The Middle Ground
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May 26th, 2011 (10:55 AM). Edited July 27th, 2011 by FlaafyFTW.
Researcher of Orange Lore
Chapter 24 - Misheard Whispers (Part 1)
The next morning I awoke with a warm sensation as the rising sun extended its reach over me. Within a few minutes April and Naoko had also woken up and were preparing to leave.
As April and I rolled our sleeping bags up, I could sense a weird vibe in the air - I caught her glancing over to me several times, and when my eyes met hers she quickly averted her gaze. I thought she may have felt awkward about our conversation last night, so I left it at that and didn't start a new one.
Having nothing to pack away herself, Naoko was already perched on top of Manetric feeding her Marill some poffins for breakfast.
"We never really had a chance to introduce ourselves." I began, as I climbed up onto the large wolf Pokémon. "You're Naoko right?"
Naoko tilted her head and gave me a once-over with her eyes before returning her attention back to feeding her mouse pokemon. "Yeah."
"So where are you heading? We could drop you off somewhere if you'd like; with family, friends?"
"My friends are my family - everyone I need is right here." She said, pointing to the lumps underneath her bandana, presumably her pokeballs. Her accent was thick and deep, but yet it was familiar. "There is someone I need to find but you can just drop me off in the next town and I'll find my own way from there."
"Are you sure? I mean we can help you find whoever you're looking for-"
"-I'm sure." She said bluntly, cutting me off mid-sentence with only two syllables.
"At least... come with us to the pokecentre to get checked over." I smiled, leaning into her line of sight.
She nodded gently with a small hint of appreciation as April took her place between us, ready to set off for our next destination... wherever it was going to be.
After a couple of hours, the skyline of another city began to appear on the horizon. Despite how early in the day it was, we passed by many Pokémon trainers and travellers on the dusty trail; some engaging in early battle practice whilst others sat enjoying their breakfast.
The suburbs of the city were what you'd expect - contemporary houses stitched together into picturesque streets, all living somewhat peacefully away from the madness of the inner city. April shivered as we passed by a set of picketed fences and then suddenly glanced over her right shoulder, as if a devil was sitting on it.
"W-what did you say?"
April questioned herself for a moment before dismissing it as nothing.
"Never mind - we'll be there soon."
Further in, the early morning the city streets were alive with movement, many different suits passed us by but the crowds didn't part or even take a second look at the people riding atop a Pokémon - instead we were made to push our way through as everyone else did. This urban jungle was home to a different type of beast, beast that didn't fear Pokémon or their trainers - the office worker.
Eventually we arrived at the safe haven of the Pokémon centre. Having dismounted Manetric, we made our way inside. I hadn't noticed the night before but in the morning light I could see that April was struggling to walk - the scratches across her back must have been affecting her alot more than I'd thought. Manetric could see her in pain and nudged her gently with his muzzle, hoping for her to use him as support. April ignored his plea at first but by the time she reached the door she had no choice but to take him up on his offer.
It was ten times the size of any centre I'd seen before, at at least 4 stories high it stretched back through the rows of office blocks as far as I could see. The entrance was fitting of a building this large. Two large staircases dominated either side of the backmost wall with the reception counter placed in the middle. Several corridors stretched off to the right and left, presumably all leading to the Trainers' bedrooms.
Despite its size, the reception hall was fairly quiet with two people sat at opposite ends of the room, one boy dressed in a grey tracksuit was crouched to the floor tying his shoelaces ready for a morning run with his Machop whilst a girl was stood in the centre of a circle of red sofas, brushing her hair next beside a television using her reflection on the glass wall as a mirror. Most of the trainers would have just been getting up for their breakfasts around that time so the Chanseys were nowhere to be seen, the only one manning the entrance was the city's Nurse Joy; a relatively young girl about my age who had her shimmering blue hair braided into two ponytails that hung down just past her shoulder blades.
As Naoko and I approached the counter, we looked back to April who was stood halfway across the room, facing the direction we'd just come from.
Concerned, I walked over to her and placed my hand gently on her shoulder. "April?"
She gasped and turned around, her expression setting to normal when she realised it was me who was standing in front of her.
"Are you okay?"
She looked back towards the entrance briefly. "I thought I heard... never mind."
"C'mon." I said, guiding her forward. "Let's go get you fixed up..."
She stared intently at her computer under the counter, the reflection in her stylish glasses showing she was busy reading through an online article of some kind.
"I'll be right with you..." She said, noticing our presence out of the corner of her eye, intent on finishing what she was reading.
Naoko and April placed their pokeballs on the counter.
"Please... we need you to heal our Pokémon." Naoko pleaded.
Joy silently chuckled before turning on her chair. "Doesn't everyone? ...Oh my god!" She gasped, rising to her feet and looking the two girls up and down. "Tim? Tim - Get out here!"
A young doctor dressed in scrubs, a few years older than Joy, came running out of a room behind the counter. "-What? What is it?"
Joy tilted her head in our direction and the doctor averted his gaze accordingly.
"And here was me thinking today was going to be a quiet one..."
In hindsight I must've looked very out of place standing next to the girls - them both with frizzy hair and small electric burns across their faces, April with a trio of large scratches across her back and then me standing at the counter with not a mark on me.
Whilst the girls were being checked over, I sat in reception with my newly hatched Chinchou and introduced him properly to Swablu and Ditto. After a few minutes, Swablu lost interest and perched herself on my head. Ditto however, quickly befriended him, taking the exact shape of the new Pokémon and copying his every move, keeping both of them suitably entertained.
The thing that played on my mind was what the girls had been through the night before. If what they had said was true then a gym leader had been illegally smuggling Pokémon into the region with the help of a supposedly extinct criminal organisation - this would be big news.
The incident in Cerulean was just put down to remnants of the organisation loyal to their missing leader taking matters into their own hands, but if there were more... this could be the start of a full-scale revival. I couldn't just sit on the information - I had to do something; so I called the police using my mobile.
Slowly I pressed 9 three times on the keypad and, as it began to ring, I began to realise that I had no idea what I was going to say.
"Nine-nine-nine, what is your emergency?" Came a voice from the other end of the line.
I contemplated my choice of words very carefully, trying to think of a sensible way to explain this somewhat mad situation when Naoko entered the room and slowly walked to the ring of sofas surround the TV.
"...Hello?" The voice asked.
"Sorry... Police please. I want to report a murder."
"What is your current location, sir?"
"The Pokémon centre... I'm not sure what city I'm in."
"Don't worry, we'll trace the call to your location - don't move, we'll be there as soon as possible."
I thanked the man and ended the call. Ditto and Chinchou were still happily playing with each other across the room, using their antennae to create shadow shapes on the wall, so I decided to go over and sit with Naoko.
She was sat clutching her necklace in her right hand and her head resting on her left which was perched on the back of the sofa.
"No injuries then?" I asked, sitting cross legged on the sofa next to her.
"Nothing. A few cuts and scrapes but that's it." She replied, her eyes fixed on the TV.
"That's good though, right?"
"Not for Dillan."
"Sorry... I didn't think."
"No you didn't. He was one of the nicest people I'd ever met and one of the only humans I could actually trust. And now... now he's gone."
"I lost someone too you know."
She turned her attention to me and looked me over, trying to decipher if I was telling the truth. "You have?"
"Yeah... and so has April. That woman you met - Ariana; she burnt down April's hometown and murdered her parents, so we know what you're going through."
Naoko sat upright, clasped her hands together and looked to the floor. She was trying to stop herself from trembling.
"I called the police, they'll be here soon and at least then -"
"-then what, everything will be sugar and rainbows? What good will that do? It won't bring him back - none of it will." She said gently as a single tear rolled down her soft, brown cheeks. "It's just not-" Naoko stopped mid-sentence as she raised her head.
"What? What is it?" I asked.
She tilted her head in the direction of the TV.
'If you've just joined us, this morning's breaking news is that there appears to have been a suspected terrorist attack famous steam ship - The Saint Anne. The SS Anne, as it is more commonly referred to, arrived into Dock 5 of Vermillion City Harbour early yesterday evening, where the passengers disembarked for the night. It then appeared that at some point during the night, a member of the crew discovered a set of stowaways on board who detonated an explosive device, killing the crew boy instantly.
Gym Leader and Captain of the SS Anne, Lieutenant Surge made this statement to the public this morning:'
The screen switched to a man with short, striking blonde hair stood atop a podium in front of a smoking ocean liner dressed in a white naval officer's uniform, dirtied with black smudges.
'Today, this world class ship played host to a tragic event. A member of the crew here, who shall remain nameless until the family have been properly informed, sadly fell victim to an attack by a set of terrorists. However, we now know that he saved the ship and the passengers on it from a much greater tragedy that we believe was planned. For this, I'm sure, the whole nation will give thanks and honour this tragic loss with the decency and respect that he deserves.
That is all I currently wish to say on the matter, thank you.'
The screen shifted back to the news anchor.
'The police aren't releasing much information at this time aside from this piece of CCTV footage that shows the perpetrators fleeing the scene of the crime on what appears to be a Pokémon.'
A dark and very grainy video played on screen, showing three consecutive frames of three shadows riding atop a large Pokémon across a dockyard - It was us!
'At the moment the identity of these three individuals is presumed to be unknown but the police have urged everyone to be on the lookout for any suspicious behaviour following last week's attack on Pokemon Tower and the incident at Cerulean Manor.
In other news, the new member of the Indigo Plateau’s Elite Four was announced today...'
At that moment I felt as if someone had ripped a hole in my stomach lining - I wanted to be physically sick but nothing would come. I -
were now being framed for a terrorist plot and a murder that we didn't commit - something that I wasn't even part of!
"No!" Naoko protested into the air, standing up and kicking the sofa in frustration. "How can they do that?!"
Suddenly my heart skipped a beat as I realised what a terrible mistake I'd made.
"We didn't kill Dillan, we didn-"
Catch 'em, catch 'em, gotta catch 'em all; gotta catch 'em all - Pokemon!
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