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Old February 8th, 2011 (8:21 AM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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    Originally Posted by nokyo-chan View Post
    The latter, of course--I also meant to compliment you on your spectacular characterization of Steven.

    Also, I found another minor grammatical mistake; but I've noticed that you live in the UK, and so I'm not entirely sure if it's a discrepancy between countries, but I'll point it out anyway.

    You don't actually need a comma there. A comma only precedes a conjunction when there is a subject after it; for instance, this would be correct:
    I do not need a comma there, but I think it's legitimised by the reading of the thing; it doesn't work as two sentences, and doesn't work well without a pause in there. My solution was to put in a comma, which, as you have pointed out, isn't needed - but improves it.

    I always thought grammar was more a set of road signs than a bunch of strict rules. They direct the flow and pressure of the language, and if that bends a rule just a little, I let them do that.

    Anyway, that's my little grammatical rant over. I must now return to editing Chapter Twelve and the upcoming Thirteen.

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

    Relevant Advertising!

    Old February 8th, 2011 (12:24 PM).
    callumjames3 callumjames3 is offline
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      Hey Cuterline. Just to let you know there is definately someone reading you story - and enjoying it at that. I do feel a bit sorry for kester, he never seems to get much of a break. Anyway, i hope you keep up with the story, its been very enjoyable so far.
      Old February 8th, 2011 (12:27 PM). Edited February 22nd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
      Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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        Originally Posted by Mizan de la Plume Kuro
        Which reminds me, how is it that you’ve not referenced Douglas Adams? Inconceivable!
        Must... reference... The Princess Bride...

        Chapter Thirteen: Believe Me Natalie

        “Kester! Get over here!” Sapphire hissed.

        I looked cautiously around for any of those hulking security guards that rich people always seem to have in the movies, and crept over as quietly as I could.

        “I don’t really want to do this,” I said.

        We were standing on a wide, semicircular landing at the top of an odd, squat protuberance that projected from one corner of the museum’s roof; before us was a façade that might have been ripped from one of the fancy townhouses on Rustboro’s Pelenine Hill, and behind us was a long, helical staircase that led back down to the museum proper.

        It had taken no small amount of ingenuity to get here. I had wanted nothing more than to leave every time a member of the museum staff challenged our right to see Natalie and her father, and some quite elaborate arguments had been thought up by our opponents – but somehow, Sapphire had overcome each one.

        “You’re so pathetic,” Sapphire told me, casting a look over me that managed to somehow be both withering and pitying at once. “What, you’re afraid we’ll get caught? We’re not doing anything illegal, you know.”

        “But I might get hurt.”

        “Chicken. Knock on the door.”

        “No way! You do it.”

        “I’m the Trainer. You’re the Pokémon. Knock on the damn door.” She retreated down the stairs a little, so as to be entirely out of view from the doorway.

        It seemed that if there had been any goodwill in Sapphire’s treatment of me earlier that morning, it had entirely faded. I sighed, dithered for a moment and then rapped sharply on the door. It was opened a few moments later by a girl my age, her nut-brown skin arguing foreign ancestry.

        “Who the hell are you?” she asked, tensing suddenly. I had a funny feeling she might be as capable of violence as Sapphire, so I tried hard to meet her eyes and replied:

        “My name is Kester Ruby. I’m here on behalf of someone you used to know.” I took a deep breath. “Sapphire Birch sent me.”

        In one fluid movement, her hand shot out, pushing me over backwards, and retracted into the apartment, slamming the door behind it. From the floor, I looked up at the handle, vaguely glad that I hadn’t been more badly injured.

        “What kind of a performance do you call that?” snapped Sapphire angrily. “Come on, Kester, don’t you have any social skills?”

        I got up slowly, dusting myself off. It seems odd now, but I think my pride was actually stung by that remark.

        “I can do this,” I said. “Watch me.”

        I knocked on the door again; this time, it didn’t open.

        “Natalie!” I called. “I actually came because Sapphire wants to apologise.”

        The door burst open and a fist shot out; it caught sharply on the jaw and I leaped back, yelping, as the door shut again.

        “Ow... Hey, seriously, Natalie. Sapphire wants to apologise. She... just... didn’t want to get punched, so she sent me.”

        The door opened again. Natalie poked her head through.

        “She sent you because she didn’t want to get hurt?”

        When not threatening me, her voice was soft and faintly upper-class, the way Sapphire’s was when she was calm.

        “Yeah,” I replied. “You know how she is.”

        I know,” she said. Her tone of voice made it clear just how well she knew. I waited for a moment, wondering what would happen next. Then, eventually, she said: “Well... sorry for hitting you, I guess. You don’t deserve it.”

        I swear, if I had had just an ounce less self-composure, I would have flung myself at her and showered her with adoration for that comment. You don’t deserve it. She was right; I didn’t deserve any of what had happened to me recently. I was wholly and unreservedly the victim.

        “Can I come in?” I asked. Natalie thought about it.

        “I suppose. I’m not going to hold Sapphire’s brutality against you.”

        She turned around and went inside, leaving the door open. I glanced towards Sapphire’s hiding-place and stuck my tongue out at her, then walked in and shut her out.

        Inside, the apartment was of a size befitting the scale of a museum – massive windows, high ceilings, wide expanse of polished wooden floor – but it didn’t match the time period at all. While the museum itself was old and dark, this place was light and airy, composed of pale wood and stainless steel, with a generous helping of glass. It also possessed the biggest TV I had ever seen, and which I later found out was one of the largest privately-owned ones in the world at the time.

        “Hope you don’t think you’ll get me to change my mind about Sapphire,” Natalie said warningly.

        “God, no,” I replied. “Can’t stand her.”

        “Why are you helping her, then?” asked Natalie. She indicated a large leather sofa, and I dropped onto it eagerly.

        “Blackmail,” I replied succinctly.

        Natalie nodded, as if she understood entirely, and asked me if I would like a drink. I was warming to her; it seemed like ages since I’d met anyone who showed me a normal amount of courtesy.

        “Yes please,” I replied, and received one for my troubles. Natalie sat down next to me and asked me what exactly it was that I wanted here.

        “Sapphire asked me to come here,” I told her, “so here I am. Look, if I can just stay here for a few minutes, then come out and tell her I tried and failed to convince you, that’ll be fine.”

        “You might as well try,” Natalie suggested. “Come on. Give it a go.”

        “Er...” I wondered where to start, and floundered helplessly for a moment. Then, I threw caution to the winds and told her everything.

        It took me a little over twenty minutes, and she didn’t say a word throughout the whole thing. When I was done, she sat very still and very silent, in the same sort of way that a bomb does before it goes off. Hence, I tensed my legs, ready to leap up at the first sign of violence.

        “That,” she said at last, making me jump, “is so like Sapphire!” Her hands clenched tightly into fists, the knuckles fairly bursting out through her skin. “I – aagh! You’ve made me really angry!”

        “S-sorry,” I offered cautiously. Registering the concern on my face, she visibly calmed herself.

        “No – not at you,” she said. “At Sapphire. She’s so... you know?”

        I nodded to show that I did, in fact, know.

        It’s what you call being headstrong, said Puck sleepily. But who cares? You don’t.

        I started. Puck was speaking to me again? No, now wasn’t the time to talk to him about it...

        “Look, I can help you if you like,” Natalie said. I raised my eyebrows in surprise. “Not Sapphire. You.” She paused. “I mean, if you find out what these goods are, she’ll let you go, right?”

        “That’s correct.” A troublesome thought crossed my mind. “Wait a moment. Why did you just accept my story without question? Why didn’t you ask for proof that there was a Rotom in my head?”

        “It felt right,” Natalie replied simply. “I trust you.”

        Touching, Puck said. How can anyone be this naïve at seventeen?

        “Come on,” Natalie continued. “I’ll show you my dad’s office.”

        She led me up a spiral staircase—

        The correct word is ‘helical’, Puck pointed out pedantically—

        —wrought, as most things in this place, of stainless steel; the racket we made as we went up it reminded me unpleasantly of last night’s escapade in the Calavera Tower. At the top was a semicircular landing that looked like the progeny of the one outside, and set into its curved edge were six or seven doors. Glancing up, I could see another floor above us, but was unable to make out any distinguishing features.

        “In here.” Natalie pushed open one door and led me inside; it was the second office I’d visited in as many days, and it was definitely the better of the two. While Usher’s was Spartan to a ridiculous extreme, this one was well-appointed and possessed a large, solid-looking teak desk covered in files, papers and two or three lamps that all pointed in different directions.

        “Here,” Natalie said, picking up a thick stack of folders and dropping it into my arms. “You look at these, I’ll look at some others.”

        We fell into a rather companionable silence then; it was oddly like group revision for school exams, which made me feel a bit nostalgic until I remembered I was too young for nostalgia.

        This continued for about an hour, and then Natalie spoke:

        “OK. Look at this.”

        Natalie pointed to the papers, and I did as she ordered. From what I saw, though, it was just a mess of invoices and letters.

        “Can’t you summarise for me?” I asked hopefully.

        “It shows that he’s been privately financing the construction of that submarine you said they were building at Angel. The S.S. Cangrejo.”

        “OK. Why does he want a submarine?”

        Natalie shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s an Aqua, if that helps.”

        What?” I cried.

        “What of it?”

        “It’s just... You admit it so freely.”

        “But it’s not like it matters.” Natalie shrugged. “I mean, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.” She held up a small, stylised letter ‘A’ in white enamel, crafted to resemble the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger. “Look, here’s the badge.”

        “Hmm,” I said, still somewhat shocked. “That’s unexpected, but not that useful... let’s keep looking."

        After a little while, Natalie tapped my shoulder again.


        She handed me a page of small, crabbed handwriting in dark blue ink; I scanned it, picking up such words as ‘Angel Laboratories’ and ‘submarine’ – and, at the bottom, a signature scrawled with ferocious energy: Archie.

        “Archie himself,” I breathed. “This is...” I looked up at Natalie. “Whoa. This is probably... something that should go to the police.”

        “If you like,” Natalie said. “It won’t matter. The police agree not to interfere with either of the Teams on the condition that their officers don’t get killed.”

        I opened my mouth to reply, then realised I didn’t have anything to say and shut it again.

        “Anyway, there’s nothing illegal about commissioning a submarine,” Natalie pointed out.

        This was indisputably true, and I was forced to admit it.

        “The Aquas do like the sea,” Natalie continued. “Remember, they used to be a bunch of weird marine-supremacist-eco-warriors before they went into organised crime. It might be that they just want a submarine to use as their headquarters, or something.”

        “Right. You’re right, of course.” I stood up. “Thanks, Natalie.”

        “No problem,” she said. “Always happy to strike a blow against Sapphire. But I’m not done.”

        “Oh?” I sat down again and she held up another letter; once again I took it to peruse.

        “To Mauville?” I queried. “Why are the goods being taken to Mauville? And who’s the ‘Spectroscopic Fancy Company’?”

        “Not sure,” replied Natalie. “But look more closely. It’s not the goods themselves being taken to Mauville. They’re going to be built into a ‘Y-38P SuperBlast Module’, and then sent up to the Spectroscopic Fancy Company in Mauville.”

        “What’s a Y-38P SuperBlast Module, do you know?”

        Natalie shrugged. “No idea. But this Spectroscopic Fancy Company needs investigation. Both the Aquas and the Magmas want the goods, right? So my guess is that this Y-38P SuperBlast Module is something that both Teams want.”

        “Or whatever Spectroscopic Fancy is doing with the Module is something that will negatively affect each Team,” I suggested. Natalie nodded and looked impressed, which went some way to restoring my rather dented sense of self-worth.

        “That might be it,” she agreed. “You’re clever.”

        Unlike Sapphire, she meant it. I hadn’t realised how much I needed real, heartfelt compliments in my life, and positively glowed with happiness.

        “Well, thank you very much,” I said, standing up. “I’d better go now. I’ve kept Sapphire waiting long enough.”

        “I don’t think you could do that if you tried.” Natalie smiled, and it was a very pretty smile.

        “Maybe you’re right,” I replied. “But I’d better go anyway. It’s gone midday.”

        “All right.” Natalie showed me to the door, though of course I remembered the way, and as I bade her farewell and left I rather thought I’d made a new friend today, and a charming one at that.

        I’m not charming enough for you? Puck asked in mock horror. Gasp!

        Sapphire uncurled from where she was sitting uncomfortably on the steps.

        “Did you have fun?” she asked sourly.

        Masses,” I replied. “I really like Natalie.”

        Sapphire looked like she was bridling at the insult, but managed to contain herself.

        “What did you find out?”

        “I might tell you that,” I replied, “if you’re nice.”

        So of course the next moment I was back in the Poké Ball, and Puck was laughing his head off.


        “And we go live to Jessica Colburn, our Pokémon Affairs correspondent, at Blackfriars.”

        A pretty young woman in a neat suit and a fluffy coat was standing at the southern end of the bridge, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral just visible off to her right. Though it was summer in Hoenn, England was firmly in the grip of winter, and she had a vivid red scarf wrapped snugly about her neck. The tassels on its end kept breaking free of control and dancing around in the wind.

        “Thank you, Pete,” Jessica said to the camera. “Here with me is Harrison Morrison, Professor Emeritus of Pokézoology at Oxford University.”

        The camera swivelled left a little, to include Harrison’s weathered face. It had the look of an old paper bag about it: battered and with a few crumbs sticking to the corners. Despite its roughness, there was a gentle kindness in it, and excitement too.

        “Good morning, Jessica.”

        “Thank you very much for being here, Professor. Now, when exactly is it going to pass over?”

        “Well, you can see that the skies are completely clear,” Harrison replied. “That would indicate that it is literally minutes away: its ability doesn’t extend more than a few miles ahead.”

        “I see. For those viewers who perhaps don't know, can you explain again why it’s here?”

        “That’s a simple enough question. As most people probably know, it circles the globe continually, each circuit taking it a year. What you may not know is that it alters its flight path slightly each year, which some scientists believe is a result of minute shifts in the earth’s magnetic field. This year, for just the third time since records began, the it will be passing over England.”

        “Exciting stuff. Professor—”

        “Look!” cried Harrison, pointing. “It’s here!”

        And it was: a great, twisting band of dark green against the clear blue sky, worming its way sinuously across the heavens as no other beast on earth could do. Glittering yellow tracery adorned its massive flanks, and its fins flashed red along the edges in the winter sun. It came from the north-east, and, with the morning sun behind it, seemed to blaze with divine fire.

        Across the country, mouths dropped and eyes popped; in London itself, people crowded against windows and burst into the streets, staring up into the skies at the monster that had once been known to the ancient world as Ziz, and now rejoiced in the name Rayquaza.

        It passed over London at impossible speed, but from the ground it looked as if its progress were slow and stately; as it drew closer to the cathedral, it tipped back its vast head and let out a long, incredibly loud roar that shook the air and sent birds into the air all over the city.

        “Incredible,” breathed Jessica.

        “Marvellous,” agreed Harrison, but then a frown passed over his face. “But – what’s that?”

        He pointed, and the camera followed; there was a blot on the bright sky, a dark patch a little to the east of Rayquaza, and drawing nearer.

        Harrison and Jessica squinted, and the camera zoomed in as much as it could, but it was much too far away. All that could be seen was a dark, bulky shape: some sort of aerial vehicle or perhaps a Flying Pokémon – though admittedly, few that could Fly grew to that size.

        “What’re they doing?” cried Harrison.

        His question was soon answered. The shape drew up alongside Rayquaza’s head, and one great eye rolled over to investigate it.

        Then there was a distant boom, and an earth-shattering roar, and Rayquaza began to fall.

        It spiralled down like a stricken kite, the air screaming in protest as gravity hauled Rayquaza through it; its tail smacked against the dome of St. Paul’s and the lead gave way with a booming whine, crumpling like tissue paper under the blow. Its head drew closer and closer, and now people on the bridge were leaving their cars and running as fast as they could for the shore—

        —before Rayquaza crashed headfirst into Blackfriars Bridge, its jaw ripping up the tarmac as it slid along, throwing up cars and pedestrians like confetti. The ground bucked and swayed beneath its weight; people screamed and shouted; metal burst and stone shattered; and finally it ended with a colossal splash as the dragon’s sinuous body hit the surface of the Thames and sank from sight, throwing up walls of water a hundred feet into the air.

        Dead silence followed. The camera was lying on its side, the lens cracked and nothing but the base of a lamppost visible through it. Then, shakily, it rose up, and panned back towards the crash site, where Jessica was picking herself up.

        The Professor was already on his feet and running towards Rayquaza’s head, clambering over upturned cars and stumbling over chunks of stone and asphalt. The camera followed, moving jerkily as its operator struggled beneath its weight; it stopped at the edge of the wrecked area, and zoomed in to follow Harrison’s path.

        Across the country, a million gasps rang out.

        The Pokémon had landed with the left side of its head forwards, and it could be clearly seen that its left eye had been replaced with a bloody pit of gore and smoke; the skin around it was blackened with smoke and slick with the juices of its ruptured eyeball and brain.

        Harrison slapped a palm to the point where Rayquaza’s neck met its head; ordinarily, the sight of a man attempting to take the pulse of such a vast creature would have been amusing, but now it was deadly serious. Millions of people looked on with bated breath, waiting for Harrison’s pronouncement.

        “It’s dead,” he said softly, turning to face the camera. “Rayquaza is dead.”

        For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
        Old February 10th, 2011 (10:08 AM). Edited February 22nd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
        Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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          Sorry for the recent lack of humour in this. It's just that I felt I owed it to Rayquaza's awesomeness to send him off solemnly. I promise that the chapter after this will be back to normal.

          Chapter Fourteen: Gemstones Rampant on a Field Sable

          Once I’d told her about the SuperBlast Module, Sapphire had wanted to leave for Mauville straight away and consequently we returned to the Pokémon Centre to pick up her bag; however we never got much further than the Centre lounge. We came in and ran straight into the back of a tightly-packed crowd, gathered around the TV and blocking off all the exits.

          “What the—?”

          Sapphire shoved angrily to the front of the crowd, and I slipped through the gap she left, throwing apologies left and right with more than one worried glance at a guy whose Swellow seemed about to fling itself at my face in rage.

          Then we reached the TV, and stopped dead.

          The picture was one of utter devastation; I didn’t recognise the area but there was a bridge, and it had been completely wrecked by the partially flattened body of a colossal Pokémon that even I recognised. It was the one that everyone knew, the one that had been flying around the globe since time immemorial.


          The Sky High Pokémon was currently anything but. It looked like its brain had exploded and blown out one of its eyes, and the impact of hitting the ground had caused its body to flatten vertically. This had driven hundreds of its ribs out of its flanks; they projected like ivory cannon from the side of a great green galleon, ready to fire the streamers of red and white-yellow gore that hung from their tips. And this was only the first third of its body: the rest lay underwater, in the depths of the river that the bridge spanned.

          “Oh my God,” I muttered. “It’s... it’s dead?”

          “Ssh!” hissed Sapphire violently. “I want to hear.”

          “—ave said that the precise cause of death is uncertain; however, it is likely to have been some form of rocket launcher, or possibly a powerful Pokémon attack such as Hyper Beam,” the English reporter onscreen told us, via a dubbed Hoennian translator. “Harrison Morrison, Professor Emeritus of Pokézoology at Oxford University, has been assisting police with their investigations. Professor Morrison, what can you tell us about this attack?”

          The scene changed; now we were at night, facing a tangled web of police tape and floodlights. In front of these was a man in late middle age, with salt-and-pepper hair and a lined, tired face that bore testament to having recently suffered through a great deal of stress. A little box flashed up in the corner, reading ‘LIVE from Blackfriars Bridge, London’, and I remembered that there was an eleven-hour time difference between Hoenn and England.

          “Well,” said the Professor (or at least the translator who was being dubbed in), “it would actually have been a fairly easy thing to do. Rayquaza has been protected by its enormous size – and, more recently, international law – for many, many years now. It has become used to being unchallenged, and so it failed to register its attacker as a threat.”

          “Would there ever have been anything that could threaten Rayquaza?” asked the reporter. “Presumably, this is the sort of thing we’re looking for when searching for its killer.”

          “We don’t know,” replied the Professor simply. “Rayquaza is what’s known as a legendary Pokémon: something so powerful it’s become deified, and has passed into myth and culture across the world. Most of these so-called ‘legendaries’ are either exaggerated memories of Pokémon now extinct, or never existed at all; there are only seven such species other than Rayquaza known to exist: Mew, Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Raikou, Entei and Suicune. But none of these save Mew have ever been captured and studied, only glimpsed – their power is completely unknown. We can rule out Mew as the attacker because of its size and relative weakness, and the three legendary beasts on account of their lack of flying ability. My guess is that one of the legendary birds, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres, is behind this.”

          “But what reason could there be for this?” the reporter persisted. Professor Morrison shrugged and sighed.

          “We just don’t know,” he replied helplessly. “It’s generally held to be impossible to capture most legendary Pokémon, even with a Master Ball, but there’s no reason for these legendaries to fight amongst themselves without human intervention. I can only surmise that someone killed Rayquaza – but who they are or how they gained control over a legendary is entirely beyond me.”

          “Thank you, Professor,” said the reporter. “Those of you watching at home, don’t go anywhere: in an hour’s time, the police will be holding a press conference...”

          Sapphire turned away abruptly and shoved her way back through the crowd, heading for the stairs and her room. Apologising again, I followed.

          “Sapphire!” I cried, rushing up the first flight. “Sapphire, what is it?”

          “Three hundred million years,” Sapphire said quietly, not stopping. “That’s how old they think it is. Three hundred million years as king of the sky. The metabolism powering that was the most amazing on earth; that’s why it was always flying, and why it had fins – to cool itself down. No one knows where it came from or whether there was ever more than one. Three hundred million years, and never known to show even the slightest sign of eating or drinking. Three hundred million years of life that defined the myths and legends of a thousand different cultures all over the world. Three hundred million years, Kester, and some worthless, gutless monster comes along and has the presumption to end that existence!”

          She was practically screaming now; I recoiled and let her storm up to the room by herself. I should have known she would feel strongly about it. She was the daughter of a Pokémon Professor, after all.

          I sighed and sat down on the steps, not knowing what to do. It seemed pretty likely that we wouldn’t be going anywhere today, and I had no idea how to go about comforting Sapphire without getting beaten up or paralysing her.

          Well, well, well, remarked Puck. I can’t say I wasn’t expecting that.

          “Puck?” I sat up. “I meant to ask you about that. You’re speaking to me again now?”

          I was thinking.

          I waited for him to continue that sentence, but it became apparent that that was it, so I ventured:

          “What were you thinking about?”

          How much I can tell you. Puck sighed. Look, Kester, when I say you should stay out of something, you should, well... You should take my advice.

          “Forget I said anything,” I told him, happy to have someone to talk to.

          It’s touching that you want to be friends – or perhaps pitiful that you’re desperate enough to talk to a voice in your head – but you’ve asked. I will answer. Just not fully.

          “OK. That’s fine, too.”

          I’m... not one of the good guys, strictly speaking, Puck said slowly. And... there are things about me that would place you in quite a bit of danger if you knew them. And like I said, I have a vested interest in your survival, so I’m keen to avoid that.

          “OK.” I shut my eyes and tried to absorb this knowledge, but it didn’t seem to fit particularly well with anything else I’d found out so far. I still couldn’t see Puck’s connection with the whole ‘Devon goods’ business, or why he was in Hoenn.

          On a lighter note, the death of Rayquaza, Puck said, brightening. Oh. Wait. That’s a darker note. Never mind. So: what’s our opinion, boys and girls?

          “I don’t know. Some lunatic shot it down?”

          Half right. Someone shot it down – but they were no lunatic. They had a reason.

          “You know about this?”

          No. I suspect about this. I’m pretty sure it’s connected to all the stuff that’s happening here, too. I just don’t know how yet.

          “Why does talking to you always put me in mind of trying to set fire to snow?” I asked exasperatedly. “Would it kill you to speak plainly for once?”

          Most definitely yes.

          I sighed and got up. “Fine. Any ideas about what to do next, then?”

          Sapphire’s not coming back until she’s worked off that anger... I guess we could go and watch TV. See if any leads have been found about Rayquaza’s killer. I know it doesn’t mean that much to you, being a non-Trainer meatface – I mean, human – but we ought to show some small modicum of respect.

          It was the only plan I had, so I wandered back into the lounge and wormed my way through the crowd of Trainers until I got to a point where I could see the screen again.

          “ other news, a rash of strange Pokémon attacks have broken out across Slateport during the night,” a Hoennian reporter said, the picture behind her flickering to a shot of a gutted shop with smashed-in windows. “CCTV images show that the cause of this has been, of all things, a group of Sableye.”

          I frowned as the image changed to grainy black and white, and a swarm of the little monsters broke the window, pouring into the shop like rats out of Hamelin.

          queried Puck. Surely they aren’t....?

          All at once, an ovoid head popped up in front of the camera, just inches away from the lens. Two massive diamond eyes adorned the front, on either side of a white stripe, and beneath them was a wicked little grin. Then the picture cut to static, and changed back to the studio.

          “Professor Birch is here with me to discuss this. Professor, Sableye are usually docile, are they not?”

          “Um. Er, yes, they are...”

          I didn’t need to hear any more; I struggled out of the lounge and back into the lobby, where I dropped onto a bench.

          “Puck,” I said, “is it me, or was that Sableye a bit... familiar?”

          It was the leader of that group in the lift shaft, Puck said. I recognised its convenient white stripe. You were probably too busy fleeing and falling to remember it very clearly.

          “A white stripe,” I said. “Is this another joke?”

          Probably, Puck replied amiably. I think it might go on for a while, too. He paused for a bit, presumably thinking, then said: Look, we aren’t going to get to Mauville today. Let’s go exploring.

          “What, and get lost in Slateport?”

          You won’t get lost.

          “OK then. How about run into Darren Goodwin?”

          You won’t run into Darren Goodwin.

          “Team Magma?”

          They aren’t exactly a threat, Puck reminded me.

          “Fair enough. What about Team Aqua?”

          There, Puck paused. Like me, he was evidently remembering our encounter with the Aqua girl the day before.

          I see your point, he admitted. But come on, Kester! Let’s live a little. Sapphire’s not here, and while the cat’s away, the mice will play...

          “Shut up.”

          Your mind is made up, I see, Puck said sorrowfully. We will just sit here all day in the Pokémon Centre, doing absolutely nothing.

          “That’s right,” I agreed, and leaned back against the wall.

          Five minutes later, I glanced at my watch. It was one o’clock.

          “Fine, you win,” I conceded, getting to my feet and realising that my legs had gone to sleep. “It’s too boring. Let’s go.”

          Puck snickered, and we headed off into Slateport.


          My wanderings eventually took me down to the Wharf again, which was welcome because it was one of the few places within walking distance where I didn’t have to pay to see something amazing. I spent a happy while pacing along the waterfront, looking at the ships, their crews and Pokémon, and would probably have spent another hour or so there before heading back if I hadn’t been accosted by a strange old sailor who sported an impressive beard.

          “There was a ship,” he told me earnestly, gripping my arm with a skinny hand. I shook him off and backed away a couple of paces, ready to Thunder Wave or Astonish him if necessary – but he didn’t seem to be making any threatening movements.

          “Who the hell are you?” I asked. He gave me some sort of stare, which was probably meant to hold me to the spot, but it didn’t really work, coming as it did from a very nonthreatening old man.

          Whoa, said Puck. Now that’s what I call a long grey beard, and glittering eyes.

          “The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared—”


          “Merrily did we drop—”


          “Below the kirk, below the hill—”


          He paused, and tried again to hold me with his glittering eye– but it was no more successful this time than it had been before.

          “Below the lighthouse top,” he finished disconsolately. “You don’t wanna hear my story?”

          “No,” I said. “Just... leave me alone!”

          “It’s a good one,” he persisted.

          Haha! He’s such a grey-beard loon.

          “I don’t want to hear it! Let me through!”

          With that, I pushed past him and stalked off through the crowds.

          “Any idea as to who that was?” I asked Puck.

          I... I’ve come across something like that before, he answered.

          “Right.” There was a pause. “Are you going to tell me about it?”


          “Didn’t think so.”

          We wandered along a little further, watching the ships come and go and keeping a weather eye out for any more ancient mariners; thankfully, there seemed to be none around, and our walk from then on was uneventful, at least until we realised that we were lost.


          “Felicity,” said the young man, “it looks like you might need to hurry up a little, or it might get too late.”

          “Shut up,” she growled weakly, but there was nothing she could do to stop him. He was the only one who could help her now.

          “I don’t care how much pain you’re in, you know.” The man seemed eager to impress that fact upon her. “You have to keep going.”

          “Why?” Felicity’s eyes flashed angrily. “Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I go home? Why, why, why?

          The young man regarded her with unruffled eyes. He had not moved an inch.

          “Because I need you with the Aquas,” he said. “It’s part of the plan.”

          “Plan. Plan. Always on about this plan. What is it, Zero?” spat Felicity. She spat the name out as if it were poison; it was not, as it happened, but it was certainly a little melodramatic.

          “My own little project,” Zero replied. “A hobby; a game; a bet; call it what you will, it’s all the same. Now, Felicity, report to your superiors. Go and tell them that you have information detailing the precise times of the movement of the Module from Angel Laboratories to Mauville.” He tossed her a CD in a blank case, and she caught it one-handed. “This is a taped conversation between Usher House of Angel and Melton Mowbray of Spectroscopic Fancy. It will suffice as evidence.”

          “Why do you need me?” Felicity asked helplessly, looking from Zero to the disk and back again. “Why? What did I do to deserve this?”

          Zero looked at her, and there was infinite kindness in his eyes.

          “Nothing, Felicity,” he said. “You did nothing at all.”


          “Puck?” I asked hopefully. “Anything?”

          Nope. Let’s see... we could go back the way we came, if you can remember it.

          We were standing at the point where a road that went by the ominous name of Evisceration Street crossed another named, perhaps more ominously, Clownbeater Avenue. So far, I had resisted the urge to say 'I told you I'd get lost' to Puck, but the temptation was strong.

          Yo, Kester.

          “If this isn’t helpful advice, I don’t want to hear it.”

          Do you think ‘Clownbeater’ means someone who beats clowns, or a clown who beats things? Puck wondered.

          “Shut up! That isn’t helpful advice!”

          But how can you define ‘helpful’ in this crazy modern world of ours? Puck persisted. It’s so... so... Damn it. OK, that joke failed. Can I try again?

          “No. Be quiet.”

          The Rotom sighed, but obeyed, and I headed down Clownbeater Avenue on the grounds that I would rather either beat or be beaten by clowns than be eviscerated.

          This road seems to be going south, Puck commented, as we followed the curve of the pavement. It might take us to the Wharf. That’d be good.

          “Yeah,” I agreed, and so continued.

          The street didn’t seem to have an end, and was curiously deserted; it was still bathed in bright afternoon sunlight, and I could still hear the traffic and the Wingull – but something about it struck me as creepy.

          Yo, Kester, Puck said, after we’d been walking for about fifteen minutes.


          Ghosts. To the left.

          I glanced left and saw the ruined shop that had made the news earlier.

          “This is too much of a coincidence,” I said aloud. “This just can’t be happening—”

          You’d best believe it, Puck said, because that little stripy chap looks like he wants your throat for nest lining.

          Wincing at the mental image this conjured up, I looked around wildly for the striped Sableye, and found him atop a lamppost, squatting like a gargoyle and baring his teeth. Immediately, I launched a ThunderShock at him; it missed and hit the lamppost, but, being made of steel, the current passed through it and neatly zapped the soles of his feet. He screeched in pain and leaped down into the road; in response to his cry, about eight more of the little monsters emerged from the wrecked shop.

          “Puck!” I cried.

          We can handle this! His response was cool, calm and focused. Sableye are fairly weak; they can’t handle repeated hits. You’re strong enough now that if you can get a good ThunderShock in, you can probably take them out in a couple of hits each.

          I had no time to reply: the Sableye were leaping forwards, their clawed hands moving so fast as to sound like fan blades. I didn’t even have time to move before they were on me, scything their claws down again and again—

          —and doing absolutely nothing, the talons passing straight through me – much to their consternation.

          Fury Swipes, Puck said. Normal-type. Counterattack, now!

          I wasted no time in doing so: first one of my strong Astonishes, which froze about half of them in their tracks, then a frenzy of ThunderShocks, raining down like blue meteors. Puck was right. The Sableye were actually about as threatening as wet blotting-paper, and three of them fainted dead away from that first assault alone.

          The remaining Pokémon darted back quickly, wary now, and circled me like sharks under the hissed direction of their striped leader.

          For the sake of space, time and a reference, Puck said, let’s just call that one Stripe from now on.

          Suddenly, as one, the Sableye stopped dead in their tracks, and line of blackness shot across the ground from their feet to mine faster than I could blink; it felt like someone had knocked my legs from under me with a lead pipe, and I fell over heavily, crying out in pain.

          Damn it! Shadow Sneak! Puck sounded agitated now. Kester, get up and out of the way!

          I tried to get to my feet, but the Sableye did it again; this time I saw what the darkness was: it was their shadows, stretching out from beneath them to ram me savagely in the shins. Except now, of course, they were hitting me all over, not just my shins, and it was excruciating; if it was possible for it to be worse than falling down the fire escape, or the Carvanha’s Bite, it was.

          I might have screamed. I don’t know. I do know that Puck was trying to speak to me, but his voice was faint and flickering, like a badly-tuned radio. Then there was a brief period of nothing, and after that, I remember sitting up shakily in the middle of the street, surrounded by a rather drunken-looking troupe of Sableye.

          Kester! Kester!


          No time to explain! Just ThunderShock something – anything! They’re about ready to run away...

          I did, weak sparks flaring at my fingertips and arcing across to Stripe, who shrieked and staggered off, his limbs moving as if they were under someone else’s control. With some difficulty, the rest of the Sableye followed him, swaying and tripping like Spinda.

          “What – what happened?” I asked, my head clearing somewhat. The pain was fading; now that I looked, there didn’t seem to be any marks on my legs, either.

          They were using Shadow Sneak
          , Puck told me. That’s a Ghost-type move, which we’re weak to. Six of them together like that and it was too much. You know, like when you make a sandwich that’s just too tall for you to bite into, but you still go and try anyway, and it all ends in doom and tears—

          “But – how did I...?” I interrupted, before he got too involved in his ridiculous simile.

          Chase them off? Uproar, my friend. Uproar. That crazy drunken gait of theirs? Disorientation caused by the sound waves.

          There were probably plenty of eloquent replies to be made, but I wasn’t quite up to finding one.


          It’s... well, officially it’s a Normal-type move, so it shouldn’t have affected those half-Ghost Sableye. But in reality, it can hit anything with ears. The clue is in the name: it’s basically a screaming and shouting attack, like Astonish, that affects everyone around you. The only downside is that you can’t turn it off once you start. You have to keep doing it for a certain period of time.

          “That’s so stupid it must be true,” I said, regaining my full senses at last, and getting up. “I have to say, though, I really hate Sableye.”

          Then... you won’t want to look down.

          I did so, of course, and saw that amongst the three fainted Sableye was a fourth one – only this wasn’t like any Sableye I’d seen before. Its short fur was a pure, snowy white, and its eyes were massive rubies rather than diamonds.

          “What the hell is that?”

          Er... an albino Sableye? suggested Puck. Seriously, your guess is as good as mine. I’ve never seen anything like him before.

          I stared at the albino Sableye, and he ducked his head, hiding it beneath his little hands, as if self-conscious. He took a few steps away from me, and crouched behind one of his fainted brethren. Unless he was incredibly devious and sneaky, it seemed unlikely that he would attack me, so I started walking again, moving slowly now in case my legs gave out unexpectedly.

          After a while, I turned around and saw that the Sableye was following me; as soon as my eyes alighted on him, however, he dived for cover behind a dustbin and lay there quivering.

          You know, Puck said, he reminds me of you a bit.

          “Shut up,” I muttered. “I’ve done enough dangerous things now that you couldn’t call me a coward.”

          No, that’s not what I meant. He’s like you because he’s pale and useless.

          If I could have punched him, I would. As it was, I thought very long and very hard about the beautiful Felicity instead, and then about the less-beautiful-but-still-attractive Natalie. This, I was pleased to discover, caused him no small amount of discomfort.

          By then, I had, as hoped, reached the Wharf, and knew roughly where to go. It was going to take me a hell of a long time to get back to the Centre, but I didn’t care; I was just glad that I wasn’t being threatened by bejewelled monkey demons anymore.

          As I began the slow walk back to the Pokémon Centre, I knew the Sableye was still following me, but it didn’t seem important any more. All I wanted now was a long rest and a cold drink.

          Huh. I doubt Sapphire’s going to let you have either of those, Puck said darkly. I mean, she isn’t in a good mood and we went out without her permission.

          “Oh, shut up,” I said wearily, and trudged on.

          Note:Technically, I guess the Sableye ought to have been shiny, but I kind of don't care.

          For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
          Old February 12th, 2011 (11:20 AM). Edited February 22nd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
          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
            Chapter Fifteen: Pokéfan Kaleb Would Like to Battle

            I was about to knock on the door to Sapphire’s room at the Pokémon Centre when I heard sobbing from within. My hand stopped half an inch from the wood, and I regret to say that my first thought was that she must have been torturing someone.

            Kester... Puck said warningly. That’s not a nice conclusion to jump to.

            “Sorry,” I whispered, not wanting to let Sapphire know I was there. “I know, I know, it’s terrible.”

            She’s probably upset about Rayquaza, he said. You should go and comfort her.

            “Still upset?” I asked, more incredulously than I’d meant to. “Really? It’s just a big flying sna—”

            Kester! Arceus knows I shouldn’t expect it of you, but show some damn sympathy here! Or, he added, I’ll fry your brain.

            “OK, OK,” I said hurriedly. “But I’m warning you, I don’t know how to do this.”

            I knocked on the door and it opened seemingly under its own power; this startled me until I saw Toro with one claw on the handle. She jerked her head across the room and I looked over to see Sapphire curled up on her bed with her back to me. I could just see the top of Rono’s egg-shaped head behind her.

            “Sapphire?” I called softly. This, I felt, would be a good start. When she made no attempt to reply, though, I had to re-evaluate that particular fact. “Uh... Sapphire? Are you OK?”

            I stepped quietly over to her, avoiding treading on her discarded hat, and cautiously put a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t throw it off, which must have been a good sign.

            Excellent start, commented Puck. Now, go in for the kill.

            The idiom was so singularly inappropriate that I almost burst out laughing, and it took quite a lot of effort not to do so. I sat down next to Sapphire and waited for her to say something.

            “Why?” she asked eventually, in a level voice. From where I sat, I could see that the tears had dried on her face, though her eyes were still wet.

            “I don’t know,” I replied truthfully.

            “What possible reason could anyone have to... to do that?”

            Kester has started well, Puck said, but can he maintain the pressure? Looks like a tricky question to negotiate...

            The last thing I needed right now was a commentary, but I struggled gamely on and tried to ignore him.

            “I don’t know,” I said again. “But Puck thinks there was a reason.”

            “There was?” Sapphire sat up a little, and wiped her eyes. I could see she was trying to still look tough, but it wasn’t too convincing.

            “Yeah,” I confirmed. I wondered if squeezing her hand in a comforting manner would be going too far, and decided that it was – and also that I really didn’t want to touch her that much. “He thinks it’s linked to all this – all this ‘Devon goods’ stuff.”

            “Linked...” Sapphire echoed the word without emotion.

            “I don’t know what the link is,” I said. “But I think if we continue the way we’re going—”

            “We’ll catch them,” breathed Sapphire. “We’ll catch the person who murdered Rayquaza.” A flame ignited behind the watery veil in her eyes.

            “Yeah,” I agreed. “Maybe.”

            “We have to.” Sapphire looked directly at me for the first time during our conversation. “It’s not optional.”

            “No,” I said. “I suppose it isn’t.”

            Her eyes communicated to me something I’d never seen before; it was a blazing passion that far outstripped any trivial ambition I might have had, and a steely determination unequalled in human history; it was a deep-seated respect for the Pokémon that had been called Rayquaza, and a quiet, powerful will like a tiger crouched to spring. In that moment, I thought I understood her entirely, and why it was important that Rayquaza was dead. I felt like I could see right into her soul and out the other side, all the way through time and space to the core of the universe itself.

            I blinked, and the wild, dizzying illusion left me; I found my heart was beating like a drum, and my mouth was as dry as the Bone Desert.

            So, Puck said, bringing me firmly back down to earth, figured out why Sapphire doesn’t deserve to be hated by you?

            I didn’t answer. Even if I’d wanted to, I wasn’t sure that my tongue could take it; it was stuck firmly to the roof of my mouth with some strange dry adhesive.


            “Huh?” I managed, remembering Sapphire. I looked at her, and saw, with a sinking feeling, that she looked like she was mostly back to normal.

            “I wanted to know,” she said, “what that is.”

            She pointed to her bag, which appeared to have sprouted tiny white legs and was currently engaged in stumbling around the floor. Toro and Rono were staring at it suspiciously, wondering if it constituted enough of a threat for them to beat it up.

            “Oh. Ah. Er, I went out, and I got attacked by that gang of Sableye—”

            “All of them?”

            “No, just the leader with the stripe and eight others. But there was this other one that was hiding, and came out afterwards.”

            I pulled the bag off to reveal the albino, clutching a Poké Ball. Sapphire just had time to gasp in astonishment before he glanced around wildly, realised that we were all looking at him, and prised the two halves of the ball apart with his claws before leaping in and slamming the lid shut behind him.

            Wow, said Puck, after a considerable period of silence. Self... capture? That Sableye is so stupid that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

            “Did it just...?”

            “Yes,” I confirmed. “He just caught himself.”

            Sapphire looked at me and I looked at Sapphire; together, we looked at Toro and Rono. All of us were completely nonplussed.

            Now you’ve performed your little pantomime, Puck said snidely, you might want to let that Sableye out again. It would probably be morally wrong to leave him in there. He paused for a moment, thinking. Do you think his action counts as akrasia?

            “What are you talking about?” I asked him; Sapphire looked at me inquisitively, but I pointed to my head and she nodded, understanding. “Puck thinks,” I told her, “that we should let that Sableye go. Since he accidentally caught himself.”

            “It didn’t look like an accident to me,” Sapphire pointed out. “He ripped the ball open and climbed in. Somehow.” At the last word, her face twisted into an expression of exaggerated confusion.

            “He might have been.... look, I’m just saying that Puck thinks we should let him go.”

            Sapphire picked up the ball and tossed it down on the floor again. Immediately, the Sableye reappeared; he took in his situation at a glance, cowered in fear for a moment, and then leaped into Sapphire’s bag and stayed there shivering.

            “He’s... not exactly normal, is he?” Sapphire said.

            “I’d be forced to agree with you there.”

            Me too. I’ve not seen anything as surprising as this since Macbeth beat Macduff at the end of a production I saw in London.

            As usual, Puck’s comment was ignored.

            “I can’t release him,” Sapphire pointed out. “I don’t think he’d get very far before he got killed, do you?”

            I admitted that there might be some truth to this.

            “And I can’t let him get killed. I don’t think there’s ever been a recorded albino Sableye before.”

            Yeah. Kind of makes a mockery of their name, doesn’t it? Sable-eye, the Darkness Pokémon. Puck chuckled, then realised no one was joining in and stopped hurriedly.

            “I’ll see if I can get any information on him.”

            Sapphire reached into her pocket and pulled out a curious flat device composed mostly of white plastic. This apparently opened up to reveal a small screen, and she pointed it at the bag-cloaked Sableye.

            Her eyes widened.


            “What is it? What’s that machine?” I asked.

            “It was a satellite navigation system, but Dad altered it so it picks up information from the Pokémon Index Project. It can also detect a Pokémon’s level...” She showed me the screen, and my eyes widened too.

            “Level... Eighty-Four?

            She nodded, and we both looked down at the cowardly Sableye with a great deal of new respect.

            “How did he get to that level?” I wondered.

            Don’t worry yourself about the plotholes, Puck said. If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves...

            “That saying is totally irrelevant,” I snapped. Then, to Sapphire: “So... I guess we’re keeping him, then.”

            “Not we. Me. He isn’t yours.” Sapphire recalled the Sableye, and set his ball in the fourth slot on her belt.

            “Right. Of course. Should’ve expected that.”

            Sapphire gave me a quizzical look.

            “What, you think you’ve got some right to him? I caught him.”

            “He caught himself. Besides, it was me he followed back here.”

            “He caught himself with one of my balls.” Sapphire stopped and held up a hand. “No, I’m not doing this. This won’t end well.”

            The girl speaks sense, said Puck appreciatively. Which seems to be quite difficult for people to do in this country. Give her a medal.

            I’ve been speaking sense since the beginning!” I cried, wounded, but Puck didn’t reply. Before I met him, I had no idea you could win an argument purely by refusing to respond to your opponent – but he was a master of the art.



            “Shut up and get ready,” Sapphire said. “We’re leaving.”

            Having no possessions, I was already ready; nevertheless, I looked around in that forlorn way you do when you don’t have anything, just hoping that there might be something lying around that’ll present itself to you. Of course, nothing did, so I just shrugged and waited for Sapphire to finish packing her bag.

            Five minutes later, we’d checked out of the Centre and caught a bus north through Slateport; though Slateport’s buses were renowned for being late, it would have been impossible to walk to the city’s northern border. For some reason, foreigners have the idea that all the towns in Hoenn are really small, with about fifteen houses each, but this just isn’t true. They’re the same size here as everywhere else.

            The bus arrived precisely fifteen minutes after it was supposed to, and took about an hour to reach the northern suburbs. If I felt bored at all, I chased it away with cheering thoughts about Sapphire seemingly haven forgotten to recall me in order to avoid paying for my ticket.

            It didn’t take long to negotiate the suburbs, and then we were out of the city, taking the footpath up Route 110. From the overpass that arced north to Mauville, the traffic roared and rumbled, but it was so far away that it scarcely seemed real. Trees stood tall and proud either side of me, and stretched away forwards as far as the eye could see; despite myself, I smiled. This was it: the real Trainer’s life, the road less travelled, and I, Kester Ruby, unathletic, unadventurous, unassuming and un-Trainerish in general, was walking on it.

            “What’re you grinning about?” snapped Sapphire. “It’s a solemn occasion. Rayquaza’s dead.”

            “Sorry.” I wiped the smile from my face, but it lingered unaccountably on the inside. I couldn’t understand it, but I had an inkling that maybe – when I wasn’t being beaten up – this trip might turn out to be fun.


            “I’m tired,” I moaned.

            Sapphire said nothing.

            “I’m hungry,” I moaned.

            Sapphire said nothing, but her lips were tightly pressed together.

            “I’m bored,” I moaned.

            Still Sapphire said nothing. Her hands balled into fists.


            For Pete’s sake, shut up! Puck snapped irritably. We’ve only been walking two hours.

            “Two hours is a long time,” I said, reasonably.

            You have all the stamina of an anaemic earwig, he told me.

            “What’s an earwig?

            Oh, for the love of—!

            He broke off abruptly, disgusted, and I turned my eyes to Sapphire.

            “No,” she said, before I could speak. “We’re not stopping. You can either get used to walking long distances or you can go in the ball.”

            Sulkily, I lapsed into silence and started dragging my feet; a few steps later, I realised that doing this along the dirt path was ruining them and stopped hurriedly.

            We were now walking along beside the Bay of Cadavers, the massive wedge of water that cut into Hoenn’s southern shore just east of Slateport. With calm waters, a large, fertile island, and the River Acheron running into it from the north, it seemed a perfect place to moor at – but it hadn’t got its name for nothing. Its bottom was laced with a naufragous network of sandbanks and reefs, and a great many sailors had gasped a last, watery breath there.
            From where we were, we could see right across to the island; the grass sloped down from the road to the rocks at the water’s edge, marked here and there with low bushes. The sun was dancing the same number on the Bay’s waves as it had on those at Dewford’s beach.

            On the island itself, very little could be seen except the hulking shape of the Cadaver Nuclear Power Station: the burned-out shell of Hoenn’s very own Chernobyl. A thrifty builder had diverted funds for the reactor’s safety mechanisms, and the result had been a mess that had taken fifty years to reach its present state of almost-kind-of-safe.

            Sensing my thoughts were verging a little to the depressing, I brought myself back to the present moment, and immediately regretted it. My feet hurt and I really wanted something to eat.

            Please stop complaining, begged Puck. It’s so damn annoying.

            “Make me.”

            “If you’re going to talk to Puck, can you talk quieter?” Sapphire asked. “I’ve had enough of your voice for about five hundred years over the last two hours .”

            “Charming,” I said. “Can’t a guy voice a few of the inconveniences of foot travel? Is it not an inalienable right for me to complain?”

            Only if you’re British, and only then in a quiet undertone to the person next to you, Puck told me.

            “No, it isn’t,” replied Sapphire shortly.

            “Why didn’t we take the train? Or the bus?” Bus! Train! Short words, but sweet to my ears; of course, there could be no finer way to travel. Train was, of course, preferable, conjuring up as it did images of warm carriages chugging through snowy mountaintops, with exotic passengers and, joy of joys, readily-available seating—

            You’re thinking of the Orient Express, remarked Puck. You know, it’s not really that exciting. Well, not unless you get a little detective with an egg-shaped head on board. Then things get interesting.

            I ignored him and continued my mental pontification. The bus, too, was glorious, the noble steed that bore so many to their packet holidays and back in safe stead. It would have taken us to Mauville in style, I thought wistfully. And it would have had seats.

            I don’t think buses have been like that since the fifties, Puck pointed out, but I ignored him. The noble bus was—

            “The reason we haven’t gone by bus is because they’re not going to be able to make the goods into a working item in less time than it’ll take to hike to Mauville,” Sapphire said. “Manufacturing takes time, and Angel already seem to be stretched to their limit making that submarine. So I thought we’d take the opportunity to walk, and train everyone up a bit. Well, except him.”

            Sapphire tapped the albino Sableye’s Poké Ball. Toro and Rono were walking with us, but the Sableye had crawled back into his ball in fear when Sapphire had sent him out.

            “Oh.” The reason was actually quite reasonable, but I’d still have preferred to go by train. “Er, all right then.”

            We walked on, and then on some more; it was probably about half an hour later that I first glimpsed another Trainer on the path.

            He didn’t seem to be going forwards or backwards, but was rather sitting on a chequered blanket under the trees on the west side of the trail. He wore a black T-shirt with something yellow emblazoned on it, and was cradling what appeared to be an oversized Pikachu with so much joy that I almost winced upon looking at him. As we drew closer, he looked up, noticed us and gave an ecstatic whoop.

            “Oh!” he cried, leaping to his feet, eyes brimming with passion and love, “you’re Trainers?”

            Sapphire and I glanced at each other. This guy was weird.

            Not as weird as President Sto— Oh, wait, that’s not a Pikachu. That’s a small child dressed as a Pikachu. OK, this guy is definitely as weird as President Stone.

            I looked closely. Puck was right. It was a small girl of about four or five, looking somewhat irritable and wearing a Pikachu costume. Now that I’d noticed that, I realised that the yellow thing on the man’s shirt was a Pikachu head, its face bearing a grin so sickly-sweet that it made my gums crawl just looking at it.

            “My name’s Kaleb,” the weird man said. “I’m a Pokémon Fanatic!”

            “I – er – I can see,” Sapphire replied.

            “You’re Trainers?”

            “Yes,” answered Sapphire cautiously. “What of it?”

            “Do you want to battle?” Kaleb asked eagerly. “I have got just the cutest pair of Pokémon you ever saw!”

            “O-K,” Sapphire agreed warily. “That’s fine. Double or single?”

            “Double battle, please,” Kaleb said. “Come over here, to the side of the path.”

            I followed Sapphire and whispered in her ear:

            “Is this how you start a battle? Trainers just randomly pull you off the road?”

            “Usually,” she murmured back. “But they aren’t usually as weird as this guy.”

            Toro and Rono took up positions in front of Sapphire; Toro adopted the stance often used by martial arts masters in films, and Rono simply lowered his head and did his best to look menacing. The little girl on the blanket looked at them with interest.

            In response, Kaleb dropped two Poké Balls and released a pair of lithe, cream-yellow rat-like creatures; they had large, round heads and small bodies, with long colourful ears and creepy little grins. They kept clapping their tiny hands together and bobbing their heads from side to side, and frankly they disturbed me a little – but I could see how someone like the Pokémon Fanatic could find them cute.

            Disgusting, Puck said sniffily. Minun’s the blue one, and Plusle’s the red one. Their existence is an affront to other Electric-types.

            “What’s wrong with them?” I asked under my breath.

            Foul-mouthed as leprechauns, Puck told me, a little oddly. I wondered for a moment if that was a valid simile, then let it slide. It didn’t really matter.

            “OK,” said Kaleb. “Shall we begin?”

            “All right,” replied Sapphire. “Rono, Mud-Slap! Toro, Double Kick!”

            Before she had even finished, Kaleb’s Plusle had clapped its hands extra-hard, and weird green light enveloped the Minun; then, just as Toro was running forwards, the Minun threw itself into her face, yellow sparks flying from its body. There was the sound a cow carcass makes when picked up by the abattoir’s meat hook, and the Combusken slammed heavily into the ground, burns and bruises decorating her head and neck. The Minun retreated happily, but Rono was already on its case: a cloud of trammelling mud flew up around it, which seemed, for no real reason, to cause it intense pain.

            By this point, Toro had climbed to her feet, looking angry, and she clenched her fists before performing the kicking move she’d used on Rono aboard the ferry on the Minun. Combined with the Aron’s Mud-Slap, this seemed to be too much for her opponent, which fainted with a despairing squeal.

            “Wait!” cried Kaleb. “My Minun!”

            “Finish this. Throw him,” Sapphire ordered, ignoring him, and Toro glanced at Rono, who nodded his heavy head. So quickly that the Plusle could only stare, Toro snatched up the Aron from the ground, threw him up in the air and kicked him hard into the opponent’s face. The Plusle was squished almost flat with the force, and gave a weak squeak as Rono climbed slowly off its head.

            Clever, noted Puck. Using Toro’s lower body strength to increase the power of Rono’s Headbutt. Sapphire’s got a knack for this Trainer lark.

            Kaleb was staring at Sapphire and I as if he’d just watched us share a barbecued baby.

            “You... Minun...!” He sank to his knees and gave a little squeak that mirrored those his Pokémon had made before they fainted. It became clear that he wasn’t going to say anything else: he held that position for a long time, quivering slightly and saying ‘eep’ at periodic intervals.

            Sapphire and I exchanged glances again.

            These Fanatics, Puck said, they remind me of Pericles. You know, in that they’re nothing at all like him.

            “Are – are you OK?” I ventured to ask of Kaleb. The little girl got up from the blanket and pulled off her Pikachu hood.

            “It’s OK,” she said dispiritedly. “He’s always like that when they lose.”

            “You’re sure he’s fine?” I persisted.

            “You heard her,” Sapphire said, spraying a Potion into Toro’s face and miraculously removing her wounds. “Besides, a Trainer has to expect their Pokémon to get hurt. It’s what happens.”

            “You can go,” the little girl said. She was wriggling out of the Pikachu costume; underneath it, she was dressed normally.

            “Takes a long time to snap out of it?” asked Sapphire. The girl nodded, shaking her leg out of the costume and dumping the bundle of yellow cloth unceremoniously in the leaf litter. “OK. We’ll be on our way, then. It was... nice to meet you both.”

            “Lying is bad,” the little girl pointed out, which caused Puck to laugh uproariously, and Sapphire and I walked off down the path. When we’d been going for about five minutes, I glanced back, but Kaleb was still there on his knees, looking at his Pokémon and shaking like a leaf, and the little girl was poking him in between the eyes with a stick.


            “Sapphire?” I asked.


            “Are all Trainers as weird as that guy?” I’d been doing a lot of thinking about this. It was a little after four now, and I had figured out a trick to make me forget about the ache in my feet: distract myself with odd, circuitous trains of thought.

            That may well work, said Puck, but I need to caution you about that. It didn’t work out well for the Prince of Denmark.

            Since I had almost given up on the Rotom ever speaking anything that resembled sense, I ignored him and listened to Sapphire’s response instead.

            “No,” she replied. “Yes. Kind of. Trainers... don’t lead a normal lifestyle. It’s not unknown for them to go a little crazy if they keep it up for a few years. That’s why all the ten-year-olds seem mostly normal, and the older ones are generally strange.”

            “So... that would make you—”

            “I’m completely normal,” Sapphire interrupted. “Remember, I started late.”

            I looked at her stupid hat and feather, unconvinced, but said nothing.

            Perhaps half an hour later, the Trainer’s path slipped back amongst the trees again, the Bay to our right no longer visible, and I caught a glimpse of a tall splurge of colour in the distance. Yellow, red, blue, pink; there were so many hues represented that I couldn’t even tell what the thing was. I pointed and asked:

            “What’s that?”

            “That?” Sapphire pointed, too.

            “No, that tree. Yeah, that.”

            “No one really knows,” she replied. “It’s some sort of building, and someone called Javier* lives there.”


            “Javier,” Sapphire confirmed. “He’s a weird recluse of some sort. No one’s ever seen him come out.”

            “Then how do you know he’s called Javier?”

            “Sometimes someone sends him letters,” she said. “And apparently ‘Javier’ is what they write on the envelopes.”

            Javier’s house was much, much further away than it looked, and it wasn’t until six o’clock that we came close enough to see it properly. It was about five storeys tall – or more, or less: you couldn’t tell, because the windows were dotted across the façade at random, like craters across the Moon or eyes on Argus’ body. The colours were splattered over the walls as if someone had hurled balloons full of paint at them, and the door was in the curious shape of a trapezium rotated onto one of its slanting sides. The lintel was decorated with an enormous sunflower made of brass, and from one upstairs window a waterfall cascaded onto a balcony lower down, to flow back inside. When you looked up, you saw that there wasn’t a roof – there was a massive sombrero instead.

            “That is the strangest house I’ve ever seen,” I stated unnecessarily, as we stopped to stare.

            I don’t know. Ever been to Holland?

            “It is really weird,” agreed Sapphire.

            “Do you think Javier might let us stop there for the night?” I asked hopefully.

            “It’s only six,” Sapphire said. “We don’t need to stop.”

            “I think we do,” I argued. “Come on, we’ve reached the intersection with Route 103, right?”

            Another trail leading off through the forest to the left proved the point. That was Route 103, at the other end of which lay a popular white-water rafting resort.

            “Come on,” I wheedled, sensing Sapphire’s will bending.

            “Javier’s never let anyone in before,” she said.

            “Has anyone ever asked before?”

            “No one’s dared to set foot in there.” I followed Sapphire’s eyes and noticed that the door knocker was, in fact, a large and grotesquely-deformed skull with eyes made of, incongruously, balled-up bubble wrap.

            “Well, you go on then,” I said, striding up to the door and seizing the skull’s lower jaw. “I’m going to ask.”

            I pulled on the knocker and was somewhat startled when the bubble wrap eyes exploded in a shower of double cream, spraying my face with fatty white fluid. A pre-recorded scream resounded in my ears from hidden speakers.

            “Whuh—?” I spluttered, spitting out cream. Sapphire was doubled up with laughter, and in my head Puck echoed her with his own sounds of glee. Wiping my face, I glared at her. “It’s not funny.”

            “It is,” she insisted, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.

            She’s right, Puck said. It is.

            Toro cheeped, as if to agree. I turned to Rono imploringly.

            “Rono,” I began. “You don’t agree with these idiots, right?”

            He looked uncomfortable for a moment, and then shook his head unconvincingly. I glared at him.


            I turned back to the door, and was surprised to see that it was open; beyond, there seemed to be nothing but darkness.

            “Hey!” I cried. “Did anyone... did anyone see it open?”

            Sapphire shook her head.

            “No.” She peered in through the doorway, but the darkness was absolute.

            “Shall – shall we go in?” I asked.

            Wow, Puck said mildly. You actually suggested a reckless course of action. Way to go, Kester.

            Sapphire looked at me as if I were an idiot.

            “No one’s ever been in before,” she told me. “Of course we have to go in.”

            With that, she grabbed my wrist and tugged me into the shadowy interior of Javier’s mysterious house.

            *Pronounce it like a Spaniard: Habier. Man, Quartz was a funny game.

            For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
            Old February 12th, 2011 (5:59 PM).
            bobandbill's Avatar
            bobandbill bobandbill is online now
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            Up to chapter eight now, and continuing to enjoy this story. =) Sapphire is making for a pretty interesting character herself here, and her 'partnership' with Kester is proving to be quite fun to read thus far as well! I was amused by her 'weakness' with the seasickness (I guessed as much that was her problem when it was first hinted towards). Puck is continuing to amuse as well, and I like how he is giving more and more advice and information on Pokemon to Kester as well. I also enjoy how both Magma and Aqua's grunts believe the other have the 'boy' and that Sapphire works for the other group as well - it seems to have a lot of potential, that (but what may happen is likely already partly written, so I guess I'll just wait and see when I read more. =p) On that note I like the new grunt characters that were also introduced, as well as Birch who certainly felt realistic and accurate in portrayal to me, given his fear of wild Poochyena/Zigzagoon in the games. XD

            I do wonder about how if Puck can read Kester's thoughts (given he was remarking on Kester's insta-attraction to the Aqua girl) and Kester can't communicate to him without having to talk directly then - it seems a bit odd to me (maybe I missed something or it is explained later however?). The sixth chapter felt much longer than the other ones as well - I'm not one to talk about inconsistent chapter lengths myself but I did feel it was a touch imbalanced nonetheless, if not entertaining. The battle within it was quite good - you carried it well and also made it realistic having Kester overcome that challenge the way you did, with some help from Puck of course. =)
            His subordinates hurried out as the glass smashed against the wall where they’d been moments before.
            I feel it tends to be better to keep abbreviations to within dialogue in cases like "they had/they'd", personally - maybe something to consider?
            “He’s right, you are.” Sapphire looked at my forehead. “Thank you, Puck.”

            I like her.
            Heh. XD I have to say I really like how you manage all the character interactions as well - quite enjoyable and what they say feels pretty... 'real' and believeable as well to me.
            They were all occupied, and in the end they had to sit between a pair of old ladies who bounced astoundingly inane chatter back and forth between them at the same time as simultaneously knitting opposite ends of the same massive, multicoloured scarf.
            “Do they look like they’re any use?” asked Sapphire disgustedly. “Talk to one.”

            I did.

            “Hi,” I said.

            “Prof. Birch is studying the habitats and distribution of Pokémon,” he told me. “The Prof. enjoys May’s help, too. There’s a lot of love there.”

            “O-K,” I said, backing away from his vapid grin slowly. “I see what you mean.”
            This part was probably what amused me the most in those four chapters I read - nice usage of that NPC from the games. XD Certainly the comedy is another favourite part of mine as well.

            I didn’t know what that was, but I wasn’t going to say.
            ask over say, perhaps?

            “What just happened?” asked Birch, who sounded even more confused. “Did it just—?”
            “Quiet, Dad.”
            Minor presentation thing, but you need an extra gap there between those two lines.

            Blake stood up, gun aimed through the taxi’s windscreen, between the driver’s eyes; at this, the cabbie decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and, leaping, from his vehicle, ran off down the street.
            I can see why you use all those commas there but it made the sentence feel too awkward with all the pauses there personally, and some minor rewording of the sentence or splitting it into two sentences might be better imo.

            “Er – Sapphy – I agree with Kester,” Birch put in. Sapphire looked at us both in disgust.
            “You spend most of your time outside poking dangerous wild animals with sticks,” she told her father. “How can you be afraid of a challenge? Besides, you don’t have to come. This is the sort of thing Trainers do, isn’t it?”
            Again, another line gap is needed there between those two pieces of dialogue.
            “... one... zero!” cried Sapphire’s mother, flinging her eyes open. When she saw I was still in the room, she got up and left without comment.
            Birch's wife also amused me a lot. XD

            This surprised everyone, since all he had done since he moved into the lonely cliff-top house was sit on a rocking-chair on the veranda, stroking an ancient, devious-looking Wingull called Peeko and plotting to overthrow the Emperor of the Moon; nevertheless, it had proved incentive enough for the cottage to be preserved as the official Admiral Briney museum.
            XD I also enjoyed that piece of information thrown in as well. =D

            Looking forward to reading more sometime!
            Old February 13th, 2011 (3:13 AM). Edited February 13th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
            Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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              Thank you for your review, bobandbill. Character interaction actually really isn't that difficult to do for this. I model all the dialogue on my own interactions with my friends, and that's why they're believable. By happy coincidence, this also makes them funny, since I hold that the main purpose of conversation is the entertaining bouncing back and forth of ideas.

              As for the other little things you mentioned - I'll get right on those. Thanks for pointing them out.

              Oh yes, and Chapter Six is actually slightly shorter than most of the other chapters. I'm not sure why it feels so long; perhaps it's because it begins with a battle and doesn't end when the action does.

              For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
              Old February 14th, 2011 (10:59 AM). Edited February 22nd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
              Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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                Chapter Sixteen: I Am the Main Character!

                Blake. Fabien. Goishi. Three names that have gone unmentioned for some time in this narrative. What they were doing the day that Kester and Sapphire found an albino Sableye and set off for Mauville has not so far been revealed; now, the great moment has come, and we shall rejoin their tale on the morning of that day, to find them lying on a set of dingy mattresses on the floor of the run-down warehouse in Slateport’s Runcible District that served as one of Team Magma’s Slateport hideouts.

                “Blake,” said Fabien, staring at the ceiling.

                “Yeah?” replied Blake.

                “Do you ever get the feeling that... well, that this isn’t our story?”

                “Eh?” Blake’s tone seemed to indicate that metaphysics were not a welcome topic for discussion.

                “I mean... we’ve done quite a lot. This all started with the order to go and get the Devon goods, and then we ran into that Rotom boy who works for the Aquas. Then that Devon researcher got involved” – here Blake winced; his memories of that man were not happy ones – “and here we are.” Fabien paused thoughtfully. “This is a quest. An adventure. A – a story. You see what I mean?”

                Blake grunted.

                “But somehow, I don’t think...” Fabien broke off, searching for the right words. “I don’t think... that I’m the main characters – I mean, that we’re the main characters.”

                Blake grunted again, and rolled over to face away from his partner. From the grimy rafters came a slow, lazy ‘ee-EEEE-eek’; this was, in all likelihood, Goishi-speak for ‘shut up’.

                “It’s been worrying me quite a lot,” Fabien admitted. “I mean, how can I not be the main character – how can we not be the main characters – of our own story?”


                “Yes, Blake?”


                Fabien was silent for a while, disturbed.

                “But Blake—”

                “Fabien, I gotta headache, an’ firs’-degree burns, an’ – an’ now my stupid phone is ringin’!

                It was, and Blake sat up angrily, ramming fingers so hard onto the little keyboard that it cracked.

                “Whadja wan’?” he growled furiously into it, then his face went pale and the mobile slipped between his fingers. He swore softly.

                “Who is it?” asked Fabien.

                “The boss,” whispered Blake. “Er, Fabien, you answer it. I don’ think ’e liked my tone o’ voice.”

                Fabien picked up the phone gingerly, between finger and thumb, and raised it to his ear; immediately, a violent blast of invective surged out, and he threw the mobile away reflexively, bouncing it between his hands as if it were red-hot before catching it properly and replacing it by his ear.

                “Sir?” he said timidly. “This is Fabien Latch.”

                Five minutes of furious speaking ensued, during which Fabien was roundly lambasted, then abused, put down and, in short, made subject to almost all forms of verbal assault in existence. He bore it with the sort of expression usually worn by people who have mistaken lemon juice for water, then said cautiously:

                “Sir? What was it you wanted?”

                A second torrent of words spewed forth from the receiver; as far as could be made out by the discerning observer, it was composed of equal parts fury, rage, and ire. As Goishi put it, it was a perfect anger trifecta, but since he phrased it ‘Ee-eee-ee-EEK’, no one understood him.

                “I see,” Fabien said patiently. “And what exactly is it that you want us to do?”

                For the third time, the boss communicated his precise feelings to Fabien. This time, he included some choice speculation on the decency of Fabien’s mother and sister, as well. Fabien did not actually possess a sister, but the insult still smarted.

                “Yes. I’m sure – I’m sure she would, sir,” he said through gritted teeth. “But what is it you want us to do?”

                Not for the first time in his career as a Magma, Fabien pondered the long-term health consequences of Maxie’s legendary tempers. Hopefully, he decided, they would lead to a heart attack of fatal proportions, and thus to the election of a calmer, more reasonable leader.

                It seemed that the boss was ready to talk properly now, and hence Fabien merely listened, going ‘Mm’ at periodic intervals as one does when listening to a monologue on a telephone, and eventually said something along the lines of ‘Yes sir, right away sir’ before thumbing the disconnect button and hurling the phone savagely at Blake.

                “Next time you make him angry, you’re answering for it,” he said warningly. “I’ve had more than enough of this.”

                Blake nodded, shamefaced. Then he said:

                “What was it ’e wanted, then?”

                “We’ve got information from the Benefactor,” Fabien said, standing up. “Team Aqua have been tipped off by someone that the Module’s going to leave town for Mauville in a week.”

                “So what d’we do?”

                “Our Benefactor also gave us some other knowledge,” Fabien continued. “The Rotom-boy and the girl with him are heading north this afternoon, for Mauville.”

                “Why?” asked Blake sharply. “Ain’t nothin’ there for ’em...”

                “That’s what we’ve been told to investigate,” Fabien said. “Since we’re in the area. My thinking is that either they’re a distraction to occupy us while the Aquas snag the Module from Angel while it’s being transported, or they’re heading for HQ.”

                Blake’s eyes widened with mingled astonishment and admiration.

                “You think...?”

                Fabien shrugged nonchalantly, as if it were nothing for him to generate such stellar ideas. In fact, it wasn’t, since the ideas were the boss’s; this was, however, something he chose not to inform Blake of.

                “It’s a possibility,” he said. “You have to remember, that Rotom-kid’s a pretty powerful weapon.”

                Goishi flapped down from the rafters and screeched his agreement.

                “Well,” Blake said. “We should go then. Righ’?”

                Fabien nodded.

                “Yes. We’ll take the car to the city outskirts, and then go by the Trainer’s path – that’s the one those kids will take. We can ambush them or something.”

                The three Magmas began making their way towards the warehouse’s door, talking as they went.

                “If the boss calls again, I want you to answer it. Even if he’s angry.” The memory of Maxie’s verbal abuse was still fresh in Fabien’s mind.


                “I mean, I don’t mind taking the occasional bullet for you,” Fabien said, beginning to warm to his theme. “I am the main character, after all. It’s my viewpoint we’re working in right now. And as the main character, I have to be heroic like that.”

                Blake looked like he might say something, then closed his mouth again and shook his head deeply, perhaps in speechless wonder at Fabien’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his sake.

                “But still,” Fabien continued, “you have to learn to take hits yourself.” He pulled upon the warehouse door, which did not open; then he pushed it, and much the same happened; finally, he slid it, and continued out into the bright morning sunlight. “I admit it’s tricky. It hurt even me a little when the boss mentioned that incident at the Christmas party last year.”

                “You were pretty drunk,” Blake ventured.

                Fabien waved his words aside as they rounded the corner and entered the gloom of the hideout’s garage.

                “I didn’t know she was his daughter,” he said. “How can I be blamed for it? A man has a couple of drinks, of course a few amusing incidents will occur! He should thank me for it. It’s a nice colourful anecdote for the future!”

                “E-e-e-eeeee-eeek,” Goishi put in. Neither Fabien nor Blake understood this, which was probably for the best, since it was a very crass – yet very faithful – description of exactly how far from an amusing incident the event in question had been.

                They got into the car, argued about who was driving, swapped seats and finally left, with Fabien behind the wheel.

                “I mean – what’s that?” Fabien almost turned around to see what Goishi was fussing over, then remembered he was driving and asked Blake to look.

                “There’s a dead Wurmple on the back seat,” he reported.

                “What?” Fabien’s brain whirred. “A big one?”

                “A foo’, maybe?”

                “A foot... that is quite a big one.” Fabien thought for a moment. “Goishi, eat it.”

                The volume of the screeching from the back seat left him in no doubt as to Goishi’s opinion of this course of action, as did the large, thick tongue that darted forth in between the seats and slapped him in the face.

                “All right,” said Fabien evenly. “Just throw it out the window.”

                The blood-dimmed tide of the Golbat’s fury rose again in a cacophony of shrieks that impressed upon Fabien the fact that Goishi lacked for hands, and thus could not, as he had suggested, open the window.

                “This is ridiculous!” Fabien cried. “Blake, go and open the window.”

                The big man undid his seatbelt and turned around, crawling back between the two front seats to reach the back. Fabien leaned to one side, trying to avoid being kicked in the face, and realised that his view of the cars coming around the next corner was now blocked by Blake’s legs. Unwilling to wait, he made a wild guess and drove forwards, hoping that he wouldn’t be hit by a bus; thankfully, he had guessed well, and there was no more than a blaring of annoyed horns as the car slewed around the corner far too fast, narrowly avoiding a harsh impact with a traffic jam.

                “Come on!” Fabien said. “Blake, what’s taking you so long?”

                “’Andle’s stuck,” came the reply. “’Ang on, I’m tryin’...”

                The sound of cracking plastic came from the back seat, and then cursing.

                “What was that?”

                “I’ve snapped the ’andle off,” Blake said unhappily. “That window ain’t gonna open now.”

                “Try the other one,” Fabien replied. “But be careful. This isn’t our car.”

                Fabien tried to see if anyone was coming up behind them, but the rear-view mirror showed him nothing but Blake’s red-suited back. He shrugged, trusting intuition, and drove on, crashing into the side of a bus.

                It wasn’t a hard impact, just enough to smash the headlights and dent the grille; Fabien’s body jerked forwards, struggling to free itself from his seatbelt, and Blake slid back almost entirely into the front, one foot going through the windscreen and his broad shoulders wedging themselves firmly between the front seats.

                Fabien swore violently and reversed, only for the back of the car to hit the front of another; he cursed even more vehemently and turned left, driving over the centre of a roundabout and turning the wrong way onto a one-way street.

                “Blake!” he shouted. “Get down, get down!”

                “I’m stuck!” yelped his partner, wriggling violently and not moving an inch.

                Fabien struck one palm against his forehead and yelled at the heavens with all the passion of Hamlet after meeting Fortinbras’ captain; his words were unprintable, but carried the general message that fortune was a strumpet, and that God was, as Beckett’s blind cripple would have it, not only nonexistent but also born out of wedlock.

                The Magma car slalomed at unnecessary speed down the street, desperately avoiding the other cars that were all going in the correct direction; it reached the other end and shot onto a normal road, heading north in the correct lane. By this time, adding up the heart rates of its occupants would probably have netted you a three-digit figure.

                Fabien took a deep, calming breath.

                “OK,” he said. “Everyone calm down. We’re in a normal road now. We’re OK.”

                Pull over, Fabien!” shouted Blake violently, thrashing his trapped foot around and widening the hole in the windscreen to an alarming size. This did have the advantage of allowing him to withdraw his foot, but disadvantaged Fabien in that the windscreen was now so covered in cracks that it failed to remain transparent. It also showered him with broken glass, something he was understandably keen to avoid.

                “I can overcome this,” he told himself, swinging the car left and bringing it to a halt on a double yellow line. “I am the main character! I can do this!”

                He opened the door and leaped out, then went around the other side to try and help Blake; with Goishi’s help, he managed to twist Blake’s broad body free of the seatbelt, and pass him out through the remnants of the windscreen. He slid down the bonnet, then stormed furiously over to the back door and wrenched it open, grabbed the dead Wurmple and flung it hard at the nearest shop window. This promptly shattered, setting off a burglar alarm, and a wild-eyed shopkeeper appeared at the door with a cry of rage. In one hand he held a stout cudgel, in the other the Wurmple; behind him, there was a rather large and savage-looking Grovyle.

                Blake and Fabien exchanged glances, then leaped back into the car and drove off as fast as they could. Behind them, they heard a faint whistling, as if of something flying through the air; a second later, the rear window smashed, and the malodorous corpse of a Wurmple landed on the back seat again.


                So much for Team Magma. What was Team Aqua doing? More importantly, what was that most manly of manly men, Barry Hawksworthy, doing?

                The answer is simple. Barry was getting over his recent electrocution in the way that only someone as much a man as he could: he was drinking himself into an alarming state of temulency, and it was not even eleven of the morning clock.

                Owing to their dominance in that city, the Aquas had a rather well-appointed base in Slateport. This fact has already been touched upon in reference to their large garage, and will be expounded further in the mention of the bar that sat in its centre.

                It is a tradition, or perhaps merely a cliché, that criminal activities must take place behind the façade of a faintly disreputable tavern of some description. Team Aqua had taken this tradition and turned it on its head: within the nest of their criminal activities, there existed a faintly disreputable tavern. It was located right in the centre of the building, for it was the beating heart of the place; the founders of the Team had been sailors of a piratical bent, and those sorts of sailors had always been more than partial to a good stiff drink. Hence, the right for Team Aqua members to become blind drunk at the slightest provocation had been enshrined in the organisation’s rules, and thus there was a bar in all of the larger headquarters. This brings us neatly back to the bar in the Slateport base, and thus back to Barry himself, sitting there and getting very drunk far too early.

                “You want – you want to know something?” he asked the barman.

                The barman, being a barman and therefore possessing, as described in Chapter Seven, infinite sagacity, nodded warmly and leaned upon the bar, polishing a sparkling cut-glass decanter for no reason whatsoever. Emboldened, Barry waved an arm extravagantly and nearly knocked over his empty glass.

                “I really hate my partner,” he whispered in a confidential tone, loudly enough for everyone in the building to hear. “She’s – she’s such a – a stupid...”

                Here, words seemed to fail him, and Barry groped around in midair with one hand, as if he might find a suitable insult in some invisible cupboard. The barkeeper quietly mixed him another cocktail, which appeared to mostly consist of tequila, and pushed it across the table towards him. Barry inspected this with one eye, shutting the other firmly, and then nodded in deep satisfaction before drinking it off in one go. This was fairly impressive considering its large size, but the bartender didn’t react; Barry had been doing this for about two hours now. It was amazing, really, that he was still conscious, and we must put this down to his tremendous size.

                “What was I saying?” Barry wondered. “I think – I think...” His brow furrowed into lines of deep thought for a few seconds, then he shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. You’re my bestest friend, you know that?” The barman assured him that he did indeed know that. It was true, after all; the barman is the bestest friend of all those who need an ear and who can pay for a glass of alcohol. He raised his glass to his eye and examined it carefully to see if there was anything left in it, then staggered unsteadily to his feet. “I – I better – butter? – better be going,” he managed, and dropped a handful of notes on the bar’s polished surface. The barkeep kindly placed twelve of these back in Barry’s pocket, realising that he had overpaid by approximately eighty thousand Pokédollars, and sent him on his way with a gentle word and a pat on the shoulder.

                Barry stumbled down the corridor, bumping into other Aquas but receiving no rebukes on account of his height and width; at length, he arrived at the door to the living quarters, and, after several all-too-successful attempts to outspeed the automatic doors, he emerged into a bland lobby, now sporting a bruised nose and forehead. He asked the receptionist for directions to his room – for he had, somewhere around the fifth glass, forgotten where it was – and staggered back there, whereupon he engaged in a protracted battle with the keyhole. At length, he got the door open and himself inside.

                The room was one of about seventy identical chambers in this area of the building; many Aquas who had cause to be in Slateport did not necessarily own a domicile there, and this was where they stayed. Barry did not give it so much as a cursory glance, merely fell face-first onto his bed and passed into a deep and dreamless sleep, approximately twenty minutes before the phone rang.

                Still drunk, Barry raised his groggy head and lunged for his mobile where it buzzed and sang on the bedside table; much like the keyhole had earlier, it seemed to be a master of evasion, but he eventually cornered it against the lamp and got it into his hand. By this time, it had stopped ringing, and he was on the verge of putting it down again when it started again.

                “Yo!” he cried ecstatically into the mouthpiece, which was both very unlike him and probably not the best thing to say to Felicity, who treated him to a cold, snappish remark that made his excessive manliness a bad quality. This had the effect of sobering him somewhat – not completely, but enough for him to understand what she was saying. “Felicity?”

                “Oh good. For a moment, I thought you were going to say ‘woman’. Like you usually do.” Felicity paused. “Anyway, we have work to do. We’re going after Ruby and Birch.”


                Felicity gave a frustrated sigh.

                “The Rotom kid and his girlfriend,” she replied. “Don’t you listen to anything anyone says?”

                Barry felt that this was an unfair remark, but at that moment he lacked the words to express this sentiment fully. Instead, he said:


                “I’m going to take that as meaning ‘why are we doing this, Felicity, when we’ve been assigned to the Devon goods case?’ The answer’s simple enough even for you to understand. The goods aren’t leaving Devon for a week, so the boss has decided to employ our – well, my – talents elsewhere, and leave Hans and Molasses in charge of watching Angel in the meantime.”

                Barry was certain Felicity had insulted him at least twice just then, but he couldn’t quite work out how. Vaguely irritated, he said again:


                “Charming. Meet me in Cadogan Square at noon. We’re leaving for Mauville.”

                “Mauville?” This change of subject puzzled Barry. He had been under the impression that they were hunting for the Rotom-boy.

                “Yes, Mauville, you big lump of meat. Our benefactor has given us information that this afternoon they’ll be leaving for Mauville, on Magma business with Spectroscopic Fancy.”

                “How does he know?” Barry was quite proud of managing a full sentence, but Felicity didn’t seem to share this view.

                “He knows a lot of things, doesn’t he? How am I meant to know?”

                It was indeed a curious fact that the benefactor should know this when neither Sapphire nor Kester knew they were leaving yet, but there it was.

                “Just meet me, OK? Cadogan Square. Noon.”

                Felicity hung up, and Barry dropped his phone back onto the table, suddenly feeling at least half-sober. The reason for this was Felicity’s comment that the Rotom-boy had business with Spectroscopic Fancy. If that was true, then surely that meant that the company was in collusion with the Magmas?

                Barry shook his head and decided he was still properly drunk after all. He couldn’t trust his brain right now – well, he thought, he couldn’t trust it most of the time, but especially not right now. He sighed, got up, and picked up car keys.

                Then he fell over on top of a chair, and set to wondering where Cadogan Square was, and how he was going to get there in his current state of insobriety.


                Blake limped heavily down the Trainer’s path north of Slateport. His leg had been cut up quite nastily by the glass from the windscreen, and the Wurmple’s corpse had left some sort of greasy green stain on his hand that refused to go away. Consequently, he was in the state known to those with pretensions of grandeur as high dudgeon.

                Fabien was one such pretentious person, and he was walking along in front of Blake, wrapped up in a minor existential crisis. He had been struck by another bout of uncertainty about whether or not he was the main character, and was wracking his brain for a solution to his problem.

                Goishi flapped lazily above them; he could have flown to Mauville in about twenty minutes, but chose instead to keep pace with his Trainer, wings beating only once every five minutes. Alone of the three, he was in high spirits. He’d not had a good time for the last few days – first a ThunderShocking at the hands of the Rotom-boy, then some Ice attack from an assailant he hadn’t seen, topped off with a Thunderbolt from the Devon researcher’s... thing. So, he had been in precisely the state of mind that was necessary to truly appreciate the amusing misadventures of Fabien and Blake that morning.

                The three Magmas were acting on an idea of Fabien’s: namely, that they hike up to a spot about one-third of the way to Mauville, and lie in wait there for their quarry. They had recently passed the house of Javier – where Goishi had suggested they situate their ambush, only to have this idea quashed by Fabien.

                “That house,” he had proclaimed, in the tone of one who knows, “is a death-trap.”

                Blake had wanted to know if Fabien had ever been in there, and asked him. For a moment, Fabien had looked disconcerted, but he had swiftly regained his composure.

                “Well – no,” he admitted. “But it is. Look at... the scratches there!”

                He indicated a series of apparently random scratches in the paintwork on the lower left corner of the façade.

                “What about them?” Blake asked, puzzled.

                “What about them? What about them?” Fabien asked incredulously. “They’re secret signs, left by travelling Trainers! Or maybe hobos, I’m not sure. But I do know what they say. They say ‘danger’, that’s what they say. So we can’t go in there. I’ve no idea what’s in there, and I don’t think we want to.”

                Awed by Fabien’s knowledge, Blake had acquiesced and they had passed the house by without further incident. Goishi had been more suspicious of Fabien’s assertions’ veracity, but there was nothing he could do to change his masters’ minds, and so simply followed them down the path.

                That had been an hour ago. Now, they were out on Coffen Spit, a geographical feature formed by the combination of longshore drift and a sharp bend in the coastline; the path ran along the spit, followed its curved end, and rejoined the mainland on the other side of the water by means of a footbridge.

                It was on the spit, in a stand of umbrella thorn acacia trees, that Fabien decided they would wait in ambush. Goishi had some unresolved questions about why there were umbrella thorn acacia trees here, so far from Africa, but had the notion that he wouldn’t receive an answer if he posed them.

                They assumed their various positions: Goishi hanging from a branch, hidden amongst the leaves; Fabien standing in what he thought was a cool pose, leaning against a tree trunk; Blake sitting comfortably in the undergrowth, back to a tree and red hat pulled down low over his eyes, preparatory to catching a few minutes’ illicit sleep.

                The trap was set. Team Magma was waiting.

                For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                Old February 16th, 2011 (10:51 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
                  Chapter Seventeen: The Unbearable Darkness of Seeing

                  Wooo, Puck whispered, in a passable imitation of a ghost. Spooky.

                  We were in pitch darkness, the door having shut behind us as we entered. This had caused me to have some grave misgivings about the wisdom of entering Javier’s house.

                  “Sapphire,” I said hesitantly, “I’m no expert on exploring creepy old houses, but I have seen quite a lot of horror movies. And I know that when the heroes go into a dark room and the door shuts behind them, something bad invariably happens. So... can we get out again?”

                  “Don’t be such a coward,” came Sapphire’s voice, disembodied in the gloom. I could only work out where she was by the warm grip of her fingers on my wrist.

                  “Look, I’ve decided I’m not tired anymore,” I told her hopefully. “Also not bored, or hungry. I could walk for hours!”

                  “Shut up.”

                  Wasn’t there a Circle of Hell for cowards? Puck asked. The sixth one? Oh. Wait. That was heretics. Er, never mind.

                  “Toro, make some light,” Sapphire said.

                  A confused chirrup came from my left; it seemed that Toro did not understand the concept being communicated.

                  “Fire, then,” amended Sapphire; a plume of orange flame erupted from the shadows, blinding me, and I heard, to my delight, a yelped curse from Sapphire.

                  Toro!” she shouted angrily, and the flame vanished in a flash of red light, leaving a bright afterimage burned into my eyes. Sapphire had recalled her.

                  “Are – are you OK?” I asked, doing my best to sound concerned.

                  “Yes. Fire is... a bad idea,” Sapphire said. “I don’t think Toro could see where she was Embering.”

                  I’d have thought our experience in the Calavera Tower would have taught her that if you play with fire, you get burne
                  d, remarked Puck. Just use the Sableye, already.

                  “Puck says use the Sableye,” I said.

                  “Oh. That’s a good idea.” I wondered if Sapphire would have said the same thing if I had passed it off as my own idea. Probably, I decided, she would have rejected it out of hand.

                  There was a brief pulse of blue light, and suddenly two polygonal red lights appeared near the floor, casting long beams of crimson light across what I now saw was a wooden floor.

                  I raised my eyebrows.

                  “Convenient,” I said. “I didn’t know Sableye could do that.”

                  At the sound of my voice, the Sableye crouched down hurriedly and put his hands over his eyes, squeaking in terror. I sighed and rolled my eyes as the lights went out.

                  “Kester! Don’t scare him!” Sapphire admonished.

                  “How can I not? He’s scared of everything!”

                  At that moment, deep, booming laughter echoed around the room, impossibly loud, coming from nowhere and everywhere all at once:


                  Everyone stopped dead. Silence fell over the dark room, and I felt the Sableye trembling against my foot.

                  “What,” I said, very quietly, “was that?”

                  I don’t know, Puck replied, and I don’t particularly care to find out.

                  “I don’t know,” replied Sapphire. “But I think we ought to find out.”

                  For a moment, I was speechless; after fighting past my blocked throat, though, I managed a couple of words:

                  “B-bad idea!”

                  Definitely! agreed Puck. Very bad idea!

                  “Puck agrees!” I cried. “Let’s get out of here!”

                  “We could do that,” agreed Sapphire, “if the door wasn’t locked.”

                  Instantly, that feeling you get in times of absolute horror, the one where it feels like your last heartbeat pumped a veinful of ice water through you, washed over me.

                  You should say ‘arteryful’, Puck corrected. Veins go back to the heart, arteries come out of it.

                  But I wasn’t listening; I had torn my hand away from Sapphire and was desperately feeling for the door handle behind me. I found it and twisted, then pulled, and pushed, and kicked and hammered – but to no avail. We were locked in.

                  I swore softly and turned back around. The red lights were on, and I could see that this room was longer than I’d thought; the beams shone out into the darkness for at least fifty feet, illuminating cracked plaster on the walls and rough-edged, bare floorboards.

                  “We’re trapped,” I said unnecessarily. “God damn it, we’re trapped.”

                  Rono and Sapphire’s leg came into the range of the Sableye’s eye-light.

                  “Well done,” Sapphire said. “Master of observation that you are. Come on, let’s see if we can find Javier. He can let us out.”

                  “How is it that you’re not scared witless?” I asked, as we started down the corridor, floorboards creaking with every step we took.

                  “The dark isn’t scary,” Sapphire replied. “It’s just the absence of light.”

                  She’s right, Puck said. I’m not afraid of the dark, either. I am a little scared of what might be lurking in it, though.

                  “How reassuring,” I muttered.

                  Soon, the Sableye’s eyes cast their light upon a second door, this one battered and chipped, and lacking a handle. I hoped to God it was a push door, because otherwise we were going to be here a while.

                  Thankfully, it was, and we passed through to find ourselves in another coal-black room; at Puck’s suggestion, I held up the Sableye and waved him around to try and get a more detailed look at our surroundings. Getting the Sableye to overcome his apparent fear of heights (even mere six-foot ones) necessitated about five minutes of coaxing and encouragement, but eventually I got him up in the air without him screaming and shutting his eyes. The only consolation was that he wouldn’t let Sapphire so much as touch him: the little gremlin seemed, if not to like me exactly, then at least to be less terrified of me.

                  We found that we were in a circular room, its circumference punctuated by battered doors just like the one we’d come through; as I looked, I found myself getting steadily dizzier, and realised after about five seconds that the room was rotating on its axis, and steadily gaining speed as well.

                  “What the hell is this place?” I cried, putting down the Sableye, who, upon finding that the floor was moving, tried fruitlessly to hide in my shoe.

                  Javier’s got some strange taste in interior design, that’s for sure, Puck said. Whatever would Phil and Kirstie have to say about this place?

                  “Let’s get out of here!” Sapphire said, but by this point that was easier said than done: the room was spinning at faster than walking pace, making standing difficult. Rono, with his toeless feet, was sliding around helplessly, and he crashed straight into my legs, cutting them from under me. The next five seconds were quite like falling down the fire escape at the Calavera Tower: I rolled around and banged my head four times on the wall before managing to grab hold of a door handle and haul myself to my feet. As soon as I’d done so, I fell over again, but this time through the door and into another dark room, which was, mercifully, unmoving.

                  I lay there in the dark for a moment, breathing heavily and suffering from motion sickness, then got to my feet and looked around. This was when I discovered that the Sableye, in his attempt to climb into my shoe, had become entwined in both my laces and my jeans; I pulled him free and, using him as a torch, examined my surroundings.

                  Whoa, breathed Puck. Is that what I think it is...?

                  “Yeah,” I replied in tones of awe. “I think – I think it might be...”

                  Before us, rising tall and proud into the shadowy recesses of the ceiling, was the biggest house of cards I’d ever seen. There must have been hundreds of decks in there, the individual cards balanced delicately in ways I’d never even known were possible; together, they formed effortless spires and great arching vaults, veritable streets of blocky terraces, and even a fountain, its waters forever frozen in time, a spray of hearts bursting prettily from the top.

                  But without a shadow of a doubt, the highlight was the centre: there rose a colossal castle, its walls borrowed from Troy and its spires from the northwest tower of Chartres Cathedral. It was vast, it was beautiful – and it was completely and utterly breath-taking. I was reminded of that business from last year – but for once, it was in a good way.

                  Wow, Puck said. Is this what Javier spends his time doing? Building cities of cards?

                  “Maybe. If it is, he’s incredible.”

                  “Muahahahahahahahaha!” The laughter from before reverberated around the room like it was trying to break down the walls. I yelped, and the Sableye screamed a thin, high note that seemed to rip my ears apart; he leaped forwards and tried to take refuge in the card castle.

                  The next few moments are all preserved in slow motion for me; I completely forgot about that terrible, unearthly voice, and just watched, horrified, as the cards fell.

                  A blizzard of pips; patterned backs flashed like butterflies, and the great citadel simply exploded. One moment there was a castle, the next a storm; the whole mess hung in midair, sojourning in nothing as easily as the stars. It was a players’ tableau of a sandstorm, a volcanic eruption executed in paper and frozen in time; I had never seen anything so beautiful, or so sad. A thousand paper cuts opened up all over my outstretched arms as I desperately tried to halt the destruction, but I didn’t care. I only wanted to save the card city.

                  It was too late, though. It always is. Time sped up and I fell forwards into a pile of cards, sinking knee-deep into a cardboard sea.

                  “Oh my God,” I whispered. “Oh my God, you stupid Sableye. What have you done?”

                  The Sableye seemed to realise that I was angry at him, or possibly was just scared anyway, and burrowed deep under the cards. I didn’t try to retrieve him, despite the dark. I was too angry.

                  The little... Puck tailed off, fuming. If he wasn’t such a ridiculously high level, I’d suggest we administer a sound beating, but as it is he won’t even feel it.

                  “What am I going to say to Javier?” I wondered. “How can I explain this?”

                  We can’t, Puck said. There was a long pause, during which we gave vent to our feelings by cooperatively producing a mental image involving the Sableye that was so horrible I had to forget it as soon as it appeared in my head. Then, Puck spoke again: Hey, where’s Sapphire?

                  “Sapphire?” I asked. “I guess she fell through a different door.” I stood up and brushed a few stray playing cards from my hoodie.

                  No, don’t do that, Puck said. Sit down, draw your knees close to your chest and wrap your arms around them.

                  I obeyed, puzzled.

                  “What’s this in aid of?”

                  It’s a scene change, Puck explained carelessly. Now, say something like ‘I wonder where Sapphire ended up’.

                  “Uh... why? What scene change?”

                  For the sake of narrative convenience, just do it.

                  I sighed, and did it.

                  “I wonder what happened to Sapphire?”


                  At that moment, Sapphire was standing in a room very similar to that which Kester sat in: it was large, dark, and contained something very unexpected. However, she had ended up in there by design rather than accident.

                  This is what occurred. When the room began to spin, Sapphire had immediately latched onto the nearest door handle and begun to pull herself through; looking back, she had seen, in the intermittent flashes of light that marked the moments when the Sableye opened its eyes, that Rono was experiencing some difficulties in moving. To put him out of his misery, she had recalled him before stepping entirely through the doorway.

                  Thus, Sapphire was now alone in the new room. This had one important ramification: she had no Sableye to illuminate her path. Reluctantly, she had been forced to let Toro out again, and, after several finger-scorching attempts, the Combusken had succeeded in lighting a small flame around one fist, just enough to see by.

                  That had revealed the contents of the room, and Sapphire had gasped in wonder and not a little shock.

                  It was full of middle-aged men, all identical, and all staring fixedly ahead into space; they each had pale skin, from living inside so long, and their hairlines were all receding. Every one of them wore the same white shirt and dark trousers, and stood in the same straight-backed pose.

                  “Er... hello?” Sapphire said tentatively. No one responded to her.

                  Feeling slightly unnerved, she took a step forwards and looked directly into the eyes of the nearest man. They stared back glassily, and Sapphire had to look away, disturbed.

                  “Can any of you hear me?” she asked, but there was still no answer. Sapphire turned to Toro. “Are they hypnotised or something, do you think?”

                  The Combusken stared up at her blankly. Hypnosis, like light, was not a concept that she had the brainpower to comprehend.

                  Sapphire sighed, and poked the man in the chest, in the spirit of scientific endeavour; much to her surprise, this elicited a reaction. With the sound of clunking gears and whining flywheels, his whole body convulsed; then, his head slowly turned down so as to face hers, moving jerkily as if on a ratchet.

                  “Clickety-clack!” he said, in an obviously robotic voice. “Mechadoll Forty-Seven am I! If your answer quizzes correctly, you will go to Mechadoll Fifty. Then you can obtain the secret code.”

                  “What the hell...?” Sapphire stared at the man in bemusement. “A robot? A secret code? What is this?”

                  “Mechadoll Forty-Seven quiz,” the robot man said. “One of these Pokémon is eaten as a delicacy in Visbu. Which one is it: Wurmple, Numel, or Teddiursa?”

                  Reflexively, Sapphire answered:


                  Visbu was a place best avoided, or so her father had always told her; some sort of legal error had made the country very, very strange, and so it was that there they sliced the honey-soaked paws from Teddiursa, deep fried them, and ate the resultant sweet, crispy snacks by the dozen, like crisps.

                  “Congratulations. Correct you are. Go through. Please.”

                  The sea of androids parted, and Mechadoll Forty-Seven ushered Sapphire down the path thus created. Toro followed, looking confused – but her bewilderment was nothing to Sapphire’s; the Trainer had no idea what was going on at all, or what would have happened had she answered incorrectly.

                  Mechadoll Forty-Seven stopped in front of another robot, which introduced itself as Mechadoll Forty-Eight. It would probably have asked a question, had not at that moment the laughter from before repeated itself.


                  At the sound of it, the middle-aged men shut down, heads pointing forwards and staring ahead vacantly; Sapphire herself gave a small cry of fright, before hitting her forearm crossly. She shouldn’t frighten that easily, she told herself.

                  Sapphire stared around the room for a moment, wondering what she was meant to do now. She didn’t particularly want to be confronted by another trivia-demanding android, so she avoided touching the androids; wandering down the room with Toro in tow, she eventually came to the rear wall. Here, there was a large, blank piece of paper hung across the wall.

                  “What is this place?” Sapphire wondered aloud, then decided to take a more aggressive line of action, and shout: “Javier!”

                  There was no response, but she tried again regardless:



                  Sapphire swore and jumped, startled. The laughter sounded close, very close. She shared a glance with Toro, and the Combusken looked just as worried as she did.

                  “Javier?” Sapphire said, more softly this time.

                  Much to her surprise, a vast plume of green smoke suddenly spewed up from beneath the floorboards in front of her with the bang of a firecracker going off; Sapphire staggered back, coughing, and peered through streaming eyes at the figure cloaked within the smoke.

                  As it cleared, she got a better look: it was man, tall and broad in stature, and noble in visage; his jaw was strong and his eyebrows prominent, and his eyes looked wildly out from beneath a jutting brow. The crown of his head was shaven, giving him the look of a monk with tonsure – only the rest of his hair stood out around his head in seven-inch spikes, like a bizarre, circular Mohican.

                  “It is I!” he proclaimed loudly, in stentorian tones. “Javier!”

                  “Good,” snapped Sapphire, recovering. “Then perhaps I can get some answers.”

                  Javier gave a deep, booming laugh – the same one that Sapphire had heard before.

                  “My girl,” he said, “nothing is free in this house. Not answers, not safe passage out. You see, I require you to first solve a fiendish—”

                  “Here’s ten thousand dollars,” said Sapphire, fishing notes from her purse. “Now talk to me.”

                  Javier stared at the money, as if weighing it against some unknown variable, then shrugged and snatched it off her.

                  “Right,” he said, in a normal-pitched, business-like voice. “What was it you wanted to know?”


                  I got up and started scrabbling in the cards for the Sableye. By this point, I’d decided that, no matter how angry I was at him, I needed him in order to find a way out of here that didn’t lead back to the revolving room; thus, I risked yet more paper cuts and the (unlikely, but possible) danger of hidden mantraps to find my little living torch.

                  “Sableye,” I sang out, to that rising tune you use when calling for lost objects. “Sableye, come out!”

                  He needs a name, Puck said authoritatively.

                  “He won’t respond to it, though,” I pointed out. “Not until he learns it.”

                  He’s not responding to ‘Sableye’, either.

                  This was true. I was not meeting with much success in my efforts to locate the Pokémon.

                  “I’ve found a really good hiding place,” I said, hoping this would work.

                  Still nothing.

                  Kester, he doesn’t understand Hoennian. He’s a Sableye, for Azelf’s sake. He can barely remember who you are.

                  “Oh,” I said, feeling faintly foolish. “Er – what now?”

                  Astonish, said Puck. Or Uproar, but Astonish won’t leave you stuck here for ages, shouting. He’s frightened of loud noises – so smoke him out. So to speak. Don’t actually smoke him out, or the cards’ll go up in flames and we’ll die.

                  “I know what you mean!” I snapped, then shouted out an overpowered Astonish; due to the Sableye’s high level, he didn’t seem to be hurt by it, but he gave a scream and I heard him scrabbling off to the left. A flash of red light from his eyes pinpointed his location, and I snatched him up with more speed than I knew I could muster. “Gotcha!”

                  The Sableye continued wriggling and shrieking for a moment, then realised it was me holding him and not some unknown demon, and consequently shut up.

                  I think he almost trusts you, Puck commented. Probably because of me. You know how it is – we’re a Ghost, he’s a Ghost. There’s some love there.

                  “Puck, shut up. Now is not the time for flippancy.”

                  It’s always time for flippancy.

                  “No, it isn’t—”

                  “Oh, come on, kid,” said a grumpy disembodied voice. “Solve the damn puzzle already.”

                  “What?” I cried, swinging the Sableye left and right, searching for the source of the noise. It didn’t present itself, but it did give out a sigh.

                  “This is the Trick House,” it explained patiently. “I’m the trickiest man in all Hoenn, yada yada yada. You solve a puzzle, you get given a secret code as a reward, and then you write that on the paper at the other end of the room. Then you can leave, or ask any questions, or make a donation.”

                  “And if I get it wrong...?”

                  “Then you stay here a week, then try a different puzzle,” the ‘trickiest man in all Hoenn’ said. “And trust me, you won’t be getting the same one twice. I’ve got hundreds of the damn things, though the one you’re in is going to need some mending now.”

                  I stared around at the cards, squeezed the Sableye vindictively, and apologised.

                  “Uh... yeah, I’m sorry about that.”

                  “Nothing doing now,” replied the voice, somewhat enigmatically. “But look, I’ve been laughing eerily for ages now. Just do the puzzle, will you? It’s over to your right, by the wall. There’s a little spotlight you can turn on there.”

                  Feeling like I was in a dream, I got up and went over to where the voice indicated; it was something like a bizarre playground game, in that I’d take a step in a direction and would receive the reply ‘warmer’ or ‘colder’ depending on whether or not I was closer to the puzzle. After a while, I found my way there, felt around for the switch and turned on the spotlight. A blinding shaft of white light shot down from the ceiling, blinding me and causing the Sableye to wriggle free from my arms in fright; when I’d recovered, I could see that I was now standing in front of a small trestle table, completely covered in bottles.

                  I examined them closely. Virtually every drink under the sun was here: milks from a thousand different mammals; colas of myriad obscure brands; squashes, cordials and juices from virtually all fruits that had ever grown on earth; whiskies, vodkas, wines, tequilas and even something that claimed to be the product of fermented Petaya Berries. There was a whole lot of other stuff, too, but most of it seemed to have fallen off the back of the table and smashed on the floor.

                  “You found the puzzle!” cried the voice. “Now... solve it.”

                  “But what am I doing?” I asked.

                  “Isn’t it obvious? Observe the glass there!”

                  I did. There was a dusty glass sitting near the front of the ranks of bottles.

                  “You must choose the correct drink to drink out of that glass,” the voice told me. “The right one has the secret code in the bottom of it!”

                  “Can’t I just look at the bottom of the bottles?” I pleaded. “I really don’t want to have to drink a whole bottle of cherry liqueur, or, God forbid, Dr. Pepper.”

                  “No. That would be cheating. Take your time, make a wise decision. And don’t even think about cheating, because I’m watching you on CCTV.”

                  With that, the voice seemed to leave, and I was left alone to decide which drink was the right one.

                  I sighed and picked up a bottle of blackcurrant squash.

                  “Is it even possible to drink off a whole bottle of undiluted squash?” I wondered.

                  Eh, said Puck. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Anyway, we’ve got a puzzle to solve. It seems to have been adapted from that bit at the end of The Last Crusade, but never mind. What do you think the right bottle is?

                  “I have absolutely no idea,” I replied. “And I’m starting to think I don’t care.”

                  Don’t you want to get out?

                  “This is insane! Why should I participate in this weird trick?”

                  This is what Trainers do, Kester, Puck explained, in a voice that I imagine he used to talk to foreigners. They do crazy stuff, for no adequately-explained reason, and travel together in little groups of people who are bound together only by their mutual shared values of sharing and kindness. He paused. Actually, forget that last bit. That only applies to this freakishly pleasant kid called Ash I met once.

                  “Shut up,” I moaned, “unless, of course, you’ve got any helpful ideas.”

                  It’s the tequila, Puck said immediately. Definitely the tequila.

                  I stared at the bottle in question. It easily held a litre of the stuff.

                  “I’m not drinking a litre of tequila,” I said flatly.

                  The legal drinking age in Hoenn was eighteen, but the law has never stopped rebellious teenagers; in my case, it hadn’t stopped me becoming somewhat inebriated at a party and attempting to juggle a pair of microwave ovens. This had had the triple effect of losing my then girlfriend through embarrassment (when I picked up the ovens), earning me the undying enmity of the person whose ovens they were (when I threw them in the air) and breaking my foot (when they fell down to shatter on the floor). Since then, I had stayed away from booze at parties in case I ruined my bones and/or social life again.

                  And now Puck wanted me to drink a litre of tequila.

                  “What’s your evidence for it being the tequila?” I asked.

                  Er... Puck thought for a moment. It would be funny to see you drunk, he admitted at last.

                  “Would it be funny to be trapped in my body while I’m drunk?”

                  Oh. Um, yeah, it’s probably not the tequila.

                  “Thought not.”

                  “You know I said take your time?” said the voice of the trickiest man in all Hoenn.


                  “What I meant was, hurry up because I’m bored and your friend already solved her puzzle and wants to go.”

                  I threw up my hands in exasperation.

                  “Oh, of course Sapphire solved hers already,” I said, shovelling sarcasm onto my words with a spade. “Because Sapphire’s just great.”

                  “Shut up and do the puzzle, Kester,” came Sapphire’s disembodied voice. I groaned.

                  “You’re there with him?”

                  “Yes. Get on with it. I want to leave.”

                  I turned back to the table, and thought for a moment. Then I grinned.

                  “It’s a trick,” I said.

                  Well, yeah, we know that— Puck broke off, reading my thoughts. Oh. Oh my, that is a good trick.

                  “Yeah, I think he might well really be the trickiest man in all of Hoenn,” I agreed. “It’s a good trick. But I’ve seen through it.”

                  I picked up a small bottle from near the middle of the table. It was filled with ruby-red liquid, and I knew exactly what it was.

                  You see, in Hoenn very few people drink alcohol on its own. Mostly, we have it in the form of cocktails. And this particular cocktail was the one that had caused me to attempt to emulate the Flying Karamazov Brothers with a pair of microwave ovens.

                  You don’t know who the Flying Karamazov Brothers are, do you? Puck said.

                  “Shut up,” I said. “I’m feeling triumphant.”

                  You do realise it’s a coincidence that you happened to know the name of that cocktail, not a reflection of your genius?

                  “I’m feeling triumphant,” I repeated.

                  With that, I tipped the little bottle’s contents down my throat, not bothering with the glass, and as I choked on the piece of paper at the bottom, I had the satisfaction of knowing that I was drinking the remnants of a very old, very ruined Queen of Hearts: the ruler of the sea of cards around us.

                  A sea composed entirely of hearts.

                  For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                  Old February 18th, 2011 (9:02 AM). Edited February 22nd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
                  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
                    Chapter Eighteen: One Kester, Two Kester, Red Kester, Blue Kester

                    “Trick Master is awesome, cool and incredibly handsome,” I read aloud, after extracting the small piece of paper from halfway down my oesophagus. “What kind of a secret code is this?”

                    “Just write it down on the big piece of paper over there,” came the voice of the Trick Master. “Go on. There’s a pen provided.”

                    I sighed and, picking up the Sableye, used him as a torch to navigate my way to the paper in question. A quick search turned up a four-colour pen, with only the green cartridge still working; I scrawled the so-called secret code on the wall and watched as a little red line worked its way across the words, as if the sentence were a barcode being scanned. It seemed to do the trick, because there was a buzz and the paper suddenly rolled up, disappearing into a slot in the ceiling. Behind it was a door, and I had to wonder what had been stopping me just ripping a hole in the paper and going through.

                    I bet there’d have been some sort of penalty if you did that, Puck said. Like, maybe the handle was electrified.

                    “Would that have hurt me, though? Being an Electric-type?”

                    No, it wouldn’t, Puck said. Well, not permanently. No scars, anyway.

                    “Come on, Kester.” Sapphire sounded impatient, so I pushed open the door and emerged, disconcertingly, into a normally-lit room. It felt like someone had poured bleach into my eyes; I squeezed them shut as the light seared my retinas. Those weird flashes of colour you get behind your eyelids danced a merry polychromatic jig in my head, and it took me a full four minutes to work my eyes open again.

                    “Kester! At last!” Since I had my eyes shut, I couldn’t see her, but Sapphire sounded very exasperated.

                    “Sapphire? Can someone tell me exactly what the hell is going on in here?”

                    “That would be my cue,” said the Trick Master. “My name, as you might have gathered, is Javier. I make puzzles in my house, then force people to solve them for my own twisted pleasure.”

                    “Why would you do something like that?”

                    “I just told you why. For my own twisted pleasure.”

                    “You’ve wasted about...” I looked at my watch, realised my eyes were shut and asked Sapphire instead. “How much time of my life has he just wasted?”

                    “Actually, just about twenty minutes,” Sapphire told me. “It didn’t take that long.”

                    “Right. Well, that’s still twenty minutes I’m never going to get back again,” I said.

                    “There is a prize,” Javier offered. “I always give people prizes. Well, I would, if anyone ever came in here. You two would be the first, so I guess you get the pick of the prizes.”

                    “I demand two prizes,” I snapped. “Unless they’re really, really nice, and one of them would make up for twenty minutes on its own.”

                    That is such a pathetic thing to say, Puck said in disgust. Honestly. It’s like you want to be punched in the gut. Repeatedly.

                    “All right,” agreed Javier amiably. “No one else is taking them. You can have two if you take the perishable ones, because they’ll go off soon.”


                    By this time, I was able to open my eyes, and I could see that we were standing in another wooden room, only this one was slightly less bare: it had a table against one wall, which supported a clutch of computer monitors, all showing images of identical wooden rooms from around the house. Javier was sitting at this table, and Sapphire was lounging nearby.

                    Javier himself was weird, even by my standards – which had risen sharply after meeting President Stone. He looked like a cross between a punk rocker, a monk and a stage magician. The overall effect might have been impressive had he not been in possession of a noticeable middle-aged paunch. I supposed you didn’t see that in the dark, and just registered his height, purple cape and crazy hair.

                    “Well, show me these prizes then,” I said, and Javier got up and opened a door next to his table; it turned out to lead into a large, walk-in cupboard that was too full to walk into.

                    “Whoa,” I said, staring in. “That’s a lot of prizes.”

                    There were all kinds of things in that cupboard, from brightly-coloured notepaper to Poké Balls; the one thing they all had in common, however, was their number: lots. Rivers of round blue sweets ran past mountains of horseshoe magnets; vast heaps of smoky pink orbs sat atop mounds of rocks; a hundred bottles of green fluid rubbed shoulders with a great stack of boxed TMs, colour-coded to show the type of the move they contained.

                    “Yes,” agreed Javier. “Look, if you wouldn’t mind, would you take some of the Rare Candies off my hands? They’ve almost reached their Best Before date.”

                    I picked up one of the blue-wrapped sweets. They were about the size of the end joint of my thumb, and unexpectedly heavy.

                    “What are they?” I asked.

                    “Eating it instantly gives a boost to a Pokémon’s power, raising it one level,” Sapphire said. “This number of them is probably worth about... 125 million dollars.”

                    I raised my eyebrows and whistled.

                    “That’s a lot.”

                    “You’re telling me,” Javier said. “I was the one who had to buy them all. Here, boy, you have two, since you wanted two prizes.”

                    This is a very good deal, Puck said. Rare Candies are... well, they aren’t called ‘Rare’ for nothing. Plus, they’ll give us a much-needed strength boost. You realise we’re only about Level 13 right now?

                    “I was sold at the ‘rare’ bit,” I muttered, and picked up another Candy. I pocketed both for later – I wasn’t going to reveal my strange part-Rotom nature to Javier – and turned to Sapphire. “What are you getting? Another Rare Candy?”

                    “No,” said Sapphire. “It’s better to train Pokémon without them. That way their battle instinct doesn’t dull.”

                    Since I didn’t have one of those to begin with, I was still fairly comfortable with keeping my two Candies.

                    “I think I’ll take...”

                    “Hurry up,” said Javier, lighting a cigarette. “You said you were in a hurry.”

                    “That was before you told me what the prizes were,” Sapphire snapped. “Shut up and let me choose.”

                    The Trick Master raised his hands in defeat and went off back to his desk to smoke his cigarette.

                    “A Magnet, maybe?” muttered Sapphire. “That would be good for you...”

                    “A magnet? We could get one of them anywhere,” I said. “And how would that be good for me?”

                    “Magnets raise the power of Electric-type moves if you hold them,” Sapphire replied. “It’s a physics thing – you know, you must have learnt it at school.”

                    “Haven’t done Physics since I was thirteen,” I told her.

                    “Whatever. Just know that they do.” Sapphire pulled out one of the TMs and read the back of the box aloud. “Taunt. Guaranteed to drive the opponent into a rage. Warning: not a guarantee.” She put it back. “I don’t think we want that.”

                    “Are there any good Electric ones?” I asked hopefully.

                    “No. They’re all Taunt, which neither you, Toro nor Rono can learn.”

                    “Have you tried?”

                    “No, they just don’t work.”

                    Yeah, TMs are weird like that, Puck said. Like, in Johto they make these Ice Punch TMs, and you can teach them to Wooper. Which is weird, because Wooper don’t have any hands.

                    “Just hurry up, Sapphire,” I said. “I’d like to get out of here, if that’s OK.”

                    “Stop whining,” Sapphire said, still with her head buried in the cupboard. “This is an important decision.”

                    “It isn’t that important,” called Javier from his desk. I glanced over and saw that somehow he had become completely enshrouded in cigarette smoke. This was odd, because there really wasn’t enough smoke for that to happen. “It’s just a few old prizes.”

                    “Some of them are quite good!” Sapphire protested. “Now be quiet and let me choose.”

                    “Whatever, kid.”

                    Javier made a dismissive gesture, put his feet up on the desk and vanished into another cloud of smoke.

                    “Hey, what’s this?” Sapphire asked, pulling out a strange, dark grey Poké Ball, with two lighter grey bands on the top half; it was wrinkled and puckered where the button ought to have been, as if it were made of skin rather than metal. Something about it sent a shiver down my spine.

                    Apologies, said Puck. That was my shiver again. Man, that is one creepy ball.

                    Javier came over, and seemed almost to have a heart attack.

                    “What the – that, um, that’s not meant to be in there!” he cried, snatching it off her and thrusting it into his pocket. “That’s... not a prize. You wouldn’t want it anyway.”

                    “What is it?” Sapphire demanded to know.

                    “A special type of Poké Ball made a long time ago, by someone who should have been left alone,” Javier replied darkly. “Forget about it. Take a prize and go.”

                    “OK,” said Sapphire. “What’s that?”

                    She pointed into the back of the cupboard, at some unseen reward, and as Javier leaned forwards to see what she was pointing at, she slipped one hand into the pocket of his cape and grabbed the ball.

                    Never wear a cloak that loose, Puck said wisely, as the ball vanished into Sapphire’s own pocket. It’s damn easy to pickpocket.

                    “Did she—?”

                    Yes, but don’t worry. Javier hasn’t noticed.

                    “It’s... oh, it’s a toy Dustox,” he said. “You want it? Because I don’t. It’s terrifying.”

                    “OK,” said Sapphire, “I’ll take it.”

                    She withdrew from the cupboard with the scariest stuffed toy I’d ever seen: a vaguely egg-shaped purple body with broad, stiff green wings, and crazed, staring compound eyes that surmounted a creepy little grin. All I could think was that I was glad it wasn’t life-sized.

                    “Thanks,” said Sapphire sunnily. “Goodbye, Javier.”

                    “Yeah,” I said. “Bye.”

                    “Good to see you,” Javier replied. “Enjoy your prizes.”

                    He opened a door for us, and, much to my surprise, I could see Route 110 through the aperture.

                    “This is the front room?” I asked.

                    “Yes,” replied Javier. “I turned the light off when you guys came through. Now, get out.”

                    Thus, we were swiftly and somewhat rudely ejected from Javier’s house – and not, in my opinion, a moment too soon.




                    “Why ain’t they ’ere?”

                    This, Fabien had to admit, was something that had been preying on his mind too. It was now half past six and the sky was aflame with the first tinges of sunset. The waters of the Bay were afire with the orange light of evening, and a group of Volbeat had ventured out high above them, flashing their lights in rehearsal for their performance to the Illumise that night. It was all very picturesque, but there was one large problem with it: the distinct lack of superpowered kids and their feisty accomplices.

                    They had come across someone earlier, but after jumping out at them, they had discovered it was only a young Trainer, aged eleven or so. There had been some unpleasantness, and, as Blake refused to shoot the child, Goishi had had to be enlisted to thrash the kid in a battle. This was easily accomplished, the child having only a Treecko and some foreign Grass-type with too many ‘e’s in its name, but though Fabien had the satisfaction of watching the kid run off in tears, they still weren’t any closer to encountering the Rotom-boy.

                    “I don’t know,” he said now to Blake. “They should be. Unless,” he said, an idea coming to him, “unless they stopped in that house. In which case, they’ll be lucky to make it out alive.”

                    There was a long pause, which took them through to seven o’clock.

                    “They ain’t comin’, are they?” Blake said.

                    “They must be!” cried Fabien. “Unless they went past us!”

                    All at once, there was a short, sharp screech from Goishi: from his lofty vantage point, he had spotted someone coming.

                    “That’ll be them,” said Fabien, relieved. “I’ll just check.”

                    He stuck his head cautiously out of hiding, and glanced down the path. Yes: there was the boy, hands in pockets, strolling casually (so casually it might well have been called sauntering) up the path towards them. He was unaccompanied, but that was fine; though it would have been nice to catch the Aqua girl in the blue coat as well, the Rotom-boy was the main objective.

                    Fabien turned around and gave Blake a thumbs-up.

                    “It’s him,” he whispered. “Get ready with your gun!”

                    Blake raised it.

                    “Got it.”


                    The ambush went perfectly. The Rotom-boy walked past, the three Magmas jumped out, and Blake whacked him in the back of the head with his gun. He never even saw them before he hit the floor, unconscious.


                    “All right,” I said, drawing myself up to my full height, “go back in there and give that ball back to Javier.”

                    Sapphire looked distinctly guilty, which was certainly unusual.

                    “I probably shouldn’t have taken it, should I?” she said.

                    “Definitely not!” I cried, gesticulating ferociously. “Give it back!”

                    “It was an impulse,” she said.

                    “Stop making excuses, and give it back!”

                    Sapphire turned towards Javier’s door, dragging her feet, and knocked cautiously. There was, however, no reply. She tried to open the door, but it was stuck fast.

                    “I don’t think we can go back,” she said.

                    “Put it through a window?” I suggested.

                    We looked up. All of the windows were ten feet or more off the ground, and were reinforced by a mesh of iron bars. There was no way we could have got anything through them.

                    “I guess I’ll have to keep it,” Sapphire said reluctantly. “I mean, I don’t have a choice, right?”

                    Ooh! Some-one’s trying to justify their actions! said Puck.

                    “I suppose you don’t,” I agreed. “Fine. Shall we get going? I’d rather not camp right outside that place.”

                    We started walking down the path again, which ran off to the northeast from Javier’s house, sticking out into the Bay of Cadavers; from my somewhat hazy memory of primary school geography, I thought it curved slowly back to the north, whereupon the land ended, and a bridge connected the path to the area just south of Mauville.

                    The Sableye was riding on my shoulder, clinging to me as if he suspected I might throw him into the sea; the only other Pokémon about was Toro, keeping pace with Sapphire by her side. Since sunset was approaching, there were a few stray Taillow flitting by overhead, catching the evening insects – but for the most part, it seemed we were alone.

                    Sapphire looked at the Dustox doll she was carrying with disgust.

                    “Why did I choose this again?” she asked. I shrugged.

                    “You were desperate, I suppose.”

                    Suddenly, the Sableye gave a small squeak and reached one claw timidly out towards the toy; noting his interest, Sapphire gave it to him with relief.

                    “Well, that’s got rid of that,” she said. Perhaps the Sableye thought that that was a rebuke, because he immediately crouched down and hugged his new toy tightly to himself, rocking back and forth slightly. If he’d been human, I had no doubts that he’d be repeating the words ‘I’m in my happy place’ over and over to himself.

                    Is that meant to be a joke? asked Puck disapprovingly. Low self-esteem is a real problem, you know. For Sableye, as well as for humans.

                    “He needs a name,” I said, ignoring him. “The Sableye, I mean.”

                    “Yes,” agreed Sapphire, waving midges away from her face. “Something that might give him a – a confidence boost.”

                    With some difficulty, I looked at the Pokémon on my shoulder. Hunched over and shivering, he definitely looked in need of confidence.

                    “Yeah. How about... Supereye?”

                    Puck and Sapphire snorted simultaneously, with exactly the same amount of derision.

                    Names not your strong suit? asked Puck innocently.

                    “That’s terrible,” said Sapphire, more bluntly. “No. Name him after someone powerful. Like... Genghis Khan.”

                    “Why is he the first person you thought of? Couldn’t it be someone a bit... nicer?”

                    “Yes, if you can think of one.”

                    I thought, and thought, and despite Puck’s many, varied and ridiculous suggestions, failed to come up with anyone.

                    “It’s still a stupid name,” I said defensively.

                    “Fine,” replied Sapphire. “What about a god’s name? Zeus, or something.”

                    Oh, Greek. How boring. Let’s mix it up and go Egyptian. We’ve got Horus, Ra, Set, Thoth, Anubis, Amun, Sobek, Khonsu... I could go on. Believe me.

                    “How about Khonsu?” I suggested.

                    Sapphire raised her eyebrows. “Khonsu? Who’s that?”

                    Moon god. Sort of. They changed who he was a bit over the centuries, but basically he’s a moon god.

                    “An Egyptian moon god,” I said.

                    “Puck’s idea, right?”

                    “Damn it! How do you know these things?”

                    “I seriously doubt you could even find Egypt on a map, Kester, let alone name an obscure god like that.” Sapphire made a pfft noise, and a dismissive gesture to go with it. “It’s better than Zeus, but not good enough. Keep thinking, Puck.”

                    Will do.

                    “He says he will.”

                    We walked on a little further in silence, then Sapphire asked a question.

                    “Are you going to eat those Rare Candies, then?”

                    I looked at them in surprise. I’d forgotten all about the blue sweets.

                    “Yeah, I guess.” I unwrapped one and examined it; beneath the wrapper, it was a pale pinkish-purple that reminded me of a cassis cake I’d once seen.

                    Revolting stuff, cassis cake, said Puck. I can’t eat it myself, since it isn’t electricity, but... it looks really, really nasty. Rare Candies, on the other hand, just taste of sugar and artificial colourings. So eat up, and get ready for the recoil.

                    I paused, the sweet halfway to my lips.

                    “What recoil?”

                    Just eat it. It isn’t bad.

                    I popped the Rare Candy into my mouth, and had to agree with Puck about the flavour: it was mostly just generically sweet. It dissolved on my tongue in about ten seconds, and as soon as it was gone I felt my mouth light up as if I’d taken a bite out of a hot coal.

                    Yeeooowch!” I shrieked, clutching at my lips. “Aaagh! What the – aaagh!”

                    Full of energy, Puck remarked. Delicious, fiery energy. Similar to kerosene.

                    “What’s going on?” asked Sapphire, but I was too busy trying to extract my mouth from my face to answer; it felt like someone had ground chilli seeds into my lips, and then set fire to my tongue.

                    Then, all at once, the sensation passed, and I was left on my knees in the dirt, struggling for breath and with a strange sense that my entire body was vibrating.

                    “Oh. My. God,” I breathed, getting slowly to my feet. “That was horrible.”

                    “Do you feel stronger?” asked Sapphire curiously.

                    “I don’t know,” I answered. “Where’s the Sableye?”

                    He was no longer on my shoulder, having been knocked loose by my flailings; Sapphire held up his Poké Ball.

                    “He got scared and crawled back in,” she said.

                    “OK.” I put one hand over my mouth, just to make sure it was still in one piece, then started walking again. “I don’t want to eat the other one. Would Toro like it?” I held it out, and the Combusken’s eyes lit up – but Sapphire held her back.

                    “No,” she said firmly. “I don’t use Rare Candies. I told you that already.”

                    “Fine, whatever.” I was about to throw the second Rare Candy away into the trees, but Sapphire stayed my hand.

                    “That’s rare,” she said. “And you wanted it. Eat it, and it’ll be over.”

                    “I don’t want to!”

                    “You need to!”

                    She’s right, said Puck. Eat! Eat! Eat!

                    With people urging me both inside and out, I had little choice: I unwrapped the second Rare Candy and swallowed it.

                    After the spluttering subsided, Sapphire patted me condescendingly on the back.

                    “There,” she said, “that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

                    I glared at her from the floor.

                    “Yes, it was,” I replied, and climbed back to my feet. “Ugh. Right. Do we keep going?”

                    Sapphire checked the time on her mobile phone.

                    “It’s six-thirty,” she said. “I suppose this is as good a time as any to stop. Let’s get off the path, then. Some people like to travel by night.”

                    “Who’d want to do that?” I asked, following her into the trees.

                    “Ghost or Dark users,” Sapphire replied. “Those types like the night. Or people trying to get an Umbreon, I suppose.”

                    A few moments later, she stopped.

                    “Here,” she said.

                    We were only twenty metres from the path, but it seemed like we were miles away from any sort of civilisation; in the imperfect light of sunset, the trees and their shadows conspired to form an impenetrable wall of nature around us, masking the trail completely.

                    “Kester, help clear the area,” Sapphire ordered. I didn’t really feel like complaining, so I moved most of the sticks and stones in our little clearing away into the forest. As I worked, Sapphire did battle with a recalcitrant tent that was trying its best to stay folded up and in her bag, and Toro kindled flames in the centre of the cleared area. In about ten minutes, the area was as homely as it was ever going to be, and Sapphire and I were sitting opposite each other across the fire, Toro back in her ball like the other Pokémon.

                    “Is there anything to eat?” I asked. Sapphire nodded and produced a loaf of bread in a sealed bag, along with some dried meat and a pair of apples; I was beginning to get seriously impressed with the capacity of her bag. “How do you hold all that stuff in there?” I asked.

                    “I’m not sure,” she replied. “But the physics seems to work as long as I don’t question it.”

                    “Fair enough.”

                    Rincewind probably knows, suggested Puck, but, as ever, I ignored him.

                    I munched happily for a while. I wasn’t even aware of it when it happened; it was completely involuntary. The first I knew of it was when Sapphire leaped to her feet and swore.

                    “What is it?” I looked up, alarmed.

                    “Which one of you is real?” Sapphire demanded to know.

                    I blinked. This was not the response I had expected, nor indeed was it one that I knew how to answer.

                    “What are you talking about?” I asked – and that was when I noticed that I was speaking in stereo: it sounded like my words were coming out of two mouths rather than one. I looked to my left, and I looked back at me. “Wah!”

                    I jumped up, startled, and to my left, the duplicate did the same.

                    “Who the hell are you?” we both demanded of each other, followed swiftly by a simultaneous: “Stop copying me!”

                    “Kester – Kesters – shut up!” cried Sapphire. Both of us glanced at her and fell silent. “I’ve got a feeling I know what’s happened,” she said.

                    “Tell me,” I and the other Kester said. Then I glared at him, and he glared back at me. “Stop it.”

                    “Puck,” said Sapphire, “does Rotom learn Double Team naturally?”

                    Yes indeedy, he said. Ugh. Did I actually just say that? Could you pretend I just said ‘Yes’ without the... the other word, please?

                    “Yes,” said my duplicate and I.

                    “What sort of level?”

                    Fifteen or thereabouts, Puck said. Which... is Kester’s current level, after those two Rare Candies.

                    My clone and I relayed this information to Sapphire, and asked what Double Team was, precisely.

                    “It’s a move that creates illusory copies of the user,” she replied. “To fool opponents. Usually, though, the illusions aren’t quite so... talkative.”

                    “Not my fault,” I said huffily. “I didn’t even know I was using it.”

                    “I know,” Sapphire said. “Which is a problem. Because if you can’t control—”

                    There was a faint pop and a third Kester appeared, this time to my right. Both me and the first clone looked at him, and he stared back.

                    “Sapphire, how do I stop?” we asked desperately. “This is really, really weird!”

                    “I don’t know,” she admitted. “Puck? Any ideas?”

                    I think Kester just needs some practice, he replied. I had a friend who did this once – a Yanma. He fixed it eventually by learning the move properly.

                    “Puck says I need to practise the move,” we all said. “To get it under control.”

                    “OK.” Sapphire looked from me to the other Kesters. “First, though... which one of you is real?”

                    “I am!” we all cried simultaneously, stepping forwards and pointing at ourselves.

                    Sapphire stared at us, taken aback. There was a pop, and another one appeared.

                    “Oh, no,” we said, and put our heads in our hands.


                    Fabien and Blake regarded their captives with expressions of deep, deep thought.

                    “Something’s wrong,” said Fabien.

                    “I think you migh’ be righ’,” agreed Blake.

                    There was now a pile of seven Rotom-boys, all identical, in the undergrowth at their ambush point, and as Fabien glanced to the southwest, he saw another one coming up the path towards them.

                    “Oh God,” he groaned. “Here he comes again! Get back in hiding – he might be the real one!”

                    Once again, the Magmas concealed themselves amongst the trees. Once again, the boy walked past them without a second glance. Once again, they hit him over the head and dragged him into the bushes.

                    “D’you think we’ve go’ the real one ’ere somewhere?” wondered Blake, poking the latest addition to their collection with his shoe.

                    “I don’t know!” cried Fabien in an anguished wail. “I just don’t know, all right?”

                    “Eek,” said Goishi wearily, motioning down the trail. “Ee-e-e-EEK.”

                    Fabien followed his gesture and sank to his knees, feeling like his head might burst.

                    “Dear God, why?” he demanded of the sky. “Why? Why are there so many?”

                    “Fabien?” Blake’s voice was full of concern. “You all righ’?”

                    The other Magma stared stonily at the clouds for a moment, then got to his feet, his energy melting away into resignation.

                    “Fine,” he said wearily. “Just – action stations, everyone. He might be the real one.”

                    Footsteps. Thump. Drag. Nine Rotom-boys now, and another one coming up the path.


                    “Kester! Try harder!” shouted Sapphire.

                    “I’m trying!” we cried back, and the noise was deafening; if you’ve ever heard twenty anguished teenagers desperately trying to stop themselves dividing into twenty more, you’ll know the sort of volume we’d reached by then.

                    For the umpteenth time, I closed my eyes and concentrated on making the clones disappear; once again, all that happened was a quiet pop as yet another doppelgänger sprang into existence.

                    “For God’s sake!” Sapphire was very agitated now, as well she might be: collectively, the Kesters had trampled the fire out, squashed her tent and come precious close to crushing her.

                    There is something weird about this, noted Puck. Double Team clones are made of light, so you really shouldn’t be able to touch them like this. Maybe it’s because we’re made of plasma trapped inside meat, but your clones really are unusually solid.

                    “I don’t care about your speculation, Puck!” I hissed through gritted teeth, but I might as well have shouted it, since the other Kesters said it too.


                    “Damn it! Aren’t there enough of you?”

                    In my wild frustration, I punched one of the clones in the face, and immediately found a fist crashing into my own nose. All over the clearing, fists hit duplicated faces, and suddenly the whole lot of us were lying on the floor, rubbing our noses.

                    This is brilliant, laughed Puck. I wish someone was filming this. Or at the very least writing it down for posterity and putting it on the Internet.

                    “What the hell was that?” asked Sapphire, as we climbed to our feet – joined by yet another new copy of me.

                    “Doesn’t matter.” We sighed, and it was like a gale had rushed through the clearing: together, our breath scattered the ashes of the fire and almost blew Sapphire’s hat off her head.

                    “Kester, I’m not waiting any longer,” she snapped. “I’m recalling you.”

                    There was a flash of red light – and then I was mercifully, blessedly alone.


                    One of the Kesters, from near the middle, dissolved into red light and disappeared. Sapphire looked around, waiting for the other Double Team clones to vanish, but they didn’t.

                    “Oh no,” she moaned in horror. “Please, just go away!”

                    As one, the Kesters looked at her, then filed off amongst the trees, heading for the path. Sapphire stared after them, surprised.

                    “Stop!” she ordered.

                    They did, halting dead.

                    A grin spread slowly across Sapphire’s face. Of course! They were illusions, they did whatever the Pokémon they’d spawned from did – and, by extension, whatever the Trainer ordered!

                    “Go away,” she said. “Go far, far away and never come back.”

                    The Kesters – who could, by now, have formed an effective army for a small nation – gave her a salute and walked away. Within moments, she was alone, and Sapphire sat down with the contented sigh of one who has solved a tricky problem, and knows they have solved it well.

                    There was still one thing troubling her, though, and it was the same issue that had occurred to Puck: namely, how was it that the Double Team clones seemed to be so solid, when they ought to be made of light?

                    “I’ll let Kester out,” she decided, “so I can ask Puck.”

                    Kester appeared in a flash of blue light, looking haunted.

                    “Are they gone?” he demanded.

                    Sapphire nodded.


                    Kester sighed in relief, and smiled broadly.

                    “Thank God.”


                    For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                    Old February 19th, 2011 (4:57 AM).
                    bobandbill's Avatar
                    bobandbill bobandbill is online now
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                    TBH your fast updates seems rather unusual to me - maybe I'm just used to being slow myself and seeing the same from most others too you're going quickly. ._. Is this already written up in advance, or...?

                    At any rate, up to number 13 now. ~ It continues to be rather entertaining all in all. Steven was pretty cool and I rather like your version of him (although it's hard not to like someone after they punch out a villain, heh). Nice cameo, and I wonder if he'll show up again as well. I am also curious as to what Darren's other Pokemon are as well... I guess we shall see sooner or later (they way he mentioned his others I feel his last battle would involve the last Pokemon he has, no?).

                    The reveal on Kester not being the only one with a Pokemon stuck in them was nicely done - I did slightly suspect such a thing given her questions in an earlier scene but it was only a faint suspicion and it certainly was surprising given the manner it was revealed, and it certainly explained why she listened to music so much as well neatly. That scene was one of my favourites thus far as well - quite entertaining throughout and full of action as well, and suspense given someone was shot during it as well. (I also laughed when one of the grunts covered up his fear after realising his friend was ok. XD)

                    I do agree that after reading Mizan's review in full now (because I figured they had SPOILERS) that what you have now with Sapphire is better than before as what was quoted did seem... too drastic and extreme for her. There still seems to be one instance where that was evident in the chapter though, that issue, which was Sapphire pushing Kester down the stairs like that. Even giving the whole 'fire and being chased by angry swarms of sableye which are pretty darn freaky Pokemon in their own right' situation, and her realising later she could have used the Master Ball on him... I didn't really buy it, as I felt she had already gotten very used to the idea of recalling him back and it seemed like a very mean and thoughtless thing to do, given it could have easily killed him, and questionably so. That's the only eak point in her character I see currently, but it stood out significantly to me even before reading Mizan's review.

                    Anyways onto quotes.
                    The hoarse bellowing sounds and the pounding footsteps were close behind her now, but still Sapphire didn’t turn; she was locked in the rapid roar of her heart in her ears, in the shadow on the rock wall and the little shiver that was running down her
                    forearms. For a second, the pattern of abject fear gripped her as tightly as a vice – and then suddenly she noticed that here was a sharp turn in the path, and it snaked off between the thick trees and the wall to the right. There was no dead end after all.
                    Oddly created enter in the middle of that paragraph there - it happens but you might want to fix that for presentation's sake. (Also although it is late and I only just see it... should it be 'The hoarse, bellowing sounds...?')

                    She took a deep breath, which was difficult in the roaring, sandy air, and forced one foot to the floor, trying to get some grip. Her shoe struck a pebble embedded in the sand, and she wedged her leg firmly against it before stepping forwards with the other foot. At the same time, she pulled hard on the rock she was holding, dragging herself forwards against the air currents.
                    As soon as her leading foot slipped Sapphire knew it was hopeless. There was nothing she could do; the Exploud’s breath was too strong. In a curiously disconnected manner, she wondered if Darren would kill her. It didn’t seem that big a deal, just a minor spot of unpleasantness in a business transaction; somewhere in the back of her head, a tiny voice screamed at her that she was in shock, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t hear it, and, closing her eyes, let go of the rock.
                    Another spacing issue here. There was also a number of issues like that at the beginning of Darren's POV and battle scene too in chapter 11 btw.
                    I hesitated – partly due to a rational fear of Angel Laboratories, and partly due to an irrational fear of revolving doors (born from the business that happened last year) – and then followed.
                    I am rather curious about this irrational fear of revolving doors now, I must confess. XD

                    “Mind you,” said the man, “that is a masterly disguise. The Combusken’s a nice touch – really gives that air of hopeless newbie Trainer.
                    That was a nice line given the context. XD

                    On the note of that scene with them being taken to their luxury room, Toro seemed to be forgotten halfway through to the point that I was surprised when Toro was again mentioned when they were inside - maybe I missed a mention or two of the Combusken during that part but if there isn't there adding that in might be something to consider.
                    “We will, though." Sapphire sounded so certain that I was almost convinced "Look, Kester, this is a very valuable building. Correct?"
                    Full stop seems to be missing there after 'convinced'.

                    I'll probably read more at a later date!
                    Old February 19th, 2011 (6:29 AM).
                    Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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                      Thank you for your review, bobandbill. I have added in the missing full stop and fixed all the spacing issues that I could find.

                      Don't worry, Steven will reappear, just like he does in-game. And also in other situations, because the story requires it.

                      As for whether or not this is written up in advance: no, it isn't. It takes only an hour or two for me to write each chapter, and since I post every other day, I have plenty of time to do it in. I could always write slower if it's overwhelming or anything like that, but I

                      With Felicity... yeah, things are different for her and the thing in her head to how they are for Kester and Puck. I don't want to give things away yet, but I can say they definitely don't get on so well. Oh, and there is actually a different reason why Felicity listens to music all the time, but it's not something I expect many people to get. But don't worry about that, either, since that's going to be resolved later on too.

                      Thank you once again for your review, and I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

                      For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                      Old February 20th, 2011 (9:25 AM). Edited February 22nd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
                      Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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                        Chapter Nineteen: Ho Ho Hobo

                        Half an hour later, with a pile of eleven Rotom-boys behind him, Blake stared down the path to the south and raised his eyebrows.

                        “Fabien,” he called. “You migh’ wan’ to have a look at this.”

                        Fabien emerged, trembling a little, from the cover of the trees, and looked to the southwest. He saw them, and his face turned ashen in an instant.

                        “May God have mercy on our souls,” he whispered.

                        That was when the three Magmas decided to abandon their plan, and run for the hills.

                        For there is nothing quite so supremely disturbing as fifty copies of your enemy strolling towards you down a twilit path at sunset.


                        You know, if you keep this up, you’re going to pass out from overexertion, Puck said in an offhand manner. No one can keep using a move forever, and certainly not such a draining one as Double Team.

                        “Quiet, you,” I hissed, concurrently with the second batch of Kesters. They numbered about thirty, and the sound we produced brought to mind a major gas leak. It also reminded me painfully of that business from last year – especially the part with the Seviper.

                        You don’t actually have to talk to me either, if you want to communicate with me, Puck added. I can read your thoughts.

                        Why did you wait so long to tell me that?
                        I thought angrily.

                        I forgot about it. Puck paused. Hey, it’s a lot quieter if we talk like this. The illusions don’t copy you.

                        “Kester!” said Sapphire. “Stop Double Teaming!”

                        “I’m trying!” we cried back.


                        “Not hard enough, it seems,” she said, looking at the newcomer. “I can’t have you generating endless duplicates every time I let you out of the ball!”

                        “Neither can I,” I and my clones replied. “It’s getting tiring. Puck says I’ll pass out if I keep it up.”

                        “You will,” Sapphire said. “It’s really bad for you.”

                        “If I can stop this, I am never using this move again,” I groaned. “I hate it so much!”

                        Calm down. Deep breaths, Puck said. I tried this, and found that deep breaths were indeed conducive to tranquillity.

                        OK, I thought at him. What now?

                        Just keep trying
                        , he replied. Come on, concentrate properly on ending the move, on all your clones disappearing...

                        I focused hard, and another doppelgänger appeared with a pop.


                        Seriously, Kester! This is getting annoying!

                        “I’m focusing!” I cried, and focused even harder, imagining all the clones vanishing, and no more appearing...

                        Pop! Pop! Pop!

                        Three appeared in quick succession, and Sapphire slapped me.


                        “I am concentrating!” I howled. “It’s just the harder I concentrate... the more seem to appear,” I finished slowly, eyes widening. Sapphire looked at me, and I could see the penny had dropped for her as well.

                        “The more you think about them—”

                        “—the more of them appear,” I said. “Yes. I need to ignore them!”

                        Oh, that should be easy, commented Puck. There are only, what, thirty-five of them?

                        “Shut your eyes,” Sapphire said. “Think about something else. Something that can take up all your attention.”

                        I did as I was bidden, and thought about home in Rustboro. I wondered what was happening there, and if my mum had been fired from Devon after all, and what my friends thought of my sudden disappearance, and how it was going to be impossible to mend my relations with the girl I had been trying to get a date with. That thought was kind of depressing, and I hurriedly shied away from it – only to remember all the clones around me.

                        Damn, Puck said. So close.

                        “Kester? Keep trying,” said Sapphire.

                        “I’m working on it, I’m working on it,” I muttered back; I might as well have shouted it for the noise it caused.

                        I thought of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax, and cabbages, and kings; of why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings; and why exactly the Walrus had thought that these were absorbing topics to muse about in the first place, because they weren’t.

                        Hey. I found another inconsistency in your knowledge of English literature, Puck said.

                        Shut up, I thought. I’m trying to think.

                        I thought about Felicity, the Aqua girl, then; at first in vengeance, but soon in earnest. She was a very absorbing topic, I found, and if, at any point, I tired of her, Natalie was also pretty interesting. So engrossed in my thoughts did I become that I failed to notice the whooshing noise around me, or the sudden rush of air, and only emerged from them when Sapphire delicately prodded my right eye with one finger.

                        “Ow,” I said, opening my eyes and looking around. “Oh, hey! They’re gone!”

                        “Don’t mention them,” hissed Sapphire. “I really don’t want you using Double Team again.”

                        Yes, put any thoughts of duplication far from your mind, Puck hastened to tell me. We don’t want a repeat. Another seventy-odd clones and you’d probably have been dead for a ducat.

                        “OK, OK,” I said wearily, sitting down and prodding the remnants of the fire with a stick. Sapphire sent out Toro, who reignited it. “God, I’m tired.”

                        “I’m not surprised,” Sapphire said. “You generated nearly ninety perfect copies of yourself, all of them fully solid and all just as intelligent as you were.”

                        I had a feeling that she was insulting me somehow, but I was too tired to work it out.

                        “I’m going to sleep,” I said.

                        “All right. Goodnight, Kester.”

                        I got up and was just about to head for the tent when the red light engulfed me.

                        “Damn you, Sapphire,” I murmured, and lay down on the steel floor to sleep.


                        “OK, OK,” said Fabien, hands trembling. “I think we’re safe now.”

                        The three Magmas were sitting in a huddled group on one of the crossbars of the supports that held up the overpass road to Mauville; it had taken them about half an hour to get up there, and they had been watching the path below ever since, just in case the army of Rotom-boy clones decided to come and get them.

                        “Wha’ the ’ell was all tha’?” Blake demanded to know. “There must’ve been fifty of ’em!”

                        “I know, I know!” cried his partner. “It’s impossible. I would have said he was just doing a Double Team, but they were all real, all solid...”

                        “Ee-eeee-e-EE-eek,” Goishi put in, with a shiver.

                        “I know,” repeated Fabien. “I think we had a lucky escape there. Obviously they sensed our presence and...” He broke off into a protracted shiver, which made him look like he was trying to remove his shirt without using his hands.

                        “Prob’ly best not to think abou’ it,” Blake said. Goishi nodded, a complex manoeuvre that involved bending his mouth in the middle.

                        “You’re right,” replied Fabien at length. “Let’s just wait here a bit, until we’re sure they’ve gone.”

                        Blake and Goishi nodded their agreement, and the three Magmas settled down to wait out the night.


                        Felicity and Barry did not set out at noon, as planned. Nor did they set out at one o’clock, or two o’clock, or five o’clock.

                        In fact, by the time Barry arrived, somewhat sober and rather bruised, at Cadogan Square, it was twenty past seven, and Felicity was nowhere to be seen. He looked around, hoping against hope that she might be there with a car and instructions, but she was gone. The square was broad, with a fountain in the centre and statues at each corner – but there were no people other than the odd tourist and a few workers heading home after work.

                        Barry sighed, and was about to leave when a nearby payphone began to ring. He knew that would be for him – only the Teams and Devon communicated like that – and answered it.

                        “This is Felicity,” said Felicity. “I’m calling from Coffen Spit, and I can see Ruby and Birch from where I am. Wherever you are, get over here now, or I’m going to call the boss and tell him you didn’t turn up.”

                        Barry listened as she hung up, then replaced the receiver sadly.

                        “I need,” he said to himself, “to sober up. She’s been winning lately.”

                        What Felicity was winning was the little war that raged between them; Barry was acutely aware that he’d fallen behind her in terms of achievement recently, due to his drunken episode.

                        He sighed, and hailed a taxi.

                        “North Canticle Street,” he said, “and quickly.”


                        Felicity was sitting in the upper branches of a tree, about five metres from Birch and her fire. She was chewing on one pale knuckle, and wondering what she ought to do.

                        It wasn’t as if Ruby would be hard to subdue. He barely had control over his own abilities, as the amusing incident with his Double Team had shown her. While Felicity herself wasn’t able to use the powers of the creature within her without it taking control of her body – something she was keen to avoid – she still had a shotgun, and she was certain that she was much stronger than him anyway.

                        No, the problem was that her Aqua superiors had ordered her to capture Ruby, and if possible Birch as well. Now, Zero had given her no orders other than to obey the Aquas, but she had her doubts about whether or not he wanted her to do this. From what she knew of his plan, it would better serve him if Ruby fell into the hands of the Magmas.

                        Then, of course, there was Felicity’s own will. She didn’t like Ruby; in fact, she detested him. He was moronic and spineless, a worm of a creature; he was nothing but a pawn that was shunted around the chessboard by Birch and Zero.

                        And yet...

                        Felicity, too, was a slave to Zero, and also to Archie of Team Aqua. She had no real say in her life. And despite her animosity towards Ruby, the similarities between his position and hers were too similar to deny, and she couldn’t completely rid herself of a strange sense of solidarity between them, a feeling that it was somehow her and Ruby against the world.

                        Because of her inability to settle on a course of action, Felicity had opted to not do anything until Barry arrived; she hated to admit that she would ever follow him, but it was easier than making the decision herself.


                        “Shut up!” Felicity hissed, twisting the volume dial up on her headphone. She had never imagined that she would ever use it to quell a voice in her head, but she was glad of it now; music pulsed through her head and left silence in its wake.

                        Hot and cold shivers shot through Felicity’s body; her arms and legs felt heavy and useless, with the weight of lead and the flexibility of rags, and she fell back against the tree trunk, almost slipping off to plummet to the ground below. Panicking, she tried to breathe, but her chest wasn’t moving; her body was paralysed, limp and useless. The world was darkening, and there was a strange feeling of lightness coming over her. For a moment, Felicity thought she was dead, and the most frightening part of that was that it seemed a good thing; she felt so calm that she almost forgot Zero and Ruby...

                        Then, all at once, sound and light returned to the world, and Felicity sat up, gasping for air. Whatever it was, it had gone.

                        “I’m not going to lose,” she said, clenching her fists so tightly that her nails broke the skin of her palms. “I’m not going to lose to you!”

                        So saying, she wedged herself securely against the trunk of the tree and fixed her eyes on Birch, who was going into her tent. The monster within was going nowhere.


                        In the morning, Sapphire, in her infinite grace, let me out of the ball so I could pack her tent up for her; this done, we continued up the path towards Mauville. The soft dirt track was covered in thousands and thousands of footprints, all left by my shoes: an unwanted reminder of the armada of fake Kesters that had walked this way the night before.

                        At around half ten, we encountered a pugnacious green canine with an ovoid excrescence on its head that Sapphire said was an Electrike; Rono, who was in need of training, beat it senseless with ease, and we continued without stopping for longer than five minutes. The casual manner in which Trainers challenged each other or thrashed wild animals was still unsettling me, and I had to think hard about Sapphire’s earlier statement that most Trainers lost their minds at some point during their careers. If this was the way they lived, I thought, it was a wonder we weren’t knee-deep in psychotic sociopaths here in Hoenn.

                        No, Trainers are usually weird-crazy rather than stabby-crazy, Puck said. Well, I say that, but in England before I left the news was full of this Trainer-turned-serial-killer called Steve Jobbs. He and five Beedrill stabbed their way through about seventy-odd people before they were stopped. It was quite funny – all it took was one Charmeleon, and all those Beedrill just... Poof! Went up in flames. The weird bit was, Steve did too – turns out, he was made of petrol.

                        “That is so not true.”

                        OK, so Steve Jobbs wasn’t made of petrol. But the rest is true.

                        When my watch beeped one o’clock, Sapphire decided it was time to stop for lunch. This was something I happily agreed to, since it involved both food and rest, and we sat down just off the road to eat. I had just started to enjoy my meal when I noticed an old man dressed in ragged brown clothes creeping out of the undergrowth behind Sapphire. Recalling my last experience with an old man, back at the Wharf, I felt it was my duty to warn her.

                        “Sapphire,” I said, “there’s an old man behind you.”

                        She turned around, and he froze. He had a very round face, and a bushy grey beard; his mouth was stretched wide in a grin.

                        “Who the hell are you and what do you want?” Sapphire asked aggressively.

                        She didn’t actually say that, Puck put in. She said something much, much ruder, but I don’t think we can put it in.

                        The old man laughed uproariously, which didn’t strike me as the right reaction, and dropped into a seated position next to her.

                        “I’m just a harmless old hobo,” he said, in a voice roughened by years of cigarettes and alcohol. “Me and Jess are wandering around, heading for Mauville.”

                        Sapphire looked like the reply she wanted to make was a punch to the face, but what she actually did was say:


                        The old man looked around and then shouted:

                        “Jess! Jessie! Come out here and meet these two nice young people!”

                        The bushes nearby rustled, shook, and finally disgorged what appeared at first to be a giant Poké Ball; closer inspection, though, revealed it to be the wrong way up, and in possession of a pair of pinprick eyes above a manic grin. Together with a set of pencil-thin eyebrows, these features combined to form the most disturbing face I’d seen since the Sableye’s Dustox doll.

                        This freakish apparition rolled towards us, heedless of the twigs that stuck into its mouth and eyes, and settled next to the hobo, where it gave an indescribable noise that sounded to me like the death cry of a mortally-wounded electrical substation.

                        Sapphire leaped to her feet and backed off to the other side of the clearing, Rono’s ball appearing in her hand.

                        “What the hell!” she shouted. “That isn’t safe at all!”

                        The old man laughed at that; for myself, I was just confused.

                        Don’t worry, said Puck. That thing can’t really hurt us. Hurt Sapphire? Yes. Destroy a large area of forest? Yes. Do anything to us? No.

                        “Sit down, lass, sit down,” said the hobo. “She’s tame, don’t worry.”

                        The giant ball buzzed, crackled and spin on its axis. What that meant, I had no idea.

                        Sapphire sat down as far away from the ball as possible, eyeing it and its owner distrustfully.

                        “We didn’t invite you here,” she said. “Go away, please, and take your Electrode with you.”

                        So that was what an Electrode was! I had heard of them; they were supposed to hate the entire world with a violent passion, and explode at the slightest provocation. I gave it a look of concern, and edged away from it.

                        I told you, it can’t hurt us, Puck said. Explosion is a Normal-type move, so we’re immune to it.

                        The hobo laughed. This was beginning to get on my nerves.

                        “Don’t be like that,” he said. “We just wanted a chat. Right, Jess?”

                        The Elecrode somehow leaped about a foot into the air and spun rapidly. It looked like a basketball trick without a basketball player.

                        “Well, we were just going,” Sapphire said, standing up and shouldering her bag. “Isn’t that right, Kester?”

                        “Uh – yeah,” I agreed, surprised. I stood up and followed her back to the path.

                        “Wait!” cried the hobo. “Where are you headed?”

                        “Mauville,” I replied; Sapphire elbowed me in the ribs.

                        “Don’t encourage him!” she hissed. “He’s crazy. No one goes around with an Electrode! You do know they’re military-grade weapons? They were deployed in the First World War!”

                        “Mauville!” said the old man, catching up with us. “That’s great, that’s great. We’re headed to Mauville, too!” He laughed merrily at this happy coincidence.

                        “Oh, joy,” murmured Sapphire.

                        With the hobo and Jess the Electrode in tow, we walked on; according to Sapphire, we would make Mauville by the day after tomorrow at the latest, but we travelled so quickly in our attempts to shake off the hobo, that she said we’d probably reach it tomorrow evening.

                        “Do you like Marmite?” the hobo would say, or: “Have you ever been to Disneyworld?” He peppered us with inane questions, the answer to which was almost always ‘no’, in some bizarre effort to start a conversation. Despite this, however, Sapphire and I remained stubbornly uncommunicative, though by three o’clock I did start pleading with Sapphire to let me back into the Master Ball so that I wouldn’t have to listen to him.

                        “No,” she replied. “If I have to put up with him, so do you. Besides, I can’t just recall you with him watching.”

                        Also, put in Puck, he’s quite entertaining. I mean, ‘have you ever inhaled salt?’ These questions are brilliant.

                        So it was that the day wore on, until finally we stopped in the shadow of one of the piers that supported the elevated motorway. Here, amongst a stand of trees at the crest of the beach, we made camp for the night. Toro lit us a fire, and Sapphire got out the food – though she made a point of not offering any to the hobo. He didn’t seem unduly bothered by this, though, and simply took several long swigs from a hip flask.

                        “This is nice,” he said. “Three Trainers, sitting round a campfire. Reminds me of my youth.”
                        Neither Sapphire nor I said anything. He laughed, and asked if anyone wanted to battle him.

                        “Come on,” he cried. “I’ve just got Jess here. You’ll battle me, right lad?” His face drew alarmingly close to mine, and I caught a whiff of breath that reeked of Tabasco. I wondered if that was what his flask was full of, and, if so, how he’d managed to gulp it down like that.

                        I withdrew awkwardly and declined his offer.

                        “Er – sorry – don’t really think that would be a good idea.”

                        “What about you?” he asked of Sapphire. She answered with the look in her eyes; for the first time, the message that she didn’t want him with us seemed to reach the old man, and he coughed, saying hastily, “Well, doesn’t matter so much, anyway. It’s the being here with other people that counts. Why, that’s what Trainers do! They gather in little groups, and travel together on the road.”

                        “Yeah. Great,” I said unenthusiastically.

                        As it turned out, there was actually one good side to having the hobo with us. Since Sapphire couldn’t risk letting him know I was a Pokémon, she couldn’t recall me, and so I was allowed to spend the night outside the ball for once. Better yet, she wanted me to use as a shield in case the Electrode went off in the night, so I was even allowed into her tent. Even if I was only here as a spectral blast wall, I felt extremely privileged – which, as Puck noted, just went to show how low my standards had fallen over the last few days.
                        Well, he didn’t put it quite that nicely. He said:

                        Kester, you’ve fallen to the level of a beaten lapdog. Judging from your memories, you didn’t have much dignity before, but this... this is a new low, even for you.

                        I slept lying across the tent’s doorway, so as to provide maximum protection for Sapphire if the worst happened, and also within easy reach if she need to drag me atop her for use as a shield. This meant that I had her feet jabbing me in the back all night, but I was still lying on a blanket instead of steel and I got the best night’s sleep I’d had for quite some time.

                        On balance, then, I enjoyed that night, though I wish I could say the same about the next morning. No one had tried to kill, capture or seriously injure me that day – but it was a high that couldn’t last for long. Tomorrow, it would be business as usual, and I was going to hate it.


                        “Birch has acquired a new Pokémon,” Felicity said to Barry as they walked up the path. About five hundred metres ahead of them were their targets; they hadn’t yet looked back, but Felicity was ready to leap into the bushes and hide if they did.

                        “Urg,” replied Barry. He was hung over; consequently, he was currently very irritable and found it difficult to communicate in words of more than syllable without clutching at his skull and whispering quiet moans of pain.

                        “It’s a Sableye.”


                        “I saw it when they came out of that strange house a few miles back.”


                        “Honestly,” said Felicity, with an exasperation that she didn’t feel, “it’s like having a conversation with a caveman.” She paused. “Oh. Wait. I am having a conversation with a caveman.”


                        Felicity didn’t know how much longer she could keep up the act. She hated the double identity she was cultivating, but she was doing so on Zero’s orders; her real self didn’t suit him, or perhaps just didn’t amuse him as much as this one. In the end, it didn’t matter. If she failed to follow orders, he wouldn’t remove the creature, and she would die.

                        “Are you going to keep this up all day? Because it could get boring real quick.”

                        With a colossal effort, Barry mumbled four rumbling syllables.


                        Felicity raised her eyebrows.

                        “Well, someone knows how to endear themselves to a lady.”

                        Barry attempted to make a rude gesture at her, but found that the effort of raising his fingers gave him a headache, and so desisted.


                        “We’ll attack them tomorrow, at dawn,” Felicity replied. She was still putting it off. “A whole day without us or that Devon researcher coming after them should make them lower their guard.”


                        “Got quite a way with words, don’t you?”

                        Barry gave up on Hoennian and decided to revive the ancient art of preverbal communication.


                        Felicity shook her head in exaggerated despair, and the two Aquas walked on.


                        Streamers of light flew from one end of the horizon to another, in all the warm hues in nature’s palette; the early rays of the sun glanced off the waters of Bay of Cadavers. This was dawn on Route 110, and in the shadow of the overpass, within a little copse, two teenagers were asleep in a tent, and Felicity and Barry were standing in front of it. They would have already snatched the kids if there hadn’t been a plump old tramp standing between them and the tent.

                        The old man laughed, but his eyes were hard.

                        “You’re from Team Aqua,” he said merrily. “What brings you here?”

                        “This doesn’t concern you, old man,” rumbled Barry. Today, he was back to his usual self: bold, brash and unable to speak without growling. It also seemed that he was about as ageist as he was misogynistic.

                        “If Team Aqua is around,” the hobo said, “then it concerns me. I’m a law-abiding citizen.”

                        “I seriously doubt that,” sneered Felicity, looking him up and down. “Get out of the way, and then I won’t have to shoot you.”

                        The old man laughed again, but this time it had a distinctly unpleasant edge to it.

                        “Lass, you’re too young for guns, or Team Aqua.” Felicity raised her shotgun and her finger tightened on the trigger. She had never yet fired it, but she had killed before. Before she had fled her home country, there had been several situations where it had been necessary.

                        The hobo grinned broadly, and his teeth were very white.

                        “Jess,” he said. “Rollout.”

                        An Electrode appeared from behind him and shot forth, rolling towards Felicity at a speed her eyes could barely register; it seemed to be a thick, solid line of red and white rather than a distinct sphere. She lowered the shotgun as fast as she could, and a deafening report cracked the air—

                        —but the Electrode was already past the shell, and the pellets scattered across the leaf litter. Felicity’s eyes widened fractionally. She could already feel the Pokémon smacking into her shin, shattering the bone—

                        —and then she was suddenly five feet up in the air, legs dangling beneath her, and the Electrode whizzed past below, a bright blur against the loam.


                        Felicity dropped back down, spun and shot the Electrode. It lifted bodily into the air and slammed into a tree, then fell to the floor, cross-eyed and bleeding from a dozen small shrapnel wounds. She turned around to face the hobo, who looked significantly less jolly than he did a moment ago. Behind him, Ruby and Birch were scrambling out of the tent, alerted by the two shots.

                        “What’s going on now?” Birch shrieked, angrily. Then she saw the Aquas, and an Aron and Combusken materialised in front of her. Ruby sauntered as casually as he could behind her, but, as he was taller, it didn’t do a lot to make him less of a target. “You!” Birch cried.

                        “Warfang!” roared Barry, and everyone turned to stare at him. This statement appeared to make slightly less than no sense. Barry reddened, then pointed to the levitating red and blue fish that had appeared in front of him. “It’s his name.”

                        The Carvanha darted forwards in a blur of bubbles, smashing Birch’s Combusken in the face and leaving it in a crumpled heap on the floor; before anyone could react, it rammed its spike-finned head into the Aron’s eye and threw it into the fallen Combusken’s side. It made a weak attempt to get up again, but Warfang repeated the assault on the other eye, and it slumped into a daze, thick grey blood trickling slowly from its eye sockets.

                        Then Warfang dropped to the ground in a dead faint, and Ruby lowered his still-sparking hand with a sigh.

                        “Look, you two,” he began, and then Barry rushed him and punched him in the face.

                        For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                        Old February 22nd, 2011 (5:29 AM).
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                        And I am now caught up! ~ That only took a good yet enjoyable while of reading in-between shouting at my internet. XD

                        I like the scenes the grunts continue to get here and there - thoroughly enjoyable what with one declaring himself to be the main character and hero, to one getting very drunk (I quite like drunk characters myself XD) to them running away from 50+ clones of Kester... and then stuff like the Trick House, inspired from the wonders of Quartz no less which is always an entertaining source of inspiration. XD Fairly entertaining overall, and probably more so than the first part of the story, arguably (but that would be a close call tbh).

                        I did notice that these chapters seemed to have more going on in the way of fourth wall breakage than the others - not a bad thing (I enjoy such things myself) but certainly a notable change there. Natalie's acceptance of Kester's story was unexpected but an interesting choice with plot... and the Rayquazza death was nicely pulled I thought - the mood swing that came from it was noticeable but it did not affect the story's flow too much I feel (maybe could be help with a bit more comedy at the beginning of that scene but certainly the death itself does not need anything, that's likely disrupt. Plus he is pretty awesome too as you said =p). Kaleb the Pokemon fanatic amused me as well - another RSE character I recall from the games, down to his team. I liked the inclusion of his child given the sprite as well - nice attention of detail. =)

                        I swear, if I had had just an ounce less self-composure, I would have flung myself at her and showered her with adoration for that comment.
                        This amused me a fair bit. XD
                        “Hmm,” I said, still somewhat shocked. “That’s unexpected, but not that useful... let’s keep looking.
                        Missing a quotation mark at the end there.
                        “Not sure,” replied Natalie. “But look more closely. It’s not the goods themselves being taken to Mauville. They’re going to be built into a ‘Y-38P SuperBlast Module’, and then sent up to the Spectroscopic Fancy Company in Mauville.”
                        I love these names btw. XD
                        So my guess is that this Y-38P SuperBlast Module is something that they both Teams want.”
                        That 'they' seems unnecessary (maybe left in after an edit?)
                        Most of these so-called ‘legendaries’ are either exaggerated memories of Pokémon now extinct, or never existed at all; there are only five such species other than Rayquaza known to exist: Mew, Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres, Raikou, Entei and Suicune.
                        I counted more than five there, unless you count one of those trios as one but if so that isn't clear.
                        On a lighter note, the death of Rayquaza, Puck said, brightening. Oh. Wait. That’s a darker note. Never mind. So: what’s our opinion, boys and girls?
                        XD I like Puck's lines quite often.
                        “My own little project,” Zero replied. “A hobby; a game; a bet; call it what you will, it’s all the same.
                        My own speculation is that him saying that, along with mentioning 'a bet' as a possible thing to call it...might indicate some more on who Zero is? I might be reading too much into it but I did recall a similar scene when I read this...
                        Note:Technically, I guess the Sableye ought to have been shiny, but I kind of don't care.
                        I suppose it might, but oh well? =p I do like the concept of an over-levelled Sableye however, especially one that is afraid of everything (bar a creepy doll), and he's certainly an interesting addition to the team (I had been wondering if he would play any significant part given his earlier mentions in the story...).
                        Me too. I’ve not seen anything as surprising as this since Macbeth beat Macduff at the end of a production I saw in London.
                        I'm not sure as I only vaguely remember the film and not even the title, but was this a reference to a film...? Only reference thus far I am unsure about (the rest I got or missed =p).
                        [I]Yeah. Kind of makes a mockery of their name, doesn’t it? [\I]Sable-eye, the Darkness Pokémon.
                        Tags failed there.
                        “That is the strangest house I’ve ever seen,” I stated unnecessarily, as we stopped to stare.

                        I don’t know. Ever been to Holland?
                        IDK, Holland's houses still have some beating to do with that house. XD
                        “I’m stuck!” yelped his partner, wriggling violently and not moving an inch.
                        Fabien struck one palm against his forehead and yelled at the heavens with all the passion of Hamlet after meeting Fortinbras’ captain; his words were unprintable, but carried the general message that fortune was a strumpet, and that God was, as Beckett’s blind cripple would have it, not only nonexistent but also born out of wedlock.
                        More line spacing is needed there.
                        They do crazy stuff, for no adequately-explained reason, and travel together in little groups of people who are bound together only by their mutual shared values of sharing and kindness. He paused. Actually, forget that last bit. That only applies to this freakishly pleasant kid called Ash I met once.
                        XD interesting...pity I do not know the anime in case this was an anime reference as well (I suppose he did meet one Rotom sometime after all).
                        “I demand two prizes,” I snapped. “Unless they’re really, really nice, and one of them
                        would make up for twenty minutes on its own.”
                        Enter seems to have been randomly hit in the middle of that sentence.
                        Yeah, TMs are weird like that, Puck said. Like, in Johto they make these Ice Punch TMs, and you can teach them to Wooper. Which is weird, because Wooper don’t have any hands.
                        Hah, that's one example I always liked to mention myself. XD
                        “Some of them are quite good!” Sapphire protested. “Now be quiet and let me choose.”
                        “Whatever, kid.”
                        “If Team Aqua is around,” the hobo said, “then it concerns me. I’m a law-abiding citizen.”
                        “I seriously doubt that,” sneered Felicity, looking him up and down. “Get out of the way, and then I won’t have to shoot you.”
                        Like above, more line spacing is needed there. (The random hobo was an interesting addition as well btw, heh).

                        Anyways... all in all this is a nice story with great humour and characters and dialogue, so if it wasn't already clear, colour me entertained. =p Keep it up!
                        Old February 22nd, 2011 (9:23 AM). Edited February 25th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
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                          Chapter Twenty: Those Glazzies Clopped Him in the Pletcho

                          Kester crumpled to the floor, one eye immediately beginning to puff up and darken. The massive Aqua swept him into his arms, completely ignoring the stupefied Sapphire, and turned, heading for the path.

                          “Woman!” he roared at the Aqua girl. (Was her name Felicity? Sapphire thought it was.) “Get moving!”

                          Felicity’s shotgun came up towards Sapphire and the hobo, and she backed away slowly, with her partner just behind her. Sapphire herself didn’t really know what she felt then; for as long as she lived, she would never know. Words were a roar of static in her ears, and images were senseless sequences of colours that drifted before her eyes. It might have been fear, it might have been shock, and it has to be left to the reader’s individual jurisdiction as to which they deem it to have been.

                          “All right,” said the hobo. “I tried to play nice.”

                          The two Aquas suddenly stopped dead, a faint ringing sound echoing out through the forest. The tramp laughed, and the big Aqua felt the air between them and the path. It looked to Sapphire like he was touching an invisible wall.

                          “Amadeus,” called the hobo, “you can come out now.”

                          Something yellow, striped in jagged yellow and black, stalked out of the undergrowth. Its face was a collocation of savage fangs thrown between great bushy whiskers like those of a tiger; its arms a mess of scars in the rough shape of taloned fists. This was an Electabuzz, perhaps the most unfriendly Electric-type in existence after Electrode.

                          “What did you do?” snapped Felicity.

                          “Barrier,” replied the hobo. “It’s difficult to get an Electabuzz with Barrier, but it’s a very useful move.”

                          Felicity fired, and Sapphire jumped, jerking for a half-instant out of her trance-like state; however, the pellets bounced harmlessly off a second Barrier, stopping and scattering mere inches away from her face. The hobo didn’t flinch at all.

                          “Gah!” The giant Aqua threw Kester down onto the floor, and ran directly at the Electabuzz, which was on the same side of the Barrier as Sapphire and the hobo; he leaped at it, shoulder-first, and, much to their consternation, cracked the air where he hit.

                          Sapphire opened her mouth to say something, but her mouth didn’t know what to say; her hands were instinctively recalling Toro and Rono, and that was all her body seemed to be capable of right now.

                          The second hit was unbelievable. The Aqua’s prodigious strength shattered the Barrier, sending pieces of atmosphere flying everywhere, and his vast bulk descended onto the Electabuzz’s rotund figure. There was a yowl of pain, and then the other Barrier melted away.

                          What happened next was too fast for Sapphire to react to, though she was able to follow it with her eyes. First, there were two flashes of red light, and the Electrode and squashed Electabuzz disappeared; then the hobo was fleeing, shouting something about getting help. The big Aqua got to his feet, and was running after the escaping man as Felicity shouted at him to get Kester instead.

                          And in the midst of all the confusion, in the midst of the hubbub and pounding feet, Sapphire’s fingers reached down to her belt, and pulled a Poké Ball from it. It was nothing special, just a green Nest Ball she had found in her room a few weeks ago. She dropped it without even noticing she’d picked it up, and a veritable storm of blue light, shot through with ominous black shadows, flew out.

                          It was as if someone had suddenly turned off the power. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to look: the giant Aqua and the hobo paused in their chase, and Felicity ceased trying to drag Kester away. Everyone was startled by the size of the light display, for that was a sure sign that something very powerful was coming out.

                          Standing in the middle of the clearing was a tiny, pale figure, all white fur and many-sided eyes. His pointed ears were drooped in an expression of utter dismay at the tribulations he had just been called upon to face, and he was clutching a large cuddly moth as if it were the only ray of hope in life.

                          “Please,” said Sapphire, “please, Sableye, do something.”

                          The Sableye darted forwards, and, recognising Kester in the figure on the floor, burrowed under his T-shirt to curl up in a quivering heap.

                          “No!” cried Sapphire. Everyone was still staring, now out of surprise and incredulity; she knew there was, at most, a second or two before things kicked off again. “Sableye, you can do it! You’re powerful! You’re like – like Genghis Khan and his armies!”

                          Whether at the ludicrous nature of the simile or because he was truly moved, the Sableye peeked out of the neck of the shirt, and looked at her inquisitively.

                          “Everyone’s scared of you!” said Sapphire encouragingly, pointing. The Sableye, being a creature of very little brain, followed her finger obediently with his large red eyes. He took in the three people staring at him, and their wide eyes; he checked what ‘wide eyes’ meant against a little list in his head, and found that they often meant ‘fear’.

                          That was when he leaped out onto Kester’s chest, and when his eyes began to glow.

                          The spell of his appearance was broken; the air trembled around him like a heat haze, and, wary for real this time, Felicity and her partner backed away. The glow grew brighter and brighter, a burning red beacon that obscured entirely the little gremlin, and they turned to run—

                          —just as a series of searing crimson polygons burst forth from his face, rending the air asunder with a roar as they shot towards the Aquas at breakneck pace. The leaf litter fanned out from the ground beneath them, blown away by the rush of air, and thin furrows were ploughed in their place through sheer air pressure.

                          Felicity flung herself flat on the ground, and suffered no worse than the assault of the strong wind generated by the Power Gems’ passage; her giant partner was caught in the shoulder by one of the smaller shards, and was tossed aside like a rag doll. He hit the leaf litter hard, and did not get up again.

                          The remaining Gems smashed into the trees, blasting clear through them and opening up a new path back to the main trail before dissipating, their strength expended. The sound of tortured wood twisted its whining way through the air, but neither Sapphire nor the hobo even tried to put their hands over their ears. They just stood there, somewhat shell-shocked, staring at the destruction and the little white figure standing in front of it, the light fading from his eyes.

                          Felicity was not so afflicted; she leaped back up – which terrified the Sableye and sent him under Kester’s shirt again, instantly undoing all of Sapphire’s good work – and picked up her gun.

                          “I can’t take him now,” she said in a low voice. “Well done, you.” Oddly, Sapphire couldn’t tell if she meant that or not. Felicity raised the gun, and advanced on Sapphire. “Listen,” she said. Sapphire noted in a curiously detached way that there was a small stick caught in her hair. “This isn’t a game, Birch. If I were you, I would go home now and forget about the Devon goods. They’re not important anyway, not in the wider scope of things.”

                          Sapphire stared.

                          “Who are you?” she managed.

                          “I’ve been many people. Right now, I am Felicity, and I’m a slave.” Felicity jerked her head at the Sableye. “That won’t protect you for long, Birch. We know its weakness now. So just give me the Master Ball and go home.”


                          Felicity tapped the barrel of the weapon she was holding.


                          “No.” This time, it was the hobo speaking. Felicity turned sharply, only to be confronted by a wolf in blue and yellow, bearing a ridiculous conical hairstyle. Its eyes were outclassed in sharpness only by its teeth, and sparks kept flickering away from its paws and dying amidst the leaves. “He’s faster than you,” the hobo assured her. “You won’t shoot him before he has you.”

                          Felicity made a face, then span around and grabbed Sapphire by the neck, winding her arm around her throat and pressing the shotgun awkwardly against her head.

                          “Don’t worry,” she said into Sapphire’s ear, as she began to struggle. “Don’t try to get away, and do what I tell you, and you’ll be free in less than two minutes.”

                          Sapphire ought to have been afraid, but she wasn’t. She was furious. However, nothing could be done about her situation right now, and so she had no choice but to acquiesce.

                          The hobo regarded the situation with a calm face.

                          “What do you want?” he asked. At his heels, the Manectric growled, starting forwards at Felicity and her hostage, but its master grabbed the scruff of its neck and hauled it back.

                          “Just let me get out of this clearing,” Felicity said, backing away towards the pile of tree trunks that separated them from the trail. Sapphire stumbled awkwardly along with her. “It won’t take five seconds. See: one... two...” – she was carefully making her way around the logs now – “three... four...” – and now she was at the path’s edge – “five!”

                          She let go of Sapphire and ran, heading north. Sapphire immediately whirled, trying to grab her, but the other girl was fast, far faster than her, and she melted away beneath her fingers like mist on the breeze. Once Sapphire had missed that chance, she had no hope of catching up, and Felicity was soon lost to sight.

                          “Well,” said the hobo brightly, recalling his Manectric, “that was interesting. Do you two make a habit of this sort of thing?”

                          “Shut up,” replied Sapphire tiredly. “It’s half five in the morning, I almost got killed and Kester almost got stolen. I really don’t want to hear anything you have to say right now.” She headed back to the tent, recalling the Sableye as she did so, then paused in the act of entering it. “Actually, I do want an explanation about why you’ve got so many Pokémon when you’re a hobo, but that can wait. I want another two hours of sleep at least.”

                          With that, she crawled in and dropped the flap, zipping it shut to firmly seal off the world. She opened it again a second later and came out, dragged Kester in – she still couldn’t return him to the ball, not with the hobo around – and shut it again.

                          The hobo looked at the tent, then sat down on a nearby tree stump to ruminate.

                          “I wonder,” he said to himself, “if she noticed I saw how he knocked out that Carvanha.”


                          Well, I started out with nothin’ an’ I stiiiill gooot most of it left
                          , sang Puck loudly. This was singularly unwelcome, as I had a headache to rival the one left after that business that occurred last year.

                          “What the hell are you talking about?” I growled, then immediately wished I’d just whispered, or, better yet, just thought it.

                          I’m singing some blues, he said. You know, since we’ve got a hobo in the house.

                          “Shut up. My head hurts.”

                          That’s because you have a fractured skull, meatface.

                          This caused me to open my eyes in alarm. I could see blue-green canvas above me.


                          Only kidding. You’re fine. Bruised, but OK. No damage in here, as far as I can see. Which is probably why Sapphire didn’t use a Potion on you – I mean, you get through them as if you were Jason Voorhees and they were terrified teenagers.


                          Forget it. Puck sighed. I really have to start teaching you sometime, don’t I? Plus, I’ve got a whole bunch of movies you need to watch. Oh, and you need to train. That’d be a good idea. I’ll have you running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in no time. He started singing again. Gonna fly noooow... Flying high noooow...

                          “Puck, what is this?”

                          You don’t get it? Da-da-daaa... da-da-daaa... Ring any bells? No? Ah, forget it.

                          I did not deign to answer; I’d had more than enough of him for now. Instead, I sat up slowly, wincing and holding my head, and looked around. I was in the tent, next to Sapphire. She was still asleep, wrapped in her sleeping bag.

                          I checked my watch, and it told me that the time was half past eight. Ordinarily, this would be bad, but I didn’t have school today. In fact, that was one bonus to this whole ‘turned into Sapphire’s Pokémon’ thing – I didn’t have to go to school, and Sapphire, being, like me, a teenager, was not one to rise early.

                          “Puck,” I said, “why do I feel like I’m forgetting something?”

                          You might be referring to the fact that you got attacked by Team Aqua a couple of hours ago?

                          That was it. I remembered now. The big guy had punched me in the face. Which had, as I recalled, hurt. A lot. A hell of a lot, in fact.

                          “Oh yeah,” I said. “I wonder what happened next?”

                          So do I. I wish you stayed conscious more of the time. It’s really boring when I’m just stuck in your head with nothing to see. Although sometimes I do look at your memories and dreams.

                          “Hey! Don’t – don’t do that! It’s rude.”

                          So are some of the dreams. And a fair few of the memories, at that.

                          I had no adequate response to such an immediate and embarrassing comeback, and so left the tent in silence, squinting against the sun and clutching at my head.

                          “Morning, lad,” came a familiar voice, and my heart sank. I looked across the clearing and saw the hobo, sitting on a tree stump and looking like The Thinker.

                          That’s the kind of thing that annoys me, Puck said. You know what The Thinker is but you’ve never heard of Sherlock Holmes. How does that work?

                          “What happened after I got knocked out?” I asked the hobo. He told me, and I stood there for a while, not quite sure what to make of it all. “Well,” I said at length. “That’s certainly something.”

                          If by ‘something’ you mean ‘an improbable stroke of good luck that the Sableye managed to temporarily overcome his fear of the world and save you with Power Gem’, then yes, it is. Honestly. It’s not the hopelessly obvious plot device I object to. It’s just so – so very stupid.

                          “Yes, it is,” agreed the hobo, more simply.

                          I sat down amongst the leaves and wondered when Sapphire was going to get up.

                          Fifteen minutes later, she emerged from the tent, looking, all things considered, surprisingly good-tempered.

                          “Kester,” she said without any preamble, “how’s your face?”

                          “It hurts,” I admitted, “it hurts a lot.”

                          “Good, good,” she said vaguely. “Put the tent away, then I’ll give you something to eat.”

                          I stared at her wrathfully for a moment, then did as she told me. As I did so, I contemplated how her statement showed a new, more underhanded method of ordering me around; she was treating me as poorly as ever, only now she was bribing me as well. That might have been an improvement had not the bribe been the basic human necessity of food.

                          Some people, eh? Puck remarked. The cheek of it!

                          “You’re taking my side?” I murmured, as I wrapped the tent around its struts.

                          You’re in the right, he replied. You commented on my tendency to be fair a few days ago. Keep up.

                          I sighed and rammed Sapphire’s sleeping bag into her rucksack. I didn’t know how I’d fitted it all in, but it would do.

                          Sapphire threw me a cereal bar and a bottle of water; I caught the bar, but the water hit me in the shin.

                          “Thanks for that, Kester,” she said, with a wicked grin. I gave her a rude gesture and started eating.

                          “So,” said the hobo, after a moment or two, “what are you going to do with him?”

                          He pointed to the prone form of the Aqua giant, lying sprawled amidst the debris of the Sableye’s Power Gem.

                          “I don’t know,” Sapphire replied. “Leave him, I should think. If he wakes up and finds us nearby, he’ll probably kill us.” She shouldered her bag and took a bite of a cereal bar of her own. “Right. Eat while we move, Kester. I want to get to Mauville today.”

                          “I’m in no condition to move,” I grumbled, getting up slowly. “My head’s all broken.”

                          “It isn’t,” she replied, “and you’ve used up all the Po” – she glanced at the hobo – “all the medicinal stuff. I don’t have any to heal my Pokémon, either, so it looks like we might have to rely on yours to fend off any wild beasts.”

                          “Whatever,” I said, following her back to the road. “Let’s just go.”

                          We trudged down the road in silence for a while, and reached the bridge to the Mauville side of the water at about noon. It was made of stainless steel, and much like the back entrance to a dragon’s lair, in that it was wide enough for three to walk abreast. It was also much, much longer than I would have thought possible, and by the end of the first half-hour I was very tired of the sound of the soles of our shoes clacking against the metal. Thankfully, it took only ten more minutes to navigate, and from thereon we plunged back into the forest, following a winding northward trail. We encountered no more wild Pokémon, but at about four we did meet a strange girl sitting cross-legged in the middle of the path, playing cards with an Abra.

                          She was probably about fourteen or fifteen, with long dark hair that covered most of her face; she looked essentially like one of those creepy possessed girls you get in horror movies. She was also winning at cards, because the Abra didn’t seem to understand the concept of bluffing.

                          At our approach, she looked up.

                          “I knew you were coming,” she told us confidently. “I also know you’re going to battle me.”

                          “You’re wrong,” Sapphire replied. “My Pokémon have all fainted.”

                          One of you is going to battle me,” the strange girl said. “I foresaw it. I’m a Psychic.”

                          I glanced at Sapphire.

                          “Is she one of those Trainers who’ve been a Trainer too long and gone crazy?”

                          “Hey!” The so-called Psychic got to her feet. “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!”

                          Kester, shall we just beat her? Puck asked. It’d be really easy. One Astonish and it’s all over.

                          , I thought back.

                          “Sorry,” I said. “I forgot about... yeah, OK, I’ll battle you.”

                          “Kester!” hissed Sapphire, glaring.

                          “I’ll battle you,” I went on, “but you have to be aware that my Pokémon’s had a bit of an... accident.”

                          The Psychic looked confused.


                          Shame she can’t use her psychic powers to find out what that is, Puck snickered.

                          “He’s a Rotom, and he got stuck in my watch,” I told her, holding up my wrist. Obligingly, Puck made his eyes appear on its LCD display. “Is that OK?”

                          She shrugged.

                          “That’s fine. Let’s fight! Holly!”

                          The Abra – Holly – dropped its cards, vanished, and reappeared in front of her. It startled me; though I knew they could Teleport, I’d never actually seen it in action. The little creature sat with its legs and tail spread out for balance, resting peacefully.

                          Remember to call out the attacks as you do them, Puck said. To reinforce the illusion that I’m doing them, not you.

                          “Puck, use Astonish,” I said, and then did a pretty good job of using the move without moving my lips. I even shook my watch to make it seem like the sound was coming from there. Either way, it fooled the Psychic and made Holly fall over backwards, clutching at its bleeding ears.

                          It leaped back up, hovering in midair in a fighting stance not usually associated with its species, and raised one hand.

                          “That’s right,” the Psychic told it encouragingly, “Confusion.”

                          A mild headache struck me, but I’d had a worse one all day and I really didn’t care.

                          “Puck, same again.”

                          I repeated my little Astonish charade, and Holly’s ears fountained blood; it dropped to the ground and lay there, motionless.

                          “Holly is unable to battle,” the hobo said nonchalantly. “The winner is Puck, belonging to Kester.”

                          I looked at him in surprise. I’d forgotten he was still here.

                          “I foresaw your victory,” the Psychic said with a knowing nod, recalling her Pokémon.

                          “Sure,” I replied. “Can we get past now?”

                          “You don’t believe me, do you?” she asked, looking angry again.

                          “I didn’t say that—”

                          “You implied it,” she snapped. “Oh, I hate people like you!” She held out her Abra’s Poké Ball. “Look, I’ll prove it.”

                          She closed her eyes and held the ball with both hands; then, suddenly, she took both hands away. It would doubtless have been impressive if the ball had stayed floating in midair, but it fell to the ground instead.

                          “Wait!” she cried. “I can do it... I have psychokinetic powers...”

                          She tried again, and once more the ball fell to the floor.

                          “Kester, let’s go,” said Sapphire, and we began to walk away.

                          “Come back!” shouted the Psychic at our retreating forms. “Just give me a chance! I can do this!”

                          Sure you can, said Puck. Sure you can.

                          About half an hour later, we bumped into an old man, staring appreciatively up at the overpass.

                          “A road each for people and for Pokémon,” he said to us as we passed. “Perhaps that is right and fair.”

                          “Uh, whatever you say,” I replied, and walked on.

                          Three more hours passed. My feet weren’t aching any more than they had been this morning – they’d reached their maximum ache level sometime during the day before – but I was seriously tired now, and wanted to stop. Now.

                          “Sapphire,” I began, but she cut me off:

                          “I don’t want to hear it. No whining.”

                          Damn. She’s good.


                          It was a quarter to eight in the evening, around the time when the long summer sunset had reached its climax and was starting to wane, when Sapphire next spoke.


                          There it was: a red-orange roof, the outermost Pokémon Centre of Mauville City; one Centre was always placed at the ends of Trainer paths, so as to let them rest and recover. An incredulous smile broke onto my face.

                          “My God,” I said, “I actually made it.” I looked at Sapphire. “I made it!”

                          “Well done,” she said, in her most patronising tones. “Now think of all the ten-year-olds that have done that before you.”

                          “To be fair, lass,” the hobo put in with a laugh, “most of them don’t have such a hard time as he did.”

                          Sapphire gave him a hard look.

                          “You’re really well-spoken for a tramp,” she said suspiciously.

                          “I used to be someone special.” The hobo seemed disinclined to reveal any more, and so we continued our walk in silence.

                          As we drew closer to the Centre, I saw we were approaching a rear entrance, built right up against the trees. The overpass arced down to the east, connecting to Mauville’s ring road somewhere, and I realised with dismay that that meant we had another walk tomorrow, to get to the city proper.

                          “Do you have a Trainer Card?” Sapphire asked of the hobo.

                          “Yeah,” he replied with a nod. “Yeah, I do.”

                          Mentally, I groaned; that meant we couldn’t just dump him outside and be shot of him.

                          That guy helped save you from the Aquas, Puck said. Have a little gratitude, Kester.

                          Inside, the Centre was like any other, except the desk was to one side rather than at the back – a necessary feature, to accommodate the back door. I hung back, while Sapphire and the hobo asked the receptionist about rooms.

                          “May I see your Trainer Cards, please?” she asked, and received them; upon seeing the hobo’s, she gave a long, relieved sigh. “Thank God you’re back,” she said. Turning to Sapphire, she went on: “I’m so thankful you picked him up and brought him back.”

                          “What?” Sapphire looked confused; I came over to investigate.

                          “What’s going on?” I asked.

                          “Don’t you know?” the receptionist asked. “This is Mr. Wattson. Mauville’s Gym Leader.”


                          We stared at the hobo in a new light. If you cleaned the dirt off his face, tidied up his beard a little, and put him in a brown jumper instead of rags...

                          “Wahahahahaha!” he laughed, and I wondered why I hadn’t realised it before. Wattson was renowned for laughing – and that was exactly his signature laugh. “Thanks for bringing me home, kids!”

                          I can’t say I wasn’t expecting this, said Puck. It was pretty obvious. All that laughing, and those Electric-types.

                          “Why...?” I couldn’t quite say it; Sapphire did it for me.

                          “Why the hell would you dress up as a hobo and go out into the woods, then hitch a ride with us and annoy us all the way here?”

                          Wattson only laughed.

                          “I’ll call the Gym,” the receptionist said, searching for the number in an address-book. She leaned in towards us, and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper: “You see, in his old age, he’s... well, he’s not quite right in the head.”

                          “He’s senile,” clarified Sapphire, unimpressed.

                          “A... a little,” admitted the receptionist, starting to dial. “Every so often, he wanders off and pretends to be a hobo for a week or so. Someone always brings him back. In fact, there’s a reward for doing so.”

                          Wattson laughed loudly, and went to sit down on one of the sofas in the waiting area.

                          “Does he mind us talking about him like that?” I asked. The receptionist shook her head, and then exchanged words with someone at the Mauville Gym.

                          “Oh, hi, it’s Melanie here... yes, he’s here again... fifteen minutes? Thank you,” she said. “And there are two Trainers who brought him back... OK, one moment.” She cupped one hand over the receiver, and asked our names. “Kester Ruby, and Sapphire Birch,” she continued. “OK. OK. Buh-bye, then.” She put down the phone. “Go there tomorrow and ask for Shawn. He’ll direct you further.”

                          “What about Wattson?” I asked.

                          “They’re sending a taxi for him,” she explained. “Now, where were we? Oh yes, rooms. Can I see your Trainer Card, please?”

                          Oh. That’s bad.

                          “I... I’m not a Trainer,” I told her awkwardly. “I just travel with her.”

                          I indicated Sapphire.

                          Something flickered behind the receptionist’s eyes; I saw her put two and two together, and come up with five. Instinctively, I knew she had leaped to the wrong conclusion, though I didn’t know how wrong just yet.

                          “I see,” she said knowingly. “It’s like that, is it?”

                          “Er... what?” I said, at exactly the same time as Sapphire said:


                          The receptionist smiled.

                          “All right, all right, I get it. Well, since you brought Wattson back, I guess I’ll make an exception to the rules. Just this once.” She reached behind her and picked up a card key from the rack behind her. “Room 74,” she said. “Ninth on the left, third floor.”

                          We headed for the lifts, and to a night that was scarcely less fractious than the day had been.


                          South of Mauville, in a clearing in the forest, a fifteen-year-old girl called Jaclyn was talking to her Pokémon.

                          “Why is it that it works now?” she complained.

                          The Abra shrugged, and watched the Poké Ball floating in a cloud of purple light between its mistress’s hands.

                          Note: Yeah, another Trainer from the real games again. They're so much fun to abuse like this. Plus, Wattson is as crazy as he looks after all. I mean, he had plans to convert Mauville... into electricity?

                          For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                          Old February 24th, 2011 (5:52 AM). Edited February 24th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
                          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
                            My apologies, bobandbill; I clean forgot to reply to your review. Thank you for pointing out spacing errors; they have now been removed, along with the superfluous 'they'.

                            Without further ado...

                            Chapter Twenty-One: Styrofoam Peanuts

                            On a black-velvet-topped cabinet, next to a black-duveted bed in a black-painted room somewhere in a black-painted hotel in a dark, disreputable district of Slateport, Darren Goodwin’s phone was ringing.

                            “Hello?” he said, waking swiftly and answering it. Then: “You’re joking, right?” There was a pause, and then he said: “Fine. I’ll... I’ll get right on it.”

                            He hung up, swore softly and slipped out of bed. Once up, he donned suit, lab coat and green overcoat, and left the black-walled hotel as silently as a ghost. His contacts had informed him that his targets were no longer in Slateport.

                            Twenty minutes later, the Goodwin was speeding north in the first-class carriage of the 1.13 for Mauville.


                            “I can’t believe that woman,” fumed Sapphire, as we strode down the third-floor corridor at Mauville’s Pokémon Centre.

                            “What was she talking about?” I asked. It seemed to me to be a girl thing – or at least, I couldn’t see it.

                            It’s not a girl thing. You’re just a moron.

                            “She thought that you and I...” Sapphire looked physically ill, as if about to throw up. “That we were...”

                            I got it then, and had to confess that it was the most repugnant thing I’d heard in a long time.

                            “No!” I cried. “Surely not?”

                            “You’re an insensitive buffoon for not getting it,” Sapphire said, “but yes. That was it.”

                            Would it really be so bad to be Sapphire’s lover? Puck asked.

                            Are you insane? I thought back angrily.

                            You’ve been listening to me for days now. What do you think?

                            As he so often did, he had given me something I couldn’t think of an answer to, so I ignored him, and turned to the door of room 74 instead. Sapphire swiped the card key through the lock, and we went in.

                            The first thing that either of us noticed was the conspicuously large double bed in the centre of the room, but we both pointedly ignored it. Sapphire sat down on it and sighed.

                            “OK, Kester, the usual choice. Cupboard or ball?”

                            Go for the cupboard, Puck said.


                            Look at it. It’s a walk-in one, and it’s huge.

                            I glanced at it surreptitiously. It seemed I was in luck tonight.

                            “Cupboard,” I said.

                            “OK,” Sapphire said. “Not the big one, though. You can have the other one.”

                            She pointed to a different one, which was actually a credenza; it was long and low, and although I could have fitted in it, it would have been much like spending the night in a coffin.

                            “Can I ask why?”

                            “I need the big cupboard.”

                            “Why? Everything you have is in the bag, and we’re leaving tomorrow morning anyway.”

                            “Because I refuse to sleep in that bed.”

                            “I was psyched up to argue, but I can actually kind of understand that,” I said.

                            I can’t. It’s probably a human thing, isn’t it?

                            I think so
                            , I thought back.

                            Sapphire got up and went over to the door.

                            “Right,” she said, “come with me. Let’s see if they’re still serving food.”

                            They were – though they were about to close, and we ate quickly and under the irate gaze of a small crowd of disgruntled kitchen staff who wanted to throw us out and clear up. After that, Sapphire took Rono and Toro to the Centre’s doctors, and, leaving them in the care of a licensed Nurse Joy, came back up to the room, where she and I entered our respective cupboards, bade each other a curt goodnight and shut the doors.


                            The boy with jade eyes sat on the bench, and waited for the midnight bus to Lantzarine Street. Beside him, a brown-skinned Pokémon crouched on the wooden slats of the seat, armoured head lowered against the drizzle. On his other side, a plump man in a blue shirt and sunglasses was reading a newspaper.

                            “Scott,” said the boy, “where is this place, exactly?”

                            “Southeast,” replied the plump man. “Out to sea, on an artificial island. Why?”

                            “Just curious.”

                            The boy looked to his right, and caught a fistful of raindrops in one hand.

                            “When’s our flight?”

                            “Tomorrow, at twelve.”

                            “Cancel it and book a different one.”

                            Scott looked up from his paper, the lenses of his sunglasses flashing in the streetlight.


                            “There’s something here,” the boy said. “Something happening. I want to see it first.”

                            “What do you mean?”

                            “There’s someone here I have to fight.”

                            Despite Scott’s efforts to make him talk, that was all he would say; eventually, the man gave up, and went back to his paper.

                            The boy with jade eyes smiled to himself, and watched the rain splash into the puddles on the road.


                            At about ten o’clock the next morning, I rolled sleepily out of the credenza, fell a foot onto the floor and woke up with a jolt.

                            “Ugh,” I mumbled, staring at the carpet. “What was that?”

                            Then I remembered where I was, and got slowly to my feet.

                            Good morning, Dracula, said Puck brightly. How was your coffin?

                            “Shut up,” I said, heading to the bathroom. “You know I can’t take this first thing in the morning.”

                            Exhausted by the effort of this long sentence, I almost gave up halfway to the door; with a remarkable exertion of willpower, I dragged myself through, shut the door, and was immediately startled into full wakefulness by my reflection in the mirror.

                            Wow. Puck gave a low whistle. That eye looks nasty.

                            Yesterday, the area around my eye had been puffy, tender and bruised; today, the colours had deepened to a rich violet-black, shot through with red-yellow highlights. It actually hurt less, and the swelling had gone down a bit – but it looked incredible. I looked like I’d been set upon by a thug with a lead pipe.

                            That guy didn’t need a pipe, said Puck darkly. He was a living weapon in himself.

                            “Thanks for that,” I muttered, and started undressing.

                            After an extended and long-overdue shower, I emerged into the bedroom to find Sapphire up and considerably more awake than I had been. She had spread a map of Mauville out on the table, and was kneeling next to it with a pencil in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other.

                            “Where’d you get that?” I asked.

                            “I’ve already been to breakfast,” she replied. “And I brought some back with me.”

                            “Any for me?” I asked hopefully.

                            “Get your own. Not now!” she added, as I headed for the door. “First, come here and look at this.”

                            Sighing, I sat down next to her, and looked dutifully at the map.

                            “What am I meant to see?”

                            “The Spectroscopic Fancy Company HQ, right here.” She jabbed at a small spot on the map, on a road named ‘Zinfandel Avenue’. “That’s where we’re headed today. After going to the Gym, of course.”

                            “OK,” I said. “Can I have breakfast now?”

                            Sapphire glanced at the wall clock.

                            “You have fifteen minutes,” she said, and I left the room at a sprint.


                            Half an hour later, the bus from the Centre pulled up in Mauville Central Depot; public transport was a welcome luxury after so much walking, and both Sapphire and I had agreed we ought to take it rather than walk. Twenty minutes after that, we arrived at the Gym, which was a massive concrete structure that resembled the love child of an electrical substation and a disused factory: its walls were blank and grey, and several of the windows on its upper floors were broken and boarded up; a complex series of wires swooped from pylon to pylon around the roof and perimeter, and some sort of machinery connected to a pair of smokestacks projected from one corner. The whole thing was surrounded by a tall chain-link fence with signs hung from it at intervals; these proclaimed it to be electrified, and also had a small and unpleasantly detailed picture of someone in intense pain being electrocuted.

                            “Charming place,” I said, eyeing the signs with unease. “How do we get in?”

                            “Not sure,” Sapphire replied. “Wait. Is that a gate?”

                            It was, but it too was electrified, and locked anyway.

                            “Bang on the gate and call for help,” Sapphire ordered.

                            I stared at her as if she were insane.

                            “Are you crazy? No way!”

                            It won’t hurt. You can’t be electrocuted with me in you. I’ll absorb it all and draw power from it. Delicious power.

                            “Go on,” said Sapphire. “You’re an Electric-type. It won’t hurt.”

                            I took a deep breath, then grabbed hold of the fence and rattled it; to my intense relief, I felt nothing at all.

                            “Hey!” I called. “Is this place open?”

                            A door on the Gym’s façade swung open, and a tall, blonde man ambled out. A guitar hung from its strap around his neck, and his skinny chest was bare. He spotted us, and walked over slowly.

                            “Hey,” he said. “That’s pretty brave, touching the fence.”

                            “It didn’t hurt anyway,” I told him. “Can we come in?”

                            “Sure,” he replied. “You passed the test, after all.”

                            “What test?” Sapphire asked, as he fumbled with a ring of keys.

                            “The fence isn’t electric,” he answered, pulling out the right one and unlocking the gate. He hauled on it, and it creaked open with a whine of protest. “It’s just a test of courage.”

                            “A test of courage, eh?” I remarked, coming in. “That’s surprisingly clever for Wattson. From what I saw of him, he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.”

                            And he was looking kind of dumb, with a finger and a thumb in the shape of an ‘L’ on his forehead, added Puck. It was probably meant to be a joke, but as usual I didn’t get it.

                            The guitarist paused, then leaned close.

                            “Between you and me,” he said, “that’s just the spin we’re putting on it. Wattson’s been a bit crazy for years now, especially about hobos and electric fences. We’ve had to tell him we’ve electrified the border fence to keep him happy. There are real ones, though – but they’re not strong enough to kill you. You need to get past them if you’re here to challenge him.”

                            “Very interesting,” said Sapphire, “but we’re not here to challenge him. We’re here to speak to someone called Shawn about claiming the reward for returning him to Mauville.”

                            The guitarist grinned.

                            “Hey, that’d be me!” he exclaimed. “I’m the second-in-command here, which means I do everything and Wattson sits around laughing like a madman. You must be Sapphire and Kester, right?” We nodded. “Cool names,” Shawn went on, locking the gate and walking us over to the Gym. “Never come across them before. Which one of you is which?”

                            “I’m Sapphire, he’s Kester,” Sapphire told him.

                            “Coolio,” said Shawn. “Well, come on in.”

                            He flicked the strings of his guitar absently, and ushered us into a grim grey corridor that looked like it had been borrowed from a concentration camp; it terminated in a solid steel door with a tiny hatch in it, through which I got a glimpse of a massive hall painted a lurid shade of yellow.

                            “That’s the proper Gym area,” Shawn said, pointing at it, “but we’re going in here.”
                            We stopped at a different door, set into the side of the corridor, and passed through into a small, cramped office; it contained roughly half a forest’s worth of stacked paperwork and files, and buried somewhere in the middle of it all was a desk with a computer on it.

                            “Sorry about the mess,” Shawn apologised, “but with great Gyms come great responsibility, y’know?” He waded through papers over to the desk, opened a drawer and pulled out a little enamel badge, circular, with a projection on either side. “Catch!” He flipped it across the room, and Sapphire caught it in both hands.

                            “A Dynamo Badge?” she asked, genuinely shocked. “But... I can’t accept this! I haven’t beaten Wattson!”

                            Shawn shrugged.

                            “I’ve got some TMs if you want those instead,” he said. “Wattson usually gives them to people who win the tournaments, but we haven’t had one of those since he went mad. There’s some Shock Wave here, and a couple of Charge Beam. Want one?”

                            Take Charge Beam, Kester, Puck recommended. We learn Shock Wave naturally, but it’s a hard move to use right, and if you struggled with Double Team I don’t think you’ll get it right.

                            “Can I have a Charge Beam TM, please?” I asked, and a box flew through the air; I snatched it up one-handed, and put it in my pocket to look at later.

                            “Sapphire?” asked Shawn. “What do you want?”

                            Sapphire looked from the badge in her hand to Shawn, and then gave it back to him.

                            “I’m going to come back later,” she said, “and I’ll get that badge legally, thanks.”

                            The guitarist shrugged.

                            “Whatever you want.”

                            He showed us out, and waved a cheery goodbye as he locked the gates again.

                            “He was nice,” I commented as we started walking again. “Pretty normal, all things considered.”

                            “Yes,” agreed Sapphire. “Are you going to use that TM, then?”

                            I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at it. The label read: POWER: MEDIUM. MAY RAISE POWER OF USER’S SPECIAL ATTACKS UPON USE.

                            “It’s a good move,” Sapphire continued. “You made the right choice for once. The more you use it, the more powerful your special attacks become.”

                            “Special attacks...?”

                            Sapphire sighed and rolled her eyes.

                            “Physical attacks are... well physical in nature, like punching moves or hitting someone with rocks. Special attacks are non-physical, like psychic attacks or shooting thunderbolts. Left here, it’s only another five blocks to Spectroscopic Fancy.”

                            “How do you use a TM?” I asked as we crossed the road.

                            “We need to go to the Pokémon Centre to do that,” Sapphire said. “I don’t have a TM Case. You put the disc into a slot in the case, you see, and follow the on-screen instructions. Or you can do it via Pokémon Center PC, because those have TM disk drives.”

                            “Oh. OK.”

                            We walked on for a few minutes, watching the buildings gradually grow in height as we neared the city centre. Then:

                            “Sapphire, what are we doing when we get to this place?”

                            “We’re just going to ask when the SuperBlast Module gets there, and what it is,” she said.

                            “And they’re going to tell us? Just like that?”

                            “They might,” argued Sapphire. “It’s worth a try, isn’t it?”

                            “I suppose,” I said, but I wasn’t convinced.

                            The Spectroscopic Fancy building was one of approximately fifty nondescript grey towers that lined Zinfandel Avenue; tall, broad and inelegant, it looked like someone had built it before realising exactly what an eyesore they were making.

                            “Here we are,” Sapphire said, glancing up at its somewhat overbearing façade. “Let’s go.”

                            There were automatic doors, which was good since I preferred them to revolving ones, and once these were navigated I found myself in a large, white-floored room decorated with a large piece of twisted copper hanging from the ceiling. Doubtless this was modern art, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell if there was any merit in it.

                            I thought you had Taste lessons? said Puck.

                            Only until last year, I replied. We never got as far as modern art. That’s pretty advanced Taste.

                            You had to take it to A-Level, I presume?

                            I guessed A-Level was the British equivalent of our Upper Qualification.

                            I suppose.

                            “Hi,” said Sapphire brightly, striding up to the receptionist and smiling broadly at him. “Can I ask who I would speak to if I wanted to find out about a Y-38P SuperBlast Module?”

                            The receptionist sighed and uttered a long, drawn-out noise of exasperation.

                            “I keep telling you kids, it’s coming on Thursday, and we’ll deliver it on Friday. Now clear off.”

                            “Huh?” Sapphire and I stared at him, nonplussed.

                            “I’ve told you already,” he snapped. “Now get out!”

                            Mildly intimidated by the ferocious aspect of his face, we left the building, somewhat confused.

                            Well, that was unexpected, Puck said. Any explanations?

                            “Puck wants to know – and I would, too – if you have any idea what that was about,” I said to Sapphire.

                            “Well... obviously, several other kids have been asking about the Module,” she said. “Do you think that means that Felicity has been here?”

                            I shook my head.

                            “She left when she did, right? Besides, I’m sure she wouldn’t have asked without that gun to reinforce the point.”

                            “Fair point.”

                            I’d actually be more concerned about this delivery that’s taking place, Puck said. They said that after they received it, they’d deliver it. What does that mean?

                            I relayed his words to Sapphire, who nodded appreciatively.

                            “You’re right,” she said. “Who are Spectroscopic Fancy going to deliver it to? That’s what we want to find out.”

                            “How?” I asked.

                            “I don’t know,” she admitted grudgingly. “I can’t think of a way.”

                            “So we should just wait until Thursday, I guess,” I said. “Er, what day is it today?”

                            I’d lost track since coming with Sapphire; it just didn’t seem to matter much anymore.

                            “Sunday,” she replied. “Five days to go. Then we’ll turn up as it’s delivered, find out what it is, and stop the Teams from getting hold of it.”

                            “What do we do during those five days?” I asked.

                            Sapphire smiled.

                            “Remember what I told Shawn? That I’d be back to get the Badge legitimately?”

                            I raised an eyebrow.

                            “You’re going to take on Wattson?”

                            “I am a Trainer,” Sapphire said. “This is what Trainers do. I’m going to train at the Gym, and then challenge Wattson.”

                            “Fine, fine,” I replied. “Do I have to come?”

                            “No,” she answered. “You’re an Electric-type, you can’t really train effectively at an Electric Gym. Go and... I don’t know, amuse yourself somehow. Meet me back at the Gym at seven, OK?”

                            “Can I have some money?”

                            “Yes, but only if you promise to buy me some more Potions and stuff. Puck will know what to get, right?”

                            Yeah, you can trust me.

                            “He says yes, you can trust him.”

                            “Good. I’ll want status healers, too, but no balls. Hang on, I’ll need to get some money out.”

                            We found an ATM and soon the size of our available funds was larger by sixty thousand dollars. I wanted to get a glimpse of how much money Sapphire had in her bank account, but she moved in front of the screen so I couldn’t see. It was almost certainly some insane amount that I could only dream of.

                            Her dad’s the leading Pokémon researcher in Hoenn, Puck agreed, so she’s going to be ridiculously rich.

                            “OK,” said Sapphire, “see you later.”

                            With that, she vanished down the street, heading back for the Gym. I watched her go, then spoke to Puck.

                            “So, what do people do for fun in Mauville?”

                            We’ll start by buying the Potions, Puck said. They’re more expensive than you think – after you buy them, you won’t have nearly as much money left.

                            It felt good, walking down the street on my own with sixty thousand Pokédollars in my pocket; I felt free, as if there was no such person as Sapphire, and I was myself again, the old Kester Ruby of Rustboro rather than a weird, human-shaped Rotom in the thrall of a feisty travelling Trainer.

                            Look, a Pokémon Mart!

                            I looked as instructed, and found that Puck was right: there was the blue roof and rotating sign of the regulation Pokémon Mart, exactly the same size and shape as every other Mart in the country, and probably the world. There was a notice in the window, informing us that there were currently Eggs for sale, but that there was a limited stock, and it would be advisable to buy them now.

                            Let’s go, Kester, Puck said, and I’ll tell you what we need to get.

                            On the inside, the store was surprisingly large, stuffed to the brim with racks and shelves containing every conceivable aid to Pokémon keeping and training in existence; if I looked left, there were piles of magazines, from the famous Pokémon Weekly to the somewhat strange Rock Breeder Gazette; if I looked right, there were stacks of Potions of every colour and strength, along with a mass of items with abstruse functions unknown to me; above me, long strings of Poké Balls in various colours hung from the ceiling like bunches of onions; and in front of me, half-hidden behind a display exhorting the benefits of feeding your Pokémon Devo Flakes, was the clerk, sitting behind a glass counter full of yet more merchandise and reading a copy of Bug Maniac magazine. There were about five other people moving around the store, examining the extensive range of wares on offer.

                            When you’re done gawping, Puck said, go over there and pick up ten Potions, five Super Potions and two Full Restores.

                            I looked around for anything that resembled a Potion, found them in the next aisle and pondered how to pick ten up in one go; I went back to the front of the shop, got a shopping basket and swept them in.

                            “Which ones are Super Potions?” I said under my breath.

                            Red, with orange lids.

                            I put five of them in the basket and asked the same about Full Restores.

                            They’re the square green ones that look like they could fit into a mad scientist’s genetic engineering machine... yes, those ones. Two should do it. Right, now go over there, to that box, and get a packet of Revives. Yeah, a five-pack should do it. OK, look for round bottles with long nozzles now. Status healers.

                            On Puck’s recommendation, I got seven each of Parlyz Heal, Awakening, Antidote, Burn Heal and Ice Heal; the basket was now rather heavy, and I was beginning to wonder how much this was going to cost.

                            “Twenty-seven thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars, please*,” said the clerk, sounding bored.

                            I gaped, but Puck warned me not to comment.

                            Kester, don’t make a scene. It’s not that much money, really. And we got a discount on the Revives, for buying the packet.

                            Gloomily, I forked over the money, and received a weighty plastic bag for my troubles. I walked out of the shop to find it was starting to drizzle again, like it had been during the night; I also faced the realisation that I was going to have to carry this bag around all day. I had no idea how Trainers managed to do it.

                            Don’t complain, Puck told me, it’ll be all right.

                            “I’ve only got thirty thousand dollars left, it’s raining and I’ve got a very heavy bag to carry,” I said. “I don’t see how this is all right.”

                            In some countries, thirty thousand Pokédollars is a lot of money, Puck said mildly. You could have a really nice meal out in England with that. Y’know, if you converted it to pounds first. Your currency’s ridiculously strong, considering the decrepitude of the Hoennian economy. I mean, your inflation rate’s amazingly low, isn’t it?

                            “I don’t know. Ask an economist.”

                            I walked up the street in the rain, the handles of the carrier bag turning into wires and slicing through the palms of my hand in that unexpectedly agonising way that they do after the first five minutes.

                            Oh, Uxie’s eyes, said Puck suddenly. She’s here.

                            “Who’s here?” I asked, but I had already seen her by that time. It was Felicity, wearing the same strange outfit that she had been when I met her in Slateport, and she was coming towards me, working her way purposefully through the crowd. I swore and turned to get away, but she was already right behind me, grabbing my shoulder and stopping me dead.

                            “Relax, Kester,” she said, “I’m not working for the Aquas right now.” She turned me around to face her. “I’ve got today off,” she continued matter-of-factly, “because of the unexpected resistance you two and that hobo managed to put up. They’ve sent someone down to find Barry – that’s the big idiot – and told me to just keep an eye out for you.”

                            “What do you want?” I asked warily. I was ready to drop the bag, ThunderShock her and run if it came to it.

                            “Remember I said we needed to talk?” she asked. I nodded. “Now’s our chance. Come on. You’re buying me lunch.”

                            Felicity took hold of my hand to stop me running off and led me away down the street. It was all very sudden, and, disarmed by her apparent lack of hostility (and also by the fact that she was actually holding my hand) I did very little to stop her.

                            I hope you trust her, said Puck, bringing me back to reality with a jolt, because I think you just scored a date.

                            *Assuming the in-game Pokédollar is of an equivalent value to the Japanese yen, the Trainer supplies cost £202.80, or US$329.49. Huh. Seems being a Trainer is a rich kid’s game. Or maybe everything’s more expensive in Hoenn. Yeah, that’d make sense, because otherwise the economy and relative pricing is not going to work at all in this story.

                            For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                            Old February 24th, 2011 (8:00 AM).
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                            nokyo-chan nokyo-chan is offline
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                              Wow, this story is going really well. I noticed that you said something about how it only takes you an hour to fire out a chapter; apart from being extremely jealous of your awesome ability, I'm impressed - not many people can do that and achieve an extremely in-depth plot like you have here.

                              I noticed one mistake, and I think I called you out on it (for lack of a better phrase =/) earlier, but I wanted to point it out to you again just in case:

                              Felicity made a face, then span around and grabbed Sapphire by the neck,
                              The word you need here is "spun". "Span" means to measure.

                              And by the way, your references are hilarious, not to mention skillful. I mean, a Friday the 13th and a Rocky reference in two paragraphs? Only a pro could pull something like that off.

                              I've gathered several guesses as to what Pokémon our friend Felicity could have in her head, but rather than blurt them out all over the thread and look stupid if I happen to not have a single one right, I'll just wait (rather impatiently) for the story to reveal it.
                              Old February 24th, 2011 (10:08 AM).
                              Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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                                nokyo-chan, I think you're probably right when it comes to what Pokémon Felicity has in her head. It isn't that hard to guess. However, the interesting part is what's happening to it, and that's where the fun is. For me, anyway. Not, unfortunately, for poor Felicity.

                                Oh yes, and both 'spun' and 'span' are, in fact, acceptable preterite forms of the verb 'spin'. I kept meaning to look that up since the last time you mentioned it, and I finally did. So... yeah. That confusion's cleared up now.

                                And it's more like two hours per chapter, to be honest. It depends how deep into the writing zone I get, and how much I end up going back and changing. Also, being a touch-typist is extremely helpful.

                                For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                                Old February 24th, 2011 (2:49 PM).
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                                JX Valentine JX Valentine is offline
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                                  I've been eying this story for weeks to be honest, but I never really got a chance to do much more than skim up until this point. It might take me awhile to get through all twenty-one chapters (well, twenty besides the one I'm about to review), but I can assure you right now that I will definitely be back.

                                  Right off the bat, I can tell this is an awesome story. You have a pretty dynamic opening. The description is vivid enough to submerge us in a mental image right away, and something actually happens. As a reader, I actually want to know what this fuzzy ball of orange light is doing, who's chasing it (assuming of course that the Mightyena isn't wild), and why it's on the run.

                                  Then, you introduce us to the second main character, and you do it in probably the most amusing way I've ever seen. Why, yes, I would like to watch my characters talk to their biological clocks and subsequently slam into a parked car like the derp he probably is get screwed over by fate. But seriously, Kester comes off as a pretty ordinary kind of kid – the kind who wants to just wake up, go to school, go home, and sleep instead of aspire to do something else with his life. Of course, I'm making an assumption without giving the second chapter or beyond a good look-through, but what I'm trying to say is this character is refreshingly perfectly ordinary. Not a trainer. Doesn't want to be a trainer. Has no intention of jumping at the call of destiny. Or he seems like it at this point, given his understandable flipping out over Puck.

                                  And Puck. I always love Pokémon with sarcastic senses of humor, and Puck has that English dry wit about him. He's got a sense of pride about being a ghost, and although he's not outright making fun of Kester's every move, it's easy to tell Puck seems to be the smarter, wittier of the two – or at least he has a better handle on the situation on a practical level. In terms of adjusting to living in the brain of a human, not so much. (That is, I'm thoroughly enjoying how completely oblivious he is to the fact that Kester looks like he's talking to himself when addressing Puck and that this is considered all kinds of crazy in the human world.) Also? The entire scene where Kester wakes up after Puck screws around with his brain was kinda priceless.

                                  So, yes. Watching these two interact looks like it's going to make this story incredibly interesting. It already has for the first chapter. And might I add that the reactions they had towards each other was pretty well done? It's rather nice to see a character freaking out that much over the idea of sharing a body with a Pokémon. The scene in the hospital was rather amusing in itself, in part because Kester's thought processes seemed to have shut down, resulting in the closest Puck will probably ever get to quoting Pulp Fiction. (I'm pretty sure comparing Puck to Samuel L. Jackson makes me a terrible person who needs to stop watching YouTube while writing reviews.)

                                  In short, it was a pretty good read for a first chapter. It has a good balance of action and humor, combined with a plot that actually seems rather interesting. As a final note, I'd like to say I'm equally amused by how self-aware this seems to be. Looking at the PLOT Device in particular here. It almost feels like, thanks to that and the general tone of the story, that I'm looking at what will be a parade of subtle deconstructions – as in, something that's fully aware of any clichés it brings up but knows where to put that lampshade about them. With that in mind, I'll be back later to get through the other chapters.
                                  Professional ninja. May or may not actually be back. Here for the snark and banter at most.

                                  Need some light reading?
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                                  Old February 24th, 2011 (5:27 PM).
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                                  Ha, I quite liked the beginning scene of chapter 20 what with the Sableye finally doing something useful, and the hobo being all badass along with the use of Barrier as well (and then Barry breaking it, which amusingly happened in a fic of mine too only different person and move). I did at that point guess that the hobo was Wattson given the electric Pokemon he used so it was nice to see I was right about that. =)

                                  Sapphire... seems to be sinking ever so slowly towards being even more unlikable given her constant treatment of Kester - not that it's making her a bad character but she's certainly making Kester's complaints about her even more and more warrented by the chapter - one certainly feels for him, and perhaps Puck is as well, or so I feel. I wonder what will come about of the lunch he'll have with Felicity... as a beside I also liked the guitarist character - he had a neat personality and manner of speech even as a minor character, so I wonder if we'll see him again (maybe when/if Sapphire takes on Wattson...). And hurrah for a Rocky reference complete with music renditions, among others. XD

                                  I somehow feel Darren found out Kester and Sapphire weren't in Slateport anymore because they had 'returned' Watson, as a beside... It'll be interesting to see when he'll find them.

                                  That was when he leaped out onto Kester’s chest, and when his eyes began to glow.
                                  The spell of his appearance was broken; the air trembled around him like a heat haze, and, wary for real this time, Felicity and her partner backed away. The glow grew brighter and brighter, a burning red beacon that obscured entirely the little gremlin, and they turned to run—
                                  Needs a touch more (or less?) spacing imo between the first and second line.
                                  Sapphire immediately whirled, trying to grab her, but the other girl was fast, far faster even than her, and she melted away beneath her fingers like fairy gold at dawn, or mist on the breeze.
                                  This description actually felt a bit too wordy for my liking given the situation - it felt unnecessary and slowed down the pacing a bit too much given Sapphire had been held at gunpoint only a moment ago - at least I suggest removing one although to be honest either one still feels out of place for me. 'even' also sounds a bit unnecessary as without it it already tells us that Felicity is fast and faster than her.
                                  It was made of stainless steel, and much like the back entrance to a dragon’s lair, in that it was wide enough for three to walk abreast. It was also much, much longer than I would have thought possible,
                                  That phrase seemed to crop up a bit too often in those two sentences and hence sounded a bit too repetitive - maybe remove one in favour for something else?
                                  I repeated my little Astonish charade, and Holly’s ears fountained blood; it dropped to the ground and lay there, motionless.
                                  The fact the Abra's ears fountained blood seemed a little over-the-top to me from only two Astonishes (even if they are super effective against a rather frail Pokemon).
                                  “Come back!” shouted the Psychic at our retreating forms. “Just give me a chance! I can do this!”
                                  Given how convincing the Psychic had been to them (btw I was amused she got the trick working at the end of the chapter after they left), maybe having it as "...shouted the 'Psychic' at our..." might be an idea for very minor added amusement? A suggestion I suppose.
                                  About half an hour later, we bumped into an old man, staring appreciatively up at the overpass.

                                  “A road each for people and for Pokémon,” he said to us as we passed. “Perhaps that is right and fair.”

                                  “Uh, whatever you say,” I replied, and walked on.
                                  This inclusion of the NPC amused...however the manner in which he appeared and was left seemed far too abrupt to me, and made it feel like it had been somewhat tacked on - the chapter would feel better with it either removed or edited to flow in more with the story's progression (which'd only take a bit more addition imo).
                                  I can’t say I wasn’t expecting this, said Puck. It was pretty obvious. All that laughing, and those Electric-types.
                                  Take Charge Beam, Kester, Puck recommended.
                                  We’ll start by buying the Potions, Puck said. They’re more expensive than you think – after you buy them, you won’t have nearly as much money left.
                                  Some cases where the italicising wasn't done with Puck's speech (with the 2nd one it seems odd to me that 'Kester' wasn't italic'd).

                                  Keep it up, oh speedy updater. =p
                                  Old February 24th, 2011 (7:01 PM). Edited February 25th, 2011 by Miz en Scène.
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                                    And I’m back for more, as I said I would be.

                                    I’ve got to say that I’m really enjoying the story so far, and there’s really not much I could point out plot-wise which I would necessarily deem a serious flaw in logic or characterization. Maybe a few small bits and pieces I think would have been better another way, but nothing major.

                                    Firstly, and this, I must stress, is appraisal with slight critique sprinkled throughout, the entire scene with Natalie and how you handled her character and Kester’s handling of the situation was done well, but I couldn’t help but feel it to be a bit of an anti-climax. I’m sure you must have had something planned if she indeed had her eyes glued shut, but I’m standing by my previous statement that it would have been too entirely vicious, even for Sapphire. Anyway, the entire way she acted, all nice and such, felt just kind of…empty, anti-climactic as I’ve said, and I was surprised at how little conflict you had throughout the scene. In fact, it felt as though she was just an info-dump at how nice she was acting. I’m sure she would want to make up for punching him and all, but really, giving him all the information without some form of resistance, kind of like those naïve rich girls who let the spies in the house, was just overdoing it. But still, that’s my opinion and it was really unexpected. Maybe it was there to give a break to Kester, but still… empty.

                                    Besides that, the next few scenes were also quite entertaining, comedy asides (le gasp). The entire sequence of events from Rayquaza’s death to Sapphire’s mourning was done perfectly and I could really feel for her character you know? They way you portrayed her sobbing in bed silently to her sudden transition into a character with a thirst for vengeance was all too perfect, and exactly what I’d imagine a character like her to be doing. In short, you’re almost flawless in her characterization, save for her treatment of non-Pokémon characters I mean. I get that she’s mean, but she just seems a bit too anti-social. I attribute that to the fact that she rarely spends time around the normal people and she’s a bit of a deadpan snarker, always having to explain the oddities of a trainer’s life to Kester while experiencing it firsthand. It’s basically a dead-end for her, having to act as a rational mouthpiece for the author, and it’s a shame to see such a well-developed character being used solely for that. In fact, look at it this way because I have some form of proof. The two times when Sapphire was in a situation that was neither absurd, nor involved any form of exaggeration, her meeting with Steven and her moment of mourning, was when she was at her best, and were really my favourite parts, in terms of character, throughout the entire fic. Real character-defining moments if you catch my drift. So yes, sorry for sticking too much on Sapphire, but she really is my favourite character in this story despite only being a bit of a secondary protagonist, or in this case, foil.

                                    Anyway, I’m going to give credit where credit is due and say that everything besides that was handled hilariously, now that I’m focusing more on the comedic aspect. The entire Magma existential crisis to Barry’s awkward drunken episode was superbly funny. I’m quite partial to Barry’s drunkenness, and also Fabien getting a grip on the situation by saying “I am the main character,” in that self-help book tone was priceless. Quite possibly one of my favourite quotes besides the shotgun exchange from earlier. Also, the entire double-team episode had me figuratively in stitches. I’m glad that I do these reviews in the dark of night.

                                    Final note:
                                    Wasn’t there a Circle of Hell for cowards? Puck asked. The sixth one? Oh. Wait. That was heretics. Er, never mind.
                                    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.

                                    So yes, anyway, thanks for making my day. Truly.

                                    Looking forward to see how Kester's date turns out.
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                                    Old February 25th, 2011 (1:59 PM). Edited February 26th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
                                    Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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                                      Thank you all for your kind reviews. I have taken on board your criticisms, fixed several little things you pointed out, and, in response to your views on Sapphire, moved the important part concerning her forwards slightly in the story. Hopefully, it should come up in a few chapters, and we ought to see a positive improvement from then on.

                                      I'm now going to post today's chapter before I completely ruin the story for everyone.

                                      Chapter Twenty-two: Blintzkrieg

                                      Of all the bars in all the world, why’d you have to walk into a pancake restaurant? Puck complained. How are pancakes romantic? Come to think of it, how can you even have a restaurant based entirely around pancakes?

                                      Quiet, you, I thought back. Be a silent observer for once.

                                      Neither Felicity nor I had known any of Mauville’s eateries, and we had basically wandered around until stumbling across one that wasn’t too expensive and seemed nice. Blintzkrieg, despite the alarming name, was a light, airy café on a street corner; the day was a warm one, and it would have been nice to sit outside and eat, but the rain during the night had wet the chairs, and so we were forced to take up a table on the inside, near the window for the sun.

                                      “This is odd,” said Felicity. “I didn’t know restaurants like this existed.”

                                      “Yeah,” I agreed. “Weird. Well, it’ll be an experience, if nothing else.”

                                      That’s it, lure her in with small-talk, Puck whispered. With this sort of attitude, you’ll soon be mati—

                                      This is not a date! I hissed back furiously. Shut up!

                                      “Can I get you any drinks?” asked a rather smiley waitress, coming over with a notebook and pen.

                                      Felicity scanned the menu for a moment.

                                      “Green tea, please,” she said.

                                      “OK, one green tea” – here, the waitress made a scribble on her pad in the alphabet that only restaurant staff can read – “and for you, sir?”

                                      “Er, Coke please,” I replied.

                                      “OK. Are you ready to order or...?”

                                      “Can you give us a few more minutes?”

                                      “Certainly.” The waitress smiled broadly and left.

                                      By the many hands of Arceus, said Puck floridly, that was the most forced smile I’ve ever seen. Does she have drawing pins in her shoes or something?

                                      “What do you want?” I asked Felicity. I was trying hard not to stare at her, but it was proving difficult. She was a powerful eye-magnet, drawing my gaze with her damnable excess of beauty.

                                      You say this isn’t a date, Puck said, but your thoughts seem to suggest otherwise.

                                      Stop looking at those!

                                      If you don’t like me listening in, you should think quieter.

                                      “This is a pancake restaurant,” Felicity said, interrupting our silent quarrel, “so I think we should have the Blintzkrieg.”

                                      I looked at the menu. The Blintzkrieg was a platter of fifty-seven different types of pancake, and the dish from which the restaurant drew its name; it was available in sizes that two, four or eight could share, or, if you were greedy, there was a slightly smaller version of it for the lone diner. It was also the most expensive thing on the menu, at $15,000 for the two-person version.

                                      “Um... yeah, I suppose,” I said, attempting an enthusiastic tone.

                                      Oh, come on, Puck said. How gloomy do you sound? It’s not even your money. Besides, this is how a date works: you treat the girl. Or the sexless cloud of plasma that identifies as female, if you’re a Rotom, but it’s the same principle.

                                      “What was it you wanted to talk about?” I asked Felicity, putting down the menu and leaning on the table. I was trying to convey a businesslike attitude, but I got the distinct feeling I was failing. She opened her mouth to reply, but just then the waitress returned with our drinks; we ordered the Blintzkrieg, and she left to go and see about its creation.

                                      “I – I’m not sure where to start,” Felicity said, once she’d gone. A faintly puzzled expression flitted across her face. I remember noticing at that point that she still hadn’t removed her ever-present grey earpiece; in fact, I could, if I listened hard, hear a faint, fast-paced drumbeat coming from it. “Let me think a moment...” She took a draught of her tea, and I noticed her hands were shaking slightly.

                                      She’s afraid, said Puck, suddenly serious. Someone will find out and punish her for this, or at least she fears so. Not the Aquas; she’s clearly not just an Aqua girl. Something’s up here, Kester, and believe me, it’s bigger than any Y-38P SuperBlast Module.

                                      “Um... There’s a man,” Felicity began.

                                      “Go on,” I encouraged.

                                      “Please don’t interrupt.”


                                      “Just stop talking.” Felicity took off her sunglasses, and I flinched slightly. She looked ill – beautiful, but very, very ill. The whites of her eyes were severely jaundiced, and her eyes themselves were a shade of blue that didn’t look natural. Dark circles ringed each eye, but they weren’t the bags of tiredness you might ordinarily see; they were actual bands of discoloured purplish flesh.

                                      “Oh my God,” I whispered, putting one hand to my mouth. “Um – sorry.” I took it away again hurriedly.

                                      “It’s all right,” Felicity replied. “I know it’s horrible.”

                                      “But... how did this happen?” I asked. “You looked fine when you, er, tried to kill us at Birch’s lab.”

                                      Felicity looked faintly sheepish, and the surreality of the situation hit home: here I was, having lunch with a girl who less than a week ago had attempted to kill me, and who had tried to kidnap me yesterday.

                                      “That’s true,” she said. “Like I said, there’s a man. I don’t know his name, but he calls himself Zero.”

                                      Zero? Anyone else smell melodrama?

                                      “Zero?” I asked.

                                      “Yes. Zero. He... actually, I don’t know what he’s trying to do.” Felicity looked frustrated. “But he has some plan laid out, something that involves both Team Aqua and Team Magma, and you as well.”

                                      “Me?” I indicated myself in the way you do when people unexpectedly mention you, just in case they’re mistaken.

                                      “Yes, you.” Felicity’s words were spilling quickly out of her mouth now, uncontrollably; it was as if some dam within her had burst, and there was no stopping the wave that followed. “I don’t know how, but I know that somehow he organised the insertion of that Rotom into your head. I know that Zero has planned this out in more detail than you could ever imagine – and that everything he plans happens exactly as he intended it. It’s like chess, where the grandmasters can think several moves ahead. He’s doing the same thing, only with real life. Whatever he’s trying to do, he’s incredibly good at it. I’m his mole within Team Aqua, and I’m certain you were meant to go to Team Magma. That was the only mistake he made. Somehow, you ended up on your own.”

                                      “Wait, slow down,” I said, head starting to spin. “This is all his fault? All of this conflict over the goods and everything?”

                                      “Yes. All of it,” confirmed Felicity.

                                      Whew. This is too heavy for a first date. Maybe you ought to save this for another time.

                                      Puck, shut up!

                                      “Zero is setting the Magmas and the Aquas against each other,” Felicity continued. “I know that much. But I don’t know why, or exactly how he’s manipulating the Magmas right now.”

                                      “And this guy planned to put Puck in my head?” Whoever this Zero was, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. The Rotom had been the catalyst for the whole series of unfortunate events that had consumed my life over the last week.

                                      It’s six days, actually, Puck corrected, sounding offended, and these events aren’t that unfortunate, really. We could be orphans being pursued by an evil acting troupe. Now that would lead to a series of unfortunate events.

                                      “Yes,” Felicity replied. “He planned all of this. The only thing that he got wrong was that Team Magma failed to capture you. But his plan has recovered, and I don’t think he needs you with him.”

                                      “Why are you telling me this?” I asked abruptly. “You’re working with him, aren’t you?”

                                      Felicity pointed to her eyes.

                                      “I’m working for him,” she told me. “Not with him. I have no choice.”

                                      “He did that?”

                                      “He... poisoned me,” Felicity said hesitantly. Her yellow eyes were shiny, as if she were on the verge of tears. “I’ll die unless he chooses to heal me,” she said, and the words sounded like they were forced through one of those lumps of clotted emotion that sometimes congests the throat. “He said he would – he said he would do that if I helped him.”

                                      I stared, not knowing what to say. Team Magma, Team Aqua, Sapphire, Devon; I’d sampled many flavours of evil over the last week, but nothing to rival this one. I couldn’t quite grasp that this was real life; it felt like a scene from a film, or a play. This did not really happen – it could not really happen. People like Zero, who enslaved people and took their own lives hostage, just couldn’t exist.

                                      A tear traced a silver line down Felicity’s cheek.

                                      Kester, said Puck despairingly. There’s something seriously wrong with your dating technique if you make the girl cry.

                                      Can’t you ever be serious? I thought angrily, at the same time as asking Felicity the question that only idiots ask of those who need consolation: “Are you all right?”

                                      “Fine,” she said hurriedly, wiping it away and forcing her voice back to normal. “I’m fine.” She glanced over one shoulder, saw the waitress returning and put her sunglasses back on.

                                      The Blintzkrieg was truly vast. When the waitress put it down, she gave a sigh of relief, and I swear the table groaned slightly beneath its weight. Fifty-seven types of pancake is a lot however you look at it, and when they’re all on one plate it’s the sort of sight that makes your jaw drop and your brain explode.

                                      That is a lot of pancake, Puck said in tones of awe. How very fattening, and how singularly unromantic. Mind you, I hate human food anyway. Give me a nice car battery to suck on, that’s what I say.

                                      “Wow,” said Felicity, staring at the plate. “I... fifty-seven pancakes is a lot more than I thought.” She smiled self-consciously, admitting her mistake in ordering it, and I tried and failed not to laugh; soon, she was laughing too, and it almost seemed like a date after all.

                                      How very romantic comedy, Puck yawned. Please stop it. I’m more of a Tarantino man myself. He chuckled. Hey, you know what they’d call this dish of pancakes in Holland? A Royale dish of pancakes.

                                      Our good humours restored, we made as much of an inroad into the Blintzkrieg as we could. I recall sampling jeon, pannekoeken, laobing, galettes, funkaso, okonomiyaki, bannocks and, of course, blintzes, amongst many others that I can no longer remember; it took us nearly two hours to work through the lot, with frequent breaks to recover, but I enjoyed it. Just five minutes into the feast I decided that, when she wasn’t trying to kill or kidnap me, Felicity was a very nice person to be around. And she was beautiful, which was a bonus.

                                      Actually, I don’t think she’s especially nice. It’s probably got more to do with the fact that everyone else is horrible to you. But still, if you’re looking for a potential mate, then there’s no doubt—

                                      I refused to listen to any more, and plunged into a chapatti instead.

                                      While we tackled the Blintzkrieg, our conversation veered away from Zero, and moved instead to more mundane things. I ended up telling Felicity all about myself and my life before Puck; however, as I would realise later, she in fact told me nothing about herself. Whether this was intentional or whether I just talked a lot I don’t know, but knowing what I do now, it’s hard to imagine that she would have revealed her identity then without a fight.

                                      When at last the plate was cleared, and the Blintzkrieg no more than a fond and rather fattening memory, Felicity and I sat back and resumed the topic – reluctantly, because we were enjoying ourselves – of Zero and his mysterious plan.

                                      “What else do you know about this Zero guy?” I asked. “Would he be able to get Puck out of my head?”

                                      Am I ruining your date that much?

                                      “I think so,” Felicity replied. “He can do anything he wants. But he wouldn’t do it, though. Not unless you agreed to work for him.”

                                      I grimaced.

                                      “I’d rather not.”

                                      Felicity shook her head.

                                      “You definitely wouldn’t. Kester, I told you all of this because you have a right to know – you’ve been screwed over by Zero almost as much as I have. I didn’t tell you because I wanted you to go after him. That would get you killed.”

                                      “That’s it? You told me all of this just because I have a ‘right to know’?” I felt oddly cheated, though I couldn’t say exactly why. “You must expect me to do something, surely?”

                                      Felicity took off her sunglasses and looked at me for a long moment.

                                      “I expect you to be careful,” she said at last. “You have a deal with Sapphire Birch, didn’t you say? To help her find out the secret of those goods?” When I nodded, she continued. “When that deal ends, ditch her, or she’s going to end up dead. This mess isn’t going to end then – the Devon goods must be the tip of the iceberg; there’s got to be more to Zero’s plan than just them. Once you’ve done that, come and find me.”

                                      “Why?” My heart rate had suddenly soared; I knew what she wanted me to do, and it sounded even more dangerous than what I was currently doing with Sapphire.

                                      “Because Zero has to be stopped,” she said simply, “and I can’t do it on my own.”

                                      I could see how much it hurt her to have to ask for help; there was a strange sort of pain in her eyes that I hadn’t seen anywhere before, and I somehow knew instinctively what it meant. It was the easiest decision I had ever made.

                                      “When this is over,” I said, “I’m going home. Zero’s not my problem.”

                                      Felicity stared at me in mingled shock and horror.

                                      “No,” she said, shaking her head, “no, you can’t – you can’t do that!” She slammed one fist hard into the table, making the remainder of her tea leap out of its cup and plunging the restaurant into silence. She looked around at the staring faces, then stood up sharply. “You’ll come to see it eventually,” she said in a low, cold voice. In her anger, her foreign accent came through stronger than ever. “He is your problem. If you think going home will solve anything, you’re a fool. I always thought you were, but I gave you a chance today. I guess I was right after all.”

                                      With that, Felicity stormed out, and I became aware that every pair of eyes in the room was staring at me. I sighed deeply, and asked for the bill.

                                      Well, Puck said. You sure do know how to make a lady feel special, Kester.


                                      Darren Goodwin sat on a bench and stared at the wet grass. What, he wondered, was he supposed to do now?

                                      He had made enquiries at all of the central Mauville Pokémon Centres – the ones you would stay in if you wanted to be within spitting distance of the Spectroscopic Fancy Company building, where he presumed the kids would go – but had found no trace of his quarry. He had even made enquiries at the Spectroscopic Fancy building itself, but the receptionist had just told him that lots of kids had been in to ask about the SuperBlast Module, and he couldn’t be expected to remember them all. Dispirited, he had retired to an inner-city park that seemed to have taken a heavier load of rain than the rest of the city last night, and sat down to ponder his next move.

                                      Beside him, the Raiders bobbed and swayed, swapping positions in their everlasting magnetic dance; one of them suddenly span around in circles and, in collaboration with its companions, emitted that indescribable electronic sound again. Darren looked up sharply, and saw a flash of blue and white moving swiftly down the street on the other side of the park’s border fence. It took a moment for him to recognise her out of uniform, but then he got it: it was the Aqua girl with the freakish powers.

                                      There was as good a start as any, he reasoned, and he leaped up to cross the grass, vaulting the iron railings and running up the wet pavement to catch her.

                                      “Hey!” he cried, when he was a few steps behind her. “You!”

                                      She turned, and though he could not see her eyes behind her blue Aqua glasses, the Goodwin thought he detected a hint of fear. He reached out to grab her, but she suddenly put on a burst of speed, and glided away as if on wheels.

                                      Darren frowned, slowed and stopped, watching her vanish around a corner and knowing he couldn’t catch her. How did she do that? How could she move so fast, and how had she come back to kill him mere seconds after being shot and bludgeoned in the head?

                                      He sighed, frustrated, and rammed his hands deep into his pockets.

                                      “There’s something I’m not seeing here, Raiders,” he said aloud. “What is it?”

                                      The Raiders made no reply, merely spinning around a little instead. Darren sighed again, and wished he was at home.

                                      “Come on,” he said. “I need a coffee.”

                                      Off they went, man and Pokémon, down the street at a disconsolate trudge.


                                      She’s late.

                                      “I didn’t expect her to be on time.”

                                      Half an hour late?

                                      It was half past seven, and I was shivering in the cool twilight air outside the Gym’s locked gate.

                                      “She did say seven, right? Not half-seven?”

                                      I know what she said, and she said she would meet us at seven.

                                      “Do you think something’s happened to her?”

                                      Like getting killed in a Training accident? That would be inconvenient – she’s still got our Master Ball.

                                      “How nice you are.”

                                      Yeah, I’m just the best.

                                      Since I had no idea whether that was self-deprecating irony or not, I struggled to come up with a response; thankfully, I was spared the effort by the sudden appearance of Sapphire and Shawn the guitarist on the other side of the gate.

                                      “Hey,” I said. “You’re late.”

                                      “It took longer than I thought,” Sapphire replied as Shawn unlocked the gate. “It’s good, though. I haven’t really done proper Gym training before.” The gate swung shut behind her and she waved goodbye to Shawn. “Most of the people there are much stronger than me, but I’ve managed to raise Toro to about Level 17, and Rono to three levels higher than that.”

                                      Good going
                                      , said Puck approvingly. I like it. It’ll take strategy more than levels to beat Wattson, though. Even if he’s a lunatic, he’s going to be a wily old customer.

                                      We started to walk, Sapphire leading.

                                      “Where are we going?” I asked.

                                      “The nearest Pokémon Centre,” she replied. “What did you do today?”

                                      Somewhat surprised that she was taking an interest, I had to think about what I would say in reply. I had already decided not to tell her about my meeting with Felicity; it didn’t have to concern her, after all. We would go our separate ways after finding out about the Module.

                                      “Um... nothing much. Just wandered around, got some lunch, bought all of your Trainer stuff.” I held up the bag.

                                      “Oh, thanks. Shall I carry that?” I handed it over before she changed her mind, but gave her a strange look. She seemed far too happy and nice to be the real Sapphire, and briefly I wondered if the pod people had landed.

                                      They make emotionless clones, not happy ones, Puck pointed out.

                                      Oh yeah.

                                      “Why’re you so nice?” I asked suspiciously. “What’s going on?”

                                      “I’m just... happy,” she replied sunnily, smiling and swinging the plastic bag around with such wild abandon that she almost broke my leg. “I’ve had so much fun. And done so much.”

                                      I give this mood... four hours to evaporate, Puck estimated. Or until something happens to irritate her.

                                      “Hey!” cried a voice from behind us, accompanied by the sound of rapid footsteps on tarmac. “You two!”

                                      We turned to see a young man, probably my age or a little older, running down the pavement towards us. The first thing that struck me about him was that he didn’t seem real; he looked almost like a lonely artist’s drawing of a vampire, with longish black hair, pale skin and impossibly vivid green eyes. He was dressed in slim black jeans and a black jacket, giving further weight to his hailing from the ranks of the undead, and his black sneakers had a logo with a star and English words on them. I raised my eyebrows; he had to be either ridiculously widely-travelled or foreign.

                                      “You two,” he repeated, stopping a few feet away and leaning on his knees while he got his breath back. “You’re Trainers?”

                                      “I am,” Sapphire said. “Why?”

                                      “There’s something different about you,” he said. “Unless I got the wrong person... no, I’m sure I’m right.”

                                      “What do you want?” Sapphire asked, ready to leave. The stranger straightened up, and I was surprised to see he was only as tall as Sapphire. I had been under the impression that vampires were taller than normal people.

                                      He may not actually be a vampire
                                      , cautioned Puck. I’d be careful before I go around accusing people of being soulless haemivorous corpses. Mind you, that’s quite similar to being a Ghost, and that can only be a good thing. Still a bit fleshy for my liking, but...

                                      I tuned his ramble out and returned my attention to the conversation.

                                      “A battle?” Sapphire was saying. “Now?”

                                      “Yes,” the man in black replied. “I mean, I know I’ll win, but there’s something odd about you two.”

                                      “Like what?”

                                      “I don’t know,” the stranger said. “But I want to battle you.” He brushed a hunk of hair from his right eye so as to be able to give us an earnest look, but it flopped back again straight away. “Please?”

                                      “Sorry, no,” Sapphire said. “We don’t have time. Do we?” She looked at me pointedly.

                                      “Er, no,” I said hurriedly. “We’re... really busy.”

                                      We turned and walked away, but the man in black caught up and grabbed Sapphire’s arm.

                                      “Wait,” he said. “Come on. It won’t take a moment.”

                                      “I said no,” snapped Sapphire, rounding on him, “and I meant no. Now get lost!”

                                      His strange eyes flashed with something dangerous that I had never seen in human eyes before, and the stranger turned on his heel, stalking away without another world.

                                      “What was that about?” I wondered. “He was really weird.”

                                      “I don’t know. A crazy guy. Doesn’t matter.” Sapphire’s good mood didn’t seem to have sustained any lasting damage from the man in black’s intrusion, and the remainder of our walk to the Pokémon Centre was, oddly enough, quite pleasant.


                                      “They wouldn’t fight me,” the boy with jade eyes said, looking out of the aeroplane window. “Can you believe it, Scott? Trainers who wouldn’t fight?”

                                      Scott agreed that it was indeed unusual.

                                      “There was definitely something odd about them,” the boy went on darkly. “I’m willing to bet that if you meet up with them, you’ll want them for the competition.”

                                      Now Scott was interested.

                                      “Oh yes? They’re good, are they?”

                                      The boy with jade eyes threw up his hands.

                                      “I don’t know. They’re different, or one of them is at least. I didn’t get to fight them.”

                                      “So you don’t know if they’d be good for the contest or not?”

                                      “Trust me, Scott.” The jade eyes whirled away from the window and locked onto Scott’s sunglasses. They seemed to burn through the black plastic and deep into the skull behind, like a pair of green blowtorches. “They’d be good.”

                                      “W-well, they’re gone now,” Scott said, flinching away from the sizzling impact of his look. “We’ll probably never see them again.”

                                      “No,” replied the boy, returning his attention to the clouds again. “No, we’ll cross paths again. I’m not sure when, but I know we will.”

                                      Scott restrained himself from asking how the boy with jade eyes knew all the things that he did, and went back to the in-flight movie with a sigh. The kid was good, but he’d be glad to get away from him when they got there.

                                      For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
                                      Old February 25th, 2011 (7:20 PM). Edited May 26th, 2012 by Miz en Scène.
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                                      Miz en Scène Miz en Scène is offline
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                                        This’ll probably be my shortest review since this chapter didn’t have much in terms of mistakes nor content and I was primarily concerned with how Kester’s date went. In any case, your update schedule is amazing, and I’m going to reiterate bobandbill here by saying, “Are these pre-written or do you actually write these on the spot?” If you do in fact write your chapters daily, I am in awe. Most of us struggle with a chapter a fortnight, let alone a day.

                                        To begin with the review proper, the pancake house scene is the furthest place, I think, that Kester’s going to get with realising his Felicity fantasies, unless of course something unexpected happens further down in the story. As a whole, the scene was enjoyable. Not much in terms of humour but wholly enjoyable nonetheless because here you’re just having two teenagers having breakfast for tea, in what you could call a perfectly normal situation, quite a refresher from the past few day of mayhem. It’s also quite the reveal for Felicity because, here, the reader’s not seeing her as the single-minded, mission-obsessed antagonist. She’s really more of one forced into cooperation, but I digress.

                                        Also, slight nitpick here but:
                                        I refused to listen to any more, and plunged into a chapatti instead.
                                        Chapati is a pancake now is it? Not where I'm from. It's more a bread, really. And I can assure you, it's as much a pancake as tea is coffee. That is to say, slight relation with subtle differences.

                                        Anyway, quite a few amusing bits here and there but nothing noteworthy. Overall, a good chapter in terms of pushing the plot ahead. I’m sorry for the lack of a review, but I didn’t really have much to touch on beyond that. Not much even on Sapphire which I haven’t already said. So yes, I will be eagerly awaiting the next release. Also, I hope that these frequent updates won’t end with half-term…
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                                        Old February 25th, 2011 (9:25 PM).
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                                        icomeanon6 icomeanon6 is online now
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                                          I've just read the first two chapters, and I'm most impressed. It's been a while since I've read a Pokemon fic that felt this original, which is odd because many of the individual aspects of the story are so conventional. The stranger inhabiting the main character's body is nothing new, the whole deal with Magma/Aqua and the Devon Goods are straight out of the game, and the idea of a human having a Pokemon's power has also been done. Make the stranger a Rotom and put it all together, though, and you have gold.

                                          The first thing that really caught my attention was the way the narrative was split apart at the beginning of the first chapter, and the threads gradually got closer together until Puck actually enters Kester's body and the threads converged. Very clever use of structure. It feels like a collision both because of what's actually happening and how you lay it out.

                                          Character-wise, I'm seeing some really good signs. Kester and Puck have good chemistry, and most importantly their interactions are funny. I also like Kester's mom, even if the whole checking to see if the kid is alright and then grounding him routine is a little cliched. The best touch in terms of character, though, is undoubtedly Puck's English nationality. People often forget that the Pokemon world's geography and history at large is mostly like ours, and it makes more opportunity for humor.

                                          If there's one thing that I thought was a little out of place, though, it was the name of the "P-L.O.T. Device." Judging by its name, I'm going to guess that it has some importance later, but when I first read it I thought it seemed closer to straight-up parody, which I didn't think you were going for. Not a big issue, and probably something you can't change now, but I felt I had to say it.

                                          It seems I have a lot of catching up to do, and I'm looking forward to it!
                                          Old February 26th, 2011 (12:07 AM).
                                          Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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                                            Originally Posted by Mizan de la Plume Kuro View Post

                                            This’ll probably be my shortest review since this chapter didn’t have much in terms of mistakes nor content and I was primarily concerned with how Kester’s date went. In any case, your update schedule is amazing, and I’m going to reiterate bobandbill here by saying, “Are these pre-written or do you actually write these on the spot?” If you do in fact write your chapters daily, I am in awe. Most of us struggle with a chapter a fortnight, let alone a day.

                                            To begin with the review proper, the pancake house scene is the furthest place, I think, that Kester’s going to get with realising his Felicity fantasies, unless of course something unexpected happens further down in the story. As a whole, the scene was enjoyable. Not much in terms of humour but wholly enjoyable nonetheless because here you’re just having two teenagers having breakfast for tea, in what you could call a perfectly normal situation, quite a refresher from the past few day of mayhem. It’s also quite the reveal for Felicity because, here, the reader’s not seeing her as the single-minded, mission-obsessed antagonist. She’s really more of one forced into cooperation, but I digress.

                                            Also, slight nitpick here but:
                                            Chapati is a pancake now is it? Not where I'm from. It's more a bread, really. I may not be Indian, but Malaysia's a mix of races besides Malay, so Chapati's pretty common. And I can assure you, it's as much a pancake as tea is coffee. That is to say, slight relation with subtle differences.

                                            Anyway, quite a few amusing bits here and there but nothing noteworthy. Overall, a good chapter in terms of pushing the plot ahead. I’m sorry for the lack of a review, but I didn’t really have much to touch on beyond that. Not much even on Sapphire which I haven’t already said. So yes, I will be eagerly awaiting the next release. Also, I hope that these frequent updates won’t end with half-term…
                                            I know chapatis aren't technically a pancake; I come from an Indian family on one side, after all. However, I was struggling for different types of pancake by then, as I'm sure you can tell by the dubious pancakeosity of some of the things on that list. And besides, I figured a pancake restaurant in Hoenn, of all places, probably wouldn't know the difference. I did at least leave out roti and parata.

                                            If you can think of any other kinds of pancake that I can replace it with, I'm more than happy to alter it - but my pancake well is dry, I'm afraid.

                                            As for the updates ending with half-term... well, my half-term ended last Sunday evening, so unless someone else has been writing these, my updates aren't going to slow until I need to kick-start some AS revision.

                                            And yes, to repeat myself: I write each chapter in the space of a day or two. Collecting up all the scattered few minutes I spend writing probably adds up to a couple of hours or so. Being a touch-typist helps, as does a lot of experience in writing a lot of text ridiculously fast.

                                            Originally Posted by icomeanon6 View Post
                                            I've just read the first two chapters, and I'm most impressed. It's been a while since I've read a Pokemon fic that felt this original, which is odd because many of the individual aspects of the story are so conventional. The stranger inhabiting the main character's body is nothing new, the whole deal with Magma/Aqua and the Devon Goods are straight out of the game, and the idea of a human having a Pokemon's power has also been done. Make the stranger a Rotom and put it all together, though, and you have gold.

                                            The first thing that really caught my attention was the way the narrative was split apart at the beginning of the first chapter, and the threads gradually got closer together until Puck actually enters Kester's body and the threads converged. Very clever use of structure. It feels like a collision both because of what's actually happening and how you lay it out.

                                            Character-wise, I'm seeing some really good signs. Kester and Puck have good chemistry, and most importantly their interactions are funny. I also like Kester's mom, even if the whole checking to see if the kid is alright and then grounding him routine is a little cliched. The best touch in terms of character, though, is undoubtedly Puck's English nationality. People often forget that the Pokemon world's geography and history at large is mostly like ours, and it makes more opportunity for humor.

                                            If there's one thing that I thought was a little out of place, though, it was the name of the "P-L.O.T. Device." Judging by its name, I'm going to guess that it has some importance later, but when I first read it I thought it seemed closer to straight-up parody, which I didn't think you were going for. Not a big issue, and probably something you can't change now, but I felt I had to say it.

                                            It seems I have a lot of catching up to do, and I'm looking forward to it!
                                            Thank you for the review. The P-L.O.T. Device has no significance further on; it's just a small joke. I don't think it's out of place, considering the number of times Puck breaks the fourth wall, or the number of references that are dropped in.

                                            Oh yes, and I'm aware that the clichéd parts of this story are clichéd. I just use them anyway, either because they're funny in themselves, or because they're funny because they're clichéd. They're just a different-shaped brick in my Lego model of narrative.

                                            Wait. That was a stupid analogy. Forget that. I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

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

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