Eternal Berg, BSTF, Jun 22nd, 2009
Hari, Polaris and Max stood, side by side, at the entrance to Polaris' favourite cafe. The place was immaculate – no empty cups on tables, no discarded receipts, just simple, clean tables and shining chairs. The potted plants were swaying gently in the breeze, the loudspeakers were playing “Blinded Granbull”, a techno-industrial favourite of those who tended to favour those sorts of things. Polaris was tapping along to the rhythm, the only one of the trio who wasn't staring dead ahead.
“What's the matter?” Polaris said, turning to Max, whose gaze seemed more fixed than Hari's. Hari's eyes were darting to-and-fro, surveying the entire store. Max was simply gazing at the coffee machine.
“It's burning.” Max said, stepping into the cafe itself, ultimately reaching behind the machine to, deftly, produce a charred lump.
“What's that?” Said Polaris, following Max and leaning over his shoulder. Hari did not move, he simply kept looking.
“It's a bun. It was sitting on the thing they used to heat the milk. To burn, it must have been there a while.” He held it up to the sunlight and began to examine it. “Look, it's distorted. Someone was holding this.”
“Someone other than you?” Polaris said, with a grin.
“Yes. Someone with big fingers. Strong grip.” He said, before throwing the bun in the trash. Polaris darted after it, attempting to catch it, intending to perform the same detective work Max had.
“Damn...” Polaris sighed as the bun hit the bottom of the trashcan. “That sounds like Eddie. He works somedays. Big guy. Big hands. Big-”
“He's dead.” Hari said, with a gulp.
“What?” Polaris said, turning his head around. Hari was clutching his head in pain. Max walked over and picked the boy up, slinging him over his shoulder.
“Psychics and Residual Mental Trauma. Bad combination.” He began walking away, with Polaris in tow. Hari quickly hit Max on the back.
“P... p... put me down! T-t-there's somet-t-thing seriously wrong!” He said, with a quiver in his voice, “Everything's gone!”
Max put Hari down, before leaning over a little to match his height. With one hand on Hari's shoulder, he began to speak.
“This could be dangerous.”
“I... I... I know. B-b-but, even if I q-quit, I c-can still lead you to the c-cause.” Hari spluttered out.
“The source of what?” Polaris asked, puzzled.
“The source of death itself.” Max said, watching as Hari raised a finger to point to the north.
“There... Whatever it is, it's ov-v-ver there. It's followed a p-p-path.”
“Death uses the main roads?” Polaris said, still puzzled. “Shouldn't we just leave this to the helpful club that we just, you know, left to avoid this stuff?”
“Pokemon out, boys.” Max said, drawing Eev's pokeball, ignoring Polaris. “It looks like it's time to play hero.”
“I can't find anything on the P*DA about 'origin' that isn't useless.” Roy handed the device back to Vermil, who seemed just as exasperated.
“This isn't good,” Fujitsu said, pacing up and down, “How are they going to keep the pokemon safe if there's no one at the centre?”
“Maybe it's a message to me!” Daemon said, floating around wistfully, “I am the Pokegoddess of Time, so perhaps it's referring to me – the origin of everything?”
“No, it's something else...” Roy said, slightly disturbed, “Isn't it?”
Id and Ego were both shaking in fear.
“I get the feeling this is something far bigger than just Capsule Solutions.”
“Oh my god!” Shouted Roy, suddenly, “What about Professor Willow?”
“She'll know what's happened!” Fujitsu said, bounding away in the direction of Willow's Lab.
Vermil seemed reluctant, but followed – his face marked a distinct dislike for the potential consequences, and was only spurred on by the now-silent Cinnabar.
“Look!” Polaris shouted, using his artist's hand-square to survey the area. “There's someone over by the Professor's Lab!”
Max and Polaris quickly ran over, with a still-uneasy Hari following slowly behind. The man was bruised, unconscious and bloodied, but Polaris quickly gasped at the sight of him.
“What... what could have...”
The man no longer had an arm.
“It's a clean cut, and it seems to have sealed over as it happened. Like... like something just drew the arm away, but didn't bother with the rest. It's not an old wound... it's clearly new. You can tell – it's still healing itself over.” Max was worried. He could see the skin drawing over the wound. It was unnerving and, more importantly, a sign that something seriously wrong was going on.
The man groaned as Max took a closer look at the wound.
“Let's get him in the Lab,” Polaris said, grabbing one arm. “Willow must have something to help.”
“Allow me,” Said Max, who pushed Polaris off the man before picking him up and slinging him over his shoulder.
The lab was still in ruins when Roy, Vermil, Daemon, Cinnabar and Fujitsu showed up.
“I figured you'd show,” Said Max, who quickly brought Daemon over to the man. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”
“It's a bilateral amputenogenic anthrofracture.” Daemon said, before she started floating away, “Whatever that is.”
“Hey!” Fujitsu said, suddenly, “That's the captain!”
“Who?” The crowd said in unison.
“He was the captain of the boat that brought me here... I can't even remember his name.” Fujitsu said, sadly.
“Have you found anything out about what might have happened here?” Max butted in, leaving no time for Fujitsu's sombre reunion.
“We found a word,” Vermil said hesitantly, “In the pokemon centre.”
“A word?” Polaris asked, somewhat surprised by it.
“It was in blood, left by someone...” Cinnabar said, rummaging around in his coat for a piece of paper and a pen. Producing both, he wrote the word 'Origin' down and tapped the Captain on the shoulder, trying to wake him up. “Hey, wake up. I want to ask you something.”
The captain roused groggily, and Cinnabar put the piece of paper in front of him.
“Do you recognise this?”
The captain slowly began regaining consciousness, and as his vision began to centre itself on the piece of paper, he started gasping, making sudden motions and scaring the entire gang.
“What is it?” Fujitsu said, holding the Captain down.
“I... it... It's... her...” The captain said, pointing to a small shape visible through the shattered roof, floating above them, slowly moving away. Everyone except for Cinnabar turned immediately.
“Saffy...” Vermil said, shocked.
“So, this is it.” Cinnabar said, taking off a pair of sunglasses as he looked up at the mountain before him. The gang were trailing behind, slowly, with Max and Vermil walking very closely together.
“So, why did you leave?” Vermil asked Max, abruptly.
“Because... because this sort of thing isn't me. At least, I don't want it to be. Neither does Hari or Polaris.”
“So why are you here now, then?” Vermil rebutted, quickly moving to stand in front of Max, blocking his path. He crossed his arms, expecting an answer.
“You want the truth?” Max asked ruggedly, with a gruff tone in his voice.
“Why? Is it because you want a certain answer?” Max pushed Vermil out of his path, leaving him somewhat upset. “It's not because of guilt, it's not because of anger, and no, it's not because of you or anyone else here. It's because a whole city has disappeared, and most likely died. People I knew. This is far beyond what anyone here wants.”
Max rejoined the group, with Vermil following reluctantly. Cinnabar was pointing at a small plaque at the foot of the mountain.
“It's an inscription that was there many years ago. It's been copied onto this plaque to preserve it... unfortunately, no one knows what it means.” He then turned his attention to the peak of the mountain. “There's a path up the side, it won't take too long to reach the peak... Saffy headed in that direction... it's our best bet to find her.”