster to slay for once? I miss monsters. Sadly, their days appear to be long since past.”

No one quite knew how to respond to that, so we stood around uselessly for a while until Crasher asked:

“Ashley? What do you want us to do now?”

“Nothing,” he replied. “I'm taking a break, and without intending any offence to any of you, I am the only important person in this scenario.”

“What about me?” asked Iago. “I'm important.”

“How?”

The Kadabra thought for a moment, and stroked his moustache in a thoughtful sort of way.

“Um,” he said. “Er... I'm the only one who's solved a mathematical problem correctly since we entered the room?”

“You're not important,” said Ashley witheringly, and Iago lapsed into dark and sulky mutterings.

I raised my eyebrows and sighed. It looked like nothing much would be happening for the next hour.

---

While Pearl was out buying up every one of Dr. Einarsson's Medically-Engineered Energy Capsules she could find, Liza and Tristan were landing at Veilstone; as Pearl transferred the fourth batch of energy bars to the taxi, the two Galactics arrived at their Team's headquarters, and were almost immediately caught up in a swirl of activity. Grunts of various ranks were rushing to and fro across the lobby, shouting orders and attempting to carry them out with varying degrees of success: a group of people were trying to wheel a massive, heavy-looking crate through the hall, but had picked a trolley with a wonky wheel, with the result that they kept losing control and running over fellow Galactics; another bunch were running around giving out mission briefs, trailing papers behind them and generally transferring more information to thin air than to their Team-mates; a stout man whose skintight uniform was singularly unflattering to his figure was doing his best to carry a whole rack of Poké Balls on his own, and dropping so many on the floor that it was a wonder none of the Pokémon broke out.

“Wow,” said Liza dryly, staring at the chaos from the relative safety of the main doorway. “This is sodding ridiculous. Did we really hire all these morons?”

Tristan made no reply; he and his Croagunk had been almost immediately whisked away by a contingent of high-ranking Team officials and assigned to some barely-comprehensible task. No one bothered Liza – perhaps because her hair was still black from her Gothic stint at the ice-cream factory, or perhaps because something green in her eyes told them to stay away – and she walked at her leisure through the corridors of the building, people instinctively getting out of her way. The time for secrecy was coming to an end, she thought to herself; at this point, it didn't matter much who knew that she was not just any Galactic grunt. By the time anyone could even think of coming to arrest her, Cyrus' plans would have come to fruition and any chance they had of catching her would be blown to smithereens.

She took the lift up to Cyrus' office on the thirty-eighth floor, and walked straight in without knocking.

“Done,” she said, dropping into an empty seat. “The Diamond's too used to people being afraid of him; he saw in me just what he expected to see.”

“Good to see you back,” replied Cyrus from the other side of the desk. “How was the flight?”

“Tedious. I had to sit next to that grunt I've been partnered with.”

“You should have said he was annoying before; I'd have changed your pairing.”

“It wouldn't have mattered. They're all idiots.”

“I suppose you have to be, to take their job,” mused Cyrus. “We caught her, by the way.”

“Who? Oh – her? Walker?”

“Yes. It was quite hard, but we've got her.”

“Where are you holding her?”

“Mars and Saturn are dropping her off at Iron Island. I was just about to send a couple of grunts up that way to take her off their hands.”

A spark behind her eyelids; Liza saw, across the water, the craggy hills of Iron Island through the flames; she turned and beheld the beast bearing down upon her—

“Send me,” she said abruptly, before the memory could dissolve on the surface of her mind again. “I'll take her off their hands.”

“What?” Cyrus started in surprise. “You? But... aren't you staying here? In readiness for the journey up the mountain?”

“He'll get her back before then – we both know that. It's just a question of delaying him.” Liza paused to lick suddenly-dry lips. “Send me there. I've – I need to speak to Lacrimére again.”

Cyrus gave her a long, level look – she hated those empty eyes of his, Liza thought; there was less behind them than hers, and that alarmed her – and finally nodded.

“All right,” he said. “I don't understand what it is you're doing, but...” He shrugged. “I don't think you're about to betray me.”

“I don't understand either,” Liza told him. “If I did, I would tell you.”

Cyrus nodded deeply.

“Ah,” he said. “One of those things.” He sighed. “I know a little too much about those.” He cast an odd look at an apparently empty spot on his desktop. “Well, carry on, then. Do you have any preference as to who I send with you, or shall I pick whoever's free?”

“I don't mind.”

“All right. You'll need to leave soon, then. Speak to my secretary; I think she's arranged the plane tickets.”

“OK.” Liza got up again. “Back to the airport then, I guess.”

“Yes.” She felt Cyrus' cold eyes following her to the door, and wondered what he thought of her right now. “Well – goodbye,” said Cyrus, when her hand was on the door. “You are coming back in time for the summons, aren't you?”

She looked back.

“Oh yes,” she said. “Don't worry, I'll be here. I just – need to do this first.”

Liza pushed through the door and left without saying goodbye. She didn't know why, but something told her not to. It might have been the ghost of a memory, flickering faintly behind the door in the back of her mind; it might have been the embryo of a new identity, kicking in the womb of her imagination.

Or it might have been the shadow behind her eyes, rising like some dread phoenix from the ashes of Darkling Town.
__________________

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

Last edited by Cutlerine; June 4th, 2012 at 02:14 AM.
  #83    
Old June 3rd, 2012, 03:47 PM
Zayphora's Avatar
Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
Gender: Female
Nature: Sassy
Okay, I've been reading this story for a while but haven't gotten around to reviewing it. All I can say is that it is amazing. Even with all the shifts of character you're able to hold on to all aspects of the story, and I can tell everything's going to fall into place at the end. This is really well written. I haven't completely read any of your other stories,(I'm towards the beginning of TTMGTDTW now) but I think you captured the story and turned it into something with a real plot to it. I also love all the references to things that you stick in here(I almost burst out laughing at the little note you put at the end of that one chapter regarding why the number 42 is unlucky in Sinnoh).

I'm too lazy to check the eye colors of the Creation Trio to see which one is green, so I really have no idea which one Liza may be.

Just wondering, but where was Darkling Town anyway? I keep picturing it as being on an island on the west coast around Canalave (isn't that what the port city on the west coast is called? The one with the library?) I apologize if you've already covered this and I just forgot, or if this is just me asking for a spoiler.

From what you've said in this chapter I'm pretty sure the Desk Sitter is Giratina in some form. I find it interesting that you have Giratina being on Cyrus's side because in the game, wasn't it one of the main reasons that Cyrus's plan failed? I know you aren't following the storyline of Platinum exactly, but I was just being curious.

This story, like I said before, is amazing. The D/P/Pt storyline is my favorite, and you have definitely done it justice. Keep it up!
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  #84    
Old June 4th, 2012, 02:35 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Okay, I've been reading this story for a while but haven't gotten around to reviewing it. All I can say is that it is amazing. Even with all the shifts of character you're able to hold on to all aspects of the story, and I can tell everything's going to fall into place at the end. This is really well written. I haven't completely read any of your other stories,(I'm towards the beginning of TTMGTDTW now) but I think you captured the story and turned it into something with a real plot to it. I also love all the references to things that you stick in here(I almost burst out laughing at the little note you put at the end of that one chapter regarding why the number 42 is unlucky in Sinnoh).
Aw, thanks so much! It means a lot when people take the time to comment, especially when they're as nice about the story as you are. I mean, the point of being a writer (as I see it) is to entertain and amuse others, so I'm really pleased that I'm succeeding.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
I'm too lazy to check the eye colors of the Creation Trio to see which one is green, so I really have no idea which one Liza may be.
I don't think any of them have green eyes, actually. They all have red-orange eyes. Make of that what you will.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Just wondering, but where was Darkling Town anyway? I keep picturing it as being on an island on the west coast around Canalave (isn't that what the port city on the west coast is called? The one with the library?) I apologize if you've already covered this and I just forgot, or if this is just me asking for a spoiler.
Pretty much. You know Fullmoon and Newmoon Islands? Darkling Town was on one of them - Newmoon, I think, though I have to confess that even I can't remember exactly. I'll have to check.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
From what you've said in this chapter I'm pretty sure the Desk Sitter is Giratina in some form. I find it interesting that you have Giratina being on Cyrus's side because in the game, wasn't it one of the main reasons that Cyrus's plan failed? I know you aren't following the storyline of Platinum exactly, but I was just being curious.

This story, like I said before, is amazing. The D/P/Pt storyline is my favorite, and you have definitely done it justice. Keep it up!
Giratina was actually the only reason Cyrus failed in the games. The player character arrives late, and watches helplessly as he summons and binds Dialga and Palkia to his will. There's nothing the player can do except calm Giratina afterwards; you have no bearing on the main plot itself. Cyrus is my favourite villain of the series: the only one who defeats you, whose plan can only be stopped by something amounting to a god. D/P/Pt have an extremely dark story if you look at it the way I do, and I've been trying to capture something of that here, with Ashley and Liza in particular. The heroes might seem stronger, with Ashley on their side - but they aren't. Cyrus is winning, and to be honest there doesn't seem to be a whole lot anyone can do about it.

Anyway, I'm on the verge of revealing too much, so I'm going to shut up now. Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

F.A.B.
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  #85    
Old June 5th, 2012, 03:30 AM
Zayphora's Avatar
Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
Gender: Female
Nature: Sassy
Totally agree with you about Cyrus. He came pretty close to destroying the universe. Another reason he's my favorite villain is the fact that none of the other villains really tried to do something on that scale.

Just remembered something- that part at the beginning where Cyrus gets annoyed because he got annoyed? That was great. I can totally see him doing that.

Anxiously awaiting the next chapter!
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  #86    
Old June 7th, 2012, 12:58 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Thirty: In Which Things Come to a Head

'There is very little to be said about defusing bombs other than that which everyone knows: one must always cut the red wire, and if there is no red wire, then one must cut both wires. If there are no wires whatsoever, the bomb is impossible to defuse and one must immediately resign oneself to death.'
—Neverre Bonaparte, The Gentleman's Guide to Bombsmithery


Puck was worried.

This wasn't something that happened all that often. In fact, it was a downright rare occurrence. Usually, he waltzed through life without caring for the consequences of his actions or indeed whether they were the wisest things to do – but since a certain experience earlier that year, he had been suffering from a strange and unwelcome affliction: a conscience.

Granted, it was pretty weak, and he could tune it out without too much difficulty. But it was also damn persistent, and he couldn't hold it at bay forever. It might be three days, or it might be three years – but it always came back in the end.

Puck vehemently denied it was his, of course; he was firmly convinced that his mind and Kester Ruby's, after being entangled for so long, had come away with little pieces of each other stuck in them, and that he had thus inherited a few fragments of Kester's human concern for others. (The bright side of this, as he liked to tell himself, was that this meant there must be a bit of his recklessness left in Kester as well.)

Wherever it came from, it wasn't shutting up – and now Puck was worried, because it wouldn't stop telling him that he had to go back and see if he could rescue Kester, Sapphire and Felicity from the Galactic base. Even though this was directly contrary to his sense of self-preservation.

Arceus damn it
, he muttered to himself, as his car tore through the night towards Veilstone. Kester, you'd better be really freakin' grateful for this, or I am going to put you right back in that bloody prison.

---

Ping!

As one, we all jerked back into life; every one of us had dozed off into our thoughts after the first fifteen minutes or so of waiting, once the conversation had dried up. Which admittedly hadn't taken long, since none of us particularly wanted to talk to each other: Iago was vicious, Ashley was uncommunicative, Crasher was annoying and everyone thought I was an idiot. Maybe if Rennet had been there instead of supervising the guards, we could have had a better go at it, but she wasn't, and we didn't.

Anyway, the ping brought us back to reality, and immediately Ashley's eyes flew to the screen of the machine.

“Ah,” he said. “Now, this is... impressive, in a way. It cannot have been easy to set up.”

“What? What is it?” I asked.

“A considerable threat indeed,” replied Ashley.

“That tells us nothing—” began Iago.

“Now I see how one quarter of Pastoria could be destroyed.”

“For God's sake, Ashley, tell us what's in there!”

“Each Poké Ball contains a Gyarados,” he said at last. “Thirty-two Gyarados, all to be released in one explosive burst.”

“Jesus Christ,” breathed Crasher. “How – cal!”

Even I knew that was bad. The smallest adult Gyarados on record was thirty feet long, and the largest had never been measured, as no one could catch it, but was estimated at one hundred and fifty. Almost impossible to contain within a Poké Ball, they were the only creatures in the world that required a second brain to help them process the vast quantity of anger flowing through their system; leaving aside the question of how Cyrus had managed to catch thirty-two of them, the damage they would do to Pastoria if they got out was unimaginable.

“Cal,” I said. “That's – OK, that's really bad.”

Iago clapped slowly, three times.

“Well done, Pearl,” he said. “Give the girl a sticker. Thirty-two Gyarados escaping into Pastoria, a bad thing? Never would've worked that one out on my own.”

“Shut up, Iago,” said Ashley. “Thousands of lives depend on this.”

“Don't give me that,” snorted Iago. “You don't care abou—”

“I thought I told you to shut up?”

“You did,” Iago confirmed. “But I just spent an hour doing absolutely nothing and I need to vent some spleen.”

“And are you quite done now?”

“I think so.”

“Then shut up.” Ashley looked at the timer on the bomb, which currently read 10:54:33, and took a deep breath. “Pearl, would you stand by with the good doctor's energy bars? I have a feeling I am going to need quite a few of them by the time we are done here.”

“You're going to disarm it?”

“Yes,” he replied. “Not even I can stop thirty-two Gyarados from escaping. Perhaps if there were no one else around to be injured, I might be able to try, but in a city... There's no chance of it.” He cracked his knuckles, and I saw the bones of his hands shifting out of place beneath the skin. “So. I suppose we ought to begin.”

I sat down and unwrapped one of the energy bars.

“How is this going to work?” asked Crasher. “How do you know how to disarm it?”

“I don't,” replied Ashley shortly. “But I shall take a look inside the bomb and find out.”

He held up one finger, and suddenly the tip peeled open to reveal a small eye staring out from within; I could say that this surprised me, but that would be an understatement. What I actually did was throw the energy bar in the air, let out an incomprehensible shriek and almost fall over backwards.

“Jesus!” I cried, staring at Ashley's finger – while it stared back. “That is sodding nasty!”

“You don't have to look,” he told me, blinking his new eye. “But it is necessary. I need it to see inside the bomb.”

“In all fairness, though, it is pretty horrible,” said Iago, carefully stepping away from Ashley. “Eyes do not belong there. On anything.”

Ashley clicked his tongue in frustration.

“Oh, stop complaining,” he said. “We need this bomb destroyed, don't we?”

With that, he grabbed the energy bar from me, stuffed it into his mouth and started growing his eye-finger into the works of the bomb. As one, Iago, Crasher and I turned away in disgust; now that it was moving, it looked like a snake born from a bad acid trip.

“I... I don't think I need to watch you while you do this,” Iago said, hurrying from the room. “I'll just listen from outside.”

“And I have... er... things... that need doing,” Crasher said, following him.

I glared at the slamming door.

“OK,” I said, trying hard not to look at Ashley's hand, “is there any chance you'll be able to unwrap these bars one-handed?”

“No,” he replied cheerfully. “You're not going anywhere.”

“I think I might be sick.”

“That's all right. I understand that most people find this extremely disturbing.”

“Telling me this doesn't actually make it any better.”

“My apologies.”

“Sometimes I really hate you.”

“I know. People tend to do that to me.”

“Please stop talking, because I think if I open my mouth any more I really will be sick.”

Ashley sighed.

“Do you want to hear what I think? I think that everyone should be forced to spend three weeks watching sausages being mass-produced in a factory or something similar. Then all this silly squeamishness could be stamped out of the population.”

“Knowing you, I am actually afraid that you could get the government to make that a law.”

Ashley laughed, which startled me; it was always surprising when he showed any signs of happiness.

“I probably could, if I tried.” As quickly as it had appeared, his smile faded. “Now, give me that energy bar and be quiet. I can see something that looks like a trigger here and I need to concentrate.”

He inhaled the bar and, closing his eyes to better concentrate on the images from their new sibling on his finger, plunged his other hand into the innards of the bomb. I winced and looked away. This was getting far too weird for me.

---

At around the time that Ashley was (quite literally) getting to the heart of the bomb case, our three ghosts were finally arriving in Veilstone. No unexpected wreckage had stopped them, no snowstorms delayed them; no hungry Ghosts had attempted to devour them and they had, in all, enjoyed a thoroughly peaceful journey, wholly devoid of interest.

Naturally, it couldn't last.

The moment the doors slid open and they stepped out onto the platform, they were struck with an almost palpable sense of dread, barrelling into them like a runaway train and very nearly knocking Ellen back into the carriage; the air seemed dim and the sun cold and distant, and the shadows seemed to crowd together by the walls, as if discussing with each other the best moment to strike.

“What... Bond, what's happening?” asked Ellen, shrinking back against his side.

“I must apologetically confess my ignorance, madam,” replied the estimable butler, eyes scanning the area for danger and not quite finding any. “I'm afraid I don't know what this is.”

It's bad, that's what it is, said Pigzie Doodle, contracting into a tight ball. Something wicked this way comes.

“That's Macbeth,” said Ellen, a distant memory of her long-dead tutor popping into her head.

Indeed it is, agreed Pigzie Doodle. But that really isn't our concern now. We need to get to the Galactic building – that's where we'll find our information about the weak spot in reality.

“Galactic...?”

The gang to which Liza Radley currently belongs, he replied. Look, right now we need to move. Whatever... thing... is causing this disturbance, we need to get away from it.

Ellen relayed this information to Bond, who was wholly in agreement, and the three of them quit the station for the dusty streets of Veilstone.

Here, the shadows seemed less thick, but they lurked between the buildings and crouched beneath the motor-cars; the sense of fear and anxiety still lay thick upon them, and Bond could not help but keep checking for pursuers as they followed Pigzie Doodle down the street.

It's quite close, he explained. Just a few blocks away from this main station... I think they're doing the whole 'hiding in plain sight' thing – ah! What was that?

Bond had seen it too: the dark blot on his vision that flitted from ground to sky somewhere to his left. He turned to face it directly, but there was nothing there but pedestrians.

“Something is definitely here,” he murmured. “Madam, stay close. I think we may need to make a swift escape in the near future.”

“From what?” asked Ellen fearfully, clinging tightly to his arm.

“I don't know,” he replied. “But be aware that it is there.”

It's getting darker, observed Pigzie Doodle ominously. Whatever this is, it's getting closer.

They crossed the road and rounded the corner; they were coming to the heart of the central business district now, and the streets were packed with motor-cars and pedestrians alike. Yet between the hurrying figures and the rushing vehicles, the shadows were rising, thickening and darkening the air like ink spreading across paper.

“How much further is it?” asked Ellen.

Not far. Two blocks, maybe? Pigzie Doodle's voice was not a reassuring one; he sounded perhaps as frightened as Ellen felt. Not far, not far... oh, cal!

They had turned another corner now, and could see the huge white Galactic building at the end of the street; furthermore, they could see the vast, shifting cloud of darkness that hung all around it, alien and inscrutable as the mind of God.

“What on earth...?”

Oh my God, breathed Pigzie Doodle. Oh my God. Of course that would happen.

“What?” asked Ellen breathlessly, clutching Bond's arm so tightly he felt it would be pinched clean off.

Dusknoir, replied Pigzie Doodle shortly. My big brothers and sisters.

“Madam? What is it?” asked Bond. “What does he say we should do?”

We leave. Now.


“He says we should leave.”

Immediately, Bond turned around and started walking; the past few days had told him that when Pigzie Doodle said they ought to leave, that was exactly what they ought to do.

That's it
, said Pigzie Doodle, flying along beside him. Just walk away, before they notice—

Who is this?

Bond's limbs stopped abruptly, held in place by some external force; at his side, Ellen stumbled and almost fell, only to be supported at the last moment in an impossible position. Pigzie Doodle froze in midair, every molecule of his body stilled at once.

Behind them, the Dusknoir began to move.

The world around them slowed and stilled; colours drained away to grey and the cars ceased to move. The roar of the traffic, locked into a single moment, became a low, discordant hum, and the murmur of footsteps and voices merged into one rough note.

Dimensional separation, whispered Pigzie Doodle. More commonly known as Trick Room. Time frames peel away, and the only things left moving are those who can move outside the bounds of natural reality. In layman's terms, they froze us in time, while the rest of the world carries on, completely oblivious.

Bond heard none of this. He knew only that he could not move, and that something dark was coming towards him from behind.

I should have known they'd be here, said Pigzie Doodle, and he was practically gabbling now in his haste to get the words out. They're attuned to the vibrations of the membranes. That... thing the Galactics are building must be shaking the hell out of the spacetime continuum, so they're all drawn to Veilstone, unable to resist—

Now Bond could see the first of their pursuers, slowly circling around to the front of them; like Pigzie Doodle, it was a shapeless cloud of gas – but if you looked at it out of the corner of your eye, you saw something much worse, something in black and gold that looked like it had come straight from the gaping maw of Hell itself—

A motor-car crashed straight through the Dusknoir and swung to one side, drawing to a halt inches away from Bond's face; the Ghost, surprised, burst into a storm of black droplets and scattered wildly through the air. The door popped open, and an unfamiliar voice snapped:

“In. Now.”

And all at once the paralysis was gone, and Ellen finished her fall, and Bond's foot landed on the floor; a horrific wail went up from the Ghostly darkness all around them, and Bond needed no further encouragement to drag Ellen into the motor-car and slam the door shut behind them. Pigzie Doodle flew through the window, and abruptly they were slammed back into their seats as the car leaped impossibly from nought to sixty in less than a quarter of a second. For one terrifying moment, red eyes flashed in the black smoke around them like hellish stars in a demonic sky—

—and then they were free, tearing down the street away from the Galactic building and weaving through oncoming traffic with a complete and utter disregard for human life.

---

“Blast,” said Ashley, falling back against the wall. “I have to stop.” His fingers trailed in threadlike lines across the floor, stretched almost to nothingness, and he didn't look much better: I swear he'd lost about ten kilograms in the last couple of hours.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“Do I look it?” With an immense effort, he wrenched open his eyes and gave me a baleful stare.

“I have to admit that you don't,” I replied. “Aren't the energy bars enough? You've got through half of them already.”

“Marvellous though his Energy Capsules may be, Dr. Einarsson does not seem capable of providing me with quite enough energy to fulfil the task at hand.” Ashley sighed. “I am shifting the position, number and type of cells in my body near-continually,” he went on. “Is it any wonder that bars designed to aid athletics are insufficient?”

“I suppose not.” I glanced at the timer, which read 08:23:09. “Have you got anywhere with that?”

Ashley was silent for a moment.

“Whoever built this,” he said at last, “was a genius. Or a lunatic, I'm not quite sure.”

“You can't do it?”

“I can,” he said indignantly. “It is just very difficult. This bombsmith is like a watchmaker and an accordion-maker, all rolled into one. The thing is half clockwork and half something else entirely, and full of hidden triggers. I think I have disabled many of them, but I still have not quite found out how to turn it off.”

He looked down at his hands, shook them out and watched his fingers retract back into place.

“Pearl, I think I might need you to get me some more energy bars,” he said. “I feel quite faint.”

I nodded, and a thought struck me.

“Do you want some toffee as well?”

Ashley looked surprised.

“Oh! Yes, actually. I think that might go a considerable way to reviving me.” He smiled a tired smile. “You're very kind to remember.”

For a moment I said nothing, for I'd suddenly realised just how fake his previous smiles and laughter had been, and how much more this real one was worth; the rest were mechanical, scripted reactions designated as appropriate to the circumstances, but this – this chance smile, born of fatigue and pleasurable surprise – was perfectly genuine, and it showed. It transformed his face in a whole different way to those concentrated blasts of charm he sometimes used; it made him look human, as if buried somewhere beneath that flawless skin and alien flesh there was the ghost of a real man.

Then, as quickly as it had begun, the moment passed, and I said:

“Uh, it's nothing.”

I got up – probably a bit too quickly – and left without saying goodbye. I felt as if I'd just wandered out of a dream; the world didn't seem quite real, and it wasn't until I stepped out into the fresh air that I was quite sure that I was awake again.

---

For a very long time, no one said anything at all.

Something dripped. Motor-cars drove by. People walked along the pavement.

The silence continued.

Clouds drifted across the sun. A bird landed on a road sign.

“What,” said Bond at last, “was that?”

“Glad you asked,” replied their mysterious saviour – who, as it turned out, appeared to be invisible, for there was no one in the motor-car with them. “Because that silence was kind of getting to me. I was like, oh, should I speak? No one else is speaking. Does anyone need to speak? Maybe I should speak. But then you spoke, and all the tension went.”

Jesus Christ, said Pigzie Doodle, sinking down onto the dashboard in relief. I thought we were done for there, I really did.

“What? Who's this geezer?” A single electric-blue eye opened in the centre of the steering wheel. “Oi! Get off my dashboard!”

Pigzie Doodle leaped into the air as if stung, and rolled his red eye around to stare.

A Rotom! he cried. Oh, God! How crass!

“A Duskull,” growled the eye, expanding into a globular orange head. “How outdated.”

Nouveau fantôme!

“Antiquated aristocrat!”

Scurrilous y—!

“What is this?” cried Ellen. “Why are you arguing?”

The orange head turned to look at her, trailing blue electricity.

“I just saved all of your lives – or what passes for life for you, I guess,” it said, and Bond realised for the first time that its voice was coming through the motor-car's speakers. “I think that gives me the right to argue with this old moron if I want to.”

“What?” Ellen looked at Bond helplessly, and then, since he seemed equally clueless, looked at Pigzie Doodle. “Will someone please explain what's going on?”

“Yeah, why don't you explain?” the head asked Pigzie Doodle. “Am I the only one with any manners around here?” It cleared its throat and extracted itself fully from the steering wheel, revealing itself to be something like a light-bulb and something like a marlin-spike, connected to the dashboard by electrical threads. “My name,” announced this strange apparition, “is Robin Goodfellow, known to all and sundry as Puck. Those things chasing you were Dusknoir, attracted by the minor dimensional rifts created by the Galactic experimentation. They've been there for about three weeks now, so they're all pretty hungry – hence why they came after you. They froze you in time so you couldn't escape, and I broke you out of it using nothing more than my innate charm and poise.”

I thought you used a red Volvo, said Pigzie Doodle snidely.

“Shut up,” replied Puck. “Oh. Wait. Let me rephrase that so someone of your advanced years can understand: hold thy tongue, venerable knave!”

I do understand modern Sinnish—!

“No you don't.”

Yes I do!

“Prove it.”

I'm talking to you right – gah! You're being facetious!

“And you're an antiquated old bratchny who can't see he's become obsolete,” replied Puck. “But hey! No one's perfect.”

Why, you—!

“Please, calm down!” cried Ellen. “I still don't understand.”

“Yes, I think an explanation would be appreciated,” added Bond, to whom the conversation sounded very one-sided and extraordinarily strange.

Puck sighed.

“Mew preserve us,” he said. “Is it me, or do I spend half my time explaining things to idiotic meatfaces these days? Honestly, the lack of perspicacity among organic lifeforms beggars belief...”

Tell me about it, said Pigzie Doodle. Finally, something we agree on.

“What are the odds, huh? Anyway, where was I?” Puck's eyes roved around the interior of the motor-car, as if searching for the missing topic of conversation. “Oh yeah, explanations. Right. So, first up, who I am – and that's Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, international art thief and Rotom to the masses.”

“Rotom?”

The latest species of Ghost, said Pigzie Doodle with undisguised disgust. Very nouveau fantôme. Abominable manners and deplorably dependent on human technology.

“On my way to the Galactic building to – for my own reasons,” Puck continued, as if he hadn't spoken, “I noticed you were falling prey to the cloud of Dusknoir that had gathered there. And – um – I rescued you. Also for my own reasons. Which were not at all altruistic,” he added firmly. “In case you suspect me of such nonsensical kindness, I draw your attention to the fact that I parked this car on top of a stray Glameow. Its spine is currently more twisted than Josef Mengele.”

“What?” Ellen looked confused. “Bond, what is he saying?”

“He is a Ghost, madam,” replied Bond. “And he too is trying to get into the Galactic building. I surmise he saved us in order that we may join forces, since we are going there too, and an attempt at entry may well be easier with more participants.”

Yes,” said Puck. “That is exactly why I saved your lives. We need to, er, join forces.”

Is that so? asked Pigzie Doodle, his eye lighting up, or at least glowing more brightly than usual. Is that really all there is to it?

“Yes. That is all. There could not be more to it if it tried. So little more is there to it that if you removed what I've told you, there would be less than nothing left.”

That makes no sense.


“I know you are, but what am I?”

If anything, that makes less sense.

“I know. I do that. In fact, it's kind of my thing.”

That's something of a flaw, wouldn't you say?

“I wouldn't say, actually. I don't really have flaws. I'm like when Michael Caine and Demi Moore stole from the London Diamond Corporation.”

Pigzie Doodle turned to Ellen and Bond.

Are you hearing this? he asked. There's no way we can work with this guy. Even if you can get past the fact that he's a Rotom – and I'm not saying I can – he's stealing my part!

“I don't quite understand what you mean,” replied Ellen. “Surely he's right? If we work together, don't we stand a better chance of getting in?”

“You sure do,” affirmed Puck, grinning broadly. “In fact, it just so happens that I have a plan to get us all inside.” He looked around, and was satisfied to see he had even Pigzie Doodle's attention now. “You see, I need to get inside. And I'm also a professional thief. This, combined with years of experience and a pretty damn considerable quantity of raw talent, means that I have had a scheme ready for months for just this eventuality...”

---

At eight fifteen Ashley cracked it.

His whole body tensed, and he looked as if he'd just stumbled across the reason for human existence: face frozen, eyes slightly widened, eyebrows fixed a little too high to be normal.

“I think I've got it,” he whispered, whisking me out of my thoughts and back to reality. “Finally. I think I've got it!”

“At last!” cried Iago, who had got bored and come back an hour ago. “This has taken a long sodding time. Pearl could've done it quicker.”

Ashley didn't reply; his face was set, his brow furrowed and his eyes hard. His was the face of a man who was in the middle of some intense concentration. My heart suddenly leaped up three gears, pounding like it expected a dragon to come through the roof at any moment; in my mind's eye, I saw Ashley's fingers inching their way through the innards of the bomb, avoiding tripwires, hidden triggers and tiny rolling boulders...

“Done,” he said abruptly, sinking back against the wall. “It's done.”

I stared. Was that it? Surely there was something more impressive – the lights in the timer going out, or the Poké Balls being released with a pneumatic hiss?

“It's really done?” I asked. “Are you sure?”

“Positive,” he replied, eyelids fluttering shut. “Will someone call Cynthia, please? She needs to know.” He hesitated. “And I want to see her.”

I raised my eyebrows. Wow – another display of genuine emotion. Ashley really must be exhausted.

“I'm on it,” said Iago, producing a mobile phone from within his tail; for the first time, I wondered how he actually managed to store things in it. “Cynthia... Cynthia... Cynthia! There it is.” He put the phone to his ear and waited.

“I'll tell Crasher, shall I?” I asked; Ashley didn't reply, so I decided to do it without his permission and went off to find him. He wasn't anywhere in the boiler room or the corridor outside, so I told the policeman out there to find him and Rennet and tell them the bomb was defused and went back.

“...yes, I thought so too,” Iago was saying. “Yes. Yes. Now, that's probably overstating it a bit.” He glanced at Ashley. “No, he looks like cal. He has just expended something like your total body weight in energy trying to defuse a bomb.” He sighed. “All right. We'll either be at the Gym, the police station or the Hrafn Hotel. See you in a minute.” He looked up at me. “Honestly. I don't want to fall into one of your petty human stereotypes, but there is something about blonde humans, isn't there? I mean, there's natural human stupidity, and then there's that.”

“You do know that I'm—?”

“That you're blonde under the dye? Yes. Perfect memory, remember?” Iago tapped his temple. “I'm just being mean.”

“Saying that doesn't justify...”

I trailed off.

“Justify?” prompted Iago. “Justify what, Pearl? Come on, surely even you can finish your own sentences?”

I pointed at the bomb.

“Look at the timer,” I said.

And Iago looked.

And Iago swore violently.

And Iago kicked Ashley back into wakefulness.

“Get up,” he hissed. “You haven't disarmed the bomb!”

“What? I think you'll find I have,” said Ashley. “Please stop poking me.”

“This is a kick, damn it!”

“My apologies. It doesn't feel like one.”

“Open your eyes!”

With extreme reluctance, Ashley did so – and caught sight of the timer. When he had last seen it, it was frozen at 03:45:17.

It now read 03:39:56.

“Ah,” he said. “My mistake. You would appear to be correct about the bomb.”

“Defuse it,” ordered Iago. “Now.”

“I don't really need you to tell me,” said Ashley, leaning forwards again and rubbing his fingers. “I have considerable motivation already.”

“Just do it.”

Ashley sighed, scooped a handful of lard into his mouth (the shop had run out of energy products, so I'd had to get a little more creative) and plunged his hands back into the works.

“What happened?” I asked. “I thought you'd done it.”

“So did I,” he said dryly. “It seems we were both wrong. I have, however, managed to speed up the timer. Observe.”

I looked, and saw that it now read 03:31:12; the seconds were moving by so fast that I couldn't make them out, and the minutes seemed to be changing once every second.

“You'll notice that rather than three hours, we now have three minutes,” continued Ashley, without the slightest hint of worry, or indeed anything other than fatigue. “It would seem we have, at least, ruined Cyrus' dreams of a midnight dénouement.”

Three minutes?” Iago stared at him, pointed ears pressed back flat against his skull. He looked like an angry wolf – or, perhaps more aptly, a scared fox. “Three minutes – cal!”

He was past me before I could so much as blink; the door slammed and I heard rapid footsteps in the hall.

“A strong sense of self-preservation,” noted Ashley. “I expected him to run.”

I ignored that; I couldn't even begin to respond to it. There was only room for one thought in my head right now: in three minutes and four seconds, we were all going to be buried under several tons of terminally angry sea serpent.

I was literally minutes away from death.

“Ashley,” I asked, as quietly and calmly as I could, “are we going to die?”

“Not me,” he said sadly. “I shall stand here in the ruins and look at the bodies of people I was foolish enough to choose as friends.”

The timer read 02:57:12.

“However,” he continued, visibly cheering himself, “that is only if I fail to disarm this bomb in the next two and a half minutes. And I think I can do it – I almost had it last time – it requires only a minor adjustment—”

Something crunched deep inside the machine, and a spring popped loose from the top with what was probably the only instance of an ominous boing in the history of mankind.

“Perhaps a slightly greater adjustment,” amended Ashley.

02:42:21.

“Ashley...”

I couldn't think straight – in fact, I couldn't think at all. My whole existence was my eyes, and the blinking red digits they were currently focused on. I was dimly aware of someone else in the room, and of the rapid approach of the Grim Reaper, but nothing more; those red lights, those burning dots and lines, were my universe right then, and anything beyond was unthinkable.

02:36:44.

“Calm down, Pearl,” said Ashley, though his voice sounded strained. “No one is dying tonight!”

0232.

Now the machine began to move, huge wheels turning just beneath its surface; the accordion bellows started to pump, and tiny, intricate arms clicked in and out of place within its scrapheap skeleton.

01:40:58.

“Almost there!” cried Ashley, eyes casting an unearthly yellow glow over the bomb, picking out glinting cogs and gleaming bars, black buttons and white keys...

01:23:30.

I wanted to turn and run, but there was nowhere to go. There was no running from thirty-two Gyarados.

01.01.40.

It didn't matter anyway. My legs were frozen in place; I couldn't separate my feet from the floor.

00.45.32.

I could almost hear the Reaper now, pacing down the hall with bony feet. They were unhurried footsteps – quiet, calm, implacable.

00.22.19.

The whirring and clicking of the bomb had reached fever pitch, but I could still hear the footsteps; they were almost at the door.

00.10.57.

“I can feel it!” yelled Ashley above the whine of the machine, but it was too late. I knew it with the certainty of fate, and a curious sense of lightness settled over me as the timer rushed towards its inevitable conclusion.

00.03.06.

The Reaper was through the door now, and I heard him draw back his arm for the blow—

00.00.02.

Ashley was shouting something and drawing back from the bomb now, throwing up one arm to shield his face.

00.00.00

I closed my eyes—
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  #87    
Old June 7th, 2012, 05:29 AM
dracoflare's Avatar
dracoflare
Togepi
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Gender: Male
Gah!I hate you :x Why do you have to stop the story at that point!!

Well since this is the first time I have reviewed to your story, I think I should say the usual

"You have done an amazing job." And I mean it.
I have read all the Thirty Chapters in two days, you managed to hook me into the story and I couldn't just resist coming out of the world you have created.

Keep those chapters coming.

My favorite character till now is Bond. He is ****ing cool, I must say.

Oh and my predictions: Cyrus seemed to be planning everything perfectly, but the factor that might cause him to lose could be the meeting of Lisa and Ellen.
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  #88    
Old June 7th, 2012, 04:05 PM
Zayphora's Avatar
Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
Gender: Female
Nature: Sassy
Ehehe....Cliffhangers, you will kill me.

Love the way that you portrayed Puck and Pigzie Doodle meeting. For some reason I had the strange feeling that they were having a rap battle...The only thing I didn't like is the fact that Puck killed that poor kitty :_( So mean...Oh well he has no regard for the life of anything but himself usually so yeah...

But still. What a chapter! That was amazing. AMAZING>.>

I will blow up if you don't post another chapter soon(lamest joke ever....)
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  #89    
Old June 9th, 2012, 02:15 PM
Cutlerine
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
Gah!I hate you :x Why do you have to stop the story at that point!!
That wasn't originally where it was going to end, but I couldn't resist. It was just so... so tempting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
Well since this is the first time I have reviewed to your story, I think I should say the usual

"You have done an amazing job." And I mean it.
I have read all the Thirty Chapters in two days, you managed to hook me into the story and I couldn't just resist coming out of the world you have created.

Keep those chapters coming.

My favorite character till now is Bond. He is ****ing cool, I must say.

Oh and my predictions: Cyrus seemed to be planning everything perfectly, but the factor that might cause him to lose could be the meeting of Lisa and Ellen.
Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying the story, and keep predicting. Seriously, I tend to build the story around everyone's predictions, either absorbing them or carefully skirting them. It's a great help to have this sort of ongoing reader feedback. So yeah, I hope you keep enjoying the ride. It's about to get a hell of a lot crazier, if I can get this next chapter done.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Ehehe....Cliffhangers, you will kill me.

Love the way that you portrayed Puck and Pigzie Doodle meeting. For some reason I had the strange feeling that they were having a rap battle...The only thing I didn't like is the fact that Puck killed that poor kitty :_( So mean...Oh well he has no regard for the life of anything but himself usually so yeah...

But still. What a chapter! That was amazing. AMAZING>.>

I will blow up if you don't post another chapter soon(lamest joke ever....)
Thanks so much for reading. You can expect a new chapter tomorrow, if all goes well - and a resolution to this massive cliffhanger.

Now, to put the finishing touches to the next chapter's massive cliffhanger...

F.A.B.
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  #90    
Old June 10th, 2012, 01:18 AM
Cutlerine
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Join Date: Mar 2010
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Chapter Thirty-One: In Which Ashley Loses It

'Patient name: Walker, M—. Symptoms: Mild and recurrent anhedonia. Doctor: Markus Bjornson. Treatment: Shelbufon, 200 milligrams; therapy sessions.'
—From the files of the Eterna General Psychiatric Hospital


Click.

“I assume that if you're hearing this, you've failed miserably.”

I opened my eyes a crack, and was moderately surprised to find myself alive.

“Though it may also be possible that you realised I would never do anything as stupid as blow up Pastoria, since that would most definitely bring my operations to the attention of the government. Even as it is, this message will self-destruct after playing, so that no evidence of my involvement remains.”

I blinked hard and looked around. No, I wasn't dreaming; we were both still alive, the bomb hadn't gone off, and a recording of Cyrus' voice was playing from concealed speakers.

“Now,” it continued. “By this point, you are probably all ready to come after me in Veilstone and stop me from whatever it is you think I am up to. However, I have to tell you that this is not how you will be spending the next day or so.”

I looked over at Ashley, who didn't seem to be fully conscious; his eyes were shut and he was slumped against the wall in a way that didn't look natural.

“You see, my sources reliably inform me that there are two people in the world you actually care about, Mister Lacrimére,” said Cyrus. “One of those is our beloved Champion, Miss Buckley, and the other...”

Was it me, or had Ashley suddenly tensed?

“...well, we both know that her identity is a secret,” concluded the recording. “But we are currently holding her captive in the mines at Iron Island. I suppose you are free to disbelieve me if you want, but I wouldn't want to risk it, if I were you. If you came after us, you might find she died in a terrible accident while your back was turned.” He chuckled. “I'm sure you know what I mean. Goodbye, Mister Lacrimére... and good luck.”

There was a pop and a puff of smoke rose out of the top of the machine; evidently, the message had destroyed itself as advertised.

“Ashley?” I asked. “What... what just happened?”

He did not reply.

“Ashley?”

There was still no answer.

“Ashley, what was that about?”

“Someone,” he said abruptly, and I noticed with a chill that those awful changes had overcome his voice again: it was deep, harsh and discordant, a horrible clamour of misaligned syllables that issued not from his mouth but from the air all around me. “Someone is going to die tonight.”

“Ashley?” I asked, not quite able to keep the tremble from my voice. “Ashley, what—?”

His eyes whipped up to lock onto mine, and they were so bright I had to look away; something told me to get out of there, and I took a few steps towards the door—

—only to be knocked to the floor by the force of the explosion behind me. The air flashed and something boomed like a thunderclap, and the next thing I knew I was curled in a ball by the door, masonry raining down behind me in a great rumbling cacophony.

The door opened, and there was silence for a while as someone stared.

“I thought,” said Rennet faintly, “that you'd disarmed the bomb?”

---

“So there was never any threat at all?” asked Crasher.

“No, none,” I replied. “It was all a trick.”

“Damn,” said Iago, taking a long drag on his cigarette. “That's kind of annoying.”

After half an hour of explanations and five minutes of one of Iago's joints, I was pretty much back to normal – although I wasn't sure how normal it was possible to be when you were standing in a blown-apart concrete room in the back of a hotel, talking to a Gym Leader, officer and a Kadabra over the wreckage of an extraordinarily elaborate fake bomb.

Ashley had vanished in the blast, leaving a hole roughly the size and shape of a hippopotamus in the ceiling; whatever he'd transformed into, it was probably better that it wasn't still in the room with me. The others had arrived shortly afterwards, and it had been quite a struggle to explain to them what had happened – I still wasn't really certain about it myself.

“And I told Cynthia to come here, too,” Iago carried on. “She's going to be so pissed.” He didn't seem too concerned, though that was probably more due to the odd than anything else.

“Oh, Christ,” said Crasher, squeezing his eyes shut. “She already hates me.”

“Don't worry,” Iago told him, reaching up and patting him on the shoulder. “Everyone hates you.”

For a moment, Crasher's face brightened – and then it fell abruptly.

“What the hell do we do now?” asked Rennet, running a hand through her hair. “What did Ashley do?”

“He released,” I said without thinking. “Er – I mean, that's classified information.”

“That's true,” agreed Iago. “Can't say anything more about that. I suggest you start putting together a plausible cover story to tell the public so that no one finds out about Ashley, Cyrus or the bomb.”

Rennet stared.

“I'm not going to take my orders from a stoned Kadabra.”

“Is that racism I detect?”

“No, just knowledge of the illegality of Oddish leaf.”

“Whatever,” said Iago, blowing a cloud of perfumed smoke in her face. “When Cynthia gets here, she'll tell you the same. So will your superiors.”

“He's right,” said Crasher. “State secrets and all.”

Rennet sighed.

“Fine,” she said. “I'll start clearing this up.”

“I think I might help, too,” Crasher remarked. “I've got to avoid Cynthia.”

“Good luck,” snorted Iago. “She'll be coming on Salazar.”

“Salazar?” I asked.

“She's a Harry Potter fan,” giggled Iago. “Isn't that hilarious?”

“You're really stoned,” observed Crasher. “I really need to go now.”

“Me too,” said Rennet. She looked at us. “What'll you do? Go after him?”

“I guess so,” I replied.

Rennet nodded and held out a hand for me to shake.

“Right. It's been... weird working with you,” she told me. “When you see Ashley, can you tell him it was an honour?”

“Uh... sure,” I replied. “It was nice to meet you.”

She and Crasher left, and I was just about to ask Iago what we did now when he said abruptly:

“Well, I guess we'd better meet Cynthia.”

“Iago, what's going on?” I asked. “Sorry. I'm kind of... I don't know. I think I'm still in shock a bit. And then you lent me your joint. Which is... I don't think I'm quite getting what's happening.”

“Well,” said Iago thoughtfully, “the last clear and coherent thought I had was that if I was going to die, I was at least going to die stoned out of my head. Since then, I've had some difficulty telling whether or not you're a barracuda.”

I sighed and rubbed my temples, trying to clear my head.

“OK,” I said. “Cynthia's coming. You said she'd be at the hotel, the Gym or the station, right?”

“That's where she'll look for us,” Iago answered dreamily. “I guess we'd better go back to the hotel, then. After all,” he added, momentarily serious, “the most dangerous monster in Sinnoh just ran out of here promising to kill someone.”

“Ah,” I said. “I'd kind of forgotten about the death bit.”

“Yeah.” Iago nodded sleepily. “That tends to happen after the fiftieth murder or so.”

And with that, he sank gracefully down onto the floor into unconsciousness.

---

Cynthia was waiting for us in the lobby of the hotel; she was leaning against the wall, looking like an impatient blonde vampire in her black clothes, and studiously ignoring Wednesday, who was halfway through one of his stories.

“...and so I told him not to be such a damn fool and give him the ring, so he took it off and covered the last hair on the skin,” he was saying, “and so we got out of it in the end.” He sighed and shook his head. “I don't think it turned out well for them in the end. One of them became a dragon.”

“There you are!” cried Cynthia, catching sight of us as we came through the doors – or rather, as I dragged Iago through; he was only semi-conscious and kept trying to swim through the air. “What took you so long? Where's Ashley?”

“About halfway to Iron Island by now, I should think,” muttered Iago.

Cynthia stopped dead in her tracks and gave him a look that seemed to snap him right back to reality.

“He released and went off to kill someone,” he gabbled rapidly.

What?”

Iago tried to explain, got lost in the vast wastes of his own tongue, and looked helplessly at me; I had a go at it, and bit by bit we got the story out to Cynthia.

“Cal,” she said, once she'd heard. “God damn it!” She paced a step or two away, then turned around sharply. “Iago! Use your League card and requisition a plane to Canalave, then get Byron, tell him what's happening and come to Iron Island immediately.”

“Yes ma'am,” said Iago, unusually subdued, and wandered vaguely out of the door.

“Oh, and Iago?”

He turned around.

“Make sure you're sober again by the time you get there.”

“All right, all right,” he muttered, and left.

“You,” continued Cynthia, jabbing a threatening sort of finger in my direction, “are coming with me. Pay for your rooms. Now.”

“What?” I asked.

“Iago's going by plane because he's out of his mind and won't be able to hold on,” Cynthia said. “You, however, are all right.” She looked me up and down. “Mostly. So you can come to Canalave the fast way, with me.”

“The fast way?”

“Just pay and we can leave.” Cynthia removed the threatening finger from my direction and pointed it at Wednesday. “Right there.”

“OK, OK!” I went over to the desk and handed Wednesday my card. “I think we're checking out,” I said sheepishly. “Sorry about that.”

“Don't worry,” he replied. “There's a nice young Goth couple who've been calling up every day and asking for rooms here. If you leave, there's space.”

“Oh yeah. This place is popular, isn't it?” I looked up at the bloody battleaxe on the wall. “I keep forgetting about the whole Gothic thing.”

Wednesday shrugged.

“Easily done,” he said, returning my card. “May your journey terminate in glorious warfare.”

“Er... goodbye,” I replied, and went back to Cynthia, who immediately grabbed my wrist and began dragging me over to the door. “Hey!”

“There's no time to waste,” she told me. “If he wants to get to Iron Island, it will only take him an hour and a half.”

“What? How is that possible?”

Cynthia raised an eyebrow.

“He's Ashley sodding Lacrimére,” she said sourly. “It doesn't need to be possible.”

“But he was exhausted—”

“Weren't you listening to your own story? Team Galactic captured her. The only person in the world he actually likes. It doesn't matter how tired he is, he'd fight Arceus for her.”

“I thought you—”

Cynthia sighed and gritted her teeth.

“He likes her more than me,” she said, pushing open the door and reaching into her pocket. “Hasn't he told you?”

“No...” My curiosity was piqued, though. Who was this mystery person? Another immortal? A former lover? An old friend?

Cynthia pulled a Poké Ball out of her pocket and tossed it down onto the pavement; a moment later, I found myself face to face with the most famous Pokémon in the country. He was blue; he was scaled; he was twenty-five feet long and weighed one and a half tons: he was Cynthia's signature Pokémon and widely reckoned to be one of the strongest creatures in captivity, her Garchomp.

“Whoa,” I breathed, staring up at the jagged face and uncomfortably aware that its hard, sharp eyes were staring back. “Is that...?”

“Yeah,” Cynthia told me, and there was a hint of pride in her voice. “This is Cyrano.”

“He's... whoa.”

There wasn't much else I could say about him – or that I really need to. I mean, you'll have seen him on TV, whether you live in Sinnoh or not, and all I can really add to it is that Garchomp look a hell of a lot bigger and scarier in real life. That, and that they smell of cordite.

“OK,” said Cynthia. “Here's how it works. I rode him down here from Hearthome, so the saddle's still on. I'll get on first, and then you hold on to me. Tightly, or you'll end up smeared over half of Sinnoh—”

“What? We're riding him?”

Cynthia gave me a look that suggested she, like everyone else, had come to the conclusion that I was more stupid than I looked.

“How do you think I get around? Without me on his back, he can fly at Mach 1.5. With me and the bike, he goes at just under Mach 1. There's no faster way around Sinnoh.”

I stared at her.

“Isn't that incredibly dangerous?”

She shrugged.

“Not really. Garchomp aren't smart, but they're some of the most skilled fliers in the animal kingdom. What is dangerous is standing here talking while my boyfriend goes on a murderous rampage in Iron Island.”

“Point taken.” I looked up at Cyrano nervously. “All right. Let's do it.”

I'm glad no one was around to see me trying to get onto his back; when he knelt down, setting his massive foreclaws on the ground, Cynthia vaulted nimbly up to lie between his shoulder blades, while I spent about fifteen minutes sliding off his slick scales before managing to get up behind her.

“Lie as flat as possible,” she instructed, as I tried to tighten what felt like a very token safety strap around my waist, “or the air pressure will rip your head off.”

“Thanks,” I said dryly; the glow of the odd had worn off now, replaced by the fearful throb of adrenaline you get when the rollercoaster is just about to reach the top of the climb. “Oh, God!” I cried, as Cyrano pushed himself back up on his hind legs and sank down onto his haunches, ready to jump.

“Don't worry,” Cynthia called back to me. “You'll be fine. Only one person has ever got hurt flying with me.”

“How many people have flown with you?”

“Two,” she replied carelessly, “and one was Ashley.”

And Cyrano's legs extended and his wings came up in one fluid motion, and suddenly there was no longer anything beneath us and an unbelievable wind was howling around us—

Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!”

---

By the time the thing that was sometimes Ashley Lacrimére reached Iron Island, it had been seen all over West Sinnoh. It took the direct routes, through Oreburgh, the northern suburbs of Jubilife and the docklands of Canalave; it swatted cars aside, knocked pedestrians to the ground and tore chunks out of any buildings that happened to be in its path. People had taken photographs, and tried to video it; the resultant blurry images would be picked over and analysed endlessly on the Internet for the next few weeks. Was it an alien? A monster? A secret government super-soldier? Or was it something darker, a demon from the Endless Night of Sinnish mythology?

There was some truth in all four ideas, of course, but that need not concern us. The only important thing was the creature itself, the twisted beast that, as the moonlight glittered on the waves, leaped from the boat and landed gracefully on the jetty. A moment later, it was past the night labourers and at the entrance to the caves, following some unknown trail; a lone worker, looking up from his work, thought he saw a figure in the dark – but then it was gone, and he knew with the certainty of those who cannot face their demons that it was nothing but his imagination playing tricks on him.

The thing made its way through the darkness, past the lit areas where the miners worked and into the ancient tunnels beyond; here, there were no lanterns, just stone and darkness. Here was where the wild things were – and here, the creature sensed, was where she was.

It rounded a corner and entered a cavern, larger than the rest, and stopped abruptly: there was someone else in this room, it felt; they were not alone...

Then, without warning, the ceiling gave way and the beast vanished under several tons of rubble.

The strange being that had for a few short years been Liza Radley stepped out of the shadows and tilted her head on one side, regarding the mound of stone with brilliant emerald eyes.

“Well, then,” she said. “Wasn't as hard as all that.”

---

“I didn't have enough breath to say any of this earlier,” I said, “but: Oh. My. God.”

“Yeah, it's pretty great, isn't it?” replied Cynthia, sliding off Cyrano and patting the huge Dragon on his side.

“Uh – I guess you could say that,” I said cautiously, trying to get off and falling over. “I suppose if you're more used to it, it isn't quite so... terrifying.”

“Yeah, that too.” Cynthia pulled me up sharply and recalled Cyrano; it was kind of amazing, I thought, that such a huge animal could be contained in such a small space. “Come on. We have to find Ashley.”

After a short hour and three quarters of barely subsonic flight, we had landed atop a barren crag on a slightly larger barren crag in the middle of the sea; this was Iron Island, the most lucrative mine in Sinnoh. Unsurprisingly, it was owned by a branch of the Stone family – they seemed to control half the mines in the world – and a lot of the money went outside the country, therefore; the government had been trying to nationalise it for years, but there were Stones in Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Unova and Canada, and together they had enough influence to seriously injure Sinnish interests abroad, especially the Unovans.

Other than the mines, there were a set of mostly unexplored caves that Trainers often trained in; they didn't usually go far from the entrance, but if they did, they were likely to make it onto the six o'clock news as the latest missing person. Occasionally, bits of chewed body would be found washed up on the beach, which indicated there was some sea access deep within the caves that housed some horrific aquatic monster, but, since most people like to remain alive and in one piece, no one had ever gone in to investigate further.

In consequence of the caves, there was a little rest stop as well as the Stone loading docks, for Trainers to stay at while adventuring in the tunnels; it was there that we'd landed, though there didn't seem to be anyone around to notice – we were deep in autumn now, and I didn't think any Trainers wanted to come to this freezing rock at this time of year.

Cynthia led me down a short path cut into the edge of another crag (the island had them in abundance) and past the fenced-off warehouses of the mines; this rough track led us down to the entrance to the mines, an area so heavily fortified it looked like they were expecting a full-scale military assault. I didn't note much more than that at the time – I was trying to sort out my hair, which had kind of exploded in all directions during the flight, while simultaneously trying to work out how Cynthia's had remained dead straight despite being three feet longer.

“This way,” said Cynthia, pointing to a shadowy cleft between two rocks, off to the right. “The path to the caves is through there.”

“I'm sure this place looks a lot nicer in daylight,” I said, looking nervously at the aforementioned shadowy cleft, “but right now, it's very creepy.”

“No, it's still creepy in the day,” she told me. “The animals are awake then, and they make a variety of scary noises.” She hesitated. “I don't really like coming here,” she admitted. “I wouldn't now if Ashley hadn't come here.”

That brought me abruptly back to our mission: Ashley was here, transformed into God-knew-what, seeking a mysterious loved one who had been captured by the Galactics – and whom Cynthia still hadn't revealed the identity of.

“Who is it that they've captured?” I asked her, as we entered the cleft and began walking down an alarmingly narrow path squeezed between two walls of rock. “You know, right?”

Cynthia paused.

“I don't – it's not something he likes to talk about,” she said at last. “Look, we'll go on, and he can tell you, OK? I'm not going to make that decision for him.”

I was faintly surprised; Cynthia seemed to be being quite reasonable. Then again, Ashley had said that she was more or less a nice person when she wasn't angry, and so far I had only met her when she was angry.

“All right,” I sighed. “I'll wait.”

“Good. I actually have a question of my own – something you might know the answer to, since you've been investigating with Ashley.” Ahead of me, Cynthia stopped suddenly, and looking over her shoulder, I saw that the light from the sky above gave out just in front of her: we had reached the cave mouth. She fumbled for a moment, and then bright light flared in front of her at the click of a torch, illuminating a few measly feet of what I had a horrible feeling was an immeasurable darkness beyond.

“Er... What is it?” I asked.

“Why do they want Ashley here?” asked Cynthia. “What is there in Iron Island?”

Surprisingly, I could actually answer that one.

“It's the furthest possible place away from their base, I think,” I told her. “This is a distraction, like the whole bomb thing.”

Cynthia sighed.

“And like that, it might not even be real, I suppose...” She sighed and stared into the cave mouth. “Cal. I guess we have to go in now.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess we do.”

She looked back at me, and it suddenly struck me that she couldn't be more than a couple of years older than me; if she hadn't become Champion, I thought, she might well have turned out just like I had. It was a strange thought: this woman, head of one of the most powerful systems in the Sinnish government, was no more or less than a kid like me.

I gave my best reassuring smile, which, considering the circumstances, wasn't particularly good, and she gave me a wry one back.

“Come on, then,” sighed Cynthia, and we walked into the darkness together.

---

When Ashley regained consciousness, it was to find himself entombed.

This did not have quite the same effect on him as it might on another; he had, for a variety of reasons, been buried alive several times over the course of his long life, and he had always managed to get out in the end. Things were a little different in this case – he was a century into a sharp decline in his powers, and he was so utterly exhausted that blinking was currently a distinct chore – but given time, he would no doubt manage to work his way free. After all, he was still in one piece – no broken bones, no haemorrhages, no obvious wounds – and that could only mean he was mostly fine.

What did alarm him, however, was the fact that he was not quite sure where he was.

This could mean only one thing. He had gone berserk and fully released. And that was a very alarming prospect indeed. Usually, when that happened, there was large-scale slaughter. There was destruction and biblical rains of cleansing fire. In short, when such a thing happened, large human settlements tended to cease to exist, and the League, in turn, chopped him into pieces and stored him in the vaults.

Ashley did not wish to kill people he did not have to, and he definitely did not wish to spend another ninety years in paralytic agony.

Vos khouran miht,” he said to himself, which was Old Sinnish and therefore unintelligible to almost everyone in the world except himself. However, given his current predicament, it seems reasonable to assume that these words might translate as something very, very crude and indicative of extreme displeasure.

A rumble of stone interrupted his thoughts, and all at once the dim light of the cave flooded his eyes as someone dragged a boulder off his face.

“Ah,” said Ashley. “Thank—”

He broke off and frowned. His saviour did not appear as he had imagined – in fact, she did not appear human. Her skin was the colour of violets at midnight, and her eyes shone like polished emeralds; her hair floated around her head like an indigo corona, and she was dressed in something resembling a spacesuit. Still, Ashley had met a great many non-human sentient beings in his time, and this one seemed vaguely familiar.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Have we met?”

The apparition grinned at him, displaying thirty-two very white, very sharp teeth.

“Yeah,” she said, voice grinding flatly on the air. “You could say that.”

“Er, very well. Would you be so good as to free me – or, if that is beyond your strength, find someone who can? Ordinarily I could break loose, but I find my strength somewhat depleted at present.”

The strange woman leaned back and sat down on one of the slabs of rock on his chest.

“Nah,” she said. “See, I had a sudden flash of memory recently, and I need to talk to you about it. So I thought I'd pin you down and have a chat.”

“What – who are you?” asked Ashley, puzzled. “I'm sure I've seen you before—”

“You have. In multiple guises.” The woman ran a thin, pointed tongue over her teeth. “Recently, you've seen me as Liza Radley, the psychologically damaged terrorist-for-hire with the missing past. And – oh, about... four hundred and thirty years ago... you saw me as part of the Geist.”

Ashley's eyes widened and his pupils contracted to pinpricks.

“You? Which – how did you escape?”

“I ran away,” replied the thing that had been Liza. “Simple idea, isn't it? Don't know why no one else tried it; it was obvious you were going to beat us.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “But now the tables are turned, aren't they? You're the one buried in stone and I'm the one gloating.”

“I did not gloat—”

“You did. You were a bad winner. Like a spoilt kid.”

Ashley grimaced.

“I suppose it's too much to ask for you to release my arms so I can hit you?”

“Yeah. Not that I'd feel it, of course.” The Liza-thing tapped him playfully on the nose. “You're not much more than human right now. All the weaknesses and none of the strengths.”

Khouran,” Ashley said, and she raised her eyebrows.

“Ouch,” she said. “I most certainly am not. You know, I'd start being nicer if I were you. Don't you remember why you came here?”

“No, I...” Ashley broke off and drew in a swift breath as memories slotted back into place. The Galactics had captured... “Vỏtt,” he said, closing his eyes. “I... I suppose I have no choice. What do you want?”

“I have a couple of things I need to ask you,” said the Liza-thing, folding her arms and settling into a more comfortable position. “Liza volunteered to come here because she thought she might remember some of her past if she saw Newmoon Island, and when she went to have a look at it from the northern crag – well, she did. Hence my abandoning the disguise. With me so far?”

“Yes,” replied Ashley without emotion.

“Now, I remember most of what happened to me between escaping you at the tower and me losing my memory a few years ago, but bits before that are kind of hazy,” she went on. “I think some of the others might have been borrowing my memories – or maybe we were sharing them, I don't remember. The point is, I want to know what was happening before then.”

“To you?”

“Yes, to me. Who do you think?”

“It would be rather a waste of time to tell you,” said Ashley.

The Liza-thing raised her eyebrows in astonishment.

“Do I need to remind you who I have captive here?” she asked him. “I could twist her pretty little head off any time I choose – or strangle her with her own shadow – or make her eat herself. Is that what you want?”

“If you were at Darkling Town, you will know that not only did I release physically, but mentally as well,” Ashley told her. “Those who survived the assault found themselves afflicted with amnesia afterwards, in the wake of my... psychic explosion, shall we say. As I understand it, the League investigators found that memories had been knocked wholly from people's heads and tied to the land itself. You may have remembered your past when you saw Newmoon Island – but once you move a certain distance from it, all those memories will melt away to nothing.” He tried to shrug, found his shoulders were immovable and settled for blinking instead. “My apologies.”

“No!” growled the Liza-thing, leaping to her feet. “No, that can't be right! I won't forget, not now, of all times... f*ck!”

“English,” noted Ashley with interest. “How quaint. I thought the fashion nowadays was to curse in Nadsat.”

“F*ck you!” she spat, punching him in the eye. “You're lying!”

“No, I'm not,” he replied. “It is not in my interest to lie.”

“Damn right, it's not!” snarled the Liza-thing. “So you'd better start telling the truth, or I f*cking kill her right this second!”

“I am not lying!” cried Ashley, genuinely nervous. “Why would I lie? I don't want her hurt!”

The Liza-thing's face twisted into a rictus of rage, and she turned abruptly to leave his field of vision; a moment later, she was back, her fingers wrapped around the neck of a teenage girl.

Ashley's heart sank. She really did have her, he thought.

“I see you believe me now,” said the Liza-thing. “Now you're going to answer my questions, Izhlei, or we're going to conduct a serious f*cking experiment to find out whether immortality runs in the family.”

Ashley swallowed. It did not look like there was any way out of this now; for once, he was going to have to tell the truth.

“Hello, Marley,” he said softly.

She stared back at him, quiet fear glinting at the back of her eyes.

“Hello, Dad,” she replied.
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Last edited by Cutlerine; June 10th, 2012 at 04:45 AM.
  #91    
Old June 10th, 2012, 04:43 AM
Zayphora's Avatar
Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
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Nature: Sassy
*jawdrop*

WHOOOOOA. Didn't see that coming.
----
On a completely different note, I think you forgot to put a line or something between the final change of perspective here. When it switches from Pearl's POV to Ashley.
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  #92    
Old June 11th, 2012, 05:37 AM
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c1234321
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Gender: Male
wow..i wish i could say id seen that coming but that would be a massive lie. Oh crap, I forgot grammar in the first sentence. Oops. Oh well. Anyway, these past few chapters are completely fantastic. So many plot twists and turns. Its fantastic that you always manage to keep us on our toes guessing. And then the final twist with Marley. I mean I fully expected Stephanie to be on Iron Island, which would finish up that part of her storyline, but you are just....wow. Fantastic. Oh and I was also very surprised to discover that Liza was THAT. I mean I think Ive figured out what she is but for the sake of others who may have not I shan't say it. Whoops, I digress very easily. Coming back to the main point you are a fantastic writer. Also, though I looked my hardest for a person who got very little sleep last night, but I did not see any grammar or spelling errors or anything. So good job all around.
  #93    
Old June 11th, 2012, 09:31 AM
Cutlerine
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No one saw it coming? Really? Oh, excellent. That went even better than I'd hoped for. Seriously, I thought someone would've picked up on it. I'm not complaining - I'm just surprised that I managed to disguise it enough.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
*jawdrop*

WHOOOOOA. Didn't see that coming.
----
On a completely different note, I think you forgot to put a line or something between the final change of perspective here. When it switches from Pearl's POV to Ashley.
Ah yes, added the line break. Thanks for that.

What will happen next? Find out soon! The next chapter is in the works.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
wow..i wish i could say id seen that coming but that would be a massive lie. Oh crap, I forgot grammar in the first sentence. Oops. Oh well. Anyway, these past few chapters are completely fantastic. So many plot twists and turns. Its fantastic that you always manage to keep us on our toes guessing. And then the final twist with Marley. I mean I fully expected Stephanie to be on Iron Island, which would finish up that part of her storyline, but you are just....wow. Fantastic. Oh and I was also very surprised to discover that Liza was THAT. I mean I think Ive figured out what she is but for the sake of others who may have not I shan't say it. Whoops, I digress very easily. Coming back to the main point you are a fantastic writer. Also, though I looked my hardest for a person who got very little sleep last night, but I did not see any grammar or spelling errors or anything. So good job all around.
I like keeping people guessing, yeah. I suppose I work best when writing stories that have a sort of central mystery around which all else revolves; I seem to be quite good at building strange and elaborately tangled plots.

And if you think you've discovered who or what Liza is, things are only going to get better for you. Read carefully and you may figure out how she fits into the bigger picture before everyone else does. She is, by the way, the only character whose story I have completely plotted out in my head. The others could all go in any one of several different directions, but I know for a fact what happens to Liza. I won't reveal too much of it for now, but I'll say that we have far from reached the end with her.

As ever, thanks for reading, enjoying and pointing out my mistakes and omissions! I hope to bring you all another chapter shortly.

F.A.B.
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  #94    
Old June 11th, 2012, 09:39 AM
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Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
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Nature: Sassy
I still don't know who Liza is supposed to be...whether she's one of the legends in disguise or what. I'm confused and dumb, it's probably really obvious and I didn't see it...derpderp.

You know what would be funny? If you make Looker come back and attempt to do something, but then he falls off a cliff or gets completely and utterly destroyed in some other way...xDD I'm not usually sadistic or anything, I just think that would be kind of funny lol.
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  #95    
Old June 11th, 2012, 12:22 PM
sheep261
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Brillain chapter as per usual, I likey indeedy :D

I can see the why Marely was chosen, as if I remember correctly, you had to guide her through Iron Island I believe? So now I can see the link...unless I am 100% wrong

Also, scrap my earlier idea on Ashely being Giratina, I have a new legendary in mind....Regigigas. Don't know how, but for some reason this one just appeals to me after some consideration.

Looking forward to the next chapter!
  #96    
Old June 12th, 2012, 05:00 AM
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Uchiha Sasuke X
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Join Date: Jun 2012
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Well, I've finally come out of lurking status and have posted for the first time in PC, in honor of that amazing cliffhanger you left me with.
Since TTMGTDTW, I've always been a great fan of your writings, and I'm totally impressed with how you tell the stories. The characters are always fresh, the ghost-types are abundant and full of humor, and the way you make sure I keep reading and reading and keep asking for more is unbelievable.
Cutlerine, you're definitely on par with the best Pokemon fic writers, and I hope you'll continue this amazing story 'till the end! :D

Oh, and Ashley and Marley's relationship seemed so obvious, yet I couldn't realize what exactly it was for the world. Until you revealed it and caused me to facepalm.

~Saskue XII

Last edited by Uchiha Sasuke X; June 12th, 2012 at 05:12 AM.
  #97    
Old June 12th, 2012, 01:00 PM
Cutlerine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
I still don't know who Liza is supposed to be...whether she's one of the legends in disguise or what. I'm confused and dumb, it's probably really obvious and I didn't see it...derpderp.

You know what would be funny? If you make Looker come back and attempt to do something, but then he falls off a cliff or gets completely and utterly destroyed in some other way...xDD I'm not usually sadistic or anything, I just think that would be kind of funny lol.
It's not that obvious who Liza is. You can work it out from the clues I've dropped so far, especially in the last chapter, but you're not missing out on anything by not knowing.

As for Looker, he actually makes his return in the next chapter, since this is the point when he turns up again in-game - a little too late at the scene of the bombing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sheep261 View Post
Brillain chapter as per usual, I likey indeedy :D

I can see the why Marely was chosen, as if I remember correctly, you had to guide her through Iron Island I believe? So now I can see the link...unless I am 100% wrong

Also, scrap my earlier idea on Ashely being Giratina, I have a new legendary in mind....Regigigas. Don't know how, but for some reason this one just appeals to me after some consideration.

Looking forward to the next chapter!
I tend to restrict my use of Pokémon so that, if they play a major role in a story, I don't use them more than once. Since I gave Regigigas a pretty darn big role in TTMG2DTW, I won't be using him again. Possibly ever.

As for Marley - it's actually Riley you go with in Iron Island. (Marley is in that weird cave joined onto Victory Road.) However, Riley will be making an appearance, so stay tuned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Uchiha Sasuke X View Post
Well, I've finally come out of lurking status and have posted for the first time in PC, in honor of that amazing cliffhanger you left me with.
Since TTMGTDTW, I've always been a great fan of your writings, and I'm totally impressed with how you tell the stories. The characters are always fresh, the ghost-types are abundant and full of humor, and the way you make sure I keep reading and reading and keep asking for more is unbelievable.
Cutlerine, you're definitely on par with the best Pokemon fic writers, and I hope you'll continue this amazing story 'till the end! :D

Oh, and Ashley and Marley's relationship seemed so obvious, yet I couldn't realize what exactly it was for the world. Until you revealed it and caused me to facepalm.

~Saskue XII
Well, hello there and welcome to Pokécommunity! I'm very happy to hear you like my stories; sometimes I have vague crises of doubt about them. It's usually solved by moving the plot on to a really exciting bit, like this one with Marley and Ashley, and forgetting that I ever thought previous parts were lacking.

Anyway, this story will definitely continue to the end. I've come too far to abandon it now; I think I'm halfway through, or just over. I have waded so far into the river of text that to return would now be as long as to go on, to paraphrase Macbeth.

I'm glad to see someone caught something going on between Ashley and Marley. I'm always a bit suspicious when no one gets what I think is a really obvious hint; I start thinking that maybe it's so obvious that no one feels they need to mention it, and that I should've made it more obscure. Your reaction was kind of what I was going for: vague ideas that something's there, but never quite working out what it was. So thank you for that. I feel all gratified now.

As a side note, I think this story has a theme tune. The Michael Andrews & Gary Jules version of Mad World always comes to mind whenever I think about it.

It's nice to see this chapter was so well-received. I hope I can follow it up without disappointing you all, now that the tension's so high. There's only one way to find out, I suppose - and that's to get back to writing it right now, the sooner to post it.

F.A.B.
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Last edited by Cutlerine; June 12th, 2012 at 01:37 PM.
  #98    
Old June 17th, 2012, 11:51 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
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Interlude: Marley

I'm... not much of a writer. I don't really know how to put this. I suppose people usually start this sort of thing with something like 'I always knew deep down that...' but I can't. I never knew anything deep down – there was never any 'deep down' at all with me. It was part of the abnormalities.

I always suspected that they came from my dad – the mutations. There was just no way they could have come from anywhere else. I knew Mum was completely normal, and the chances of my abnormalities arising naturally were as close to zero as makes no difference. These things couldn't just happen: someone had to be responsible.

I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself. I should begin with the mutations – that's how my life began, after all. All the deviancies in my DNA were detected at birth, though no one knew what they'd do to me, and I knew right from the start that I was different. I never got sick, never gained much muscle mass, and – worst of all, or so they say – I never developed emotions fully. Even now, there are times when I forget to be happy, or sad, or even afraid. People tell me they're sorry for me. I often struggle to remember what that means.

I don't mature properly physically, either. I'm fifteen and I look about ten – the doctors say my body's rate of ageing is slowing down every year. By the time I'm twenty-five, I might look eighteen, but then that would be the end of it. What would happen to me then, when my body stops changing altogether, is something no one knows.

It was hard for Mum – it must have been. I know now that my doctors were all government ones, that my existence and the abilities I had were a state secret – a lot of important people were placing her under a lot of pressure. In return, she got money, and I got the best education money can buy in Sinnoh – though I stopped school at ten, of course, because I wanted to be a Trainer.

I knew I would be good, you see. I wasn't strong, but I was smart – really smart, 135 on the Stanford-Binet – and that's all you really need to be a successful Trainer. It took a lot of persuading to convince anyone that I was physically capable of it, but I managed in the end – I think it was the fact that it was the first thing in life that I'd ever shown signs of actually wanting swayed them in my favour. Before, nothing had seemed to matter. But Training... For some reason, it struck a chord within me, and I threw myself into it in a way that I never had before.

Two years into that trip, and Ashley Lacrimére – my father – turned up in my life. He came from nowhere, appearing at my campsite in the forests between Hearthome and Pastoria with the rising sun. When I saw him, I thought he looked familiar, and when he told me who he was, I knew that it had to be true. I had no emotional reaction, not then, but I knew it had to be true. He looked young and old at the same time, as I imagined I would look when I stopped ageing, and he had the same eyes: grey, cold and devoid of human warmth. No one could have looked into those eyes for long, just as no one could look into mine.

About half an hour later, I remember that my emotions came back for a while, and I cried, which made him cry too for some reason that I couldn't quite understand, and when we were both done he told me everything. How he came to be what he is, and how I was conceived, and how he had promised Mum never to come near her again – all of it. Dad – there was finally a face to the name – had been going to visit me secretly, but had been detained at the League by the Champion, Jonathan Farnese, for the past twelve years, and only when Cynthia Buckley took over had he been released. As soon as he could, he had come to find me. His daughter.

I had questions. So many questions. Some of them he could answer – like why I didn't get ill. Others he couldn't, such as what would happen to me when I stopped ageing. It didn't matter, though, because all the main mysteries were laid bare now: I knew my past, I knew why I was the way I was, I knew why I was a Class II state secret and not far off a certified genius. The holes in my past were filled in and cemented over now – I felt satisfied, as if somewhere, a weighty book recording my history had been finished and heaved shut.

Dad met me quite often after that – when he could get away from the people assigned to watch him, that is. I saw them once in a crowded street in Jubilife, but I don't think he noticed me: an ageless man in a sea of mortals, with a sinister-looking Kadabra following his every step. I didn't like him; I don't have Dad's eyesight, but I could see enough of his face to tell that there was something bitter in his mind.

Once I knew about him, Dad went to great lengths to protect me from all the stuff that goes on around him – all the violence and attempted kidnappings, the political intrigues and the conspiracies. I never knew just how much until after the whole Cyrus thing. As it turned out, he hadn't gone far enough. He said afterwards that he should have erased all data on me from the face of the planet; if there had been no file on me at the League, the Galactics would never have come after me. I told him not to blame himself, but he did it anyway. I think that's parental love.

I never used to understand that. Now at last I think I do.

---

Chapter Thirty-Two: In Which Pearl Meets a Wielder of Mysterious Abilities

'Generally speaking, a midichlorian count of above 5000 per cell would be enough to have some sense of it, and above 7500 per cell would open up the option of Guardianship.'
—From the records of the Sinnish Government


“So,” I asked, “how did you and Ashley get together?”

I spoke mostly to break the silence and make the dark seem less huge, and I think Cynthia replied for much the same reasons.

“Well, I was seventeen and he was four hundred and forty-six,” she said. “We met when I, as the new Champion, was shown around the League vaults and found his severed head, and we kind of hit it off.” She paused. “I guess it's what you could call an unconventional love story.”

I stumbled over a rock in the blackness and almost fell, but caught myself against a wall and righted myself again.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “It does sound pretty... weird.”

The inside of Iron Island was dark, jagged and generally unpleasant; I kept getting a nasty feeling that I was being watched by goblins or kobolds or something. Our only source of light, Cynthia's torch, was bright but not particularly broad, so the world immediately in front of us was illuminated clearly and the rest was drowned in darkness. At least when I'd gone through Mount Celestic with Marley, Hamish had cast a wide light.

“Uh...” Cynthia was searching for something to say, I could tell; talking helped keep the level of primal fear down a bit. “How did you get involved in this again? I don't think Ashley said.”

“Team Galactic tried to kill me,” I replied. “And Iago, and Ashley. I think they've now decided it's not going to happen and are just delaying us instead.”

“Right.”

Another pause. We really weren't doing well here.

“Left or right?” I asked, as we came to a junction.

“How the hell would I know?” asked Cynthia. “I'm not Ashley. I'm good at Pokémon battling and riding a motorbike, but that's about it.”

“Hello? Lost, are you?”

I turned sharply to see who had spoken, expecting some gremlin or ghoul of the dark – but instead I saw a rather handsome man, dressed in a blue-and-black suit and with a blue hat pulled down low over his eyes. Naturally, I assumed he had to be a Trainer – though he was substantially older than most of the rest I'd seen, in his late twenties. Next to him was a Lucario, looking somehow fiercer than the one that had saved me in Veilstone; perhaps it was wilder or something.

“Riley?” asked Cynthia, disbelieving. “Is that you?”

“Miss Buckley? Ah! This is a surprise.” Riley hesitated. “Since you're here, I suppose the thing that just ran through this cave was, um, one of your things?”

“You suppose right,” said Cynthia. “Probably our most dangerous thing, actually.”

“Ah. Ashley?”

“Yeah.”

Riley winced, and I took my chance to get into the conversation while everyone was silent.

“Sorry,” I said, “but who is this?”

“Riley Stone,” said Riley, shaking my hand in a very business-like manner. “I own the mines here and Train a little, too. And you are...?”

“Pearl,” I replied, doing my best not to ask why the doubtless fabulously wealthy owner of the Iron Island mines was wandering around the caves at midnight. “Pearl Gideon. Are you with the League?”

“Not quite,” he said evasively, and I looked at Cynthia.

“He's another state secret,” she replied, choosing her words carefully. “There are a few of his sort around. They're not technically in our jurisdiction, but the government basically gives everything weird and inexplicable to the League to deal with, so...”

“I see.” So Riley was another weird and inexplicable thing. That made three that I knew of now – him, Ashley and the Driftenburg. What other secrets were the League guarding?

“What are you doing here?” asked Cynthia. “Actually, no, that can wait. Can you track Ashley for us?”

Riley nodded.

“Quite easily, I think. If you would let me past...?”

We stepped aside and he and his Lucario walked out in front of us into the junction; here, Riley closed his eyes for a moment, and then said, with great confidence:

“Left. Follow me!”

He began walking, and I looked at Cynthia.

“What the hell...? How does he know that?”

“State secrets,” she replied. “It doesn't matter right now, anyway. Just follow him, will you?”

With that, she hurried after him, and, not wanting to be left alone in the dark, I rushed to catch up.

---

“Hello, Marley.”

“Hello, Dad.”

For a long moment, neither Ashley nor Marley could do anything but stare at each other, their grey eyes as perfectly similar as reflections.

“You won't be hurt,” Ashley managed at last. “I shan't let her hurt you.”

“I'd like to see that,” said the Liza-thing threateningly, her fingers oozing black smoke over Marley's pale neck. “Tell me the truth. Now.”

“I knew you were at Darkling Town,” replied Ashley immediately, eyes fixed on Marley's. His heart was beating now, thumping hard and fast inside his chest; it was amazing, he mused in some detached corner of his mind, how strong the primal instinct to protect one's progeny was, to actually start his heart again... “Once I released, I could sense every mental presence in West Sinnoh. There was no way for you to hide.”

“I'm listening.”

“I did not realise what you were, though,” Ashley continued. He could feel a few beads of sweat on his brow, and for the first time in a very, very long time, real terror began to unfold slowly in his breast. Nothing had ever been able to kill him, but he knew Marley was not so invincible, and if the fragment of the Geist before him were to close her smoking fingers on her throat—
He cut off that train of thought, and focused on the story. It was Marley's only hope.

“I did not realise what you were, merely that you were hostile and a considerable threat,” Ashley said. “You were on the other side of town and I was fighting more immediate foes where I was, so I struck out mentally in your direction.” He swallowed; it felt like there was something in his throat. “It seems I – I may have hit your mind a little too thoroughly.”

“No ****,” said the Liza-thing, eyes flaring bright green. “You bastard. You absolute bastard! I wasn't even going to attack you! I was going to ****ing run away!”

“I could not afford to take chances!” cried Ashley, eyes darting to her hands. “I was stretched thin with the League resistance!”

“Liar. They hadn't arrived yet!”

“So you're remembering!” Ashley pointed out, hurriedly changing the subject. “You did not know that a moment ago.”

His captor blinked and recoiled slightly, eyes slipping out of focus for a moment.

“I...” She broke off and blinked. “Yes... Yes, I was on my way to Jubilife to...”

Ashley saw her fingers loosen a little, and strained at the rocks; his arms burned, and he felt his bones flex and creak under the pressure, but he could have sworn he felt the stones over his shoulders shift a little...

“Tell me more,” said the Liza-thing, returning to reality. “Tell me what you know of me.”

“Almost nothing,” Ashley insisted. “I did not even know that any of you had escaped me at the tower. The first clue I had that you existed was at Darkling Town, and I did not realise what you were then.”

“You know nothing else?”

“Nothing!”

Something made a nasty tearing noise in Ashley's arm, and his eyes widened. That had hurt – and hurt a lot, too, in a way that nothing had since his last spell in the vaults. A faint sound of pain escaped his lips, and the Liza-thing almost smiled.

“Trying to escape? You don't have the strength right now, Izhlei.” She shook her head. “Huh. There's a worn-out name. Izhlei, the God-King, ruler of the Shinowh clan.”

Ashley made no reply. He was fully occupied in trying to blot out the pain.

“No, I think I believe you,” she said. “You're too bent on prolonging this useless little life to lie.” She sighed. “And I thought that I might find a fellow in you – live and let live, you know? Now I see you're far too... human.”

“I became immortal unwillingly,” replied Ashley through gritted teeth. “You were born to it. For you it is natural, for me it is not.”

He pulled himself together, beat back the pain and felt gingerly for purchase on the rocks.

“I suppose there isn't any reason to leave either of you alive any more,” mused the Liza-thing. “Although I'm not sure I can kill you, Izhlei. You're a tough one, I have to give you that.”

Ashley's fingers brushed over something hard and round beneath the rubble, and closed on it tentatively; it was wrapped in cloth, probably the remnants of his pocket, and he recognised it instantly.

It was the Poké Ball he had taken from the Galactic uniform found at the Lost Tower.

With a speed that could only have arisen from a combination of natural talent and long years' experience, a plan took shape in his head; it curled into a seed, germinated and grew to fruition in less than half a second.

Ashley ran his tongue nervously over his lips, and began to work his hand upwards between the stones. Now, he just needed a few more minutes of time...

“Did you hear me?” asked the Liza-thing. “I'm going to kill your daughter. Doesn't that hurt you?”

Marley gave him a look. Yes, doesn't it, her gaze seemed to say.

“Of course it does,” replied Ashley. “But... I don't think you will.” He felt air against his knuckles, and redoubled his efforts, forcing his fingers out through a gap slightly too small for them.

The Liza-thing raised an eyebrow.

“Oh really?” she asked, interested. “Go on. Why not?”

“You won't get the chance,” Ashley told her, tapping Marley's ankle with the ball. “In about six seconds, you will forget everything you have just learned.”

The Liza-thing blinked, and failed to notice Marley glance downwards.

“What? What do you mean?”

“Four,” said Ashley.

“Tell me!”

Perhaps it was the distraction, but her grip seemed to have loosened a little.

“Three.”

“If you don't—”

“Two.”

“I swear—”

“One. Now!”

Without stopping to look at what she was doing, Marley ducked down, slipping free of the Liza-thing's hand and scooping the Poké Ball up in one hand; she hurled it straight into her captor's face and flung herself off the mound of rubble. Azure light burst through the darkness and the Liza-thing recoiled sharply, squeezing her eyes shut against the brightness; Ashley felt her mental fortitude wavering, and, summoning the last dregs of his strength, forced his mind out of his skull and into hers.

Yellow flames danced in his eyes and the Liza-thing staggered backwards into the dark, letting out a long, piercing howl – and then Ashley heard her running, footsteps retreating into the tunnels. Someone was standing over him, and other people had appeared, sprinting past to follow her—

And suddenly Ashley fell back into his body with a bone-jarring jolt, and he slipped into black unconsciousness without even noticing.

---

There is quite a lot to be done in the aftermath of a combined bomb scare and demonic explosion, and consequently Siobhan Rennet was not in the best of moods when someone barged into her office that night.

“What the – who are you?”

“I shall inform you of my code name only,” said the someone, divesting themselves of their coat with a flourish. “It is Looker, of the International Police!”

Rennet stared. Never had she seen anyone who looked less like a member of an elite crime-fighting agency.

“Right,” she said. “How did you get in here?”

“They would not let me in, so I disguised myself as a policeman,” replied Looker. “But that is, as you say, a different history—”

“Another story, you mean.”

“Yes, yes, she is as you say,” agreed Looker. “But the important thing is Mademoiselle Radley! Where is she?”

“Who?”

He looked aghast.

“You mean to say you have not deranged her?”

“What?”

“Deranged her here! You are a gendarme, are you not?”

“I think you mean detained, and who is this person?”

“She is not here...? Ah, but of course!” Looker cried, apparently mostly to himself. “The woman you passed in the airport, Looker, she is the Mademoiselle Radley, returning after planting the bomb. Ah, once again you have made the mistake of the ages!”

So saying, he turned on his heel and rushed out again. Rennet stared after him for a moment, wondered whether she ought to call for someone to stop him, decided he was more trouble than he was worth and went back to the paperwork.

---

We found Ashley just as his captor ran off into the dark, screeching, which was weird – and it was a pretty weird tableau to begin with: he was mostly buried under a pile of boulders, with something dark and shadowy wearing the tattered remnants of a Team Galactic uniform standing over him and Marley of all people next to her.

As soon as the Galactic thing fled, Cynthia ran after it; presumably thinking he could help, Riley followed, his Lucario dropping to all fours for superior speed and bounding ahead with long, athletic strides. Since they were self-evidently more qualified to go chasing after weird shadowy monsters than I was, I decided to stay and see if Ashley was all right. The answer was that I really wasn't sure; he looked like he was completely unconscious, and didn't respond to me calling his name or poking him in the eye, which would ordinarily have woken anyone up.

“Leave him,” said Marley, which made me jump; what with the general surreality of my experience down here in the caves, I'd forgotten she was there. “He passed out from exhaustion.”

I looked at her, and then it clicked: she was the one who had been kidnapped, wasn't she? She was the one who Ashley cared about more than anyone else in the world. And since she was so young, she couldn't be his lover, but must be...

“His little sister,” I muttered to myself. “I thought you said you didn't know Ashley?”

“I lie a lot,” she replied, and I noticed with some disquiet that her voice was flat and emotionless. “It's safer that way. Being connected to Ashley Lacrimére is dangerous.”

“Are you... like him?”

She was silent for a moment.

“I inherited parts of it,” she answered cautiously. “But I'm not immortal. I think.”

“Right.” I might not have been the Diamond, but I knew enough of human nature to tell that questions about the strange powers that seemed to run in her family weren't welcome. “Um... what do we do now?”

“We wait for those two to come back,” said Marley. “They took my Pokémon, so I can't free him or get us out of here.”

“OK.” I sat down on a rock, realised it was a Geodude and moved before it punched me. I seemed, I reflected, to do an awful lot of waiting around for everyone else these days.

Apparently from nowhere, a Zubat suddenly settled on the ground, looking slightly dazed; Marley looked at it with interest for a moment, then raised a Poké Ball and recalled it.

“I thought they took your Pokémon?” I asked.

“It's not mine,” she replied. “It's his.”

She indicated Ashley.

“What? He doesn't have any Pokémon.”

“No,” said Marley thoughtfully. “He doesn't.”

She didn't say anything else, so I gave up the conversation at that point and went back to waiting; a few minutes later, Cynthia came back, looking angry.

“She got away,” she told me. “Riley and his Lucario are searching for traces of where she might have gone, but they're not having much luck; her mind is – no, that'd give too much away.” She looked at Marley, opened her mouth as if to speak, and then looked away again.

“Hello,” said Marley.

“Hi,” replied Cynthia unwillingly.

A very uncomfortable silence fell over them, and I got the feeling that they didn't like each other very much at all.

“OK,” I said, trying to sound cheery, “shall we get Ashley out, then? Cynthia, your Pokémon can move boulders, right?”

“What? Oh. Yeah.”

She released Cyrano – with care, since his head wasn't far below the ceiling – and indicated that he should clear the rocks; a couple of violent dust storms later, Ashley was covered in nothing more than a thick layer of gravel, and Cynthia recalled Cyrano before the destruction got out of hand. No sooner had he disappeared than Cynthia was on her knees at Ashley's side, brushing the stone chips away from his face and staring worriedly at his closed eyes.

“He's fine,” said Marley, still standing in the corner. “He did something to... whatever she was, and the effort knocked him out.”

Cynthia glared at him.

“I still care,” she said savagely. “I'm not like you.”

Marley raised an eyebrow.

“That was exceptionally rude,” she said, completely without feeling.

“Shut up! I'm angry!”

“You're shouting at a child.”

“I said—”

“The irony is that you're the one being childish.”

For a moment, I thought Cynthia was going to spring to her feet and strangle her then and there; however, with what was clearly a colossal effort, she calmed herself and said in a tight, controlled voice:

“You're right. Sorry.”

It didn't sound like the sincerest of apologies, but Marley accepted it anyway, and leaned silently back against the wall to wait for God knows what.

“I wonder where Iago and Byron are,” I said, desperate to lighten the mood. “Shouldn't they be here by now?”

“No,” replied Cynthia. “That's why we came ahead. They won't be here for at least another twenty minutes.”

“Ah.”

Silence reigned, and I was quite glad when Riley returned, even though he did look quite despondent.

“Well,” he said, “we found a corpse but no trace of whatever that thing was. It was quite skilled at concealing its” – here, he looked at me – “er, tracks.”

“A corpse?” asked Cynthia.

“There were two Galactic people here at first,” Marley said. “Then one turned into a monster and I think she killed the other.”

For the first time, I thought I detected a hint of emotion in her voice; it had trembled over the word 'killed'. I wondered if this lack of feeling was an act and it was slipping, or whether there was something wrong with her and it took emotions of great power to get through to her.

“The body was fairly badly mutilated, but it was wearing the same silver outfit,” offered Riley. “So it seems likely it was this other Galactic.”

“Right.” Cynthia sighed. “OK. Let's get out of here, then. Riley, you can show us to the exit, right?”

“Of course,” he said. “I'd be glad to.”

After some shuffling around with Ashley – Riley's Lucario was strong enough to carry him on its own, but he was an awkward shape for such a small creature – we managed to get him out of the cavern, and several dark and decidedly spooky minutes later, we were outside again. The moonlight seemed as bright as midday sun after the tunnels, and it took our eyes a while to adjust, but eventually we managed to stumble back up the path to the deserted Trainer stop. Here, we bade farewell to Riley and his Lucario and, there being enough room now for Cyrano to take off, headed south to Canalave, the Garchomp's sharp wings splitting the sky apart like lightning.

---

OK, said Pigzie Doodle. We're here. Now what's this plan of yours?

Puck hesitated.

“We-ell,” he said slowly. “It's not so much of a concrete plan as a work in progress.”

The motor-car was parked a block away from the Galactic building, a huge concrete building separating the two; rising above it, they could still see the shadowy cloud of Dusknoir, wafting upwards across the face of the moon. It was close to midnight now – Puck had had to take extreme and somewhat time-consuming evasive action to lose the police tail they'd acquired when he'd knocked a passing baker flying – and Pigzie Doodle and Bond were awaiting the revelation of his plan. Ellen was still a little shaken by the baker incident, but Puck had assured her that the man was still alive – more was the pity, because he hated bakers with a passion that he saw no fit reason to explain.

Oh, so you don't have one? There's a surprise. The clever young Rotom can't come up with a simple—

“I do have a plan!” protested Puck. “I have a great plan – a cunning plan.”

“A cunning plan?” queried Bond. “Tell us more.”

“It's so cunning,” continued Puck. “It's as cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University.”

Did you just quote Blackadder?

“That certainly seems cunning—”

“It is. And, having stalled for a bit, I've now managed to think up what it actually is.”

And what exactly is it?


“Doesn't matter to you. You all just sit tight here, and I'll get you into that building.”

So what was the point of saving us? Did you really need to join forces? asked Pigzie Doodle, suddenly suspicious. What's your real goal here, you grazhny electrical bratchny?

“You really hate me, don't you?” remarked Puck. “That's fine. I hate you too – more than Indy's dad hates rats, and that's saying something. Where was I? Oh yeah, the plan. Let's roll!”

The motor-car growled softly and Puck vanished into its dashboard; a moment later, the steering wheel began rotating under its own power and the vehicle swung to the right, heading into the entrance of the large concrete building. Bond looked around with interest, and noted that this appeared to be a storage facility for such vehicles; they were parked all around them, in neat rows along the sides of the paths through this structure.

“Is this whole building full of motor-cars?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied Puck from the speakers. “It's called a multi-storey car park.”

One of the most soulless creations of the modern era, added Pigzie Doodle snidely.

“It's also the place where Henry DeTamble lost his feet,” Puck went on, rounding a corner and driving up a ramp to the next level. “Well, not this one, obviously, but it was in a car park.”

“This is incredible,” murmured Ellen, peering out of the window. “Bond, have you seen all of this?”

“Indeed I have, madam,” he assented. “Most extraordinary.”

“Yeah, enjoy the view,” said Puck. “We'll only see it for a little while longer.”

He went up another ramp and onto the second floor.

What do you mean, we'll only see it for a little while longer? asked Pigzie Doodle suspiciously. What are you planning to do?

“Even if it concerned you – which it doesn't, by the way – I wouldn't tell you,” replied the Rotom. “Purely because you're old and mean. Man, you are such a stereotype.”

Sod off!

“Yeah yeah. Sticks and st— actually, they don't do anything to me either. Er, tritium may cause an unpleasant cold fusion reaction within me, but words will never hurt me. There.”

That's far too wordy.

Puck drove up onto the third floor and sighed.

“Little human? Big human? Tell this guy he's wrong.”

“It is not my place to intervene in such matters,” Bond said stiffly. “I am but a butler.”

“Huh. All right, Sebastian, I'm sure you are. What about you, little human?”

“Um...”

They reached the fourth floor; now, alarmingly, Puck began to accelerate.

“Why are we getting faster?” asked Ellen nervously. “What's going on?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” replied Puck cheerily, as the motor-car skidded around the corner and hurtled up to the fifth floor. “I mean, you're already dead.”

“What?”

The fifth floor passed in a flash, and then they were on the roof; here, Bond saw, there were yet more motor-cars, and Puck was aiming theirs at a free space – though he was approaching it far too fast.

“You see,” cried Puck over the roar of the engine, “we've gotta get the speed behind us if we're going to break through the barrier rail!”

What?” shrieked Ellen.

What? demanded Pigzie Doodle.

“Ah,” murmured Bond. “I see.”

And all at once lightning arced from the headlights to the rail, bending it out of shape with unspeakable force, and then the motor-car slammed into it at well above its usual maximum speed—

—only to burst right through the weakened railing, soaring clean across the street and through the Dusknoir cloud. For one glorious moment, the street was laid out below them in a long line of lights—

—and then they landed square on a skylight, and the motor-car fell clean through onto an expensive-looking wooden desk in a cacophony of screaming metal and tinkling glass. The wheels broke, the roof buckled and the chassis twisted up into something resembling a cat's cradle – but the three occupants remained in their seats, staring fixedly ahead, as Puck floated gracefully out of the dashboard.

“OK,” he said brightly. “That went...”

He trailed off as he turned to see what the others were staring at through the windscreen. There, not ten feet from them, was the unmistakable face of Cyrus Maragos.

And they had not a shadow of a doubt that he could see them.
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  #99    
Old June 17th, 2012, 01:36 PM
Zayphora's Avatar
Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
Gender: Female
Nature: Sassy
Great chapter.

LOVED the ending. Oh, the random hilarity of a car full of ghosts crashing into Cyrus's office. Of all the places to crash...LOOOOOL. But of course, knowing Cyrus, he's probably been planning for them to do that and tracking them the whole time...One of your beginning-of-chapter excerpts from waay back at the beginning says that he was tracking Puck and attempting to kill him...He probably made it so the car will crash right there, too. I can see him going "I'm going to put this random object on this particular place on the roof so that the wind pattern will change slightly allowing for a change in the trajectory of the car!"

LOOOL.....wait. Just realized something. Did Liza, or her crazy monster form....KILL TRISTAN?!?!?

Well that put a stop on my Loling.

Annnnnnnyway, you did a great job on this chapter. Also, I nominated you for May Fic of the Month. This one deserves it, it's amazing.
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  #100    
Old June 18th, 2012, 01:29 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Great chapter.

LOVED the ending. Oh, the random hilarity of a car full of ghosts crashing into Cyrus's office. Of all the places to crash...LOOOOOL. But of course, knowing Cyrus, he's probably been planning for them to do that and tracking them the whole time...One of your beginning-of-chapter excerpts from waay back at the beginning says that he was tracking Puck and attempting to kill him...He probably made it so the car will crash right there, too. I can see him going "I'm going to put this random object on this particular place on the roof so that the wind pattern will change slightly allowing for a change in the trajectory of the car!"
Yes, Cyrus was indeed searching for Puck; it would seem he has proof that he was involved with the whole Zero business, and in quite a major way. Where he got this would be an interesting avenue to explore, since it seems the general public remain largely ignorant of his role - which is probably the way Puck wants it, actually. Saving the human race wouldn't be good for his reputation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
LOOOL.....wait. Just realized something. Did Liza, or her crazy monster form....KILL TRISTAN?!?!?
We'll have to wait and see. I can't rule out the possibility, though I certainly don't feel like killing Tristan. Then again, I might do it anyway. I don't always kill supporting characters, but when I do, it's always brutal, unexpected and offstage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Annnnnnnyway, you did a great job on this chapter. Also, I nominated you for May Fic of the Month. This one deserves it, it's amazing.
Oh, thanks so much! Actually, that reminds me - I really must get back into reading and reviewing and looking at the Fic of the Month after my exams are done. I've been quite lazy about all that these last few months.

Thanks for reading!

F.A.B.
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