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Old July 30th, 2011 (5:05 AM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
Gone. May or may not return.
    Join Date: Mar 2010
    Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
    Age: 24
    Nature: Impish
    Posts: 1,030
    Thanks, Silent Memento and 01. I've corrected what you pointed out, and, 01, the Jellicent probably was sent by Zero - but no one can say for certain, not even me. As for your question, Kester is Level 31 or so at the moment.

    In other news: incoming chapter! Everyone get down!

    Chapter Sixty-Eight: To the Bottom of the Sea

    Fabien climbed out of the water, shook his hat out and gave a deep sigh of relief.

    Blake,” he said, “we made it.”

    There was no response.

    Fabien turned around.


    An arm burst out of the water, scrabbled for purchase on the sandy cave floor, and began the laborious process of dragging its owner along with it. Fabien bent down and lent a rather ineffective hand, and soon Blake was lying on the floor of the cavern, gasping for breath and, unlike his friend, very wet.

    What happened to you?” Fabien asked, puzzled.

    Fell out of the bubble,” Blake puffed, “while we were gettin' out.”

    Ah.” Fabien straightened up and peered into the sea. “Morgana?”

    The Pokémon in question leaped up out of the water, and started to float at Fabien's eye level.

    Return!” Fabien raised the ball, and the red light flashed once – but a moment later, there was a blue one, and Morgana was out again. “Now see here,” Fabien said crossly. “I won't have this! Get in there—”

    A large quantity of water hit Fabien in the face at this point, and he was forced to conclude that if Morgana wanted to stay out of her ball, there was very little he could do to stop her.

    But,” he said warningly, “this is a top-secret undercover mission. You can't attract any attention, understand?”

    Morgana nodded. Whether or not she had the neck which is so often a prerequisite for performing this action is open to dispute, but she did it anyway.

    Nice work,” Blake muttered, as the trio turned to examine their surroundings more carefully. “You got her to obey.”

    I know,” Fabien said, and he sounded as surprised as Blake. “Can you believe it?”

    They had surfaced in some enormous underground cavern, through a pool on the floor that connected it to the sea; the Aqua submarine lay at anchor a few metres away, deserted. Finding out where its owners, Kester and Sapphire had gone seemed to be the priority right now, so the two Magmas had a quick search around the cave. This turned up a large hole in one wall that appeared to lead further into the cave network, and so they crept through.

    Upon emerging on the other side, they instantly dived behind a convenient pile of rocks: this room was lit by hastily-set-up arc lamps, and was populated by what must have been the entirety of Team Aqua.

    What the devil are they up to?” murmured Fabien, peering over a boulder. From his shoulder, Morgana, ignoring her lack of shoulders, shrugged, and started twirling merrily on the spot.

    Look!” hissed Blake. “It's Archie!”

    Fabien looked, and perceived that it was indeed Archie – and, more importantly, Kester Ruby, Sapphire Birch (with, for some reason, her hair dyed black) and their white-haired friend. They were standing in the middle of the Aqua crowd, in a little clearing, and Fabien bent his ear towards their conversation.

    I should have all three of you killed right now,” Archie was saying, clenching his fists. “But unfortunately, I didn't come prepared for what was down here.”

    What is down here?” asked Kester.

    Archie pointed, and Fabien looked down towards the other end of the cavern; there was an ominous-looking stone doorway there, carved to resemble the open mouth of some gigantic whale-like creature.

    Through there,” the Aqua leader said, “is a series of very nasty traps. Druid-built, by the looks of things.”

    I really don't like where this is going—”

    Shut up, boy.” He did. “Now, you've got Rotom powers, is that right?”

    We-ell,” said Kester evasively. “I wouldn't say powers—”

    Kester, if they don't think we're useful, they'll kill us,” Sapphire told him.

    Yes, I have Rotom powers. Lightning, machine control – you name it, I can do it.” Kester smiled broadly, and not a little nervously.

    Why are they arguin'?” Blake wondered. “They're both Aquas...”

    No,” said Fabien softly, a thunderbolt of genius coursing through his veins. “It all makes sense now...” He looked up at Blake, and for once his face bore no trace of drama. “They didn't know who they were at Meteor Falls, either. Blake, those two – they're not Aquas!”

    And you,” Archie continued, turning to the white-haired girl. “You've – well, I’m informed you can do things too...?”

    I have a Froslass in me,” she replied simply.

    I see. Seize the black-haired one!”

    A couple of Aquas stepped forwards and grabbed Sapphire by the arms; to her credit, she struggled admirably (Fabien had an eye for that sort of thing) but one teenage girl could not fight off two thickset men in their thirties.

    Now, Mister Ruby,” said Archie. “You and Miss Kusagari will go ahead and dismantle the traps for me so that I can get to the Orb. We've lost several men already, but you should be able to do it. You have powers, after all.”

    If we don't, do you kill Sapphire?” asked Kester.


    The boy sighed.

    All right,” he said resignedly. “What sort of traps are up there?”

    Archie smiled unpleasantly.

    They're difficult to miss,” he said. “You two, escort them to the doorway.”

    The massed ranks of Team Aqua parted, and two of the bulkier grunts stepped out to take Kester and Felicity away. One of them was, coincidentally, our old friend Barry Hawksworthy – he of unparalleled strength and stupidity – but, of course, neither Fabien nor Blake were aware of this.

    What do we do?” asked the latter. “What do we do?”

    Fabien bit his lip.

    We wait,” he said at last. “We have to wait for them to clear the traps, then follow the Aquas. Think of it, Blake! If there was any doubt that we were the main characters—”

    This again?”

    “—then let it be dispelled now: we have stumbled across an opportunity to stop the greatest Aqua plot of all time! We'll be heroes!”

    Should we call for backup?” asked Blake.

    No!” replied Fabien vehemently. “We must take all the glory for ourselves.”

    But we're up agains' the whole of Team Aqua—”

    Yes, but think,” Fabien said, his low cunning churning out ideas at an unprecedented rate. “If we can get Kester Ruby and that Felicity girl on our side, we can probably get to Archie and hold him hostage. And we can get them on our side, Blake – we both want to stop the Aquas!”

    Blake stared at him. If at times he had doubted the infinite genius of his partner, that doubt was blown away now; he could do no more than stare, and wonder at the mind that had spawned this grand scheme.

    Fabien,” he said at length. “Let's do this.”

    And so saying, they and the still-dancing Morgana hunkered down to wait.


    How hard can it be?” I wondered aloud.

    We had made landfall a short while ago, waiting for the Aquas to get out of their submarine and get away; unfortunately, it seemed they'd noticed us before, and when we surfaced, we found fifty of them waiting for us.

    Very hard,” guessed Felicity. “They said they had lost several men.”

    Nothing we can't handle, surely,” I said, pausing in front of the giant mouth-door and staring apprehensively into the darkness beyond. “I mean, it's not like we've not got anything at all.”

    That sentence was horrible to decipher, Puck complained. You're being a real Holden Caulfield.


    No one understands, and you're annoying as hell.

    Look, we've got our powers,” I went on, trying to reassure myself. “We can—”

    You two! Get on with it or Birch dies!”

    I grabbed Felicity's wrist and dragged her through the door.

    After a short tunnel that seemed to be full of darkness with the consistency of fog, we emerged into another long cavern, this time lit with a series of Duskull in glass boxes on the roof. Periodically, each one would use Flash, and light up a large area all around it; after a few minutes, the light would fade, and another would Flash instead.

    It's like watching the heart of a disco ball,” I said, looking up at the ceiling.


    Never mind.”

    I wonder who put them there,” said Felicity.

    Probably the same person who put those skeletons over there.

    What?” I cried, and looked down sharply.

    A hole had opened up on each wall, halfway down the cave, and slowly, with a lot of shuffling and clicking, a horde of human skeletons with swords was coming out of them.

    I stared. My legs had locked up with shock and fright. Blank eye sockets stared back sightlessly; beneath them, bare teeth made impossible grins. The ringing click of bone on yellowed bone sounded continuously, like sticks falling down stairs; a wave of foul, musty air rolled out with the skeletons, and clouds of dust rose off their bodies whenever they moved.

    I swore violently, turned around and ran away.


    A slim hand caught my wrist.

    Calm down,” Felicity said. Her voice was perfectly level; I couldn't detect even a trace of emotion in it. “It's easier than it looks.”

    Felicity, those are skeletons,” I replied, twisting free and running back towards the door. “This – no! It isn't possible—”

    Puck!” Felicity called after me. “Tell him!”

    Stop, Kester.

    Puck's mastery over my nervous system must have been getting better, because I did: my legs seized up and I almost fell over.

    Puck, I have to get out of here,” I said in a low, urgent voice. “I can't do this. I can't do skel—”

    Turn around.

    I did, and then I felt it.

    A wave of Ghostly presences, hundreds and hundreds of them; they were weak individually, but together formed a crashing tsunami of spectral force that forced me to my knees.

    Ghosts?” I whispered at the slow-moving army. “It's not... they're not real...?”

    They are,” Felicity said, helping me up. “They're Gastly, bound into bones.”

    Low-level, mostly four or five, Puck added. Come on, Kester, think evil thoughts and let's have us an Ominous Wind.

    R-right.” I still couldn't stop staring at the horde; the skeletons didn't seem to have noticed us, just kept on walking.

    They'll keep on walking til the sun comes up, Puck said. Or until they've gone a thousand miles to fall down at your door.

    Kester, you take them,” Felicity said. “I don't want to wake Skuld, and you can do that wave attack.”

    Om-ominous Wind.” I was still struggling to get my mind around it: these skeletons had once been men and women, and now they were dead – but they kept moving, and they turned their swords this way and that to catch the pulsing, haunting Flash-light.

    Come on, think evil thoughts. I'll start you off:

    William Sikes, and Estella's intentions,
    Judah's reaction to Tartarus Rotations
    Circe, Medea and monkeys with wings,
    These are just some of the best evil thingslook, do some of the work yourself, Puck said crossly. I just did two rhymes and about six references for you!

    It was already enough; the wind had sprung up behind me, and now a dark mist was rolling down the cavern. I had enough presence of mind to pull Felicity close, to stop her from being caught up in the Wave – and then a thousand voices were crying out in my head, squealing and jingling like windchimes in pain.

    Let me get that for you, Puck said, and the voices faded.

    The skeletons were all fixed to the spot, juddering and shaking; one of them vibrated so hard that its arm, still clutching its sword, popped out of the socket and flew across the room. They kept that up for a second or two, and then, abruptly, every single one of them collapsed.

    I stared. Fear had turned to shock. If I wasn't very much mistaken, I’d just taken out about two thousand Gastly with one move.

    Yeah, that's what you get for having me lodged in your brain, Puck said. I’m just that good.

    I... did I do all this?”

    Yes. They were not strong.” Felicity looked at me. “Shall we go on?”

    Um... OK.”

    I let her take my hand and drag me off through the sea of collapsed skeletons, but I was still staring around at the carnage; every so often, some of the bones would slide aside and release a little cloud of black gas, which would float away slowly, wheezing heavily.

    Some of the Gastly were damaged badly enough to release them from the bones they were animating.

    Stop!” cried Felicity, and held me back; I snapped back to reality for a moment, and saw that we were standing on the edge of a massive pit, perfectly cylindrical – as if someone had taken a massive hole puncher to the floor of the cavern. The bottom was cloaked in shadow, but I could make out the outlines of a few fallen skeletons, pacing around steadily with their swords held ready, and between them some tall, pointy things that looked rather more dangerous than I was comfortable with.

    Oh,” I said, my response dulled by the whole skeleton thing. “How do we get past this one?”

    I don't know.” Felicity kicked a shoulder bone—

    A scapula, Kester. Wait, how come I know the name when I don't even have bones?

    over the edge of the pit, and we watched it fall. It hit the bottom a full five seconds later, and immediately all the skeletons down there converged on it and attempted to cut it into little pieces with their swords. When they found that it was, in fact, impervious to slicing, they slumped their shoulders and went back to mindless pacing.

    Is there a way around?” I asked. I was coming back to reality now. There had been skeletons, and that had been too much; now there were just Ghosts, bones and a big hole. That I could deal with. I just wasn't too good with the reanimated dead.

    Remind me never to take you to Whitby, Puck said. Last time I went, Lucy was still kicking about.

    Perhaps.” Felicity turned to look at me. “Shall we check?”

    I stared at her for a very long time. Far too long, in fact – so long that Puck had to prompt me to speak.

    Kester? You're staring.

    Um. Oh, yes. Let's check.”

    Felicity turned and started to wade through the bones and dust towards the edge of the room. Still slightly dazed, I headed off after her, trying not to breathe in too much of the powdered remains drifting through the air.

    It turned out that the pit didn't quite extend to the walls, so we went around it, by the edge. This took us to the next door, which, like the last, was large and rather too toothy for me to be entirely comfortable going through it.

    Felicity, of course, stepped through without a second thought; a moment later, she called back to me:

    It is fine. The skeletons and the pit were the only traps. I can see the Orb.”

    This was encouraging news, so I followed after her and found myself in an even bigger cavern than the entrance one, though with a similar pool in it. On a small island in the middle of this pool was the Blue Orb, looking for all the world as if it had been there for centuries, and not just since Friday.

    Shall we take it?” I asked. “Or shall we leave it to them...”

    We'll have to take it,” Felicity said. “Zero can't succeed.”

    But then Sapphire dies.”

    Something unnameable flickered across Felicity's face.

    If that's the price we have to pay...”

    What?” I cried. “Felicity, I can't believe – you're not serious, are you?”

    She kept her gaze level.

    Of course I am serious,” she replied. Was it me, or had the circles around her eyes deepened, darkened, in the last couple of minutes? “I cannot not be, now.”

    Uh oh, said Puck. I don't like the look of this...

    I gave her a long look.

    Felicity,” I said, a horrible feeling of dread welling up somewhere at the base of my spine, “what exactly do you mean by that?”

    No more emotions,” Felicity told me simply, and now her voice was soft and sibilant. “When I woke up they were gone. There's just me, and ice. Cold, cold ice...”

    I knew what was coming before it even started to happen; I turned and ran as fast as I could for the exit. A strangled scream echoed out from behind me – but I couldn't stop to see how Felicity was doing. I sped through the door, almost fell into the giant pit, crashed through the sea of bones and then – just as I heard the long, mournful wail of a Froslass echo out through the caves – I burst out into the main cavern again, panting hard.

    Killed – the skeletons,” I gasped, leaning against the wall. “Dodged – pit – but Felicity's gone – Skuld!”

    Team Aqua stared at me.

    Does anyone have any idea what he's saying?” asked Archie.

    There was silence. I straightened up and said, slightly more coherently:

    I dealt with the traps, but my friend's gone insane and turned into a monster.”

    A werewolf?” Archie looked furious, and turned swiftly to face Matt. “Matt, that girl was once part of our Team! I recall giving specific orders that on no account were werewolves ever to be admitted to the organisation—”

    She's not a werewolf,” snapped Sapphire. “She's possessed by a highly predatory Froslass that seems intent on destroying everything around it.”

    Oh, one of those,” Archie said, nodding. “I know those. I saw one in Manchester once.” He paced for a moment, agitated. “She does this regularly?” he asked at length.

    I came closer, so I wasn't shouting at him.

    Uh... this is the second time, but I do have experience of dealing with her,” I told him, ever-eager to stress the fact that I was worth more to him alive than dead.

    Can we suppress her?” asked Archie.

    Probably,” replied Sapphire. “There are a quite a lot of you here.”

    She can say that again. We've got so many Aquas that if one of them said 'I’m Spartacus' we'd have to wait six months before they were all finished.

    Right. The traps are all deactivated?”

    Yes,” I replied.

    Archie thought for a moment, then called:


    Our old friend Barry stepped out of the crowd.

    Yes boss?”

    Make sure these two don't run off,” Archie instructed. Then, turning to the Aquas in general: “Team! We're going to the Orb! Those of you with Pokémon effective against Ice- or Ghost-types, get to the front!”

    There was a minor cheer – evidently, the Aquas hadn't yet connected Felicity with the disastrous museum invasion – and the Team assembled itself into something vaguely resembling military formation. Barry, and by extension Sapphire and I, were at the front with the Poochyenas and their Trainers, and as the group began to move, he grabbed our arms and started walking.

    You could let go,” Sapphire told him. “Come on, you moron, where are we going to run to? We're at the bottom of the sea!”

    Shuddup, woman,” rumbled the big Aqua menacingly, and she did. I almost laughed, despite being in what some might have called dire straits: random acts of chauvinism might not be politically correct, but they were definitely funny. At least, they were if they happened to Sapphire.

    Kester! That's rude!

    You don't care about manners!

    Incorrect. I don't care about morals. I care deeply about manners. I mean, I’m English – genetically disposed to be polite, whatever the situation.

    That's just not true.

    I like to think it is.

    We entered the bone room, which caused some consternation amongst the Aquas; a lot of people turned to look at me uneasily, concerned that if I’d managed to destroy all these skeletons, it might not be so difficult for me to destroy all of them.

    What the hell were these?” whispered Sapphire.

    Human skeletons,” I replied, shivering at the memory. “Animated by Gastly. They were weak, so I Ominous Winded them. I don't want to think about what would have happened if I hadn't been able to do that.”

    You're welcome, Kester, said Puck. I have graciously loaned you my powers so that you may survive. Now worship me.

    Go to hell.

    Been there, got bored, came back.


    I’m a Ghost, he answered, as if that explained everything.

    I sighed, and kept walking, only for something to—


    Right,” said Fabien. “Are we ready?”

    Blake nodded.

    Let's go,” Fabien said, and the two men slipped out from behind the rock and joined the back of the Aqua column, Morgana drifting along behind them.

    They were, as they had been for several days now, in their disguises: Fabien in trenchcoat, fedora and sunglasses, Blake in a plain black suit; most of the Aquas were in their blue suits, but there were a few who hadn't been prepared, and the two Magmas didn't stand out. Morgana was the only potential spanner in the works – but Fabien thought that since she was probably a Water type, she wouldn't give them away.

    Blake,” hissed Fabien, “phase two!”

    The big man nodded, and began to slowly power his way through the crowd, moving just slightly faster than everyone else in the group. As he moved forwards, Fabien followed in his wake, and Morgana trailed after. No one really wanted to question Blake, since he stood head and shoulders above everyone around him, and so Fabien's unlikely scheme paid off: in the time it took for the company to reach the edge of the giant pit, the two Magmas had reached the front of the great crowd, and could, if they looked left, see Kester and Sapphire.

    There!” said Fabien. “Now, while we move around the pit – catch up with them.”

    Unfortunately, things got slightly complicated here, and a number of events happened at once.

    The first was that something white appeared at the other end of the cavern.

    The second was that Kester Ruby collapsed.

    The third was that the lights went out.

    Instantly, what had been order became pandemonium; Blake and Fabien fought to get clear of the pit edge as the Aquas that surrounded them blundered about in a panic.

    What on earth—?”

    Someone bumped into them, and Blake lashed out in retaliation; there was a lingering scream and a distant thud, and he winced.


    SILENCE!” thundered Archie's voice, and the Aquas ceased their motion instantly, like the tumultuous waters in the story. “Everyone who can, use Flash!”

    The first part of his sentence was swallowed up in another unearthly shriek, but the idea got across; small areas of light flickered into existence all over the cavern, and immediately the white thing flew up into the air from where it had been throttling an Aqua, covering its eyes with its hands.

    Shoot it down!”

    Bullets sang and whistled overhead like so many lead-jacketed pipers; they passed clean through the Froslass with little more than a splash of water, but it was a potent distraction, and Fabien seized his chance to take Blake and head for Kester.


    They found him in the custody of a surprised-looking man who appeared to have borrowed both his skull and his standards of personal hygiene from a mountain gorilla; Blake tapped this curious apparition on the shoulder and, when he turned around, laid him out flat on the floor with a right hook.

    Sapphire Birch?” enquired Fabien, looking at the girl he was now facing. “Is that—?”

    He never finished the sentence, for the girl had hit him squarely on the nose, and then attempted to run away. However, hampered as she was by the fact that Kester was unconscious, she got no further than a step or two before Blake caught her.

    Look,” he hissed. “We're tryin' to 'elp. We got the same goal 'ere.”

    A Poochyena sailed by overhead, yelping; presumably hurled by Skuld, it let out a short scream before it descended into the pit and came to a pulpy end.

    What do you want?” hissed Sapphire.

    We're here to stop the Aquas getting the Orb,” Fabien told her, glancing nervously at a man with an alarmingly large shotgun standing to his left. “Come on, we'll sneak around the edge while they're—”

    The Froslass screamed so loudly that Blake's ears started bleeding, and the trio looked up to see what had happened. It was not a pretty sight: dripping with water, the ice ghost had separated into several pieces, evidently shattered by a lucky Rock-type attack; she attempted one last swoop, but fell apart in midair and splashed down into the bottom of the pit. With her disintegration, the Duskull that powered the lights seemed to regain their confidence, and began Flashing again.

    Archie's voice rang out again:

    Everyone all right? How many casualties?”

    The man with the large gun, in noting Barry's unconsciousness, seemed to have worked out that neither Blake nor Fabien actually worked for the Team, and promptly raised the alarm by attempting to kill them; thankfully, Morgana would have been caught by the shot too, and, in defending herself with a wall of blue energy, inadvertently shielded her masters.

    Sapphire stared.

    Is that a—?”

    Damnation! Our cover's blown!” cried Fabien. “Blake, grab those two and follow me!”

    Spies!” yelled the man with the shotgun, loosing another blast after them as they fled around the edge of the pit. “The Magmas are here!”

    This had the fortunate effect of starting another riot amongst the Team; fortunate because, while Archie and his administrators were frantically trying to calm their underlings, the Magmas and their new allies (or captives, depending on whose view you took) managed to escape into the third room, completely unscathed.

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