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Old February 27th, 2011 (3:45 AM). Edited May 13th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
Gone. May or may not return.
    Join Date: Mar 2010
    Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
    Age: 23
    Nature: Impish
    Posts: 1,030
    You’re referencing Alghieri? I’m impressed. I’ve actually only read up till Inferno, so tell me, does Purgatorio actually have a place for cowards? Because cowardice almost seems like a cardinal sin.
    There are no Circles in Inferno for cowardice, but I'm not sure about terraces of Purgatorio. If I remember rightly, the terraces of Purgatorio simply correspond to the deadly sins, so there shouldn't be.


    Chapter Twenty-Three: A Hobo’s Fighting Spirit

    “I see. Yes, that’s quite all right. No, it’s excellent news, really.”

    Deep, deep beneath the surface of the earth, the man in the ruby-red trenchcoat had his feet up on the desk and his ear pressed against the phone.

    “Well, thank you very much,” he said. “Frankly, you’re saving us here. If what you say is true, the blues are close to theirs already. A meteorite, you say? No? I don’t quite... A Meteorite? With a capital ‘M’? How is that diff... Oh, is that so? That’s quite clever, isn’t it? Well, thank you again. Goodbye.”

    He put down the phone and pondered for a moment, throwing pieces of dried meat into the blot of inky blackness that skulked in the corner of the room. Occasional snaps told him that the creature within was succeeding in catching them.

    “All right,” said Maxie at length, sliding his feet off the desk and sitting up. “Tabitha!”

    A tall, hooded figure in red stepped into the room.

    “Yes, sir?” he asked. Maxie looked surprised.

    “Who the hell are you?” he roared. Sensing a temper coming on, Tabitha replied in his most soothing tone.

    “Tabitha, sir.”

    “I thought... What the hell? Tabitha’s a woman’s name! I wanted the other Admin, the pretty young one. Go and get her!”

    “Yes, sir.” Tabitha turned to leave, but Maxie called him back.

    “Wait!” The Magma Administrator looked patiently in the direction of his boss. “You’ll do, you’ll do,” decided Maxie, with a considered nod of the head. “I need you to do some research for me. It’s about these things called Meteorites...”


    Monday and Tuesday were, for the first time in ages, pretty normal. Sapphire was out at the Gym all day, and I was left to my own devices; I spent most of Monday asleep, purely because I had that luxury, and the better part of Tuesday exploring Mauville. I’d never been there before, and I have to say I was a little disappointed: from the name, I was expecting a lot more purple than I got.

    Other than that minor chromatic deficiency, however, I found I rather liked Mauville. Smaller than Rustboro and Slateport, yet larger than Dewford, it was just the right sort of size for wandering around. I found parks and clubs, clock towers and skyscrapers, all within a comfortable walk of each other, and I took pleasure in the continually varying scenery. The weather brightened up, too, returning to gloriously clear blue skies, and so, taken in all, it was a thoroughly pleasant day.

    Then came Wednesday. What is it about Wednesdays that makes them so awful? Maybe it’s because it comes in the middle of the week, a halfway point between weekend and weekend where you look back with pride at how far you’ve come, but forwards with dismay at the long slog ahead of you; maybe the day’s just bitter because no one pronounces all three syllables of its name, as they do for Saturday. Either way, Wednesdays in my experience are generally days of despair, and this one was no exception.

    It started well – deceptively well. Sapphire invited me to come to the Gym with her, because she was going to challenge Wattson. I accepted, we arrived and she led me into the yellow room at the back that I’d glimpsed on Sunday. Despite the grim exterior, this area of the Gym was pretty nice inside; I’d have classified it as Neo-Classical in design, but Puck stopped me.

    I’ve had quite enough of that, he snapped irritably. I really hate it when you steal my descriptions of architecture.

    The room was punctuated by a series of electrified fences, blocking off the way to Wattson; the man himself sat on a large beanbag at the back of the room, the long-suffering Shawn standing next to him and occasionally making comments that were lost in the sound of the old Leader’s raucous laughter. Around us, and scattered about the huge room in between the fences, pairs and quartets of Trainers were battling each other or simply teaching their Pokémon moves. Gouts of fire, flashes of light, and, above all, bursts of electricity kept erupting with roars or crackles; I saw a scarred white creature, armed with a pair of formidable talons, duelling with a huge, blade-covered snake, and some sort of long-haired serpent coiling around a furious Electabuzz, pulses of transparent energy bursting periodically from its brow. It was quite a spectacle, and I stared around, entranced, for a good five seconds before Sapphire tugged at my sleeve and recaptured my attention.

    “Come on,” she said. “I have an appointment.”

    “OK, OK.” I glanced around as she pulled me to the first gate in the fence. “This is all... well, it’s amazing, isn’t it?”

    “If you like it so much, why’d you never become a Trainer?” asked Sapphire cattily, showing a nearby guitarist a ticket of some sort, along with her Trainer Card. He opened the gate for us, and we went through.

    “Oh, I wouldn’t like to do it,” I replied, horrified. “No, not at all! Way too dangerous. But it’s cool to watch.”

    Sapphire sighed.

    “I don’t get how someone like you can exist,” she said. “Do you really have no aspirations at all?”

    I thought for a moment.

    “No,” I concluded, with a bright smile. “Not really.”

    Sapphire sighed again, and we reached the final fence. Here, Shawn himself wandered over to us.

    “Oh, hey Sapphire,” he said, idly picking at the strings of his guitar. “And hi, er—”

    “Kester,” I reminded him. “My name’s Kester.”

    “Right,” Shawn said. “Kester. So, Sapphire, you’re going to take on Wattson today, hm?”

    “Yes,” she replied. “Can you let me in?”

    “Yeah, sure.” Shawn unlocked the gate, let Sapphire through, and shut it carefully in my face. I walked into it and felt a faint tingling, but no pain.

    Mm-mm, said Puck happily, that’s some good electricity. So much better than that stuff going round in your brain.

    “Hey!” I cried, “why’d you shut it?”

    “Challengers only beyond this point.” Shawn locked the gate again and started playing with his guitar. “You can watch fine from where you are.”

    I glowered at him ineffectively, then took a step back to see better.

    Wattson’s beanbag was positioned at the back of a bright yellow stage, the steps of which Sapphire was currently mounting; the lights reflected so harshly off the polished surface that I felt I might well develop snow blindness if I looked at it for too long. The old man got to his feet at her approach, and smiled amiably.

    “It’s you,” he said.

    “Yes,” Sapphire agreed. “It is me. Whatever you mean by that. I’m here to challenge you to a battle – I have an appointment?”

    Kester, Puck said, do you think you could walk into the fence again? I want a bit more of that stuff.

    “No,” I replied. “I categorically refuse to engage in active self-harm purely so you can have a snack.”

    You’ve a heart colder than Estella’s, Puck said, with an aggrieved air. Fine, I guess I can’t make you.

    “That’s right,” I said, feeling very self-satisfied. It was good to be in control.

    “Does she have an appointment?” Wattson asked Shawn. Shawn nodded.

    “Yeah, she does,” he replied.

    “I just said that!” protested Sapphire, but Wattson simply turned to her and laughed loudly into her face.

    He really is crazy, isn’t he? Puck remarked.

    “Yeah,” I agreed. “Total nutcase.”

    “What sort of strength?” Wattson said, taking three steps back and pulling out a Great Ball from his pocket. “Which team do I use?”

    “I’m going to use two Pokémon,” Sapphire told him. “Level 22 and 24, respectively.”

    She had already told me that she didn’t plan to use the Sableye. He was too strong, and too unreliable.

    “That’s all right,” said Wattson, smiling broadly, replacing the Great Ball and drawing out another. “I’ll use two weaker ones, then.”

    Sapphire took Rono’s ball from her belt, and tossed it down on the ground; the Aron was visibly agitated, shifting anxiously from foot to stubby foot. Wattson sent out a smaller version of the Electrode he had used before, with angrier eyes and no mouth: a Voltorb.

    “If you’re ready,” Shawn said, holding out one hand. “The match begins – now!”

    He dropped his hand, and immediately two conflicting voices rang out:


    “Go round and round!”

    Rono kicked up a cloud of dirt from somewhere, but the Voltorb was already moving, whizzing around the arena in a blur of red and white; Rono’s attack missed, and the Voltorb settled into a steady orbit around him, circling like some weird cross between Poké Ball and shark.

    “What are you doing?” asked Sapphire.

    “Wahahahahaha!” laughed Wattson. “Round and round and round and round!”

    “Oh, God, you really are insane, aren’t you? Rono, wait for it, and Headbutt!”

    It took him a couple of tries, but eventually the Aron managed to land a solid hit on his whirling opponent; it flew backwards like a thrown ball and bounced off Wattson’s broad chest. As it landed, I could see whatever vitriol simmered in its eyes flaring; it obviously didn’t like being maltreated like that.

    “All right, all right,” Wattson said. “Let’s get down to business. Spark!”

    “Mud-Slap and dodge!”

    Just as the Voltorb zoomed forwards, plastic hide glowing, Rono’s dirt-cloud appeared; the spherical Pokémon vanished from sight and emitted a high-pitched grinding sound that I took to indicate distress. At the precise moment that it emerged from the muddy mess, spattered with brown and looking somewhat confused, Rono curled up and rolled to the side. The Spark dissipated on the surface of the Voltorb, and Rono took the chance to give it a judicious Headbutt.

    “Oho!” cried Wattson, producing an enormous pink umbrella from somewhere, unfurling it and advancing on the Aron. “What’s this?”

    “I’ll take that,” said Shawn gently, relieving him of his weapon and pushing him back a few steps.

    “Finish him!” Wattson shouted. “He’s almost gone!”

    This was patently a lie, but it seemed to convince the Voltorb; despite its injuries, it narrowed its evil little eyes and rolled towards Rono once more. This time, the Spark hit, yellow electricity arcing over the surface of his steel skin; as the Voltorb rolled back, preparing for a second blow, he staggered back a pace, squeezing his blue eyes shut in pain.

    “Keep going,” Sapphire said softly. “Come on, Rono. Another Headbutt.”

    She really does like that Aron, observed Puck. How sweet.

    Rono jumped forwards unenthusiastically, and caught the Voltorb a glancing blow. The latter monster was so light that even that small hit threw it back about a metre; it landed in between Wattson’s feet. The Gym Leader picked it up and examined it minutely.

    “Some new kind of apple?” he pondered, scratching his head. “I wonder what it t—”

    “No!” cried Shawn, darting forwards and dashing the Voltorb from his hand, moments before it would have reached his lips. “No, don’t eat that!”

    Wattson gave him a long and inscrutable look, then nodded firmly.

    “Yes,” he said, appearing to regain some modicum of sanity. “I should... this is a battle, yes?”

    “Yes,” called Sapphire.

    “Right. Yoghurt, SonicBoom!”

    The Voltorb spun rapidly on its axis, and a deafeningly loud crack rent the air; it seemed that whatever had happened, its focus was on Rono, because a strange, unnatural vibration passed through his body, and a massive crack appeared in his rocky underbelly. He gave a weak, gravelly cry, and Sapphire cried out:

    “One more! Just hang in there for one more move, Rono!”

    Rono didn’t seem to be able to move his back legs, but he dragged himself forwards and waited, eyes following the Voltorb as it pursued its rapid path around the stage.

    “Finish this,” Wattson said, “Spark it.”

    The Voltorb darted forwards, towards Rono’s unmoving form—

    —and was met with a resounding smack of steel on plastic, the Aron’s head swinging forth to crash into his opponent’s face. The Voltorb cracked from top to bottom, and as it flew backwards, something hot and glowing started to trail from its forehead. Wattson recalled it hurriedly, and it was back in the ball before it hit the ground.

    “Yoghurt is unable to battle,” called Shawn. “One point to Sapphire Birch.”

    Good call on Wattson’s part, Puck said. It was about to go off, and that’s never a good thing.

    “Go off... like a bomb?”

    No, like a freaking lollipop lady. Yes, like a bomb.

    “All right, all right,” I said, stung. “No need to be so... nasty about it.”

    Wattson threw down a ball that disgorged another ball – or so I thought. The Pokémon that emerged was featureless, spherical and made entirely of steel; it had one large, staring white eye, which appeared to be painted on, and when it came out everything made of metal started to float towards it.

    “Rono, come back!” called Sapphire, and he flew towards the ball; however, the magnetic Pokémon’s field seemed to draw him back, sliding slowly across the floor with a grinding sound.

    Magnet Pull, Puck said appreciatively. Wattson’s a nutter, but he’s a clever nutter.

    “What’s going on?” I asked.

    That thing’s a Magnemite, Puck told me. They’re magnetic. Rono’s made of steel...

    “So he’s stuck out?”

    That’s right. And since it’s an official League match, Sapphire can’t use an item to heal him... I should think he’s screwed.

    As I watched, a bolt of lightning lanced from the Magnemite’s unblinking eye to Rono’s face; the Aron’s limbs convulsed, his eyes shut and he slumped down onto his cracked belly.

    “Rono is unable to fight,” said Shawn, playing a little celebratory riff on his guitar. “One point to Wattson.”

    Damn, Gina, said Puck, this lightning so deadly!

    “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

    You are so little fun that I think there must be something wrong with you. Ever been to see a doctor about it? Or maybe a stand-up comedian would be better. Or maybe even just the Internet. Heard of it?

    Sapphire looked upset, but sent out Toro without saying anything.

    “Ember!” she ordered.

    Good move. Magnemite has high defence, so it’s more likely to survive Double Kick than Ember, despite being weak to both.

    I didn’t get that, but I did note with some surprise that Toro was able to defeat the Magnemite in a single hit with Ember; the flames flared up in what I recognised as a critical hit, and they packed enough punch to make the sphere pass out. This didn’t make it close its eye, but it fell straight down like a lead weight, cracking the plastic covering of the stage, and rolled away to come to rest stuck to Rono.

    “Gigaremo is unable to battle. Sapphire Birch wins the match!”

    “Wahahaha!” laughed Wattson, and sat heavily down on his beanbag. “You ended up giving me a thrill!”

    “Who’s he talking to?” asked Sapphire, for he was looking intently at the light fixtures.

    “You, probably,” replied Shawn. “Here, have one of these things.” He handed her a Dynamo Badge, and this time she accepted, staring at it happily for a moment before pocketing it.

    Like I said, Wednesday began deceptively well. Sapphire won her match, very few weird things happened; all in all, it was good – especially since I later learned that it was rare to beat a Gym Leader straight away like that. I guess it helped that Wattson wasn’t in his right mind.

    Now I’m going to start on the bad.


    Fabien stopped in front of the Mauville Memorial Centre, turned to face his colleagues, and cracked his knuckles in the manner of one about to do something decisive.

    “OK, gang,” he said, “let’s split up and look for clues!”

    Goishi gave him a look, and he hastily elaborated.

    “What I mean is, Blake and I are going to go and look for the Rotom-kid in here” – he indicated the Memorial Centre, three floors of prime shopping and dining opportunities – “while you are going to search the Gym, and the Pokémon Centres.”

    The Golbat stared at Fabien, depressed, then, unable to muster enough emotion even to protest, flapped off to find the Gym. Apparently, he thought, he was Velma.

    The Magmas had, much like when Kester had first bested them, spent some time constructing a large and elaborate reason for their defeat; that is to say, Fabien had spent some time constructing a large and elaborate reason, while Blake nodded and admired it, and Goishi closed his eyes and thought dark and exasperated thoughts. The explanation thus devised was this: the boy had, using the not inconsiderable resources of Team Aqua, hired a large quantity of actors of the same age and general build as himself, and, utilising hair dye, make up and many sets of identical clothing, had disguised them so that, in the dim light of sunset, they might be mistaken for him. Blake had then asked why he had done this; Fabien’s reply had been that, of course, he had wanted to throw them off the scent and frighten them. Fabien had been somewhat less clear about precisely how the Rotom-boy had known that they were lying in wait up the path, but it was generally understood amongst the three Magmas that Fabien was almost certainly correct.

    Once this explanation had been provided, they had been able to laugh at how foolish they were and climb down the support in peace. However, they had been chased back up again by a pack of wild Manectric that seemed averse to allowing them safe passage through their territory; with this and other obstacles, it had taken them rather longer to get to Mauville than they would have liked. ‘Longer’, in this case, signifying several extra days.

    From there, they had swiftly reached the city’s main shopping centre, the Mauville Memorial Centre – although what it was a memorial to was something that no one could have told you – and that was where Fabien had conceived a plan to split up and search for their targets. He and Blake would search the Memorial Centre, and Goishi would search at the Gym and Centres.

    Fabien strolled into the mall, and inhaled deeply, taking in the scents of sophistication and civilisation that gathered in the air around him. It was good to be back in a city, he decided.

    “Right, Blake,” he said. “A light meal, and I think we’ll be ready to proceed, don’t you?”

    “A’righ’.” His partner nodded his assent, and they went off in search of food.


    Barry came to in the back of a moving van, slumped against one wall. He immediately divined that his shoulder hurt, and gave a corresponding groan of pain; a second or two later, he worked out that his neck also hurt, due to his position, and made a second groan of equal or greater value.

    “Is this a hangover?” he wondered. “No... I wasn’t drunk...” He snapped his fingers. That was it – that weird white Sableye had blasted him with a Power Gem. Or it might have been a wrecking ball; judging by the pain, it could have been either. “Where am I?” he asked, banging on the van’s wall.

    “Quit it,” came a terse reply. “I’m taking you to Mauville, moron. You got beaten up by those kids.”

    The tone of the voice so clearly conveyed contempt that Barry was forced to consider the prospect of it being what is commonly known as ‘scathing’; after a moment’s reflection, he decided that, regrettably, it was. He let out a long sigh, and settled into a marginally more comfortable position.

    “Did we get them in the end?” he asked.

    “What do you think?”

    Barry was silent for a moment. Then, hopefully:


    “Dear God. Is this what our organisation’s come to these days? Hiring lobotomised monkeys as grunts?”

    “Shut up,” Barry rumbled.

    “Or what?” the voice countered. “I don’t have to drive you to Mauville, you know. I could drop you off here, if you’d prefer, and then you can walk and explain to Matt why you’re late.”

    Barry’s manly heart sank; it was a piteous sight to behold, like an ageing dog that can no longer refuse to be dressed up by small girls in a hat and coat.

    “Matt’s in Mauville?”

    “Yes, questioning your partner. She’s not going to be happy with you.” The voice sounded almost gleeful, and Barry wondered who his driver was. “Word is, though, she’s the one in charge of your group. You turning soft for a pretty girl, Barry?”

    “Tchaikovsky?” asked Barry in a low growl. “Is that you?”

    “Do Gyarados eat ships?”

    Tchaikovsky was not, as one might have thought, a 19th century Russian composer, but a driver for the Aquas whose path had crossed Barry’s many times in the past; an incurable smart-aleck, the diminutive Johtonian had never really been highly esteemed by the giant, and indeed over the years had become an object of positive loathing. He was also something of a fan of twentieth-century British music.

    “Does Matt want to talk to me as well?” Barry asked.

    “You better you better you bet,” sang out Tchaikovsky. “After all, from what I gather you actually had the kid in your hands before you got beaten up by a Sableye. Of all the things...!”

    “It was a strong Sableye,” Barry rumbled defiantly.

    “‘Strong’, in this case, meaning something different to what it usually does, I suppose,” Tchaikovsky replied. “Seriously, Barry, did you ever know a Sableye to be strong?”

    Barry thought about it, and concluded that the one he had met yesterday did indeed fit neatly into that category.

    “Yes,” he said.

    Tchaikovsky made an exasperated noise.

    “Honestly,” he said. “I don’t know why you don’t just carry a gun. Shoot these things. Felicity’s a smart girl, she knows what she’s doing. But you, you rely too much on your strength.”

    “Shut up.”

    “Not now, I’m just getting into this speech. Where was I? Oh yeah: you know what they say about this sort of thing, don’t you? Happiness is a warm gun. That’s what they say.”

    “That’s a Beatles song,” Barry pointed out, in an uncharacteristic flash of insight.

    “Well... the Beatles had it right, then,” Tchaikovsky countered. “They were smart boys.”


    Barry didn’t know enough about the Beatles to know if they were smart or not, but he wanted to give the impression that he did, and that he disagreed with Tchaikovsky on that point.

    “I’m guessing that by ‘huh’ you mean you don’t know anything about the Beatles,” Tchaikovsky said. “Which is quite difficult; are you sure you don’t know? Perhaps you have some sort of memory problem. You probably ought to get your head checked, by a jumbo jet. That wouldn’t be easy, I suppose – but then again, nothing is, is it?”

    “What’re you on about now?” growled Barry. Tchaikovsky snickered.

    “Never mind,” he said. “Some day you’ll find what I meant. You know, caught beneath a landslide, in a champagne supernova.”

    “You’re doing that... that thing you do again,” Barry said. “Stop it.”

    “Or what? We’ve come right back to my threat to make you walk.”

    Barry sighed, and forced himself to shut up. There was no point talking to Tchaikovsky. The little man would run verbal rings around him. Instead, he decided, when the van stopped, he would rip him from the driver’s seat and beat the living daylights out of him.

    Comforted by this thought, he settled down in the back of the van to wait.

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