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  #151    
Old September 3rd, 2012, 11:07 AM
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
WHAT. THE. HELICOPTER.

Bond:
*deliberately places aircraft in unrecoverable flight regime*
*recovers*

Congratulations, This Character Has Earned Serious Respect.

Oh and that Skarmory, would it happen to be inspired by a certain character from bobandbill's Retelling of Pokemon Colosseum?

Back to Bond, I kinda have this fantasy where he stole a better aircraft at the military base instead of just refueling the heli. And by "a better aircraft" I mean an AC-130 Spectre or equivalent. Then you'd have a Spectre crewed by spectres, hehe

Although I guess having Pokemon reduces incentive for the military to acquire gunships... and of course Cyrus would probably bring SAMs if they did.

Quote:
“And we're looking at more than a hundred.”
There are exactly 300 Absol.

Quote:
“My name is Bond, madam,” he said. “Gabriel Bond.
lol

At this point I would like to remind you of the prediction I committed by md5 hash earlier, because I think we will soon see whether it is correct or not.

I would also like to ask if you listened to Drifen yet, and if you have figured out what it is that First Contact, Morphic, and The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World have in common.
  #152    
Old September 3rd, 2012, 11:24 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
WHAT. THE. HELICOPTER.

Bond:
*deliberately places aircraft in unrecoverable flight regime*
*recovers*

Congratulations, This Character Has Earned Serious Respect.
Yeah, I know you can't really do that. Then again, Bond has already done an jumped a car over a pit and opened train doors from the outside while the train is moving, so I figured he could do that. I mean, the man seems to generate action movie stunts simply by touching vehicles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
Oh and that Skarmory, would it happen to be inspired by a certain character from bobandbill's Retelling of Pokemon Colosseum?
To my eternal shame, I haven't actually read The Retelling of Pokémon Colosseum. I know I quoted it in my other story, but I did that by clicking random page numbers and searching for chapters with Miror B. in.

There is an inspiration for old Queenie, though, and that's Queen Anne from Bastion. One of my all-time favourite bosses, in one of my all-time favourite game levels, set to one of my all-time favourite pieces of game music, in one of my all-time favourite games. Rest in peace, Queenie.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
Back to Bond, I kinda have this fantasy where he stole a better aircraft at the military base instead of just refueling the heli. And by "a better aircraft" I mean an AC-130 Spectre or equivalent. Then you'd have a Spectre crewed by spectres, hehe
Well, he could've done that, but I think someone might have noticed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
Although I guess having Pokemon reduces incentive for the military to acquire gunships... and of course Cyrus would probably bring SAMs if they did.
I expect they do have them, but they aren't all that good. Sinnoh hasn't been involved in any warfare for quite some time - since its disastrous involvement in Korea, I think.


Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
There are exactly 300 Absol.
Maybe there were. Unfortunately, Puck wasn't around to see them and make the joke.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
At this point I would like to remind you of the prediction I committed by md5 hash earlier, because I think we will soon see whether it is correct or not.
We shall. Assuming that it was a prediction about the Desk Sitter, Liza, the man in black or Ashley, that is. Anything else and it's kind of irrelevant by this point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dracoflare View Post
I would also like to ask if you listened to Drifen yet, and if you have figured out what it is that First Contact, Morphic, and The Thinking Man's Guide to Destroying the World have in common.
Glugh. Yes and no, in that order.

Tune in next time, for more fabulous showdowns and dazzling revelation!

F.A.B.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #153    
Old September 4th, 2012, 12:51 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Forty-Four: In Which the Desk Sitter Stands Up

'Hear the bass notes of the bard, of the teller of tales; hear it and despair! For the Great Poison rides forth, the prince of dark powers, and its voice is death in the air...'
—Antel's Song, translated from the Old Sinnish by Arthur Montmoncery


The shadow swelled and shot upwards into the sky, forming a vast pillar of raging darkness that boiled with palpable fury; two great pronged arms sprung out from either side, and from the top of the pillar those vast, burning eyes glared down – red pits that each held in their core a majesty far more awful than that of Dialga or Palkia. This creature might not have been as beautiful as them, but it outclassed them completely in terms of the sheer force of its presence.

“The Destroyer!” cried Cynthia, but I didn't need to be told. It was pretty obvious.

Cyrus had tried to change reality. And the third god, the one whose task it was to maintain reality, had stepped in to put an end to it.

“So, the legends are true,” said Cyrus, staring up at the pillar of night with astounding bravery for someone who's just called down an avenging demon on his head. “There is a third god, dedicated to maintaining the balance. But there can be no interfere—”

The Destroyer flexed its arms, or wings or whatever they were, and the Red Chain exploded. Shards of burning stone shot out through the air, winding through the distortions in space and time and vanishing from sight; in a moment of clarity, I realised that one short piece of the Chain would find its way to Sendoff Spring four thousand years ago, and come to rest in the soil until it was discovered a couple of days ago by the archaeological team who had told Cynthia through Professor Rowan.

“What?” said Cyrus, his face suddenly drained of all colour. “No – no, nothing has the strength to—”

From the base of the pillar a flat disc of swirling blue light appeared, and Cyrus vanished into it without a sound. A moment later, the pillar of darkness collapsed and disappeared, far too swiftly for something of its size, and all that was left was the pool of light. Behind it, Dialga and Palkia faded quietly, disappearing into the ersatz night, and the sky began to lighten.

For the longest moment, no one could move. Was it over? Had everything... returned to normal? Was Cyrus' vision extinguished?

Then, as it became apparent that nothing was going to happen, life gradually crept back over the Pillar. Jasper and Cynthia pushed past the stupefied Commanders and came over to Marley and I; Bond bowed briefly and hurried down the nave to where he had left the little girl and the skull-faced thing; Ashley's bones fit back together with a grating crunch, and he got effortfully to the spikes that passed for his feet.

“Thank God,” he sighed, through that ravaged slash of a mouth. “They could not kill me, but they could certainly make life he—”

“Izhlei,” said a voice from behind him – no, a hundred voices, all speaking in unison. “Izhlei, we have been waiting for you.”

From the ground where Cyrus had been standing rose a fine purple-black mist; it billowed up from between the stones in waves, and slowly coiled about itself until it formed a cloud, studded with dozens upon dozens of human faces, each continually reforming as the mists that composed them shifted and swayed. In every single one, twin balls of green fire blazed in place of eyes. If I had seen it just a few minutes ago, I would have been terrified; however, I had just seen three gods and a narrowly-averted apocalypse, so I was more than a little jaded.

“We were trapped in that stone for a long, long time,” said the faces in the mist. Some were male, some were female; all had a hissing sibilance to their voice. “You bound us well, but time wears even stone to dust eventually. The keystone broke, and we were left trapped in a fragment, collected, polished and set in a pendant. A pendant that found its way into the Maragos family, and was passed down for generations until it reached the hands of a young man willing to change the world.”

No one spoke – not we League people, not the Galactics, not the Commanders or the motley crew behind the altar: in some way, we all realised that this was Ashley's fight.

Ashley did not face the cloud, but the skin of his face seethed with anger – and fear, I thought. Yes, there was definitely some fear there.

“You told him everything, didn't you?” he asked. “You told him how to work the altar, how to summon them...”

“Yes. We did. For there was one of us left on the outside, Izhlei – one who escaped the sealing.”

“Yes, I know,” said Ashley, finally turning. “Ronwe. She is trapped in a cloud of forgetting, and believes herself to be a human.”

“No,” said the mist. “Not her.”

“Not at all,” agreed the man who had just wandered out into the nave. “Me, in fact.” He bowed. “I am Beleth. I expect you don't remember me, but I remember you. I've been watching and waiting for my opportunity for a long, long time.”

As I watched, his black-clad body dissolved and spiralled into the main body of the cloud; a moment later, his face appeared on its restless surface.

“It was his idea,” said the many voices once more. “Our binding was unbreakable, but if the stone we were bound into was lost outside of this mortal world, the binding would cease to exist. Not break – simply not be.” The faces grinned. “We cannot leave this world, but that stone could. We did not tell Cyrus that Giratina would swallow him into the other world; thus he came here and opened a rift; thus the stone in his pendant passed through with him; thus our binding left this world without us, and we are free.”

Ashley's wings decayed, and once again formed themselves into those sharp-edged tentacles.

“I have beaten you once,” he said. “I shall do it again.”

“No,” said the cloud. “You are old. Weak. And you have just been slain twice. You have little energy, and still less power to expend it on. We, however, never age, never die, and never grow tired. You will fall before us. But first – let us refresh dear Ronwe's memory.”

Abruptly, a coil of mist struck out from the main cloud, and hoisted Liza to her feet from within a heap of dead Absol; despite the fact that I had last seen her at the centre of a cluster of whirling blades, she seemed mostly unharmed. I stared for a moment, and then it hit me: that was what had happened in the Iron Island caves. If Liza was this Ronwe, who thought she was a human, then she must have remembered her identity for a while and fought Ashley before she forgot again. And that meant—

Cal. Ronwe had easily defeated Ashley on her own back then. Now there were at least a hundred more just like her. Which meant a hundred times the power.

All focused on Ashley.

“The – the ****?” she said, looking up at the cloud. “What are...?”

“Ronwe,” said the faces, clustering together the cloud's flank so that they could better see her. “Ronwe, who are we?”

Liza stared.

“You're... my God.” I watched her face, and saw an exquisite series of emotions roll across it: relief, sadness, realisation, fragile hope... “Where have I been?” she asked, voice barely a whisper.

“We do not know,” said the cloud kindly. “But it does not matter. You can come home now.”

“Home.” Liza's lips traced the word, but no sound came out; something beautiful was shining in her eyes, but it was snuffed out a second later when she dissolved into smoke, and poured into the belly of the great, rolling cloud. A moment later, her face reappeared, this time on the upper part of the mist, and now all beauty was gone from it: she was just a scary ghost face, just like all the others. Liza was gone, I felt; now, there was only Ronwe. I thought it should have taken longer – it didn't feel right like this – but there it was. In the blink of an eye, Liza Radley had been overwritten by the demonic thing named Ronwe, her personality erased completely in less than the time it took to sneeze.

“Now,” said the cloud. “Shall we begin? We feel we really ought to destroy you before we take up our reign of terror where we left off.”

“One moment,” replied Ashley. “I would like to address the humans.”

“Ah, of course. Please, make them disperse. We should love the sport of hunting each down at our leisure.”

“People of Team Galactic,” said Ashley, his head rotating to face them without his body moving. “I suggest you leave this place immediately. There is nothing more for you here, and you all stand in imminent danger of death.

“Those of you, however, who came with the League, or otherwise with the intent of vanquishing those who would vandalise this world, I ask you to stay. It is very likely that the Geist will kill you all, I cannot deny – but if you stand by me, we may yet defeat it.”

“That was a curiously heroic speech for you, Izhlei,” purred the Geist, as Ashley had called it. “You are hiding something from us, are you not? Ah, it does not matter. We shall have plenty of time to burn it out of you – once these delightful toys of yours are dead.”

Then it started, so fast I almost didn't even notice. The Geist reached out black fingers towards Ashley, a hundred hideously extended human arms sprouting from its sides, and he shot forwards, tentacles scything through them like sickles through corn – at least, that was what I thought happened; the whole manoeuvre took place in less than a second, and all I saw was lines, black and rusty red and green, flashing through the air—

“Pearl!” snapped Cynthia. “Follow me!”

I looked around wildly, startled to hear her voice.

“What?”

“His speech!” she yelled, grabbing my hand and starting to run. “It didn't sound like him at all – like it said, too heroic! He just wants to buy time!”

“For what?”

I stumbled after her as best I could; I think I'd hurt my ankle in the fight earlier – or maybe I was just dazed, I don't know.

“To get the damn pendant back, of course!” snapped Cynthia. “Otherwise—”

She ran out of breath there, but I got the picture. The demon had been bound into a stone, which was currently outside of space and time and so couldn't hold it any longer. But bring that stone back inside the universe, and the binding ought to take effect. I didn't even think that someone might call this crazy. Since the helicopter had landed in a snowfield full of white wolves dedicated to saving the world, pretty much every impossible thing you cared to name had happened, and right now I was prepared to believe anything at all.

I didn't look, but I heard shouts and screams behind and around us; people were running away, and fighting the Geist, and all sorts, noises piling up and around me in a tottering cacophonous mountain that any moment was going to topple over and bury me in sound—

—and then suddenly we were past the cloud and the battle and jumping into a sea of dizzying blueness, and the world turned very silent and very wrong all at once.

---

As Pearl and Cynthia vanished, the disc of light imploded silently; there was no following them, but no one noticed. The remnants of the Team were fleeing, providing a great moving backdrop of blue and silver to the duel in the centre of the temple; the ghosts and the remaining League forces formed a loose ring in the running mass, and in the middle of them Ashley and the spirits formerly known as the Desk Sitter fought.

Rusting lines sliced through the air to impact harmlessly on black walls; violet hammers arced outwards, punching foot-deep holes where spiked feet had been a moment before; green and yellow fire burned in a deadly dance, flying and whirling in the midst of a storm the likes of which Sinnoh had not seen for over four hundred years.

And as abruptly as it had begun, before the Galactics had even all made it to the stairs, it finished. The combatants separated: there was Ashley, still standing, tentacles frozen in an attitude of war; there was the Geist, now looking like an army, a host of a hundred all staring at him as one.

“Will you yield?” asked the Geist.

“Never,” replied Ashley, and collapsed.

“Yes, we thought as much,” said the Geist, faintly amused. Their purple-black fumes oozed forth from the cavity in his chest, where they had gripped the crystal heart, and rejoined their main body. “Goodnight, King of Sinnoh. When you wake, we will have repainted your kingdom for you in the blood of your subjects.”

The hundred figures within them made as one to walk towards the stairs, where the last Galactics were now disappearing; however, they discovered that there was something standing in their path.

“Little girl,” said the Geist. “We find ourselves confused by your presence. Why do you stand before us?”

“I owe it to Dad,” replied Marley simply. There was a cold light building in her eyes, an unnatural incandescence that seemed to well up from somewhere beyond the boundaries of her slim figure.

“Oh!” exclaimed the Geist – or half of them, anyway; the rest seemed to be laughing. “A Princess of Sinnoh. Izhlei must be so very proud. But you seem – how shall we put this? – distinctly mortal.”

“Appearances can be deceptive.”

“Very well,” sighed the Geist. “We suppose we have time to slay you before we return to our pillaging.”

“I too have a grievance to register with you, gentlemen, ladies,” said another voice, a voice dry with the grave. “I believe part of you killed me and my employers.”

The Geist's collective gaze moved to Marley's right, and saw a man in his fifties standing there – a man who had seen death, and held his hat for him while he spoke with the master of the house.

“A ghost?” it said. “A ghost and a little Princess. You cannot be serious.”

“A ghost, a Princess and a strülden,” corrected Jasper, stepping out in front of it. “It may not like me, but I happen to rather like this nation, and I'd die before I let you have it.”

“This is altruism, isn't it?” said the Geist, an idea striking them. “We have not encountered this in a long time. It is strange. Those with only one life are always the most eager to throw it away.”

“I guess you're right,” agreed a bloodied Saturn, limping into place in the line, leaning heavily on his Toxicroak. “I stand against you, too. You made a mockery of our leader's glorious vision – of the perfect world. I won't allow that.”

“Neither will I,” said Jupiter softly. “This is chaos. And chaos is unacceptable.”

“What the hell,” growled Mars, stepping forwards. “A fight's a fight, and vengeance is vengeance.”

“You are the most despicable creature I have ever come across,” said Pigzie Doodle. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for you, but if there's no one left in Sinnoh, there's no one left to record my legacy.”

“And – and you drove me out to die!” cried Ellen, taking a shaking step forwards the Geist.

The huge Ghost stared at the line of little figures before them.

“We will give you one chance, and one chance only,” they said. “You may flee now and tell the world that the Geist has returned to ravage its face once again. Or you may stay, and we will consume you from skin to soul.”

Jasper stared back, unimpressed.

“Your threats appear to be very out of date,” he observed. “They might have impressed the peasantry of the sixteenth century, but I for one am not cowed. Villains these days tend to go for the darkly alluring approach; I believe if you ask Ronwe or Beleth, you'll realise what I mean.”

Every one of the Geist's faces glowered.

“Barely more than mortal,” they said in a low snarl. “You are almost a corpse, and you dare to speak to us in that impertinent manner?”

Jasper stared back insolently.

“Your time is past,” he said. “Miss Walker – everyone – I think the time for talking is over.”

“Your deaths will be exquisite,” rumbled the Geist warningly.

“**** you,” replied Marley, and kicked it in the nearest set of shins she could find.

---

“OK,” I said, staring out through the void. “Where the hell are we and what's happening?”

We stood on a small island, floating adrift in the middle of absolute nothingness; it wasn't black, or white or hot or cold, it was just... nothing. Other islands hung at random locations from the abyss, some the same way up as ours, and others on their sides, or upside down; in the distance, I even saw a waterfall running upwards to connect two parallel rivers, four hundred feet apart. There was no law, no overriding logic to this place; it was like a god's scrapbook, full of pieces of universes he had cut out and stuck here, heedless of the angle.

“This is the Distortion World,” Cynthia replied. “It's the scaffolding behind reality. These islands support parts of our world, keeping it as it should be. And somewhere in here is a forest of statues, each supporting a different living thing. The Destroyer waits here in the form of Giratina, the gardener of reality. It keeps the world running as it should.”

“It's... incredible.”

I meant it literally. I couldn't credit it. The laws of our universe seemed to apply in microcosm, to each individual isle – but not overall. Nature was strangely, impossibly localised.

“Take your time,” said Cynthia. “Time doesn't exist here, so when we leave we'll come back at the exact second we arrived.”

“No time? How does that... actually, I don't think I can understand.”

“No one can,” she replied. “Time is stamped into our core even before we're born. It's so much a part of us that we can't imagine life without it.”
It just didn't make sense. It felt like time was passing – one moment after another, just like normal – but apparently it wasn't.

“Come on,” said Cynthia at length, tearing her eyes away from the view. “Cyrus can't have gone far.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, blinking forcefully to stop myself staring. “He can't.”

There was one other island near ours, bobbing gently up and down about three feet away, and Cynthia nodded at it.

“We're going to have to jump,” she said. “I don't want to fly here – I don't know what happens if you go away from the islands.”

“O-K,” I replied, looking at the gap and the endless void beneath with some consternation. “What happens if we fall?”

“I have no idea, and I don't want to find out. So don't fall.”

Cynthia eyed the gap for a moment, then took it at a run and floated slowly through the air; after a full second of graceful gliding, she landed gently on the other side.

“Uh, right,” she said, looking back at me. “Gravity sort of... stops... about a foot and a half away from the land. Makes it easier to jump, I guess.”

“That's... comforting? Yeah, it's comforting. I think.”

I took a deep breath, took a couple of steps' run and jumped out over the abyss – to drift forward for a moment, and come to a rest softly on the sandy surface of the other island. I sighed in relief: back on solid ground. Relatively speaking.

“OK,” I said. “I think I can do this. Let's keep moving.”

This island was long and thin, and though there were other islands nearby, they kept disappearing as we approached; when we got to the other end, however, we found one that didn't – though it was perpendicular to us. Cynthia jumped at it dubiously, and by some strange quirk of gravity she fell feet-first onto it. She stuck out parallel to the ground I stood on, and looked across – or up, from her point of view – at me with an expression of dizziness.

“That's really, really weird,” she said.

“You're telling me.”

“Do it quick and don't think about it,” she advised, and I did. As advertised, it was really, really weird, and left my brain feeling slightly scrambled. But we carried on, making our way down the strip of land and jumping at the first island we encountered that didn't fade into nothingness at the sight of us. It was as if something was guiding us, I thought – and maybe it was. There was certainly no other way to find your way in here.

“So,” I asked Cynthia as we made our way along an upside-down dirt road, “what is that thing back there? The Geist or whatever?”

“I didn't recognise it until I saw it there.” Cynthia sighed, joining me on the edge. “It's in the legends, but we never had any doubt that it was real. I mean, it literally changed Sinnoh's maps. Razed towns to the ground and everything – it's in all the historical records

“I don't know why Ashley calls it the Geist – maybe that's what it used to call itself. We've always known it as Spiritomb.” She paused. “Do you know how Ghosts are made?”

“No.”

“They arise from consciousness,” she said. “They're the detritus of human thought. Rotom are the spirit of Generation Y, for example.”

“Yeah, I can see that.”

From what I'd seen of Puck, he was every single aspect of my generation rolled into one – and fortunately, the good seemed to just about outweigh the bad.

“Spiritomb was a slow creation. It's made of one hundred and eight people from throughout history, from Cain to Rodrigo Borgia.”

“So not nice people, then,” I quipped, as we came to the edge of a cliff and started walking down it.

“No. Not at all. People who were really, really nasty – the sort of people who leave a stain on the planet after they die. Those stains have collected together over the years, and then you get—”

“Spiritomb,” I said. “OK. So why was it in a rock? I don't quite get that.”

“Spiritomb's only goal is chaos. It just rolls over the land, destroying and torturing everything it can, so that it can watch people dying and wondering why. Then it came to Sinnoh, and Ashley, as the King of the newly-unified country, fought it. He couldn't kill it – it can't die – but he forced it into the keystone in the Hallowed Tower, trapped all the spirits inside it.”

“How?”

“How did Cyrus summon the gods?” asked Cynthia. “I don't know why these things work. No one does. The world is full of crap that shouldn't work and does – do you know how the Internet came about?”

“Didn't it get invented by... er... someone?” I hazarded. “A scientist?”

“No, it was discovered. Someone built a computer that could connect to it and it was there already. Full of weird blue gremlin things, but it was there.”

“That's impossible.”

“Yes. But it's true.” Cynthia cleared her throat and leaped into the air, twisting one hundred and eighty degrees and landing the other way up on an island above our heads. “The same goes for pockets, and snowmen. Well, anyway. The Hallowed Tower collapsed, and that spirit that escaped – that man in black – must have taken the broken keystone and made it into a pendant. Then he had to wait for it to come into contact with a man with a pure heart.”

“Why?”

“Only someone like that can call on the gods.”

“Hang on,” I said, “I don't know about you, but I'm sure that Cyrus doesn't constitute—”

“Actually, he does. The books don't say what sort of a pure heart. He wasn't pure good, it's true, but there was one unalloyed desire in his heart – to change the world – and that was pure enough for them.”

“OK,” I said doubtfully. “That... kind of makes sense, I guess.”

“He also genuinely believes that what he's doing is the best thing for all humankind,” Cynthia continued. “I'd say that makes his heart pretty pure.”

“Right, but—”

Something roared at an impossible volume, and a great dark shadow flitted across the face of the void.

Cynthia and I exchanged glances.

“Giratina,” she breathed. “And it sounds close.”

A feeling crept over me then, that even if we had an infinite amount of time to complete our task here, and even if that meant Spiritomb couldn't do anything while we were here, we should probably start to pick up the pace and get the hell out of here as soon as we could.

“Seconded,” agreed Cynthia, staring hard at the abyss as if she could force Giratina to reveal itself with the strength of her gaze alone. “I kind of forgot that we weren't alone in here.”

I knew what she meant. Here in the Distortion World, you felt like the only living thing in existence – and maybe we were, with the exception of Cyrus. (I didn't include Giratina. It's not that I thought it was dead, more like it was... anti-alive.)

We doubled our pace, taking the jumps faster and running down the islands that appeared for us; at one point, we approached what looked like an impenetrable waterfall only to see a square hole open up in it to admit us; at another, we hopped along a long series of foot-wide stepping stones, each one materialising from nowhere to hold us and vanishing the instant our feet left it. There could be no doubt now that someone was guiding our path, and that someone could only be Giratina. Whether that was a good or bad thing I didn't know, but I didn't want to run the risk of finding out.

A little later, we passed what I thought was a grove of stony trees; when we got closer, however, I realised they were statues. Human, I thought – but distorted, deformed; some were tall and elegant, all cool glacial planes and rounded edges; others were squat, and looked like they had been frozen in the act of boiling over; still others were jagged and angular. No two were exactly alike, but all were curiously compelling.

“What are they?” I asked Cynthia as we ran by. Normally I would have been gasping for breath, but I was as fresh now as when we'd started running – sore from the fight on the Pillar, but that was all. I think it was because time was frozen: my body was stuck in the same instant, incapable of change, and therefore incapable of growing tired.

“The supports of people,” Cynthia answered. “The old legends say that everything in our universe has roots in the Distortion World. Mountains, buildings, people, everything.” She looked out over the field of statues. “Somewhere there's a statue of me here,” she said quietly.

I got what she meant. The statues' shapes were obviously meant to reflect their subjects, and from what I'd seen of Cynthia back on the Pillar there was a definite chance that hers wasn't one of the pretty ones. She was a killer, after all – and fleetingly I wondered how it had happened, how someone like her, who was so like me at heart, could actually end a life, even in war; then I put the thought out of my mind. I already knew the League had a dark side. I didn't want to know what that meant for Cynthia.

Thankfully, at that moment I caught sight of a figure in the distance, and forgot everything else but the hunt for the pendant.

“There!” I cried, pointing. “Cyrus!”

He was standing horizontally from our perspective, on a perpendicular island far off to right. I couldn't see what he was doing, and he didn't look like he was going anywhere.

“I see him,” confirmed Cynthia. “All right. We—”

At that moment, a colossal head, a pit of blackness inside a vast gold helmet, rose up from nowhere in front of us, the islands all around ours disappearing at once; Giratina stretched up before us in the same great shadowy mass that we had seen on the Pillar, and stared down at us with burning eyes.

“Oh, cal,” I said, involuntarily meeting its gaze and feeling its terrible touch on my soul.

“Yeah,” murmured Cynthia. “Oh cal indeed.”
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #154    
Old September 4th, 2012, 05:49 PM
c1234321's Avatar
c1234321
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Gender: Male
Holy frackle. I couldnt come up with a real word to describe everything that I just read, so I had to make one up. And it still does horribly at trying to describe what I just read.

Let me start with Ashley. Nothing could have prepared me for discovering Ashley was Deoxys. Thats what he was, right? Ever-changing in form, unkillable because it reforms instantly, a green-ish blue face with a vertical slit on it that could represent a mouth? Also the hand that kept changing into two tentacles, like Deoxys normal forme's sprite does in this generation's game. Also, the spikes for legs. If he isnt Deoxys, then I have no clue what he is. My only questions for that, however are: isnt Deoxys supposed to be an alien Pokemon, symbolizing humanity's hope for life on another planet by creating an alien of the same species of life in the Pokemon world? And if thats true, it doesnt exactly make sense that Giratina gave birth to it on this world. Meh, maybe Im nitpicking. It still makes for great story-reading.

Next, Pearl. First, let me say I was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off on what I thought Pearl and Ashley were. I thought Ashley was associated with Dialga, and hes Deoxys. I thought Pearl was associated with Palkia, and she is a psychic. Though, in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that Pearl was a psychic. And it makes for a really cool plot turn because it makes Pearl awesome while also making her relatively normal in comparison to her companions. Its cool.

Now, the Gheist. So thats what the Desk Sitter was. Huh. And the man in black, Belath, and Liza/Ronwe. Now I knew Liza was a Spiritomb, but does that mean that for every soul that creates a Spiritomb, the Spiritomb can divide into other Spiritomb? And does this mean that Liza and Ronwe were the same person, pre- and post- Darkling Town? Or is Ronwe the name given to the Spiritomb Liza formed? AUGH so many questions.....

Distortion World, next. If there is no time in there, doesnt that mean that Pearl and Cynthia are equally as likely to come out at the same time they went in as they are to return millions of years in the past or future? Or is the fact that Giratina is guiding them making it so that they return just as they left? I love time paradoxes . And I think that might qualify as a paradox...

Now, Iago. Where is he? AND WHY ISNT HE DEAD YET? Is that what TTMG2DTW cast is going to do? Because they havent shown up yet either......and I feel like they would do something more important than showing up at the end saying, "Oops, sorry we missed it?" Or are they going to rescue Stephanie from wherever the heck she is?

Speaking of Stephanie, WHAT THE nvkenhjwlcvjwdklnvewvidwjvklefwiohvnjsadbnckjbdsinhjcvkjdbvjfbhvidnh,jcbs djk????????? She has absolutely no relevance at all to what is happening unless she suddenly is formed out of Giratina or is part of the Gheist. Or was sent by the League to prevent Pearl from discovering she was psychic for some reason....which doesnt make complete sense. I swear to God if shes Giratina, Im sending you a virus. Hah not reallly. Thatd be mean. But seriously, Id go into rage-based cardiac arrest. Apart from all that, I really really really want to know what relevance, if any, Stephanie had to any of what has happened.

Thats all I care to talk about for these chapters. If there were grammar mistakes, I didnt see them. Fantastic story with a fantastic climax. Keep writing. Youre really good at it.
  #155    
Old September 5th, 2012, 11:16 AM
teamVASIMR's Avatar
teamVASIMR
 
Join Date: May 2011
OK so i was wrong.

md5:
b9294a5150fe2ad75ae67b92967a7545

string:
Princess Ronwe will save the world.

(I thought at Spear Pillar she would finally remember who she is, and upon realizing that the restructuring of reality would render her position redundant, reject it and rebel against Cyrus at the last minute.)
  #156    
Old September 7th, 2012, 12:19 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Holy frackle. I couldnt come up with a real word to describe everything that I just read, so I had to make one up. And it still does horribly at trying to describe what I just read.

Let me start with Ashley. Nothing could have prepared me for discovering Ashley was Deoxys. Thats what he was, right? Ever-changing in form, unkillable because it reforms instantly, a green-ish blue face with a vertical slit on it that could represent a mouth? Also the hand that kept changing into two tentacles, like Deoxys normal forme's sprite does in this generation's game. Also, the spikes for legs. If he isnt Deoxys, then I have no clue what he is. My only questions for that, however are: isnt Deoxys supposed to be an alien Pokemon, symbolizing humanity's hope for life on another planet by creating an alien of the same species of life in the Pokemon world? And if thats true, it doesnt exactly make sense that Giratina gave birth to it on this world. Meh, maybe Im nitpicking. It still makes for great story-reading.
I'm not done with Ashley yet. He likes to think he's the son of Izh, and so does Giratina, but that's not to say that that is what he necessarily is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Next, Pearl. First, let me say I was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off on what I thought Pearl and Ashley were. I thought Ashley was associated with Dialga, and hes Deoxys. I thought Pearl was associated with Palkia, and she is a psychic. Though, in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that Pearl was a psychic. And it makes for a really cool plot turn because it makes Pearl awesome while also making her relatively normal in comparison to her companions. Its cool.
I was quite pleased when I thought of it. I wanted a power that would still make Pearl fairly useless most of the time, but also capable of extraordinary things if I needed her to do them - and psychic powers fit the bill exactly. It tallied nicely with a desire to explore what the hell was up with all there being so many psychic people in Pokémon games.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Now, the Gheist. So thats what the Desk Sitter was. Huh. And the man in black, Belath, and Liza/Ronwe. Now I knew Liza was a Spiritomb, but does that mean that for every soul that creates a Spiritomb, the Spiritomb can divide into other Spiritomb? And does this mean that Liza and Ronwe were the same person, pre- and post- Darkling Town? Or is Ronwe the name given to the Spiritomb Liza formed? AUGH so many questions.....
Uh, Ronwe isn't a Spiritomb in her own right - she's one of the spirits that make up Spiritomb. Their Pokédex entry says that they're formed of 108 separate spirits; one of these is, in this story, a rather nasty tenth-century Kantan Princess named Ronwe. More on her a couple of chapters later, after the chaos.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Distortion World, next. If there is no time in there, doesnt that mean that Pearl and Cynthia are equally as likely to come out at the same time they went in as they are to return millions of years in the past or future? Or is the fact that Giratina is guiding them making it so that they return just as they left? I love time paradoxes :). And I think that might qualify as a paradox...
Well, they definitely didn't come back out at the same time as they went in, owing to the fact that after they'd entered, Spiritomb was still free. How long they're in there remains to be seen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Now, Iago. Where is he? AND WHY ISNT HE DEAD YET? Is that what TTMG2DTW cast is going to do? Because they havent shown up yet either......and I feel like they would do something more important than showing up at the end saying, "Oops, sorry we missed it?" Or are they going to rescue Stephanie from wherever the heck she is?
Kester and friends are coming along soon, and as for Iago... he has his own plan, and doesn't give a damn about the Galactics or the League. We haven't seen the last of him, but when we do, it will clear up what I think is the final mystery of the story.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Speaking of Stephanie, WHAT THE nvkenhjwlcvjwdklnvewvidwjvklefwiohvnjsadbnckjbdsinhjcvkjdbvjfbhvidnh,jcbs djk????????? She has absolutely no relevance at all to what is happening unless she suddenly is formed out of Giratina or is part of the Gheist. Or was sent by the League to prevent Pearl from discovering she was psychic for some reason....which doesnt make complete sense. I swear to God if shes Giratina, Im sending you a virus. Hah not reallly. Thatd be mean. But seriously, Id go into rage-based cardiac arrest. Apart from all that, I really really really want to know what relevance, if any, Stephanie had to any of what has happened.
Beleth must have had his reasons. Unfortunately, whether or not anyone will ever get the chance to ask him about them is uncertain. We're just going to have to wait and see.

Quote:
Originally Posted by c1234321 View Post
Thats all I care to talk about for these chapters. If there were grammar mistakes, I didnt see them. Fantastic story with a fantastic climax. Keep writing. Youre really good at it.
Thank you, but it's not over yet. Keep reading for the thrilling conclusion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
OK so i was wrong.

md5:
b9294a5150fe2ad75ae67b92967a7545

string:
Princess Ronwe will save the world.

(I thought at Spear Pillar she would finally remember who she is, and upon realizing that the restructuring of reality would render her position redundant, reject it and rebel against Cyrus at the last minute.)
Ah, I see. You're not totally right, but you're not totally wrong either.

F.A.B.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #157    
Old September 8th, 2012, 04:57 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Forty-Five: In Which the Destroyer Speaks

'In dire emergencies, Rotom can feed off the electrical currents generated in animal muscular and brain tissue, but in most circumstances they would rather die than even partially enter a flesh and blood body.'
—Shauntal Wentworth, Ghost of Virtue


“Jeeves!” cried Pigzie Doodle. “Catch!”

He spun on the spot and a malformed Shadow Ball appeared before him, lancing towards Bond; the butler snatched it out of the air and it revealed itself to be a ragged blade of purest night – a sword for killing Ghosts.

“Much obliged, sir,” replied Bond, deftly striking out at the nearest member of the Geist and watching the black blade bite deep into shadowy flesh. His next blow was parried with a shaft of solid fog, and the next moment sharp fingers were raking his arm, shredding his sleeve and drawing greyish blood.

“Ah,” said Bond, looking his opponent in the eye. “I ought to have expected a measure of competency.”

His sword flickered and the Geist-man's hands flashed; he caught the sword by the blade and plucked it from Bond's grasp, his other hand flying outwards and impacting on his chest in an explosion of dark mist. The unfortunate butler fell back, fragments of his spectral essence erupting from beneath his shirt, and collided with Saturn. Both men fell heavily onto the flagstones; Saturn's head, being made of flesh and bone, made a loud crack as it hit the ground, and he did not get up.

And now Bond, struggling to disentangle himself from the leaden weight of the unconscious Saturn, saw two Geist phantoms encroaching on him, their edges blurring and running together like a great dark wave about to break over his head—

—when all at once, a strong hand pulled him up and out of the way, sharp nails digging into Bond's dead skin.

“As one undead to another,” said Jasper, his other hand slicing through a Geist spirit that had come too close with a shower of black sparks, “I advise you not to let it touch you. Prolonged exposure will—”

But what prolonged exposure would result in was never known to Bond, for at that moment the Geist-people collapsed in on each other in a maelstrom of fog, coalescing once more into the vast, flowing cloud and attracting everyone's attention.

“No,” it said. “We refuse to fight you on your terms.”

Three jagged spikes burst out from its flanks, suddenly solid, and punched through Jupiter, Ellen and Pigzie Doodle like a bodkin through paper. Two were ethereal and unharmed: the other was flesh and blood, and sank down onto the ground without a word. Her Skuntank licked her face for a moment, decided enough was enough and waddled as fast as it could over to the stairs, wanting nothing more than to be away from this nightmarish place.

“Bastard!” snarled Mars, and pushed her Purugly aside in a blind, mad rush at the cloud; she hit the side, sank in and disappeared.

“Fool,” remarked the Geist. “There is no creature living that can stop us.” Its faces turned to the mound of decaying flesh on the floor, and the crystal heart that beat weakly at its core. “That was the last. In his time he was a formidable foe. Now he is nothing. So time—”

No doubt they had some pithy remark to make, but they were interrupted by the thrusting of a rust-red spear into their misty body. The Geist hissed and recoiled, bleeding darkness, and its faces spun wildly to see—

—Marley, standing before them with eyes like fragments of the sun and skin like blistered tarmac, her flesh crawling out of place on her bones and pouring down her arms into long, jagged points.

“So the Princess has some royal blood in her after all,” said the Geist, patching their wounds with more fog. “Even so... she can only be half Izhlei, and half Izhlei is little more than nothi—”

Marley struck again, her legs thickening and lengthening to propel her forwards like a cannonball; her lance-like arms stuck deep into the Geist and with a flick of her arms she tore them apart, ripping a long horizontal gash in its substance.

“Enough!” roared the vast Ghost, and something long and hideously scaled shot out from its core—

—and pierced straight through Jasper's chest, snapping dead bones and pulverising flesh, as he stepped between the Geist and Marley.

“I think not,” he said effortfully. “I have a job, you know, and I intend to do it.”

Marley stared at him, the fire in her eyes dimming.

“Jasper...?”

“Forget me,” he told her. His teeth were stained with blood. “I was never alive to begin with.”

Then a tiny wisp of smoke curled out of his mouth and dissolved in the clear mountain air – and twenty years of decay fell upon his body in an instant. Dry bones clattered down onto the stones, and the Ghost that had called itself Jasper Platinum was no more.

“A waste,” rumbled the Geist. “A vampire should be beyond human weakness. You mortals must have infected it.”

Marley said nothing, but a corona of green fire flared into life around her spear and she plunged it into the Geist again.

“Yes,” said the Geist, as the flames caught and spread over their surface. “Keep at it, Princess. Keep trying...”

Something was wrong – the Geist didn't seem to care about her attacks any more – but she couldn't see it; all Marley could see now was yellow light and Ashley's rust, red blood and the wisp of smoke that had been Jasper. She was feeling, and it burned in her so brightly that she felt as if she must be consumed.

“Jeeves!” cried Pigzie Doodle, suddenly appearing in front of Bond. “You have to stop her! If she is what I think she is, she's going to kill herself doing this, and we need her to hold this thing off!”

Bond was a butler: he asked no questions and delivered prompt service. Consequently, he wasted no time in attempting to pull Marley back from the Geist – but another blade shot out of the shoulder he grabbed, and he had to let go as her back erupted into a forest of spines. She turned, growing a little larger, and rammed her lances home once more; the Geist, now thoroughly ablaze, laughed.

“Almost there, Princess. Keep going.”

“Madam!” cried Bond, attempting to pull one leg from under her but instead being wrenched off his feet by the inhuman strength coursing through her veins. “You must stop!”

Now Marley's body was collapsing into itself, her waist disappearing and her feet shrinking to spikes; her hair receded and her eyes began to sink deeper into her skull. Soon, Bond realised, she would look like the unconscious monster on the floor – but for some reason that was bad; he did not pretend to understand, but kept on with his efforts regardless.

“We think you have reached your limit,” said the Geist, all of its faces smiling, and Marley burst.

The alien power within her proved too much: her skin tore and the muscle bulged out from underneath, growing crazily and swallowing her up in a great congealing mass of tissue. A moment later, Marley had all but disappeared under her own flesh; where she had been was a large pillar of muscle and skin, studded with eyes and drooping streamers of offal.

Bond stared. This was all wrong; the thing before him was impossible and horrific, and more importantly the Geist was tearing through them all as if they were nothing at all. There was only himself, Ellen and Pigzie Doodle left now, and he had no doubt that the great Ghost could destroy them all as easily as the rest.

“Look at her,” they said contemptuously. “She has her father's power, but not his body – and none other can withstand the force of the release. How pathetic.”

They extinguished the flames on its body with nothing more than a light shiver, and the faces turned to Bond and company.

“Now,” they said, “there is only fodder left. We do love the taste of ghosts. So piquant.”

“Here!”

Pigzie Doodle thrust another Shadow Ball sword into Bond's grasp, but it shattered as soon as it touched the Geist's cloudy body, and the vast Ghost rose up over them in a wave of faces.

“Madam,” said Bond quietly, as it approached. “I regret to say that I think I may be incapable of defeating this opponent.”

“Oh, Bond,” replied Ellen – but that was all. She could say no more; the second and final death of their lives towered before them, and there was nothing she could say to stop it.

“I should have used fewer semicolons,” murmured Pigzie Doodle.

They closed their eyes, and waited for the end.

---

We stared up at Giratina, and waited for its move. For a long moment, nothing happened – and then a clear, booming voice said:

“Sötar viln boárak mon dairün.”

Cynthia blinked.

“That... that was Old Sinnish,” she said. “The Shinowh variant. Oh my God, it can talk!”

“Belaosh viln,” said Giratina, which sounded to me an awful lot like, “Well, obviously.”

“Never mind that,” I said frantically, “what does it want?”

“It says... it wants us to remove the infection in its world,” translated Cynthia. “I think it means Cyrus.”

“Vókar Ky-Ros minas tirith?” asked Giratina, sinking down lower and regarding us with a steady gaze.

“Cyrus? Is that what it's called? That's what it's saying.”

“We've come to get rid of him,” I told Giratina. “We're absolutely going to get rid of him. We'll get rid of him so well you won't even know he's—”

“Pearl, you're babbling. Calm down, it's not going to hurt you.”

“Oh. Yeah. Sorry.”

“Vókar daurin Lei sket. Sho bä.”

“It... it says I have traces of its son on me,” said Cynthia, looking distinctly unsettled. “It wants to know why.”

“What? But Ashley isn't its son. I worked it out. He was hit by—”

“I don't know how you know that,” said Cynthia, “but keep it to yourself. Giratina obviously doesn't think so.”

Bä!” cried Giratina, annoyed at being ignored; its voice broke fragments of rock off our island, and I decided it was time to reply.

“She's his lover,” I stated baldly.

“Pearl—!”

“Vikín minas boárak mon,” boomed Giratina, nodding its mighty head. “Sötar hegorak.”

Cynthia stared, stupefied.

“Really?”

Tarh.”

“What did it say?” I asked.

“It says I look like a worthy mate,” she told me, looking dazed. “A powerful warrior. I think. It might also have been a double entendre.”

I stared at the giant shadow. Could gods make jokes? Was that allowed? I supposed I couldn't see any reason why not, but it didn't strike me as fitting.

Vä,” Giratina went on. “Vä ulthorn boárak Ky-Ros, iht hegnar sa boltt.”

With that, it rose up on wings of darkness and soared away upwards, impossibly fast for something so large. In a second or two, it had dwindled to a pinprick point, and was gone.

“What did it say?”

“It said go right now and get rid of Cyrus and it'll give us a reward.”

“Why doesn't it get rid of him itself?”

“I don't think it's allowed.” Cynthia paused; her brain seemed to still be a little bit stuck on Giratina's earlier words. “There are a lot of rules governing this sort of thing, I think – the rules of legends. Gods are never allowed to just kill the people they want to; they always have to have a human champion, and just provide them with assistance and stuff. You know how it is.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, thinking of numerous myths in which the gods pointed people in the direction of stuff, or sent other people to stop them, or gave them signs but never any concrete help. “I didn't realise it had to be that way, though.”

“It does. I think it's why Giratina and Ashley both believes he's its son. That's what the legends say – and gods live and breathe legends. For them, there probably was a Fenrir, and a Hercules, and a Sunyshore Devil.”

“Maybe every story comes true if you leave it long enough,” I suggested.

“Maybe.”

We stood in silence for a while, and then, for no reason at all, blinked ourselves out of our trance.

“We should go,” I said, and a little island materialised in front of us.

“Yeah,” replied Cynthia. “Come on.”

Everything seemed rather distant and dreamlike after our conversation with Giratina; we continued on our journey, but all the urgency was gone. We just moved, without really thinking about why we were doing it. Past forests of statues, past pillars of glass that supported rainbows in our world, past the ghost of a fire and the fossilised skeleton of a Cyclops; we passed all sorts of wonders, but didn't take them in.

The only jolt of reality was the figure of Cyrus, marooned on a tiny island ahead of us; as we drew closer to him, I felt my mind clearing, and wondered if perhaps the Distortion World was inimical to thought. Maybe without a shot of our world every now and then, I'd end up going completely insane – if I hadn't already.

Cyrus saw us coming, but made no attempt to flee; there was nowhere he could go, after all. A series of stepping stones flew upwards out of the void to bridge the gap between us and him, and a few seconds later we were standing on the same scrap of land.

“Well,” he said, “you found me.”

All the charisma was gone from his voice; there wasn't a scrap of power in him now. It had all been the Geist, I realised – all that emotional manipulation and willpower. Without it, Cyrus was just a man like any other.

“We've come to take you back,” Cynthia told him. “Your presence here is an affront to Giratina.”

Cyrus smiled lazily.

“I'm not going anywhere,” he said. “I know exactly what awaits me out there. Every single sentient being in Sinnoh will try and destroy me on sight, thanks to you.”

The last word was directed at me, and spat with more vehemence than I'd ever encountered before.

“We can fix that,” said Cynthia. “We have psychics of our own. Just come with us, Cyrus, and we'll get you back to reality.”

“I never realised the Destroyer was so powerful,” mused Cyrus. “I thought it was the equal of Dialga or Palkia.”

“It's stronger,” replied Cynthia. “Its job requires it. Now come with us.”

“I've already told you I won't,” Cyrus snapped. “I have nothing more to do in the other world. This place suits me better – barren, dead. Nothing lives here except the Destroyer, and I don't think it's really alive.”

“You don't have a choice,” I told him. “We'll make you come with us.”

“Really?” asked Cyrus. “But you see, I don't want to. I don't care what I do, but I would like at least to be the man who disappeared on Spear Pillar while trying to save the human race – not the man who was beaten and captured by the League.” He shrugged. “Perhaps my heroic death will inspire someone – someone who can succeed where I failed. After all, a martyr strengthens any cause.”

“Don't you sodding dare,” growled Cynthia. “We've come too far and done too much for you to wreck things now— oh, cal!”

In the middle of her speech, Cyrus had stepped backwards off the island and into the void. He fell a few metres, smiling triumphantly, and disappeared. There was no fading, no puff of smoke – he just vanished. Gone. Just like that.

“Well, cal,” I said, after consideration. “What now?”

“The pendant,” cried Cynthia. “He had the sodding pendant!”

Oh, cal. The pendant.

Unless I was very much mistaken, Sinnoh was now screwed.

---

It looked like it was going to be rather a long wait for the end, because the end showed no sign of coming.

“What in God's name—?”

The Geist sounded like it was in pain, thought Bond. How curious. He opened his eyes a little, and was heartened to see it recoiling as if stung; he opened them fully, and saw a little white gremlin with ruby-red eyes standing near him, balls of darkness shooting from its temple and impacting like mortar shells on the Geist's body.

“What the hell?” muttered Pigzie Doodle. “Since when do you get albino Sableye?”

“You OK?” asked an unfamiliar voice, and a Hoennian youth with sun-bleached hair appeared before them. “You look like you're in quite a bit of trouble.”

“I believe we were about to be killed, sir,” said Bond. “Who might you be?”

“My name's Kester,” replied the youth. “Quickly – what happened here?”

As swiftly as he could, Bond related the particulars of the last few minutes; most people would have perhaps assumed he was mad, but the youth seemed to take it all in his stride.

“Damn it,” he said. “It's the end of the world again.”

He turned, and Bond looked beyond him to see a young woman in a blue coat and hat directing the Sableye, which actually seemed to be holding the Geist at bay; beside her was another young lady in a lighter shade of blue, who was staring at the Geist and chewing her lip. Beside her was a rather familiar-looking Rotom, whose Shadow Balls, while not nearly as effective as the Sableye's, were nevertheless helping to keep the Geist back.

“What is – who are you?” they roared, twisting and coiling, trying to pull away from the rain of shadowy missiles. “What is this?”

“Sapphire Birch, Kester Ruby, Felicity Kusagari, Robin Goodfellow and Malvolio,” replied the girl in the blue hat. “And this defeating mighty evils stuff is kind of our thing.”

“Defeat?” asked the Geist. “Defeat? You misunderstand our situation. We are not defeated – we are annoyed.”

A ring of darkness pulsed out from the centre of the cloud, slicing apart the ancient pillars and knocking everyone back; the Sableye was flung high into the air and ran off, squealing, and the Rotom lost its shape, falling to the floor in an amorphous puddle of plasma.

“Ghosts may harm us, but we are stronger,” growled the Geist, their faces bunching together in the centre of their body. “We will destroy you!”

Kester stared at it.

“Ah,” he said. “I did think this was a bit too easy.”

The green fire in the Geist's eyes began to pour outwards, forming into one bright, burning beam that seared the very air—

—and passed straight through the spot where Sapphire had been standing one moment before, punching a hole straight through the marble floor and down to the very base of the mountain.

“Jesus—!”

The beam struck again, this time in the direction of Bond, Pigzie Doodle and Ellen, and they scattered in all directions as the flames burnt through the mountain.

“Looks like there is a way to burn down a mountain,” muttered the Duskull, but no one listened; everyone was just trying to get out of the way of the Geist's explosive gaze.

“That's right,” they yelled over the crackle of the fire. “Flee, mortals! We are your predator and your master!”

“Oh, shut up,” said a rasping, ancient voice, and a rust-red spike shot through the core of the Geist. The fires died out, the Ghost choked on its own breath, and the cloud rose up, hurriedly pulling itself free of the spine.

Beneath it, Ashley pulled himself to his feet, flesh knitting together and bones snapping back into place.

“I don't think you killed me very well,” he observed, tentacles slicing through the Geist's shadow-stuff. “You really ought to be more careful.”

“Guh,” answered the Geist, evidently in some pain. “You... We will not make the same mistake twice.”

Coils of shadow wound around Ashley's body, and began to haul him into the air – but an arc of black lightning suddenly impacted on the foggy limbs and blew them apart.

“Honestly,” said Puck's voice from someone's phone as he rose up from the ground. “That really, really hurt. I don't even have a joke to make about it. I just want to throw darkness-reinforced thunderbolts at you all day.”

“What?” Half the Geist's faces moved across to look at him. “How did you withstand—?”

“Sorry, I'm too cool to die,” replied Puck. “I appreciate it must be a shock.”

Another black lightning bolt hit the surface of the Geist, and the fog flinched away from the site of impact.

“You are tenacious,” admitted the Geist. “But we will—”

At that moment, Ashley sliced it in half, and it cursed loudly in a hundred languages at once before pulling itself together and trying to engulf him.

“Bond! For God's sake, help him!”

Bond blinked.

“Of course, madam.”

He grabbed another of Pigzie Doodle's shadowy swords and rejoined the fray, just as more Pokémon appeared next to Kester and Sapphire. Reinforcements had arrived, and things were beginning to look up: if they were lucky, they might even survive the fight.

---

“What do we do?” I asked frantically. “What do we do?”

“I don't know!” snapped Cynthia. “I'm trying to think!”

No Cyrus meant no pendant, no pendant meant no returning the binding to our world, no returning the binding meant no trapping Spiritomb, and no trapping Spiritomb meant endless aeons of evil for the world in general and Sinnoh in particular.

Things couldn't really get much worse.

“Do you think he was destroyed or went somewhere?” I asked.

“I don't know. Maybe both. Who knows?”

“No, really,” I insisted. “Which do you think?”

“Well... if he was destroyed, you'd have thought Giratina would've noticed and come to thank us, I guess,” said Cynthia. “Which means he might just be somewhere else within the Distortion World— oh Christ. You're not seriously going to do what I think you're going to do, right?”

“I'm trying really hard not to think about how scary it is,” I answered, “and I think it's working.” It was as well – now that I knew I had it, my psychic power seemed pretty easy to direct, and I currently had it working on shutting out all the fear it could find in my brain. “OK. I'm going to do it.”

“No, Pearl, I'll do—”

“If we don't get the pendant back, you're going to be a lot more use fighting Spiritomb than I am,” I reasoned. “No, I'm doing this.”

I took deep breath, stepped forwards, closed my eyes and jumped.

For one heart-stopping moment, I fell – and then, all at once, I wasn't. There was no jolt, no impact or even any sense of deceleration; I was just suddenly still. I opened my eyes cautiously, and was slightly emboldened to find I was somewhere rather than in the nowhere of the void – though the fact that this somewhere was the inside of a colossal, dimly-lit cavern was a little less than encouraging. The marble blocks that formed the walls were cracked and chipped, and the floor was covered in pieces of smashed stone; as I watched, more of them fell in unnaturally silent trickles from various apertures hidden in the shadows above my head. Looking at how many were falling, I got the feeling that the layer I was standing on was probably several metres thick.

I took a few unsteady steps across the sea of stones and called out Cyrus' name uncertainly, but there was no reply. It made sense, really; this place was big enough that I couldn't see any of the sides but the one I was standing by, and I doubted my voice would carry all the way across. Hell, he might even have appeared under some of the falling stones and been squashed for all I knew.

“Still,” I said aloud, trying to keep cheerful, “at least I'm not going to run out of time here.”

I wandered a little more, slipping and sliding on the shifting stone chunks; they seemed to suck at my feet, trying to drag me under like quicksand. Did you get quickstone, I wondered – and if you didn't, who was to say you couldn't in the Distortion World? Or maybe the rocks were alive, and fed off people foolish enough to walk across them.

“Stop scaring yourself,” I said severely, and, with an effort, put the thoughts from my mind.

A couple of steps later, I almost fell and spent a long moment steadying myself – long enough for me to recognise half a face in one of the pieces of stone.

“What?”

I picked it up and stared. There was no doubt about it – this was part of one of those statues. Did that mean...?

After looking around, I was forced to conclude that it did. Every single one of the pieces of stone was a fragment of one of the statues up among the islands – a hand here, a torso there – and more were falling down every second.

“Is this where your statue goes when you die?” I wondered.

I stood there for a while, staring at the piece of face in my hand, and then moved on, dropping it hurriedly. This was not a good place, I decided; it was a horrible dead place where living people weren't supposed to go, and being here gave me the creeps. A nasty feeling of dread settled over me, drawing in close and holding me firmly like a tight coat.

“Cyrus!” I called again, hoping to find him so I could leave – not that I knew how I was going to get out of here. “Cyrus, where the hell are you?”

There was no answer, not even an echo. A pile of broken hands landed without a noise about a foot away. I shivered. This place was definitely bad news.

A thought struck me then: if the stones made no noise here, did anything else? Maybe Cyrus wasn't answering me because my voice was inaudible to him, as the falling fragments were to me. If that was the case, I thought, I might as well give up right then; if I couldn't make myself heard, I had no chance of finding him. Little beads of sweat appeared on my brow and trickled down into my eyes; I felt hot all of a sudden, and kind of nauseous.

“He'd better be able to hear me,” I muttered as I walked on, keeping an eye out for falling sculpture. “Cyrus!”

Still no answer. It felt like I'd been trekking across the cave for hours, even though I knew it had taken no time at all in reality; everything in here was starting to get to me. The shattered statues, the fact that the light seemed to have no source, the endless silence – every unnatural aspect of this place seemed to be climbing into my skull, packing themselves tightly around my mind and pressing in on every side—

A wave of dizziness washed over me, and I lost my balance, falling heavily onto the sharp stones beneath. I tried to get back up, but couldn't see straight; my arms and legs kept sliding out from under me, unable to get any purchase on the shifting fragments. Somewhere in the back of my head, a little voice was telling me to concentrate, to pull my thoughts together, but I couldn't obey; the air seemed sweet and thick in my mouth, and the silence was pressing in...

I'm not sure how much time I spent there, half-conscious and mumbling, but it must have been quite a while – in the terms of our universe, that is. Maybe an hour, maybe a day. Either way, it was some time before my head started to clear and I was able to think again; I saw my chance and seized the moment of coherence, directing all my mental energies towards driving out the awful trance that had overcome me. For a moment, my mind wavered as if on the brink of a dream – and then it was gone, and the world around me faded back to normal. I was lying on my belly, half-buried in pieces of broken sculpture; I must have sunk into the surface while I was out.

I sat up and winced at the pain; from the feel of it, I had a lot more bruises than before, and I'd had quite a few then.

“What the hell was that?” I wondered quietly. Did it happen to everyone who came here? And, if so, what happened to you if you weren't psychic, and couldn't break free of it? “That's it,” I told myself. “Cyrus isn't answering because he's unconscious.” I stood up, little bits of stone falling from my body. “He fell from where you fell, so chances are he's somewhere near where you are. But since the stones seem to swallow you up, he's probably sunk in and you didn't see him.”

God damn it, I thought, I was a detective at last. I smiled a little despite myself, and set about looking for Cyrus. The stones no longer plucked at my legs; it was as if, having bested the cavern's awful spell, I had earned its respect. Maybe that was what had happened. It wouldn't be the weirdest thing to happen today.

I kept my eyes on the stones, looking for a protruding bit of flesh or clothing among the marble, but saw nothing. He had to be here somewhere, I reasoned. It might take a bit of a search, but I'd find him in the end. I was almost relaxed now, despite my surroundings; after all I'd taken what I assumed was the worst the cavern could throw at me, and I had plenty of time. Of course, I wasn't exactly enjoying being in this place, but I was about as happy as I could be here.

My mind wandered – from the realisation about what Ashley was, to the whole god-summoning business, to the time I'd tripped over a rock and broken my ankle, to what might be happening at home right now, to that pile of shards over there...

I frowned. Was that a message from my subconscious? I concentrated, and felt a certain something pulse weakly at my temple. Yes, there was no doubt about it now. That was definitely a human mind in there.

“Finally,” I muttered. “It's about time.” I wasn't particularly amazed at my own display of psychic power; as soon as I'd found out about it, it had become so normal, so much a part of me, that I wondered how I hadn't noticed it years ago.

I tramped over to the heap, thrust my hands between the stones and was rewarded with the feeling of cloth at my fingertips. Grinning, I dug a gap and hauled out the limp body of Cyrus Maragos. He was bruised, bleeding from a cut on his head and muttering to himself in his sleep, but he was definitely still alive.

“Fantastic,” I breathed with feeling. “Now I just need to... ah, crap.”

You see, in all my excitement I'd kind of forgotten that I had no idea how to get out of here.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #158    
Old September 10th, 2012, 10:39 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Forty-Six: In Which One Curse is Lifted and Another Renewed

'Very few people know what happened up there that day, but those that do know that the events of September the 26th, 2011 marked an incredible change in the history of Sinnoh – if not the world.'
—Cynthia Buckley, The Last Lay of the Shinowh


The black blade flashed, the fog boiled, the rust-red tendrils sliced the air; lightning cracked, shadows flickered, green flames roared; blood and mist and cinders rained over the ruins of the temple, and the battle raged on.

Kester's Castform, now ablaze with the strength of the sun, kept up a steady stream of fiery missiles; at his feet, the recovered Sableye cowered, occasionally mustering the courage to send a pulse of purest night in the Geist's direction. Next to them were Sapphire and her Aggron, its steel hide dented but its eyes burning with righteous fury, slashing at the darkness with claws dripping shadows – and beyond them was Bond, his dead flesh untiring, maintaining his assault with the unhurried calm of one who has died once already, and no longer has cause to fear the Reaper. At his side, Pigzie Doodle and Puck had formed an unlikely alliance, their combined Ghostly power reaching a strength capable of actually harming the Geist; crouching behind them all was Ellen, being comforted by Felicity, who had cause to fear Ghosts more than anyone else.

And then there was Ashley.

It was clear to anyone watching that he knew exactly what had become of Marley: no creature as badly injured as he could maintain the speed and ferocity of his attack without some extraordinary motivation, and the mound of pulsating flesh at his feet was a rather obvious one. His body scarcely seemed to be able to maintain one shape for longer than a second; it continually flickered, expanding and solidifying into a defensive shield one moment and dissolving into a hard-edged, lean attack form the next, all excess cells devoured and recycled to yield new energy for further transformation.

In the face of all this, the Geist stood firm. They simply wouldn't move; their many faces set, they remained where they were and fought back furiously, spines and hooks and mauls erupting from their flanks, lashing out and dissolving a second later in an ever-changing dance of destruction.

And slowly, slowly, the titanic engine of war was beginning to gain the upper hand.

The Castform's fires began to dwindle as the sun sank towards the horizon; the Sableye, seeing this, whimpered more and fired less frequently; the Aggron began to tire and the cracks started to show in its rocky underbelly. Bond's shadowy blade fractured on a set of the Geist's weapons, and his fighting style became more erratic and desperate as he fought on with a fragmented stump of a sword; Pigzie Doodle was running low on shadow, so fatigued as to be almost transparent; Puck's electrical energy was winding down, and his thunderbolts becoming weaker.

And Ashley was dwindling.

He had been taller than a man at the start of the battle; now he was a head shorter, and losing muscle tone all the time as his body consumed itself for the necessary energy to keep the battle going. As his flesh thinned, his attacks became weaker, tendrils lacking the muscles to propel them; the Geist's fierce blows staggered him harder and more often, and the crystal heart in his breast was pounding so hard and fast it looked more like it was vibrating than beating.

But his enemy was as old and strong as sin, and they neither tired nor relented. Humankind had thrown itself against the Geist before, but they had never yet bested them; such heroes always fell. They might take a second to destroy, or a day, but fall they would: it was inevitable.

And now its opponents were running out of steam. They were being driven back, inch by painful inch, and they knew it. Frantically, they tried to push back – tried to redouble their efforts, to summon hidden reserves of power – but to no avail: they simply had nothing left to add. Forty minutes had passed since the Destroyer's portal had slammed shut behind Pearl and Cynthia, and during that time they had put every last thing they had into fighting the Geist.

Only it wasn't enough.

“Come now,” said the Geist, sounding almost friendly. “Give in! We can see you are tiring. Would you go to a violent grave or slip peacefully from this mortal coil?”

“We're not done yet,” snapped Sapphire back at them. “If we die, we'll die fighting!”

“She doesn't speak for all of us,” said Kester hurriedly. “I'm not entirely opposed to—”

“Kester!”

“Oh, fine,” he grumbled. “We won't surrender!”

“Butler,” said the Geist, a cluster of its faces swivelling to face Bond. “Have you not served long enough? We—”

“Forgive me for interrupting,” replied Bond politely, as he sliced through the haft of an oncoming spear, “but I think you are wasting your time. We are all quite determined to die fighting or not at all.”

A perceptive onlooker might have noticed that he did not call the Geist 'sir', and deduced that Bond was now as furious as a respectable butler could allow himself to be; however, those around him were currently otherwise occupied, and so the insult went unnoticed.

“Then,” began the Geist, but it never finished: at that moment Ashley froze, let out an unearthly scream and fell to the floor, his heart as cold and still as the marble he lay on.

There was a sudden lull in the fighting; no one still standing except for Pigzie Doodle had any real idea of who or what their monstrous ally had been, but all had been able to see that he had been their strongest asset – and he appeared to have been killed without the Geist actually touching him.

“What?” cried the Geist, every one of its faces collecting together to observe Ashley's body. “We wanted to destroy him ourselves!” The cloud descended for a better view. “Come back to life, Izhlei,” they commanded. “Rise and fight!”

They ran black streamers of fog across his body, but found nothing – no pulse, no breath, no flicker of the undying life that had kept Ashley going for well over four hundred years.

“No,” breathed the Geist, and in its hundred voices it sounded like a sharp gust of wind. “No, it cannot be... He is truly dead?” Abruptly, the faces dispersed and began roving around the cloud, searching all directions for a clue about what had happened. “Who did this? Show yourself!”

There was no response, but Kester seized on the Ghost's distraction and told his Castform to change shape; since the moon was shining with much the same intensity as the sun had been before it set, this had the effect of replacing its orange fires with white ones, its strength surging back with the waxing moonlight.

“What is this fight without our nemesis?” asked the Geist. “If we cannot kill him, what is there to dream of?” They rose up, their faces pooling on the front of the cloud. “Perhaps his powers had decayed so far he could not maintain immortality,” they mused. “In which case, we do not care that we did not kill him. He was no more than mortal.”

“Hey now,” said Puck, voice tinny through someone's phone. “Don't underestimate us mortals. We've saved the world more times than you've destroyed it.”

“We have never—”

“Exactly. Now shut the hell up and let us kill you.”

The Geist stared at him.

“Little Ghost, you are a fool.”

“You're the one throwing a tantrum because your favourite enemy died,” he retorted. “Sounds pretty damn foolish to me.”

“We do not wish to fight you anymore,” said the Geist, ignoring him. “We wish to think on this matter.” They sighed, a sound like the beat of a thousand leathery wings. “We shall simply consume you all now, and bring this farcical combat to an end.”

And the black clouds rolled forwards towards the defenders, swiftly and silently as a black mamba, and no matter how many Shadow Balls or lightning bolts hit their boiling surface, they did not stop.

---

“OK, how did you get in here?” I asked myself, nudging Cyrus with my foot so the stones didn't start eating him again. “You fell. Through a pit of nothingness and a quantity of solid stone, apparently, but you fell. So how do you get out?”

That was the bit that got me. I really didn't know. Flying upwards seemed a good idea, but that didn't seem possible; I was an empath, not a telekinetic.

“I guess I could jump,” I said. “I mean, I didn't fall far to get here, so maybe I don't need to jump that high to leave.”

Feeling that anything was better than just standing around in this hellish cavern and staring at the stones, I dragged Cyrus up off the floor, put my arms around him – God, he was heavy – and jumped—

—to rise an inch off the ground and fall heavily back down onto the stones, losing my balance. I fell over, managed to use Cyrus as a crash mat and got up again.
“Well, that didn't work,” I muttered. “Maybe I need to go higher?”

The problem was, I couldn't do that holding Cyrus. OK, so I could have just grabbed the pendant and jumped myself, but I'd promised Giratina we'd get rid of him, and while I didn't know exactly where we were, I was pretty sure it was still in the Distortion World.

Then an idea struck me. Gravity was weaker up among the islands, right? So if I grabbed hold of just Cyrus' arm, for instance, I might be able to pull him up with me.

I shrugged. It was worth a shot, if nothing else. Taking Cyrus by the wrist, I hauled him into a sitting position against my leg and, holding on tight, jumped up a full foot and into the void.

“Yes!” I yelled – or would have, if there'd been any air in the nothingness to yell with; a second later, however, I burst out into the abyss between the islands, rose up over the lip of the nearest one and landed neatly on the ground. A moment later, Cyrus thumped in the dust next to me.

“You – I can't believe that actually worked,” said Cynthia, staring at me. “What happened?”

“I don't really know,” I admitted. “I ended up in this huge cave place, full of bits of broken statues, and the whole place was emanating this weird feeling – sort of like an oppressive shroud of... something evil – and I passed out for a bit. Then I pulled myself together, got up, found Cyrus and came back.” I shrugged. “Wasn't that bad, all things considered. Hey, why are you looking at me like that?”

Cynthia had gone pale – really pale. She looked like she'd seen not just a ghost but a castle full of demons.

“A cave?” she repeated. “Full of broken statues?”

“Yeah. What's the matter?”

“Pearl,” she said, slowly and carefully, “that was Sheol. The graveyard of the damned. The ancients believed that souls return to their roots in the Distortion World after the death of the body. The statues of good souls are removed to the heavenly gardens of Vahla and granted the power of speech and movement. The statues of evil souls are broken and cast down into a place of unrelenting torture, deep under the earth.”

“Wait a minute – so that was Hell?”

“Yeah. Hell. And you passed out from its torture and pulled yourself together again.” She shook her head. “Jesus Christ. Ashley was right. You must be a sodding strong psychic. I mean, not being dead or a sinner must have helped, but...” She looked at Cyrus. “That's what it would have done to anyone else.”

Hell. I'd been to Hell and back – literally. Finally, I was shaping up to be a proper movie-style heroine, and not a moment too soon: we had to bring the pendant back to our reality and reseal Spiritomb. If that wasn't the moment to bring out the theatrical big guns, I didn't know what was.

“Well,” I said, trying my best to give off a debonair aura, “you know. I guess I'm pretty cool like that.”

“Yeah. Anyway,” replied Cynthia, moving swiftly on, “that means we're done here, and we can get back to our world. At last.”

“OK. Do we call Giratina and ask it for a portal?”

“I guess so.” Cynthia paused. “Don't mention the reward,” she said at length. “I mean, if it's forgotten, I don't want to press the issue or anything.”

“Oh, definitely,” I agreed. “I mean, we don't want to be pushy.”

“Yeah.”

“Or rude or anything.”

“Yeah.”

There was a pause.

“Are you going to call Giratina?”

Cynthia shuffled uncomfortably. The thought of demanding Giratina's presence was an intimidating one, even to her – or maybe especially to her, given her relationship with Ashley.

You call Giratina. You're the psychic warrior who fought through Sheol.”

“No, I'm an ordinary woman who had a bit of a walk in Sheol. You call Giratina. You're the mighty League Champion.”

You got the pendant back and saved the world.”

You're sleeping with Giratina's son,” I said triumphantly. Cynthia opened her mouth to protest – but she could think of nothing to counter me with, and reluctantly shouted out:

“Giratina! We've – we have Cyrus!”

The familiar pillar of darkness shot up from somewhere below our island; the wings expanded, the golden helm appeared, and the burning eyes glared down at us from on high. I wondered if it was this dramatic every time it turned up, or whether it was putting on a performance for what were presumably the first guests it had had in centuries.

Yol shobär,” it said. “Vakin ulthuti boárak Ky-Ros.”

“It said thank you,” Cynthia told me. “Uh... can we have a portal to get home through?”

Ziin vá hilt estin ko Lei kota boárak. Saltaak hegor-süto kulkul?”

“We have aided its son and removed the taint here, and it will be happy to provide a portal to facilitate that. What would we like as a reward?” Cynthia turned to me. “Pearl... you went into Sheol. And... I think you've helped Ashley more than I have recently.” She hesitated; a pride as big as hers took some swallowing. “You do it,” she said at last. “You choose the reward.”

“Me? But... what the hell am I going to ask for?”

I mean, I was the proverbial woman who had everything: money, youth, good looks (it's not vanity if it's true)... I even had excellent friends, reasonable intelligence, psychic powers, and good linguistic skills to boot. About the only thing I didn't have was a boyfriend, but I didn't particularly want one at the moment; I was literally in need of nothing.

“I don't know,” said Cynthia. “Take some time – we've got as much as we need. Think about it.”

I did, and a moment later, I smiled. I knew what I wanted.

I was going to save my friend.

---

Tristan Shandy: a man, a fool, a criminal and a qualified electrician.

The reader would be forgiven for forgetting that such a person even existed; he has not figured prominently in this narrative for some time. He was not born great, nor did he achieve greatness; he was of that special class of moron who have greatness thrust upon them, and do not even realise it.

He was last seen unconscious in the helicopter that the League forces had taken to Mount Coronet, tied to one of the seats; now, consciousness regained, he was patiently sawing his way free with his pocket knife.

“How long have I been out?” he pondered as the first rope snapped. “Not that long, I suppose; the world hasn't ended yet, after all.”

Tristan was still of the opinion that it was impossible for Cyrus to fail, and that the world was due to be replaced with a better copy sometime soon, and consequently was rather anxious to get up to the peak before everything came to a head and the Team left the universe. After all, he didn't want to get left behind.

“There,” he said, as the last few ropes fell away. “All free.”

He stood up, stretched, rubbed his aching head for a moment and stepped outside onto the mountainside; immediately, he felt the tension in the air. The atmosphere was charged, as if an electrical storm were coming, and he could just make out tendrils of darkness leaking over the lip of the peak. Obviously, something was going on, and given what was scheduled to happen tonight, it must be the summoning of the gods!

“Just in time,” muttered Tristan to himself. “Hurry up, Tristan!”

There had been a battle here, he thought – the steps were slick with blood and bodies, both human and Pokémon, were piled up around the sides – but everything was quiet now, save for a distant voice drifting down from the Pillar – Cyrus making a speech, no doubt. He always made an elegant address; he had a way with words that Tristan hadn't encountered in anyone else. You could tell he would have been a great statesman, had he stayed in politics; as it was, he had committed himself to a far greater cause.

Tristan sighed, and hurried past the heaps of corpses. Truly, the boss was a remarkable man. This meant, he realised, that he would almost certainly recognise Tristan and notice he was late when he got to the peak, which was worrying. After all, he didn't want to end up being banished from the new world order because he was captured by the League.

But Cyrus was also incredibly magnanimous, he knew, and so surely he would forgive him. The fact that this was completely at odds with his other view of Cyrus as purely rational did not occur to him; Tristan had heard a lot of his speeches, and the power loaned to Cyrus by the Geist had soaked deep into his mind.

“Just a little further now,” he said to himself, voice trembling with suppressed excitement. “Just a little fur...”

His voice died on his lips as he crested the rise and saw the encroaching wall of darkness, flame-eyed faces forming, dissolving and reforming all across its surface.

“Ah,” said Tristan, suddenly incapable of coherent speech. “Ah – aaaaaah!”

And, all at once, the Geist froze.

“What – what is this?” they said, the faces turning to look at each other in frantic dismay. “A – some kind of memory?”

The surface of the cloud boiled violently, and lumps of clogging mist started to pull away from the main body.

“Ronwe!” roared one hundred and seven voices precisely. “What in God's name have you poisoned us with?”

“I don't know!” was the lone reply, from one of the faces on the upper left – a young woman with a shapely nose. “I think it's—”

“Oh, sodding hell,” breathed a familiar voice, as a full human head emerged from one side of the cloud to stare at Tristan. “I thought I'd got rid of you?”

And Tristan Shandy, the only person in the world whose presence irritated her enough to wake her from slumber in the depths of Ronwe's subconscious, stared back at the unmistakable face of Liza Radley.

---

Liza rose up out of the Geist like an avenging angel, chunks of the great Ghost's essence tearing away to build her a body.

Ronwe!” screamed the other spirits in blind fury and pain. “What are you doing?”

Ronwe never replied; the part of the cloud that formed her mouth was sloughing away, surging upwards to create a muscular abdomen.

“And what the hell is all this?” wondered Liza, looking around at the shattered Pillar and the roiling Geist. “Where am I? What's happening?”

Shreds of fog closed in together to form her legs, and she drifted forwards, free of the cloud, to land gently on the flagstones between the defenders and the Geist. One final curl of mist washed over her, restoring her cuts and bruises, make-up and clothes, all exactly as they had been the moment that Ronwe had been absorbed into the Geist – and then it dissipated on a breeze that no one felt, vanishing into the ether.

The Ghost fell back, screeching wildly and bleeding torrents of inky blackness from the gaping hole Liza had left in their side; they tried to cover it with more mist, heaping themselves over the wound, but the pitchy substance kept forcing its way out, and no amount of pressure could hold it back.

“You,” said Liza, looking at Tristan. “What's happening?”

“Bleagh!” he whimpered, confused and terrified in equal measure.

“I could ask you the very same question,” said Puck, which was, if anything, less helpful than Tristan's answer.

“An incredibly powerful Ghost is trying to destroy Sinnoh, madam,” said Bond, perceiving, from the facts thus far revealed to him, that Liza Radley and the demon that had killed him were not entirely the same person, and that the woman who stood before them now was the former rather than the latter. “We are doing all we can to stop it.”

“Destroy Sinnoh?”

Liza turned to face the Geist, which had retreated back to the alter to nurse its wounds.

“Did... did I do that?” she asked apprehensively, looking at the wave of darkness that gushed from its flank.

“Yes, madam.”

“I wonder if I can do it again,” said Liza, tilting her head on one side; a strange, hypnotic glimmer came into her eye, and she stepped forwards, one hand raised and surrounded by a deep violet nimbus.

“Ronwe,” hissed the collective voice of the Geist, “that... thing is part of you! Suppress it at once!”

“I'm trying!” cried Ronwe, newly-reformed on a different part of the cloud. “But she's strong – she has access—”

A black flash shot out from the Geist, curved around Liza's hand and smashed straight back into the point it had come from.

“—to our powers,” finished Ronwe unhappily as the faces that had been hit screamed in pain, the fire leaking from their eyes and running down their cheeks like flaming tears.

“Hey, I can,” said Liza, smiling like a child that has just discovered a new toy. “How about this?”

“No!” snarled the Geist. “All together! Stand firm and hold her back!”

Once again, the faces drew together in a cluster, and their eyes met Liza's in a blaze of defiant fire; her brown eyes glared back with the same power, and her will and the Geist's clashed with a psychic crash that was heard by psionics as far away as Gibbous Isle.

“What the hell is going on?” cried Pigzie Doodle, but no one replied; their attention was held by the battle going on over the ruins of the altar. The sparks emitted as the two wills ground against each other's edges were partially visible even to those without Johnson's Syndrome, as pale flashes of spirit that flared into life between the two combatants and dissipated a moment later. If the Geist had stopped to think, they must have realised that neither of them could possibly break the stalemate – Liza was part of one of them, and hence they were trying to break their own will – but they refused to countenance any distraction from the task at hand, and so the sparks burned brighter and the tension in the air mounted and swelled until it seemed like it would crush the Pillar, crush everyone on it, crush the whole of Sinnoh beneath its colossal weight—

—and slowly, painfully, Liza began to dissolve. Granules of darkness writhed free from the edges of her face and fingers, and drifted back towards the body of the Geist, gradually plugging the bleeding hole within. The sparks grew wilder, and the point from which they burst moved closer to Liza as the Geist began to reabsorb her—

—and then suddenly an arc of lightning impacted in the centre of its faces, and Liza and the Geist blew apart like a black and white firework in a shower of sparks, both psychic and electrical.
“Whoa,” breathed Puck happily, as Liza sailed by overhead. “Now that was cool. Can I do it again?”

“You idiot!” snapped Pigzie Doodle. “She was the only thing holding it ba—”

“Little Ghost, we believe we have reason to thank you,” rumbled the Geist, sounding pleased. “It appears that that projection was a conduit for our own power. Shattering our concentration destroyed hers too.”

Puck's face fell.

“Oh. Well, crap,” he said. “Usually I make situations better, not worse.”

“When have you ever made a situation better?” snapped Kester. “I am going to kill you—”

“We shall beat you to it,” the Geist interrupted mildly, and barrelled down the nave back towards them—

—just as Liza shot back at it, skin dissolving into a billion points of darkness, crashing into the Geist with the speed of a diving falcon—

—and Spear Pillar vanished in a bursting sphere of roaring darkness.
__________________

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #159    
Old September 13th, 2012, 02:56 AM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Chapter Forty-Seven: In Which Time Winds On

'The happy ending was invented by Hoennian bard Vikmat Strood in the year 1402. Before then, every story ended with at least one brutal murder, and preferably five.'
—Charlotte Shizpraer, 101 Outrageous Lies


“So how did you know?” asked Cynthia. “How did you figure it out?”

We sat on the veranda of her house on Gibbous Isle, the large island that housed the Pokémon League, a small city and a giant forest; it had been one week since we had climbed back into Sinnoh through the archaeological dig site at Sendoff Spring, and one week since I had last seen any of the people who had been with us at Spear Pillar.

“The Hoennians were bringing a meteorite to Sinnoh,” I told her. “They flew from Rustboro to Snowpoint to Veilstone because it was cheaper, but it vanished en route. Their plane must have flown near the Pillar, and the meteorite somehow fell through one of the rifts that Jasper said open up around it, travelling five hundred years back in time. When we were taking them to the police station, they mentioned that it was connected with some kind of alien virus and I guess the time travel brought it out of stasis, when it infected Ashley. He's not a god, he's half-alien.” I looked at Cynthia. “Am I right?”

She looked impressed. Very impressed.

“Mostly,” she admitted. “We don't know where they come from, but we have some idea of what they are: sentient colonies of microbes – viruses and bacteria and fungal cells all working together to form a single large organism. We call them Deoxys.

“They can travel through space under their own power, but oxygen is toxic to them and of the two that we know have come to Earth, only one survived. They both curled up and froze themselves into stasis – kind of like a huge crystal – but one mistimed it and was dead before it hit the ground. The other one landed near Spear Pillar in 1559, close to a remote mountain village home to a primitive tribe called the Shinowh. From what we learned from the Hoennian kids, it seems pretty likely that that one was their meteorite, and it went through one of those rifts. Something woke it up, probably the time travel, and, with over half the species that made them up dead from oxygen poisoning, the remaining microbes panicked and fled, resorting to infecting the nearest large animal to survive.”

“Ashley,” I said.

“No. A courtesan in the Shinowh court, Shiamat. She was heavily pregnant, and the shock of the sudden infection forced a fatal miscarriage, we think – but the micro-organisms jumped ship and were able to successfully inhabit and save the baby. Because so few of them survived, they weren't able to recover their sentience; they just sort of sat there in his body, multiplying and trying to render the baby suitable for them to live in. Eventually they got something they could survive in, and then they dug deep into his bones and slept.”

“Suitable for them to live in?” I echoed. “What does that mean?”

“We have no idea where they come from,” replied Cynthia simply. “We have no idea what they evolved to infect. Whatever it was, it was very far from human. They – they tore up his DNA and patched it back together, copying across huge chunks of new information that no one's ever decoded yet. They did...” Cynthia broke off for a moment, and stared out over the veranda at the forest for a while. “They did awful things to survive,” she said at last. “I don't know. One of our scientists once said that they chewed up his soul and spat it out.”

His soul. That reminded me of Spiritomb – the Geist, as they had been known in centuries gone by. It was gone now, sealed away again as soon as we had reentered our universe with Cyrus and his pendant. We'd made our way back to the Pillar as quickly as we could on Salazar's back, but we hadn't found what we thought we had. It wasn't that time was stopped in the Distortion World – it was that there was no time at all, and hence when we came back we could have returned to our world at any point in the history of the universe. Giratina had obviously tried to direct us to the same sort of time that we'd come from, but it was still about three-quarters of an hour out, and that meant that for forty-five terrible minutes, the people we'd left behind on the mountaintop had had to fight an unstoppable monster – and, miraculously, it seemed they'd held it back. None of them were quite sure how they'd done it: looking back, they all agreed that what they'd achieved was almost completely impossible.

The ancient temple itself had been razed literally to the ground; nothing remained of it but heaps of marble dust, blown out in wide circles around the point where Spiritomb had been. Nothing else had been touched; not the weeds growing in the cracks of the tiles or the people standing there, gazing stupefied at the space formerly occupied by Spiritomb. No one knew why, but the Pillar had simply ceased to be – had snapped out of existence at the same time as the Ghost, floor, walls and all. Perhaps it had slipped through a rift and flown away to another time and place; perhaps it had reacted with the explosive binding and somehow been eradicated in the blast. We would never know.

I blinked away the past, and flitted back to the present. Cynthia smiled suddenly, breaking the gloom that had settled over us with her words.

“But that's all in the past now,” she said. “Hundreds of years in the past. Ashley said he didn't mind. He never knew what it felt like to be human,
so he never missed it.”

I looked through the patio windows into the living-room, as if expecting to see him there. I didn't, of course.

“I guess he didn't,” I said slowly. “Weird, isn't it?”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “Weird.”

---

“I suppose this is it, Bond,” said Ellen, standing once more in the hall of Wickham Manor.

“Yes, madam,” agreed Bond. “I suppose it is.”

“Can you feel it?” she asked. “The – the pull?”

“Yes, madam,” replied Bond quietly. “I feel it.”

The Ghosts of Wickham Manor – Chicory, Mans, Huluvu, and, here to see them off and absolutely not because he was the slightest bit fond of them, Pigzie Doodle – hung back, watching the little drama unfold. None of them had seen this before; this was a very rare occurrence indeed – human ghosts did not come along every day, and it was usually rather a long time before they made it to this point in their existence.

Ellen had brushed her hair and beautified her poison-scarred face as best she could; since she was dead and her real clothes had long since rotted, she could not change into her best dress as she felt the occasion demanded, but she had made the best of what she had. Bond, for his part, looked immaculate as ever.

The silence between them deepened, and all the sounds of the old house seemed to become louder: the creak of the decaying boards; the soft swish of the curtains in the dining-room, where the windows had broken during a storm twenty years before; the dragging footsteps of the lame fox that had made its home in the coal cellar; the soft chatter of the birds in the attic. This was home, and for a long, long time it had been all Ellen knew; leaving it now, even when she was sick of it and of her unending existence, was frightening, and for a minute at least she was content to bathe in its familiar presence.

“I'm so tired,” she said eventually. “But I think it's over, Bond. We fulfilled our task.”

“Yes, madam,” he replied.

“I...” Ellen's throat closed up and the words would no longer come; after some deliberation, she settled on, “Goodbye, Bond.”

Bond gave a short bow.

“Goodbye, madam. And may I say it has been a pleasure to serve you.”

“Thank you.”

Now a faint light was gathering around her, and Ellen seemed to be swelling without actually changing shape or size.

“Madam, may I just say one thing more?” inquired Bond, and Ellen nodded.

“Of cour—”

She never finished. In the midst of the word she was trying to say, she simply disappeared, and left Wickham Manor – and the physical world – for good.

Bond stared at the spot where she had been, and felt the pull of the spiritual realm lessen and die.

“Ah,” he said. “This could prove problematic.”

Over the course of his recent adventures, he had come to realise that while the business that had held Ellen's spirit on Earth had been the revelation of Liza to the world as a killer, his was not. It was something rather more mundane.

Bond was sure that he remained on this world because he had not yet tendered his resignation to the Dennel family, and with Ellen gone, he was not entirely certain that he would ever get the chance.

So, said Pigzie Doodle. She ditched you and headed for Elysium, eh Jeeves? Human weakness, I say. This world's the only one worth staying in.

Bond started.

“Mister Ishmael, I—”

Can hear me? Yeah, I thought as much. One fewer ghost in the world, one free ghostly power – defaulting to the nearest spirit. You.

“Do you mean to say that I have acquired the late young mistress' ability to speak to Ghosts?”

Yeah.

Actually
, put in Chicory, I'm not sure that that's how it works—

Shut up
, snapped Pigzie Doodle. I'm inventing pseudo-science and capitalising on a situation here.

They bickered for a while longer, and Bond thought for a moment.

“Mister Ishmael,” he said at length, “what do you intend to do now?”

Me? The Duskull considered. I don't know. Travel some more. That's what I usually do. I'm thinking of heading to Unova soon; I've got some business with a Yamask called Jorland.

“Will you perhaps be requiring the services of a butler?” asked Bond diffidently.

What? Why would I need a butler?

“Everyone,” said Bond, with sweeping dignity, “needs a butler.”

Pigzie Doodle nodded slowly.

I can accept that argument, he said. And actually, I could probably use someone as prone to victory as you are.

“And when will sir be leaving?”

I don't know. I was going to go after you guys had buggered off, but only half of you did.

“Then if you'll excuse me, sir, I shall go and pack you a valise at once. We may catch the next tide.”

Oh, I like this, said Pigzie Doodle, his monstrous ego swelling like a puffball. A valise, eh? Fancy. And going by ship, by the sound of it. Well, why not? After all, I've got a butler now. I'm classy.

Give it a rest, Pigzie
, sighed Hans. If Bond's going with you, this is our house now, and you're kind of outstaying your welcome.

Bond glided back into the room, a well-travelled valise in his hands.

“Sir,” he said. “If you please.”

Why, certainly
, said Pigzie Doodle, drifting with him down the hall towards the door. Oh, I'm going to like this. We'll go somewhere where people don't know my name isn't Ishmael, and they'll look at me and think, 'There's a Ghost with breeding. He keeps staff...'

---

“...until the seatbelt lights are off,” said the pilot on the intercom. “Thank you for choosing Sinnoh Air, and we hope you have a very pleasant flight.”

Kester sat back in his seat and looked across the aisle at Sapphire.

“Well, I'm going home at last,” he said with a heartfelt sigh. “Thank God this saving the world stuff is over.”

She smirked at him.

“You know you love it really.”

“Yeah, just like I love a good kick in the balls.”

“Oh, come on,” she said. “Don't you feel that little thrill as you—”

“No,” he replied firmly. “No, I don't.”

“Not even—”

“No. I hate it and I want to go home.”

Kester turned back to Felicity, who was in the seat next to him, and sighed again.

“What about you?” he asked.

“I don't know,” she replied. “There wasn't much I could do, in the end. I don't have any weapons that work against Ghosts.”

Kester put his arm around her and held her close.

“You were there,” he said. “That was probably the only thing that stopped me turning and running away.”

Felicity smiled.

“In that case, it was worth every moment,” she replied. “But there is still one thing I don't understand.”

“And that is?”

“Where is Puck?”

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!” called an English-accented voice over the intercom. “This is your co-pilot speaking. The regular pilot has fallen unconscious owing to an accident with a high-powered burst of electricity, and I'll be flying the plane for you today. Don't worry – I'll get you all there safely!”

Kester froze.

“Oh, no,” he murmured, going white. “Not again. For God's sake, Puck!”

“Now, passengers,” continued the Rotom, “let's get you into the air!”

One or two of the ground crew thought they heard someone screaming as the plane lifted off, but they could never be sure; all that was ever known was that that particular aircraft vanished for twelve years until it was found being used as a den by chimpanzees in the Congo river basin.

---

Later that night, when the League people had finally left the remnants of the Pillar, Tristan finally judged it safe to emerge from his place of hiding behind a large boulder and have a look around. He didn't think it particularly safe to be a Galactic right now; after all, the Team had recently failed to destroy reality, and that, combined with their more widely-known offences at the Veilstone building, meant that it was fairly likely that they would be public enemy number one at the moment.

Consequently, he had had a look for clothes he could use to disguise himself as an ordinary citizen; in one rather battered helicopter with buckled runners that he had discovered on the other side of the peak, he found a few sets of cold-weather gear, and, with Mount Coronet's weather now returning to normal freezing cold, he was glad to change out of his thin Galactic uniform.

Returning across the expanse of rock where the Pillar had once been, he beheld a figure climbing up the stairs and onto the peak; aware that he had no good reason to be here other than being a member of Team Galactic, Tristan hurriedly ducked back and behind the helicopter, watching as the figure limped tiredly out onto the stone. Shortly, it was joined by another figure, though where that one had come from he didn't know, and they stood as if speaking for a while before turning and walking back down the steps. A few minutes later, there was a sound like a car turning inside out, and then silence.

When he was quite sure they were gone, Tristan emerged from hiding and crept back to the stairs; he peered down, and saw that he was right: there was now no one here but him.

“Excellent,” he said, and began the long walk back down to ground level.

He passed the place where the League helicopter had been, and began to work his way down the steep trail that would take him into the cave network and thence to the ground. He hoped he remembered the way, he thought. After all, the caves were long and complicated, and he hadn't been there for quite some time.

“There's no new world,” said Tristan, catching himself by surprise to see what his reaction would be; much to his astonishment, he found he didn't actually mind all that much. He stopped dead and almost fell down a cliff, one thought resounding through his skull: it didn't matter! After all, now that he thought about it, he didn't actually mind emotions all that much. And this world wasn't so bad after all; it had organised crime and Kinder Eggs, and that was pretty much all Tristan desired in life.

He started walking again, a little smile spreading over his face. No, it didn't matter that the new world had failed to materialise. After all, really, wasn't Cyrus just a little bit insane? Tristan couldn't quite see what had possessed him to follow the man so blindly. Perhaps there had been some sort of hypnotism involved, he thought sagely. Yes. Hypnotism. That was probably it. You could never tell with a hypnotist. Tricky blighters.

“Now,” he said aloud, as he came to the cave mouth, “I just have to find Jackie.”

And whistling a jaunty tune, Tristan walked into the cave and his part in this tale came to an end.

---

Cyrus sat back and rested his head against the wall, eyes closed. It was strange, he thought, that now his emotions didn't seem to bother him at all; throughout the build-up to his great attempt at universal reform, they had worried him like dogs with a bone, but now he felt oddly... free. Just a pure mind, arising from the interacting mechanisms of his brain, and through that organ in command of a body that had defined limits and capabilities.

Perfect.

He might not have been able to save the world, he decided, but whatever it was that had happened to him in the Distortion World had saved him at least.

Of course, Cyrus didn't know that his body now lay in a hospital bed, having never fought free from the unconsciousness of Sheol; he didn't know that he was never predicted to wake from his coma; he didn't know that if ever he did, he would be arrested immediately for crimes against humanity and vanish into the iron halls of the Sinnish penal system.

All he knew was that he was somewhere where the sun shone and a breeze blew, and everything clicked forward one notch at a time, cogs in a vast, beautiful machine that neither dreamed nor loved.

Cyrus sighed. He was going to like it here.

---

While Cyrus had fallen into a coma, Stephanie had woken from one: Beleth's spell had held her in the grip of a nightmare for a long time, but as the Geist was caged in stone once more, her eyes opened and the monsters stopped trying to break into her room; the walls changed from dull concrete to warm plaster, and the light from cold yellow to soothing white. She was in Jubilife General Hospital, and she was fine.

And then and there she decided, with the vengeful certainty of one who knows, that this was Pearl's fault and that she had better have a very good explanation for this. Unfortunately for her, Beleth was no longer available to be questioned about his motives, given that he was currently trapped in a stone in a pendant that had been locked in the deepest, most secure of the League's vaults; all that could be deduced was that he had spent a long time – years, perhaps decades – gathering information about everyone who might be included in his plan, and had deduced that Pearl had Johnson's Syndrome and that Stephanie was the one most likely to figure it out and tell her. Perhaps this was right, perhaps not. All that Stephanie could know for certain was that Beleth had been in life court fool to the fifth Earl of Ecruteak in 1232, a role that he had fulfilled with expertise derived from his underlying psychosis – a psychosis that eventually led him to murder each and every member of the Earl's court and hang them around the building while he ate them. A man that mad might never have needed a reason to trap Stephanie in her own mind at all.

Real life, however much the gods believe it is a story, always leaves a few unanswered questions in its wake. It galled her to admit it, but there was no way for Stephanie to figure out Beleth's motives, and soon enough her life returned to normal.

---

As the woman who once was Liza began to wake, the two halves of her personality, timid and savage, began to writhe and fight for supremacy; without Ronwe's dreaming mind to back them up, neither was able to assert themselves, and both collapsed down into a new blank persona with a shock that sent a physical shiver running through the brain they shared. Whenever Liza had been created before, it was always with amnesia – the first time, about her identity as Ronwe, and the second time, about her battle with Ashley and Marley – and this precedent, combined with the mental trauma of actually being a person in her own right this time, caused her mind to temporarily shut down, furiously scribble out everything it knew and hope that it learned something useful in the future.

She sat up on the ledge at the base of the stairs, and stared at her moonlit surroundings.

“OK,” she said, getting shakily to her feet, “I'm on a mountain covered in corpses. That's... I'm sure there's a reason.”

She looked at her hands and wondered why they seemed strange; then she realised that she had no idea what she looked like. From her voice, she'd worked out she was a woman, but other than that she knew nothing at all about herself except that her leg hurt.

“What the hell is going on?” she asked the heavens, but there was no answer. Briefly, she entertained a notion that God might have appeared there to reply – but as soon as the thought had entered her head it left, her mind crossing out another bit of information from the past with the furious energy of one who is desperately trying to adjust to terrifying new circumstances.
She sat down on a rock, and felt her face. Did it feel normal? She guessed so. It had two eyes and a nose and a mouth, which was a good sign. A couple of cuts and bruises, but that was OK, those would heal. After a while, she gave up; she needed to see herself to get an idea of who she was.

“What's my name?” she wondered aloud, and a fleeting thought crossed her mind; she snatched at it eagerly, and tried to read it even as her subconscious was erasing it. “Lizzie? Elise? Something like that...”

It was no use; she couldn't remember. She supposed it didn't matter all that much, anyway. She could choose whatever name she wanted.

“Maybe someone knows me,” she decided. “Let's... let's go up the steps. Steps have to be made by someone, and they have to lead somewhere, so... there might be someone at the top of the steps.”

She felt much happier now she'd decided on a course of action, and set off up the stairs; the peak was high and the night was cold, but she did not shiver as she went. She only looked like a human, after all; in reality, she was little more than a dream. The ragged bodies heaped on the stairs were a little disconcerting, but she must have seen a lot of death before she lost her memory, because they didn't bother her that much.

“Maybe I was a soldier,” she said, an idea coming into her head. “A soldier for... the army of whatever country I'm in.”

What countries did she know? She had to admit that though she could conjure up a map of the world in her head, she couldn't actually name a single one. This was bizarre, she thought. All right, so she had forgotten who she was – but forgotten the names of all the world's countries? This had been a very thorough bout of amnesia.

She reached the top, and was dismayed to see nothing there but a huge expanse of flat stone, liberally covered in corpses.

“Is that all?” she wondered, limping out into the middle of the platform. “No one here?”

“Just me,” said one of the corpses, sitting up with an effort – the effort due, it was to be presumed, to the bloody hole that ran right through its chest.

She jumped back and almost cried out, but the corpse put a finger to his lips and stretched out a placatory hand.

“Please!” he cried. “I'm not here to harm you.”

“You've got a sodding hole in you!”

“Do you really think I haven't realised?” snapped the man. “Please, could you give me a hand up?”

She offered a tentative hand and the man pulled himself to his feet.

“Thank you,” he said. “I realise this must come as something of a shock to you, but I'm a strülden, you see, and—”

“A what?”

The man paused.

“A vampire,” he explained. “Someone tried to kill me, but their stake missed my heart.” He poked one finger in the hole and wiggled it, which made our nameless heroine feel a little ill. “They did scratch it, though, which hurt me rather badly and made my body fall apart. I've been repairing it for the last three hours from bits I've scavenged from all these other corpses.”

A vague thought told her that vampires weren't real, but obviously their existence was simply something she'd forgotten; after all, this man was one, and she wasn't going to doubt the evidence of her own eyes.

He bent down and picked up a handful of meat from some sort of white dog, then stood up and pressed it into his chest as he spoke.

“Now, who might you be?” asked the vampire, and the amnesiac felt oddly as if he was testing her, as if he thought he knew who she might be and wanted to see if she did as well – but then the moment passed, and she forgot.

“I don't know,” she admitted. “I can't remember anything.”

“I see.” The vampire stroked his chin with bloody fingers. “Well, my name is Jasper – Jasper Platinum” – here he paused, gauging her reaction to the name, but there was none – “and I believe the people I came here with think I'm dead. I was about to go and find them to tell them I'm not – would you care to join me? Perhaps we can uncover a clue to this... mystery... of your identity.”

“Oh. Thanks!” she said eagerly. “And... can you tell me where I am?”

“This is Mount Coronet in Sinnoh,” Jasper told her. “Does that ring any bells?”

She shook her head.

“Sinnoh... that's north of that, uh, big square country, right?”

Jasper smiled and looked deep into her eyes, his Ghostly senses finding the immortal spirit that made her up and the vast power stored within her core, and his almost-human mind realising that he had just found an excellent replacement for Ashley.

“Close enough,” he said, and led her away to the stairs.

“I was thinking,” said the amnesiac, as they descended, “that I should maybe choose a name for myself?”

“Yes, things would be easier if I knew what to call you,” agreed Jasper, tensing suddenly. “What sort of name did you have in mind?”

If it was Liza, he had better throw her off the mountain now and have done with it; he couldn't allow as potent a threat as her to—

“I don't really know,” she said forlornly. “Er... what do you think of Amelia?”

Jasper breathed a silent sigh of relief.

“I think it's perfect,” he answered warmly, happy to be able to inform the League that it now had the power of part of the Geist on its side with none of the attendant evil. “It, er, fits.”

“It does, doesn't it?” replied Amelia, a look of deep satisfaction coming over her face. “Amelia. Yeah, that's me.”

“It certainly is,” agreed Jasper, and they walked away into the night.

---

The Queen had been doing some thinking lately – nothing really brilliant, nothing that was going to put her on track for a Nobel Prize or anything, just plain, simple Skarmory thinking. She had been thinking about the two times she had been defeated in combat by those strange Skarmory-things with the whirling wings above their heads, and she had identified the common factor in both situations.

They had both had little creatures with them.

There had been the funny patch of darkness with a white face that had tried to shoot her in the first one, and the second one had been full of humans; what the effect of these passengers was she wasn't entirely sure, but the only opponents that had ever beaten her had had them with them. Therefore, the Queen decided, she needed some humans of her own to sit on her back and perhaps offer tactical advice if necessary. Then she could go and find those metal birds and reclaim her throne.

And so the night of the great confrontation atop Spear Pillar found her ranging around the mountains, searching for humans to pick up. The Queen had chosen to hunt by night since the metal birds seemed only to fly by day, and she wasn't yet ready to face them – she wanted some humans before she did that.

Ah. There, on the slope of the big mountain – two humans coming down some stairs, picked out vividly by the moonlight and her own superb avian eyesight.

The Queen swooped silently down towards them, landed on the ledge before them and screeched out a request for comradeship in a voice like twisted steel.

The two humans stared back, evidently somewhat alarmed. Of course; she was a predator, and they were prey. It was natural that they should be afraid of her. She would have to remedy this somehow.

The Queen lowered her great body to the ground and stretched out her wings so that the tips of the feathers brushed the stone; when this turned out to be inadequate, she turned her head and tapped her back with her beak.

The male human stepped forwards and looked at her curiously.

“I do believe it wants us to get on its back,” it said in the strange soft language of humans. The Queen, not knowing what he meant, waited patiently; perhaps he was working out her message.

“What is it?” asked the female human. It had a magnificent brown mane, the Queen noted – obviously a highly desirable mate. Perhaps the male human had stepped forwards because it thought she was contesting its claim to it.

“A Skarmory. And I have only seen one Skarmory of that size this far from Gibbous Isle.” The male human turned back to the female. “Well, since my colleagues appear to have abandoned us, and we have no other method of transportation, shall we ride? It will certainly be an adventure.”

The female human looked from the male to the Queen and back again. There was trepidation in its eyes, but also something strange and terrible that the Queen had never seen before; yes, she thought, it would be an excellent passenger to have along. She would like to see anyone fight her with it on board and live to tell the tale.

“All right,” it said. “Let's do it.”

“Excellent,” replied the male human. “Follow me, then.”

Victory! The Queen screeched happily, and flapped off with her new humans safely installed on her back. She would be unstoppable with these two in tow. Now, if she took them to a human nest, like Hearthome or Celestic, and dropped them off, all the humans would be grateful to her for saving them, and they would offer up their strongest warriors to ride on her back...

Lost in simple-minded dreams of boundless grandeur, the Queen flew off to the east, crowing wildly like an exultant raven.

---

Cynthia and I sat there on the veranda for a while longer, watching the forest shivering in the breeze.

“It's funny, isn't it, how everything turned out so well,” I said. “Jasper not really being dead, Liza alive but having forgotten everything, Cyrus never waking up... Just like a real Sinnish myth.”

“Yeah,” agreed Cynthia. “Just like a story. Everything gathered up neatly at the end – except Looker never got to catch Liza.”

“He was very nice about it,” I reflected. “Even though it must have been a terrible disappointment.”

“Yeah. Poor guy.”

I didn't envy him. Looker had had the task of going back to France to inform his superiors that his target had been absorbed into, and rebuilt out of, an ancient evil composed entirely of human sin, and had now lost her memory, her old personality and pretty much everything else – not an easy thing to explain.

There was a noise from inside, and we both looked around to see a delicate-looking young man with glasses and brown hair coming out to join us.

“Hello, Pearl,” he said, bending down to kiss Cynthia. “I didn't realise you were here.”

“I'm staying nearby while Lucian teaches me about being psychic,” I explained. “How are you?”

“Alive,” said Ashley simply. “Truly alive for the first time in my life.” He hugged me tightly. “Thank you again,” he whispered in my ear, and I remembered that moment in the Distortion World when I'd realised what I wanted, the very best gift I could think of for the man who'd saved my life and hundreds of others so many times.

“I want you to make Ashley and Marley human,” I'd said to Giratina, and it had recoiled sharply, demanding to know what was wrong with their heritage. “Nothing,” I'd said. “But they don't want it, not really. Ashley wants to be able to live with the possibility of death. He wants to be a father to his daughter and a lover to Cynthia. And Marley isn't right. She shouldn't be the way she is; she's missing humanity. She doesn't understand the world, and she hates herself for it.” I had shrugged then, and said with a lot more bravery than I'd felt: “They want to be mortal.”

Giratina had gone quiet, and muttered softly to itself, and finally had announced that it thought it could perhaps see its way toward doing that.

Thank God for Johnson's Syndrome, I'd thought. If I hadn't been able to glimpse their emotions, their dreams, I would never have realised how much they loathed the alien infection, how much the so-called legacy of Izh had scarred their minds.

And we had seen Ashley's statue, a vast, hideous tree of boils and spines and blades, and Marley's smaller one, blocky on one side and tumorous on the other; Giratina had shouted three words that shook the universe in their direction – and a thousand pieces of stone blasted away from them, leaving two smooth, unformed cores behind. I later learned that at that moment, Ashley collapsed in the other world; by the time we got to him, he had come to and was embracing Marley so tightly it looked like she might snap in half. Both of them were crying, and their minds showed up on my emotional radar as twin sunbursts of joy.

“Hey,” I said, patting Ashley on the shoulder. “Don't worry about it.”

He withdrew, the seeds of tears in his eyes, and smiled warmly – a real human smile, not that fake mask he had used to charm his way through his existence before. I knew that behind that smile was real compassion now, just as he was now truly in love with Cynthia, and he had real hatred of Spiritomb. Before, he had had facsimiles of feelings; now he had the real thing.

“You are the kindest person in the history of the universe,” he told me. “If I wasn't with Cynthia, I would marry you.”

“Ashley,” said Cynthia, mock-warningly. “Stop flirting with Pearl.”

“Yes, darling,” replied Ashley dutifully, and sat down next to her.

We talked for a while – about my new job, working for the League; about what might have happened to Iago; about the therapy Marley was undergoing so her new emotions would stop knocking her out with their intensity – and then about less serious things, about the minutiae of daily life, about how annoying buses were, about Ashley's recent discovery that, as a full-blooded human, he could now get drunk. The time passed, and gradually the thought of the end of time slipped away, and quiet, blissfully normal life resumed.

I sat back, drinking the last of my tea, and spared one last thought for the movie I'd built up in my head as we'd made our way through the investigation.

Roll credits
, I thought, and fade to black.





Chapter Forty-Eight: Or Not.

Except that this wasn't a movie, and it wasn't over.

Ctrl+S. There. I sat back and stared at the screen happily: I'd written it all up, all four hundred and forty-seven pages of it. It had taken three weeks of interviewing everyone else I could track down and a month of solid typing, but I'd finally finished my account of the Galactic business. OK, so it couldn't be published as it was – the higher-ups in the League would definitely have the parts about the Driftenburg and where Liza went censored, for instance – but still. I thought it was pretty damn good.

“I did it, Choppy,” I said. “Finished.”

He came over and licked my hand, not really understanding but picking up on the happiness in my voice. Choppy – for such I had christened him – was one of only three Absol who'd survived the battle atop Mount Coronet, though in his case he'd left a leg and a kidney behind. Consequently, he'd sort of gone into retirement, and had been quite happy to follow me home to Corvada Castle rather than keep roaming the world in search of calamity; I'd wanted to do something to help the Pokémon that had given so much for us to be able to stop Cyrus, and keeping one as a pet was both beneficent and fairly low-maintenance, so it suited me well.

“Nice,” said a familiarly-accented voice from just behind me. “Kind of naïve at the end though, don't you think?”

I jumped and turned around in my chair to see a Kadabra standing there, reading the screen over my shoulder.

“Problem is, you write it as if everything's all sealed up neatly with a happy ending,” he continued. “Sorry, Pearl, but that just ain't how it works.”

“How did you get in here?” I asked quietly.

“With consummate ease,” replied Iago. “Now, Pearl, we need to talk.”

At that moment, Choppy started barking loudly, and would probably have cut Iago open had the Kadabra not at that moment touched my arm—

—and suddenly brought the pair of us somewhere else entirely. My bedroom dissolved into some kind of cell: four concrete walls, a single barred door and a lot of mould on the walls.

“What?” I asked helplessly, staring around. “What? What?”

“Yeah, you can thank Cynthia for that,” said Iago calmly. “Her little talk with good old Rowan in Canalave told me exactly where to go to find this.”

He held out his arm, and I saw that three or four links from the Chain were wrapped around it like a bracelet. I remembered the fragment that Cynthia had said had been dug up at Sendoff Spring, and my heart sank. Cal. We'd given Iago everything he needed to know to upgrade from criminal genius to supervillain.

“You see,” he went on, “knowing what I did about Cyrus' plan, I knew as soon as she said there was a bit of red stone chain found there that he'd fail. I also thought it might have a little bit of divine energy left in it. And guess what?” he asked. “It did.”

“What do you want?” I asked, trying to sound calm while my mind spread out like Lucian had taught me, pouring fear into Iago's skull—

“You trying to push a thought on me?” he inquired. “Sorry. I may not have any active psychic powers, but I am a Kadabra. I know when someone's screwing with my head, and I'm not falling for that. Your mind's like a pea-shooter compared to a Kadabra's.”

“I could punch—”

“Do you really think you're still stronger than me?” asked Iago contemptuously. “I've got a little bit of Dialga and Palkia's power on my wrist. Make a move and I teleport you straight out into space, or into a buried coffin. So, you know, you might want to stay very still and try not to annoy me.”

Cal. This was bad. Not only did this completely ruin the happy ending I'd written, but I seemed to be pretty close to being killed by a sociopathic and highly inventive Kadabra. It looked like I was about as safe as the proverbial snowflake in hell.

“What do you want?” I asked, blanking out my powers.

“Better,” he said. “Quite simple: I'm holding you to ransom.”

“What?”

He pulled a mobile phone from his tail and stood next to me.

“Say 'cheese',” he said, and took a picture of both of us; he pressed a few more buttons, presumably sending the photo to someone, and put his phone away.

“What do you mean, you're holding me to ransom?” I asked urgently.

Iago grinned.

“I've been picturing this moment for weeks,” he said. “I wanted to get it all just right – hence me waiting for you to finish the book and everything.”

“Just tell me.”

“Hey! Don't get snippy with me. I've sent the picture, so as far as everyone knows you're fine. I could kill you now and no one would even know.”

“OK, OK.” I raised my hands. “Sorry.”

“That's better,” said Iago. “Now, do you remember how I lost my fortune?”

“You were double-crossed by your partner in your last con, and he ran off with all the money while telling the police it was all you.”

“That's right. Cyrus bought my loyalty, see, by telling me where that thieving bratchny had got to – and let me tell you, that kind of information is worth a lot to me.”

“So what's all this got to do with kidnapping me?” I asked.

Iago's grin broadened.

“Where does your daddy's money come from, Pearl?”

I froze. No. No, that just wasn't possible.

“His – some rich relatives died—”

“An excuse. He's a grifter, a swindler just like me, but with the advantage of a human face. And he came into a very nice little windfall when he betrayed me, the grazhny backstabber.”

“No – no, he—”

“De-nial!” sang out Iago. “Sorry baby, but Daddy was a conman. And I just sent him a little reminder of that fact, along with a picture of you.” His phone began to ring. “Ah, that'll be him now.” He put the phone to his ear and started talking, all the while keeping those cold triangular eyes on me. “Well, hey Cecil, you old son of a *****, how're you doing? No, really? Yeah, just kidnapped your only daughter. How about that? I'm going to start sending bits of her home unless you repay every last dollar you took from me – with interest. I think I'll start with the eyes, actually – no sense beating around the bush with the fingers and whatnot.”

I stared at him, not listening. It couldn't be true – but I would know if he was lying, and Iago was not lying. My dad must have done just what he said he did. I knew his business wasn't entirely legal, but I'd never even dreamed that the capital to start it might have such sordid origins.

“Yes, just empty all the bank accounts you're authorised to empty,” said Iago merrily. “Put all the money in that nice car I saw on your drive – what, that's your cousin's? So you value your cousin's car more than your daughter's eyesight and potentially life? Well, you're the boss.”

He held the phone in my direction, then brandished the Chain fragment at me; the space around me started to flex and compress, pressing down on me like the coils of a python, and I couldn't help but scream.

“There we go,” said Iago into the phone, releasing me from the invisible vice. “Did you get all that? Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before. So, where were we? Put all the money in the car – unmarked bills, please – just on the seats and in the boot.”

“You bratchny,” I gasped, recovering my breath only to choke on my gathering tears. “You—”

“Thanks, Pearl. I do my best. So, Cecil,” he continued. “Just pop it all in the car and give me a ring when you do. I'll put your daughter right back in her room, then I'll jump in the car and be off. And before you think about double-crossing me again, you might want to think about how I managed to steal your daughter out of her bedroom in your castle only five minutes ago without you noticing. Speaking of which – nice style, man. Rest assured I'm going to be building a castle with the money I get from you. OK. Have fun!”

Iago put away the phone and turned back to me.

“Right,” he said brightly, clapping his hands. “The police will have traced that call already, so it's time to jump again.”

A second later, we were in the middle of some random field; I turned and was about to run, but Iago moved me a couple of feet down through space and embedded my legs up to the knee in the earth.

“Cal!”

Blank out the pain and fear, I thought, suppressing the panic rising in me. Stay calm – stay cool – be cool...

“You can't run from me,” said Iago pityingly, walking around to face me. “I'm a sodding demigod. It's awesome, let me tell you.”

“You're a monster.”

“Demigod, monster – much of a muchness, really. Just depends whose point of view you're looking from; it's the whole terrorist/freedom fighter thing all over again.”

“You have to be lying,” I said desperately. “None of this – this can't even be happening—”

“You faced the end of the world with equanimity and yet you're knocked for a loop by the revelation that your father used to be a crook,” said Iago. “Remarkable. I mean, he doesn't even do that anymore – he just invests wisely and occasionally buys art that isn't technically for sale.”

Yeah, I could see that – my dad taking the money in order to take down a Kadabra that he knew deserved everything coming to him, repenting of crime and deciding henceforth to increase his wealth by honest means... Yeah, that had to be what had happened. No matter what he did, it wasn't motivated by pure greed. Daddy was a changed man, a good man at heart...

I clung onto that thought for five long hours, as Iago jumped us from place to place, calling Daddy from each one to taunt him a little more and hurry him along; this was worse than the mental attack in Sheol, worse by far than the moment I thought the world would end – it was tortuously drawn-out, like that torture where the bamboo grows through your abdomen, slowly pushing through skin and piercing flesh.

Then Iago received the final call, when we were standing on a Johtonian beach, and smiled.

“Fantastic,” he said. “OK, Pearl, time to go home. Thanks for all your cooperation.”

“Sod off,” I muttered.

“Lay off the rich ***** attitude,” he advised. “Your family no longer has the money to justify it.”

With that, the world dissolved around me, and I reappeared back in my room; from outside, I heard the sound of an engine starting and voices shouting, and a moment later my mum burst in, calling my name, and swept me up in a whirl of chaos.

---

So yeah. There wasn't such a happy ending after all. Don't get me wrong, it was great that Liza became Amelia and Ashley and Marley became properly human and everything, but... Corvada had to go, and pretty much all of what we owned. I'd stopped going to university to work for the League, and it was a good thing I had, because there was no longer any money to fund it. I moved out to Gibbous Isle, both to save my parents money and because the League agreed to provide housing, but we were still pretty badly burned. My dad's company collapsed, and he had a – mercifully non-lethal – heart attack not that long after. I sent him and mum what money I could, and they had some savings left in an account in her name, but not even a fraction of what they'd had at the start. We didn't exactly thrive, but we at least survived.

I don't know what happened to Iago, but I don't hold out any hope that something happened to screw him over. He was too smart and, now that he had the piece of the Chain, too strong. No one knows where he went, but I've heard that a soap opera set in a desolate village in the middle of a forest-covered island infested by amphibious barracuda is due to start next year, and I'm willing to bet that there's an island out there somewhere with a Gothic, fish-filled castle being built on it as I write.

I do hate him, yeah – a lot; I mean, he killed Ashley once, financially ruined my family and gave my dad a heart attack – but I'm determined not to get bitter. I'm afraid that if I do, I might end up just as bad as him, and that's a scary thought. Maybe one day he'll make a mistake, and then I'll feel I've had some vengeance – but for now, I'm just content to go along with the flow.
After all, I'm the best psychic in Sinnoh, and I've got a pretty damn fine job. In the last month alone, I've seen more weird cal than I saw in all my time on the Galactic investigation – the Sleepers of Newmoon Island, the Lunar Envoy, the Anti-Mammoth – and I'm loving it. I just wish Iago hadn't taken everything my family had, that's all.

I also wish he hadn't poisoned my happy ending. Everything else ended perfectly, but Iago couldn't let it happen – couldn't let one huge, chaotic story, the first Sinnish epic for hundreds of years, come to a suitably happy close.

Bratchny.

But we'll survive, and maybe in time we'll thrive again. I mean, once I actually start getting paid, I'm going to be earning huge amounts of money – seriously huge. The kind of huge that means I might even be able to buy back Corvada in ten years' time, assuming I keep funding my parents in Veilstone. And I'm sure the government will stop prevaricating at some point and start giving me my salary, if only because Cynthia's backing my cause, and no one likes to go up against an angry Cynthia.

So.

Maybe there's a happy ending after all. I just need to wait a little while.

Anyway, I have to go now. I just got a text from Palmer at the Battle Tower, and it looks like there's trouble at Stark Mountain. Something about an ancient monster being awoken to wreak terrible destruction. You know – business as usual. I'd like to write a proper conclusion, but the more I write, the more I feel that there never is one. I mean, the story just goes on and on – I'm going on and doing even more crazy stuff now that I helped save the world from Cyrus and Spiritomb. We're all still here, and I think the best way to end is simply to say that we don't stop just because there are no more pages. We'll be here for years to come, saving the world, one Armageddon at a time.


Pearl Gideon, 5th April 2012




Well, that's it. That's all she wrote, quite literally. Check back this weekend for the beginning of a tale of two worlds, of split personas, of madness, parallel dimensions and, of course, of cats.

F.A.B.
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For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
  #160    
Old September 13th, 2012, 03:16 AM
Zayphora's Avatar
Zayphora
Don't mess with the lights...
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Somewhere beyond the Veil
Gender: Female
Nature: Sassy
^YOUR UNOVA STORY IS STARTING?!?!

waiittttt aaaaa minute....

...split personas? parallel dimensions? AND ALL OF THIS IN ASSOCIATION WITH UNOVA?!?!

*looks suddenly at my signature*
OHMYGAWD DOES THIS MEAN WHAT I THINK IT MEANS!??!?!
I WILL BE CHECKING FANFICS FRANTICALLY, SEEING IF MY PREDICTION OF WHAT THIS MEANS IS TRUE!!!

Anyway, this story was just...amazing. It was seriously awesome writing and...you know what, I'm gonna leave the commenting to someone else AND SAY THAT THIS WAS EPIC.

Thanks for the ride...
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Last edited by Zayphora; September 13th, 2012 at 12:29 PM. Reason: KCALB
  #161    
Old September 16th, 2012, 12:45 PM
Cutlerine
Gone. May or may not return.
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 21
Gender:
Nature: Impish
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zayphora View Post
^YOUR UNOVA STORY IS STARTING?!?!

waiittttt aaaaa minute....

...split personas? parallel dimensions? AND ALL OF THIS IN ASSOCIATION WITH UNOVA?!?!

*looks suddenly at my signature*
OHMYGAWD DOES THIS MEAN WHAT I THINK IT MEANS!??!?!
I WILL BE CHECKING FANFICS FRANTICALLY, SEEING IF MY PREDICTION OF WHAT THIS MEANS IS TRUE!!!

Anyway, this story was just...amazing. It was seriously awesome writing and...you know what, I'm gonna leave the commenting to someone else AND SAY THAT THIS WAS EPIC.

Thanks for the ride...
Thanks so much for reading! It means a lot. Though I do think you've missed the most important part of the advertisement: cats. A good cat is worth a hundred parallel dimensions, as any madman can tell you.

F.A.B.
__________________

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