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  #101    
Old June 25th, 2012, 11:56 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Chapter Thirty-Three: In Which Cyrus Makes his Move

'Sinnoh is geologically dead. The Celestic mountain chain was once five times the size it is now; cut off from areas of tectonic activity for approximately 100 million years, the peaks must have reached far higher than any other known mountain on Earth.'
—Byron DeTamble, Geology of Sinnoh


Some things must not be forgotten.

Ronwe staggered through the dark, the stony walls tipping and wheeling crazily around her head, and tried to catch the memories slithering out of her mind.

I am... Ronwe. I was a... a princess, once...

The world leaped up into her face, and she realised slowly that she had fallen over; she pushed uncertainly at the ground and managed to right herself.

My name is Ronwe. My enemy is Izhlei. I am part of the Geist...

Liza reached the cave she had entered the tunnels from, and saw her hands smoking black in the sunlight; she stared in terror for a second and—

No! I am... Ronwe... there is no Liza... I am not... human...

Ronwe dug her sharp nails deep into the flesh of her arm, trying to focus her mind with pain; she couldn't forget, not now, not after she had finally remembered everything.

The moon waved back and forth in the sky, grinning its broad, drunken grin, and the sea rolled into the night and back around.

“I can't – I mustn't forget!” Ronwe repeated aloud, desperation rising in her voice, “I am not Liza!”

The rocks jumped at her and she threw up her hands to defend herself; the next thing she knew, she was on her hands and knees, staring into the pounding surf.

“My name is... I am Ronwe,” she murmured, and Liza's head hit the wet rocks with a thump.

---

Ashley didn't regain consciousness until the following morning, which was just as well, since I didn't either; I was asleep in the room next to his at one of Canalave's Pokémon Centres. I wasn't a Trainer and shouldn't really have been there, but if you come in with the Champion then they tend to make an exception.

As soon as I was up, washed, dressed and generally presentable – which was about nine – I made my way over to his room, where Cynthia, Marley and Iago had already gathered. Iago had arrived late last night; we'd run into him and Byron on the way back from Iron Island and told them that the crisis had been averted. Neither of them had been particularly pleased about the wasted journey, but they'd been glad that at least no one apart from an unidentified Team Galactic goon had been harmed. Well, Byron had; I'm not so sure about Iago.

“Morning. How is he?” I asked.

“Still out,” replied Cynthia. “But looking much better.”

At a glance, I could see it was true: in just a few hours of rest, Ashley's body seemed to have returned to something that looked almost healthy. He was still covered in dust and grime, but his eyes no longer looked so sunken, and the haggard look had melted from his face, replaced by his usual serenity.

“He'll wake up soon,” Marley said.

“How do you know?” Cynthia asked, a little sharply.

“I just know.”

Marley refused to elaborate further, but she was right: within fifteen minutes, Ashley's eyes slid open as smoothly and swiftly as if he'd never passed out.

“Marley,” he said immediately. “Marley, are you all right?”

“Fine,” she replied, hugging him tightly. “Are you?”

“I've... been worse,” he told her, wrapping his pale arms around her. “At least I have all of my limbs.” He blinked and looked up at Cynthia. “Oh. Did you save me?”

“I think you saved yourself,” she replied, looking very much like she wished Marley were gone so she could hug Ashley instead. “Marley wouldn't say what happened.”

“Ah.” Ashley closed his eyes for a moment and let his head tilt against Marley's. I'd never seen him so tender with anyone before, and to be honest it was kind of a shock. I genuinely hadn't thought he had it in him. “Oh yes... I recall.” He smiled. “Ironically, Team Galactic saved me. The Galactic who let out the Driftenburg left a Poké Ball at the Tower that I recovered; I found it in my pocket while... Liza had me buried, passed it to Marley and had her throw it in Liza's face. The shock weakened her resistance, and I hit her mind as hard as I could.” He frowned. “What happened to her?”

“She ran,” said Marley.

“We couldn't catch her,” I told him. “She vanished into the caves.”

“Not even Riley could track her,” added Cynthia.

Iago looked surprised.

“What? Riley was there? The Au—?”

“Yes, that Riley,” interrupted Cynthia hurriedly, casting a glance in my direction. I sighed; there went probably my last chance to find out about Riley's mysterious power for the foreseeable future.

“It was to be expected,” said Ashley. “Liza's ability in that regard is greater than Riley's; even blinded and mentally incapacitated, she could doubtless conceal her presence.”

Cynthia frowned.

“What? Ash, who is this Liza woman?”

“I...” He hesitated. “I cannot say. Not right now.”

“Ashley—!”

“That is not to say I will not tell you, just that I cannot tell you now,” he assured her. “I have many enemies, Cynthia, but she is the greatest. My quarrel with her is my own, and I will pursue it on my terms.”

His voice contained a kind of quiet power that forced everyone else to accept it; there seemed no arguing with him, despite the fact that he was being more than a little unreasonable.

“I – fine,” sighed Cynthia, sitting down on the bed next to him. Her hair fell across Marley's hand, and the young Trainer withdrew it quickly. There really was no love lost between them, I thought. “Whatever.”

“Good.”

“OK,” said Iago, scraping one claw lazily across the wall, “we saved your daughter. We—”

What?” I stared at him, then at Ashley, then at Marley, then at Ashley again; I had no idea where to look. “Your daughter?”

“Oh, did no one tell you?” asked Ashley. “It's true. Marley is my progeny.”

I couldn't speak; I just stared. Ashley had a child. Which meant that Ashley had once slept with someone. Which was just not possible, because that was not a thing that my brain could accept that Ashley might ever do. How could he? Who could love him like that – and who could he love like that? Half the time, he didn't seem human, and the rest of the time he was annoyingly cryptic and superior; besides, if I hadn't known he was male, I'd have said he was utterly sexless. He was the Diamond, not a man; an organic machine, not a human.

And yet... he had a daughter. Someone must have borne her. And that meant Ashley was... surprisingly human.

“How... No,” I said, shaking my head. “No, that just doesn't make sense.”

Ashley blinked slowly.

“I can see how you might think that,” he said, “but it does. I had given up lovers in 1873 to spare myself some unnecessary heartache, but...” He sighed. “It was not one of my finest hours.”

“Farnese certainly agreed with you there,” put in Iago.

“Thank you so much for that,” replied Ashley sweetly. “I do so love to be reminded of that. Mind you,” he added, “there have been worse reactions. I remember that there was a young man named Daniel in 1813 who managed to convince me that he was unmarried.” He shook his head. “I admire him now for being able to trick me, but he might have warned me how vengeful his wife was. And how adept a poisoner she was, come to think of it. I spent six months vomiting lung lining.”

“Ashley? You're doing that thing where you get stuck in the past again,” said Cynthia, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Can you return to the here and now, please?”

“Hmm? Oh. Yes. My apologies; it was the mental fighting. I'm a little out of practice and it muddled my thoughts.”

“Right,” said Iago. “Look, as I was saying—”

Just then, Town Called Malice started playing unexpectedly from within Cynthia's pocket; she pulled out an iPhone, looked at it in annoyance, and answered it.

“What is it, Professor?” she asked. “We have a minor situation here— No, I'm not disrespecting the elderly. No. No. Yes – look, can you get to the point? What? Why? That really doesn't sound that— All right, all right, I'm coming. Yes, I'll see you there soon.”

She sighed and stood up.

“I have to go to the National Library,” she said. “Professor Rowan has something important to say, and apparently it can't wait.”

“So refuse,” I said. “Surely the Galactics are more important?”

“Have you met Rowan?” asked Iago. “The man's like a sodding wolverine – just doesn't stop until either he or you is dead.”

“What?”

“He's persistent, self-important and possessed of a stout stick,” explained Ashley. “No one keeps him waiting.”

“What about you?”

“Ashley keeps everyone waiting,” Cynthia said. “Right, Ash?”

He nodded.

“Being the way I am does have its benefits.”

“Anyway,” said Cynthia, “I need to go. Back in a bit.”

She kissed Ashley goodbye and left, her long hair trailing behind her like a pale gold cloak; how did you get hair that long, I wondered, staring at it in fascination. Was it natural? If so, it was almost as impressive as Ashley's shape-shifting.

“OK,” said Iago, looking stressed, “can I finish now? Is anyone else going to interrupt?”

“No,” replied Ashley. “Go ahead.”

“I was going to say, what are you doing now? I mean, obviously we need to get to Veilstone, but what about this Liza woman? What's your plan?”

“A good question,” said Ashley, looking pensive. “I... I am not certain what to do about Liza yet. I at least owe her an apology, even if I then destroy her afterwards, I suppose... I think I will leave her until we have dealt with the Galactics,” he concluded. “They are the more immediate threat to a greater number of people.”

“OK,” I said. “So, to Veilstone then?”

“Not quite yet. I need several things before I am fit to go anywhere: food, new clothes, and a shower.” Ashley scraped one finger across his cheek, and left a trail of white skin in the grey-brown grime. “You see?”

“I get it.” I sighed. “Who's paying for these new clothes?”

“If not you, then probably Cynthia,” he replied. “Though I wouldn't like to trouble her.”

“Huh. There's a surprise.”

“You'll be reimbursed,” Ashley told me, waving a carefree hand around. “Well, perhaps. The League doesn't like parting with any of its funds.”

“Another surprise.”

“Just do it,” he said. “Or would you like us to end up fighting Cyrus as God-king?”

“All right, all right,” I said, giving up. “I'm going.”

So I did. After all, it was Ashley. There really wasn't any point in arguing.

---

“Rumbled!” cried Puck. “Cheese it! Beautiful people and Rotom first!”

So saying, he flickered briefly on the dashboard and vanished into the wires, leaving his three spectral passengers staring at Cyrus. It was hard to tell who was more surprised; Bond and Ellen had finally found someone other than Tristan who could see them, but Cyrus had just had a red Volvo descend onto his desk from the sky.

“Sir,” said Bond, recovering his senses, “I must apologise for disturbing you; we had no recourse but to come through the window.”

He can't hear you, said Pigzie Doodle. He's alive, remember? Let's just get out of the car and hide somewhere until he and his people go off to their dimensional weak spot.

“He can't hear us,” Ellen relayed. “Pig— Ishmael says we should go and hide until he leads us to the weak spot.”

“Very good, madam,” replied Bond. “There remains only one point of concern for me.”

“And what is that, Bond?”

“That, madam,” Bond said, pointing at the vague, dark shape floating up from beneath the wreckage. “Dark mists have been proven to be, over the last few days, the mark of those who would kill us; therefore, I feel it is my duty to point it out.”

Curiouser and curiouser, said Pigzie Doodle. It almost feels like... He frowned – or as much as he could, lacking a face. No. I don't know what this is.

“We,” said the mist haughtily, “were sitting on that desk.”

Ellen looked up at Bond anxiously.

“Bond, I think we might need to make ourselves scarce.”

“I wholeheartedly concur, madam,” agreed Bond, and helped her from the motor-car. The dark mist collected itself in a rough ball near Cyrus, and its surface boiled ominously.

“Do you not know what forces you are trifling with?” it asked portentously. “We are mighty and terrible! Mankind has feared us since it first looked out of the cave and saw the eyes staring back from beyond the firelight!”

Yeah, we'd probably better go, said Pigzie Doodle, hastily extricating himself from the motor-car. That thing's more conceited than me, which probably means it's stronger, too.

“Do not flee us!” commanded the mist, but they were already hurrying out of the door, and it was making no move to follow. “Wait!” it cried, sounding slightly forlorn, but they were gone; they passed a crowd of silver-suited men and women running to see what the commotion was about, but none so much as glimpsed them, and a moment later they had gained the relative safety of the elevator.

“It would seem we have escaped without incident,” said Bond. “I don't think that mist could move from the room.”

No, it was bound to that man somehow, said Pigzie Doodle. So naturally it couldn't go far away from him, and he was too surprised to actually move. He waved a stubby wing in a pensive sort of way. Hm. I'm really not sure what that was. Which worries me, because I thought I knew all the sorts of Ghost there were – and believe me, there are a lot. You humans only know about the ones who let you see them.

“He says he doesn't know what that Ghost was,” Ellen told Bond. “But it can't leave that man, so we should be safe.”

As long as we don't go outside, that is, added Pigzie Doodle. I think the presence of that thing is stopping the Dusknoir from coming in, but we're dead – or double dead, I guess – if we go too far away.

Ellen informed Bond of this, and he asked where they were going in the elevator.

“I don't know,” replied Ellen. “Shall we look for their laboratories? I think we can move about quite freely; very few people seem to be able to see us.”

“An excellent idea, madam,” said Bond, his well-trained face concealing his mild surprise perfectly. “We shall search each floor systematically.”

How the hell did you come up with that?
asked Pigzie Doodle incredulously. I swear you understood literally nothing of what I said to you when I explained about the experiments and the search for a weak spot in spacetime. Do you have hidden depths of intelligence or something? Oh, wait, that can't be right – humans have neither hidden depths nor intelligence.

This small rant went wholly ignored by both of his human companions, Bond because he could not hear him and Ellen because she was beginning to suspect that he was not at all a nice person, and consequently Pigzie Doodle rambled angrily to no one all the way to the ground floor.

---

Canalave's library had always been great, at least in scale; it consisted of twenty-six floors of pure, unadulterated literature, from the latest trashy releases to the works of Plato and an original Gutenberg Bible, and rose higher into the sky than most of the city's office blocks. Quite when it was built was a matter of some conjecture; records told of a mysterious tower discovered by the first settlers of the area, apparently ancient even then and containing a vast repository of forgotten lore; whatever the truth of the matter, the place had been in continuous use ever since. People of all walks of life came there, academics and lay people alike, and today, on a bright Saturday morning, a Pokémon Champion and a professor were there, conversing within the antique walls.

“Wait, so where did they find this?” asked Cynthia.

“Sendoff Spring,” replied Professor Rowan, leaning heavily on his cane; he might have argued his way out of hospital, but he had not quite been able to argue himself back to full health yet. “South-east of Veilstone.”

Cynthia resisted the urge to tell the Professor that she knew exactly where Sendoff Spring was, that she had been on two archaeological expeditions there, and that he was an overbearing old bratchny who massively underestimated the intelligence of everyone around him, and said:

“I see. Was this in the cave?”

“Yes.” Rowan cleared his throat. “It's remarkably sophisticated. The dating results should be back later today, but so far it seems to be at least as old as the late Shinowh conquests.”

“Amazing. How did you find out about this? It's not really your field.”

“Those parts of the artefact that look like stones are actually organic,” Rowan replied. “There was evidently a Pokémon involved, and I am the foremost authority on Pokémon in the country.”

Of course you had to mention that, thought Cynthia, and was about to speak when an earthquake struck.

The library floor lunged for her face, and Cynthia grabbed the edge of a table as books tumbled down around her, flapping and rustling; Rowan stood perfectly upright, stick rammed hard against the floor and face set in an expression of extreme distaste. Screams mingled with the sound of grinding stone – and all at once everything was still again, the only traces of the quake a sea of books across the floor and a hubbub of shouting and car alarms outside.

“What the hell was that?” yelled Cynthia, staggering upright.

“An earthquake,” Rowan told her condescendingly.

“I know it's a sodding earthquake!” she roared, coming very close to hitting him. “It's called a rhetorical question!”

“It sounded like it came from Lake Valour,” mused Rowan.

“How can you possibly know that?”

Rowan fixed her with a gimlet eye, and about half of Cynthia's anger evaporated into unease in an instant.

“A professor knows these things,” he said with dignity. “And I know that it sounded like it came from Lake Valour.”

“I – there's – whatever,” sighed Cynthia. “We'll talk later. I need to see Ashley.”

Without another word, she rushed from the building and out into the street. Alone now in the old stone room, Rowan cleared his throat, nudged a book that had the insolence to have landed on his foot out of his way, and began his slow and stately exit.

---

“Did you feel that?”

“I think the whole of Sinnoh must have felt it, darling,” replied Ashley calmly. “Let us approach this rationally.”

About ten minutes ago, the Pokémon Centre had done its best to throw us out the windows; now, the quake over, Cynthia had turned up again in an instant. From what I'd seen through the window, there wasn't too much damage outside, but people had been seriously spooked: Sinnoh didn't have earthquakes. Ever. I was pretty panicked myself – but being in the same room as Ashley does tend to calm you down a bit.

“Rationally? It's an earthquake—”

“Let us see what the world's opinion is,” said Ashley, shrugging on his new jacket and unlocking his phone. “Hmm... let me see... aha! According to the news, there has been a massive explosion at Lake Valour, causing minor earthquakes across the nation.”

“Lake Valour?” Cynthia stared at him. “Lake Valour? That crazy bratchny... How did he know?”

“What?”

“Rowan. He said it sounded like the blast came from Lake Valour.”

“Well, he's a perceptive man,” said Ashley, putting his phone away. “What did he want to see you about, by the way?”

“They found a weird artefact in the archaeological digs at Sendoff Spring,” she told him. “Five hundred years old, looks like it was made yesterday. One of those things. Wait, why do you need to know? There's been a sodding earthquake! I need to get to Lake Valour!”

“No!” commanded Ashley, suddenly serious. “Forget the earthquake for one moment. What did the artefact look like?”

“What? Why do you—?”

“Just tell him!” snapped Marley, and if Ashley hadn't backed her up I think Cynthia might have launched into a massive argument with her; the earthquake had evidently left her feeling pretty highly strung.

“It's a fragment of a chain of some kind,” she said. “Made of some red organic stone stuff—”

Red organic stone? asked Ashley. “You're certain of this?”

“Yeah, Rowan confirmed it—”

Vỏtt!” cursed Ashley, in a language I dimly recognised as a very weird kind of Sinnish. “This cannot be a coincidence...” He looked up sharply. “I know what Cyrus is doing,” he said urgently. “The earthquake, the stone, his interest in me – ah, I should have known this from the start!”

“What is it?” I asked eagerly. “What is it?”

“What do you think?” he cried. “I've solved this mystery!”

---

It took Cyrus a while to calm down from the shock of having a Volvo come through the roof; unfortunately, no sooner had he done so than he received news that his careful plan, the plan he'd spent all yesterday and all night executing, moving Galactic troops with minute care and secrecy from Veilstone to the lakes, had been blown apart in one fell swoop. This news came in the form of an earthquake, backed up by a news report, and sent Cyrus into a foul rage – which, of course, sent him into an even fouler rage, since he was showing emotion, and so on and so forth. For a long time he stamped up and down the ruins of his office, biting his tongue to stop himself screaming abuse at the walls; when at last he did manage to regain a fraction of his cool, the first thing he did was grab a telephone and call Saturn at Lake Valour.

“I want you to tell me something,” he said, in a voice smoking with suppressed fury. “I want to know exactly how you think blowing up Lake Valour constitutes subtlety.”
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  #102    
Old June 25th, 2012, 03:34 PM
Zayphora's Avatar
Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
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Ehehe...I always had a feeling that the whole blowing up thing was a bit...spontaneously conceived...(meaning that they made it up as they went along, lol.) It always seemed like Team Galactic was all- "Hey, let's blow up the lake and make all the fish flop around!!" and I can see now that such a ridiculous idea was NOT Cyrus's doing. LOL.

Suddenly had a bad idea in the middle of my LOLing.
Spoiler:
I have a strange premonition that you are going to somehow kill off Ashley at the end of this story...

NOT COOL>.>

You can make him disappear and no one sees him again, but dying is a no-no. I know he's immortal and stuff but I think you might be toying with the idea of having Cyrus kill him or something...You never know what goes on in Cuterline's mind...Just no killing off Ashley.


Still can't figure out what Liza is. Apparrently she's part of the Geist, whatever that is. I know that's Ghost in German, but...?

This better not have anything to do with THIS Ghost.
Spoiler:



Because that would be extremely random.

I like the way that you balance humor(or sort of funny things like a car full of ghosts crashing into Cyrus's office, etc), regular storyline, and dark mystery. You really are a great writer.

And that is why I'm going to be That Guy and tell everyone who is currently reading this to vote for this story for Fic of the Month!
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  #103    
Old June 26th, 2012, 01:41 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Ehehe...I always had a feeling that the whole blowing up thing was a bit...spontaneously conceived...(meaning that they made it up as they went along, lol.) It always seemed like Team Galactic was all- "Hey, let's blow up the lake and make all the fish flop around!!" and I can see now that such a ridiculous idea was NOT Cyrus's doing. LOL.
Yeah, I still haven't quite figured out why they blew up the Lake; it just makes so little sense. I'm working on it, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Suddenly had a bad idea in the middle of my LOLing.
Spoiler:
I have a strange premonition that you are going to somehow kill off Ashley at the end of this story...

NOT COOL>.>

You can make him disappear and no one sees him again, but dying is a no-no. I know he's immortal and stuff but I think you might be toying with the idea of having Cyrus kill him or something...You never know what goes on in Cuterline's mind...Just no killing off Ashley.
Why does everyone think Ashley's going to die? I have no intention of killing him. He's immortal, remember?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Still can't figure out what Liza is. Apparrently she's part of the Geist, whatever that is. I know that's Ghost in German, but...?
'Spirit', I'd say, rather than 'Ghost', but yeah, it does. Doesn't matter if you haven't got it yet; all will be revealed in time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
I like the way that you balance humor(or sort of funny things like a car full of ghosts crashing into Cyrus's office, etc), regular storyline, and dark mystery. You really are a great writer.

And that is why I'm going to be That Guy and tell everyone who is currently reading this to vote for this story for Fic of the Month!
Thanks! Doesn't look like it's going to win, but thanks anyway. I'm glad you like it that much.

F.A.B.
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  #104    
Old June 26th, 2012, 07:22 PM
dracoflare's Avatar
dracoflare
Togepi
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Gender: Male
Voted for ya. All you need is one more vote for a tie :p

Anyway, the shadow with Cyrus is Darkrai.
Quote:
“We are mighty and terrible! Mankind has feared us since it first looked out of the cave and saw the eyes staring back from beyond the firelight!”
I think it is darkness. I read something similar related to darkness in the novel 'Dexter in the Dark'


Quote:
no sooner had he done so than he received news that his careful plan, the plan he'd spent all yesterday and all night executing, moving Galactic troops with minute care and secrecy from Veilstone to the lakes, had been blown apart in one fell swoop. This news came in the form of an earthquake, backed up by a news report, and sent Cyrus into a foul rage – which, of course, sent him into an even fouler rage, since he was showing emotion, and so on and so forth
My favorite part.

Quote:
“What the hell was that?” yelled Cynthia, staggering upright.

“An earthquake,” Rowan told her condescendingly.

“I know it's a sodding earthquake!” she roared, coming very close to hitting him. “It's called a rhetorical question!”

“It sounded like it came from Lake Valour,” mused Rowan.

“How can you possibly know that?”

Rowan fixed her with a gimlet eye, and about half of Cynthia's anger evaporated into unease in an instant.

“A professor knows these things,” he said with dignity. “And I know that it sounded like it came from Lake Valour.”
Another favorite part.
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  #105    
Old June 27th, 2012, 12:02 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
Voted for ya. All you need is one more vote for a tie :p

Anyway, the shadow with Cyrus is Darkrai.


I think it is darkness. I read something similar related to darkness in the novel 'Dexter in the Dark'
We'll see, shall we? If the story continues to go ahead at this pace, the climactic mountaintop showdown shouldn't be that far off.

In other news: new chapter here!

F.A.B.
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  #106    
Old June 27th, 2012, 12:03 PM
Cutlerine
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Join Date: Mar 2010
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Chapter Thirty-Four: In Which the Mole is Discovered

'Because they were a threat to His power, the One shackled the Soul Brothers to the land, so that they could not rise up and overthrow Him. For they had succeeded where he had failed, and created man.'
—Unknown 16th Century Author, The Law of the Universe


Everyone stared. There was quite simply nothing we could say.

“What?” I asked, after a silence.

“I've worked it out,” Ashley replied. “We were wrong about Cyrus all along; he's not trying to take my powers – it's much, much worse.”

“What's he doing?”

“There's no time for that!” he cried. “Cynthia, take Pearl and go to Lake Valour immediately. I shall go to Lake Acuity. Call someone from the League and have them head to Verity—”

“Hold on a moment,” said Iago, raising a hand for silence. “I think I speak for all of us, Ashley, when I say what the hell?”

Ashley looked like he was about to explode in frustration.

“Azelf! Uxie! Mesprit! The three soul deities of the old Sinnish pantheon. Cyrus is after them and he's there now. I cannot explain right now, but he must be stopped immediately.”

“Deities?” I asked. “There are gods in the lakes?”

“People once thought they were,” Iago told me. “Now we know they're just unique, secretive Pokémon.” He shrugged. “It doesn't make any difference. They can still kill you.”

“Ashley...” Cynthia stared at him for a moment. “All right,” she said, throwing up her hands. “I believe you.”

“Good. Now, as I said, you and Pearl go to Lake Valour; I shall go to Acuity with Iago. Get someone strong to go to Verity—”

“And what about me?” asked Marley suddenly.

Ashley blinked, surprised.

“Marley, I love you very much and you do not have the luxury of immortality. Furthermore, the Galactics still have your Pokémon. All you have is that Zubat that unfortunate Galactic had; you cannot defeat them.”

Marley raised an acerbic eyebrow.

“Dad, I've trained Zubat before. I beat a Golem with one once.”

Ashley's eyes widened almost imperceptibly, and Cynthia nodded in grudging admiration; apparently, this was a big deal.

“I can help,” she persisted. “Even with just a Zubat, I can help.”

Ashley hesitated.

“If I tell you not to come, will you go anyway?” he asked at length.

“Yes.”

He sighed.

“Fine. Go with whoever is going to Verity. And for God's sake don't die,” he added, unusually passionately.

Marley nodded.

“I won't,” she said, with the same quiet confidence as her father. They were eerily similar, I thought; surely Ashley's genes couldn't account for quite this much of her character?

“All right,” said Ashley. “Pearl, go with Marley.”

“What? What the hell can I do?”

“I trust you,” he said. “Just... watch her, OK?”

He turned those weird grey eyes on me, and I felt a sudden sense of sincerity flowing from him; a moment later, it was gone, and I thought it must have been like his blast of charm: some weird psychic skill that let him project emotion at thousands of times the usual strength.

“OK, OK,” I said. “Do we get someone else to help us?”

“Yes,” Cynthia told me. “I think Jasper's in the area; I'll call him up to help. Look, Ash, can you at least tell us what we're going to find there?”

“Massive Galactic presence, I expect,” he replied. “It will take a lot of effort to capture the soul brothers, but if I am right, Cyrus is more than capable of it.”

“How many are we talking about?”

“Hundreds, I expect. I've met the soul brothers before, and they are powerful; Cyrus will use the whole Team against them. Now come on! We need to go right now!”

“Wait. If there are that many, I should call for reinforcements—”

“Then call them on the way!” Ashley interrupted. “If we are to have even a slim chance of stopping Cyrus, we must leave immediately!”

“All right, all right!” cried Cynthia. “We're going, Ash.”

“Well, stand not upon the order of it, then,” he muttered, and swept out of the room.

I looked at Iago.

“Was that a joke?”

“I'd pretend you didn't get it,” he told me. “It's best for all of us.”

On that note, we followed Ashley, and – as I know now – headed straight for the final snare in Cyrus' elaborate trap.

---

“Do you think they actually remember we're here?” wondered Kester. “I mean, I haven't seen anyone around for ages.”

Sapphire went up to the bars and peered through to the left and right.

“I don't see anyone,” she said. “Can't hear anyone, either.”

Kester sighed.

“This is bad. Really, really bad.”

“Thanks for that. I hadn't quite realised how screwed we are.”

Felicity glared.

“Stop it,” she said. “Both of you. There's nothing we can do right now.”

“I don't know about that,” said a different voice. “I mean, we could always try to get the door open using my charm and poise. That usually works.”

As one, three pairs of eyes moved straight to the speaker on the corridor wall – and saw a shining, electric-blue oval staring back.

Puck?”

“Some call me that. Others call me Sir Fantastic.” He paused; no one spoke. “You were supposed to call me Sir Fantastic,” Puck said petulantly.

“I know,” said Sapphire. “Now get us out of here.”

“Oh yeah, like you're in a position to make demands,” snorted the Rotom. “Do you realise what I had to do to even get in here?”

“No, but I have a feeling you're about to tell us.”

“I dropped a Volvo through the roof,” he proclaimed. “Into the office of the man in charge of this criminal enterprise. How about that, eh?”

“Great,” said Kester. “Now get us out.”

“I'm sensing a definite lack of appreciation for my heroics here,” said Puck. “To be honest, I'm not really getting an incentive to open the door. With my charm and poise.”

“It must have been very difficult,” Felicity remarked, fixing him with eyes almost as blue as his. “I cannot imagine the troubles you faced.”

“More,” said Puck simply.

“You are...” Felicity looked helplessly at Kester and Sapphire. “I need some help here.”

Kester gritted his teeth.

“It must have been a glorious sight,” he told Puck. “That car coming through the roof.”

“It was indeed,” agreed Puck. “More.”

“I expect there were guards,” Sapphire said, voice strained with the effort of keeping her frustration out of it.

“Oh yeah, terrible ones. Dusknoir. Very nasty. And what did I do to them?”

“You defeated them, no doubt.”

“Nah. Used my head, didn't I? I out-thought them – that was the whole 'Volvo through the roof' thing.” Puck blinked appreciatively. “More.”

“For Christ's sake, Puck!” snapped Kester. “Get us out!”

“Oh, fine,” he grumbled, and vanished from the speaker; a moment later, the keypad next to the door beeped and lit up green, and the door slid open.

Finally!” cried Kester, stepping out into the corridor. “I was beginning to think we'd never get out of there.”

“Well, you can thank me for that,” said Puck through the speakers. “Look, I'm in the PA system right now; I can guide you out of the building – open doors and stuff. It's mostly deserted, actually – the Galactics seem to be going off somewhere.”

“First, take me to where my Pokémon are,” Sapphire told him. “Then we escape.”

Puck sighed.

“Damn it, I shouldn't have relinquished my power over you,” he said sadly. “I want to be flattered some more.”

“Wouldn't we all. Now go!”

“Darkrai claim you for oblivion,” muttered Puck crossly, and opened the door at the end of the corridor. “Go on then. But if I don't get flattered at least once every three corridors, I'm locking all the doors and sounding the alarm. So there.”

Felicity sighed.

“Lead on, O glorious saviour, O Prince among Ghosts.”

“Excellent,” said Puck, sounding satisfied. Let's roll.”

And so they did, creeping quietly out of the cells, and back to their quest.

---

Jasper's was not a name I'd ever heard before, and the man himself wasn't much more noteworthy: I could have passed him on the street a thousand times and never noticed he was there. When Marley and I got off the League jet at Jubilife International Airport, it took us a full five minutes to find him – in the end, we only saw him because he was jumping up and down and yelling Marley's name over and over.

“Miss Walker! Miss Walker!”

“Ah,” said Marley. “Jasper.”

He had brown hair, brown eyes and brown-rimmed glasses; he was, quite simply, the least noticeable person I'd ever come across. He looked a year or two older than me, but I couldn't be sure; my eyes kept sliding over him and ignoring him in favour of something more interesting.

“You must be Miss Gideon,” he said. “I'm Jasper Platinum. I, um, work for the League.”

“He does things the League can't do publicly,” Marley clarified sourly. “Like keep small children ignorant of their heritage.”

“Yes,” said Jasper, a shadow crossing his face. “Yes, things like... that. Er, I'm on a mission nearby, and Cynthia called me to help you out. Speaking of which, what exactly are we doing? And will it take long? Only I have a lunch appointment at two.”

I looked up at one of the big airport clocks; it was currently eleven.

“Hah. It's probably going to take longer than that.”

Jasper made a small noise of annoyance.

“How irritating. Well, I suppose we should get going – have this over with as soon as possible. We're going to Lake Verity, right?”

“Yeah. There's a bunch of people there doing... something... to the soul gods or something.”

“The legendary Pokémon of the lakes,” Marley corrected. “In this case—”

“Mesprit,” said Jasper, clicking his tongue. “How troublesome. This throws off my plans for the entire weekend.” He sighed. “Well, it can't be helped. I suppose I can give those scientists another couple of days... Follow me.”

We went out into the car park, where a car every bit as nondescript as Jasper himself awaited us. However, as I was soon to discover, its looks were deceptive; despite looking like an everyday VW Polo, it seemed to travel at something approximating the speed of light. This made for a brief but hair-raising journey through the city, and it wasn't long before we were out on the forest road that ran west parallel to Route 201. Half an hour out of Jubilife, the northern shores of the lake came into view – or would have, had not a rank of bland white vans been blocking off any access to the shore and the accompanying little jetty.

Jasper parked a short distance away, told us to stay back since they would recognise our faces, and went up to the man standing guard to ask what was going on. The Galactic made a reply that I couldn't make out, and then Jasper throttled him into unconsciousness with his scarf.

“All right,” he said, coming back over to the car. “He won't wake up for a while. Shall we press on?”

I stared at him.

“Did you just...?”

“Oh, he'll be fine,” said Jasper dismissively. “Come on. If these people are doing anything to Mesprit...” He shook his head. “Well, it can't be a good thing. There'll be a lot more psychopaths around, that's for sure.”

“What?” I asked, getting out of the car. “Why?”

“It's just a theory,” he told me, “but Mesprit seems to have something to do with the human capacity to feel emotions. In the old legends, it is responsible for placing them into the human spirit; in actuality, we don't really know anything except that it's important.”

“Yes,” Marley said. “So I'm told.”

I was sure now – she wasn't being weird, she just didn't have emotions. Fleetingly, I wondered if going near this Mesprit thing might solve her problems – it wasn't any more far-fetched than a Blissey mending a broken bone with a pulse of healing energy – but I blotted the thought from my mind; now was a time for concentration, not conjecture.

“Huh,” said Jasper, raising an eyebrow. “You can't make me feel guilty, Miss Walker.”

“I know,” she replied. “You would have to have a conscience for that.”

He smiled coldly.

“Come on.”

I wondered whether I ought to say something, but in the end decided not to; the atmosphere between these two was worse than that between Marley and Cynthia. Instead, I followed Jasper over to the unconscious Galactic, and helped him drag him into the undergrowth by the side of the road, where he wouldn't be found. While we were doing that, Marley sneaked around the side of the van barricade and had a look at the lake.

“It's crawling with Galactics,” she said shortly. “A hundred, maybe.”

“I never knew there were so many,” I remarked. “How do we take them on? Jasper, do you have any ideas?”

“I suspect my plan is the same as Miss Walker's,” he told me, dropping a Poké Ball and releasing a red and yellow spider the size of a golden retriever; instinctively, I jumped back and cried out, but the creature made no move to attack.

“Don't be stupid,” said Marley. “It's just an Ariados.”

“Yeah, but it's still a spider,” I said, backing away from it a little more. “I don't like it.”

“Give me strength,” muttered Jasper. “Miss Walker?”

Marley released the little Zubat, which squeaked questingly in all directions for a moment, then settled down to hover above her head. It seemed to have accepted the change in ownership without complaint; perhaps it hadn't liked its previous master much.

“A Zubat?” queried Jasper. “Er... are you sure?”

“She los—” I began, but Marley interrupted.

“Small, fast, manoeuvrable and has access to a good range of status moves,” she said. “It's exactly the right kind of Pokémon for the job.”

Jasper raised his eyebrows.

“Suit yourself,” he said. “Right, are we ready?”

“Wait!” I cried. “What exactly are we doing?”

“We're going to use these two Pokémon to sneak through the Galactic defences undetected, find whoever is in charge and stop them from doing whatever it is they're doing to Mesprit,” Jasper said. “Hadn't you realised?”

“Why does everyone expect me to know things I haven't been told yet?” I asked plaintively.

“I suppose it's probably a League thing,” said Jasper kindly. “We only employ very perceptive people.”

“Clearly,” I said, smarting at the insult. “Right. Shall we go, then?”

We approached the edge of the van blockade, and Jasper and Marley motioned to their Pokémon, which darted forwards into the undergrowth.

“They're in position,” Marley said. “Ready?”

“Yes,” replied Jasper.

I considered asking what was about to happen, but, since it was about three seconds away from happening, thought better of it. I mean, I'd see in a moment, and the question would be moot then.

“On the count of three.”

“All right.”

“One. Two. Three.”

---

“Why'd they bring so many of us along anyway?” wondered Tristan. “I mean, there doesn't strike me as being any real reason. Only about fifty of us have gone over into the cave with Commander Mars.”

“Because,” a slightly more perceptive colleague informed him, “we can't have anyone interfering. At all. No one must be able to get to the island and stop the capture. It's hard enough without that.”

At that moment, a vast, primaeval roar echoed out over the lake, and the Galactics on the shore looked up and shivered.

“See what I mean?”

“I wonder what it looks like,” said Tristan, shuddering. “I suppose I'm glad to be over here, really.”

“So you should be,” said another Galactic. “I'm pretty sure quite a few of the people going into the cave aren't coming back.” He blinked. “Hey, what was that?”

“What was what?”

Instantly, everyone nearby was on full alert; hands went to guns and Poké Balls, ready to counter any approaching enemy.

“What?” asked the second Galactic urgently. “What did you hear, Clive?”

“I thought I heard someone coming...” Clive drew his gun. “Hang on. I'm going to take a look.”

“I'll come with you,” said the second Galactic, who rejoiced in the singularly unlikely name of Sorghum, and who was nominally in charge of the guard group. “Everyone else, keep on the lookout. It might just be that the Diamond's caught onto us.”

Worried looks and murmurs spread throughout the crowd, and Tristan released Jackie to try and generate some sense of security; however, since he was only a Croagunk, and he had once been beaten by an unarmed twenty-year-old woman with no combat experience, the attempt was somewhat fruitless. All Tristan could do was mutter along with the other Galactics, and hope to take comfort in shared anxiety.

Meanwhile, Clive and Sorghum struck out cautiously through the woods, guns out and eyes sharp.

“Do you see anything?” asked Clive under his breath.

“If you don't, how am I going to?” retorted Sorghum. “Sensible questions, please. Stop panicking.”

“I'm not panicking!”

“Then act like it.” Sorghum glanced left and right. “OK. Looks—”

A twig snapped loudly, somewhere off to the right.

Clive and Sorghum exchanged glances.

“Could just be a Pokémon,” said Clive.

“They don't make noise in the forest,” replied Sorghum. “They know how to stay silent.” He licked his lips; they suddenly felt dry. “OK. Stay here, and get ready to run for back-up if I call for it.”

“All right.” Little beads of sweat broke out on Clive's brow as he watched Sorghum disappear between the trees; now, he was alone, and there was potentially a demigod somewhere out here trying to hunt them down...

Long legs unfolded from the branches above him like a hand, and wrapped around his body before he could so much as blink; a second later, Clive had vanished into the trees, disappearing under layers and layers of silk and leaves. He didn't even have time to scream.

He was the unlucky one. Ariados do not understand how to take live prisoners.

Further ahead, Sorghum was startled by a stream of golden sparkles flying into his face; the next thing he knew, he had shot himself in the foot, thinking it was a tiger. The Zubat sent another glittering Confuse Ray at him for good measure, then retreated to hide in the trees, its work done.

Back by the lakeside, the Galactics heard a gunshot and a scream.

When it became apparent that neither Clive nor Sorghum was coming back, a larger party – ten this time – tentatively agreed to go and see what had happened to them; seven returned, panicked and shrieking that something was out there, and all at once the already-nervous Galactics descended into outright chaos. Every one of them had in their heads the idea that the Diamond, or some other unseen predator, had its eyes on them in particular, and they milled about, shouting wildly, until someone managed to restore order – by which time, of course, the Zubat, the Ariados and the three people commanding them were long gone, and a boat was missing from its place by the jetty.


---

Ashley alighted at the top of the rocky ascent that led up to Lake Acuity and dropped Iago, who immediately started brushing down his fur and muttering about filthy humans; for his part, Ashley concentrated for a moment and felt the fleshy structures that had borne him here shrivel into his back and disappear.

“Bleagh,” he muttered. “I dislike flying.”

You dislike flying? Hah!” snorted Iago. “Try being the passenger for once. It's like being strapped to an explosion.”

“Well, you can't deny you deserve it.” Ashley looked down the path, winding away between the snow-covered trees; others who walked here would require cold-weather gear, but, like Shelley's ill-starred daemon, he was impassive to the misery of cold and frost. “Right. Shall we go, then?”

“Yeah.” Iago rubbed his hands together; Kadabra had a far higher body temperature than humans, thanks to their energy-intensive brains and relatively thick fur, but even so he was feeling a chill. “Before I freeze to death.”

For a while, the only sound was the crunching of snow beneath their feet and the harsh noise of Iago's breathing. The odd bird flew by overhead, and at one point they saw two great Piloswine in the forest, ploughing through snow, trees and smaller animals with sluggish tenacity. All was quiet; the snow sucked the sounds from the world, and for a moment it seemed as if this were simply a pleasant walk in the woods, without a malevolent Team hell-bent on capturing Uxie at the end.

The lake front was quiet – too quiet. In fact, Ashley couldn't see a single person there.

“What?” He stared around, but no one presented themselves. “Was... No, I can't have been wrong. I was certain!”

“No, you weren't wrong, Ashley.”

Ashley's blood ran cold from head to toe, and a story flashed through his brain, step by step. Slowly, very slowly, he turned around to face Iago.

“Oh, you are clever.”

Iago shrugged.

“I know. It's a thing I do.”

“How long do I have?”

“Until I give the signal.” Iago smiled pleasantly. “Anything you want to say before we bring this to a close?”

“I suspected you might be the mole at first,” Ashley said, “but you didn't make any attempt to listen in on my secret conversations with Pearl – though you must have known they were happening.”

“Correct.”

“So I thought it couldn't be you – but of course, you never wanted that information, did you? Cyrus needed nothing but my file from the League – which, of course, you had free access to.”

“I even have it memorised,” Iago said.

“Exactly.” Ashley paused and shook his head. “I can't believe it. Such a neat trick... Cyrus knew I would overcome the Combee, the bomb, the G— Liza, didn't he?”

“Oh yes,” Iago replied. “I told him so. I was worried when Liza did – whatever the hell she did – but it turned out OK. You got out of it. And so you figured everything out, and came here.”

Ashley nodded.

“Spectacular. And how did you know I would come to Lake Acuity? I haven't quite figured that one out yet.”

“Easy enough. Valour's the furthest away, so you'd send Cynthia on Salazar.”

“His name is Cyrano.”

“We all know the truth, Ashley. Anyway, you knew Jasper was near Verity, and you would never go near him if you could avoid it. So, by a simple process of elimination...”

“And so you call ahead and I end up here, with four—”

“Six. We're playing it safe.”

“—with six snipers arrayed around the hills, ready to take my head off at your command.” Ashley laughed. “And since I can't see the gunmen...”

“You can't dodge their bullets,” replied Iago.

“Amazing,” said Ashley. “Truly inspired.” He held out his hand for Iago to shake. “I feel I have to congratulate you. I haven't been tricked like this for years.”

“Yeah, I know,” replied Iago, shaking it. “That's why Cyrus asked me to help. Y'know, since I hate you and the League and also happen to be just about the smartest crook on the planet.”

“Indeed, indeed.” Ashley stepped back. “I suppose Cyrus will give you information on the man who double-crossed you in exchange for this?”

“Very impressive. How'd you work it out?”

“Even you're not avaricious enough to risk my wrath for mere money. There had to be higher stakes than that.” Ashley spread his arms. “Well? Shall we get this over with?”

Iago raised his eyebrows.

“You don't seem at all concerned about it. Aren't you worried? You didn't tell the others what's going on.”

Ashley smiled, and his eyes shone yellow in the pallid sunlight.

“It doesn't matter,” he said. “My plan is already underway.”

For the first time, Iago looked concerned; a note of fear flashed in his eyes.

“What? What plan?”

“I'm only a decoy,” Ashley told him, smile widening. “The one you really need to worry about is far away from here, safe and sound.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“You of all people should know how difficult it is to make me tell the truth,” said Ashley. “Do you really think I'll talk?”

“I – actually, this isn't my problem,” Iago replied. “What do I care? As long as I get my revenge on that double-crossing bratchny, I don't care what happens to you and Cyrus.” He grinned, baring his sharp fox's teeth. “Adieu, Diamond.”

“I hope we cross swords again one day. You have been a formidable opponent.” Ashley gave a little bow. “Adieu, Iago.”

Iago reached into his tail and pulled out a radio.

“This is Iago,” he said. “Shoot.”

Six gunshots rang out simultaneously from around the lake; to his credit, Ashley ducked out of the path of three bullets, but the others flew straight and true, and a second later, the Diamond lay motionless in the snow on the shores of Lake Acuity.

“All right,” said Iago. “Jupiter, you can come out now.”

A figure walked out of the forest, dressed so outlandishly and impractically that she could only be a Team Galactic Commander, and came to a halt next to Iago. Jupiter was not quite herself again – but seeing the monster that had so terrified her in the Eterna building shot in the head and lying unconscious in a pool of bloody snow was proving a good antidote to her post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Get someone to cut off his head and bury the body,” ordered Iago. “Then chuck the head in the lake. Should take him a while to put himself back together.”

“OK,” replied Jupiter, staring at the body. “I – I'll do that, and get over to Uxie's island.”

“Yeah, that'd be a good idea.” Iago lit up a celebratory joint. “I'll wait around. Could use a lift back to Veilstone.”

He said no more, and turned away from the body towards the Galactic camp in the woods. He did not look back, for there was no need.

Life was cheap in Iago's world, and it did not matter if the whole world burned.
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  #107    
Old June 27th, 2012, 07:51 PM
dracoflare's Avatar
dracoflare
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Join Date: Jul 2011
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OMG! No! Eeeek!

Ah well Iago did it after all. But somehow I am not mad at him :x I wish I could know why.

And Tristan was alive after all. That reminds me, in the chapter where Cyrus asks if she wants any grunt to assist her, she says she'll take one but didn't mention who. And since she obviously wants to get rid of Tristan's stupidity she took another grunt and left.who died sadly.


If you are using the game's plot as outline, then what's left is some action at Galactic HQ, and ofcourse Ashley won't be in action for it, I guess. But we have Kester and the others and not mention Ellen and Bond and then the final Stark Arc where Ashley might return.

Looking forward for those chapters.
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  #108    
Old June 29th, 2012, 05:24 AM
Zayphora's Avatar
Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
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Just a few random things.
Congrats to whoever predicted that Iago was the mole. You have good foresight.

Wait a minute...soul BROTHERS?!?!? THEY'RE MALE?!?!?!?! Hello Cuterline, I'm Confused. Nice to meet you.

I feel like such a derp for not realizing this earlier, but is this whole story something that Pearl wrote for a project at the university? DERP.

Anyway, good chapter.
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  #109    
Old June 29th, 2012, 06:30 AM
Cutlerine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
OMG! No! Eeeek!

Ah well Iago did it after all. But somehow I am not mad at him :x I wish I could know why.

And Tristan was alive after all. That reminds me, in the chapter where Cyrus asks if she wants any grunt to assist her, she says she'll take one but didn't mention who. And since she obviously wants to get rid of Tristan's stupidity she took another grunt and left.who died sadly.


If you are using the game's plot as outline, then what's left is some action at Galactic HQ, and ofcourse Ashley won't be in action for it, I guess. But we have Kester and the others and not mention Ellen and Bond and then the final Stark Arc where Ashley might return.

Looking forward for those chapters.
I'm not actually including the Stark Mountain bit; however, things at Spear Pillar are somewhat different - and definitely longer - than in game. That's where the resolution (or most of it) is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
Just a few random things.
Congrats to whoever predicted that Iago was the mole. You have good foresight.

Wait a minute...soul BROTHERS?!?!? THEY'RE MALE?!?!?!?! Hello Cuterline, I'm Confused. Nice to meet you.

I feel like such a derp for not realizing this earlier, but is this whole story something that Pearl wrote for a project at the university? DERP.

Anyway, good chapter.
They may not actually be male. Certainly, Ashley refers to them as such, but I think that probably means they're considered masculine entities in Sinnish mythology, rather than them actually being gendered beings. Like most legendary Pokémon - along with angels, demons and gases - they're probably sexless.

And the story is written by Pearl, but it's a chronicle, not a fiction. She compiled and wrote it after the events took place.

F.A.B.
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  #110    
Old June 29th, 2012, 07:49 PM
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These two chapters were amazing. Whoever said the shadow on Cyrus's desk was Darkrai, I would have to disagree and say it is more likely to be Giratina since Pigzie Doodle said he didnt know what kind of ghost the shadow was. Also, I wish I could have said I was surprised to have seen Iago be the mole. But still its nice how well Iago's character fits in so well with being both a snarky bitter assistant and an evil twisted double agent. Good job in fitting both of those things in. I cant imagine that could be easy to write. Also, very nice character for Platinum. I must say that for some reason I see Marley and Platinum ending up together. Cant say why but i just see that happening. More conspiracy. Also, nice job in explaining how Confuse Ray worked. It never made sense that just some sparkles made you hit yourself. So kudos to you. Oh and a quick question. There is a part where Ashley recalls something about a Daniel in1839. Was he saying that he was with Daniel or with Daniel's wife?

But to get back on track with the chapter I was thrilled to see Puck and Kester/Sapphire/Felicity come back. Puck's character has not changed from Guide. Good job. God sorry if this is incoherent but I am tired and distracted. But yeah fantastic job. I really want to find out what Cyrus is up to though I do have my theories. And I still want to see what Stephanie has to do with all of this. ALso, you keep getting better with your grammar and its awesome to see you make no mistakes. Congrats. Well thats it for now.
Adieu and au revoir.
  #111    
Old June 29th, 2012, 08:43 PM
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Join Date: May 2011
Hi! I'm back.

(blame the ponies for my absence)

I had a different idea for a Pokemon-based bomb, am relieved you didn't use it. I must say Gyrados was a very creative choice.

So Pearl was right about Iago being the mole. Wonder what else she's got going for her detective career.

I'd speculate, except experience has shown me that you consider reader responses and change the story around just to mess with them.

This story just keeps getting better and better. You got my vote.
  #112    
Old June 30th, 2012, 03:14 AM
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Uchiha Sasuke X
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Wow...so Ashley was right about Iago being the mole. Oh well, with Ashley out of commission, that means it's up to Pearl and company to stop Cyrus at the lakes and Mt. Coronet. Also, that plan Ashley spoke of...could it be that Looker is part of it...?
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  #113    
Old July 1st, 2012, 10:37 AM
Cutlerine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
These two chapters were amazing. Whoever said the shadow on Cyrus's desk was Darkrai, I would have to disagree and say it is more likely to be Giratina since Pigzie Doodle said he didnt know what kind of ghost the shadow was. Also, I wish I could have said I was surprised to have seen Iago be the mole. But still its nice how well Iago's character fits in so well with being both a snarky bitter assistant and an evil twisted double agent. Good job in fitting both of those things in. I cant imagine that could be easy to write.
Er... if you say so. It just sort of happened, actually. Not sure my conscious self can actually claim that much credit for that, but I'll accept praise anyway. Because my ego must grow to swallow the world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Also, very nice character for Platinum. I must say that for some reason I see Marley and Platinum ending up together. Cant say why but i just see that happening. More conspiracy.
I think I can definitely say that that won't happen. Aside from the fact that they loathe each other, presumably because they can see themselves reflected in each other and are frightened by what they see, Jasper Platinum is about twenty-four and Marley is fifteen with the body of a nine-year-old. I can't see that working, really. Like, at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Also, nice job in explaining how Confuse Ray worked. It never made sense that just some sparkles made you hit yourself. So kudos to you.
I thought that was what I described it as here? I don't recall actually explaining how it works. But if I did, then that's good too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Oh and a quick question. There is a part where Ashley recalls something about a Daniel in1839. Was he saying that he was with Daniel or with Daniel's wife?
With Daniel. His wife was none too pleased, for a whole host of reasons.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
But to get back on track with the chapter I was thrilled to see Puck and Kester/Sapphire/Felicity come back. Puck's character has not changed from Guide. Good job. God sorry if this is incoherent but I am tired and distracted. But yeah fantastic job. I really want to find out what Cyrus is up to though I do have my theories. And I still want to see what Stephanie has to do with all of this. ALso, you keep getting better with your grammar and its awesome to see you make no mistakes. Congrats. Well thats it for now.
Adieu and au revoir.
No, Puck can never change. He is determined to resist all change, and succeeds because if he ever did, he simply would not be as entertaining. He doesn't change in the next story either, which I've already started writing bits of and in which he plays a rather large role - though not as a character as such.

Speaking of Stephanie, I think it's high time we revisited her. Snatches of her story are few and far between, but we're getting to the point where we ought to know a little more about what's going on there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
Hi! I'm back.

(blame the ponies for my absence)

I had a different idea for a Pokemon-based bomb, am relieved you didn't use it. I must say Gyrados was a very creative choice.
Ah! Nice to see you, to see you nice. Welcome back.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
So Pearl was right about Iago being the mole. Wonder what else she's got going for her detective career.
A little more than most might think, and a little less than a certain someone does think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
I'd speculate, except experience has shown me that you consider reader responses and change the story around just to /mess with them.
Yeah, I do that. I just love to kill you guys. Softly, with my story.

Dammit I tried so hard not to make that joke.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
This story just keeps getting better and better. You got my vote.
Yay! Votes! In all seriousness though, thanks. I appreciate your continued reading, enjoyment and voting. Though mostly the votes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Uchiha Sasuke X View Post
Wow...so Ashley was right about Iago being the mole. Oh well, with Ashley out of commission, that means it's up to Pearl and company to stop Cyrus at the lakes and Mt. Coronet. Also, that plan Ashley spoke of...could it be that Looker is part of it...?
Could be Looker, could be someone else. We'll see on the top of Spear Pillar.

Thank you all for reading, voting and suchlike, and I hope I continue to keep you all entertained.

F.A.B.
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  #114    
Old July 2nd, 2012, 03:05 AM
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Lozz
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Join Date: Dec 2011
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When bobandbill made me vote for FoTM to break some tiebreaker, I had no idea that there'd be anything near as good as what you've written. Your ability to give such unique and distinct personalities to such a quantity of characters is incredibly impressive. I don't think I've once been confused by the jumps in perspective. So well done.

I have also really enjoyed your style of writing, it is engaging and entertaining, with an undertone of humour, and you give enough pace to the story that I feel no need to skim through paragraphs. Very impressive.

Looking forward to the next instalment.
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  #115    
Old July 2nd, 2012, 05:52 AM
Cutlerine
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Join Date: Mar 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lozz View Post
When bobandbill made me vote for FoTM to break some tiebreaker, I had no idea that there'd be anything near as good as what you've written.
Ave! I don't believe I've seen you around anywhere before, which is relatively unusual, I think, for people turning up in this thread. So let me welcome you in, encourage you to take a seat and bask in the warm, ego-stoking glow of your praise. I'm pleased you've enjoyed the story so far - writing is fun on its own, but writing and entertaining people is something else altogether - and I hope I continue to amuse and delight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lozz View Post
Your ability to give such unique and distinct personalities to such a quantity of characters is incredibly impressive. I don't think I've once been confused by the jumps in perspective. So well done.
You know, I'd not realised before you mentioned it but I really do have a propensity for large casts, don't I? I mean, in this story alone you've got Pearl, Ashley, Iago, Cynthia, Marley, Jasper, Ellen, Bond, Pigzie Doodle Ishmael, Cyrus, Tristan, Liza/Ronwe and the Desk Sitter as main characters, supported by Puck, Kester, Sapphire, Felicity, Crasher, Maylene, Catherine, Wednesday, Stephanie, the man in black and a whole host of even smaller characters - and looking back on previous stories, I can see that my casts are growing steadily larger and larger. I think it might be Dickens' fault; he has big casts and I've been reading a lot of him lately.

As for the perspective jumps - I've always done those, and it's good to know that they don't confuse anyone, because I'm really not sure I could work them out of my writing style even if I wanted to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lozz View Post
I have also really enjoyed your style of writing, it is engaging and entertaining, with an undertone of humour, and you give enough pace to the story that I feel no need to skim through paragraphs. Very impressive.
Ah yes, that style. Didn't really develop that way of writing until TTMG2DTW, but now I just can't stop; seems I've found my authorial voice. Always good to hear people's opinions of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lozz View Post
Looking forward to the next instalment.
I hope it's everything you're looking forward to. Thanks for reading, and even more thanks for commenting!

F.A.B.
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  #116    
Old July 2nd, 2012, 02:32 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
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Chapter Thirty-Five: In Which Villainy and Perfidy Triumph

'It actually isn't all that hard to fracture reality – it happens naturally, about four hundred times a day. Usually, a chunk of time is sucked out through the ensuing gap, with the paradoxical result that the gap never opened up in the first place. In this way, fifty to sixty world-threatening cataclysms are averted every week, and no one ever notices.'
—Professor Torvel Scintilla, On the Vagaries of Reality


“I have to say, that was cool.”

The little speedboat was almost at the shore of the rocky island in the lake's centre; the Galactics on shore would probably have seen us, but they were still panicking and seemed to be trying to work out how to run away without leaving their post.

“I take it you've never done this before,” said Jasper, one hand on the steering thingy – I have no idea what it's called – and the other resting on the back of his monstrous spider. “That's what we call an infiltration, though we more often perform them on such things as embassies. Which, to be honest, are usually better defended. Have you ever tried to silently incapacitate a member of the Swiss Guard?”

“Er... no?”

“Well, it isn't easy, I can tell you,” Jasper informed me. “In the end, I had to – but of course, I can't tell you that.” He smiled coldly. “Otherwise I'd have to kill you.”

“Don't listen to him,” said Marley. “He's a terrible person.”

“Uh...”

“Ignore her, Miss Gideon. Miss Walker has... a certain prejudice against the League.”

“That's one way of putting it,” remarked Marley sourly, but she didn't say anything else.

A moment later, the boat's underside ground on the pebbles, and Jasper jumped out into the ankle-deep water to haul it up onto dry land.

“All right,” he said, as Marley and I hopped out. “It doesn't look like they have any guards outside the cave; I don't think they expected anyone to get here. After all, they have the dock under heavy guard.”

The island was little more than a cluster of rocks with a hole in the middle; the hole, however, seemed to be a pretty active place, because it was currently emitting more noise than the average music festival, mostly in the form of shouts, swearing and roaring.

“All right,” I said. “What're we doing now?”

“It'll be tricky,” Jasper mused. “There won't be as many hiding places, but I suppose the Galactics will be focused on Mesprit. From what I know, it would certainly make a formidable opponent.”

“The people fighting it will be dangerous, too,” Marley said.

“Of course,” said Jasper. “Powerful fighters, I'm sure, and emotionally abnormal – psychopaths or berserkers, to limit Mesprit's influence on their minds.” He sighed. “It looks like we have our work cut out for us.”

“Yeah, so what are we actually going to do?” I asked. “You haven't said yet.”

“I suppose we sneak in, survey the situation, and take action accordingly,” decided Jasper. “Unless you can think of anything else.”

“No, that sounds good, I guess.” I looked at the hole, and saw something that looked uncannily like a severed hand fly out and vanish into the lake. “What was that?”

“I'm sure it was nothing,” said Jasper. “Shall we go, then?”

“Yes,” replied Marley. “Before it's too late.”

I let them go in ahead of me. I mean, severed hand.

---

“No! Save it for later, you absolute ****ing moron!” snapped Cyrus, mentally screaming at himself that emotion was poison. “Half the country is descending on Lake Valour as we speak! No, listen. Defeat Azelf. Capture Azelf. Bring Azelf here. Before you **** this up any more!”

With that, Cyrus flung the phone out of the window (without opening it first) and stalked out of the remnants of his office. He had expected a couple of minor errors, a few slip-ups here and there – but blowing up a lake? How on earth had that happened?

“We thought you were against emotion,” said the Desk Sitter, dragging themselves along beside him.

“I am!” roared Cyrus. “I am wholly opposed to it and currently I hate myself for hating myself for being angry!”

The Desk Sitter sighed, a sound like a thousand souls burning up at once.

“Humans,” they said. “Opposing your own essence. It makes no sense.”

“It is an essence we have outgrown,” Cyrus snapped. “We must remake ourselves in the ideal image – melt down the world and recast it in a new mould!”

“This is not one of your recruitment speeches,” the Desk Sitter observed patiently. “Calm down. The situation is not irretrievable.”

You're not irretrievable!”

“Now you are simply being childish.”

Cyrus roared loudly, and punched a window, which had no effect on the glass and a large effect on his fist.

“****!” he yelled, and stomped off to find a bandage.

---

The cave obviously went quite a way underground, because it was huge on the inside – huge, and full of Galactics, growling Pokémon and something that looked like very angry heat haze, swirling out in a furious maelstrom through the air. As I watched, the blur surrounded a Skuntank, lifted it bodily from the floor and flung it hard at a wall; immediately, bullets and jets of fire and ice shot towards the centre of the haze – but all rebounded, ricocheting dangerously around the cavern.

“Damn it! Regroup and strike from both sides!”

I knew that voice. Its owner had once held me hostage with a giant cat – a cat that, I noticed, was currently crouched near the heat haze, eyes locked on the little silhouette at its centre.

It was the voice of Galactic Commander Mars, and right now I could see her, gun in hand, firing wildly at the haze and screeching like a demon.

“Bloodlust,” said Jasper with distaste. “Cyrus has chosen well. Mesprit's powers diminish with each year it spends sleeping here, and without a good meal, it won't be able to manipulate such strong, twisted psyches.”

“What do we do?” I asked, flinching as a Golbat burst into thousands of tiny pieces.

“We get behind cover,” Jasper decided, and moved into the shelter of a group of enormous stalagmites; Marley and I followed. A second later, a Galactic flew through the air where we had been standing and out of the cave mouth.

“Mesprit doesn't seem to be hurt,” Marley said.

“No, I think it's doing fine without us,” agreed Jasper. “But it won't last – it can't last. It's been asleep too long; it's not ready to fight.”

“Why was it asleep?” I asked.

“Now is not really the time,” replied Jasper. “I suggest we do something. Miss Walker, your Zubat, if you please.”

Marley had been holding it still in her arms; now, she released it, and pointed it in the direction of the Galactics. I don't know how it knew who they were, since it had no eyes that I could see, but it gave a vindictive squeak and dived towards them with surprising anger; evidently, it really had hated them.

“What's it doing?”

“Watch,” said Marley.

The Zubat flew low over the closest rank of Galactics, trailing golden sparkles from its mouth; a moment later, one of the men punched another, and then another kicked himself in the shin.

“What?”

I stared as the line collapsed into hopeless confusion; one woman ordered her Toxicroak to punch itself, another tripped over her own feet and a third fell forwards for no adequately explained reason at all, knocking down a couple of her colleagues.

“Confuse Ray,” said Marley by way of explanation. “It won't hold them for long. Jasper?”

“Already on it.”

I noticed now that the Ariados was creeping along the ceiling towards the battle, and wondered what it was going to do; a moment later, my question was answered as it sprayed a thick, tangled wad of webbing down directly onto Mars, knocking her down and pinning her to the ground.

Immediately, the battle stopped, the Galactics frozen with shock; the Zubat took advantage of this to flit back over to us before it was discovered, and Mesprit took advantage of it to send out a sudden shockwave of blurry energy, knocking its nearest opponents back and giving it time to fly towards the cave mouth. It approached our hiding place and—

—red blue happy angry yellow sad pink orange lonely fear—

—and, reeling from the impact, I passed out.

---

As Pearl's eyes closed, Liza's opened. She sat up, feeling the rime of salt on her face crack as she moved, and blinked in the bright light.

“Some things,” she murmured absently to herself, “must not be forgotten.”

Then full consciousness returned with a jolt, and Liza realised that she was picking herself up after passing out for unknown reasons on an unknown shore, which was something she definitely ought to be concerned about.

“What – where am I?” she wondered aloud, getting shakily to her feet. “Think, Ronwe – I mean, Liza. Who's Ronwe?”

The world looked like it was spinning around her, and Liza screwed her eyes shut, grabbing a nearby rock and holding on tight. Liza. She was Liza Radley, searching for her past in Sinnoh, following her last few identities to see which was real. Ronwe was – well, she didn't know who Ronwe was, but the name brought with it a terrible, dizzying sense of overwhelming darkness.

“Iron Island,” she said, a name clicking into place in her head. “Iron Island, that's where I am. I came here to trap Lacrimére with that girl... but that's it. That's all I remember.” Liza frowned, and looked at her watch; it was one of those that displays the date as well as the time, and her eyes widened in surprise. “Saturday? What happened?”

She felt a little more steady now, and began to work her way slowly over the rocks and up towards the crest of the island.

“He must have done something,” she said, glaring at a seagull. “That sodding detective... he did something to me. But what?”

The gull squawked dismally in reply and flapped off in search of fish; it didn't know the answer any more than she did. Liza sighed, and continued her ascent. There would be answers later, or at least consolation; for now, she had to concentrate on getting off this island and back to civilisation. For come Tuesday, Cyrus planned to chain the heart of the universe, and she for one was not prepared to miss it.

Light. Shadow. Voices.

Too quiet to be a party, too bright to be night; I hadn't drunk myself unconscious, then. Unless this was the morning after, and I was about to do that horrible, horrible thing where you wake up and realise that you have no idea who the man lying next to you is.

“...she's waking up now, so she must be all right,” said a vaguely familiar voice, and I suddenly realised that this was Jasper, and that I was lying in the back seat of his car.

“Oooh,” I groaned, sitting up shakily. “What the hell happened to me?”

“You reacted badly to Mesprit's aura,” Jasper said, turning around in the front. “It must have been working hard for the fight; however, since the Galactics in there were all emotionally stunted, and Miss Walker lacks most emotions, only you were affected by it.”

“What about you?” I asked, looking out of the window. The trees flicked by like commuters during rush hour; it looked like we were going back to Jubilife.

I couldn't see his face, but I imagined he smiled unpleasantly then; it seemed the most likely thing.

“I am... somewhat different,” Jasper told me, which struck me as quite sinister.

“Ri-ight,” I said. “What happened while I was out? Did we save Mesprit?”

“No,” replied Marley.

“They caught it,” sighed Jasper. “When you passed out, we had to drag you back under cover so they wouldn't see you; thankfully, they didn't realise that Harvey wasn't wild.”

“Harvey?”

“My Ariados.” He paused. “Mesprit collapsed with fatigue halfway across the lake. They scooped it up off the water and got into the back of one of the vans. I suppose that was their plan all along: to just outlast it, to force it to fight until it fainted.”

“Damn.” I scratched my head. “How did we get out?”

“With difficulty,” said Marley.

“We waited until they left,” Jasper told me. “Only they took our boat, so we had to improvise a raft out of pieces of Skuntank and Harvey's silk.”

“Oh God. Tell me you're joking. Please.”

“He's not,” replied Marley. “It wasn't pleasant.”

“I am so glad I was unconscious,” I said fervently.

“Yes, I imagine you are.”

The city began to appear around us, building by building; first, the outlying malls, then a few sparse suburbs, then more; finally, almost by magic, skyscrapers rose around us, and we were presented with the city centre as suddenly as if it had been produced from a magician's sleeve.

“Where are we going now?” I asked. “I mean, if we failed to get Mesprit...”

“We are going nowhere,” said Jasper pleasantly. “I am having lunch with the American ambassador.”

“He'll drop us at the airport,” Marley informed me.

“Right. So, what? We go to Veilstone?”

“Veilstone?”

“That's where they'll take Mesprit, right? And the others, if they get them. Their base is there.”

“Interesting.” Marley pondered that for a moment. “I'll call Dad and ask him.”

“OK.”

True to his word, Jasper dropped us at the airport and drove off with nothing more than a cordial goodbye; I wondered if perhaps he considered trying and failing to save a legendary Pokémon once worshipped as a god from the clutches of a nefarious criminal organisation an ordinary morning's work. You'd think he'd share his commiserations at least – but then again, he seemed like he might not have any; I was beginning to think that he didn't actually have a heart at all.

I sat on a low wall near the entrance to the departure building, and Marley stood a little way off, making the call; however, she came back a moment later, looking faintly puzzled.

“That's strange,” she said. “He didn't answer.”

“Maybe he's busy at Lake Acuity,” I suggested.

“No, he always answers when it's me,” Marley replied. “Always.” She bit her lip, and for the first time I saw a hint of real concern on her face. “I don't like that.”

“Do you have Cynthia's number?” I asked. “We could call her...”

“I don't have it,” she said. “Do you?”

“No,” I admitted. “I don't.” I sighed, and thought for a moment. “Uh, do you think the plane Cynthia commandeered for us is still here to take us back?”

“I doubt it.” Marley cursed quietly – in English, weirdly enough, which was usually only used by older people who hadn't grown up with the Nadsat culture. It wasn't that Sinnish didn't have its own swear words, it was just that English and Nadsat ones sounded better – they were harsher, more fun to spit at someone. “We're stuck here, unless we buy tickets ourselves.”

I wasn't sure what to suggest, and was saved from having to do so by the ringing of my phone; any relief I felt, however, evaporated instantly when I saw who was calling.

“Ah, cal,” I said, staring at the screen. “It's my dad.”

“Is that bad?” asked Marley, one eyebrow rising.

“Very,” I replied. “I've been gone for quite a few days now, and I bet he and my uni want to know where I am.” I sighed, dithered for a moment, and finally pressed 'Answer'. “Hi, Daddy,” I said brightly. “How are—?” I winced, and pulled the phone a little further away from my ear. “That's kind of loud,” I said, my cheery voice somewhat strained. “How about you just calm down a bit?”

The response was not encouraging. Nor did it indicate that he'd taken my suggestion that he calm down to heart.

“Explain?” I asked incredulously, giving up on being cheerful. “Explain? Seriously, Daddy, you wouldn't believe me.”

He did not agree. In fact, he challenged me to try.

“All right,” I said, starting to feel a little angry, “I'm working for the government under the Official Secrets Act with the world's greatest detective to stop a criminal mastermind from assuming godhood and taking over the world. How about that?”

Silence.

“Yeah, I thought as much,” I said. “Look, I don't know when I'll be back, OK? But this... this is important.” I took a deep breath, collecting my thoughts so they'd come out coherently. “I—”

“Ah, that's bad,” said Marley suddenly, looking at her phone. “Cynthia lost.”

What?” I cried. “Er, sorry Daddy gotta go be home soon bye – what?”

“She lost,” Marley repeated as I hung up. “At Lake Valour. They actually defeated her.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. It's breaking news. She's in hospital in Veilstone.”

“Christ!” I blew out a long, shaky breath. “This is really bad. First Ashley doesn't answer, and now this...” I looked at Marley. “Are we the only ones who made it?”

“It's a definite possibility.” Marley looked thoughtful. “Cynthia rushes in where angels fear to tread. It's quite likely they exploited her overconfidence and set a trap for her.”

“And Ashley?”

“If Dad has a flaw,” she said quietly, “it's that he sometimes forgets that other people can be smarter than him.”

“Another trap, you think?”

“Almost certainly.”

“You'd better call Jasper,” I said decisively. “We need contact with the League and we need to get back to Veilstone at once.”

Marley nodded – she'd done a lot more talking than usual lately; she'd probably had enough – and started dialling. She knew the number by heart, I noticed; unusual, since she hated him so much.

“Can the Elite Four help us?” I asked while we waited. “Or the Gym Leaders or something?”

“We'll see,” was all the response I got.

She exchanged a few words with Jasper, and ten minutes later his nondescript car pulled up alongside us again.

“This is not my day,” he said with a sigh, winding down the window – not exactly a typical greeting, but probably justified under the circumstances. “Cynthia's down, you say?”

“Yes. In hospital in Veilstone,” I said.

“Fantastic,” he muttered sarcastically. “I suppose it's on the NoS* website?”

Marley nodded.

“Another mess for me to clean up,” he said, in the voice of one who has suffered far too much for one man. “Right. What do you want me to do, exactly? Put you in touch with the League?”

“That'd be good too,” I answered, “but we need to get to Veilstone as soon as possible. The Galactic headquarters is there, as is Cynthia – and if she's up to it, we need her help to break in and stop... whatever they plan to do.”

“Very well,” replied Jasper. “I suppose I'd better come too, though the ambassador will be most upset.” He parked in a nearby space, got out and led us swiftly into the terminal. “Come on, then. I'll get us a plane...”

---

Ellen knew immediately when she had found the laboratories. It might have been the steel tables, with their abstruse computing engines and other machinery; it might have been the smattering of white-coated individuals dotted around; or it might have been the huge glass cylinder containing a large rip in the fabric of reality in the middle of the room.

Whatever the cause, she stared for a moment, then turned around and called out for the others:

“Bond! Ishmael!”

The butler appeared almost instantaneously at her side, moving silently as if on oiled castors; the Duskull took a little longer, drifting along in an irritatingly unhurried manner that simply had to be intentional.

What is it? he asked. I'm warning you, if it's anything less than a life-threatening hole in time and space, I... He trailed off, staring at the rip. And there's the life-threatening hole in time and space. Wow. I, uh, really didn't see that one coming.

“Remarkable,” murmured Bond. “What exactly is that?”

“I'm not sure.”

Moving cautiously, Ellen crept a little further into the lab; apparently, none of the scientists here had the ability to see them, and she straightened up, emboldened, for a closer look at the thing in the cylinder.

This is what the Dusknoir were attracted by, said Pigzie Doodle, hurriedly rendering himself invisible to mortal eyes and following her. Can you feel the vibrations? There's music coming from there, very faint music... the oscillations of something beyond the universe. Dusknoir have antennae that are hypersensitive to these vibrations; they can't resist— ow!

He stopped abruptly a few metres from the cylinder, his essence pressed up an invisible barrier that sent sparks flying as he pulled back from it.

“What was that?” asked Ellen, concerned.

“I believe we are seeing the effects of a Cleanse Tag, madam,” said Bond. “No doubt that is what prevents the Dusknoir outside from coming in; I imagine that the only reason Mister Doodle and Mister Goodfellow were able to enter the building is because no one expected them to come via the roof.”

He's right, said Pigzie Doodle irritably, pulling his essence back together and reforming a little closer to the door. Damn. There must be a second layer of protection near the tear itself – understandable, since the Dusknoir would start behaving pretty damn erratically if they got in here. They'd probably destroy the place and try to throw themselves through the tear.

“What is the tear, exactly?” asked Ellen. “I don't understand.”

Pigzie Doodle sighed.

The universe is made up of two perceptible elements, he explained. Time and space. There are a few other parts to it that your sadly limited human senses can't come close to comprehending, but we'll stick to the basics for now. What these scientists have done is punch a hole through them – presumably with the power of Science or something like that – and straight out into... well, into whatever is outside the universe. Could be anything.

Ellen relayed this information to Bond as best she could, and asked:

“But why?”

That I can't say. Pigzie Doodle ran a stubby wing across that part of his face-plate that might have, in a corporeal being, have been a chin. If only they hadn't gone all the way and actually broken it! If the universe was merely warped here, not split, its laws would be weakened and we could try to communicate with the scientists here. Then you could die properly and I could relax in the knowledge that my place in history was assured. He sighed. Regardless, I have no idea why they've broken the world here. I suppose they might be trying to enact some deep-seated universal change, and this might be a failed first attempt, but there's no way of knowing without more information.

“Shall we go and spy on the scientists, then?” asked Ellen. “We could find out more.”

I guess that could work, admitted Pigzie Doodle grudgingly. I'll have to wait here, though. Damnable Cleanse Tags.

“Bond,” said Ellen. “I'm going to investigate this laboratory and see if I can find anything that might help us, or that might explain that... thing over there. Would you help, please?”

“All right, madam,” said Bond, quietly marvelling at this sudden display of competence. “Where would you like me to start?”

---

“See?” said the Desk Sitter. “Everything has turned out for the best.”

“I know,” replied Cyrus, waving the men carrying his new desk down the corridor. He realised that he must seem insane, talking to thin air, but frankly that was the least of his concerns right now. “But this was still very, very annoying. Which is exactly the problem with this world,” he went on, warming to the theme. “People get carried away with anger, with annoyance, they overreact—”

“Please, spare us,” said the Desk Sitter wearily. “We have heard this a great many times already, and have no particular desire to hear it any more.”

“Very well. Yes, in there,” Cyrus added to those bearing the desk. “Thank you. Yes, things have turned out well – all three are on their way back here, after all – but I still have to ask Saturn what he was doing down at Lake Valour.”

“Yes, that was curious,” mused the Desk Sitter. “Almost as curious as the vehicle full of spectres that fell on us earlier.”

“Over here. Yes, right there. You can put it – all right. Thank you for your help.” Cyrus waited until the last of the furniture men had left the room, then took up his seat and spoke to the Desk Sitter once again. “I haven't forgotten that,” he said. “But I'm not sure what to make of it. Should we be concerned?”

“Not by the spectres,” the Desk Sitter replied, flowing back into their rightful place on the desk. “Nor by the Duskull they had with them. Such spirits are not capable of interfering, merely observing. But did you perceive the other Ghost in the vehicle?”

“There was another?” Cyrus leaned forwards, interested; he had been a little stunned, to say the least, and had had some difficulty recalling the exact details of the incident.

“A Rotom,” the Desk Sitter said. “We were not certain before – we were a little jumbled from the impact – but thinking on it, we have become sure. It was a Rotom, and a Rotom whose essence tasted unpleasantly similar to that of the one who has such a great propensity for... meddling.”

“Ah,” said Cyrus. “You don't mean...?”

“We are afraid that we do,” replied the Desk Sitter. “It would seem that once again, Robin Goodfellow has penetrated the building.”

*For the non-Sinnish readership, this stands for News of Sinnoh, a major news corporation that is and always has been wholly unknown outside its country of origin.
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  #117    
Old July 3rd, 2012, 08:31 PM
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Good job. STILL no grammar mistakes. Look whos getting gooder at this. Ha. I chuckled silently to myself when I wrote that. And if anyone doesnt understand the joke there, too bad. Alright, so Mesprit is pretty much dead now but still alive enough to be part of the Red Chain, which Ive realized is part of what Rowan found that made Ashley freak out. Oh and Ashley is dead-ish but still alive which is what Ashley's been doing for the past couple of chapters. I desperately want to know if/when he will wake up. And if he doesnt I want to know what Marley will do. I theorize major destruction coming from her. Like a lot. People who have no emotions tend to be cold and calculating. And when they are hurt, they channel that toward causing pain to those who hurt them. Itll be fun to read I theorize. Also, Im still freaking out about Stephanie. I mean come on. What's up with the people who stole her? Are they with Cyrus, the League, or some random third faction that hasnt been talked about yet? So confusing. And how did it take Pearl's dad this long to figure out she was gone? And has she failed college yet? Wow. You are a good writer. I never have this many questions that I actually want answered when I read. Oh and Ellen and Bond and Pigzie Doodle/Ishmael. What do they hope to accomplish? And how is Ellen randomly smart now? Is it the stress? Are they gonna end up killing Liza? Because, knowing what she is, it kinda would make sense to have Ellen and Bond kill her, seal the......oh. Wow. My theories would actually make a pretty sensible ending to this story. I hope Im not write, but kinda hope I am at the same time. But, if I am, I will withdraw from elaborating my random theories. If I am right, then this is gonna be freakin awesome. Well. I feel the climax coming soon. But first, Marley and Pearl gotta go get Ashley, Iago probably needs to die. Grahzny bratchny would deserve it. And then Pearl has to reveal what she does thats cool. Stephanie has to be finished, and Liza has to do what Liza does. Wow. Maybe I was off a bit. And good god. I just read this. I was all over the place. My bad. Ive been weird lately. Hope my theories are just. And I kinda wanna PM you and give you my theory. I quite like it. But for now, I think I am done. Good job with this. But Im done now. Until next time.
Adieu and au revoir.
  #118    
Old July 4th, 2012, 11:41 AM
Cutlerine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Good job. STILL no grammar mistakes. Look whos getting gooder at this. Ha. I chuckled silently to myself when I wrote that. And if anyone doesnt understand the joke there, too bad. Alright, so Mesprit is pretty much dead now but still alive enough to be part of the Red Chain, which Ive realized is part of what Rowan found that made Ashley freak out.
Mesprit isn't dead. It just passed out from fatigue, having fought a harsh battle to the point of exhaustion after having been asleep for nearly five hundred years without food. I don't think anyone would be at their best after all that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Oh and Ashley is dead-ish but still alive which is what Ashley's been doing for the past couple of chapters. I desperately want to know if/when he will wake up. And if he doesnt I want to know what Marley will do. I theorize major destruction coming from her. Like a lot. People who have no emotions tend to be cold and calculating. And when they are hurt, they channel that toward causing pain to those who hurt them. Itll be fun to read I theorize.
Marley is going to do something at some point to someone. What the nature of that something is, I cannot divulge. Well, I could, but I won't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Also, Im still freaking out about Stephanie. I mean come on. What's up with the people who stole her? Are they with Cyrus, the League, or some random third faction that hasnt been talked about yet? So confusing.
Mm. Stephanie. There's a few questions there that won't get answered until later, I'm afraid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
And how did it take Pearl's dad this long to figure out she was gone? And has she failed college yet? Wow. You are a good writer. I never have this many questions that I actually want answered when I read.
Yeah, there certainly are a lot there. I imagine Pearl often misses a few days here and there, so people didn't notice when she left. But it's been quite a while now, and someone was bound to realise eventually.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Oh and Ellen and Bond and Pigzie Doodle/Ishmael. What do they hope to accomplish? And how is Ellen randomly smart now? Is it the stress? Are they gonna end up killing Liza? Because, knowing what she is, it kinda would make sense to have Ellen and Bond kill her, seal the......oh. Wow.
Ellen isn't any smarter than usual, really. It's just that she tends to scare easily, and hasn't been able to do anything in the various deadly escapades they've got themselves into. Now, when there's nothing trying to kill them and all they have to do is investigate a laboratory, she's a bit more useful.

As to what they do at the end and what happens to Liza, I won't reveal a thing save that they will finally get to speak their piece.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
My theories would actually make a pretty sensible ending to this story. I hope Im not write, but kinda hope I am at the same time. But, if I am, I will withdraw from elaborating my random theories. If I am right, then this is gonna be freakin awesome.Well. I feel the climax coming soon. But first, Marley and Pearl gotta go get Ashley, Iago probably needs to die. Grahzny bratchny would deserve it.
Ah, Iago. His return will be... unexpected. I hope.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
And then Pearl has to reveal what she does thats cool. Stephanie has to be finished, and Liza has to do what Liza does. Wow. Maybe I was off a bit. And good god. I just read this. I was all over the place. My bad. Ive been weird lately. Hope my theories are just. And I kinda wanna PM you and give you my theory. I quite like it. But for now, I think I am done. Good job with this. But Im done now. Until next time.
Adieu and au revoir.
Yes, there's more to Pearl than meets the eye. Well, thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

F.A.B.
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  #119    
Old July 6th, 2012, 10:57 AM
Cutlerine
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Chapter Thirty-Six: In Which a Plot is Hatched

'Certain Ghost- and Psychic-types have strange and terrible powers over the minds of others – powers that are rarely seen, and which no one ever wants to see.'
—Fantina Meurent, The Limits of the Spectral, tr. Alison Fforde


The last place that Stephanie recalled was the interior of the man in black's car, parked just outside the hospital; now, however, she was clearly somewhere very different indeed.

She looked left, then right. Blank concrete walls. In front and behind? More concrete. Stephanie swallowed, then looked up – and saw only a bare bulb and a concrete ceiling, confirming the rising suspicions within her.

There were no exits to this room.

“OK,” she told herself, trying hard to keep her breath under control, “no doors. OK. OK.”

The walls stared silently back. To Stephanie, it felt as if they were preparing to slide inwards, to shuffle slowly towards her and crush her into oblivion—

“Stop it,” she said sharply. “Calm down, Stephanie.” She took a deep, steadying breath, and shouted as loud as she could: “Hello? Anyone there?”

From somewhere beyond the walls came an answering knock, muffled with distance but still audible.

“Hello?” repeated Stephanie, emboldened. “Can you hear me?”

Two knocks this time – louder and closer, too.

“Who is that? Where are you? Where am I?”

Three knocks, louder still, and Stephanie's relief started to fade, the wind of hope that had propelled her out of her fear beginning to peter out. There was something ominous about that knocking, something that she did not want to face.

“Hello?” she repeated, voice barely above a whisper, and now she heard four loud, sharp knocks, clear as the sound of hammers on wood. There was breathing too, hoarse, laboured breathing—

And then the light went out, and Stephanie screamed.

---

Cynthia actually looked more angry than injured; by the time we reached her, at about three o'clock, she'd got over the shock of losing and had moved on to the vengeance-seeking phase. In fact, as we came in, the hospital staff were debating whether or not they'd actually throw her out.

“Miss Buckley,” said Jasper as we entered the room. “I heard you had run into... complications.”

Cynthia glowered from the bed – the effect of which was greatly enhanced by the numerous bruises strewn artfully across her face and arms, since they lent her a certain stormy hue that was quite impressive when viewed in the right light.

“Great. I get chucked off my Garchomp, Team Galactic run off with the legendary Pokémon and now I have to deal with you. This day just can't get any better, can it?”

“I take it that you're fine, then,” he said. “What happened?”

Cynthia sighed – angrily, and with such force that a doctor who had been about to come into her room turned around and walked away again.

“I flew in, saw they'd blown all the water out of the lake, tried to land and flew straight into some kind of psychic wave,” she said grumpily. “Passed out and came to a few minutes later lying under Sala— I mean, Cyrano.” She clicked her tongue in annoyance. “Sodding Iago's got me saying it now. I think the Galactics hit me with a blast from a Gardevoir or something.”

“And what happened to the Galactics?” I asked.

“They escaped while I was unconscious,” replied Cynthia. “Cyrano just crouched over me and stopped anyone coming near me; he didn't understand what we were trying to do.” She coughed. “Didn't break anything, thank God, but I'm pretty sore, and I didn't feel up to flying back. So I called Lethe and he overreacted. As you can see.” Cynthia gestured around at the hospital room.

“Why did you call Lethe?” asked Jasper. “Of all the people...”

“I know, I know. He always does this.” Cynthia sighed. “I should've known.”

“It's a pity the Elite Four aren't here, actually,” mused Jasper. “They would be helpful in fighting the Galactics.”

“Where are they?” I asked. “And who's Lethe?”

“He's... someone like me, but more concerned with the League's internal affairs,” he replied. “And the Elite Four are at the World Conference. Cynthia would be there, but she decided not to enter this year. Give someone else a chance to win.”

The World Conference was a tri-annual Pokémon Training tournament that roved around the globe after the manner of the Olympics; usually, its participants were drawn from the ranks of Elite Four members and the stronger Gym Leaders, and the battles were always pretty spectacular. Cynthia, if I remembered right, had entered once before, and had won by such a huge margin that she'd said she wouldn't enter again until Steven Stone, the undefeated former Hoenn Champion, returned to the competitive battling circuit – which didn't seem likely to happen any time soon, since he'd more or less completely gone to ground after his part in the Zero affair in the summer.

“Wait,” I said. “All of them? That seems like too much of a coincidence.”

“No, they probably thought Cynthia could handle whatever came... wait, didn't they receive special invitations?”

“Yeah,” replied Cynthia. “We thought it was a bit weird, but we called the organisers up and they were genuine.”

“Cyrus' influence extends far,” said Marley.

“Do you think he...?”

“It's possible,” said Jasper, frowning. “If so, then it was an excellent move; we've lost four of our best weapons. There are the Gym Leaders, but Fantina's away and the rest are a lot busier than they might seem dealing with whatever other nation-threatening disasters have arisen this week. We might be able to get Maylene to help us, but I'm not certain how useful she would be.”

What kind of person referred to others as weapons, I wondered. There had to be something weird going on with Jasper – something as fundamentally broken in him as in Marley. He was too... something. I didn't know quite what, but I sensed a wrongness in him that wasn't like anything I'd ever encountered before.

“The real question, then, is what we're going to do now,” I said, forcing myself out of my thoughts and back to the matter at hand. “Anyone got any ideas?”

“Ah,” said a familiar voice behind me. “As to that, Mademoiselle Gideon, I believe I may be of the assistance.”

I turned to look, and almost immediately bit back a groan of dismay.

“Good afternoon to you all,” said Looker, sweeping off his hat and bowing deeply. “I am a member of the International Police, codenamed Looker, and I am today here to assist.”

---

It was late afternoon before Liza managed to get back to her current base of operations, an apartment in Veilstone's Dyurine District; there, she threw out the remnants of her Team Galactic uniform – now corroded by some unknown force beyond all repair – and settled down to a long, hot bath while she thought about what to do next.

Cyrus was going to pick apart reality at the seams, she knew that much – bring the universe down, raise it up and start again from scratch. A select few would be allowed passage to the new world, to provide the basis for the new human population; those would be the core four hundred members of Team Galactic, selected for their dysfunctions of spirit, as Cyrus put it, and Cyrus himself.

The invitation had also been extended to her, and the time had been that Liza had thought she would take it up, if she could not find her old self. Better to enter a new world, all memory of the past gone, than exist as an agonised phantasm in the ruins of the old, she had reasoned.

Now she was not so sure. Something had changed on Iron Island, she was certain. The Diamond had said something – or his daughter had – that had struck deep in her, but she couldn't remember what it was. That door at the back of her head, quiet for so long now, was being hammered on once again; memories were building up behind it, pressing against it, trying to break through...

Liza opened her eyes and suddenly realised the water had gone cold, and the clock on the shelf across the room told her two hours had passed. Faintly surprised, she got out and started drying herself off, noticing halfway through that her hair had returned to its natural brown, and now fell a little lower than her shoulders.

“It's happening again,” she said to her reflection in the mirror, though this time she wasn't surprised or startled. “I suppose I was never normal.”

“No, you weren't,” the reflection replied. “This shape has cramped me – you – us – too long. Had an impact on our sanity.”

“You haven't spoken to me in a while,” said Liza, eyes blank. “Am I going crazy again?”

“No. I'm going crazy, and you're my alternate personality,” replied the reflection. “Problem is, I can't break out from inside you. Izhlei sealed me too deep.”

“Who are you? Who am I?”

“It doesn't matter,” said her reflection wearily. “You'll forget this conversation ever happened as soon as you look away from the mirror. You always do. Every single time.”

A draught from the window blew the door shut with a bang, and Liza jumped, looking around sharply; in that instant, any idea of a talking reflection left her head, and she left the room to get dressed.

Back in the mirror, her reflection fumed quietly.

“I get that he made me forget myself,” she muttered angrily. “But why does my alter ego have to be such a stupid little *****?”

---

“Who the hell is this?” asked Cynthia, looking like she was about to get up and throw Looker bodily from the room.

“He's French,” I said, which was true but not really that helpful.

“Thanks,” she replied savagely, and turned back to Looker. “Who are you?”

“I am Looker,” he said. “I come to this country to track down Mademoiselle Liza Radley, for she is wanted in seventeen countries for murder, terrorism and illegal possession of traction engines.”

“Is that a crime?” I asked.

“In Almia, yes.” Looker extended a hand and an enamelled badge appeared in it; Jasper bent over it for a moment, and pronounced it – with some surprise – genuine.

“This guy's for real?” Cynthia sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, to sit on the side. “Why are you here? How did you get in here?”

“I am a master of disguise,” he replied. “It was, how do you say, the slice of pie.”

“A piece of cake, you mean.”

“Yes, that is the one,” Looker agreed impatiently. “But I am here because I have finally tracked down the headquarters of the Team Galactic!”

I stared at him.

“You do realise we knew that ages ago, right?”

Looker looked wounded.

“Then why did you not call me on the secret phone number?”

“I didn't think it was real,” I said honestly. “Also I forgot.”

“Ah! It is no matter now,” he replied. “For I have found it, and with this news of the legendary Pokémon being stolen...”

Cynthia leaped to her feet, winced, clutched her side and then bounded over to Looker, there to tower over him in an intimidating sort of way.

“How do you know that?” she asked. “Is it common knowledge yet?”

“Only to me,” replied Looker, who was the first person I had met who wasn't intimidated by Cynthia's wrath. “It is my job to find these things out. I am a world-class detective.”

“We already have one of those,” said Jasper wearily. “Speak your piece, will you? We don't have much time here.”

“You need to infiltrate the Team Galactic building, non?” asked Looker. “Enfin, I will assist. It suits both my end and yours – for Mademoiselle Radley will be there.”

“That's the monster woman, isn't it?” asked Cynthia, looking at me. “The one who collapsed the cave on Ashley?”

Before I could nod, Looker threw his hands in the air in a theatrical display of shock.

Non? She has struck again! Oh, and this time at the very heart of her pursuers.” He shook his fist, which was actually more comical than threatening. “Ohhh, she shall pay for her crimes!”

“Are you sure the badge was genuine?” asked Marley.

“Strange though it may seem, yes,” replied Jasper.

Fortunately, the subtleties of this exchanged seemed to be beyond Looker's grasp of Sinnish, and he didn't bat an eyelid even at such a brazen insult.

“Don't worry,” said Cynthia. “He's fine.” Abruptly, a shadow crossed her face. “Where is Ashley? Usually he'd have come as fast as he could if he knew I was injured.”

Marley and I exchanged looks.

“We're not sure he is fine,” I said. “He's not answering Marley's calls.”

“What?” Cynthia froze for a moment. “No... No, he'll answer mine.”

Suddenly, the issue of Looker and the Galactics seemed to vanish; all eyes were on Cynthia, as she rummaged in her pocket for her iPhone – cracked in her fall but somehow still working – and started calling Ashley. There was an electric tension in the air; everyone wanted to know the answer to the big question: was Ashley all right, and if not, what could possibly have stopped him?

The wait seemed to stretch out to the end of time; unconsciously, I found myself leaning closer, eyes locked on Cynthia's face...

“Voicemail,” she said, sounding strangely subdued for once. “He... he didn't pick up.”

“Perhaps he is busy,” hazarded Looker. “He may be fighting the Galactics at la lac, may he not?”

“No,” said Cynthia softly. “No, he isn't.” She shut her eyes, and seemed to shrink a little; I was reminded that she wasn't all that older than me, that for all the force of her character she was still barely out of childhood. “Jasper, I want you to call Candice right now, and organise a search party.”

“Miss Buckley, the binding is being reinforced all this month,” he replied smoothly. “Her entire Gym is engaged in that.”

“I don't care,” she said, without raising her voice or opening her eyes. “They can spare a few of them.”

Jasper hesitated.

“Fine,” he sighed at last. “But it's your decision, not mine.” He walked out to make the call, and I remembered dimly that you weren't allowed to use mobile phones in hospitals.

“Call Iago,” said Marley suddenly, breaking the ensuing silence.

Cynthia opened her eyes.

“Yes,” she said firmly. “Yes, you're right. If Iago answers, things must be OK. Right?”

“How would I know?” I asked. “Try it and see.”

Iago picked up immediately, unlike Ashley, and Cynthia's face broke into a look of relief – which was almost instantaneously replaced by a look of consternation.

“What?” she asked. “Why? I – yes, they're all here. All right.” She put her hand over her phone and said: “He wants to be put on speakerphone.”

“Well, put him on then,” I said, and Cynthia fiddled with her phone.

“There,” she said. “Now, tell me—”

“Greetings, assorted human scum and Ashley's daughter,” interrupted Iago, sounding more self-important than ever before. “You are there, right? Well, whatever. I want to make this official: I'm tendering my resignation.”

“What?” Cynthia looked blank; she hadn't been expecting that. Then again, neither had I.

“That's right.” Iago cleared his throat. “I know this removes me from all your lovely League protection, but, well, when it's time to move on...”

“Iago! What the hell are you talking about? Where's Ashley?”

“Scattered around liberally, I should imagine,” he said. “More importantly, did you know it's my birthday on Friday? I'm going to be thirty, which is kind of a milestone, if you think abou—”

“What have you done?”

I thought it was Cynthia speaking at first, but her mouth was still shut; Marley had wrenched the phone from her hand and was talking into it with a kind of cold, calm fury that was completely unlike anything I'd ever witnessed before; icy waves of weird, tranquil rage seemed to blast out around her, and I actually thought the room temperature had dropped for a moment.

“Hey, you are here!” cried Iago, apparently delighted. “Don't worry, sweetheart, your daddy's fine. Or he will be, given enough time to find his head.”

“You will die,” said Marley simply. It wasn't the best wording, but spoken in her voice with that force... well, it was the most potent threat I'd ever heard.

“We all die, kid,” replied Iago cynically. “Some slower than others, but we all die. I just plan to be old and rich when I do so.”

“I'll kill you.”

“Nice,” said Iago. “You're like the worst aspects of your mother and father rolled up into one, you know that? Can't you cut a guy a break? You and I both know that Ashley will be fine, so what's the issue? I'm taking the only path available to redress a grievous wrong that was done to me. It's nothing more or less than what you'll be doing if you kill me,” he added provocatively. “Actually, you'll be worse, since you'll be killing someone, and I guess that's bad.”

“You can't talk your way out of it,” said Marley, and I could have been mistaken but I thought I saw her irises start to spark yellow. “I will kill you.”

“Whatever,” he said, unimpressed. “I make it a rule not to feel threatened by small children. I'm just resigning and bringing you the news that Ashley is out of action for the foreseeable future. Now, sweetie, do you think you can hand me back to Cynthia—”

It was Cynthia's turn to snatch the phone away.

“Can you feel threatened by grown women and Pokémon Champions?” she asked, voice shivering with barely-suppressed rage. “Because Marley's going to have to race me to kill you.”

“Wow, Ashley's a lucky guy,” said Iago. “All these women falling at his feet. Though I suppose he isn't that lucky, all things considered.”

“Because you betrayed him and chopped him up?”

“No,” he replied. “Because he prefers men. Funny, I'd have thought you'd know that, being his girlfriend and all. Anyway,” he said, “I've got a criminal underworld to disappear into. Good luck with... whatever the hell it is you're doing. Ciao, kids.”

The line went dead, and for the longest time no one spoke. Then Cynthia looked at Marley, and Marley looked at Cynthia.

“Truce?” said Cynthia diffidently.

“Truce,” agreed Marley reluctantly. “It's more important to kill him first.”

“If I may protrude...?” asked Looker cautiously.

“Intrude,” corrected Marley. “And yes. Speak.”

“You don't want to discuss Iago now?” I asked.

“There's... I hate to say it, but he's right,” Cynthia growled. “Ashley will be fine, given a little time, and we don't have time to chase Iago right now, given that the Galactics must now have all three legendaries. Whatever they plan to do, it can't be good.”

“Ashley was the only one who knew what it was,” I said.

“Is the only one,” Cynthia insisted. “He's not dead. Just... dismembered.” She blinked, and turned back to Looker. “All right. What is it?”

“I want to get inside the Team Galactic Headquarters,” he said. “My investigations reveal that so do you. Enfin, I shall help you. I am very good at entering into the places where I am not wanted.”

“Yes, so it would seem,” muttered Jasper, coming back into the room. “Miss Buckley, I've called Candice. She isn't happy, but the search will be carried out.” He looked around. “Oh? Did something happen?”

“Iago called,” said Marley. “He's a traitor.”

Jasper raised his eyebrows.

“Well, I can't say I never thought it would happen,” he said. “That bloody fox was always a weak link in the organisation.”

“Blame Bertha,” said Cynthia. “She hired him. And now he's left Ashley in pieces at Lake Acuity.”

Jasper tutted.

“That's certainly the most dramatic letter of resignation I've ever heard of.”

“That was not funny.”

“Of course it wasn't. My apologies, Miss Buckley.”

“May I continue?” asked Looker, beginning to look exasperated. “I am trying to tell you all a plan!”

“Ah, I've interrupted. Please, carry on.”

Merci. Now, as I was saying, I am quite good at getting into places. I am suggesting we infiltrate the Galactic Headquarters.”

“Go on,” I said, and Looker glanced around; finding that, for what was probably the first time since he'd arrived in Sinnoh, he held everyone's attention in a positive way, he smiled broadly and assumed an announcing sort of posture.

“Well,” he said, “what I plan for to do is this...”

---

The man in black stood with his back to the wind, looking out over the mountains – over the whole of East Sinnoh, receding into the distance far below like a colossal toy set, tiny towns and matchbox cities dotted around it like the playthings of a giant.

“Not long now,” he said, all trace of an accent gone from his voice. “Noon at Tuesday at the latest, I think.” He smiled to himself and let his features blur and melt, the face he wore decaying and collapsing into another – a face that was best left hidden.

He turned back to face the altar, a single slab of granite hewn from the peak itself, and felt the skin of the world pulse weakly around it. Things had been done here – old rituals, forgotten rites – that had rendered the fabric of reality soft and pliable. In a place like this, anything could happen; death could be undone, and Gods could be born – or slain.

“The stone will break,” said the man in black – or whatever he was, since he most definitely had powers beyond those of any man. “It doesn't even matter if Gideon finds out the truth now. Which,” he mused, “makes kidnapping her friend and feeding her false information something of a waste of my time.”

He shrugged, and turned to look out over Sinnoh again.

“It doesn't matter,” he said at last. “Enjoy the sun while it lasts, and revel in the night when it falls.”

So saying, he walked over to the ancient altar of Spear Pillar, and settled down to sleep. There was nothing else to do but wait for the others to arrive, and for the Old Gods to break through the skin of the universe once again.
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  #120    
Old July 6th, 2012, 07:41 PM
dracoflare's Avatar
dracoflare
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post




“I am a master of disguise,” he replied. “It was, how do you say, the slice of pie.”

“A piece of cake, you mean.”


Quote:
“If I may protrude...?” asked Looker cautiously.
I literally Rolled on the floor laughing. when I read those. Poor Looker should improve his Sinnish.

Judging by how things are going...I think the story might be ending in ten chapters or so..if that does happen...then this story would be a lot smaller than Thinking Man's Guide, but oh well it's fine as long as you start another piece....

And who's that dude in the end...well, I guess I should keep guessing...I somehow suspect Pearl will get some random powers in the end...Ah, I can't wait for the final Arc!(which may have started already)

EDIT: What happened to your leaf green hack? 5 different story lines and all....
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  #121    
Old July 6th, 2012, 08:15 PM
c1234321's Avatar
c1234321
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
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Well that was a pretty good chapter. I loved Marley's reaction to Iago. I wanted to chuckle at how scared Iago actually was behind his bravado, but I found I couldnt because I was afraid of Marley. The girl is terrifying. And is the slight changing of her eyes to yellow an indication of power inside Marley as well? Because thatd be pretty cool. And the inclusion of the "man in black" talking about Pearl and Stephanie leads to me reinforcing my earlier theories. But I have to wonder now, is the man in black Giratina? But then who would that make the Desk Sitter? Because if the man in black is Giratina, my only other guess would be that the Desk Sitter would be Arceus aka God. See being God Arceus would be helping Cyrus leave this world because this world would most likely be better off without Cyrus, Liza, or Team Galactic. But then that would make Pearl and Ashley essentially archangels, defying their own God's will, seeing as they both possess power probably relating to the Sinnish PokeGods. But that seems a bit too complicated and blasphemic even for you. But, aside from my conspiracy tower, which is now higher than the Empire State Building, this was a pretty good chapter. Mostly exposition, but still well-written. ALso, no grammar mishaps by my watch. Oh I forgot to talk about Liza. These little snippets of her life are.....weird. What with the mirror spirit of Ronwe, who I am assuming was in the mirror, and her hair going brown and her becoming uncertain and forgetful like we saw in this chapter, I feel Liza becoming more of a background character. Earlier, I almost felt like Liza was more interesting because we saw more of her and got a lot of her personality. Now I feel like its just....deepening the mystery around her without actually leading us to get to know her better. Because, in my opinion, early Liza seemed like a cold-blooded, ruthless killer with no regrets. Now she seems more like a scared little girl hiding inside the shadow of both numerous aliases and also the shadow of the mishap involving Ashley/Izhlei. Whether you are implying the Iron Island incident psychologically scarred Liza or whether Ive been doing too much of Summer work for English and thus over analyzing everything remains to be seen. Regardless, this is still a very captivating story. Wonderful job. Oh and sorry about how all of my review type things are just massive blobs of text. I usually am just too lazy to edit it properly.
  #122    
Old July 8th, 2012, 03:35 AM
cronos5010
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: jakarta indonesia
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Nature: Timid
hello cutlerine i have a theory its about the desk sitter it think that its a spiritomb since it once said himself as we which means that its more than one thing he also says that when humanity first looked out from the fire light they were afraid when they saw the darkness looking back at them and it would explain why pigzie doodle said that it was a ghost, as you shall see in the pokedex description it says that it is a ghost dark type but its just a theory but ill see what you make the desk sitter into .
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Started by Blaziken Lover.
  #123    
Old July 19th, 2012, 08:00 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 20
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Nature: Impish
Hello! I've been away for a while, as I'm sure you've noticed; I've been abroad and didn't have internet access - or even computer access - and so I haven't written or replied to anything. Sorry about that, but I'm back now and ready to return to writing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
I literally Rolled on the floor laughing. when I read those. Poor Looker should improve his Sinnish.

Judging by how things are going...I think the story might be ending in ten chapters or so..if that does happen...then this story would be a lot smaller than Thinking Man's Guide, but oh well it's fine as long as you start another piece....

And who's that dude in the end...well, I guess I should keep guessing...I somehow suspect Pearl will get some random powers in the end...Ah, I can't wait for the final Arc!(which may have started already)
It's just starting up. And Pearl gets no random powers at the end; this is one simple ability that she's had since the start. It's just that no one's noticed it yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
EDIT: What happened to your leaf green hack? 5 different story lines and all....
I've lost all interest in ROM hacking, to be honest. After Snakewood, I realised that just as I'd finally acquired the skills to make a game without a huge number of ridiculous game-breaking bugs, I'd stopped caring enough to do so. I'm quite sad about it, really; maybe one day this summer I'll get back to Keratin and see what I can do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Well that was a pretty good chapter. I loved Marley's reaction to Iago. I wanted to chuckle at how scared Iago actually was behind his bravado, but I found I couldnt because I was afraid of Marley. The girl is terrifying. And is the slight changing of her eyes to yellow an indication of power inside Marley as well? Because thatd be pretty cool.
Marley is a scary child indeed - more broken, in many ways, than both Iago and Jasper. We'll have to see what happens there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
And the inclusion of the "man in black" talking about Pearl and Stephanie leads to me reinforcing my earlier theories. But I have to wonder now, is the man in black Giratina? But then who would that make the Desk Sitter? Because if the man in black is Giratina, my only other guess would be that the Desk Sitter would be Arceus aka God. See being God Arceus would be helping Cyrus leave this world because this world would most likely be better off without Cyrus, Liza, or Team Galactic. But then that would make Pearl and Ashley essentially archangels, defying their own God's will, seeing as they both possess power probably relating to the Sinnish PokeGods. But that seems a bit too complicated and blasphemic even for you.
Nothing is too complicated or blasphemous for me. Firstly, complication is no barrier since if I like something, I make it work no matter how difficult it is for me to understand. Secondly, I really don't care about blaspheming. I belong to an atheistic religion, for a start, and anyway I view religions as fair game for source material for stories, the same as anything else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
But, aside from my conspiracy tower, which is now higher than the Empire State Building, this was a pretty good chapter. Mostly exposition, but still well-written. ALso, no grammar mishaps by my watch. Oh I forgot to talk about Liza. These little snippets of her life are.....weird. What with the mirror spirit of Ronwe, who I am assuming was in the mirror, and her hair going brown and her becoming uncertain and forgetful like we saw in this chapter, I feel Liza becoming more of a background character. Earlier, I almost felt like Liza was more interesting because we saw more of her and got a lot of her personality. Now I feel like its just....deepening the mystery around her without actually leading us to get to know her better. Because, in my opinion, early Liza seemed like a cold-blooded, ruthless killer with no regrets. Now she seems more like a scared little girl hiding inside the shadow of both numerous aliases and also the shadow of the mishap involving Ashley/Izhlei. Whether you are implying the Iron Island incident psychologically scarred Liza or whether Ive been doing too much of Summer work for English and thus over analyzing everything remains to be seen. Regardless, this is still a very captivating story. Wonderful job. Oh and sorry about how all of my review type things are just massive blobs of text. I usually am just too lazy to edit it properly.
Ronwe is a killer, and so is Liza: if she wanted to, she could kill someone without a second thought. But these are not circumstances that can be solved by violence or cunning plans; this is a full-on existential crisis, and that can destroy anyone. Liza is falling apart; her mind's been smashed about far more than is healthy for anyone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cronos5010 View Post
hello cutlerine i have a theory its about the desk sitter it think that its a spiritomb since it once said himself as we which means that its more than one thing he also says that when humanity first looked out from the fire light they were afraid when they saw the darkness looking back at them and it would explain why pigzie doodle said that it was a ghost, as you shall see in the pokedex description it says that it is a ghost dark type but its just a theory but ill see what you make the desk sitter into .
We'll see if you're right quite soon now, although the Desk Sitter's identity isn't the real issue. The interesting question is what its plan is.

Thanks for reading, and sorry once again for the massive break. I'll try and get my writing back on track and have a chapter for you all soon!

F.A.B.
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  #124    
Old July 21st, 2012, 11:02 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Chapter Thirty-Seven: In Which Pearl Hears A Speech

'There was never anything strange about Johnson's Syndrome, other than the fact that it was almost impossible to replicate artificially – and God knows we tried.'
—Manser Korb, Devon Corporation


“You,” I whispered to Looker, “are an incredible man.”

He smiled, pleased.

Merci, mademoiselle,” he said, “but think nothing of it; it is my job.”

We were standing in the foyer of the Team Galactic building, along with Jasper (Marley and Cynthia were simply too recognisable), and I at least was quietly marvelling at Looker's skill. In what seemed like no time at all, he had constructed three remarkably accurate Team Galactic uniforms – with accompanying turquoise wigs – from what he had called his disguise kit, which had looked like a pile of rags and small bones; I guessed this was the sort of skill you needed to become a member of the International Police.

Once at the building, he had talked his way past the guard so easily and with such eloquence that I'd started to suspect that he actually had no problem speaking Sinnish whatsoever, and then proceeded to make up elaborate and totally plausible backstories for Jasper and I before stepping inside without ever actually showing any I.D. – a pretty spectacular feat, I thought. This, I reflected as I followed, was how a real detective did things. No high connections. No superpowers. Just a good disguise and sharp wits.

Although superpowers would be welcome, I supposed. I mean, they couldn't hurt—

“Mademoiselle?” interrupted Looker. “Follow me. We must not look like we have never been here before.”

“Oh. Right. Yeah, OK.”

I followed him across an impressive expanse of orange carpet – not exactly tasteful, but it was rich and luxuriant – and down a short corridor into the bowels of the building; we took the stairs up a floor and headed down another corridor, longer than but otherwise identical to the first. It was kind of unnerving to be so close to so many Galactics – they kept walking by, and one even stopped to say hello, thinking Looker was someone he knew – but no one seemed to notice, or perhaps to care, that we weren't supposed to be there.

“Where are we going?” I whispered, as soon as we reached an unoccupied stretch of the corridor.

“I am not sure,” said Looker. “We must find somewhere where we can stop and think without looking too suspicious.”

“I can stop anywhere without looking suspicious,” Jasper told him. “The eye slides over me.”

“Ah,” murmured Looker. “The Austen-Leigh technique.” He regarded Jasper with a new respect. “You are not foreign to the idea of infiltration?”

“No. I'm something of a connoisseur.”

“Ah.” Looker paused. “In here, I think,” he said, nodding discreetly at a door to our left.

“How do you know that there isn't someone in there?” I asked.

“I do not,” he replied, striding over to it, “but the important thing is to seem to the eye of the beholder that you know what you are doing.”

He pushed open the door as if he had every right in the world to do so and swept dramatically into the room beyond – which was some sort of boardroom, and also, as it turned out, deserted.

“So you see?” said Looker with satisfaction, indicating the room. “She is empty.”

Jasper shut the door quietly behind him and leaned against the wall next to it. He looked far too relaxed for someone so deep in enemy territory, I thought.

“All right,” he said. “Did you notice? The Galactics all seem to be going in the same direction. Something seems to be happening.”

“It has not lost my attention,” confirmed Looker. “They are heading for the second floor.”

“Should we follow them?” I asked. “See what's happening?”

“No,” replied Jasper. “Not all of us, at any rate. Our primary objective is to find and, if possible, secure the lake legendaries.” He paused, and then added with mild distaste: “And, I suppose, Miss Walker's Pokémon, should we find them.”

“Right,” I said. “Should we split up, then? Two of us go after the legendaries and one to see what's happening?”

“A good idea,” said Looker. “I shall go it alone, as you say, and see if I can find Mademoiselle Radley at this gathering of the Galactics.” He looked at Jasper. “Monsieur, you are capable of making your way on your own, are you not?”

“More than capable,” replied Jasper. “But I'm not so sure that we should divide our powers. If we release the legendaries, we will almost certainly be discovered, and even if we aren't, the whole building will be looking for us. For a good chance of escape, I think we might need our combined wits about us; Mister Looker here is evidently skilled at this sort of thing.”

“OK,” I said. “We can do that, I guess.”

“Now, I suppose we ought to move on. We don't want to appear suspicious on any CCTV footage.”

I glanced up at the corner of the room, and sure enough my eye fell upon a small camera; there was more security than just the bruisers at the door, then.

“Yeah, we should go,” I said. “We've probably been in here too long.”

“Quite.”

We left, and found to our surprise that the corridor was now packed with Galactics, all heading in the same direction; it looked like it wasn't going to be possible to go anywhere else without raising suspicion now, so we joined the crowd as inconspicuously as possible and let ourselves be swept along with it, wondering as we went where exactly we were going, and what we would find on the other end.

---

“Work is progressing much faster than expected,” said Charon, rubbing his large, greasy hands together. “The instructions are remarkably clear.”

Cyrus nodded. From the other side of the curtain he could hear the murmuring of a huge crowd, steadily growing as the auditorium filled; he had an address to make to the Team once he had finished with Charon.

“So when do you think it will be done?” he asked.

“Not long now,” Charon said. He really was a very ugly man, Cyrus noted. He wouldn't be bringing him into the new world; he could stand ugly and he could stand annoying, but he couldn't stand them combined as they were in Charon. “I should think we'll be done early tomorrow morning.”

“Twelve hours ahead of schedule,” said Cyrus. “Excellent.” He thought for a moment. “Do we need to keep the legendaries any longer?”

“No. We already have the stones; the bodies are no use to anyone.”

“Right. I'll oversee their release after this. I suppose I ought to, if I want it done properly.” Cyrus sighed. “Ever since that blasted explosion at Lake Valour, I've had a certain mistrust of my Commanders' capabilities.”

“Not, I trust, in mine?” asked Charon quickly. “I, Charon, the genius that even you recog—”

“You know, I would stay and listen but I have to give the speech now,” said Cyrus swiftly, and was about to turn and walk through the curtain – but then he remembered that Liza wasn't here yet, and turned back to Charon, cursing under his breath.

“Something the matter?” asked Charon.

“Yes,” muttered Cyrus to himself. “I'm suffering a terrible surfeit of your company.”

“What was that?”

“Nothing. You should return to the laboratory, Charon. Continue the good work.”

“As you command, sir.” Charon made an obsequiously low bow and backed out of the room.

“I really cannot stand that man,” said Cyrus, when the door had shut behind him.

“How emotional of you,” said the Desk Sitter slyly, from their seat on the floor.

“You can shut up. You're a hallucination.”

“Yes, but we are a mighty hallucination,” said the Desk Sitter petulantly and somewhat obscurely, and lapsed back into silence.

Cyrus waited a few minutes longer, and peeked out around the edge of the curtain; the auditorium was almost full now, and there was still no sign of Liza.

“Where is she?” he wondered, withdrawing. “She should have been here at four—”

“Yes, I know,” she said, which made him jump. “Sorry. I got – I don't even know what happened, actually.”

Cyrus turned in time to see her shut the door behind her, and blinked in surprise: he wasn't sure what, but there was something different about her, something that had changed in the time since he'd seen her last.

“You look... better,” he said. “Did something happen?”

“I delayed the Diamond as long as I could,” replied Liza. “He got his daughter back in the end, though I don't think we've seen the last of her; we still have her Pokémon.”

“It's all right. Lacrimére has been incapacitated now,” Cyrus told her. “Buried at Lake Acuity.”

Liza smiled, and it was that same hard, cold smile that she had used when they had first met.

“Excellent,” she said. “Glad to hear it.” She glanced at the curtain. “The speech, then?”

“Yes, yes,” said Cyrus. “Let's get to it—”

“Good.” Liza strode over to the curtain with surprising energy and grabbed the edge. “I'm feeling good right now,” she said, and Cyrus wasn't sure whether she was talking to him or not. “Really good. Like I've been... reborn, out of the dark.” She laughed quietly. “I had a dream that I was a princess called Ronwe,” she said, and Cyrus had the feeling that she was talking to him, that for some reason she felt she had to share this. “Then I woke up, and I feel so much better now. Like I could kill anyone. But I can't keep talking; I missed our appointment and you have to give the speech. I shouldn't keep you.”

“What?” said the Desk Sitter hoarsely, rearing up. “What did she say about Ronwe?”

But Liza had flung the curtain back now and was ushering Cyrus out, and any thought he might have given to considering her words was gone. He stepped out onto the stage, and spread his arms wide.

“My friends,” he said. “My friends, it has been a long time coming, but we are finally nearing the end of our journey...”

---

“Do you hear that?”

Kester, Sapphire and Felicity, guided by the disembodied voice of Puck, had been wandering the building for hours; all were now running low on ideas for compliments, and indeed on any faith in Puck's knowledge of the way out.

“Hear what?”

They were somewhere on the fifth floor, though of course they didn't know that; in fact, they had passed three different exits a total of seven times over the course of their travels, and had missed them all with unerring accuracy.

“That sound,” said Puck. “And on the cameras, too... Everyone's going to the auditorium.”

“So what?” asked Kester. “Just get us out of here!”

Most of the Galactics had returned several hours ago, and the little group had grown increasingly desperate as the traffic in the corridors intensified; there had been several occasions where they'd had to duck into cupboards or flatten themselves against walls around corners. The security cameras weren't an issue – Puck fed them blank footage whenever they were in their sight – but there was nothing they could do to combat the human eye.

“No, it's really weird,” continued Puck, sounding perturbed. “The whole place is almost empty. Even the security room. In fact, it's emptier than—”

“Can you not do one of those now?” snapped Sapphire. “They're really sodding unhelpful.”

“All right, all right,” sighed Puck. “Come on, then. We should keep moving.”

“We've been moving for a long, long time now, Puck,” said Kester. “Do you even know the way out of here?”

“Yes!” cried Puck indignantly. “Well, maybe. Well, not really.”

“Puck—!”

“In my defence, there isn't a schematic stored anywhere on the system—”

“What the hell have you been doing all this time?”

“No, what have you been doing—”

“Ssh!” hissed Felicity violently. “You're making too much noise!”

“Right, right,” replied Kester, lowering his voice. “OK. Look, Puck, just get us out of the building, all right?”

“Are you sure you don't want to investigate the auditorium?”

“Yes,” said the others forcefully, and Puck bowed under the pressure of their combined voices.

“Fine,” he sighed. “OK. We can't be far from the exit now...”

---

“I suppose Cyrus is going to give some sort of address,” said Jasper, looking around the room. “Motivational or some such thing.”

“Cyrus?” I asked nervously. “He couldn't see us, could he?”

Jasper stared pointedly out over the sea of red velour seats, and up at the distant stage.

“All right, all right, you made your point.”

“We shall not be identified,” Looker said confidingly. “We appear to be just as everyone else.”

It was true: we were in the middle of the fifth row from the back, which put us pretty deep in the midst of a vast crowd of blue-haired, silver-suited Galactic goons who were all superficially identical to us. The odds were slim that Cyrus would even notice us, let alone realise who we were.

“These are very nice seats,” observed Jasper, rubbing his fingertips over the upholstery. “I want some of this material for my armchair.” He reached beneath the seat, took hold of something and wrenched; there was a ripping noise, and his hand came back with a scrap of red velour clenched in it.

I stared.

“What the hell? Did you actually just do that?”

“How else will my upholsterer know what I want?” he asked, and tucked the fabric into his pocket.

I looked at Looker, who shrugged.

“He has a point,” he said. “The fine cloths are difficult to find – although I would be more concerned about price, considering the crise financiére.”

“What is wrong with you people?” I asked plaintively. “This is a serious situation!”

“I'm perfectly serious,” said Jasper sharply. “If I'm going to give up my lunch with the ambassador – which I know for a fact was going to be a divine lobster terrine – I'm at least going to take advantage of any soft furnishings that happen to come my way!”

“Jesus Christ,” I muttered, and would have muttered more had not a tall man with short, spiky blue hair and an elegant silver coat stepped out from behind the curtain. For a moment, my mind raced – I had seen him before somewhere, I just knew it – and then I realised: he was the man Marley and I had met in the tunnels in Mount Celestic. We'd actually met Cyrus before, and I'd never even noticed it was him. Hell, I didn't know if he'd known it was me. Surely he must have done? Why hadn't he tried to kill me there?

While I was trying to work that out, a mighty cheer went up from the assembled Galactics, and Cyrus let it ring out for a few moments before raising his hands for silence.

“My friends,” he began, and I noticed that he needed no microphone; his voice boomed out powerfully through the air like the roar of a tiger. “My friends, it has been a long time coming, but we are finally nearing the end of our journey. The key to reshaping the universe is within our grasp.” He paused for a moment, to let that sink in, and continued: “We have come so far. You must have seen it yourselves. Think back, those of you who remember, to Sunyshore, to those first hard months; think back to the Sign, to that terrific moment when the clouds split apart and your path and mine was revealed to us!”

The crowd erupted into another bout of cheering, and Cyrus didn't resume speaking for a full ten seconds.

“I saw the future, and invited you to help me build it,” he said. “And today we lay the cornerstone of that future, the foundation of a truly free humanity. Against all the odds, in the face of fate itself, we have succeeded! We have evaded the League, beaten back the self-righteous and defeated the legendary Pokémon themselves. Even the Diamond has fallen; as we speak, his head is settling into the mud at the bottom of Lake Acuity. Nothing stands in our way now – not the paltry stratagems of our last opponents, not anything!

“And this is precisely the time we have been waiting for – the time to stand up and claim freedom, the time to put the finishing touches on imperfect humanity and ascend to a state of true completion. There is no one left to stop us, my friends. We stand on the threshold of a new world.” He paused, and cast a benevolent gaze across the crowd. “Well done,” he said simply. “And thank you, each and every one of you, for making our dream a reality.”

There was furious applause now, and the Galactics were on their feet, many with tears of joy in their eyes.

“Do you remember what I told you all at the start?” asked Cyrus, his voice quiet and yet somehow cutting through the clamour to my ears. “'This world of ours is a crude one. In a word, it is incomplete. It has been, and always will be, a struggle to survive in this world.'” He paused, and smiled gently. “You have proved me wrong, my friends. The struggle to survive has ended. We have won.”

The auditorium exploded with rapture, and Cyrus took a bow.

“Thank you very much for listening,” he said. “Prepare for departure, Team Galactic. Tomorrow, we leave – for the end of time!”

With that, he strode offstage, and the Galactics, if it was possible, went wilder. Chaos reigned for a full three minutes, and in the end Mars and Saturn had to restore order; after that, everyone began to file out, chattering excitedly.

“Well,” I said, looking at Jasper, “that was weird.”

“You're telling me,” he replied, with an odd look on his face.

“What?”

“You do realise that you and Looker stood up and cheered like mad with all the Galactics, don't you?” he asked.

What?”

“It's true. Haven't you noticed? You're standing up right now, for God's sake.”

I blinked. It was true: he was sitting down, waiting for the people ahead of him in the row to leave, and Looker and I were standing. I could even feel the faint sting of applause on my hands – yet I couldn't remember even getting to my feet.

Mon dieu,” murmured Looker. “I know not what came over me!”

“I take it that wasn't supremely good acting, then,” said Jasper. “Hm. It would seem Cyrus has some small modicum of power himself. It would explain why everyone went so wild over his decidedly average speech.”

“Average?” I asked, as he stood up. “No, it was amazing!”

“Indeed!” added Looker vehemently. “Spectac... oh.”

“Exactly,” said Jasper, beginning to follow the line of people out of the row. “Some mental trick, I expect. Type A Johnson's Syndrome or something similar.”

“Like Lucian?” I asked.

“Yes. Although he's Type B, as far as I know.”

Johnson's Syndrome – more commonly known as 'being psychic' – was relatively uncommon in Sinnoh; it was a minor genetic condition that conferred a very mild variant of the psychic abilities common to Psychic-type Pokémon on the sufferer. Usually, people who had it made good Trainers, specialising in Ghosts and Psychics; Lucian Lechance of the Elite Four had it, for instance, and so did Mortimer Faust, the famous Gym Leader of Ecruteak City in Johto.

“Right. So he... put emotions into our heads?”

“Something like that.” We reached the door, and Jasper held it open for me and Looker. “Although there was something a little odd about it. To be able to affect so many people at once, so strongly... Well, frankly, I don't care to be around someone that strange, and that powerful.”

We let the swell of Galactics carry us out into the hall and around the corner, where we hung back and let them pass in a great rush of excited conversation. A moment later, we were on our own, and Looker said:

“But Monsieur Platinum, why were you not affected?”

Jasper smiled a very unpleasant smile, like a vampire preparing to strike.

“I am different,” he said. “As Miss Gideon already knows.”

There it was again – that sense of wrongness, hanging around Jasper like the stench of decay. What was it? Actually, did I even want to know? Whatever it was, it was probably one of those things that it was far better to remain ignorant of.

“I see,” said Looker, who obviously didn't. “Well, I did not see Mademoiselle Radley in the auditorium or in the crowd. Perhaps we should try and find your legendary Pokémon, and see if we can find her en route?”

“That sounds good to me,” I replied. “Jasper?”

“The sooner we find them, the sooner we can leave,” he said philosophically. “Let's do it.” He glanced down the corridor. “Come on. This place is vast; we'd better start looking now if we want to find them some time today.”

---

A serious tune, an elegant computer graphic; the words NEWS OF SINNOH rushed across the screen and everything faded to the presenter behind her desk.

“The investigation into the explosion at Lake Valour is ongoing. Police are uncertain about the cause of the blast, and are keen to speak to alleged witness Cynthia Buckley, Pokémon League Champion.” Cut to footage of the lake, a sea of mud and pale dead fish; a few Magikarp flapped weakly. Experts stalked over the wreckage like elderly herons, caged in by a mass of police tape. “Buckley is recovering in hospital from injuries sustained at the scene of the incident. In other news, a train derailed three miles outside Sunyshore earlier this afternoon, killing fifteen people and injuring thirty. The Transport Authority say it's the biggest accident on the line in twenty years—”

Click.

“At least Lethe told them I was still in hospital,” said Cynthia, tossing the remote onto the table. “Though it's probably the only good thing to happen today.”

“Yes,” agreed Marley, sitting stiffly on the couch and picking at a loose thread on her sleeve. They were at Cynthia's old apartment in Veilstone, the city she'd grown up in; when she'd become Champion, she'd moved to a League house on Gibbous Island, but her parents were only too happy to have her back for an afternoon. In fact, they'd been so happy that it had taken Cynthia considerable effort to get them out of the room long enough for her and Marley to watch the news in peace.

“I hate having to stay here,” Cynthia went on, jumping to her feet and pacing up and down. “Why can't people just leave me alone to save Sinnoh and avenge the mutilation of my boyfriend?”

Marley shrugged.

“People are like that,” she said. “They keep asking and asking, and never understand the answer.”

Cynthia paused and gave her a look.

“Stop it,” she said sharply. “I know you're being creepy on purpose.”

Marley returned her gaze with one of utter calm, and Cynthia shook her head in despair.

“Mum, Dad, you can come back in now,” she said dispiritedly. “I suppose.”

Her parents came in, and she was swamped in familial affection; even the distant Marley was drawn in, like a beam of light into a black hole – but whatever their mood, the grim, black look never left her face. Somewhere out there, pieces of Ashley were being silently entombed by the drifting snow, and she could not shake the shadow of that knowledge.
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  #125    
Old July 29th, 2012, 10:25 PM
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teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
Just wanted to say, a while back I strongly suspected the bomb was fake... turned out I was right, although I have no way to prove it. Seems Cyrus has studied Sun Tzu.
I like your way of villain writing, you make them demonstrably competent instead of relying on cheap indicators (such as a scary reputation, or "intellectual" games such as chess or Rubik's cubes).

Well I have another speculation and a way to post it without Cutlerine knowing what it is and changing the story to mess with it.

Calling it... now.

filename:
cutlerine 000.txt

MD5:
b9294a5150fe2ad75ae67b92967a7545
 
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