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Old June 9th, 2011 (1:02 AM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Fixed the errors you pointed out. Thank you very much for your continued reading.

Oh, and Silent Memento, I think things might get a little more exciting now that the fight isn't so one-sided.

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

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Old June 12th, 2011 (12:51 PM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Sorry for the delay; I've been distracted recently by a spate of illustration work - and commissions, unlike these chapters, have deadlines.

Chapter Fifty-Five: The Men Who Stare at Clouds

Darren Goodwin. Last seen fleeing from the druids in the midst of the confused battle in the halls of the Mt. Pyre Memorial Museum.

Where was he now?

He was sitting in Devon’s secondary office tower, in Lilycove, waiting to see a supervisor.

Why was he there?

This was something he wasn’t entirely sure about. Soon after he had left the museum, he had passed by a telephone booth in which the phone was ringing; knowing that such a melodramatic call must either be from a sniper across the street, a gang lord or Devon, he’d answered it. It had turned out to be a summons to the nearest Devon HQ – hence his being here.

How had he escaped the museum before the police arrived?

The short answer is that he hadn’t. The long answer is that he’d waited in the graveyard until all the policemen were deep in the museum, and then crept down to the docks to board one of their boats. Tipping the lone guard calmly into the sea, he had commandeered it and motored north up to the docks.

From there, he had taken the train to Lilycove, and there he was now, sitting in the waiting room and wondering if he was going to be seen any time today.

“Mr. Goodwin?”

Darren looked up, and saw a blonde secretary leaning through the doorway.


“Mr. Tanyan and Mr. Zuckerman will see you now.”

Mr. Zuckerman? That definitely wasn’t a Hoennian name. Darren frowned. Devon was a multinational, yes – but generally, it only employed people from within the four nations that made up the Grand Pacific Cluster, Kanto, Sinnoh, Johto and Hoenn. In fact, it didn’t operate far outside the boundaries of those countries, either – in America and Europe, rival companies already controlled what would have been its market, and the powerful Rounding Grey Corporation maintained a strict monopoly over most of Asia.

He shrugged. It wasn’t anything to worry about, surely. Mr. Tanyan was there, and Darren knew him of old – he was a well-respected senior researcher, responsible for the supervision and ordering of ordinary Devon researchers like Darren.


The Goodwin got to his feet, went through the secretary’s office and knocked once on Tanyan’s door. From within, a voice called, “Come in!” and he did so.

Mr. Tanyan was tall and warm and slim; he stood ramrod-straight with one foot upon his chair, like Captain Morgan on his barrel of rum. He had always done this, and would probably do it until his retirement. He wore a neat grey suit and a flowing red-and-gold coat, for no real reason.

Mr. Zuckerman on the other hand was broad and solid; he reminded Darren of a clumsily-carved ice statue, in that his demeanour was cold and his body blocky and ugly. He had a face like a Granbull, and judging from the size of his arms, an attack like one too. He wore a black suit and sunglasses, which wasn’t unusual – and a little lapel pin with an enamel flag on it, which was.

“Darren! Good to see you, good to see you,” Tanyan said warmly, shaking his hand with great enthusiasm. “This is Mr. Zuckerman.”

“So I gather,” replied Darren. Then, extending his hand to Zuckerman: “Pleased to meet you.”

Zuckerman regarded the proffered hand as if it might conceal a bomb, and did not deign to shake it. After an awkward pause, Darren withdrew it.

“What exactly is it you wanted me here for, sir?” he asked of Tanyan.
Tanyan considered.

“Well, it seems America is interested in this case.” He glanced at Zuckerman. “Perhaps you’d better explain this one, Mr. Zuckerman.”

Zuckerman stepped forwards. The whole effect was like a small house moving forwards by a foot; Darren was almost surprised that he didn’t rumble when he walked.

“We believe that a very dangerous criminal is hiding in your country,” he said without preamble; his voice was thick with accent, but Darren had to admire him for actually learning Hoennian. It wasn’t an easy language for English-speakers, or so he’d heard. “I’m here to ask you to assist—”

“Sorry,” interrupted Darren, “but who are you, exactly?”

Zuckerman gave him the evil eye, and Tanyan made some ineffectual placatory comment. Darren didn’t care; he didn’t particularly enjoy being treated as worthless by jumped-up foreigners, even if they were American.

“I’m Agent Zuckerman of America’s Central Intelligence Banana,” he said coldly. “Does that—”

Darren didn’t hear the rest, because he wasn’t able to keep from laughing.
“Agency,” he said, smothering the laugh. “Agency, not banana. Únka, not uinká.”

“Ahem,” said Tanyan, “I’m sure it was an honest mistake. We’re aware our language is not the easiest, Mr. Zuckerman.”

“Look,” said Darren, “what are you doing here? You should be talking to the government and the police, not Devon. We’re not mercenaries; I’m entirely the wrong person to speak to.”

“Wrong, Mr. Goodwin,” replied Zuckerman frostily. His face was red and he was quivering with anger, but Darren knew he could take him if he turned hostile. He was a Goodwin, after all; highly-trained, lethal and utterly inescapable. Unless your name was Kester Ruby or Sapphire Birch. “You’ve met this person, which puts you in the position of being able to inform us much better than the government or the police.”

“I’ve met him, have I?” asked Darren, raising an eyebrow. “Who exactly is this person, then?”

“His name is Robin J. Goodfellow,” replied Zuckerman, “and he’s a Rotom.”


A shiver ran down my spine.

Mine again, Puck said. Sorry. Goose walked over my grave.

I’d never heard that phrase before, and would, had I had time to think about it, have put it down to English idiom – but I was a little preoccupied. I was trying not to be shot.

This room looked like most of the other druid laboratories, only there was a series of glass tanks running around the walls. Within these were strange little creatures, white and blobby like malformed clouds, and with little smiley faces. I got the feeling their expressions didn’t change, which was creepy.

Of more concern than the blobby Pokémon, however, were the numerous Team Aqua members arrayed about the room, each with a gun pointed at us, and several with Carvanha somehow hovering by their sides. I recognised the big one who had been Felicity’s partner amongst them, looking somewhat bruised. Their leader seemed to be a tall woman with curly red hair, who held a machine pistol in one hand and the hand of a little girl in the other. This gave me pause for thought: how many gangsters took their kids to work?

The red-haired woman stepped forwards, and the girl did too, though she stayed half-hidden behind her.

“Hello,” she said brightly. “Who are you?”

“This is Sid,” I said, indicating Sid. “He’s a druid. That’s Sapphire there – she’s a Trainer – and I’m Kester. I think you probably know Felicity.”

“Why are you telling them—?” Sapphire asked, but I cut her off with a wave of my hand. The reason I was telling them everything was because I preferred to remain unpunctured, and I had a feeling that hiding information was not the best way to earn my safe passage out of here.

The woman’s eyes flicked to Felicity in surprise.

“You? But you worked for us...”

“I don’t work for anyone,” Felicity said shortly. “I was a slave. Now I’m rebelling.”

She’s Spartacus, Puck remarked. No, wait, I’m Spartacus!

“Drop your gun at least,” the woman said. “Please? We’ll have to shoot you otherwise.”

Felicity held it up for a moment longer, then dropped it and lowered her arms.

“Who are you?” I asked. I thought I was being pretty cool in the face of all these gun-barrels, but I’d been a little close to death quite a lot recently, and it might have just been me getting over my fears a bit.

“My name is Shelly,” the woman said. “I’m a Team Aqua Administrator. This is my daughter, Scarlett.” She pushed the girl forwards a bit. “Say hello, Scarlett.”

This is utterly surreal, Puck said. What the hell’s a kid doing here?

I’m a kid. What am I doing here?

You’re not a kid. You’re a teenager, which is whinier and less worthwhile.

Scarlett seemed a little shy, or perhaps scared; either way, it took half a minute of coaxing to make her speak, during which both the Aquas and we felt rather awkward, like characters who’d suddenly turned up in the wrong movie.

“Hello,” Scarlett said at length, and then went back behind her mother. Shelly smiled.

“Sorry,” she said, “she’s a little shy. Now, where were we?”

“We’d just finished the introductions,” Sid said. “I think the first topic is probably ‘where’s the Orb?’”

“Oh yes!” cried Shelly. “That’s what I was going to ask. Where’s the Orb?”

“What?” Sid looked about as confused as I felt. Didn’t the Aquas have the Orb? Hadn’t that woman said it was in this room?

Huh. Seems she was lying. Must’ve been a regular Iago to put up that act and convince us like that.

“You won’t get the Orb,” Sapphire said, taking over the conversation. “We’ve already moved it to a secure location.”

“We have?” asked Sid. “I mean, yes! We have.” He did his best to look triumphant.

“Where is it?” asked Shelly. “I’ll have you shot if you don’t tell me.”

Somehow, Shelly was almost as scary as Maxie or Courtney; she didn’t have the rampaging fury of the Magma boss or the calculating nastiness of the Admin, but her motherly nature was so incongruous here that it... well, it freaked me out, for want of a better word.

I glanced at Sapphire and hoped she could keep up the quick-fire lies.

“We don’t know,” Sapphire said smugly. “We just passed it on.”

“To who?” Shelly asked. “Sorry – to whom?”

“Some druid,” Sapphire replied. “He was leaving as we got here.”

This couldn’t be going anywhere good. I had a Very Bad Feeling about this – so bad, in fact, that it required its own set of capital letters.

Shelly thought for a moment. Behind her, the Aquas looked like they were getting tired of standing there.

“All right,” she said eventually. “You – Sapphire, did you say your name was? – come with me. You’ll show me where the druid went. You three” – here, she indicated Sid, Felicity and I – “stay here and be held hostage for me, would you?”

She came over and grabbed Sapphire’s wrist; Stacey snapped at her, but Sapphire recalled her before things could get violent.

“You three. Get in the room properly.”

We shuffled forwards slowly, careful not to make any sudden movements – They’re gunmen, not snakes, Kester – and took seats at a nearby desk. Meanwhile, Shelly and Sapphire left the room.

There followed a long and very tense silence. We were surrounded by gun-toting Aquas, without any means of resistance should they choose to shoot us; the moment one of them pulled the trigger, my life would be snuffed out like a candle-flame, and that would be it. I had faced death before, true, but I’d never had enough time to really think about how terrifying it was – and now that I had, I was all but wetting myself in terror.

Charming imagery, said Puck disdainfully. There’s another limitation of a fleshy body. All those... excretions. Nastier than sauerkraut mixed with fudge.

It felt like hours had passed by the time Sapphire and Shelly returned, but it couldn’t have been more than a minute.

“The doors are all locked,” Shelly said, sounding rather put out. “How did they manage that?”

No one said anything, but after a few seconds the giant Aqua raised one meaty hand.

“Yes, Barry?”

“Him,” he said, pointing a thick finger at me. “He’s the Rotom-kid.”

Instantly, every single gun was pointed at me, rather than at our group in general; I swallowed what would have been a very effeminate shriek and remained silent.

Oh. I think you might be about to die. Puck sounded as if he were thinking something over. Hey Copperhead, do you think Skuld would mind if I moved into Felicity’s head with her?

“Is this true?” Shelly demanded.

I didn’t know what to say, and thankfully Sapphire took the decision out of my hands.

“Yes, it is,” she said scornfully, “and he could kill you all without even moving.”

“In that case, don’t sit so still,” Shelly told me derisively.

Let’s show her. Come on, you’re ready. Think evil thoughts.

What? What do you mean, I’m ready? And what’s this about evil thoughts?

Just do it. Do it.
Do it. Do it. Haha, I’m David Starsky. No, but in all seriousness, do it.

Puck’s advice, if cryptic, had been good recently, so I tried; unfortunately, Shelly seemed to want to talk to me.

“You locked all these doors, did you?”

“Uh... yeah.”

Evil thoughts... evil thoughts... psychotic ventriloquist’s dummies... men in hockey masks... Michael Myers...

Ordinarily, I’d object to you stealing my thoughts – but you need all the evil you can get right now. Keep going!

“Then unlock them.”

When I didn’t respond – I was thinking of creepy psychic children with glowing eyes – Shelly tapped Scarlett on the shoulder, and the little girl came over and poked me slowly and deliberately in the eye.


I leaped up, losing my concentration instantly, and only just restrained myself from lashing out at the girl.

“Now I have your attention,” Shelly said, “come and unlock the doors. You, sit down.” Sapphire took my seat, and, with her, Sid and Felicity as hostages, Shelly and Scarlett brought me out into the corridor.

“I’m really not so dangerous,” I said nervously, as soon as we were out of earshot. “In fact, I’m not even a member of Team Magma.”

“Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to lie?” asked Shelly.

“Er... sort of.”

True to form, she’d taught me that I shouldn’t really lie, but that there were situations in life where I really would have to, and that I shouldn’t be afraid to when they came. In fact, I remember her telling me to ‘lie like crazy and tell her you like her’ when I was wondering what to do the first time someone I loathed asked me out; I believe her reasoning was that I could use the experience of feeling awful and then being subjected to a tearful tirade as useful preparation for later life.

Your mother’s a terrible person, Puck observed. Almost as terrible as a horse. But think evil thoughts now, Kester. Evil thoughts will save you!

Evil things... scary dolls... man-eating aliens that look like clowns... man-eating aliens with acid blood... man-eating aliens made of jelly that engulf diners... man-eating aliens in general...

“I said, we’re here!”


She’s a vicious little kid, isn’t she? More effective than an attack dog, because no one wants to hit a little girl. Come on, evil thoughts! I can feel them coming – you’ve almost got it!

I put my hand on the numberpad next to the door and made a few sparks crackle around my fingers, but Puck didn’t hack it. Shelly’s eyes widened slightly, though.

“It’ll take a few minutes,” I lied – thank you, Mum – and closed my eyes, focusing on evil thoughts.

The wind’s picking up. Keep it up...

I could feel it now, a light breeze around my ankles. I didn’t question where it came from, despite the fact that we were both indoors and underground. I just thought of evil things.

The man who mustn’t be named... the man who hunts the blue hedgehog... the man who wanted all the Triforces...

OK, some of these are more petty than evil. But keep trying!

“What’s taking so long?” Shelly asked, and then the moaning began.

All three of us turned, equally surprised, and at the other end of the corridor I saw the air darkening and thickening, as if slowly caramelising.

“What... What is this?” Shelly turned to me, eyes wide. “What – are you doing this?”

Now! Release the wind!

I wasn’t sure how, but somehow I reached out without moving, and the dark air rushed towards us, a rolling wave of bleak, dark thoughts and emotions. I couldn’t feel it properly, but I saw its effect on Shelly and Scarlett; the little girl crumpled to the floor, unconscious, and the Admin sank to her knees, clutching at her head. She looked utterly destroyed and desolate, as if she would never be happy again, or as if her soul had been scooped out in one fell blow.

The dark wind pulsed silently through the open door we’d come from, and I heard a shot being loosed; no one cried out, and distantly, I hoped no one had been hit. My mind was somewhere else – it was riding the wind, directing its flow, fuelling its malign surge—

And that’s quite enough of that, said Puck, and abruptly the wind faded away. Shelly flopped down onto the floor next to me, groaning softly, and my mind caught up with reality.

“What...” My breath caught. “Puck... what did you just make me do?”

You’re a Ghost, he said. Most of your attacks are powered by negative emotion. This was no exception – a perfect Ominous Wind.

“Don’t get off the point! What’s happened to everyone?”

They’re depressed. If it helps, think of yourself as a Dementor, only you screw over multiple people at once. Wait. That’s not a helpful suggestion. Never mind. The point is, they’re suffering from depression and apathy right now, and they’ll come round in a few minutes. Now, let’s go get the rest of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, shall we?

“Who–? You mean the others? Are they all right?”

I broke into a run, heading back to the Castform laboratory.

I hope so, said Puck, or we’ll have a hell of a time getting them out of here.

I got back and found the Aquas slumped all around the room, heaving great sighs and occasionally wondering what the point of it all was.

Dear me, remarked Puck. It’s like when Marvin got the Point of View gun.

Sid, Felicity and Sapphire had all fallen from their chairs, and lay limply across the floor in uncomfortable positions that they were too apathetic to move from.

“Why am I even still alive?” said Sid despairingly. “Wouldn’t it be better if I were dead?”

A murmur of assent went up from the surrounding Aquas; someone said, “Hear hear!” and another one said, “I think we should all be dead.” That one almost got a rousing cheer, but in the end no one could be bothered to raise their voice beyond a low muttering.

“My God,” I breathed, staring around at them all. “What have I done?”


“Dear God,” sighed Fabien, easing himself down into his chair, “I really needed that.”

“I’m knackered,” agreed Blake, falling into his with a soft thump.

They had been walking for some time now – ever since they had assembled on the southern shore of the lake, in fact. As has been mentioned before, Fabien and Blake were both enormously unimportant in the grander scheme of things, and thus the Team had chosen to skedaddle, to borrow the vernacular, without waiting for them.

Because of this, they had had to do the aforementioned walking. They had walked up the hills and down them again, past the rocky crags and, once, through a narrow ravine inhabited solely by a highly territorial Linoone. That last had been a wrong turn, and they had beaten a hasty retreat pursued by the linear-moving mustelid, but at length – and after a rather cold night on the hills – they had found themselves back in Plain Rooke’s green and pleasant land, far away from any dark satanic mills.

Heartened by the fields around them, the two Magmas (Goishi had been recalled after the flight, to give him a chance to recover his strength after the three lengthy flights he’d made carrying them) had doubled their pace, and stumbled on blistered feet into the tavern in which they had stayed briefly on the way to Mt. Pyre. Now, comfortably seated and with the drink flowing freely, they turned their attention to the next order of business, which was feeding themselves.

A brief argument ensued over which parts of the all-day breakfast most deserved their attention, but this was soon solved by the simple expedient of ordering everything. To whit, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, sausages, tomato halves, pomegranates, toast and a plateful of spiced lard. The last was not strictly a breakfast meal, but it was a local specialty, and Fabien was a strong believer in giving local specialties an audition with his stomach, to see if they were worth pursuing in future.

The conversation ceased as the food arrived, and the two men settle ddown to the serious business of tackling it. For about forty minutes no words passed between them, only jam and butter; it was one of those meals that not only curbs hunger but satisfies the soul, full of the silence of deep companionship.

At length, the only dish left was the spiced lard. This was sampled, found to be a substance inimical to the sensibilities of civilised men, and promptly shrouded in a napkin so that they wouldn’t have to look upon its unclean face again.

“Now that was a bit of all right,” said Fabien, leaning back and settling down. If he’d been a fat old man, he would probably have hooked his thumbs under his braces and lit his pipe, such was his mood, but he wasn’t, and so didn’t.

“That’s true an’ no mistake,” Blake agreed, leaning back and pulling lazily at his beer. (They had imbibed quite a lot of the golden nectar – to go, as Fabien put it, with their breakfastly ambrosia – and showed no signs of letting up now.)

“The question is, what to do next,” Fabien went on. “We’re all fuelled up and – let’s be honest here – not a little drunk.”

“You migh’ say tha’.” Blake gave a pleasant nod.

“So,” Fabien continued, in a brisk and business-like manner, “let’s keep drinking for a while, take a room here and have a good long sleep, then think things through later on. How does that sound?” he asked, with the smile of the natural-born winner.

“Tha’ sounds like a plan,” Blake said. “I’ll drink to it.”

And he did, and then Fabien drank to it, and then they both drank to it.

And the barman was chosen by democratic election to be their bestest friend.

And everything after that was a little bit blurry, but Fabien was fairly certain that they’d had a fine time, and that most of the pub’s clientele became close friends of theirs.

And then their day faded into a black, sleepy night, giving no warning whatsoever.


“All right,” I said, jabbing Shelly with my foot, “tell me everything that happened here. Especially the stuff about the Orb.”

I had dragged her and Scarlett into the lab, disarmed all the Aquas and locked their guns outside the door. Even if they came around from their apathy before I was done, I now had the advantage.

It had been Puck’s idea to question them about what had happened, but I was beginning to think that I’d have got more sense out of the Castform – which, interestingly, didn’t seem to have been affected by the Ominous Wind.

“What’s the point?” groaned Shelly. “We’re all going to die in the end...”

“God damn it!” I shook her a little, like the bad cop does in the movies, and made some fist-thumpings on the table. Her melancholy didn’t shift at all: the Ominous Wind had been too strong. “Tell me what happened?”

“We came in here,” Shelly said, “through a disused mine shaft... oh, why am I bothering?”

“There’s no reason not to tell me,” I said in a flash of inspiration, “because you’re going to die anyway, right?”

Good thinking, Batman, Puck said. That should do it.

“Well, OK sweetheart,” Shelly replied, sighing deeply.

‘Sweetheart’? Who does she think we are? Who do you think we are?!

“We were going to come in anyway, but when we found the druids had stolen the Orb, we put all our efforts into getting in,” Shelly said, almost in one breath. “My life is dreary...”

Now she’s doing her Mariana impression, Puck said, unimpressed. Kick her a little.

This was something that I did with pleasure, because by this point I was frustrated enough to have a burning desire to cause pain to something – anything at all. It seemed to focus Shelly’s mind a little, and she carried on.

“We came to get the Orb, but it wasn’t where the druids said it was,” she sighed. “We locked a few of them up in the back room, beyond this lab...”

“The druids!” I snapped my fingers and dropped Shelly, who slumped to the floor without speaking. “Puck, they won’t have been affected by the Ominous Wind, will they?”

No. It can’t go through solid objects. Unless the Ghost itself is halfway through a wall – then you can conduct it through the walls and fill a whole building. It’s really cool, like motorbikes and the concept behind General Grievous.

“In that case, can you see a door anywhere?”

I can only see what you can see, Puck explained patiently. Come on, it’s probably over there.

I went over to the other end of the lab, stepping carefully over mild-eyed melancholy Aquas, and found a little door there. Through the wire-reinforced glass, I could see a group of druids; when they saw me, they started waving and frantically motioning for me to let them out, which I did.

“What on earth happened in here?” one asked me, surveying the scene. She was young and pretty, and since I had passed the previous moment in staring at her face unobtrusively, I fumbled for a moment before giving the reply.

“Oh. Er, I’ll tell you if you tell me what’s happened to the Orb.”

“That’s easy.” The pretty druid sat down on a desk; the other four left the room without a word. “As soon as we found out the Aquas were in the compound, we sent someone away with it, to a safe location.”

“Where are your friends going?”

“To set the other druids free.”

“Er – that’s not going to happen just yet, I’m afraid,” I said apologetically. “I hacked your door system. All the doors are locked and only I can open them.”

As if on cue, the other druids came back in, and complained that the doors were sealed.

“This guy locked them all,” the pretty druid told them, then turned back to me. “OK, I’ve told you what happened to the Orb. Now you uphold your end of the deal: who are you and what on earth happened in here?”

“My name’s Kester Ruby,” I said with a sigh; the introduction was beginning to grow stale, and I wondered if I could find a way to jazz it up a bit. “My name’s Kester Ruby, and I have magic powers...”

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old June 12th, 2011 (5:52 PM).
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Silent Memento Silent Memento is offline
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Oh my gosh, is that a Phonebooth reference?! ...I loved that movie so much. Too bad it's only good for a one-time view, being a suspense movie and all.

Anyway, I liked the description of Ominous Wind. I'm wondering what Puck did to be wanted by the CIA. And this chapter had all sorts of humor in it (the reactions of the Aqua members after the Ominous Wind was priceless).

This was nice.
Quotes are nothing but words.
Old June 12th, 2011 (5:54 PM).
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teamVASIMR teamVASIMR is offline
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Lol. Literally. For some reason this chapter made me laugh (for real, not the exaggerated txt expression often used even for the slightest amusement) more than any previous one.
Old June 15th, 2011 (11:24 PM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Originally Posted by teamVASIMR View Post
Lol. Literally. For some reason this chapter made me laugh (for real, not the exaggerated txt expression often used even for the slightest amusement) more than any previous one.
Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
Oh my gosh, is that a Phonebooth reference?! ...I loved that movie so much. Too bad it's only good for a one-time view, being a suspense movie and all.

Anyway, I liked the description of Ominous Wind. I'm wondering what Puck did to be wanted by the CIA. And this chapter had all sorts of humor in it (the reactions of the Aqua members after the Ominous Wind was priceless).

This was nice.
Thank you for your feedback. Sorry for the long delay - my dear laptop Ophelia has been having some issues - but updates will resume shortly. I'm glad you enjoyed this chapter, and will do my best to keep things going funnily and generally entertainingly.

I really must stop using such clumsy adverbs.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old June 16th, 2011 (9:24 AM).
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mew_nani mew_nani is offline
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Wow, I had no idea you named your laptop 'Ophelia'. Pretty name.

Looks like they finally found Puck. Only... how the crap do they expect to arrest him? He'll just go through the walls of his cell and be free once more. :D

...And... so that's how Ominous Wind works... ... ...note to self: stay the heck out of the way of Ghost-types.... :\

I support:
Old June 17th, 2011 (8:45 AM). Edited June 25th, 2011 by olih.
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olih olih is offline
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Wow, your story is amazing! It's taken me a while to read all the chapters, but here I am. I really love how Puck makes all these references, although I can only catch about a fourth of them. Btw, is 'we're not out of the woods yet' a reference to Into the Woods? Can't be sure. Anyways, I hope for another chapter soon (no pressure).
I literally did I a double take when I found out Zero was in here. So, I'm happy that you included my favorite Pokemon character :D Are you going to mention the whole Reverse World incident, or just pretend that never happened?
Stop Kony!
Old June 17th, 2011 (10:59 PM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Originally Posted by mew_nani View Post
Wow, I had no idea you named your laptop 'Ophelia'. Pretty name.

Looks like they finally found Puck. Only... how the crap do they expect to arrest him? He'll just go through the walls of his cell and be free once more. :D

...And... so that's how Ominous Wind works... ... ...note to self: stay the heck out of the way of Ghost-types.... :\
Yes. Ghosts are dangerous. If you must go near them, bring Agatha or Morty with you, or Fantina if you really must. Just not Shauntal, because she's a terrible writer, and that irritates me.

Uh, what I meant was - thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy it.

Originally Posted by olih View Post
Wow, your story is amazing! It's taken me a while to read all the chapters, but here I am. I really love how Puck makes all these references, although I can only catch about a fourth of them. Btw, is 'we're not out of the woods yet' a reference to Into the Woods? Can't be sure. Anyways, I hope for another chapter soon (no pressure).
I literally did I a double take when I found out Zero was in here. So, I'm happy that you included my favorite Pokemon character :D Are you going to mention the whole Reverse World incident, or just pretend that never happened?
No offense, but Zero isn't that hard to draw... once you start drawing him obsessively...
Not an Into the Woods reference, just an idiom. And who exactly do you mean by Zero? The Zero in this story is a reference, but he's a reference to someone who isn't part of the Pokémon universe. I've no idea who you think he is, but I can guarantee he isn't them. I've never even heard of anyone in the Pokémon world called Zero. Sorry if I raised any hopes unfairly.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you keep reading and enjoying.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old June 18th, 2011 (10:44 PM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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So sorry for the recent lack of updates. I've been procrastinating like crazy.

Chapter Fifty-Six: Winded

“Let me get this straight,” the druid said, scratching her head. “You’ve been possessed by a Rotom, and gained all of its powers?”

I pointed to my right eye, the one whose colour Puck’s presence had changed.

“Yep,” I said cheerfully. “That’s about it. Actually, I was wondering if you had a security camera system. Then I could look through the building and see where the other druids were, and just unlock the doors around them, without releasing any Aquas.”

“Um... yes, we do, but...” The pretty druid – whose name, I now knew, was Kasandra (a non-standard spelling, but with my name, I couldn’t really judge her for it) – waved a hand towards all the Aquas and to my friends. “What about all of them? What happened to them?”

“I’m not sure, but I think I hit them all with a wave of negative emotions,” I said, surveying the scene. Groans broke free from the mass of bodies like bubbles in lava, and every so often, someone would make a feeble attempt to rise before settling back down. “It seems to have given them all depression.”

Correction – it’s given them all melodramatic depression, Puck said. Ominous Wind is a crazy-great move. The higher the cognitive functions of the creature it hits – and these are humans, so, despite what I’d like to say about them, they have pretty high cognitive functions – the more marked its effect is. If you hit a Sandshrew with it, it would be hurt, but nothing much would happen; hit humans, and it causes a random over-dramatised negative emotion; hit an Alakazam, and they get an aneurysm. Now that’s satisfying.

“How long are they going to be like that?” Kasandra asked me. I conferred silently with Puck, and answered:

“They should stay this way for another half an hour or so.”

“Right.” She chewed her lip for a moment. “We’ll need to contact Archie before then and negotiate something with him; if we kill them all he’ll probably start a full-scale war with us, which we won’t be able to win.”

“Can I use your security system or not...?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, sure.”

Kasandra led me over to one of the desks, pushed an Aqua off it and turned on the computer; a few minutes and several clicks of the mouse later, I was looking at a screen cycling between the views from each camera.

Puck, I thought, do your thing.

Puck, do your thing, he mimicked savagely. What did your last slave die of?


fine, he sighed huffily, and the computer screen started to flicker as a steady stream of sparks passed into the mouse from my hand.

Would you mind putting your hand on the actual computer instead of the mouse? Puck asked. Trying to do this through a mouse is like trying to play basketball through a keyhole.

Obligingly, I moved my hand, and the sparks continued apace; a few seconds later, Puck said he was done.

“There,” I said, removing my hand and turning to Kasandra, “the doors are open.”

Kasandra had been speaking to the other druids, getting them to drag the Aquas away and to get my friends up onto chairs; now, she turned and thanked me.

“OK, Kester,” she said, “can you just wait here for a while, please? I need to get hold of our leader. He’ll want to talk to you.”

“Can’t we just... leave?” I asked hopefully. “To be honest, I never wanted to come here in the first place.”

Kasandra shook her head.

“Sid wanted to bring you here, then you turn up and destroy a roomful of Aquas that were threatening us over the Orb. You’re not going anywhere until you’ve been properly questioned and then thanked. And possibly had your memory erased.”

“What did you just say?”

“I said you weren’t going anywhere until you’d been properly questioned and then thanked.”

“Really? ’Cause I thought I heard something else on the end there...”

“No.” Kasandra turned back to the other druids and issued a few more instructions; either she was someone of importance, or was simply a very forceful sort of person, because she’d assumed control pretty quickly. I watched her for a few moments longer than was strictly necessary, and then switched my attention over to Sid, Sapphire and Felicity. They were conscious, but barely sensible; Sid was whispering silent protests at the ceiling, Sapphire was half-heartedly trying to strangle herself with an envelope, and Felicity was staring blankly ahead, trembling slightly.

Oh, that looks ominous, Puck said. Get it? Ominous – Ominous Wind? Ah, I’m wasted on you, like English teachers on their students.

I went over to Felicity and prodded her experimentally.

Like that’s going to help, snorted Puck.

“Felicity?” I asked, ignoring him. “You OK?”


I jumped back and stumbled over my own feet, half-falling onto a computer desk; the voice in my head had been harsh and strong – and definitely not Puck.

“What – what was that?” I stammered, which earned me an odd look from Kasandra. “Er – just... thought I heard something,” I explained lamely.

That was Skuld, Puck told me. I’m guessing she’s in a lot of pain right now because of the Ominous Wind – Ghost is super-effective against Ghost – and that means she’s angry. Hence the whole ‘KILL’ thing. Though, in retrospect, she might just have been saying ‘KILL’ anyway; she doesn’t usually seem to need a reason.

She’s not going to get out, is she? I asked apprehensively.

No. Though Felicity’s distracted, Skuld is probably wary of whatever just hurt her. If I were her, I’d retreat deeper into Felicity and wait until I had a better idea of the situation. Then again, I’m an intelligent being, and she’s a rapacious man-eating monster, so there might be some discrepancy there.

As we’d been speaking, the first of the batches of druids had started to arrive; amongst their number was a short, round man who immediately went over to Kasandra and demanded to know what was going on. From the ensuing dialogue, I divined that he was the leader of the Gorsedd Hoenn, and that he was more than a little put out at his enforced captivity. Kasandra explained what had taken place as best she could, and then referred him to me. He swivelled on the spot, as if mounted on a turntable, fixed his beady eyes on me and advanced like a robe-swaddled Terminator.

How do you know – actually, it’s not worth asking. It never is.

“You’re the boy with Rotom powers?” the druid asked. He looked older close up – at least fifty – and there was a piece of what looked like dried spaghetti stuck to his chin. For a brief moment, I wondered whether I ought to point this out, but decided that it would be more tactful just to carry on.

“Yes,” I replied. “That’s me.” I attempted a friendly smile, but since the old druid wasn’t very friendly, it did no more than flicker briefly before dying on my lips.

“I must question you,” he said brusquely. “Come with me to the... Room of Questioning.”

“Why did you pause before you said that?” I asked, somewhat alarmed. “And why did you say it in that low, ominous voice?”

Hey, you’re making Ominous Wind jokes too! Oh wait, you’re not. You really are worried.

“Because it is the Room of Questioning,” the druid said darkly. “It is there that we question people.”

“This questioning won’t involve anything more than words, right?” I asked nervously.

“I cannot say,” the old druid began, but Kasandra cut across him:

“Ignore him, he’s being melodramatic. Go, you’ll be fine. I’ll make sure your friends are all right, too.”

So, half-worried and half-relieved, I followed the leader of the druids out of the laboratory and down the corridors to the so-called Room of Questioning.


“You see, it goes like this,” said Zuckerman. “Goodfellow is a world-class art thief, very widely-known in the underworld – and in intelligence circles.”

“Wait,” said Darren, holding up a hand. “Are you telling me that Kester Ruby, the boy I’m tracking – that he’s this Robin Goodfellow?”

Zuckerman nodded.

“We received information that Goodfellow was in Hoenn, hiding out. A brief look at your news gave away his location: aside from this ongoing Sableye business, all the major news items of the last two weeks involve a boy who can shoot lightning from his hands.”

“The door locks,” the Goodwin murmured, recalling the museum. “He can manipulate machinery at a touch...”

“Then it must be him,” Tanyan said. “Nothing else can control machines the way a Rotom can.”

“The Phelps-Laurence Occipital Tampering Device,” Darren said, snapping his fingers. “The boy complained that a Rotom had been inside the brain scanner when it was switched on, and that it had been forced into his head...”

“It was no accident,” said Zuckerman decisively. “Goodfellow must have done this intentionally, to hide. He doesn’t do things by accident.”

“Then why is he making such a spectacle of himself?” wondered Tanyan, and then answered his own question: “Because the rest of the world never sees the Hoennian news...”

“Exactly,” Zuckerman said, nodding. “And so he’s free to do here what he couldn’t do anywhere else.”

“Which is what, exactly?” asked Darren. “I suppose this is why you want information from me?”

“Yes.” Zuckerman cleared his throat. “We have reason to believe that Goodfellow is attempting to destroy the world.”

Darren stared at him for a moment, decided that he was, in fact, being serious and replied.

“How do you mean, ‘destroy the world’?” he asked, choosing his words carefully.

“End it. Blow up the planet, or something.” Zuckerman seemed to sense that Darren had moved past the stage of mocking him now, and became more earnest. “We don’t know how, but he’s going to end all life on Earth.”

“Can I ask the obvious question?” Darren inquired.

“Go on,” said Mr. Tanyan, who was doubtless feeling like something of a third wheel by this time.

“Why would anyone want to destroy the world?”

Zuckerman looked sheepish – or as sheepish as he could allow himself to look without undermining his authority.

“We’re following some leads,” he said cagily. “Looking into a few—”

“You don’t know,” clarified Darren. “Right. What makes you think he’s going to destroy the world?”

“We were informed by a reliable source—”

“You don’t know. Is there anything worthwhile you have to bring to this meeting, or should I be out there trying to catch this Rotom?”

Zuckerman’s face went red again, and Tanyan took his foot off his chair and then put it back in a spasm of uncertain agitation.

“Now,” he said ineffectually, “let’s not get all worked up about this—”

“Mr. Tanyan, sir, with all due respect – shut up.” Darren Goodwin delivered these final words quietly, but with tremendous force; someone in the know might well have decided that he would have been suited to voice acting, but there was no such person present, and so they didn’t. “I’ve been hunting this Goodfellow guy as if he were a seventeen-year-old kid for the last two weeks. Now you tell me he’s actually a hardened criminal hell-bent on world destruction. Not only was the difficulty of this mission seriously understated, but it seems we weren’t even in possession of all the facts when it was given to me!” He was angry now, all the frustration that had built up over the last couple of weeks forcing its way out of him through his mouth. “That’s against Devon policy, and—”

“Mr. Goodwin, please be quiet!” said Tanyan, a surprising note of command in his voice; whether out of surprise or habit, Darren obeyed, and fell to glaring silently and mutinously at the two men before him. “Thank you.” Tanyan drew a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his brow. “Darren, all we want you to do is tell Mr. Zuckerman everything that you know about Ruby – or Goodfellow, whatever you want to call him – and then let one of his agents come with you to gather more information and hopefully apprehend him.”

“That’s it?” Darren couldn’t quite keep the incredulity from his voice. “That’s all you want? Then what the hell was the point of all this?”

“I thought you two might get on somewhat better than you did,” Tanyan said gloomily. “I suppose Mr. Zuckerman just rubs up against you the wrong way.”

“I am still here, you know,” Zuckerman said. Tanyan glanced at him.

“Oh yes. So you are. Well, anyway – your agent, Mr. Zuckerman?”

“She’s highly-skilled – maybe the best in the world,” Zuckerman said. “And, er, also not here.”

“What?” This was something of a surprise to both the Goodwin and Mr. Tanyan.

“She’s taking the next flight,” Zuckerman explained.

“Why on earth didn’t she come with you?” asked Darren. This travel plan seemed to him to make very little sense, much like a cursory reading of Naked Lunch.

“She didn’t really want to come,” Zuckerman said defensively. “And she’s not really a member of the banana—”


“—a member of the agency, so there isn’t much we can do to force her to do things she doesn’t want to.” Zuckerman had gone red again, partly out of embarrassment and partly because of the resurgence of the banana/agency confusion. “She’s not even really an American citizen.”

“Bravo,” said Darren sarcastically. “Behold the great and mighty power of the American intelligence banana.”

“That’s enough, Darren.” As ever, Tanyan’s efforts to smooth things over between the Goodwin and the CIA man were so ineffectual as to warrant comparison with an ant trying to compete in the shot put.

“She’ll arrive in Lilycove this evening,” persisted Zuckerman gamely. “Meet her at the airport.”

Him? Why should he meet her? In fact, why was there any obligation at all for him to cooperate with these damnably arrogant Americans?

“Why? Aren’t you going to meet your own people yourself?” asked Darren.
Zuckerman coughed.

“Er, well, there’s been some unpleasantness between us.” He busied himself in the removal and adjustment of the time on his watch.

Darren raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. He turned to Tanyan.

“Sir,” he said, in the tones of one who knows they have just agreed to martyr themselves, “may I go now?”

“Yes, maybe you should,” Tanyan agreed, with just enough eagerness to seem mildly offensive. “I’m not sure this meeting can go any further.”

That, thought Darren as he turned to go, was the biggest understatement he’d heard all year.


“...remains just one problem,” Maxie concluded. “Namely, how the hell do we activate that grazhny Orb?”

The Magma Admins and the other high-ranking Magmas who were attending the meeting stared back blankly.

“Any ideas?” asked Maxie, casting his eye around with the vain hope of a Dead Sea fisherman. “Come on, anyone at all?”

“Um...” A short, stick-thin woman at the other end of the boardroom raised her hand uncertainly. Maxie pounced upon the opportunity as swiftly as Lady Macbeth had hers, and pointed sharply at her.

“Yes?” he inquired. “What is it?”

“Have you tried... burning it?”

Maxie sighed, turned his back to the table and took a few steps away. Then, all at once, he spun around and shot her in the head.

“You know,” he remarked thoughtfully, leaning on the table and scratching his chin, “I think that was the first thing we tried.”

The tension in the room had been high before. Now it was almost tangible; moving in there would have been like moving through skeins of cobwebs.
“So,” said Maxie, “anyone else have any bright ideas?”

There was a very long pause this time. Everyone’s eyes were on Maxie, except for a few seconds of each minute, where they flicked around the faces of the people sitting at the table, wondering if they would say anything. They also left Maxie to glance in the direction of the corpse when it fell off its chair, but that was a momentary lapse caused by the sudden noise.

“Come on.” Maxie stood up and stretched his arms out. “Someone must have an idea.”

“Have – have we called the Benefactor?” asked Tabitha timidly.

“The Benefactor!” cried Maxie. “Ah, our glorious Benefactor, who has so kindly guided us from strength to strength and then callously abandoned us at the final hurdle.” He paused. “As you might well gather, he’s been a bit silent of late. In fact, there’s no clue as to where he’s got to whatsoever.”

“Should we – should we get people looking for him? They might be able to find something that could help—”

“They might,” agreed Maxie savagely. “They might. Which is why the order has already been given to all Magmas to detain Zero on sight.”

Tabitha withered and retreated into his capacious hood; it was clear that his input was not valued here.

“Does anyone else have an idea of what we might need to do?” asked Maxie. His voice was so cold now that it seemed the temperature in the room dropped five degrees when he spoke – a not entirely disagreeable change, considering they were inside a volcano.

“Break it open—?”

Whoever had suggested that was cut off almost before they began:
“It’s unbreakable!” Maxie roared, raising his voice for the first time and making everyone jump. “You’re asking me to do the impossible, break the unbreakable – who the hell do you think I am?”

If anyone had been less terrified, they might have made a referential rejoinder, but, being keenly aware of the literal smoking gun in Maxie’s hand, they didn’t.

“Are there any other bright ideas?” asked Maxie, with a certain cruel sarcasm that might have befitted some sort of unusually intelligent wolf. “And please, think very carefully before you answer. I don’t want to waste any more bullets.”

Silence fell once again over the boardroom, and after a few more minutes Maxie sighed.

“Fine,” he growled. “Get out, all of you. We’ll resume this tomorrow. Again.”
The Magma high-ups vacated their seats and left on the crest of a palpable wave of relief. It seemed they’d live to confer another day.

For his part, Maxie slumped into his throne-like chair – he hadn’t been able to resist the temptation to have it custom-made from Salamence skeletons, with lots of little added fiery bits – and brooded. At least, that was what he called it; if it had been anyone else, it would have been called sulking.

“We won’t find a solution,” he muttered darkly to himself. “Not unless we find him.” He glared angrily at the ceiling, as if it could be coerced into giving up the secrets he desired. “Where the hell are you, Zero?”


“That wasn’t so bad,” I remarked, scratching my head. “I thought it would be worse in there.”

Yeah. That old guy made it sound like it was some sort of Spanish Inquisition-style dungeon. Although, in all fairness, it was unexpected, so there is kind of a resemblance.

It had taken forty minutes of questioning before the old druid – who still hadn’t told me his name – had been satisfied with me, and let me go. It had been a further ten minutes before I got back to the Castform lab, since I got very, very lost on the way back; however, I did have quite a warm reception.

“You beat them!” cried Sapphire, giving me the second ever high-five I’d received from her. “That was Ominous Wind, right?”

“Um... yeah,” I confirmed, slightly confused by her friendliness. The only other time I’d seen her like this was after her day at the Gym in Mauville. “It was. Can I ask why you’re being so nice?”

“If you can use Ominous Wind, you must have caught up with my Pokémon in level,” Sapphire replied. “You’re getting strong. That’s good, right?”

Who does she think she’s fooling? Puck paused, then sighed. Oh right. She’s fooling you, Kester.

There was a remark that warranted further investigation if any ever did, but I left it for later; there was too much going on right now.

“Thank you,” said Felicity, quiet as ever. I wondered again why she’d been so silent recently, and reminded myself to talk to her about it at some point.

“No problem,” I replied, suppressing the sudden urge to rant about how beautiful she was.

You realise you only think she’s pretty because she’s inhabited by a Ghost made of ice that eats the flesh of foolhardy men, right?

I prefer the illusion of love to despair.

Ooh. Look who’s getting snide.

Sid, too, thanked me, and then I asked Kasandra if we could leave yet.
“Stay the night,” she offered. “It’s getting late.” She glanced at Sid, and frowned. “Why are you still here? You need to see the boss. He’s pretty pissed-off with you for staying on the museum roof.”

“What!” Sid cried indignantly. “Oh, come on! If I hadn’t stayed, you’d all have been killed by Aquas!”

“Also, you’re out of uniform,” Kasandra pointed out. “I’d change before you go and see him, or he’s going to kill you twice.”

“I was travelling incognito,” protested Sid disconsolately, but he left without any further fight.

“You three,” Kasandra said, pointing at Sapphire, Felicity and I, “come with me. We’ll get you something to eat, and you can leave in the morning.”

We hadn’t actually accepted her offer to stay the night yet, but she seemed to take it as a given that we would, and so forceful was her personality that we actually did. The evening ended up being a blur of pleasantries, and the only thing I can really remember about it now was that Puck kept singing all the way through, a soothing song that by ten o’clock was starting to put me to sleep.

How many jokes must a Rotom make
Before Kester gets just one?
How many references can one Ghost make
Before one's recognised?
Yes, how many times can I be underrated
Before you see I'm a genius?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.




“’Ow’re you doin’ with the thinkin’ things over thing?”


“A’righ’. I’ll speak t’you later.”


It was now some time since the drunken debauchery of the day before, and Fabien was considering regretting it.

He did not yet regret it entirely. He had, after all, had a very pleasant time, and that was an incontrovertible fact. However, drinking almost continuously throughout the afternoon and long into the night had left his head feeling as if it had been soft-boiled and then lovingly tenderised. How Blake had escaped this feeling was unknown, but he had, and was going about his business without a care in the world. In fact, Fabien had an inkling he might be going to see the turkey who lives on the hill, which was something he had always wanted to do and never had.

In stark contrast to Blake, Fabien had yet to even rise from his bed. He did not relish the prospect of doing so; somewhere in the middle of the tenderising process, he was sure, his head had begun to leak some sort of meaty juice that had glued it firmly to the pillow. Pulling the two asunder was very likely to result in the loss of an ear, or some other such horrific injury, and so Fabien remained where he was, head on pillow, eyes shut and back to the door.

He wasn’t up to thinking. Thinking required the use of the head, and his head had borne enough abuse to be beyond use at the present juncture. However, there was nothing else to be done at the moment; Fabien was no monk, and couldn’t just blank out his mind and meditate on nothingness. No, he was firmly rooted in the realm of worldly things, and amongst those worldly things were hangovers.

So, since there was nothing left for him to do but think things over, Fabien thought things over. He bore the pain as staunchly as only a main character could and thought about what the Magmas might be doing. He thought about what he and Blake ought to do next. He thought about what ingredients might be necessary to create a hangover cure as powerful as Jeeves’.

And then Fabien thought that now was the time, that it definitely couldn’t be put off any longer, and he tensed under the bedclothes. Then, in one swift motion to minimise any tearing-related injury, he wrenched his head from the pillow.

The sudden movement caused a great spasm of pain somewhere in the centre of his brain, and he had to stay very still for a good few minutes before it subsided, but overall it seemed his plan had worked – feeling the side of his head and looking at the pillow, Fabien could see no sign that he had ripped any ears off, or indeed come to any harm at all.

This cheered him up a good deal, and he felt brave enough to try his feet now. They weren’t as treacherous as he had feared, and, heartened, Fabien set off in search of coffee.

It was a full hour later before he could be said to be somewhere back on the way to all right. He was sitting at a little table with a parasol in front of the pub, with an abnormally large mug of strong black coffee before him. Goishi was perched – somewhat awkwardly – in the opposite seat, and regarding him with jaundiced eyes that would, had Fabien been a more perceptive man, have let him know that the Crobat’s current view of him was somewhere between extreme disdain and vitriolic hatred.

“You know,” he said, looking off down the quiet road. “I think I might leave the Team.”

Goishi’s eyes widened. Whatever he had been expecting, it wasn’t that.

“You see,” Fabien went on, “we never seem to get anywhere, do we?”

Goishi was forced to admit that this was true, and nodded.

“So, we should go back to being free operators,” Fabien said. “Confidence trickery, bank heists... oh, those were the days.” He sighed deeply, like an old man remembering his long-faded past; the effect was only slightly ruined by the fact that he was but twenty-nine. “Yes, Goishi, that’ll be the thing,” he said. “You weren’t there, of course, but it was great. None of this being pushed around, no man to call your master... yes, that was a good time. Right, I’m decided. We’ll quit – what’s that?”

His phone had begun to ring, and so Fabien answered it.

“Hello?” he said. “Oh, hello sir. Yes of course. Right away. No sir. Yes sir. All right. Thanks, sir.”

There was a click and Fabien put down the phone.

“That was Supervisor Antonio,” he said to Goishi. “Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

The Crobat stared at him for a long moment, performed a protracted eye-roll and got up to follow him away down the street.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old June 21st, 2011 (12:35 PM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
Gone. May or may not return.
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 23
Nature: Impish
Posts: 1,030
Chapter Fifty-Seven: Goodwin and Delilah

“Thank God that’s over,” I sighed. “I hate the jungle.”

It’s not so bad. You just need to find the bare necessities – that’s how a bear can rest at ease.

You hate it for the trees, I reminded Puck silently.

We were sitting in the cool shadows beneath the roof of Plain Rooke’s train station, and at long last it seemed that the complications of the druids – and more importantly, the horrifically humid Akela Jungle – were behind us. Sid was back where he belonged, Archie was apparently flying west to the Weather Institute to negotiate the release of the Aqua hostages with the druids, and I was sitting on a bench with Felicity next to me. The world was as far back to all right as it could be under the circumstances, and I felt more content than I had for what seemed like forever. I wondered if this was what Skitty felt like when they were stroked to purring point.

“It’s nice to get back out,” agreed Sapphire. “It is really hot there this time of year.”

Felicity said nothing, just studied the ground between her feet intently. I got the feeling that she didn’t like this talk about how hot the jungle was; it scared her, I suppose, since she couldn’t feel it.

It reminds her of her lack of humanity, Puck stated baldly. She isn’t human any more. She and Skuld aren’t like you and I; they’re much closer, much more interlinked. If it’s possible to get Skuld out of her... well, I’m not sure she’ll ever really return to normal.

I gave Felicity a sideways glance. I couldn’t imagine her as a normal person; her skin was just too bloodless, her hair too unnatural, her limbs too thin.

Way to cheer me up, Puck.

The Rotom was unrepentant.

It’s what I do best, he replied happily. I’m just a bundle of fun. You know, being made of awesome and all.

There was a clattering from further down the track, and a few seconds later the train rushed into the station; it was as if it hadn’t realised it needed to stop here, because it seemed almost to panic, and slammed on the brakes at the last moment. Only the rear half of it was actually still in the station when it finally managed to come to a halt, and when the doors opened, I sat there for a moment or two, just looking at it and wondering if I’d ever have witnessed something that stupid if I hadn’t met Puck and Sapphire.

“Come on,” Sapphire called, from the doorway. “The train will leave without you!”

Hah! Puck exclaimed. No train can leave without me, not if I want to be on board.

I got on, we found a compartment – it was one of the old-fashioned trains, which were just on the way out in Hoenn – and sat down. We talked for a while, then, as the fields of Plain Rooke faded into the distance, lapsed into silence.

You may be wondering why we were on a train, and where we were going. After all, we had no leads regarding what Zero’s next move might be, and no idea about what we should be doing.

The answer is that we were on our way back to a place we hadn’t been for a long time. Sapphire had put forth the idea over breakfast, and I’d agreed that it was as good as any we could come up with. Felicity wasn’t particularly pleased at taking any detours from the road to destroying Zero, but she didn’t seem to want to argue, and conceded that since we didn’t have a plan right now, it would be all right to spend a day or two doing other things.

Kester, you haven’t said where we’re going yet.

I’m getting to it! God damn it, Puck, you have no sense of how to build something up.

Why were we going to this place? It was to do with a gift we – well, me, but Sapphire had appropriated it – had received from the druids, as thanks for saving them. Never mind that it was me who’d done all the work; I wasn’t a Trainer, and so Sapphire had taken possession of what I still saw as my Castform.

He looked like a cross between a cloud and a baby, with a touch of teddy bear about the face. Floating around at head-height, his face was fixed in a perpetual giddy smile, and his eyes were, as far as I could make out, never focused on anything.

He’s also a she, remarked Puck sourly. Not that she appears to have any external genitalia, but she is wearing eyeliner.

That, I realised, made my chosen name of Cassius – the name of our deceased Skitty, as chosen by my long-dead father – somewhat inapt. Hastily, I revised this to Cassie.

The point was, Cassie was to be delivered to Professor Birch in Littleroot, for she was a species completely unknown to science; apparently the druids had actually created her and her fellow Castform from whole cloth. I had agreed to donate her to Birch on the grounds that I didn’t want Sapphire having her, and I was never going to use her myself – I was no Trainer, remember, and I didn’t intend to be. As soon as I’d fulfilled my promise to Felicity and got Puck out of my head, I was going straight back home and staying there.

The journey was a long one. We reached Mauville quite quickly, but the long ride down Route 103 towards Oldale took most of the afternoon, and it wasn’t until seven o’clock that night that the train finally pulled into Littleroot Central Station.

“It feels like forever since I’ve been here,” Sapphire said, gazing around at the sunny street. “Wow. I didn’t know how...” She trailed off and shook her head. “Never mind.”

“How what?” I asked, as we started to walk.

“Nothing,” she replied.

“You did not know how homesick you were,” Felicity said suddenly. Sapphire gave her a look.

“How did you know that?”

“I’m homesick too,” she admitted, then returned her gaze to the pavement. “But I can’t go home.”

“Yeah,” I murmured, thinking of my mum and Devon. “I think I understand that.”

Much as it pains me to admit it... so do I. Puck spoke in a tone that sounded like it was normally used when he had teeth pulled.

We were silent and still for a moment; somehow, without noticing, we’d stopped walking. I guess the others were thinking of home – I know I was. I was wondering what my mum was thinking, what was happening at school, what my friends had made of my sudden absence...

“Let’s go,” said Sapphire abruptly.

“Yeah,” I agreed, and we went.


“It’s the lab we want to go to,” Sapphire said. “Dad won’t be home yet, and we can drop Cassius off there.”

“Cassie,” I told her. “It’s a girl. So Cassie.”

“How do you know it’s a girl?”

“I’m very observant.”

“She’s been in her Poké Ball since we left the Weather Institute.”

“I’m very observant.”

“Puck told you, right?”

“Damn it!” I punched a wall and regretted it. “Every time, Sapphire, every damn time...”

She snickered, and the ghost of a smile passed over Felicity’s lips.

“Can’t you believe me just once?” I asked beseechingly. “I’m only trying to claw back some of the dignity that you and the grazzy Rotom have stolen from me.” I sighed. “You know, I used to be cool.”

Liar, said Puck simply and immediately.

Sapphire laughed incredulously and ducked out of the way of an old lady.

“That’s not true,” she snorted. “You? Cool? You’re not even lukewarm. You’re so uncool you’re hot.”

“That’s also a compliment,” I said triumphantly, and Sapphire made a rude gesture at me. “Did they teach you that at your posh private school?”

“Piss off,” she said, surprisingly coarsely, and Felicity actually laughed, which surprised Puck, Sapphire and I so much that we stopped to look at her, at which she blushed grey, which was not only creepy but vaguely revolting.

“Sorry,” she said timidly.

“No, it’s not a bad thing,” I told her. “Laugh if you want. Life isn’t always serious.”

“I know. It has been serious for a very long time, though.” Felicity’s eyes weren’t looking at me; I thought that they might be seeing the past. “It was very serious.”

That killed our amusing little conversation stone dead, and we walked the rest of the way to the lab in silence, wondering exactly what had happened to Felicity that had been so bad.

“It’s been a long time since I was last here,” Felicity said, staring at the blocky building.

“Me too,” I said.

“We were all last here at the same time,” Sapphire pointed out sharply. “That was a stupid thing to say, Kester.”

“Felicity started it!”

“You’re blaming it on her? How old are you, six?”

Puck said almost exactly the same thing at exactly the same time, and there was no defence against the twin assault but to shut up and look sulky, which only caused both of them to abuse me further.

“You’re so pathetic.”

Couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen toddlers with more backbone than you. And I’ve seen elderly spinsters with more manly spirit.

Sapphire waved at the vacuous-looking guard – who didn’t seem to have left the security booth, or even moved, since I’d seen him last – and he let us in. Then, once again, we were in that strange hybrid of junkyard and zoo that was Professor Birch’s workspace. Computers, files, CDs, caged Pokémon – a thousand things could have changed, and I’d never have noticed amongst all the confusion. The only things I was certain were the same from last time were the scientists, who were still standing at random points around the lab, smiling foolishly.

“Dad?” Sapphire took a few steps forwards, looking around. “Where are you?”

“What—?” Birch’s head popped around a bookcase, and interrupted itself with a cry of surprise and joy. “Sapphy?”

He rushed over to hug her, and Sapphire sidestepped neatly; I could tell that she almost tripped him up as well, purely out of reflex, but she managed to restrain herself.

“It’s nice to see you, too,” she said. “No hugs.”

“Ah,” sighed Birch wistfully. “You used to like being hugged.” He shook his head. “No, but – you’re back! This is fantastic!” He looked over at me. “And so is Kester! And – waagh!”

Faster than you might have thought a man of his size could move, Birch leaped backwards and somehow climbed atop a precarious stack of empty cages.

“S-Sapphy!” he cried hoarsely, pointing a trembling finger at Felicity. “It’s – it’s her!”

“Dad, come down. You’re embarrassing me. More than usual.”

“But Sapphy—”

“She’s a friend,” snapped Sapphire. “Now get down here!”

“Yes, dear.”

Birch jumped down, surprisingly nimbly, and regarded Felicity with a wary eye.

“My name is... you can call me Felicity,” she said. Birch pointed at his eyes with two fingers, then at her with one; I think he was indicating he was watching her.

She’s not in the circle of trust, Puck said knowingly.

“Dad, you’re staring.” Sapphire grabbed Birch’s chin and yanked his face away from Felicity. “Sorry, Felicity. He’s a coward.”

Birch looked as though he were about to argue, then seemed to agree with her, and shrugged.

“It is all right,” Felicity replied. “There are lots of people who don’t like me.”

“Is that a gun?” Birch asked.


“All right.”

Birch drew Sapphire aside, and spoke to her in a low whisper; if I strained my ears, I could just make out a few words:

“...a gun! This...”

“ stupid...”

“Oh, come on...situation is getting ridiculous...”

Then Sapphire muttered something in a very quiet voice that I couldn’t hear, and her father suddenly stood up straight and swallowed.

“Yes, well, there’s no need to bring that up,” he said stiffly. He turned back to Felicity. “I apologise for my behaviour,” he said with exaggerated formality. “Apparently, I’ve been unduly suspicious, and have misjudged you horribly. It’s been very firmly impressed upon me that I will understand everything and think I’ve been terribly unfair as soon as things have been explained to me.”

Sapphire is brilliant, Puck sighed. So perfectly able to control people... if she were a Rotom, I’d probably consider marrying her, you know.

I shuddered at the thought of how abusive the progeny of Sapphire and Puck might be.

“That’s all right,” Felicity said. “Kester will explain things. He’s good at it.”

I sighed.

“After we left,” I began, “we took a boat to Dewford...”


“Oh God!” cried Birch, leaping up from his seat and striking at his forehead with the heel of his palm. “I’ve misjudged you horribly, Felicity! I understand everything now!”

Felicity stared at him for a moment, nonplussed, then said:

“Um... thank you, Professor. I have not taken any offence.”

It was a long story, and I was thankful that Birch had already seen and accepted my preternatural powers, or it might have taken even longer to explain than it did. I’d hoped to try and set a new record for the time taken to tell it – beating the one I’d set when talking to the druids would have been a start – but the story was so damn complicated that I got lost halfway through.

“Well, I’m sorry anyway. I was terribly unfair.”

Does he really not get how ridiculous his choice of words is, given what he said a few paragraphs ago?

“It’s fine,” Felicity assured him.

“Dad,” said Sapphire, trying to lead him away from the topic, “why don’t you take a look at the Castform the druids gave me?”

“Gave me,” I said sulkily. “She’s mine.”

“You haven’t even touched her.”

“Because you snatched her off me—”

“Semantics,” said Sapphire, waving me aside, and let Cassie out of her ball. I took the opportunity to take a good look at her, and was forced to agree with Puck: she was wearing eyeliner, though how she’d applied it was anyone’s guess.

“Fascinating,” said Birch, peering myopically at her. This didn’t go down well; Cassie made a noise that might have been a growl at him, and, looking around for familiar faces and finding that the only one that even remotely qualified was mine, zoomed over to float above my head.

“Hey,” I said, looking up. “Cassie, you have to stay here.”

She looked blankly down at me.

Kester, she isn’t a person, Puck said. Think of her as a lobotomised monkey – she doesn’t understand anything you say and never will. Also she finds One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest really, really relevant.

I’m sure she’s not that stupid.

It’s called hyperbole, I use it for comedic effec – you know what? Shut up.

“Go. Over there.” I pointed at Cassie, and then at Birch. There was still no response, so I took her ball off Sapphire and recalled her. Then, handing the ball to Birch, I said brightly: “Looks like you’ll get on just fine.”

“Oh, definitely,” Birch agreed, nodding. “Pokémon and I always get on. Right, guys?”

He turned to a series of wire cages containing a Poochyena, a Taillow and a little cub-like creature with a blue face; as one, their heads whipped around to face him, and they barked, screeched and growled at him in a way that seemed a pretty firm contradiction of Birch’s last statement.

“Yeah,” Birch said happily, turnig back to us. “They love me.”

Is it me, or is he stupider than last time we met?

Nah, about the same.

“Anyway,” he said, “it just so happens that my wife has gone to Petalburg to visit her sister for a few days. So, you can come stay at our house, Kester.” He turned to Felicity. “And you too, Felicity.” He glanced at a window, through which the sunset poured as if it were liquid. “Come on, it’s late.”

And so it was that, after all that time on the road, in Pokémon Centres, in mountains and museums and forests, I finally got back to what might be called civilisation. It wasn’t my home, true, but it was someone’s home – and that made it infinitely more pleasant than a hotel. In the hallway there was a framed handprint labelled ‘Sapphire, age 4’; on the sideboard in the living-room were photographs of the Birches, apparently on holiday somewhere snowy. You could tell someone lived here, and that they liked it, and that was wonderful.

“Right,” said Birch, ushering us all into the living-room. “Have you eaten?”
We hadn’t, and said so.

“Then I shall get you all something to eat,” he said, in tones that suggested he was accepting a sacred challenge, and marched off to the kitchen. All three of us listened intently, sure that some sort of slapstick crash was to follow, but there was none; instead, Birch came back a minute later, looking sheepish, and asked: “Sapphy, how do you turn on the oven?”

“You’re not allowed to do that, remember?” Sapphire reminded him. “Mum doesn’t let you. Not since last time.”

“What your mother doesn’t know,” pronounced Birch, “will most definitely not hurt her.”

“No, but you might hurt her kitchen,” Sapphire countered. “Seriously Dad, don’t try and use the oven.” She stood up with a sigh. “Sit down. I’ll do it.”

“And I will help,” offered Felicity, and together they walked off to the kitchen.

Birch and I were left looking at each other, in what probably counted as a shared manly moment.

“Women,” sighed Birch. “I don’t understand them, Kester.”

“If you did,” I suggested, a witty rejoinder coming to my mind, “you probably wouldn’t have married, and you definitely wouldn’t have had a child.”

You call that witty? I’ve seen funnier things in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and there ain't nothin' less funny than Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

“I mean, so what if I set the kitchen on fire once? I’m not going to do it again. I’ve learned.”

“That’s probably not a ‘woman’ thing,” I pointed out, as tactfully as possible. “Not letting you use the kitchen if you’ve set it on fire before is probably just a ‘sensible person’ thing.”

Birch waved one hand in a curious gesture that was almost, but not quite, entirely meaningless.

“Gah,” he said, apparently unable to think of anything more articulate, and stomped out.

Which left me alone, and so it was that I managed to enter into a spectacularly trivial and enormously overblown argument with Puck, and lose horribly.


Darren Goodwin lay on Thursday morning, and thought about the person in the next room. He had met her last night, at Arrivals in Lilycove International Airport, and got a taxi to take her to the hotel he was staying in. She had been fairly unmistakable: she’d been the one dancing and lip-syncing to some song in English.

Tall and slim, she was in her early twenties, and her complexion and long, dark hair marked her out as Hispanic. She wore a yellow shirt that exposed her midriff and tight blue jeans; a man less devoted to his wife might have been tempted to say she was glamorous. Darren, however, did not. A depth of love that few would have expected of him rendered him nigh-immune to the charms of other women.

You are the agent of Zuckerman?” he asked her. He had been told she was Mexican, so it wasn’t an entirely groundless suspicion; however, he did not speak Spanish, so he was trying English.

Yeah,” she said, turning and smiling broadly. “Hi! Who are you? Did Zuckerman send you to meet me? That’s nice of him! I hate him though,” she added, without drawing breath. “My name’s Dahlia, what’s yours?

My name is Darren Goodwin—”

That’s a nice name. Are we going now? Where are we going?

Darren resisted the urge to slap her and concentrated instead on working out what she was saying; she spoke very fast indeed, and his English was far from perfect.

Zuckerman tells me to get you a hotel room,” he said. “We will talk in the morning.

And then they had got in a taxi, and Dahlia had not stopped talking for the entire journey back to the hotel. So annoyed had the Goodwin become that as soon as they vacated the taxi, he had drawn a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her – only to find that she was already holding a knife to his. For a long moment, the two of them looked right into each other’s eyes, two killers who each held the other’s life in their hands, and then, at the same time, both put away their weapons and smiled thinly.

Now, at eight o’clock on Thursday morning, Darren was wondering precisely who Dahlia was. She was clearly far more than just a chatterbox Mexican woman; he could tell that she was at least his equal in the deadly arts they practised, and possibly his better. This was fine: there would always be someone better than you, and Darren could accept that. After all, he was a Goodwin, and that meant he was third-class.

But still, there was something extraordinary about this woman...

Darren shook his head and got up. He dressed quickly and, on a whim, climbed from the balcony of his room onto that of Dahlia’s, drawing a knife as he went. He wanted to make sure...

The doors to the room were unlocked; he stepped in quietly, saw Dahlia asleep in bed – jet lag, no doubt, he thought to himself – and crept towards her...

Almost immediately, Darren ducked and rolled as a knife whistled past overhead; he leaped back up and swung the knife down towards her breast – but Dahlia rolled aside, two more knives appearing in her hands from nowhere. They faced each other across the bed, eyes locked on each other’s weapons, and then Dahlia laughed.

This is weird,” she said in a sing-song voice. “Is this a test? I think I passed, you know. I’m pretty good.

Yes,” replied Darren, straightening up. “You pass.” He walked over to the door, then paused. “Get ready. We have much to discuss, and we need to leave soon.

With that, he left, but there was a shadow lying across his brow. He didn’t know what this woman was, but he definitely didn’t want her coming with him. Something about her was deeply wrong, and he had a feeling it could only mean that things were changing for the worse.


Zero let out a long breath. It had been a close-run thing, but he had done it. Directing the CIA towards Hoenn had got Dahlia involved, and with her in the game the irregularities in his calculations had been ironed out.

He leaned back and tilted his head left and then right; with each movement his stiff neck cracked.

“Most gratifying,” he murmured. “I’m glad that’s done with.”

With that, he got up and readied himself to fly out. If he wasn’t very much mistaken, Maxie wanted to see him – and after that, he had to get Felicity back. There was no time to rest on his laurels now; the world’s eventual nonexistence was only inevitable as things stood now, and there was no guarantee they wouldn’t change.

Zero sighed and quit his lair.

“It truly would seem,” he murmured to himself with a smile, “that there is no peace for the wicked...”

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old June 25th, 2011 (2:07 AM).
olih's Avatar
olih olih is offline
Who says you can't go home?
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: everywhere
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Posts: 417
Oh, okay, because I thought Zero was a reference to the Zero from the Giratina movie.
Well, I liked your description of Dahlia, and I'm curious as to who she is...
Stop Kony!
Old June 25th, 2011 (5:24 AM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
Gone. May or may not return.
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 23
Nature: Impish
Posts: 1,030
Thank you for reading everything, olih; I know there's a lot of it. Sorry to disappoint you with Zero.

In other news, I appear to have been stricken with some strange sort of apathy, which has limited both the regularity and the quality of my chapters. I think it's something to do with having finished my exams, but still being stuck at school. To test this hypothesis, I'm going to wait until Friday to post the next chapter; maybe my brain will recover by then.

To tide you crazy folk who like this story over, take this shiny new chapter.

Chapter Fifty-Eight: Skull Splitting Revelation

The night was the first of the unpleasantly warm, sticky ones that Hoenn is so prone to in summer; the tropical air lay thick and stagnant over every room, choking us all through the air conditioning and weighing heavily down on me, as if I were being smothered with leaden blankets.

In short, I couldn’t sleep.

This has always annoyed me. I mean, I was born here in Hoenn. This was the seventeenth of its sweltering summers that I’d lived through. And yet I still wasn’t used to the hot, humid nights.

But uh-oh those su-umer nights, sang Puck. It could be worse. You could be in Equatorial Guinea.

“What’s wrong with Equatorial Guinea?” I asked, barely able to raise my voice above a whisper.

Nothing. I just don’t think you’d like it there. Puck paused. You’ve got a question, haven’t you?

I sighed, blinked slowly and pushed the duvet completely off the bed. It hadn’t even been touching me, but its presence was irritating.

“Yeah. It’s about what you said earlier.”

About the ruinous state of the monarchy in Mushroom Kingdom? That princess just isn’t suitable to rule, I tell you!

“Er... no. It’s about when you said that Sapphire was only fooling me.”

Ah. That.

There was a long pause, and the crickets screamed outside.

“Are you going to talk to me about it?”

You already know all the answers, Kester. You just need to join the dots.


Come on, Kester. It’s a rule of this world we live in. We’re imprisoned by tropes here. Which makes Sapphire’s role easy to predict.

“You’re not making any sense.”

Do you know what doesn’t make any sense? Your face, that’s what.

“That made no sense.”

Yeah. You see? That was, like, a triple bluff or something.

“No, it was just stupid.”

It was that too, admitted Puck. It was all that and much, much more. Full story pages 9-12.

“You’re being very silly tonight, which means you’re avoiding the question.”

Join the dots, Kester. Give it a minute’s thought, and then tell me that you need me to spell things out for you.

I thought about it, and then sat up fast enough to make my head spin.

“Please tell me I worked that out wrong,” I said desperately. “Please, Puck. Say it ain’t so.”

What did you think?

“Sapphire doesn’t... like me, does she?”

Good heavens, no! Puck cried.

“Oh, thank God.”

She just thinks she might be in love with you.


Keep it down, other people are trying to sleep. Though if they’re anything like you, ‘trying’ might be pushing it.

“What do you mean, Puck?” I said in a low, urgent voice. “This is not the sort of thing you need to keep from me!”

He sighed.

It’s quite simple, he began. Sapphire has never had many friends, because they all leave to find someone less dislikeable. You, however, didn’t leave. So you two became friends. Now Sapphire – who, for all her expertise in the Pokémon department, is really bad at dealing with people – has mistaken this for more than it is. However, since she likes the idea of loving you about as much as you like it, she is pretending she doesn’t feel that way. Which is ironic, because she actually doesn’t.

By this point, my head was going round and round faster than Colonel Dedshott’s.

“Puck, that’s really confusing,” I groaned. “Can you put it more simply?”

No. And he proceeded to repeat himself.

“That’s so annoying,” I said. “How can any one person be so stupidly conflicted?”

Simple. By being a teenager. You’re all as bad as each other, honestly.

“Aren’t you a teenager? You talk like one.”

No. I’m really old, I’m twenty-one.

“That’s not old.”

It is for a Rotom. Puck sighed. Look, I’ve answered your questions. Won’t you leave me alone and go to sleep now?

“Sapphire,” I muttered, sinking back onto the sweat-soaked bed. “Of all the people...”

It took me another hour to finally fall asleep, and by then the first light of dawn was peeking through the gap in the curtains.



Sapphire’s father was in the hallway, answering the phone; it was twelve noon on a lazy Friday, and she, Felicity and Kester were watching TV in the living-room. Felicity was restless, not wanting to be cooped up here while she could be fighting Zero – but there was nothing else to be done, and neither Sapphire nor Kester really wanted to do anything today. Not after the events of the last few days.

Actually, Kester had been a little weird today, and Sapphire wasn’t sure why. He had been avoiding her eye all morning, and had given her a few odd looks over breakfast.

On the plus side, her burned arm was feeling better. That Blissey lotion was working wonders – the burns hadn’t really gone down much yet, but the stiffness and pain was all but gone.

“Oh!” Sapphire heard her father’s voice from the hall, the one exclamation rising above the general half-audible murmur. There was a short pause, and then she heard his footsteps coming towards the door. “Sapphy,” he said, holding out the phone, “it’s for you.”

Somewhat puzzled – she had no idea who this could be – Sapphire took the handset and held it to her ear.

“Hello?” she said.

“Sapphire!” said the unknown caller, in tones borrowed from one of the more refined and musical gods. “It’s me, Steven.”

Sapphire didn’t need to be told; she’d recognised his voice immediately. It wasn’t the sort of thing you forgot.

“Steven?” she said, sitting up straighter by reflex, even though he couldn’t see her; to her left, Felicity and Kester started, and turned to look intently at her. “This is a – a surprise!”

“Sorry. I haven’t caught you at a bad time, have I—?”

“No, no! Not at all. What is it?”

“I’ve got some good news, but I’m terribly sorry to say that I’ve also got some bad news. Which would you like first?”

“The bad news.”

“Ah, so you’re that sort of person! Right, well, I’m afraid I can’t get through to the League.”


“I know, it’s extraordinary! But they... well, I just can’t get in contact with them. I keep getting fobbed off by undersecretaries and switchboard operators. It’s very annoying.”

“So there isn’t going to be any League help?”

At this, Kester’s eyes widened, and he whispered something to Felicity – probably informing her that they’d been hoping for League intervention.

“Not at this rate,” Steven said grimly. “If I can’t get through to them, no one can.”

“Damn. That really is bad news.” Sapphire sighed. “OK, so what’s the good news?”

“Oh – I’m not done with the bad news yet. Do you have a television nearby?”

“Turn it to channel six. Do you get channel six?”


“Turn it to channel six.”

Sapphire put her hand over the mouthpiece and hissed:

“Kester! Channel six!”

He fumbled for the remote, found it and thumbed the button; on the screen, the face of Gabby van Horne appeared.

“...first time the Institute has been breached like this,” she said. “It seems that not even the Gorsedd were safe from the plague of Sableye.” Stripe’s picture flashed up on the screen. “Police are urging anyone who has any information on the whereabouts of this Sableye to please come forward, and anyone who encounters it to stay away, as it is extremely dangerous.”

Kester went pale.

“Cal,” he swore. “What have we done?”

“Though there have been no injuries, it is reported that during the attack, Team Aqua agents were seen around the Weather Institute,” Gabby said. “What their interest in the Institute might be is unknown. We’ll keep you posted.

“In other news, the famed Don Pedro will shortly be arriving at Messina, there to stay with the governor Leonato. His companion, Benedick, is said to feel ‘sarcastic’ about the affair. We’ll bring you more as it comes...”

There was a long pause.

“I’m going to assume from the silence that you saw what happened,” Steven said. “But it gets still worse, I’m afraid. Have you noticed there’s been a sudden decrease in Sableye attacks recently?”

“Er... yes?”

“How perceptive of you. Well, it was because they reached Lilycove, where Archie had them captured to prevent them from interfering with his Team. But he saw an opportunity in the Weather Institute, and had them released through the underground tunnels while he and his Aquas came in aboveground, ostensibly to conduct hostage negotiations. Hence, he was able to hold the entire Institute hostage – and now he knows the location of the Blue Orb.”

Cal!” Sapphire started violently. “Sorry,” she apologised hastily, calming down. “It’s just... that’s really bad. Really, really bad.”

“I know,” said Steven. “Would you like the good news now?”

“I think I might need it. If only to stop me giving up and slitting my wrists. Or maybe Kester's wrists.”

At this, Kester looked outraged, but Sapphire ignored him.

“If you can get over to Lilycove by six o’clock this evening, I can get us into the Team Aqua headquarters. From there, we can find out more and see if we can figure out a way to stop them.”

“Right. Wait. It’s midday – the train will take too long...”

“Blast it!” Steven exclaimed. “No, there has to be – of course! I believe my father gave me a private jet for my birthday a few years ago. I haven’t used it, but if I can find it, I’ll send it down to Littleroot to pick you up.”

“For your birthday...?” That sort of wealth was alien even to Sapphire, who knew quite a lot of rich people from school.

“Yes, for my birthday.” Steven sounded like he was dialling on another telephone in the background. “One moment,” he said. “Manuel! Yes, it’s me. You wouldn’t happen to know where my aeroplane is, would you? What do you mean, which aeroplane? I only have one! ...Oh, is that so? Apparently I have three,” he confided to Sapphire. “Right, well, get hold of one of them, Manuel, and send it down to Littleroot, there’s a good chap. Right. Right. Oh, excellent. Goodbye. Right,” he said to Sapphire, “you two need to be at the airport in an hour. I’ll have my people ready for you. If you have any fancy clothes, bring them along – it’ll make things much easier. Oh, and I hope you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. See you later!”

With that, Stephen hung up, and Sapphire lowered the phone slowly, trying to make sense of what she’d just heard.

“What did he say?” Kester asked.

“We need to leave,” she replied.


“I didn’t know you know Steven Stone,” Professor Birch said, shaking his head in amazement. “You surprise me so much, Sapphy.”

“I didn’t know you knew him,” she replied, buckling her seatbelt.

“Oh yeah,” he said absently, bringing the car out of the drive. “I know him quite well – you know, from events and things. We’re both fairly big people in the Pokémon business.”

“How come I’d never heard of him?” Sapphire asked.

“He doesn’t make a spectacle of himself,” Birch replied. “He went to Europe to look for Steel-types – he likes them a lot. Trained a Metagross, which is no mean feat.”

“I know. I saw it.”

“Beautiful, wasn’t it?”

“Kind of. More terrifying, really.”

“But it’s impressive, right?”

“Yes. Definitely. In a really scary sort of way. I don’t think they have souls.”

“You don’t think we have souls. You’re an atheist.”

“And what’s wrong with that, Dad?”


“Hmph. Let’s talk about the Metagross some more.”

“Agreed,” said Birch eagerly. I guessed he was always ready to talk about Metagross.

I listened to the back-and-forth of Pokémon banter for a while before my interest waned and I looked out of the window instead. We were driving through what were to me the unfamiliar streets of Littleroot, winding through a network of one-way roads to nowhere. Birch was obviously a veteran of the system: he was negotiating them smoothly, avoiding the tailbacks and expertly driving in the opposite direction to which he wanted to go. He’d told me earlier that that was the only way to get anywhere in Littleroot.

It had taken us twenty minutes to get ready to leave, mostly spent puzzling over what Steven had meant by ‘fancy clothes’; in the end, we decided that since Felicity and I definitely didn’t have any with us, it wouldn’t matter if we just forgot about that part of the message. Sapphire hadn’t unpacked her bag yet, but Professor Birch had, in a rare fit of conscientious parenting, removed the now-slightly-mouldy remnants of the food we’d eaten on our hiking trip from Slateport to Mauville. Sapphire had also found and brought along the mobile phone she’d had before she got the one Puck had destroyed, as a stop-gap measure until she got a new one.

The car journey itself was swift, since time was of the essence; several times, Birch did things on the road that were of questionable legality, but since this was Littleroot and no one was quite sure what was legal on the roads, no one stopped us and we got to the airport with five minutes to spare.

As soon as we got out of the car, a Spanish-looking man in a peaked hat and neatly-pressed uniform came over to meet us.

“You are Miss Birch and Mister Ruby?” he asked us. His accent was strong, and possibly fake.

“That’s us,” I answered brightly. “And our friend, Miss... er, what’s your surname?”

Felicity considered.

“Right now,” she told me, “it’s Kusagari.”

that’s oblique, Puck remarked.

“Right. Miss Kusagari. She’s coming too.”

“My name is Manuel,” the Spaniard said, giving a little bow. “Please come to the aeroplane now.”

“Bye, Sapphy— ow!”

“No hugs, Dad.”

“All right,” Birch said ruefully. “I’ll see you soon. Be careful, OK?”

Sapphire’s gaze softened.

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “OK?”


“Come, please!” Manuel said, and we went without further ceremony. I glanced back when we were a few steps away from the airport doors. Birch looked kind of lost there, alone in the car park; it was kind of sad. The image was shattered a moment later, however, when he almost got run over by a red Volvo and leaped backwards, yelling obscenities at the driver.

Manuel whisked us through the airport faster than I’d ever been through one before. It seemed barely a moment after we’d stepped in that we were walking onto the tarmac of the runways.

Ahead of us was a slim, predatory-looking craft, with a sharply-pointed nose and swept-back wings. This was a plane that looked like it was in the habit of swooping down to kill cars on the roads, like some strange mechanical roc.

Pretty, breathed Puck. Wants it... wants the precious... my precious...

“Whoa,” I gasped. “That’s an awesome plane.”

Sapphire glanced at me and sniffed.

“Boys,” she remarked, with a look at Felicity; some sort of beam of female solidarity passed between them then, and left me feeling like I was eleven and socially inadequate.

As we approached the plane, I had a question for Manuel:

“What’s Steven’s plan to get us into the Aqua HQ?”

He shrugged and spread his arms wide in a curious gesture.

“I know nothing,” he said, and Puck burst out laughing.

“What?” Sapphire asked.

“I know nothing,” Manuel repeated. “I come from Barcelona,” he added by way of explanation.

Sapphire and I exchanged glances; Felicity just looked at her feet.

“There will be refreshments on board,” Manuel went on, leading us to the steps. A few drops of rain spattered against the tarmac; I glanced up and saw the sky had bruised with thunderheads.

“Maybe that’s what Steven meant about piña coladas,” Sapphire muttered as she climbed the steps up into the jet.

And getting caught in the rain, observed Puck, as the rain thickened. We rushed up into the plane, asked Manuel if we’d be able to fly in this weather, received the answer that we would, turned to look at the jet’s interior, and took a simultaneous sharp inward breath of wonder.

Because it really was, even if you thought that liking vehicles was a ‘boy’ thing, a pretty damn sweet aeroplane.

It had chairs, yes, like ordinary aeroplanes. Except these ones were arranged around tables, and there were carpets, and curtains, and what looked like an entire kitchenette at the back. There was also a miniature library – containing, a little plaque said, a first edition of the classic Hoennian novel Dr. Pepper Comes to Town – and a TV. And a sofa. And... well, I could go on, but this would then cease to be a description, and become a sort of verbal drooling at the sight of all this splendour, in a plane.

The airport, like all others, had a Pokémon with weather-changing moves on hand to clear the air, and while we were installing ourselves in Steven’s luxurious jet, the rain abruptly gave way to bright sunshine. As we rose into the air, I looked out of the window and saw a rainbow, which seemed to make everything complete.

Just think, Puck said. This is how Steven lives. The lap of luxury, rich as Croesus – man, I could get used to this.

“So could I.”

The jet rocketed forth through the sky, a long, sleek blade that cut the very air apart, and we travelled northeast to Lilycove.


We have read of Darren Goodwin. We have read of Kester Ruby. But where were the comic double act, Blake and Fabien, whose antics put Dogberry to shame?

The answer: they were in Lilycove.

We must now address the question of why they were there, and this is simply answered: they were there on the orders of supervisor Antonio, who had once, on a dark and stormy night, told some bandits a story. These orders were to meet with an informant there who claimed to have information on Zero’s whereabouts, extract from them the information, and then bring it back to Antonio, who would pass it on to the proper authorities.

And so it goes that we find Fabien, Blake and Goishi creeping furtively through the streets of Lilycove, looking as suspicious as it is possible to look without actually being arrested, heading for a little bar in the centre of the seedy Bandara District, where they would meet with the informant.

This bar turned out to be, when they found it, possibly the most run-down and uncouth of the establishments that Fabien had ever visited. The windows were black with grime, the bricks were stained black with a slightly different flavour of grime, and the door was little more than a big, grimy black plank held in place with loops of cord. From within, a few faint strains of music could be heard – but, if one had to describe the music, one would have been forced to conclude that it sounded grimy.

“This is not a prepossessing sight,” Fabien commented unnecessarily, staring at this façade. It was wedged between a partially-exploded cinema (a sign said that its demolition had been put on hiatus, and was dated 1947) and a tall, rickety house topped with an ominous ramshackle tower.

“’S’a’righ’,” Blake said by way of reply, and while Fabien was trying to work out what he’d just said, he pushed open the door and went in.

The music stopped. Dead.

All manner of men and beasts were staring at them in total silence; an assortment of washed-up Jynx, petty crooks, minor thugs and con artist Kadabra variously glared and glowered, according to their taste.

“The ’ell’re you lookin’ a’?” Blake asked belligerently; apparently, either his dialect or his words satisfied the drinkers, for they seemed to recognise him as one of their own, and went back to drinking. At the back, the band started up again; some of them were human, and some of them appeared to be Bith. The Psychic Pokémon were known to have surprising musical gifts.

Fabien sauntered in after him, and Goishi brought up the rear. The Crobat was certain that had the decidedly middle-class Fabien announced their arrival, they would probably have been lynched, and was quite thankful that Blake had done it instead.

They took seats at a table near the back, and Blake went to get drinks. While he did so, Fabien glanced around uneasily.

“This is not my sort of bar,” he told Goishi confidingly. As far as he was able, the Crobat raised his eyebrows.

“’Ere we are,” Blake said, setting down two glasses and a dark bottle of uncertain provenence. He seated himself, and he and Fabien set to drinking whatever it was that the bottle contained. It was by no means pleasant, but it was certainly powerful, and pungent with it – fulfilling two of Fabien’s ‘Three P’s’ of drinking (patent pending).

Some time passed, and then some more.

And then some more.

And a little more after that.

“I do believe that no one’s coming,” Fabien said crossly, staring at his watch. “That’s annoying.”

“It is,” agreed Blake.

“I mean, who do they think we are?” Fabien asked, aggrieved. “We’re a good old-fashioned criminal trio. Strongman” – he indicated Blake – “skilled fighter” – he indicated Goishi – “and even a genius!” Here, naturally, he laid a hand upon his own chest.

“That’s right,” said Blake uncertainly.

Eeee-eek.” By this, Goishi meant that in that case, Kester Ruby probably ought to be dressed in black, and Maxie should be a sadistic prince who wanted to marry Sapphire Birch, but no one understood, and consequently he was ignored.

“Maybe this was a se’-up,” Blake ventured.

“Inconceivable!” cried Fabien, and someone at the next table turned to glare at him. He was singularly ugly, and bore an unfortunate resemblance to a walrus.

“Shut up,” he growled.

“Shut up yourself,” replied Fabien pugnaciously. “I’ll not be pushed about by the likes of you!”

Fights seemed to be common enough in this tavern, and so no one took notice of the ensuing ruckus; the ugly man went for a gun, and Goishi was obliged to Cross Poison his arm off. This put paid to any of his attempts to fight, and so, apparently heedless of the pain, he growled angrily, rose to his feet and took his drink elsewhere.

EE-eee-eek,” he said, which was probably a veiled reference of some sort.

“Quite,” agreed Fabien. “The cheek of some people—”

“Hello,” said a soft voice. “Are you the Magmas we’ve come to see?”

Blake and Fabien looked up.

And Darren Goodwin looked down.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old July 1st, 2011 (2:32 PM). Edited July 6th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
Gone. May or may not return.
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: The Misspelled Cyrpt
Age: 23
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Posts: 1,030
Chapter Fifty-Eight: Hex, Drugs and Rock and Roll

“Right,” said Steven. “I expect you're all wondering what you're here for.”

He said 'all', Puck noted. He thought of me... how sweet.

We were in a long, low black car that was longer than your average sedan but whose aspirations towards limousinehood would never be fulfilled. Rain was pattering against the windows in the feeblest summer thunderstorm I'd ever seen, and we were speeding through the streets of Lilycove. I didn't think I'd ever get to use the word, but the perfect description of the car was probably swanky.

He might just have meant me, Sapphire and Felicity.

“We are,” Sapphire said. “So... why are we here? What's this plan you have?”

Now that I knew about Sapphire, it was quite difficult to look at her without something of my knowledge betraying itself in my gaze; consequently, I'd been avoiding doing it. I was certain I could work out a way to get past this soap-opera-esque situation eventually, but for now I was trying my best to ignore it.

“Do you know who Archie is?” asked Steven.

“The boss of Team Aqua,” Felicity spat, with such force that we all stared at her for a moment.

“Um... yes, that's true,” admitted Steven. “But I was referring to his non-piratical persona. His status as one of the highest members of Lilycove's social elite.”

“Oh.” Felicity seemed unrepentant.

You sure you like her? She comes across as being a bit hateful. Full of hate. A natural born hater. The kind of girl who loves to loathe. I'm going to shut up now.

That's probably for the best.

“Tell us more,” Sapphire said.

“Well,” Steven said, making a steeple of his fingers, “his submarine has just been finished, it seems, down at Angel Laboratories. He's holding some sort of event to celebrate.”

“We're going to infiltrate it?” I asked, an all-too-familiar sinking feeling welling up in my stomach.

Steven beamed.

“You do catch on fast,” he cried happily. “Excellent. That's precisely what we're going to do. You see, the event will be held at Archie's mansion, which I know for a fact has a passageway into the main Aqua base. In fact, I suspect this party is actually a way to get certain people into the base without suspicion – backers of the Aquas whose positions would be compromised if they were seen openly consorting with them.”

“Wait.” I held up a hand. “This is a really bad idea, so there had better be a really good reason for doing it.” I looked around. “Does anyone have one?”

Steven pondered for a moment, then suggested:

“Information gathering? After all,” he went on, “we don't know anything of how Zero's plans will work out just yet, and the druids also refused to tell me where the Blue Orb is – I think they plan to get it back themselves. I believe it's safe to assume that Zero's plan hinges on the Aquas getting hold of the Orb, so if we can find out where the Orb is—”

“—we can go there and stop them getting hold of it,” put in Sapphire.

“And, therefore, thwart Zero's nefarious plot,” finished Stephen. He looked at me. “Are those reasons compelling enough for you?”

Reluctantly, I agreed that they were indeed pretty good reasons, and that I couldn't really argue against them.

You can argue against anything, actually, Puck said. The difficult part is winning the argument. That's the bit you have to work at. Took me two years, fourteen thousand pounds and half a ton of chopped liver to get that right. That was one weird teacher, he added reflectively.

“Right. Firstly, we need to get you two disguised,” Steven said, to Sapphire and I.

“What about Felicity?” I asked.

“I am a traitor to the Team,” Felicity pointed out dourly. “I can never go near them again.”

“Fair enough,” I admitted. “All right. Are you coming, Steven?”

“Oh yes,” he said. “I go to all the important functions. It was expected of me when I was the Champion, and I suppose I never really lost the habit. They won't know I'm working with you, so I should be fine without a disguise.”

“Is this why you said to bring fancy clothes?”

“Yes. I see you didn't, but never mind; I can get hold of some.”

The car pulled up outside a luxurious-looking tower block with a marvellous Palladian façade—

Kester! This joke is beyond not funny now!

—where a smartly-dressed concierge of some sort came and opened the doors for us. We got out, Steven unfurling a large steel-grey umbrella as he did so and holding it over our heads.

“Manuel,” he said, rapping on the driver's window of the semi-limousine, “go and get hold of all that make-up stuff, would you? I think I left it at the Hafter.”

“Hokay,” agreed Manuel, and drove off.

“Come on,” said Steven, turning back to us. “Let's get inside.”

We walked over to the entrance, where the concierge-type person was holding open the doors.

Heh heh heh, sjirachied Puck, in a most unpleasant way. The game's afoot! I smell humiliation, drifting in on the breeze. It's the only smell better than binary.

What? What do you mean, you smell humiliation? And how can you smell binary?

If Nick Carraway could hear yellow cocktail music, then I can smell binary. So there. As for the humiliation, Puck added sinisterly, you'll find out soon enough...

“Now that's a bad omen if ever there was one,” I muttered under my breath, and followed the others into the hallway.


For a long moment, Fabien stared into the eyes of the man in the green overcoat, mouth slightly agape. Then, slowly at first and then faster, he began to speak.

“Well, it's about bloody time!” he cried indignantly. “Do you realise how long we've been waiting here?”

The man in the green overcoat looked puzzled.

“What? This was the time we agreed on.”

“No, you were meant to get here at five o'clock!”

The man looked at his watch.

“It is five o'clock.”

Fabien checked his own.

“It is not,” he proclaimed. “It is ten past four, exactly the same...” His face fell and his voice went quiet. “Exactly the same time as when we got here.”

“Your watch 'as stopped,” Blake concluded helpfully.

“Yes, well, my apologies,” muttered Fabien unhappily. “Right. Well, you're here now, and that's all that matters. Have a seat.”

The man in the green overcoat sat down, and a rather attractive woman of Mexican origin sat down next to him. Fabien blinked. Where on earth had she come from? He could have sworn she hadn't been there a moment ago.

“Give us this information, then – oh, damn.”

Fabien had just noticed that there was something lying in the middle of the table. It was brown and hard and had a pair of stiff, ragged wings. Above it hovered a whitish crescent, and it didn't move at all – not even a twitch.

“Goishi, can you...?”

“Take down the Crobat,” the man in the green overcoat instructed. The hard thing rose up into the air, still immobile, and now Fabien could see what he'd suspected; it was something like the shed shell of an insect.


The Crobat blinked himself out of a trance, but the shell moved first; its edges blurred and the whole vanished for a second. There was a low impact sound, and a dark flash, and then the shell was floating still again above the tabletop, and Goishi was sprawled across his seat, blood running into his eyes from a giant gash across his temple.

“Sucker Punch always goes first,” the man in the green overcoat said.

The Mexican woman clapped her hands and cried something happily in English, which ruined the effect somewhat; the man looked cross and shushed her, elbowing her in the ribs.

Blake started to get up, but Fabien motioned for him to sit down.

“Who are you?” he asked sharply. “What do you want?”

The man in the green coat smiled thinly.

“Don't you remember me?” he asked. “We've met before.”

Now that he mentioned it, there were faint bells ringing at the back of Fabien's head...

The Mexican woman, evidently bored by the lack of conversation she could understand, started whistling loudly. The song was vaguely familiar, but Fabien couldn't place it – something Western, perhaps?

“Look, I'm trying to cultivate a mood here!” snapped the man in the overcoat, before sighing and repeating himself in English. The woman made a face that suggested he was overreacting, and fell silent. “Sorry,” he said, turning back to Fabien. “Where was I? Yes, we've met before.”

Then Fabien got it.

“You're – you're the Devon man who had the goods in Slateport!” he cried theatrically, pointing a melodramatic finger.

The man inclined his head with just the right amount of menacing confirmation. Fabien, a connoisseur of the art of criminal overacting, had to hand it to him – the guy was good, very good.

“That is correct,” the Devon man said. “Do you realise exactly how much danger you are in?”

Fabien nodded; Blake asked for clarification. This did not help the man's attempt to create an atmosphere, but he answered anyway. A terribly good sport, Fabien thought. The best sort of crook – the gentleman thug.

Goishi looked up blearily and managed a feeble 'Eek' before flopping back down again; it was likely that this was his way of saying that Fabien was making less sense than something that had been jointly written by Edward Lear and James Joyce. This was not up to his usual standard of inferred scathing retort, but his imaginative faculties were a little impaired at present.

“I could kill you at any moment,” the Devon man said for Blake's benefit. “Hex could take you apart before you could so much as blink.”

“Righ',” Blake said apprehensively, eyeing the exoskeletal Pokémon. “Nice to know where we stand.”

“So tell me everything you know,” the Devon man said, looking at them through half-closed eyes, “everything you know about Kester Ruby, the boy with the Rotom-powers.”

That ought to have been a very intimidating moment, but the Mexican woman chose it to start whistling again. A long, drawn-out shudder thrummed up and down the Devon man's body; the merest ghost of a suppressed shriek of rage escaped his lips.

Please stop that,” he said through gritted teeth. Fabien didn't understand it, but he was certain it was nothing good. “Right, you two. Just start talking.”



“But you see—”

“I'll handle this, Steven,” interrupted Sapphire, holding up a hand. She turned to me, and that lopsided grin had spread across her face in a way that reminded me unpleasantly of a serial killer I'd once seen in a film. “Kester...”

“Whoa,” I said, taking a step back and raising my hands defensively. “You can't make me do anything, Sapphire. I'm dangerous. I burned your arm.”

“And blew up my phone. By my count, that means you owe me not one, but two.” Sapphire looked at me triumphantly. “And I want to call in that debt. Now.”

“Well, you can't,” I replied bluntly. I tried to take another step back, but the wall was there and I couldn't go any further. “Seriously, if you come any closer I'll Ominous Wind all of you.”

Oh, this is so much fun! cried Puck happily. I swear, if I could ingest popcorn I'd have got myself a bucket to eat while watching this!

“You're not helping,” I muttered angrily. “Shut up.” Then, louder: “I'm not doing this!”

“Yes, you are!” Sapphire took a step forwards and I Charge Beamed the carpet in front of her feet; she jumped back smartly. “Wow,” she said mildly. “I didn't think you'd actually shoot.”

“Please be careful,” said Steven unhappily, regarding the scorched patch. “This carpet cost nine hundred and seventy-eight thousand dollars.”

“What? Oh, cal! Er, sorry,” I said apologetically. “I – er – sorry. I forgot we were in your apartment.”

Steven sighed deeply and went to sit on the sofa, where he stared despondently at the floor.

“Um... how much would it cost to have it repaired?” I asked nervously.

“I don't want to offend you,” the Steel-user said sadly, “but probably more than the net worth of your entire family.”

I winced.

Oh, that's bad, Puck said sympathetically. It's a nice carpet, too. I would steal something like this. In fact, everything in here's pretty nice. Nice paintings, nice sculpture – beautifully-designed furniture. In short, lovely place. Security's not too strong, either; I might come back here when I get out of your head.

“Is there – is there any way I can make it up to you?” I asked.

Steven raised his head, and I caught the faintest of smiles in his eye.

“Well,” he said, and my heart sank, “there is one thing...”


“This is probably the most degrading thing I've ever done,” I said glumly, staring at myself in the mirror.

It really isn't, Puck replied. Think of that business from last year.

Fair enough; that had been worse. But this had to come quite a close second.

“You look fine,” Sapphire said, and I could hear the suppressed laughter in her voice. “Better, in fact. You look pretty.”

I swung round, hand raised.

“If you say one more thing—!”

Sapphire pushed my hand down and gave me an unimpressed look.

“Kester, I know you're not going to shoot me. You don't even really like shooting the bad guys.”

I glowered, but did nothing; she was right. I was a bit more of a hero than the Kester Ruby who'd started out on this journey – but I wasn't that much of a hero.

“Now, hold still a moment longer... done!” Sapphire said with satisfaction.
“OK, you're good to go. Just don't touch your eyes. In fact, if possible, don't put your hands anywhere near your face tonight.”

“I never thought it was possible to hate someone so much,” I moaned.

“Don't be so melodramatic,” Sapphire said disapprovingly. “Come on. Steven's waiting.”

We left the spare bedroom and went back into the living-room, which now bore the scar of my ill-temper in the scorch-mark on the carpet. Steven was lounging elegantly on the sofa – so elegantly, in fact, that I half-suspected him of arranging himself specially for our entrance. Felicity was sitting next to him, flipping slowly through a newspaper, and both looked up at our entrance.

“Hello,” I said sourly. “Look at me, I'm a freak.”

“Excellent,” Steven nodded, getting to his feet. “No, that's marvellous. But you need to work on the voice.”

“I'd rather die.”

“In that case, perhaps you'd better remain silent.”

Felicity hadn't said anything, but was giving me such an intense look that I felt even more self-conscious than I did already.

“Doesn't he look good?” Sapphire asked her. Felicity seemed to turn this over in her mind for a moment, then replied:

“Yes. Very.”

“Really?” I asked, surprised.

Oh, when she says it, it's OK. But when we say it, it's all like, Puck, Sapphire, shut up! You guys are so cruel. Huh. All I'm doing is deriving sadistic pleasure from your misfortune. As Gary Coleman would have put it, you're giving me s-c-h-a-d-e-n-f-r-e-u-d-e.

I wish I had you trapped on a CD. I would get so much pleasure from having it embedded in a block of stainless steel and buried in a pit at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

Do I detect hatred there? It's a little weak, so it's hard to tell...

Just shut up!

Fine. But, like a Tusken Raider, I'll be back. And in greater numbers.

“See? Felicity agrees with me,” Sapphire snickered. Briefly, I considered punching her, but decided regretfully that I was too weak and she was too strong, which was the reverse of how things should have been. If this had been a movie or a novel, I would have been the hero and therefore the strongest.

Not necessarily. You might be Bilbo.

“Whatever. I just... look, let's be clear that I strongly disapprove of everything that's been done to me, yeah?”

“I think you've made that abundantly clear, Kester,” said Steven with a smile. He glanced at his clock; it read six o'clock. Getting the disguises ready had taken a long time, especially in my case. “Manuel should be bringing the car around soon. Get ready, everyone. Felicity, will you be all right here?”

She looked up from her paper.

“I will be fine.”

“I feel awful about just leaving you like that,” Steven said apologetically. “I didn't know you were coming, and you can't really come to the party...”

“It's fine,” Felicity assured him. “Just tell me everything when you get back.” She glanced at me. “You know, I didn't think you'd be able to walk in those shoes.”

“Neither did I, and I didn't want to find out,” I replied darkly.

“It was meant to be,” Sapphire said. “You've got a knack for it.”

“Shut up.”

Felicity smiled to herself and went back to reading.

The telephone rang, and Steven answered it.

“Oh, is that so? Brilliant. Thank you so much.” He put down the handset and turned to us. “Come along, boys and girls,” he said with a grin, “the car's waiting outside.”

Sapphire burst out laughing, and even Felicity giggled a little. Needless to say, Puck was the most amused.

Steven doesn't make many jokes, he said, but I have to say, the ones he does are just the right sort of malicious. Know what I mean?

I want to see you being set on fire one day.

That's the spirit, Kester. That's the spirit. By the way, what're you calling yourself tonight? You can't be 'Kester', that'll be a dead giveaway.

I don't know.

“I'll see you later,” I said to Felicity. “Hopefully not too much later. I don't want to spend any longer like this than necessary.”

She gave a little smile.

“See you later,” she said.

“Bye,” said Sapphire, and we left.

A sudden terror gripped me; what if someone saw through my disguise? I was no longer in the apartment, where the only people who would see me like this were my friends (and sort-of enemies). This was the outside world, and there were people out here who—

Stop worrying, Puck advised. You look convincing enough. Seriously.

Hmph. As if I'd take your word for it.

The short trip down to the car was nerve-wracking; we passed several other people, but if any of them realised I was anything more than what I appeared to be, they didn't show it. By the time we reached the car, I had almost convinced myself that Puck was right, and I didn't look suspicious, but I still virtually threw myself through the door – I didn't want to remain in public any longer than necessary.

“That was fun,” remarked Sapphire, smiling. “You stumbled a little on the stairs, but other than that, you were fine.”

“It's these damn shoes,” I muttered tersely, much to the amusement of everyone else present, and Steven rapped on the glass that divided us from the driver.

“You know where to go, Manuel,” he said. “Drive on.”

, Mister Steven,” replied the Spaniard, and the car pulled out into the street. I let out a long breath.

It was going to be a trying night.


A grand plan was coming to fruition.

This plan was grander than Steven's scheme to infiltrate the Team Aqua headquarters, but less grand than Zero's scheme for world destruction; on a scale of one to ten, where one is a plot to commit insurance fraud and ten is a scheme to con the Devil out of Hell, this was probably about a five and a half.

It was a scheme to move a submarine.

The father of Sapphire's childhood friend, Natalie Stern – that is to say, Captain Ernesto Stern (Retired) – was, if you remember, an Aqua backer. Thus, he had commissioned a submarine from Angel Laboratories.

Now this submarine was needed by the Team, to get at wherever the Orb had been taken to, and Stern was faced with a difficult situation. How was he to get the vessel from Slateport to Lilycove without revealing his involvement with the Aquas? He had bought Angel's silence, but they wouldn't sail it up to Lilycove for him; he didn't trust any hired sailors to do it. After all, if you went aboard, it became very clear who the owners of the submarine were: the Team Aqua logo was all over the place, from the breast pockets of the diving suits to the corners of the doors and control panels.

Many men, when faced with this problem, would have given up under the pressure. Not so Ernesto Stern. He thought for a moment, and he came up with a solution: he would get the Aquas to sail it up there.

A moment's more thought had exposed the weaknesses of this scheme. The submarine had been moved by Angel from their drydock to the north-eastern shipyards. It was off the Wharf, and therefore somewhat out of the way – but people would still notice if Aquas turned up. Many skills could be attributed to the sea-loving criminals, but remaining incognito was not one of them.

So Captain Stern (Retired) had thought some more, and then he had hit upon an idea so good he had to go and sit down for a while, and get Natalie to make him a congratulatory cup of tea.

He would get the Aquas to steal the submarine.

Yes, this was nothing short of a staged robbery. It was grand in conception and grand in scale: therefore, Stern was justified in calling it a grand plan. He was rather pleased about that – a grand plan, he thought, was one of those things that every man ought to have at some point during his lifetime.

Of course, a man of Stern's means – he could, after all, afford to send his daughter to Liro Academy without the aid of a bursary, so he was a man of some considerable means – had no problems in setting the whole thing up. The plans of rich men tend to go off well, if only because they have the funds to guard against all eventualities.

And so it was that at seven past six, Stern was standing at the public docks, facing Gabby van Horne and Tyrone de'Medici, preparing to give a televised speech to the effect that he was bankrolling a deep-sea expedition.

And so it also was that at nine past six, a series of speedboats wove expertly between the docked ships and pulled up beside the submarine.

And so it also was that by eleven past six, the only trace that the submarine had ever been there was a harshly-severed chain hanging from the pier.


Ready for the ball, Cinderella?

I ground my teeth.

Didn't your mother ever tell you—?

She didn't, actually. Does anyone's mother ever actually tell them that?

Fair cop. My mother didn't. Then again, I don't have teeth. Not real ones, anyway.

The car pulled up outside the stout iron gates of a tall, solid-looking townhouse; it had a long gravel drive, and all the windows were lit up like a cityscape. The sound of merriment and music drifted through the night air, and in a brief poetic moment I imagined it floating east out over the sea, and glittering shoals of Luxipike swimming to the surface to listen.

A uniformed valet strode smartly down the drive, through the open gates and pulled open the car door.

“Mister Stone!” he exclaimed, slightly surprised. “This is an honour. We didn't think you were coming.”

“My apologies,” said Steven coolly, flowing out of the car like a great silvery cat. “I changed my mind last night. I trust this doesn't inconvenience you?”

“Not at all,” the valet said earnestly. “The master will be most pleased. May I escort you to the party?”

Steven glanced back into the car's dark interior, to where we were.

“Come on, you two,” he said. “Get out and let Manuel park the car.”

Slowly, reluctantly, I vacated my seat and got out; Sapphire followed behind me, poking me in the back. The valet looked on curiously.

“And who might you be?”

“This is Miss Nicola Courthauld, of the Ecruteak Courthaulds,” Steven said, indicating Sapphire. “And this is the Princess of Sweden, Miss Ingrid Sørensen.”

Note: On the feasibility of Kester's footwear: I do my research. I'm fairly certain it's possible for Kester to be able to walk in high heels without any practice. I mean, I found out that I can walk fine in six-inch ones having never worn any before, so I'm fairly certain I have whatever knack it is that Kester has, and, therefore, that it exists.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old July 1st, 2011 (3:57 PM).
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Silent Memento Silent Memento is offline
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I just laughed my arse off at the thought of someone actually falling for "Miss Ingrid Sorensen". Personally, I don't think anyone's going to really believe Kester's disguise, but the end result should be hilarious either way. The only thing that could have made this better was a description of Kester's...feminine side. You find it fun to humiliate him like this, don't you?

Your grammar is impeccable, as always, but I caught one minor error:

Now I knew about Sapphire, it was quite difficult to look at her without something of my knowledge betraying itself in my gaze; consequently, I'd been avoiding doing it.
You might want to put the word "that" in between the two bolded words.

Steven's lines were absolutely freaking awesome. He really is one of my favorite characters.

I don't mind the wait at all; if the next chapters are as good as this one was, I could wait months for them because this, my good sir, is a thing of beauty.


Quotes are nothing but words.
Old July 2nd, 2011 (1:42 AM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
The only thing that could have made this better was a description of Kester's...feminine side. You find it fun to humiliate him like this, don't you?
Yes. Yes I do. And don't worry, there will be a description. It's how the next chapter opens.

Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
You might want to put the word "that" in between the two bolded words.

Steven's lines were absolutely freaking awesome. He really is one of my favorite characters.

I don't mind the wait at all; if the next chapters are as good as this one was, I could wait months for them because this, my good sir, is a thing of beauty.
Now that you've mentioned that 'that', I think that that 'that' definitely needs to be put in, and I'll insert that 'that' at once.

As for Steven, I like him too. A lot. He doesn't actually say anything funny, but his speech patterns and mannerisms make me laugh anyway.

Regarding chapter quality: all I needed to do was to get out of school. I have particularly long summer holidays, and they began on Wednesday; now, unencumbered by the dull affairs of the schoolboy, I have found inner peace and am able to put the full strength of my mind and wit into writing.

Whoa. I think I'm monologuing. I'd better stop now, right after I've thanked you for your time and patience in waiting for this chapter, and for continuing to enjoy it - because there's nothing better than knowing people like what you like to create. It's a win-win situation.

I said I would stop, and now I will. F.A.B.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old July 3rd, 2011 (1:09 PM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Chapter Fifty-Nine: The Princess Lied

The presence of Steven Stone at the parties of Hoenn's social elite is not so very extraordinary. He is usually to be found in the midst of a knot of admirers, expounding enthusiastically on geology, or at the back of the room, leaning against the wall and watching the people interact before him.

However, when Steven Stone comes to a party accompanied by two young women whom no one has ever heard of before, it causes something of a stir.

For no one knows who Steven Stone's friends are, or who it is that he met on his extensive travels around the globe. Never before had he been known to bring anyone from abroad back to Hoenn – but then again, no one was entirely sure at which of his many homes he actually lived, so it wasn't known where they would have gone.

Consequently, when the young man entered Archie's house that night, accompanied by a daughter of a well-known Johtonian mining family and a rather plain Swedish princess, those nearby turned to stare in well-bred surprise, and a light murmur ran through the crowd.

“Mister Steven Stone,” announced the doorman to the room at large, “and Miss Nicola Courthauld, of the Ecruteak Courthaulds, and the Princess Ingred Sørensen of Sweden.”

Steven gazed benevolently over the heads of the partygoers; his Kantan heritage meant that he was taller than most Hoennians.

“Good evening,” he said. “Carry on.”

And he swept into the crowd, taking a drink from a passing tray-bearer and trailing two rather lost-looking young girls behind him.


“Yes,” said Steven, “Ingrid is currently travelling the world, to gain some experience of other cultures before ascending to the throne.” He turned to Ingrid and said something rapidly in what might well have been Swedish; for a moment, Ingrid looked startled, and then she nodded.

Archie squinted at Ingrid. She looked rather familiar, but he was certain they hadn't met before. Tall, rather inelegant and somewhat gawky, she had a face that was, if not the most attractive Archie had ever seen, certainly one of the more interesting. She had long hair that was just red enough that it had to be dyed, and a perpetually nervous look on her face. Archie supposed that Hoenn probably seemed rather intimidating to foreigners, especially those from as far afield as Sweden; it had a great many differences from, and very few similarities to, the rest of the world.

Nicola Courthauld, on the other hand, seemed to be rather enjoying herself. She was a good deal prettier, but she was Johtonian, which was a downside – Hoenn and Johto were something like England and Scotland, or America and France, in that they were both irrationally prejudiced against each other for some long-past historical slight. The Courthaulds were, however, a family worth knowing: they controlled the biggest mining company in the Grand Pacific Custer. Nicola had the black hair common to the family, and wore wire-rimmed glasses perched low on the bridge of her nose. Like Ingrid, she seemed vaguely familiar – perhaps even more so.

“And Nicola was just here to visit me,” Steven continued, regarding Archie with a strange sort of absent-minded perspicacity. “The Courthaulds always send their kids over to meet me; I'm quite the geology tutor when I set my mind to it.”

“Is that so?” murmured Archie. He couldn't shake the feeling that he'd seen the girls before somewhere; in the end, he put it down to nerves. Tonight was a big night; he had to get those who had funded the quest for the Blue Orb onto the submarine, get there himself and set sail for the deep-sea cavern where the Orb was being hidden. The investors wanted to see the plan come to fruition, and Archie couldn't blame them; they'd put a lot of money into this. He'd let them witness the resurrection of Kyogre—

“Mister Taniebre?” said Steven. It seemed he'd been speaking for a minute or two, and received no answer.

“What?” Archie blinked, and caught sight of a man who might or might not have been Captain Ernesto Stern (Retired) in disguise coming in through the door, arm in arm with a young woman that he would probably claim was his daughter. “Ah. Oh, would you excuse me for a moment?”

“Certainly,” Steven said. He didn't seem unduly put out, but as Archie walked across the room, he felt those green, green eyes on his back all the way.


“Steven!” I hissed, retreating from a group of people who wanted to get introduced to a princess. “When can I get out of here?”

Had enough already? I'm quite enjoying this. I can't remember the last time I was at a swanky cocktail party. Which is probably because I've never been to one before, but still.

“Be quiet, Ingrid,” Sapphire said with a wicked grin, and took a sip of her champagne. “The time isn't right yet.”

“Nicola is right,” said Steven, “it's not— oh, hello, Miss Mortensen. Ah, if you would do me the courtesy of returning in just a moment...? Thank you.” He turned back to us. “Um – yes, Nicola is right.” He glanced around; to our right were the pianist and violinist, and, to our left, someone I vaguely recognised as being one of the Fallarbor film producers, talking to a gaggle of pretty but not-very-famous actresses. “No one knows you. People are going to want to talk to you, and most people are going to want to speak to me, as well. Give us an hour to mingle, and then I'll see if I can find an opportunity for you to slip off.”

“You're not coming?” I asked, surprised.

“I have to keep people distract— Why, if it isn't the Admiral!”

I looked up, and saw a deeply-tanned man in a white suit approaching us. He was bald, rather wrinkly, and had big, bulging eyes.

He looks like a piece of calamari that decided it had had enough of being dead, Puck said. What's more surprising is that he's making that look work for him. Not many people can carry that off, you know.

“Steven,” said the Admiral. “It's been a while.”

His voice was deep, gruff and incredibly rough; either he had a throat full of gravel, or he'd been smoking for longer than most people actually live.

“It certainly has,” Steven agreed. “Admiral, I'd like to introduce you to two friends of mine. This is Miss Nicola Courthauld, and this is Princess Ingrid Sørensen of Sweden.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Sapphire said, affecting a Johtonian accent – she was pretty good at it, too. She shook the Admiral's hand, and then I did too; instead of saying anything, I just smiled.

“Regrettably, the Princess speaks no Hoennian,” Steven said apologetically.

“That so? A princess?” This seemed to have been the only part of the conversation the Admiral had picked up on. “I knew a princess once. Good woman, and a damn fine shot, too.”

“I see,” said Sapphire, who probably didn't.

“Admiral,” began Steven, but the old man had already wandered off, and was talking animatedly to a rather surprised-looking waiter.

“That was rude,” Sapphire said crossly; I suppressed a laugh.

“Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!”

Zing! Wait, whose side am I on? I think I'm on Sapphire's. Boo, Kester! I mean, boo, Ingrid!

Sapphire looked like she might argue, but Steven broke the confrontation up before it began.

“No fighting now, girls.”

“Don't call me that—!”

“For the purposes of this evening, you are a girl, Ingrid,” Steven said, a hint of steel creeping into his voice. “We went over this in some detail. This is the last guise they'll expect you to come in.”

“Yes. Shut up, Ingrid.”

I glowered at Sapphire for about ten seconds, then my face got tired and I had to stop.

“Come,” said Steven, his usual geniality reasserting itself. “Let us mingle.”

He took me by the arm and led me away, back towards the main crowd. Sapphire drifted along beside me.

The time passed nervously and miserably. I'd thought someone would be bound to see through my disguise, but no one did; I think they would have done had they not thought it a ridiculous idea that a boy might be here in disguise as a girl, and that Steven would be helping him. The plan seemed to be founded on the principle that people will always more readily believe a really big, crazy lie than a little one, and that therefore they'd be more willing to believe a seventeen-year-old boy was the Princess of Sweden than a slightly different seventeen-year-old boy.

If I'd been able to get over the fact that I was in the house of someone who wanted to capture and probably torture me, in drag and with a snide Rotom in my head, I might have been able to enjoy the situation. There was booze, which was good, and a lot of famous people, which was better. I was introduced to at least three famous directors, seven members of the Hoennian aristocracy, about ten wealthy businesspeople and aspiring starlets without number. I think a couple of the last saw me staring at them, because they gave me some very odd looks.

At long last, though, we'd managed to rid ourselves of the limelight, and people were now gravitating towards a new arrival who'd just been announced as the Prince of Denmark; he was a couple of years older than me, with a wild look in his eye. I remember him because he was all dressed in black and wore a sword.

“I don't mean to interrupt your enjoyment of the festivities,” Steven said, apparently sincerely, “but look over there.”

I did. Archie had taken the Admiral to one side, and was speaking quietly and urgently into his ear; as I watched, he finished and walked out with him, through a side door.

“They're moving people into the base,” Steven murmured. “Nicola, Ingrid, follow Archie and find the way in. I shall cover for you.”

“The Admiral's one of theirs?” Sapphire asked, surprised. “Why are you friends with him?”

“No one said I was friends with him,” Steven said, with a faint, chilling grin. “I don't have friends, just tactical acquaintances.” He blinked. “Excepting your good selves, of course. Now, go on! You've a secret lair to infiltrate.”

Bit creepy, that, Puck said uneasily. No friends, just tactical acquaintances... ominous words, if ever I heard them.

Sapphire and I detached ourselves from the crowd of partygoers and crept over to the side door through which Archie and the Admiral had left. It wasn't locked, and with a quick look around to make sure no one was watching, we slipped through.

We were now in a darkened corridor, handsomely panelled in tropical hardwoods; the same ultramarine shag carpet from the main room covered the floor. I couldn't see anyone ahead – nor could I see anything ahead that was more than a few metres away; it was very dark indeed.

Immediately, I sat down on the floor and started wrenching at my shoes. The heels, while not the highest I'd ever seen, were definitely the highest I'd ever worn, and for the last few hours had been busily torturing my feet with all the fervour of the Spanish Inquisition.

“You have no stamina,” said Sapphire scornfully. “Mine are higher, and I'm not taking them off.”

“That's because you've done this before,” I growled up at her. “I, on the other hand, am not a girl and have never worn these before.”

Also, she wants to prove her superiority over you, for it is only in treating you as a second-class citizen that she can distance herself from her imaginary feelings for you.
Puck sighed. Man, love's complicated. I'm glad I'm not capable of it – it's too long-term for Rotom, you see. We're too capricious and obsessed with transitory vanities to build meaningful relationships.

I stood up again, wriggled my toes in the soft carpet and sighed.

“Right,” I said, “I suppose we go down here, then?”

“You suppose correctly,” Sapphire replied, taking off her glasses. “Come on. Leave your shoes here; we'll get them on the way out.”

I propped them up against the wall in a corner, marvelling at the fact that I'd been able to stand in them at all, let alone walk, and then turned to follow Sapphire down the corridor.

“There are a lot of doors,” I whispered, after we'd passed the first five.

“I know. But none of them have any guards, so I don't think they're the right ones.”

“Guards?” I asked. “No one said anything about guards—”

“If you can take those Magma guys, Blake and Fabien, you can take these,” Sapphire reasoned. “Besides, I brought Stacey.” I hadn't realised it was possible to conceal a Poké Ball in the close-fitting black dress she was wearing, but evidently Steven's tailor was a wizard of some kind, because she produced one seemingly from nowhere.

Simple quantum sewing mechanics, Puck said knowledgeably. I stole some stuff like this from the Milan fashion houses once. The dress redistributes mass to change the perceived shape. Usually, it's used to make people look thinner – but in this case, it conceals the bulge of the Poké Ball in the secret pocket.

“What about Toro and Rono? Why don't I get a full complement of back-up Pokémon?”

“Because they're no good against Water-types, and Water-types are the ones that Team Aqua use,” Sapphire told me. “Have you learned anything during the last two weeks?”

I thought for a moment.

“All Trainers are crazy,” I said, slowly and with great deliberation.

This isn't relevant or anything, but... has anyone else noticed how long this corridor is? Corridors this long don't actually exist in real life. They terminate, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Is that it?” Sapphire asked. “That's all you've learned?”

“Pretty much,” I admitted. “I mean, it's not like I've been at school. If I'd been there, I'd probably have learned about Manila Torrence's campaign against the Spanish*—”


Sapphire held up one hand for silence, and put the other over my mouth for good measure. I listened, and heard voices.

“Do you think anyone actually comes here?” asked one.

“I dunno,” replied another.

“And what's with the lights? This isn't a film. We don't need dramatic lighting, so why not turn them on?”

“I dunno.”

I got the feeling that this line of conversation had been going on for a while.

“I don't see the need for all this cloak-and-dagger stuff, either,” the first voice went on. “Sneaking people in here with the cocktail party as cover... Why not just disguise 'em and have come in normally?”

“I dunno.”


“Actually,” the second voice said, “I do know why there's a party.”

There was an expectant silence. Then:


“The boss likes cocktail parties.”

“Oh. That's me told, then.”

You know what would be funny? Puck said. It would be funny if this was part of Zero's plan, and he told Archie to give the cocktail party just because he knew Steven would have the idea of this disguise for you and wanted to see you suffer.

I looked at Sapphire, and Sapphire looked at me.

“What is with these people?” I whispered.

She shrugged.

“They're all like this, remember? Not a sane one among them. Anyway,” she went on, “they're behind this door.”

She indicated one, and, listening harder, I confirmed that she was right.

“The entrance to the base must be in there,” Sapphire whispered. “On the count of three, we go in and you shoot them. Three.”

“What about Stacey?” I hissed frantically.

“She can't be quiet, so she's our last resort. Two.”

“Wait, we should prepare—!”




There was no need to dispatch a lackey to fetch him. Tabitha could have heard Maxie's roar from halfway to Timbuktu; he thought that the normal laws of the universe, frightened by the anger it carried, probably didn't dare interfere with it. Either that, or Maxie had some Exploud blood in him somewhere – though how that might work was an area too disturbing to contemplate.

Suffice to say, the coffee in the mug on Tabitha's desk jumped when the sound reached it; Tabitha himself leaped up out of his chair, thinking the boss was just behind him, before his pounding heart calmed down and reason asserted itself. Maxie was in his office, staring at the Red Orb; that was where he had been ever since the thing had been brought back here.

Dragging his feet, Tabitha trudged dutifully to Maxie's chamber, wondering what exactly it was that he had done now, and why it was always him that was blamed for things and not Courtney. He supposed she must be better at her job than he was at his – though what exactly it was that Courtney's job entailed he couldn't exactly have said.

He arrived at the door and knocked.

“Get in here!”

Tabitha drew himself up to his full height and smoothed his hood, determined not to come across as quite as pathetic as he usually did, pushed open the doors and strode in. Directly in front of him was Maxie, his shark-like face contorted in fury, and immediately Tabitha shrank back again, nervous.

What was even more surprising was that Courtney was here; she was standing off to the right, looking steadily into the far corner, away from both Tabitha and Maxie.

“You, er, called, sir?” Tabitha said hesitantly.

“Why didn't we know about this?” Maxie ripped a newspaper from his desk and thrust it into Tabitha's hands so hard that the middle bit came out, and the Admin was left holding the corners.

This only served to anger Maxie further, and he snatched the centre part from the floor with all the passion of Juliet stabbing herself.

“Read it!” he snarled. “Why didn't we know about it sooner?”

Tabitha scanned the headline. It read:


“Submarine...?” Tabitha didn't see it. “Why do we need to know—?”

“You want me to spell it out for you?”

Tabitha fought the urge to run: Maxie's voice had gone quiet, and acquired a tone that made it sound almost reasonable. It was when he was in this frame of mind that he did things that he would later regret – or rather, did things that other people would later regret. Maxie did not, as far as Tabitha knew, possess a capacity to regret something as trivial as murder.

“Look, Tabitha,” said Maxie, and his smile was like a string of flints, “do you agree that the Aquas were behind the attack on the Weather Institute?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I'm glad we're singing from the same page of the hymn-book,” Maxie said. He turned and started striding carelessly back towards his desk. “So what do you think they got out of that attack, Tabitha?”

“They got their men back?”

Maxie stopped with his back to Tabitha, and waved his hand in a way that indicated that this was true, but not correct. Courtney still did not look at them.

“Close, but no cigar. They did get something, but it was something they didn't have before. Something they really wanted.”

The penny dropped.

“They got the location of the Blue Orb?”

Maxie spun around and snapped his fingers.

Now we're cooking with gas,” he said, smile broadening. “So why do you think they've stolen a submarine, after no big out-in-the-open crimes for years?”

“They... need it to get to the Blue Orb,” Tabitha said, the colour draining from his face. This was something he ought to have seen coming. Intelligence came under his remit.

“So, Tabitha, there just remains one question.” Maxie walked over to him, and his hard, angry eyes stared into Tabitha's from just an inch away. “Why didn't you work this out before?”


Tabitha had no answer. Maxie nodded understandingly.

“I thought so,” he said. “Now go and find out where they're going, and stop them.”

Eager to be out of there, Tabitha turned to leave.

“Oh – one more thing?” Maxie said, as he reached the door. Tabitha stopped and looked back.

“Tabitha's a woman's name,” the Magma leader said sourly, and punched him in the face.


Barry had not had a good week. It had been ruined, really, as soon as the whole Ominous Wind incident had taken place. From there, it had gone from bad to worse, and now he was standing guard in Archie's house, ignoring his loquacious colleague and feeling sorry for himself. Barry didn't know what the word 'loquacious' meant, but then again, he didn't really know what 'colleague' meant either. One might well be bored upon hearing this – after all, the point has been somewhat laboured – but I will reiterate here that Barry was a moron.

Tonight, he was a bored moron, and in a few moments' time, he would be a semiconscious moron.

For he was standing in a small, sparsely-furnished room that housed a steel door leading into the headquarters of Team Aqua. On the other side of the room's other door, a rather pretty girl and a rather plain transvestite were preparing to – as Barry himself might have put it – bring the pain.

Three seconds before the door opened, Barry was staring vacantly into space.

With two seconds to go, he was wondering what the name of that song that went 'da da de da da' was.

And at the final second, he was reeling under the impact of the realisation that almost all songs can be written down as 'da da de da da'.

Barry had still not recovered fully from this when the door burst open, which did not bode well. Then again, Barry was also a rather two-dimensional character whose primary characteristics were anger and stupidity, and who existed purely to be abused, so perhaps he was destined to lose the ensuing confrontation.

Whatever the reason, he did. As the door opened, a crackling bolt of yellow lightning slammed into his chest, and his head snapped back into the wall with a painful jolt. To his credit, he didn't pass out; he lumbered forwards with an incoherent roar and lashed out at the first thing he saw.

This was rather unfortunate for all concerned. Barry had grabbed what appeared to him to be a somewhat ugly red-haired girl in a green dress; since very few teenage girls attacked the headquarters of criminal organisations, he was startled into not punching her immediately. It took him a full half second to overcome his aversion to hitting women, by which time the girl had become charged with lightning, and the punch, therefore, caused something of a small explosion.

When the dust cleared, Barry found himself lying on his back, atop something lumpy; leaping back to his feet, he found it was the other guard. He was, regrettably, dead, but at least he had stopped talking.

Before him stood two girls, one pretty and one plain. Both looked startled, but, equally, both had an unusual amount of fire in their eyes. Barry's simple brain clicked through a list of possibilities, pointed at 'Felicity' and jumped to the not-entirely-incorrect conclusion that his life was being invaded by ridiculously pugnacious teenage girls.

“Get out of the way, Barry,” said the black-haired girl – the pretty one. “We don't care about you.”

Barry blinked.

“How do you know my name?” he demanded.

The black-haired girl sighed.

“Ingrid?” she asked.

The other girl looked unhappy, but raised a hand and fired another beam of electricity into Barry's chest. The big Aqua went down hard, and didn't get up again; he was not yet unconscious, merely in tremendous pain, though this had much the same effect.

“Ingrid,” gasped Barry inaudibly, as the two girls stepped over him, heading for the door. “Lightning...” His brain raced to complete its current
calculations before it stopped functioning, and fudged a couple of figures to get it done in time. “Kester Ruby has a sister!” cried Barry, finding the only possible explanation, and passed out.


Steven lounged elegantly against a sideboard, eyes roving around the room like a hawk watching its field. He noted the young woman coming in through the main door, announced quietly as Lady Amaranth of Emberglow; he observed the pale youth all dressed in black, slipping silently through the side door that led into the dark corridor.

Steven's mouth turned down at the corners, very slightly.

“Things are about to get complicated,” he murmured to himself. Then he smiled broadly and sailed forth through the crowd, aiming for Lady Amaranth, and caught her lightly by the arm. “My lady,” he said, bowing slightly. “What a pleasure it is to see you again.”

Amaranth looked slightly flustered, and Steven steered her away gently, taking her over to the side.

“I'm sorry, have we met—”

“In actual fact we have, my dear, though you were very young at the time; I doubt you'd remember me. We were both waiting for our fathers to come out of a business meeting, about fifteen years ago. As I recall, you ate all my chocolate and made the toys sticky.” Steven looked straight at Amaranth, and his smile faded. “I have also met the Lady Emberglow, and since she is currently in Spain, I was somewhat surprised to hear her announced.”

The faux Lady stood there for a moment, eyes wide; in them, Steven could read that oft-vocalised thought: oh, cal.

“Come, my dear, your cover will be blown if you act like that,” Steven went on. “Here, have a champagne – have a canapé – there you go, that looks more natural. Now, I think we ought to have a little chat. Firstly, about how unusually lax the security here seems to be – and secondly, about why you are here, Miss Stern.”

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old July 6th, 2011 (1:53 PM). Edited July 6th, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Chapter Sixty: We All Live on an Aqua Submarine

Pictures of Liii-ly, sang Puck. Ah, I like the Who. That's not a joke, by the way, or relevant. I just felt like sharing.

I wish you wouldn't.

We were currently in the middle of a long corridor that was apparently made entirely from blue linoleum; it led from one long corridor made of blue linoleum to another long corridor made of blue linoleum.

In short, we were slightly lost.

“This is looking increasingly hopeless,” I observed. “Even if we try and look for the exit, we'll probably run into some Aquas first.”

We had, in fact, encountered several Aquas already, but, taken by surprise, they hadn't posed much of a threat, and lay unconscious in various attitudes around the maze of blue corridors.

“We can get through,” insisted Sapphire. “Listen.”

I listened, and heard distant waves.

“That can't be coming from outside,” Sapphire reasoned, “because you can't hear the sea from here. So there must be a dock or something in the middle of this.”

“Maybe it's where they're going to put that submarine,” I suggested.

“Maybe. Anyway, if we head towards the sound, we'll get to the dock eventually. And that means an open space, where we can get our bearings.”

“I love the way you don't really seem to care that we're in what most people would call a life-or-death situation,” I said. “I wish I could put that little fear of being captured by the mafia out of my head and just, y'know, get on with this like you.”

Sapphire gave me a look that actually caused me physical pain.

Ooh, said Puck sympathetically. That's nasty.

“Come on, Ingrid,” she said. “Let's go.”

“Are you ever going to stop calling me Ingrid?”

“Not til it stops being funny.”

So never, then, Puck said. Come on, girls, let's get going.

And we did, heading for the rushing waters, and straight into Zero's trap.


Darren Goodwin wasn't the type to complain, really. He was the sort who suffered in silence.

Right now, he was suffering in silence.

The presence of the insufferable Dahlia was one of the most irritating things he'd ever undergone. Darren could barely find the words for it, and sought solace in analogies: she was the eagle to his Prometheus, the poisoned arrow to his Chiron, the eels up inside him to his Hitcher...

The Goodwin blinked. One of those didn't quite fit.

He shook his head; it didn't matter. Right now, he had to focus on putting all the information they'd got on Kester Ruby together—


Darren froze, and then a long, slow shudder rumbled through his body. He turned to face the door.

What do you want?” he asked.

I figured it all out,” Dahlia said brightly, dropping down into the chair next to him. “Goodfellow came here on June 19th. Kester Ruby turns up in hospital a week later, and on the same day those two gangster guys get their Golbat zapped. That's all we have for a while, then you saw him and Sapphire Birch again on that island—”


That island, yeah. Then they both turn up in Slateport, where each rival mafia gang thinks they're working for the others – that's kinda funny, isn't it? Like in a movie – and beats each other up over it.”

I know all of this. Get to your point.”

Dahlia made a disapproving noise.

Don't be so grumpy,” she said, making a face indicative of exaggerated grumpiness, such as a child might make. “I wanted to explain it all.”

Get to your point,” Darren repeated.

Well, from what those gangsters said, Goodfellow is using Ruby and Birch to stop their plans. But from the other things we found out, I think they're trying to stop both the red gangsters and the blue gangsters.”

Keep talking...

Darren didn't like being beaten to the conclusion, but in this case he would try to make an exception.

Well, if Goodfellow's trying to destroy the world like Mister Zuckerman” – here Darren visibly flinched; the memory of the man was still raw – “said he was, then it's clear that whatever the gangsters are doing is getting in the way of his plan,” Dahlia said frankly. “I bet if we can get information on the gangsters, we can watch their moves, work out when and where they're going to do something – and wait for Ruby and Birch to show up.”

There it was: clean, simple, elegant, and not his idea. Darren knew he wasn't the best – there was a reason he was only a third-class researcher – but he didn't like to be reminded of it.

Damnable Americans, he thought. This is my investigation.

Yes,” he said sourly, aloud. “An excellent plan.”

He got up and shrugged on his signature green overcoat. Dahlia looked at him curiously.

Where are you going?” she asked.

I am going to buy some cigarettes,” Darren said, and stalked out.

What Dahlia didn't know was that the Goodwin didn't smoke.


You get the feeling that this is too easy? asked Puck.

Yeah, I answered. Though, to be perfectly honest, most of this journey has been.

I don't know, Puck said. It's usually harder than this.

It seemed that the reason so few Aquas had been around in the corridors was that they had all been here at the dock: they were milling around in the great square cavern, assembling at the water's edge and talking amongst themselves. Sapphire and I, entering – by a stroke of extreme good luck – from a side door, had gone unnoticed, and had been able to hide ourselves behind a stack of crates. From this hiding place, we had a good view of the crowd, but not such a good one of the water; I couldn't see if the submarine was here or not, but assumed it wasn't.

“Why do you think they're all here?” I whispered. “Waiting for the submarine?”

“I don't know,” replied Sapphire, eyes on the crowd. “I expect so. Steven said it was finished, didn't he?”


We sat and watched in silence for a short while, and then Sapphire said:
“If all of Team Aqua are here, it would be a good time to go and search the offices for information about the Orb's location.” Without waiting for a reply, she began to get up, but I reached out and grabbed her wrist.

“No,” I said. “Not now.”

“What?” Sapphire looked surprised. I supposed I hadn't really stood up to her properly for a while now; letting someone paint your nails in the spirit of maliciousness is probably not the best way to win their respect. “Ingrid, I'm in charge—”

“If they catch you and I'm not there to save you, you're dead,” I said flatly. “I'm sure you'll agree that that wouldn't make a good end to the party.”

Sapphire looked livid, but to her credit, she managed to keep her voice down to a furious whisper.

“Why don't you want to go and do the job we came here to do?”

“I've got a feeling,” I began, only to be interrupted.

That tonight's gonna be a good night, sang Puck. That tonight's gonna be a good good ni—

“—that we should stay here,” I finished, looking Sapphire in the eye. “You know I'm usually right about these things.”

She looked like she was about to argue, but changed her mind halfway through opening her mouth, and crouched down next to me again.

By Thundurus' well-tailored cloud, Puck said, that was impressive. Mind you, it wasn't you that made her obey you – it was more her delusions. Her delicious, sugary delusions. Wow, I’m weird.

You only just noticed?

I’m not going to lie to you, I've suspected it for some time now, Puck said seriously.

Something caught my eye.

“There,” I whispered, pointing. “Something's coming.”

The Aquas had seen it too; they were excited now, murmuring and pointing. Something shiny and white broke the surface of the water, and I knew what it was. The S.S. Cangrejo had arrived.

“The submarine,” breathed Sapphire.

“Yeah,” I replied.

Now the Aquas started to shift themselves: apparently without being ordered, they started to move crates onto the submarine, and to help several of the investors – now without their disguises – on board.

“Ah! That's good, you've started without me,” came a loud voice, and Sapphire and I glanced to our left to see a mountain of a man, burlier even than Barry, coming in through the door. He wore a sleeveless denim jacket over his bare chest, and had an extra-fancy blue Aqua bandanna.

“Who on earth...?”

“Matt Daymon,” Sapphire told me. “One of the Team Aqua Administrators. Don't you watch the news?”

“Only when I want to see something that's on right afterwards and I turn the TV on too early.”

Sapphire rolled her eyes and trod painfully on my foot with the five-inch heel of her right stiletto. It felt rather like the apocalypse had just happened, all in one spot near my big toe.

I bit my tongue and let out a strangled, high-pitched squeal; if I hadn't been so afraid of attracting attention, it would probably have been a full-on scream of the sort that more usually comes from a small girl.

Right now, you are a small girl, observed Puck. Well, a big one actually. Really big. I don't think I've seen any Hoennian women as tall as you – but then again, you are Swedish.

“If I hated you any more, I'd spontaneously combust from the pent-up energy,” I told Sapphire in a weird, half-audible squawk.

“Hey, you've got much better at doing the voice,” she replied, smiling. “I need to get you to do this more often.”

I made no reply; I had moved on from speech to clutching at my foot and screaming in my mind.

Keep it down, Puck snapped. It's really echoey in here. Oh, and you should be watching what's going on.

I cursed my travelling companions with all the ill fortune the universe had to offer and looked up from my smashed foot to the dock.

“Yes, yes, get everything loaded,” Matt was saying to an Aqua grunt. “The boss'll be down in a few hours, when the party's done and all the backers are down here.”

The grunt nodded smartly and went off to shout orders at his compatriots; evidently, he didn't actually have the rank to make them obey him, and so they quietly packed him into a crate and put him on board the submarine without Matt noticing. He didn't seem too bright.

Yes, it's plain to tell that his brain is shot to hell, Puck said. Though I’m willing to bet that he doesn't love Keanu.

For a few minutes longer, Matt gave instructions to various Aquas, and then went to sit on a crate on the other side of the docks. At several points, he looked at his watch, as if expecting something to happen soon.

“What do you think he's waiting for?” Sapphire asked.

“I don't know. I’m a bit distracted right now, what with my broken foot and all.”

“It's definitely not broken.”

“It so is.”

“In that case, let me break the other one so you have a matching set.”
I shut up. It seemed my few minutes in control had passed, and Sapphire was the boss again.

It seemed like we'd been waiting forever when the Aquas themselves started filing into the submarine; thankfully, they hadn't loaded the crates we were hiding behind on board. At the time, I was just grateful for that – now, I think it was probably part of the trap.

Matt stood up and oversaw the whole affair, organising his grunts into a neat and orderly queue.

“Whester, Minkley – get to your places. No, you're here. Samantha Grisham, I said alphabetical order! Does your name begin with a Q? No! So get back to the Gs!”

“It's like they're little children,” Sapphire noted with amusement. “Like you.”

“I am not childish!”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not!”

“You are!”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”


This joke is inexpressibly poor, Puck said wearily. Plus, I think we've done it before.

“For the love of God!” Matt cried, throwing his meaty hands high into the air and collapsing to his knees. “Just because the K is silent doesn't mean you go with the Ns, Knightley!”

Knightley? Is that who I think – oh, no, it's some old bald guy. Man, that's a disappointment.

“This is going really badly for them,” I remarked. “How do people like this organise such a big gang?”

“It's Archie, probably,” Sapphire said. “It seems to mostly be Maxie and Courtney for the Magmas.”

Matt, having got the queue into some semblance of order, was now sitting on an abandoned crate, watching the line for signs of rebellion and fanning himself wearily.

“God,” he said, with feeling, “this is hard work.”

“Ingrid,” Sapphire whispered, “we need to be on that submarine.”

“What? Are you out of your mind?” I hissed back violently.

Says the girl with voices in her head, remarked Puck.

I’m not a girl!

“Look,” Sapphire said, “wherever that submarine is going, it's where the Orb is – and where we need to go in order to stop Zero.”

“We'll never make it aboard without being spotted!” I protested.

Sapphire grinned in a way that I knew meant trouble.

“That,” she said, “is pretty much exactly what I’m counting on...”


“Come on then, Miss Stern,” Steven said, “out with your story, if you would.”

His voice was warm, but his eyes were cold; he smiled softly and held the ersatz Amaranth's arm in a hard grip. Steven was not, it could be divined, a happy man right now.

“Who are you?” the Lady – Stern – asked cautiously.

Steven recalled that Kester had mentioned meeting Stern at some point, and that they had got on well.

“An associate of Mister Kester Ruby,” he answered.

“You're with Kester?” Stern's face wavered. “I suppose... I can trust you?”

“You've nothing to fear from me, I’m sure,” Steven said encouragingly. “But please, I must know why you're here, Miss Stern.”

“Call me Natalie,” she sighed. “I must be crazy.”

“I sincerely doubt that you are of unsound mind,” Steven said, “but I have to confess, I can't see why you're here. So, if you please...?”

“Oh yes. Right.” Natalie Stern brushed her hair out of her eyes and tilted her head onto one side like an inquisitive bird. “I've... I was following my dad.”

Steven's eyebrows rose.

“Captain Stern? The businessman-curator?”

“That's him.” Natalie looked at him curiously. “Do you know him? You said we'd met, and you do look familiar...”

Knowing who Steven was inevitably changed people's opinions of him; right now, he wanted the full truth, without any subconscious alterations.

“My father is a businessman too,” he said carelessly. “Like you, I was dragged to my fair share of meetings when I was young.” He leaned forwards with an earnest smile. “But believe me, Natalie, listen Natalie, this is your last chance. If you won't tell me now, I’m afraid I shall just turn you over to the Aquas.”

Natalie blinked, thrown by the disconnect between his face and his words.
“Um.. OK,” she said. “I was just getting to that.”

Steven smiled properly.

“I do apologise,” he said. “I've had rather a trying evening. This party is full of snakes in the grass.”


“Ah. Seviper, then. But go on with your story.”

“OK. Er, I was saying, I followed my dad. He's been acting weirdly the last few days.” Natalie looked anxious. “I mean, he's always worrying about business and stuff, and about Aqua stuff – he's a member – but he's been really weird recently. I figured it was probably to do with the Team when he said he was going to a party hosted by Archie, and that I couldn't come. He always lets me come to these things, so I can meet famous people and make contacts.”

“And so that he can show off his rather glamorous daughter in the hopes of marrying her off to someone rich,” murmured Steven. As it turned out, this was both cynical and astute – quite the combination, and one that even men of Steven's perspicacity and wisdom rarely achieve.

“What was that?”

“Nothing.” Steven smiled again. “Do carry on.”

“That's pretty much the end of it.” Natalie shrugged. “I wanted to find out what was going on, so I disguised myself and came here.”

And she expected this to work, Steven thought. How naïve.

Outwardly, he simply nodded politely.

“I see,” he said. “Well, I think you had better return home, Natalie. I hope you will believe me when I tell you that this is not a business you ought to involve yourself in.”

Natalie looked stung.

“What? Come on! You obviously know what's happening!”

Steven shushed her harshly, for one brief instant losing his cool; his eyes flicked left and right, and, satisfied that her outburst hadn't attracted any attention, focused on her face again.

“Please, Natalie, keep your voice down,” he urged quietly. “Kester” – wisely, he did not mention Sapphire – “attended this party in disguise, and is infiltrating the Aqua headquarters as we speak. I am covering for him, and I have no desire at all to ruin the plan.”

Natalie was silent for a moment. Then:

Wooow.” She stretched the word out for longer than Steven had heard anyone stretch it before. “Kester's really cool.”

Steven weighed up the pros and cons of telling her the truth, and decided to let her keep the sweet lie.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Yes, he most certainly is. Now, Natalie, I think you should leave. This is not a place where you ought to interf—”

Steven's head snapped around, eyes narrowed and mouth half-open in an oddly bestial snarl of surprise.

“What is it?” asked Natalie. Had he heard something?

“Get out of here,” Steven said hoarsely. “I have – something's come up.”

And abruptly, he slid away through the crowd towards the side door, in his haste forgetting to even put his champagne down.


“Hi! Hi, are we late?”

Matt glanced at us, puzzled.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I'm Nicola Courthauld,” Sapphire answered brightly. “From the Courthauld family? We've come to protect our investment?”

She really was good at the Johtonian accent; she did that irritating little upward inflection at the end of her sentences perfectly.

Gets right on my nerves, Puck agreed. Not every sentence is a question, Arceus damn it! What about exclamations? Or statements? You gotta make a statement! Preferably one of intent, but I’m cool either way.

We had left via the side door and come back in through the main door; Sapphire's grand plan had us pretending to be a pair of investors who'd arrived late.

“And who's this?” Matt said. A few of the Aquas were regarding us curiously; a couple of the male ones were grinning, which meant that either my disguise actually did make me attractive, or that a series of unfortunate events was in the offing. Making a choice based on the utter lack of admiring looks I'd got this evening, I plumped for the latter.

“This is the Princess of Sweden, Ingrid Sørensen,” Sapphire said, her smile unwavering. “She doesn't speak Hoennian, but I explained to her what you were doing here and she expressed an interest in investing in your team. The Swedish royal family are, er, great fans of the ocean,” she added.

Matt nodded slowly, eyes narrowed to slits.

“Is that so,” he said. It wasn't a question, which left us both somewhat confused. “Is that so. Well,” he said, visibly brightening, “it's a good thing you got here. All aboard!”

He came over and ushered us towards the submarine. As amazing as it seemed, Sapphire's plan seemed to actually be working.

“It sure is nice to have you here at last,” Matt said. “I mean, we've been looking for you for ages.”

“You have?” Sapphire asked, surprised. “Really?”

“Yes. I mean, it's...”

The Admiral stepped out of the submarine, and Matt broke off when he saw him.

“You want to—?”

The Admiral nodded, and Matt sighed.

“Oh, all right then.”

“What?” Sapphire asked, and a warning klaxon started blaring in my head.

“It's a trap!” cried the Admiral, and leaped back inside the submarine.

If you are hearing this alarm, then you are already in mortal danger, Puck sighed. Didn't you see that coming?

I wasn't listening; I was already spinning on my heel, preparatory to running – but my damn dress had other ideas, and tangled itself neatly in my legs. I went down like a ton of bricks, tripping up the considerably-more-coordinated Sapphire, and sent us both sprawling onto the floor.

“Oh, man,” said Matt. “That was amazing. That Zero guy really knows his stuff. No,” he said, as we got back up, “don't go anywhere yet.”

Armed Aquas stepped out from the exits, and a few more popped up from within the crates. If the situation hadn't been so serious, it would have been like being in a cartoon.

“I guess your disguise wasn't so good after all,” Sapphire said, after a moment spent in silent contemplation of the guns all around us. “I should have insisted on the arm-waxing.”

“You already did my legs,” I replied through gritted teeth, “and that was painful enough.”

“Uh, over here?” We turned to see Matt. “I hate to interrupt your girl time,” he said, and for a moment I considered blowing his head off, despite the fact that it would get me killed, “but there is actually a point to this trap. I got some lines to say.” Matt drew a little piece of paper from his pocket and unfolded it.

He's not memorised it? Puck sounded scandalised. But... that's so second-rate! Doesn't he know you make a much better impression if you do it from memory?

I wondered whether to relay his comments to Matt, then remembered the guns and decided against it.

“Er-hum,” Matt said, clearing his throat. “Right. We've been expecting you, Kester, Sapphire. We knew every detail about your activities this evening, thanks to Zero. Now we—”

“You what?” I roared, which startled Matt so much he dropped his paper; an Aqua with an itchy trigger finger accidentally shot it.

“What?” asked Matt, clearly very confused.

“You knew everything? This ridiculous disguise was completely unnecessary?” I was very angry now. I don't get angry easily – I usually crumple and give in instead – but even I have my limits. A man has his pride, after all – and tonight, mine had been broken on the wheel and dragged through the mud.

“Zero is quite sadistic,” Matt said, as if explaining things to a toddler. “He probably enjoyed your suffer—”

The Charge Beam hit him in the forehead, crackling over his thick skull and reducing his bandanna to ash. He staggered back a step, and an alarming number of bullets slammed into the floor near my feet.

“Wait!” Matt cried, stumbling forwards again. “I'm OK, I’m OK!” He glared at me. “I think I might have to subdue him, though.”

“Bring it,” I said, spreading my arms. “I'm made of plasma, I can take you.”

“Er, Kester—” began Sapphire.

“All right!” Matt growled, incensed, and threw down a Poké Ball.

I think it was at that precise moment that all of my anger melted away. In fact, I know it was, because – let's face it – I was a pretty bad hero. I was OK with Fabien and Blake, since they were easy to defeat, but a proper enemy? I was virtually wetting myself.

Because unlike a lot of the monsters we'd come across, I knew what this one was. Seven hundred pounds of wet flesh, with fins jutting out like sails from its head and tail; long, powerful legs with wide, flat feet that could as easily crush a man's skull as propel it through the water. It made its lair in the swamps of the deep rainforest, and was both Hoenn's national Pokémon and its most feared predator.

It was a Swampert.

And as it loomed above me, I had the strangest feeling that this was going to take more than a ThunderShock.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old July 6th, 2011 (2:35 PM).
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Silent Memento Silent Memento is offline
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I'm guessing that Kester Ruby does not "liek Mudkipz" or any of their evolutions. I am shocked that Swampert is more feared than Salamence (or is Salamence not native to Hoenn?)

And you know what? I'm really starting to believe in the theory I had about:

Steven Stone being Zero. I mean, how else could Zero have known about Kester and Sapphire's disguises?
Quotes are nothing but words.
Old July 6th, 2011 (7:45 PM).
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Caliban Caliban is offline
Trying to change my life, brb~
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Nah, Zero's totally Manuel. :P

I've really enjoyed these last few chapters, especially the Gorsedd and Ominous Wave.
Just thought I'd check on this:
I’m not going to lie to you, I've suspected it for some time now, Puck said seriously.
is the capitalisation for emphasis? xD
Old July 6th, 2011 (10:31 PM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Originally Posted by Caliban View Post
Nah, Zero's totally Manuel.

I've really enjoyed these last few chapters, especially the Gorsedd and Ominous Wave.
Just thought I'd check on this:

is the capitalisation for emphasis? xD
If by capitalisation you mean de-italicisation, then no, it's just a mistake. Thanks for pointing that out and enjoying the chapters. (Or pretending to enjoy, though that would be kind of cruel if it were true.)

Originally Posted by Silent Memento View Post
I'm guessing that Kester Ruby does not "liek Mudkipz" or any of their evolutions. I am shocked that Swampert is more feared than Salamence (or is Salamence not native to Hoenn?)

And you know what? I'm really starting to believe in the theory I had about:

Steven Stone being Zero. I mean, how else could Zero have known about Kester and Sapphire's disguises?
I think your theory will either be proven or disproven in the next chapter, Silent Memento. Something big's about to happen...

About Swampert and Salamence: Salamence are immensely rare. Throughout the entire game, you don't see a wild one in Hoenn; in fact, the only Trainer-owned one I can think of is Drake's. If they actually exist at all on mainland Hoenn, they are almost certainly semi-legendary (you might even say pseudo-legendary) and their existence is probably suspect.

Swampert, on the other hand, probably travel quite widely throughout Hoenn, seeing as how it's a very watery sort of place. Also, owing to their Pokédex descriptions telling me that they nest on beaches, I assume they're like saltwater crocodiles and they actually travel by sea as well. So they're likely to attack people all over Hoenn, while Salamence probably aren't even proven to exist yet.

That was my take on it. I mean, Dragonite's Pokédex entries state that it was only recently confirmed to be real. Salamence is hardly more common - if anything, it's rarer.

Also, Swampert are basically giant newt-hippo-crocodiles. Newts aren't dangerous: hippos and crocodiles are possibly the two most dangerous river animals in existence. Swampert combines them both with a touch of gorilla. That's really, really scary.

That went on for far too long, but you get the point. I'm the kind of guy who has way too much free time to build his universe.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old July 7th, 2011 (5:07 AM).
callumjames3 callumjames3 is offline
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Loving the story, the humour is spot on, a good mix of sarcasm and childishness. I think the above poster's theory (not sure how to quote on this forum) could very well be true. Remember how Steven couldnt make contact with the league for no particually well explained reason?
Old July 7th, 2011 (5:39 AM).
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Etoire Etoire is offline
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It took me a day or so to read through it all, but your writing? Fantastic. Sucked me right in. Felt a little sad when I reached the end, and am on my toes waiting for the next set of updates.
The Silph Co. Chronicles (Finished)
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Jin the Scizor
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Aggron the Aggron
Old July 8th, 2011 (2:47 AM).
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Originally Posted by Etoire View Post
It took me a day or so to read through it all, but your writing? Fantastic. Sucked me right in. Felt a little sad when I reached the end, and am on my toes waiting for the next set of updates.
Welcome, new reader! Glad to have you, and even more glad to know you're enjoying this farcical romp through Hoenn. Just for you - a new chapter, later today.

Originally Posted by callumjames3 View Post
Loving the story, the humour is spot on, a good mix of sarcasm and childishness. I think the above poster's theory (not sure how to quote on this forum) could very well be true. Remember how Steven couldnt make contact with the league for no particually well explained reason?
Yes. Steven is suspicious, isn't he? Heh heh heh...

I won't confirm or deny any theories, but I will say that Zero is a character who's been previously introduced. Thankfully, I have dozens of them, so it doesn't make it too easy to guess.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old July 8th, 2011 (2:54 AM). Edited July 23rd, 2011 by Cutlerine.
Cutlerine Cutlerine is offline
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Chapter Sixty-One: Zero Beats

Mudz,” said Matt, “kill him.”

For a moment, my blood froze in my veins, and I stood staring up at the wide, slack-jawed face. Someone had just ordered my death. This wasn't something that actually—

Move it!

Whether Puck himself had sent a burst of electricity down my nerves, or his voice simply freed my stilled reflexes, I don't know – but my legs sort of went into spasms, and I leaped backwards about a yard, just as a massive blue fist crashed down onto the spot where I'd been standing.

OK, Puck said urgently. I’m scanning him... Bloody hell! We're doomed!

That's so unhelpful!” I cried, backing away from the Swampert, which was advancing on me with the sort of ominously slow steps that I'd usually associate with the T. rex from Jurassic Park. I half-wished I had a glass of water and Jeff Goldblum handy.

I didn't think you were capable of making that reference, Puck said, but whatever. Here are the results of my scan: he's Level 42 – which is probably a reference – and he's going to kill us.

Stacey, go help!” Sapphire threw the ball into the air and the Altaria burst out like a rising phoenix; screaming like the devil.

Shoot the Altaria!” shouted Matt, pointing at her.

Stacey, return!”

A second later, streams of bullets converged on the spot where Stacey had been hovering, crashed into each other and fell to the ground like lead confetti.

Restrain Birch,” ordered Matt. “I don't want her in the way.”

A couple of burly Aquas stepped forwards to obey his command; Sapphire didn't really stand a chance, but she did at least give one of them a black eye.

No help from that quarter, then,” I muttered, and then yelped and flung myself to one side as a horizontal column of water blasted past me. I'd seen Hydro Pump before – it was a common move in the televised tournaments – but it was quite different when it was being fired at your face. “Puck! Ideas!”

I’m thinking, I’m thinking! he cried. For now, just try not to get hit!

The Swampert rushed forwards with the deadly burst of speed that made its species so dangerous; thankfully, I had Puck's own reflexes to call on, and I sidestepped swiftly. Unfortunately, the monster wasn't as dumb as it looked, and was already swinging one giant arm in my direction—

Don't flinch! Take it!

only for it to pass straight through me, and impact on the floor so hard that the linoleum burst and flew up in a little explosion.

For the longest moment, the Swampert and I stared at each other, each equally confused.

Use the moment! Thunder Wave him!

Startled out of my trance, I raised my hand and a ring of blue lightning shot out; it hit the Swampert straight between its vacant eyes and sank harmlessly into its skin.

What? What?”

Mudz is half Ground-type,” Matt called. “Immune to all Electric moves.”

What? Oh, come on! That's cheating – oh hell, you'd better move.

I flung myself flat on the floor, just as the Swampert whipped its massive head forwards; if I'd still been there, I didn't doubt that my skull would have been split open like a ripe watermelon.


I rolled out from between the Swampert's legs while it was still trying to work out where I had gone; I jumped up behind it and called back to Sapphire:

What is it?”

The Swampert looked over its shoulder, grunted in surprise to see me over there, and lashed out with its rear leg. The kick caught me full in the chest, and was, suffice to say, extremely unpleasant. When I finally landed, it was in a pile of ill-constructed crates that splintered beneath me, and had absolutely no doubts that I was now the proud owner of at least three broken ribs.

It can probably wait,” called Sapphire.

Aaaauuughh,” I moaned, struggling to get back up. “That h-hurts so much...”

If you let the pain paralyse you, you're dead, said Puck frankly. I'll see what I can do to numb your pain receptors, but you need to stay focused and get moving.

The pain seemed to fade a little, and I got back to my feet, to see the Swampert right in front of me; I could have sworn it spent a moment grinning, and then it punched me, right in the face.

For once, I was glad that I had Puck with me; I don't think a normal person could have survived the hit. My head snapped backwards, then bounced forwards again with such force that I smashed my head into the Swampert's face. By a stroke of good luck, my – probably broken – nose landed square in its eye, and it stumbled backwards with a rumbling hiss.

Kester! Are you OK? How many fingers am I holding up?

A picture of some severed fingers appeared in front of my eyes.

Crabsticks,” I mumbled, and spat out a tooth.

Oh, this is really bad. Snap out of it!

A sharp pain shot through my head, and brought me back about halfway to normality.

What – what's going—”


I didn't yet have the capacity to argue: I half-ducked, half-fell over just as a jet of bilious-looking black mud shot by overhead.

Ordinarily, I'd ask if you even knew what 'bilious' means, but – we have to fight back right now! If we just keep dodging, we're going to get beaten up!

He resists all my moves!”

I rolled over and climbed back up as the Swampert rushed me again; it missed, and slammed its head into an unfortunate Aqua, too.

Hey, Mudz!” cried Matt. “Come on now, be good.”

The Swampert looked vaguely apologetic for a moment, then resumed its normal vacuous stare and started searching for me.

A great shout rang out, echoing unnaturally loudly in the vast space; the Swampert blinked lazily and turned to look for the source. Unfortunately, that was me, and I had to do some more speedy dodging to avoid becoming rather flatter than usual.

Astonish just doesn't cut it any more, Kester, Puck said. You have stronger moves now. All the Electric ones are out the window – damn it, I wish I'd known more about Swampert before – but you've still got Ominous Wind, and, and...
He trailed off, but since I was in the process of dodging a particularly vicious uppercut, I didn't notice.

Can't use that, it takes way too long to charge up!”

I know, forget it. I got a new plan.

An image floated into my head: the Magma Golbat, Goishi, in the Mauville Gym. A stream of sparkly lights was drifting out of its mouth, and I was punching myself in the face.

You can use Confuse Ray, Puck said, as I ducked under another torrent of mud, which will confuse him and mean he's much less likely to hit you. He may even hit himself in the bargain.

How do I use it?” I asked, throwing an ineffective Charge Beam into the Swampert's eye and achieving no more than irritating it with the bright light.

I can't explain these things! I just do it by instinct. Just try and use it!

I didn't think about it, just thrust my arm into the Swampert's face, and actually I didn't do too badly: a couple of points of light flashed into existence on the ends of my fingers. Regrettably, the Swampert was unfazed, and grabbed my wrist in one colossal hand.

Uh oh, said Puck, and then I was yanked off my feet and flying high, rising into the air faster than my brain could cope with.

Kester!” I heard Sapphire shout in the distance, but I didn't see her; the world was a blur of rushing lines shooting downwards around me.

Hey, what's that big grey thing – oh my God that's the ceiling!

Thankfully, I didn't hit it; my momentum gave out a couple of inches away. For a moment, I seemed to hang up there, suspended in time and space like a coyote that's just run off a cliff – and then I fell.

I wonder what that thing down there is, Puck mused. Oh wait, I know it's the ground. I wonder if it will be friends with us?

The world had narrowed down to the blur of lines again, only this time they were flying upwards as I passed them by, and below me I could just about make out something blue and something grey—

Hello ground!

And the world faded out to white before I even had a chance to feel the pain.


Goishi blinked.

Right, he thought. This was obviously one of those days, because he had no idea where he was, and there was a searing pain in his head. He ought to take stock of the situation.

He rolled effortfully over and climbed to his feet, pterodactyl-style. Looking around, Goishi could see two walls, and an alley of the rather filthy variety between them. It was in this alley that he had been lying.

To his left was his master, and Goishi crawled half-heartedly over to see if he were dead. Unhappily, his hopes were unfounded, and Fabien turned out to be merely unconscious.

That was all right. He could settle for Blake dying; he disliked him a little less than Fabien, but it wasn't as if he'd have flown him to a hospital if he'd been shot.

Regrettably, Blake also seemed to have dodged the Reaper's scythe, and was in fact groaning, preparatory to regaining full consciousness and, presumably, sitting up.

Goishi sighed. Never mind; there was always next time.

Dear God,” Fabien said, returning to normal with remarkable speed, “that was unpleasant. I mean – aaaagh, my head!”

With that, he collapsed backwards again, clutching his skull and whining piteously.

Urrgggghh,” said Blake, perhaps more sensibly. He did not yet rise. “Wha' the 'ell 'appened there?”

That damnable informant,” Fabien replied through gritted teeth. “Remember? He was the Devon guy all along.”

Blake snapped his fingers. It was like watching two pythons high-fiving.

Oh yeah. 'E got 'is information and...” He frowned. “Wha' 'appened nex'?”

He took us outside and went mediaeval on us,” Fabien said.

EEE-ee-ek,” Goishi added, which probably meant 'Marsellus Wallace-style'.

Oh yeah. 'E 'ad a – a thingy.”

A thingy?” Fabien blinked. “I recall no thingy. Tell me, what thingy would this be?”

A Pokémon.”

Oh.” Fabien concentrated. “Oh yes. I remember that. It was a... damn, what are those things called?”

Eek,” Goshi replied. This definitely meant 'Shedinja'.

Ninjashell,” Blake said, with great certainty. “I 'member now.”

Ninjashell?” queried Fabien. “Something like that... yes, I think that's right.” He got stiffly to his feet and dusted off his trenchcoat, then looked around for his fedora. It was underneath a dumpster, and had a rather large bloodstain on it. Popping it back on his head, he turned and said, “Right. Shall we make a move, then?”

Where're we goin'?” asked Blake, rising slowly.

To pursue justice, of course,” Fabien told him. “A man can't just take a blow like that lying down. We've got to have our vengeance, in this life or the next.”

Right,” Blake said uncertainly. “Er... don' you think we should tell Supervisor Antonio abou' this firs'? 'E should probably know.”

Oh yes.” Fabien waved a finger around for no discernable reason. “Right-o. We'll go and do that.”

Goishi heaved a giant sigh from a small mouth, and flapped off after his confederates. It seemed that there wasn't going to be an opportunity for him to stop and get his head seen to any time soon.


Three... two... one... and CLEAR!

Something like a hammer hit me in the chest, dodging my broken ribs and striking me right in the heart, and my eyes suddenly jerked open. I had a rather nice view of the floor from here, I noticed.

More important things right now, Kester. I know you're recovering from a fatal wound right now, but you can take more punishment than a regular human, and what I’m trying to say is GET UP GET UP GET UP!

I felt a rush of cold air at my back, and I instinctively rolled over to my left; as I did so, I saw something dark brown hit the ground where I had just been and explode, showering me with drops of mud.

Gah! gasped Puck. No, it's OK. We just got clipped by a little bit of it, we're all right. If you could actually do the Levitate thing, this wouldn't be so bad... Come on now, get up!

Slowly, unsteadily, I got up and looked around; the Swampert was readying another ball of mud between its jaws, and, with more presence of mind than I knew I had right now, I raised my hand and shot a beam of sparkles into its face.

The effect was instantaneous and dramatic: it choked on the mud ball, spluttered and staggered to the left, spraying mud everywhere from its mouth. It coughed, retched and eventually managed to vomit out the rest of the mud – right at Matt's feet.

Oh, great,” he said, with a fixed grin. “Look, finish him off, would you?”

The Swampert swayed drunkenly for a moment, then punched itself hard in the face.

When you fell, you landed face down, Puck said rapidly. Broke your nose again, plus your left arm, right hand and a few more ribs. Also, your heart stopped, so I gave you a little bit of lightning to get you back on your feet. Stay with me now, Kester, we've finally got a chance at taking this cretinous mud-fish down.

I...” The Swampert swung around to face me, took three steps forwards, tripped and fell heavily on its arm, which seemed to cause it some distress.

Just make sure he stays confused, and doesn't hit us. Eventually, he'll beat himself unconscious.

This hurts so much,” I said softly.

What do you want me to do about it? I’m already holding back the pain as much as I can, or you'd have blacked out by now. Hell, you died for a couple of seconds back there.

Oh, you're confused,” Matt said suddenly, the light dawning. “I can fix that.”

There was a flash of light and the Swampert disappeared; a moment later, he reappeared.

We could just shoot him,” offered one Aqua.

No,” replied Matt crossly. “I'm going to finish what I started. Mudz, kill him!”

The Swampert roared, and it seemed that his drunkenness had worn off.

Oh, damn it all, Puck groaned. I forgot he's not a wild Pokémon. Matt can remove his confusion by recalling him. OK, what are our options... Huh. Would you look at that. There aren't any more. You're going to die. Ah, well, I guess I can find another hiding-place.


The Swampert stomped towards me, wide mouth sagging to showcase his yellowed teeth.

Been nice knowing you, Kester. Y'know, for a meatface, you're all right.

Puck, this is all your fault.”

Well, that isn't the goodbye I was expecting. Puck sniffed. But whatever. You might want to think of some good last words.

I looked over at Sapphire.

Bye,” I said weakly, and then the Swampert laid one huge hand on my chest, pushing me down to the floor; it held me down and raised its free hand high above its head—

That will do nicely, Mister Daymon,”said a quiet voice, and the Swampert froze.

There was a long pause.

Back off, Mudz,” ordered Matt, vaguely shakily. “I'm sorry, I – wasn't expecting you...”

The Swampert retreated, and, struggling mightily, I got myself into a sitting position. The Aquas around me were all staring at the submarine; Matt and Sapphire were as well. The reason for this was quite clear: there was a man standing on its roof.

And as soon as I saw him I knew who he was.

He was tall and very thin, and dressed all in black with a high-collared cloak that he held wrapped around his body; his face, and indeed his entire head, was covered by a featureless black mask.

Good evening, Kester,” said Zero, giving a small and ironic bow. “It's such a pleasure to finally meet you.”

I don't know how he did it, but he floated down from his perch to land on the dockside, from where he sort of glided towards me, without moving his legs; he barely seemed to be human at all.

Oh my, Puck said. Ask him if his name's Lelouch.

By this time, Mister Goodfellow will have wondered if my name is Lelouch,” said Zero quietly. “And I assure you that it is not.”

He paused.

Nothing to say? That's understandable. After all, you're in no condition to talk right now.” I couldn't see them behind the mask, but I was certain that his eyes were roving up and down my broken body.


We all looked around, and there was Sapphire, struggling against her guards; eventually, by the simple expedient of stamping on their feet, she got free, and ran at Zero, fists raised.

Then Zero demonstrated a second trick, again seemingly impossible: the space between him and Sapphire seemed to rotate, and for a moment I went cross-eyed; the next thing I knew, Sapphire was on the other side of him, and he was entirely unharmed.

There's no getting around that,” he said calmly, “so I wouldn't try if I were you. I already knew you were going to do that. Also,” he added, holding out a hand and catching her fist as it flew towards him, “that.” He pushed her back roughly, with surprising strength for a man of his thin build. “Now, listen. I am nothing if not traditional. I know that supervillains need to have a monologue; indeed, heroes seem to expect it of them these days, as if it were a necessary fee to be paid. So, here is mine – though, before you get any ideas, this won't be the sort where I reveal my secret plans. This is more of a straightforward explanation of what has just happened, and what will happen next.”

I was having a little difficulty staying conscious; I still don't remember exactly what Zero said through the pain. What I've got here is what Sapphire remembers him saying.

Steven, while a worthy adversary, is not immune to influence,” Zero began. “Utilising my not inconsiderable resources, I created this charade to finally bring you two down. Now, you may ask me this: why would I do it now? You have been a problem before. The answer is brinkmanship. There's no sport in a game with a foregone conclusion, so I was playing a second game, a gambling game, at the same time: I let you get as close to stopping me as I dared without interfering. It turned out that my limit was when you turned Felicity against me. That was rather a blow, so I've had to do this.

That is what has just happened. I set up a farcical situation to entertain and entrap, in the name of ending your little quest. What, then, is to happen next?

The answer is that you will fall into a coma, Kester. I see you are on your way already, but don't worry; I have help that will ensure you won't wake from it until I want you to. In the meantime, you will be in hospital, where, owing to Mister Goodfellow's presence inside you, it will be remarkably difficult for you to be treated. You should remain stable and unconscious while our friends in blue” – here he indicated Matt, who beamed stupidly – “go and retrieve the Orb from the deep-sea cavern. After that, I'll wake you up and you'll be theirs to do as they wish with.” Zero turned to Matt. “Speaking of that, Mister Daymon, I did tell you not to kill him. It is fortunate that I foresaw you trying to do so, and came here to stop you.

And there now remains just one question: what of Sapphire Birch? Your disappearance would be ruinous to our plans; your father is too important, and the police would doubtless disregard their agreement with the Teams in order to find you. However, you are currently on a journey as a Trainer, and so I think we could hold you for a few days without arousing suspicion. Therefore, you will be detained for a short while – and after that, it won't matter anyway.”

A very ominous chuckle went up from around the Aquas.

Well, I think I've covered everything,” said Zero, clapping his hands together. “Right, Mister Daymon, I'll see you at the cavern. And Kester – you're holding up very well, just a few more seconds and you can sleep – it's time to bid you adieu. I can't imagine we'll ever meet again – not unless something extraordinary happens.” I don't know how, but I suddenly became aware that he was smiling. Red spots appeared at the corners of my vision, and they expanded and spread like drops of blood on tissue; the world took on a red tint, and suddenly I was looking at it from a weird angle I'd never seen before, and then—




Sapphire dropped to one knee at his side, in shock.

Kester, wake—”

He can't hear you, Sapphire,” Zero said, amused. “He – ah! Listen to that!”

It was the sound of running footsteps.

Right on time,” remarked Zero. “How predictable.”

The main doors burst open, and Steven shot through like an angular grey bullet; in one hand he still held a glass of undrunk champagne.

Sapphire! Kester!” he cried, for once somewhat flustered. “I came as soon as I could – oh, damn it, he's here already!”

Stone, my good man,” said Zero, extending a hand. “Wonderful of you to join us.”

Steven stared at the masked man for a moment, and then his free hand had flown in and out of his pocket and he was running for him; something silver blurred around his hand and swung towards Zero—

but the man in black was dissolving as it hit him, rippling away into little dark flames that flickered up into the sky and vanished.

Not today,” he said in quiet triumph, as his head began to disappear. “There is a Pokémon move for every situation, Steven.”

And then Zero was gone, and Steven hurled the butterfly knife to the floor in fury, where it unhinged and fell apart again.

Damn it!” he cried. “I thought I had him there!”

He looked up and around at the Aquas, who were, somewhat uncertainly, levelling their guns at him.

My dear fellows,” Steven said, and his voice sounded strained, “I'm sure you're all excellent chaps, and you're just doing your jobs, but I’m equally certain you're an intelligent bunch of men and women. Now, you all know who I am, don't you?”

There was a general sort of nod.

Then for God's sake, don't shoot me,” Steven said, exasperated. “You should know that you won't so much as hit me.” He went over to Sapphire and pulled her gently to her feet. “Sapphire, we have to leave now.” He bent down, put his champagne carefully on the floor, and scooped up Kester in his arms; he was, as previously noted, far stronger than he looked.

Go on, leave,” Matt said happily. “It won't make any difference. Ruby can't wake up, Birch won't leave him – it still all works out like Zero said.”

Be that as it may,” Steven said coldly, “I'd prefer it if they came with me.”

Go on then,” said Matt. “I—”

Er, sir?” said one of his near subordinates. “I think maybe you shouldn't give away any more of the plan. They always do that in the movies, and it always goes wrong.”

Steven, with some impressive arm-contortions, managed to free up a hand with which to take hold of Sapphire's, and began walking out.

Matt did that thing people do with their fingers when they realise something important.

That's true,” he said. “Excellent thinking. You'll make a fine supervisor one day. I'd promote you, but I don't know your name.”


Not now, not now. You'll spoil the mood.”

Matt looked up, but by now it was too late. Sapphire and Steven were gone, and the action had left with them.

For information about A Grand Day Out, a bizarre short story in video game form, click here.
Old July 9th, 2011 (10:40 AM).
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Varelse Varelse is offline
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Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
I won't confirm or deny any theories, but I will say that Zero is a character who's been previously introduced. Thankfully, I have dozens of them, so it doesn't make it too easy to guess.
Well, we know hes been introduced before,
He's the guy Mr. Stone was betting with,

but I bet you mean other than that.

Edit: Oh, and is the different font in the above chapter intended? And by the way, LOVE this story !
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