There was a storm building on the waters that night. It had been building for almost a week before, and it would continue to build tonight. There was nothing to keep it in check now. Nothing to stop it from growing out of control. Nothing to stop it from being controlled. Being shaped into something more malleable. A natural disaster. A distraction. A trap.
A single flake of blackness flew through the air, mingling with the clouds. Once it reached them, it began to spread out. Corrupting them.
It controlled the wind and the sea now. The very storms acted at Its whim. And act they would.
The rumbling of thunder boomed through the night sky, and lightning lit up the center of the storm in a brilliant display of silent fireworks. The clouds of the storm began to swirl downwards; towards the earth; towards the ocean…
…And then the storm wasn't a storm anymore.
Pokemon Plaza ~ Air Continent
Pokemon Plaza ~ Air Continent
Several wagons encrusted with the HAPPI sigil were parked outside the entrance to Pokemon Plaza. Simisage walked through the overgrown ruins of the town, filled with HAPPI 'mon that were taking photographs of everything. Directly behind him, Vaporeon followed. The square was littered with small shards of stone that covered almost every flat surface in the town, and both Simisage and Vaporeon had to be careful to step around the sharp pieces so they didn't cut their paws on them as they walked.
"Pokemon Plaza goes dark," Simisage began, stepping over some rubble. "HAPPI teams can't leave Mist 'cause of the blizzard that formed over the continent, so the Expedition Society is drafted in their place. They arrive. They claim to have done their job. The mayor of Baram Town vouches for them. And yet, that very day, stone lapras statue; missin' lapras. Cloud Nine receives no photos nor word from the Expedition Society concernin' the mission for three. Whole. Weeks. And then, after the fact, stone pelipper washes ashore up on Mist. Am I the only one seein' something funny going on here?"
"I see something funny going on," Vaporeon said, looking put-out. "You aren't wearing your badge."
Simisage shrugged. "I forgot it," he said. "Everyone does that once in a while. Now, where was I…"
Vaporeon took a deep breath, but decided to hear Simisage out anyway.
"It's simple," Simisage drawled sagely. "This was all a plot from the very beginnin'. Think about it. The Expedition Society has been scoffed at and put down by the other guilds for too long. They want fame and glory, and they want revenge. And so – if I may be allowed to insinuate further – a plot begins to form in their tiny little reviver-seed-sized brains. They shoot down the pelipper post employees coming in and out of the plaza, and get their little electric pet to jam the transmissions. Pokemon Plaza goes dark; blizzard happens over Mist just. As. Planned. Boom shapow bang-" Simisage clapped his hands for effect "-Expedition Society is now drafted for convenience. Now two of them have a mission. They sail into Baram Town and travel up into Pokemon Plaza. And once they get there, they brutally murder the entire square."
"But see, now they're at risk," Simipour continued. "They have the photos, but they were the last ones to go into that square, and there. Are. Witnesses. They need to be seen doin' somethin' that will clear them of all charges; dismiss them as suspects entirely! Now cue the lapras. The lapras isn't important to them, so they kill the lapras too. They write the note; they stick it on the raft, and they let it float into the harbor, conveniently bein' in just the right spot to get there in time and look innocent. Now the blame is off them but they can't rest just yet. They gotta lie low for a couple o' weeks, let the heat die down before they submit their findin's. They gotta plot their next move first, 'cause if they don't than this was all for naught. They gotta be ready. And once they are… I assure you, somethin's gonna happen. Somethin' we've gotta prevent."
Simisage stopped once they reached the other end of the plaza, where one of the white, metal-encrusted wagons sat. Out of his exploration bag he pulled a leather envelope of documents, showing it to Vaporeon. "Luckily, I have taken the necessary precautions to make this line of intervention possible."
Vaporeon puffed out her cheeks in frustration.
"That sounds great!" she said, with a tone of false amazement. "There's just one problem: How do you intend to prove they turned all these pokemon to stone? Have you got an answer for that?"
"That…" Simipour held up a single finger, stopping in thought. His mouth hung open. "…Is TBD," he said. "Point is; they're guilty. And we're gonna prove it."
Expedition Society Headquarters ~ Lively Town
Expedition Society Headquarters ~ Lively Town
It was nighttime, and for once the halls of the Expedition Society were quiet. Mawile quietly slunk down the hallway, making sure not to cause any noise and wake the others up. She stopped outside the large open archway that led to the kitchen, looking down the hall both ways before entering.
Any other member would have been harshly disciplined by Swirlix for this. The chef kept an iron grasp on the Society's food stocks (so much so that there had to be separate stocks for travelling supplies and normal foods), and guarded it like a persian's hoard. The last time somemon had tried to sneak something from the kitchen had been when Bunnelby had nicked a few cucumbers for a midnight snack, and while Mawile did not know exactly what Swirlix had done when she had found out, the entire Expedition Society had seen the effects – Bunnelby never ate cucumbers again.
Swirlix currently lay sprawled out on one of the counters, conveniently near the food cupboards. Fast asleep. She began to sniff the air in her sleep once Mawile entered. Mawile reached into her bag and pulled out a pawful of grimy food she had dug out of the dumpster. She set it on the floor in front of the entrance. That would overpower her own scent.
Slowly, Mawile advanced across the kitchen, opening the cupboards one by one as she searched for the medicinal berry stock. Swirlix suddenly stirred in her sleep, reaching out for something that existed only in her dreams and startling Mawile.
"Nnghh… Apple…" Swirlix muttered, nearly rolling off the counter as she grasped for thin air. Mawile acted fast – she handed what little remnants of the grimy food that she had in her bag to Swirlix. Swirlix took it without question, grimaced at the smell, and then sleep-consumed it in a single bite. Mawile tried – and barely managed – to stomach the sight. Swirlix snored loudly, and then Mawile saw fit to continue.
She found the medicinal berries in the cupboard to Swirlix's left. Mawile quickly rooted through it until she found the chesto berries, all picked and sitting in a small wooden crate. Mawile took three or four and stuffed them into her bag. She quietly shook up the berries in the crate so that Swirlix wouldn't notice they were gone, and slipped away from where Swirlix was sleeping. She picked up the grimy food and deposited it in the kitchen wastebin on her way out.
The glow of a miniature luminous moss orb lit Mawile's office an ethereal blue. A torch would have been more convenient light-wise, but Mawile refused to pose a risk to all her books that way, and the room had never been built with electrical lighting in mind. She sat down in one of the stools in the office, taking a bite of a chesto berry and opening a history tome of the Sand Continent. There were almost five times as many books on the Sand Continent as there were books on the other four, and Mawile had yet to pour through it all. Nights were the most convenient time to do this, and so Mawile spent hours looking through every possible path that might lead her towards answers.
It had been nearly two weeks since they had returned from the Air Continent and Mawile was still at a loss as to whatever had attacked them in Pokemon Plaza. The photo of the anomaly was pinned at the top of the wall, all on its lonesome with no connections. A couple others, various shots of the stone lapras they had encountered a few days after, were pinned near the original photo, but Mawile had not found a way to connect them yet. She relished the day that she would be able to pin them all together. Maybe tonight, that would happen. Mawile turned the page in the book, reading up on an entire new section of Sand Continent lore. Maybe tonight.
Early mornings were always a pleasure for Ampharos. He awoke every day at the crack of dawn before anymon else in the Expedition Society rose, then ate a quick breakfast outside while he could still feel the morning breeze flowing through his fur. Lively Town never really went to sleep, but dawn was one of the few times of day the town was truly quiet. (Most city 'mon were late sleepers.) Most days, Ampharos would go for a stroll through the market and observe the morning going-ons around town, until eight-o-clock came and Dedenne rose to sort the morning paperwork. The Expedition Society briefing was at nine, because nine-o-clock was the earliest Ampharos could convince the Society to collectively rise and shine.
He grabbed an apple from the larder in the kitchen, making sure not to disturb Swirlix on his way out. Special privileges of being Chief. As he walked into the lobby, he caught sight of Mawile loitering around aimlessly near a window. Ampharos walked up to join her.
"Morning," she said without even looking back at him. She didn't have to to know that he was there.
"Likewise." Ampharos took a bite of his apple, chewing noisily.
"Did you find anything?" he asked a moment later. Mawile knew what he was talking about. They went through this exchange every morning, to the point where it may as well have been scripted.
"Nothing," Mawile replied. "If Sand Continent history doesn't pan out I'll be combing pokemon moves and energy next. Perhaps there's something we've missed."
Ampharos nodded silently, taking another bite of his apple. They stood there in silence for a few minutes, watching the sun rise from the east.
Around eight-o-clock, the large double doors clacked open and Dedenne walked through to begin her shift. At eight-thirty the process of waking everymon up began. Some were already awake (like Nickit, who liked to sneak off to the vault in the mornings and Buizel, who hated wasting time), while others were asleep as usual (Bunnelby and Jirachi were big offenders of this). Ampharos often wondered why they hadn't all gotten on a more normalized schedule after years of the same routine. Then he remembered that one time the entire Society had stayed awake for nearly a fortnight while completing a particularly nasty mission and dismissed his first question entirely. But through the combined efforts of Buizel, Dedenne, and Bunnelby (once he was awake), all twelve members of the Expedition Society stood in front of Ampharos, ready for the morning briefing.
Ampharos cleared his throat, preparing to read the first line of the paper he had been given aloud, but suddenly he was interrupted by a loud knock that reverberated from the door. Everymon turned their heads towards the door in unison. Sure enough, it came again, a loud knocking that sent echoes all through the hall and signaled impatience. The Expedition Society exchanged looks.
"Somemon couldn't wait five minutes for us to open?" Bunnelby asked, half-curiously and half in annoyance. He was met with silence.
When the knocking came again with a vengeance, Ampharos decided to step forward. He walked through the row of Expedition Society members that parted for him, letting one of the large doors creak inwards and peeking out.
A simisage and a vaporeon stood outside. Ampharos took one look back at the rest of the members and signaled for silence, and then slipped out the door completely. Seeing that he now had Ampharos' attention, Simisage stuck out his paw for Ampharos to shake.
"Mornin'," he said. "I understand you're the chief of the Expedition Society?"
behind Simisage, Vaporeon stood, giving him the same suspicious look that flickered in Simisage's eyes for just a second. Something was up. Ampharos decided to put on a cheerful face anyway.
"Correct you are!" he said, shaking Simisage's paw. "We aren't open for another five minutes, I'm afraid. Perhaps I can ask you to come back later or set up an appointment?"
Simisage cleared his throat. "I'm afraid you don't understand," he said. "I'm Simisage, co-leader of Team Cobalt, and this is my partner, Vaporeon." He gestured to Vaporeon, who nodded quietly in Ampharos' direction.
"Myself and Vaporeon work in a very 'specific' line of profession," Simisage continued. "In other words, it's our job to find things. Or find out who might be responsible for things. And this-" Simisage dug in his bag, producing a leather envelope and handing it Ampharos "-Is a warrant issued by Cloud Nine on behalf of HAPPI."
Ampharos would be lying if he claimed he wasn't shocked. But he kept his cheerful face up anyway.
"May I ask what this is for?" Ampharos asked nicely.
"All will be explained in due time," Simisage drawled. "Now gather your flunkies for me. We need ta have a talk."
"They're… already gathered," Ampharos said, for once at a loss for words. "Just in there."
"Here's the deal." Simisage stood at the front of the stairs, where Ampharos usually stood for the daily morning briefing. Near the back, Vaporeon guarded the front doors as if the Expedition Society were a bunch of fugitives just waiting to make a break for it.
Simisage pulled out the leather envelope, showing it to everymon in the room.
"This warrant here authorizes a twenty-four-hour lockdown of the property; effective immediately," he said. "No-one is allowed to leave the premises until this time tomorrow."
Much of the Expedition Society suddenly looked quite worried.
"On what charges?" Bunnelby asked.
"Yeah. Where's this coming from?" Buizel added.
"The Expedition Society is suspected of 'monslaughter on a mass scale, fraud, and breach of contract," Simisage said. "I and my partner have been granted the authority to determine if there is any evidence of your guilt, which will be done through a series of investigations performed by myself, my partner-" Simisage gestured to Vaporeon "- and other, optional personnel, should it prove necessary."
The lobby was suddenly filled with several loud, angry pokemon all shouting over each other.
"'Monslaughter?!" Bunnelby cried out. "That's crazy!"
"But what if we need to go shopping for food!?" Swirlix cried out. "I'll go mad from hunger; I will!"
"Somemon was murdered!?" Archen shouted in terror.
"You can't confine us here all day!" said Buizel.
"Actually," said Simisage, "I think y'all will find I can." He shook the contents of the envelope.
Then the lobby exploded into racket again.
"What's the matter?' Nickit asked over the noise. "It's a day off. Are you really complaining about a day off?"
"It's not a day off if someone is guilty of… whatever blue monkey guy said, Nickit!" Holly chided.
Jirachi just yawned.
"But no-mon here is guilty," Nickit said coolly, staring Simisage in the eye.
Simisage stared her right back. "I'll be the judge of that," he said. And then he clapped his hands together.
It was 10:00, and Simisage had well and truly derailed the entire day. He and his partner had contained the Expedition Society to a single bedroom in the residential wing, while the lobby had become a 'sacred place of investigation' (as Simisage had put it). Really, he had just set up a few chairs and a couple of connection orbs that belonged to Vaporeon. Ampharos distinctly remembered Vaporeon asking him why he hadn't brought his own.
"Is the connection orb recording?" Simisage asked, leaning to the side in the chair with a back support. He had a clipboard in his paw (also Vaporeon's).
Vaporeon double-checked, then clumsily tapped the orb with her nose. It began to glow.
"Now recording," she said, sitting down behind it.
"Al'ight." Simipour leaned back in the makeshift chair that had been set up for him. "Interview the first: Expedition Society; Chief Ampharos. Tell us about yourself."
"What do you want to know?" asked Ampharos, who cheerfully sat opposite of Simisage and Vaporeon.
Simisage leaned forward. "Everything."
"Well," said Ampharos. "Everything might take quite a while! And I understand you only have twenty-four hours. I suggest you lower your scope."
Simisage frowned flatly. "Start at the beginning, then."
Ampharos shrugged. "If you insist…" he said. He leaned back against thin air, acting as if there were back support behind him.
"It was dark inside the egg."
Vaporeon barely held in a groan of frustration.
"Interview the second: Expedition Society; Vice Chief Mawile." Simipour leaned forward in his seat. "I trust you'll be more co-operative than our last subject."
"To be fair," Vaporeon grumbled, "You didn't have to let him go on for four hours either."
"Ah- ah- ah! Quiet! Quiet! You're messing up the tapes!" Simisage snapped. He readjusted the way he was sitting in his seat. "Now. Mawile. I understand you migrated over from the Grass Continent before you joined the Expedition Society?"
Vaporeon caught the tiniest hint of a snarl that emerged from Mawile's back maw before it stiffened up and she spoke, a forced neutral look upon her face: "Yes. Yes, I did."
"And are there any latent feelin's of anger or insecurity pertaining to how Grass Continentials are viewed by the other continents?" Simipour asked.
Mawile took a deep breath through gritted teeth before answering.
"No," she said.
"Hmm." Simipour marked something down. "And do these feelin's that don't exist sometimes influence the way you do your jobs?"
Mawile immediately rose form her seat and walked off.
"This interview is over," she said firmly.
"It isn't over 'till I say it's over-" Simisage began.
"It's over," her back maw snarled at them.
Simisage sat back in his seat after she had left, an oddly satisfied look coming over his face. "Yeah. It's over," he said. "Roll next!"
"Interview the third: Expedition Society; Engineer Jirachi. Are we rollin'?"
"We're rolling," said Vaporeon.
"Jirachi," Simisage clapped his paws together. "Complimentary question: How does it feel to be the only mythical pokemon currently working for a HAPPI-endorsed guild?"
"Why," Jirachi yawned. "It feels great."
"Sorry," he said, a minute later after he had finished yawning. "I'm not really awake until I have my remedy."
"Stay awake enough to answer these questions and you can be asleep for all I care," said Simisage.
Jirachi took him up on the second part.
"Interview the fourth: Expedition Society; Off-Continent Explorer Archen." Simisage set down the clipboard he had been writing on, and then he leaned forwards. "Now I'm gonna ask you as a confidant," he said. "I understand you were one of two 'mon to lead the expedition to the Air Continent a week ago?"
"Unfortunately," Archen said, ruffling his feathers stiffly at the memory. "Who's asking?"
"I want the rundown of how that mission went. Leave no details out."
Archen rubbed his wings together nervously. "Well," he said. "It all began when we had to take a lapras all the way to Baram Town without sleeping for the night…
"Interview the fifth: Expedition Society; Engineer Jirachi, continued. I assume you won't fall asleep on us this time?" Simisage asked.
"Nah," said Jirachi, doing a lazy cartwheel where he floated. "I've had my remedy now. That'll keep me going through the night."
"Amazin'," said Simisage. "Now tell me. What's the Expedition Society's process for makin' copies of photos?"
A single scarf sat on the windowsill, looking completely innocent.
"That is what it took. To get rid of the stench." Holly enunciated slowly; her voice dangerously calm. "A scarf infused with Sweet Scent. You would not believe. The hoops we had to jump through to get this thing. So kindly do not touch or sniff it, please."
"Wasn't dreaming of it," said Nickit. The rest of the Expedition Society lounged about in the room, where Simisage had told them to wait while they weren't being interviewed.
"My belly hurts…" Swirlix groaned. Everymon collectively ignored her.
"I wonder why we haven't gotten interviewed yet," Bunnelby pondered to himself.
"And that's break time!" Simisage clapped his paws twice, hopping down from the chair and collecting the connection orb. He gestured for Vaporeon to follow him out the doors as he went. The large doors closed behind them, leaving them in the Society's empty outdoor square.
"Alright, so what do we know?" Simisage asked in a hushed voice. "We know that their chief likes to dodge things. We know that the vice-chief has some hidden bias. We know their mission to the Air Continent gets fantastical once they reach Pokemon Plaza, and we know that it should only take half a week to print those photos. Somethin' we aren't getting' here."
"And we also know that they checked in with Mayor Honchkrow of Baram Town, and were picked up by the Water Continent's Ambassador on the way back," Vaporeon added. "Isn't a more prudent question what the Ambassador was doing here? Or perhaps a more prudent action to interview the mayor? I'm surprised you didn't try to follow up on that at all."
"But see, that's where you're wrong," said Simisage. "I already know what the ambassador was doin' here."
"And what's that?" Vaporeon asked skeptically.
"He's in on it. A better guild gets better votes. He remains in power. It's all one big conspiracy."
"It's all one big conspiracy in your head!" Vaporeon pointed out. "All of this – this entire investigation – it's all been based on guesswork you came up with! You wouldn't have done this a week ago! How did we even get this warrant? And-" her eyes veered to his chest "-And you're not wearing your badge again!"
"How do you explain shadow creatures that come out of nowhere?' Simisage asked, pointedly ignoring the last part of Vaporeon's question.
"It's our job to come up with answers for those questions, Simisage," Vaporeon stressed. "Don't forget; we're equal partners in this. And the only evidence we have to go off of is that a HAPPI-mandated mission was not completed, and one pokemon's word that last week the ambassador of the Water Continent was out in the middle of nowhere for no reason. That is what we know. Nothing more, nothing less. Work that into your calculations, Simisage."
And with that, she turned around and walked straight back through the Society's doors.
"I'd like to request on behalf of our members that Chef Swirlix be allowed to use the kitchen," Mawile stated calmly to Simisage.
"Denied," said Simisage. "We haven't interviewed her yet."
"Approved," said Vaporeon. "She isn't relevant to our investigation right now." She turned to Mawile. "We don't wish to inconvenience you beyond what is necessary. My partner has just forgotten that for a little while." She sent Simisage a quick glare to get her point across.
"I'm afraid you wouldn't be able to interview her anyway in her current state anyway," said Mawile.
"And what state is that?" Simisage asked suspiciously.
Mawile quickly stepped back seconds before the loud voice blasted down the hallway stronger than an Uproar, and Simisage and Vaporeon backed off just in time to not get crushed by the white puffball that charged down the hallway with the ferocity of a dragon.
"FoodfoodfoodfoodfoodGimmegimmenow-" Swirlix snarled as she ran. Her tongue hanging out; she uttered a few unintelligible syllables out at Mawile, Simisage, and Vaporeon, then dashed through the kitchen doors. She left a trail of slobber on the floor in her wake.
Both Simisage and Vaporeon looked rather shocked.
"…I could fine your guild for that on three fronts alone," said Vaporeon.
"You won't after you taste her cooking," Mawile replied. "No-mon ever does."
The door to Mawile's office opened, but Mawile was not the pokemon who stepped in. Vaporeon sneezed at all the dust circulating in the air from her entry, making sure to close the door behind her with the fin of her tail. Vaporeon didn't shed fur like all her furry brethren did, which made it perfect for sneaking about without leaving evidence behind. Which was what she was planning on doing. If there was one thing she had gathered from Simisage's interviews, it was that Mawile was the head of intelligence in this guild – if there was anything substantial to know, Mawile would know it. And she'd probably keep it in her office. Vaporeon looked around for a light switch, but it seemed like this room didn't have an electric light in the first place (even though the rest of the building was lit this way). Curious.
Once Vaporeon's eyes adjusted to the dark, she caught sight of something faintly glowing under a tarp. Vaporeon pulled the cover off with her mouth, flooding the room with blue light. She smirked in triumph: light!
Now for the investigation. It seemed Mawile had a fixation on history, particularly Sand Continent history. Several books on the subject lay around on the desk, open to various places. There were footnotes written in bluk berry ink onto a piece of paper, all leading to obscure legends that didn't seem to be linked in any way, shape, or form.
Vaporeon lowered her head under the desk, trying not to bump her tail into the bookshelves behind her or the cot that lay between them (this place was a claustrophobic disaster waiting to happen). This was the last place somemon would bother to search. Perhaps something was hidden here.
Vaporeon found no tomes of secrecy under the desk, but there was certainly a lot of dust under there- Vaporeon had a brief sneezing fit after inhaling a bunch of dust particles unwittingly. She removed her head from the dust and shook it to stop sneezing. Soon enough Vaporeon was able to open her eyes again, but something caught her eye near the corner of the room. Something that glinted.
Vaporeon took a closer look, as soon as she could adjust herself so that she didn't topple a bookcase by accident (seriously, this place was too small). On closer inspection they looked to be the shattered remains of a connection orb.
"…We were all given a presentation by Mawile," Archen explained, sitting in his interrogation seat. "I remember specifically that all the photos were saved to a connection orb, but it disappeared the next day. If you want my opinion, I think somemon stole it. Or wanted it hidden. Somemon didn't want pokemon to see those photos."
One couldn't jump to conclusions. There was no proof that it was the same connection orb. Perhaps Mawile had dropped it at an earlier time and simply neglected to clean it up. (or perhaps she had broken it and hidden it here so that it wouldn't be found in the waste, Vaporeon's mind substituted. She chided herself for jumping to conclusions.) Vaporeon raised her head, but then she saw the photos on the wall. There were three, pinned next to one another. One of a house in Pokemon Plaza (She thought; it was hard to see in this light), and two of what looked like a stone lapras floating in on a raft. There was a note taped to it, written in loopy handwriting.
Vaporeon sat, looking at the photos. There was no proof that the connection orb was the same one she was thinking of, but that along with the photos were grounds for suspicion at least.
"It feels weird to be eating without doing anything all day," Holly said, lying on her bed of straw. They could smell the aroma of whatever Swirlix was cooking in the kitchen from half the building away, but were powerless to leave the room without Simisage's say-so.
As if on cue, Simisage stepped into the room, reading off a list.
"Ampharos," he said.
"Right here!" Ampharos raised his paw, even though he was the tallest pokemon in the room and could clearly be seen by anymon present.
"Great," Simisage drawled. "Follow me."
“Are we rolling?” Simisage asked, leaning back in his seat. There was no answer. Simisage frowned.
“Are we rolling?” Simisage asked. There was no answer. Simisage frowned.
“Are we rolling?” Simisage asked. There was no answer. Simisage frowned.
“Are we rolling?” Simisage asked. There was no answer. Simisage frowned.
“Are we rolling?” Simisage asked. There was no answer. Simisage frowned.
“Are we rolling?” Simisage asked. There was no answer. Simisage frowned.
“Are we rolling?” Simisage asked. There was no answer. Simisage frowned.
Simisage’s frown faltered. For a second he was still, as if he had locked up completely. He looked at the pair of connection orbs that sat next to him, noticing Vaporeon’s absence.
“That no-good partner…” he muttered, almost for appearance. “Always disappearin’ off to who-knows-where…”
Simisage returned his attention to Ampharos, pressing the record button on the connection orb.
“Interview the Sixth: Expedition Society, Chief Ampharos, continued. Hopin’ you’ll be a bit more co-operative than last time,” Simisage said. He prepped the clipboard Vaporeon had given him.
“Fire away,” Ampharos said.
“I want to know why the ambassador of the Water Continent spent three days at your establishment before leaving,” Simisage said.
Ampharos considered his next answer carefully. Now that he thought about it, he realized he still didn’t have a good idea as to why the Ambassador had shown up for the photos in the first place.
“How do you know the Ambassador was here?” Ampharos asked.
“Others’ testimony stands against you,” said Simisage. “Don’t be coy.”
“As I understand it,” Ampharos said, “The Ambassador arrived claiming authority to collect the photos on Cloud Nine’s behalf. He stayed three days while they were prepared, then collected them and left that same night. I think you’ll find the others’ testimony will line up with mine.”
Ampharos purposefully left out the part about Zoroark and the photos being destroyed.
“And yet you attempted to keep this secret,” Simisage said.
“I didn’t feel the need to complicate things further,” Ampharos said.
Simisage cleared his throat.
“As I understand it,” he continued, switching fronts, “your Vice-Chief was the ‘mon who handled the making and distribution of the photos?”
“Yes, along with Engineer Jirachi, that’s correct,” said Ampharos.
“And you made no backup copies despite this?” Simisage questioned.
“We put our trust in our superiors,” Ampharos said. “As long as the photos were safe in Primarina’s hand we didn’t feel the need to make backup copies.”
Also a lie, but Ampharos trusted that no-mon had said otherwise to Simisage. Perhaps it was just the way the light shined on him, but Ampharos was almost certain there was an annoyed look on Simisage’s face.
“One last thing,” he said. “Tell me your opinion of your vice-chief. Specifically, her heritage.”
Ampharos tilted his head, immediately suspicious. He sat forward. “bit of a weird question to ask, don’t you think?”
“Well see,” said Simisage. “Here’s what I think. I think that your vice chief refuses to remain impartial to her jobs. Somethin’ about that heritage bothers her, and I think it could lead to major lapses in judgement, Like, say, rigging events to her benefit or mismanaging photos on purpose.”
“Allow me to settle your concerns,” said Ampharos icily. “I can assure you nothing like that has ever happened under my or her supervision.”
“Is that so,” Simisage muttered back. He sat forward, switching the connection orb off. “What if I told you that jus this mornin’, she proved the opposite to me?”
It was a moment before Ampharos had the clarity to answer. “…I’m sure she wouldn’t do that,” he said.
Simisage played something on the connection orb.
“This interview is over,” Mawile’s voice blared through the orb.
“It’s not over until I say it is-“
“It’s over.” A snarl from her back maw, and Simisage shut off the recording. He sat back in his seat.
“What do you say to that?” he said.
“I would say that I’m missing the context,” Ampharos said.
“I would say the context isn’t important,” Simisage said. Ampharos looked at the orb, noticing it was turned off. “It’s what I tell the authorities that’s gonna be important. And my word outlobbies yours here. I say you’re guilty, you’re guilty.”
Abandoning all tact completely, he got up off his chair and walked over to Ampharos. “So here’s how this is gonna go. You testify against your vice-chief, allow us to perform the arrest, and I let the rest of y’all off with a warning. You don’t, and I get y’all behind bars. Crystal?”
“And how exactly do you plan to accomplish that?” Ampharos asked coolly. He wasn’t sure if Simisage was bluffing, but he was willing to gamble on it.
“Why, by using what you have so kindly given me with these interviews,” Simisage said. “I have the arrest warrant papers in my portfolio, if you’d like to sign them.”
Ampharos was about to respond, but they were suddenly interrupted by Vaporeon, who strode into the room silently. She looked a bit shaken.
“I thought I would tell the both of you that the chef called dinner,” she said. And then she walked away. Vaporeon didn’t add that she had been observing the entire affair from behind the door.
Ampharos and Simisage both looked at one another.
“We’ll settle this later,” said Simisage.
“Indeed,” Ampharos responded calmly.
Swirlix's dinner that night was not nearly as fancy as the breakfast buffet she had cooked in the wake of the Ambassador's arrival, but to the starving Expedition Society (whose stomachs had beared the burden of the day's stress) it might as well have been heaven on earth. Mawile walked into the dining room after everymon else, where Swirlix had just set the table full of food and rang the dinner bell. As she entered, Vaporeon fell into stride alongside her.
"I'd like to conduct an interview of my own with you after dinner," said Vaporeon to Mawile.
Mawile took a deep breath in and out before she answered. Vaporeon could tell that she was trying to keep the stress under control. "That's fine," she breathed.
"I'll be as tactful as I can," Vaporeon assured. "I only need to confirm a few things Simisage left out."
And with that, Mawile curtly took a seat. Simisage sat near them, wedging himself between Archen and Nickit and keeping a suspiciously close eye on Ampharos.
As Ampharos ate, his mind wandered. He was presented with a rather gruesome ultimatum. Which option was the greater crime? And perhaps more importantly: was there a way out?
Ampharos began to brainstorm. This ‘detective’ wasn’t on the level; that much he could tell. And even worse, he seemed to have a vendetta against the Expedition Society. To betray facts for fraud so callously… Ampharos was disgusted at the very notion. And supposedly he could destroy their entire guild from hearsay alone, which may have been a bluff for all Ampharos knew. But he wasn’t willing to take that chance in matters this serious.
The only thing Ampharos knew for sure was that Simisage was powerless without those interviews. If he could somehow get to the interviews; delete them or otherwise do away with them… then Simisage would have no proof against them. Nothing to show for all his investigating. It was a low tactic, but it was a price that Ampharos was willing to pay. And so, he made it a plan.
Night had fallen, but the doors of the Expedition Society remained the same way they had been all day: closed. The interview seats had once again been set up, but this time Vaporeon sat where Simipour had. She touched the record button on the connection orb, and then returned to business.
"Interview the Seventh: Expedition Society; Vice Chief Mawile, continued," Vaporeon spoke aloud for the record. "Mawile, previous testimony of Off-Continent Explorer Archen indicates that at one point, you had the photos taken at Pokemon Plaza saved onto a singular connection orb. In your office, the remains of a broken connection orb lie on the floor. The photos themselves are nowhere to be found. Is there any correlation between this connection orb, and the one in your office?"
Mawile looked briefly annoyed at the notion of her office having been disturbed, but didn't say anything and disrupt the interview.
"There is," she answered. "The files were not saved properly onto the connection orb itself. It was useless, so I left it on my desk. At some point it must have fallen off and broken."
"So am I correct in guessing that the only physical copies of the photos themselves went with the Ambassador?"
"You are," said Mawile.
"I assume you are also aware that the Ambassador has not been seen for almost a week since leaving port in Lively Town?"
"I have recently been made aware of that fact," Mawile answered.
"Very well." Vaporeon took a deep breath. "One last question. For the record, and to erase any and all doubts about possible motives for a crime: What are your feelings and relations to the Grass Continent?"
Mawile did not appreciate that question. Vaporeon saw it in her eyes. But then, with only a twitch of her back maw, Mawile answered.
"I was born in a small village near Treasure Town," Mawile said. "The Wigglytuff's Guild is what inspired me to join the exploration research field, but the Wigglytuff Guild itself had no need of my services, so I decided to travel abroad and search for independent work. At first, I attempted to join the major guilds, but they did not think highly of the idea of a researcher from the Grass Continent. From there, I joined a few start-up guilds as a regular explorer, looking to build up my portfolio, but they all sank as fast as they started up. I remember attempting to rid myself of the Grass Continential accent in order to increase my likelihood of a job, but it showed up in my papers and nothing changed. Ampharos found me at an explorer's convention in Noe Town, and he offered to hire my profession in order gauge the scope and size of a mystery dungeon he was looking into exploring. I accepted, he hired me for good, and here we are. That is all there is to know."
She finished, looking up at Vaporeon steadily. "Is there anything else you wanted to know?"
"No," said Vaporeon. "This interview can be brought to a close. Thank you for your attendance. End interview." And with that, she pressed the button on the connection orb with her nose , and brough the conversation to an end.
"Apologies," she muttered under her breath as Mawile curtly left.
Expedition Society Hallway
Expedition Society Hallway
It was late, and everymon was already in bed.
Mawile rarely ever used her allotted bedroom. It had become something of a storage room in the recent years, where she would lop things that had no use or place in her study so it didn't clutter up space elsewhere. They all lay in wooden crates, stacked neatly on top of each other with a piece of paper attached to each one, informing pokemon on where everything went. As it all should be. Mawile headed to her bed, reluctantly tucking herself into the pile of straw. Team Cobalt had fenced off the upper floor for the night, and that meant all the Expedition Society 'mon were sleeping on the lower floor. Mawile laid to her side, and attempted to drift off…
…But she couldn't. She wasn't used to sleeping at this hour. Even when she didn't take her chesto berry, she always slept during the day and worked at night, when there was no-mon else to bug her. Sleeping at this hour felt wrong. So wrong, that Mawile couldn't even stay in bed any longe.r She sat up, pulling the covers off herself. She might be able to lobby permission to use her study with Vaporeon. Assuming Vaporeon was still awake.
And if she was asleep, then Mawile saw no conflict of interest.
She walked out of her room, slinking down the hallway until she reached the lobby. Crime scene tape had been slung over the entrance to the second floor, but it was nothing somemon couldn't easily pass if they wanted to. Mawile stopped herself from scoffing in favor of silence.
She entered the second floor, approaching the large room where the Pokemon Nexus was hidden. Her study was just a room away…
-Mawile suddenly hid as a door opened. Peeking out, she saw that it was the door to Ampharos' Office. The lights clicked off, and Simsiage stepped out, empty handed. He looked annoyed. Mawile stayed hidden, watching him as he went. He was up to something. Mawile watched him slip through the room, and disappear into her study.
That was the last line crossed. Mawile was not endorsing that a second time. She slowly crept forward, catching the door before it could close and peeking in.
Inside, Simisage rifled through the study, searching for something. Mawile kept herself hidden, watching him silently.
Soon Simisage found what he was looking for: the broken connection orb under the desk. He picked the shards up, stuffing them into his bag. Then he looked up. He saw the photos. Mawile just stopped herself from yelling out for him to stop. This was bad.
Simisage reached up, and plucked the photos one-by-one off the wall. He made to stuff them in his bag as well, but then stopped at the last second. Instead, he brought the photos up to his face. Mawile had to adjust her position to see around the back of his head.
Then Simisage tore. He tore the photos in half. And then into fourths. And then eights. And then into several pieces so small Mawile couldn't even count them anymore.
Mawile was horrified. She had an inclination to yell out to him right now, but that would just get her caught. And then Simisage turned back towards the door. He didn't see anything, because Mawile had disappeared.
Mawile hid behind the second-floor trash can as Simisage exited the office. He looked around just to make sure he hadn't been seen, then continued on his way. Mawile wasn't noticed as he walked downstairs, leaving his bag in an obvious spot at the front of the stairwell. Mawile silently followed.
Simisage dropped the photos in the wastebin outside the kitchen, then left in the opposite direction. Mawile quickly hid so that she wouldn't be found. As soon as he was gone, she slunk over to the bin and pulled out what remained of the photos: they were in so many pieces that she couldn't even hope to piece them back together.
She heard the sound of somemon creeping back up the stairs. Mawile decided to cut her losses and leave. As saddening as that loss of information would be… it wasn't worth getting caught by Simisage over.
Soon after Mawile had crept back to her bedroom, Ampharos snuck into the hallway. He took a look all over the room, just to make sure he wasn't being watched. There were no pokemon that he could see.
Silently, Ampharos crept through the hall, doing the best to keep the glow of his tail dim. It glowed brightly anyway, as he couldn't stay calm long enough to dim it. Ampharos just decided to move along and pretend like the orb glowing at the end of his tail wasn't a large giveaway.
Simisage's bag was sitting at the edge of the staircase. Ampharos considered for a minute that its placement was just a little too convenient, but he didn't have much choice in the matter. If it was a trap, he'd just have to spring it. And so he reached the bag, opened, it, and began to rifle through its contents.
Up at the top of the stairwell where a pokemon on the first floor wouldn't be able to see, a connection orb started recording.
There were only a few things inside the bag, and Ampharos had no trouble finding the connection orb he was looking for amongst the ledgers of documents. He pulled it out, and then activated it with his Expedition Gadget. Ampharos went into the menu. He pulled up the list of recordings, and went all the way down until he found the one detailing his second interview with Simisage. He opened it, then swiped right.
Large red words appeared upon the connection orb's projection: "Would you like to delete this file? [Yes/No]"
Ampharos thought for a minute. If he did this and was caught… all the better to do it quickly, then. He pressed 'yes'. The file disappeared from the menu, and then Ampharos deleted all of Mawile's interviews as well. He removed the connection orb from his expedition gadget, putting the connection orb back in the bag and then zipping it back up. The mechanical camera of the connection orb caught him slinking back into the Society's residential wing.
Baram Town ~ Spinda's Café
Baram Town ~ Spinda's Café
It was nighttime. Vaporeon was dizzy, and she was only 25% sure the food served in Spinda's made you that dizzy (Although she couldn't be sure, because she was dizzy and she thought a few other patrons looked slightly dizzy too).
"Hope that hit to the head didn' do ya any harm," Simisage said, sipping from his drink neatly. He wore his police badge, an ornament he took pride in and made sure to carry around with him everywhere.
"It was only an emboar," Vaporeon said. "I had the type advantage; I'll be fine. Thanks for asking, though."
"Alice." Simisage said sternly. "A physical hit to the head ain't a type advantage; that's just a physical hit to the head. If it gets worse I want you to get it checked out. Deal?"
"Fine." Vaporeon wouldn't lie – she was feeling a bit out of it ever since that hit. Maybe so medical care would be a good thing.
They sat in silence, eating their food for a few minute. Then Simisage got up and stretched.
"I'll be back," he said. "I'll only be a minute. Hold my seat for me, will ya?"
Vaporeon silently curled her tail fin onto his seat in response. Simisage smiled in gratitude, then ran off.
It was quite a few minutes before Simisage came back, and in that time Vaporeon had been cussed out by more than one pokemon who had their eyes set on Simisage's seat (Spinda's was a popular place). He looked a bit more distant than he normally did, looking at Vaporeon dully. "What happened ta you?"
Even through her dizziness, Vaporeon noticed a change like that.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"I'm fine. I'm askin' about you. Just answer the question"
Maybe he'd slipped in a puddle or something and had a mood. It was a terrible excuse in hindsight, but Vaporeon just wanted to rationalize any problems away and make her evening go right. She'd deal with the consequences tomorrow—
But she hadn't dealt with them tomorrow. Not even when he'd paid the check in that weirdly loopy handwriting. She hadn't dealt with the consequences in over a week, and Simisage had never been the same. He never wore his police badge around, never talked to her the same way he did before, and his handwriting…
…His handwriting. His handwriting.
Expedition Society Headquarters
Expedition Society Headquarters
Vaporeon awoke, sitting up in the straw bed in shock and breathing intensely. She knew. She knew. She knew she knew she knew she knew she knew.
But that couldn't be right. Because if it was that meant
Vaporeon retched in horror. And then she puked. And then she cried.
It was eight-forty-five. The lobby was once again filled with all the pokemon in the Expedition Society, who all stood lined up in a neat row like they usually did for morning briefings. Vaporeon and Simisage stood at the front of the stairs. Simisage held a connection orb discreetly in his paw.
"I'm sure you're wondering why I've called you all here, with only fifteen minutes until the lockdown lifts, Vaporeon said, discreetly wiping away a tear on her cheek with her tail. "It isn't in vain: I've solved the case. And rest assured…" her eyes flicked over the room. "One of you in here is guilty."
"Who?" Bunnelby asked, eyeing everymon else in the room nervously.
"They know who they are," Vaporeon said. "Now allow me to explain to the rest of you. The guilty party, the pokemon in this room who has unquestionably committed a crime, is my own partner."
At her side, Simisage looked at her in shock.
"You…" he stammered in disbelief. "You're accusing me? Wha? Explain. Now."
"Gladly," said Vaporeon, her tone hardening. She looked back towards the rest of the Expedition Society. "I first noticed something was off about Simisage when he began to routinely not wear his police badge. True to my deductions, he has not worn one for the last week and a half, and he isn't wearing one now."
Simisage looked down at his badgeless chest.
"That's no pretense to accuse someone of crimes over," he said angrily. "I just forgot it!"
"You didn't bring it," said Vaporeon. She turned to Mawile. "Mawile, if you please, Simisage's luggage?"
"Gladly." Mawile strode over and grabbed Simisage's bag out from the storage room outside the hallway. She opened it, revealing its completely empty insides – save for a thick leather envelope.
"Open the envelope, please."
Mawile opened the envelope and pulled out the papers contained within. They were blank. Vaporeon turned back towards Simisage.
"You faked a warrant. This case never had any pretense or authorization from HAPPI. So you broke the law in order to incriminate the Expedition Society. The only question left to answer is why."
"I- I…" Simisage stammered.
"Picture this," Vaporeon said, addressing the entire room. "There are monsters in this world. Monsters that stay hidden until they see fit to strike from the shadows. And on the Air Continent, that is exactly what happens. Two monsters are responsible for the destruction of Pokemon Plaza. Two monsters with two missions. One heads to Pokemon Plaza to kill everymon there. The other-" she took a moment for a deep breath "-the other kills and replaces my partner, Simisage, in Baram Town."
Baram Town ~ Outside Spinda's
Baram Town ~ Outside Spinda's
Simisage walked around the back of the restaurant, looking for a restroom that wasn't bird-suited. Damn birds, only thinking of themselves and no-mon else… He had always found disdain for the way Grass Continentials did their business, but right now he was seriously considering following in their footsteps.
Simisage looked left, and then right. No-mon was looking. No-mon would know or mind or particularly care if he just-
The creature slunk into the alleyway behind him. Simisage spun around at the sound, looking at the creature. It stood out against the alleyway's darkness; so dark that he wouldn't be able to see any of it if not for the fact that it was darker than everything else.
"Who's that'?" he asked. The creature didn't answer. Simisage took a step forward.
"You ain't scarin' me," he said. "I just dealt with an emboar today and won; wanna bet on if I can take you—"
The creature lunged. Simisage never even got the chance to scream.
"You can't prove that!" Simisage cried out angrily. "You're crazy; that's what you are!"
"Maybe I am, Vaporeon said. "But if I may be allowed to insinuate further, I think I'll begin to sound a lot more sane."
"See, the monsters are crafty," Vaporeon continued. "If they reveal their presence to the world, they know that they will be wiped out. They need to disappear. They need somemon else to be seen doing something that will remove suspicion off them entirely; dismiss the barest notion that they even exist! And so a plan begins to form in their heads. When the Expedition Society is drafted to investigate Pokemon Plaza, they make their move. One monster sneaks back to Pokemon Plaza the night after you arrive, murdering and posing as Simisage. It then attacks their lapras escort, pins a note to it, and sends it floating into the harbor on a raft- pretenses for a future plot. Now cue the Ambassador. The Ambassador's role is simple- he needs to stop you from delivering the photos to HAPPI, because if HAPPI catches wind of what has happened in Pokemon Plaza that soon, the monster's plan is down the drain. I can only assume the Ambassador has been replaced or otherwise manipulated as well, explaining his disappearance. The Ambassador sabotages your mission efforts. His plan initially fails, but the Ambassador has a failsafe plan: the connection orb the photos are downloaded onto corrupts them before they can be transferred onto another device. With all evidence of Pokemon Plaza's massacre erased forever, the monster then puts the final segment of its plan into action. It guides HAPPI towards Pokemon Plaza, and then tries to pin the blame on the Expedition Society."
Vaporeon turned to Simisage. "And that's why you came here, isn't it?" she accused. "With a fake warrant and a pocket of lies. The Expedition Society is your scapegoat, a debacle to keep the authorities in the dark while you go about your plans, isn't it?"
"Perhaps you're forgettin' somethin'," Simisage said. "I'm not a monster! I'm not! I'm not I'm not i'M nOt!"
"Prove it to me," said Vaporeon. "What were we doing in Baram Town?"
There was a delayed pause before Simisage answered. "Vacationin'," he finally said.
"Wrong." Vaporeon said. "We were solving a theft, and celebrating the successful completion of that mission. Try again. What's my name?"
"…Aqua?" Simisage guessed.
"Wrong. It's Elizabeth. Try again."
"…Elizabeth?" Simisage guessed one last time.
"Wrong again," Vaporeon said sternly. "My name is Alice, and you are not my partner."
Simisage was silent for a minute. Ampharos tensed up in case a fight was about to break out, and the rest of the Expedition Society quickly followed his example.
Simisage breathed hard. Then he suddenly bolted for the door.
"Don't let it get away!" Alice yelled, and everymon began to run after it. Simisage ran out the front door with the connection orb in his hand, then ran through the square. It stopped at the sewer monhole. As Alice and Expedition Society dashed out the front door after it, Simisage turned around to look back at them. It grinned, and then slowly began to dissolve and sink in…
A sudden water gun from Buizel jolted the monster away from the monhole, and then Bunnelby charged forward while Simisage was still recovering. On the other side, Jirachi flew around and cut the Simisage off. It looked both ways at all the pokemon surrounding it, then lunged past Jirachi for the entrance to Lively Town. Jirachi was sent flying to the side but Ampharos quickly let off a dragon rage that hit the creature directly. Simisage hit the ground hard. The connection orb hit the ground and rolled to a stop near the sidewalk. It was cracked but still intact.
Now crippled, Simisage began to crawl for the connection orb. Racing forward, Bunnelby saw that its legs were regenerating.
"Everymon get over here!" he yelled. "It's growing back!"
Simisage hissed at Bunnelby – unnaturally; gutturally – and then fired a large shadowy ball at Bunnelby. Bunnelby ducked and barely leaped out of the way. He saw it catch the end of a chimney, leaving it stone grey.
The rest of the Expedition Society ran up, joining Bunnelby as they watched whatever had pretended to be Simisage crawl over to the orb. Its legs had nearly grown back.
Ampharos quickly charged another dragon rage up, but Simisage clutched its hand around the orb first. It looked back at him, grinning evilly.
"Just… have… to send… this… video…" it hissed, performing the motions as it spoke. Ampharos blasted Simisage with the dragon rage, and then the rest of the Expedition Society followed suit with their own attacks.
It was too much for the monster to bear: it began to disintegrate, evaporating up into the air and convulsing like it was in agony as it did. And then slowly, it was gone.
Lively Town Docks
Lively Town Docks
"So what are you going to tell HAPPI?"
The ferry Vaporeon and 'Simisage' had used to travel to Lively Town floated in the docks. The ferrymon would be waiting for them, but not for much longer. Dedenne had followed to see Vaporeon off, even helping carry Vaporeon's bag for her (which was no easy feat when the bag was bigger than you were).
"I don't know," Vaporeon said, lowering her head. "I guess I'll tell them nothing of consequence was discovered. And…" she went silent for a minute. "I'll have to find a new partner. I'll be keeping an eye out. If I find something, I'll go to you first."
She took her bag off of Dedenne and tossed it over her shoulder. Dedenne waved at her as she climbed onto the ferry. Vaporeon waved back the best she could.
Slowly, the ferry sailed away towards the setting sun. And soon, it was gone.
Zoroark-as-Braixen sat in the seat closest to the door of the mayor’s office. The large vane of the windmill slowly descended over the windows, casting the entire room briefly into darkness for the umpteenth time. He had been waiting out there for hours, thinking about what Honchkrow and Primarina were talking about. In fact, if he leaned close enough to the door…
Zoroark-as-Braixen leaned over in his seat, trying to get a good idea of what was being said.
“Do I have your word that no-mon hears anything about these photos?” Primarina asked.
“Your secret is safe with me.”
“Good. And remember, there’s a good mention for you in the elections if you keep that secret. If not…” Primarina lowered his voice, and Zoroark-as-Braixen had to strain his ears to hear the last part: “I know your secret.”
There was something that sounded like Honchkrow reluctantly trilling in confirmation, and then the door opened and Primarina slithered out.
“Come on,” he said to Zoroark. Let’s go.
The Exeggutor ~ Nighttime
The Exeggutor ~ Nighttime
Primarina did not seem in the best of straights. He hadn’t been for almost a week. He was slouched over, tired, and responded to few of Zoroark’s prompts. Once or twice, Zoroark throught he had seen what looked like a black spark or two zipping out of the corner of his eye. He was beginning to get worried. And now Primarina had been piloting the Exeggutor to an unknown location out at sea after leaving Baram Town. There was a storm brewing in the distance, and that only amplified Zoroark’s worry.
Soon, the boat stopped all together. Zoroark had been playing a game of checkers lazily with himself on the front deck when the boat bumped to a stop and knocked over his board all together. He looked around, his eyes settling on the ship’s cabin. He cast another look towards the storm in the distance, which was only growing closer. The rumble of thunder a few seconds later punctuated its near arrival. What was Primarina doing?
And with that thought motivating him, Zoroark got up and headed over to the captain’s cabin.
Zoroark burst into, looking around. The steering wheel was near the front, and Primarina was slouched over it, asleep. He must have collapsed! Zoroark quickly attempted to wake him.
“Hey,” he hissed. “Primarina. You awake?” Primarina didn’t stir. “Are you okay??” Zoroark shook him. Primarina was completely unresponsive. Slowly, he slid off and onto the floor, spinning the wheel as he fell. The ship suddenly made a violent bank to the right, and Zoroark was barely able to grab onto something as the cabin tilted. He grabbed onto the steering wheel, stopping it from spinning uncontrolled. Slowly, the ship began to stabilize itself.
Zoroark took a second to catch his breath, then paced around the cabin for a few seconds. What had happened? Was Primarina dead? This was bad. And trapped out here all alone too?
Okay. He had to calm down. He could get out of this. He just had to figure out the first step – getting to land. He just had to steer the ship back there! That could work.
…If only he knew how to work a ship as big as this.
And he didn’t.
Zoroark tried pulling on the steering wheel, but either because the ship’s violent bank had broken something or other powers were stopping the boat, it wouldn’t budge. Eventually, Zoroark gave up. What was another good way to reach land?
The transmission machine. That was a good fallback. But there would be a six-hour delay between transmissions, and Zoroark wasn’t sure they would make it. He looked at the storm outside through the window. It was getting uncomfortably close.
And then he noticed from outside the window that the water was glowing.
Zoroark exited the captain’s cabin and marched up to the starboard railing, looking over the side at the glowing water. There was something under there. Something large.
And then it attacked.
The captain’s cabin – easily half the ship – was suddenly gone. The large crimson head of a massive gyarados crashed back into the ocean. The ship splintered. Zoroark fell. The game of checkers fell off the deck and was lost to sea forever.
Zoroark acted quickly. He looked at all the debris floating away – there was a good large plank, easily a makeshift raft. Large enough to hold him. Zoroark didn’t see his fake wand anywhere – it must have been caught up in the wreckage. Oh well. He didn’t need it anyway. He jumped onto the plank, and none too soon: the water began to glow again, and just a second later the other half of the ship was snatched up in the gyarados’ mouth.
Zoroark watched as the gyarados’ massive head slowly retreated back into the ocean. Then there was nothing but the wrecked remains of the Exeggutor in a state, which he stared at in a state of distant shock. Shivering, Zoroark crawled onto the plank completely. The water had lost its glow; it seemed like the red gyarados wasn’t concerned with small prey like him.
And then all was silent, and Zoroark only had the storm he was floating away from for company.
Music of the week!
Blanc's Tale, Part II - Nathan Johnson