Re: Atmospheric Pressure [PG]
Hey everyone! It's been such a long time again. I'm trying to finish this fanfic as part of National Novel Writing Month, and I just thought I'd test the waters here with what I guess will be Chapter 4.
There could be some oddities, so please let me know if you see any inconsistencies!
"Melody, are you doing something important with all of our bandwidth today?" Carol enquired, poking her head around her younger sister's bedroom door. "We're trying to organise our wedding and honeymoon..."
Seeing movement out of the corner of her eye, Melody looked up from sitting cross-legged on her bed - egg nestled in her lap, computer sat on the bed in front of her. She had been reading documentation, scientific reports, and watching videos on taking care of eggs ever since she'd got home from Howie's, armed with some oversized noise-cancelling headphones.
Carol and Rip had been out when Melody had returned to the house, so she'd excitedly taken the egg and her laptop up to her room to do some research, entirely forgetting her dinner and any drinks.
"Didn't you think to ask if you could have that in the house?" Carol asked, pointing sternly at the egg.
Melody sighed and removed her headphones. "Carol, Howie gave it to me. I don't know what it is yet. If it's a Pokémon that will be troublesome, I'll keep it in a Poké Ball while we're indoors. In any case, I'll stop watching videos now you're home."
Carol looked frustrated, but not frustrated enough to start disagreeing. "Fine, but you'd better stick to it. This is our house. Rip and I live here too, you know."
She left the room, leaving Melody to continue wondering what kind of Pokémon was inside. Were all eggs the same size? Did that mean all baby Pokémon were the same size? She knew the markings often indicated what Pokémon was in there, but no amount of researching could tell her anything. Of course, all eggs were unique, just like every person and Pokémon was unique, but it didn't stop her wondering if she'd got her hands on an undiscovered species.
"It's green, so maybe it's a grass type?" Melody wondered aloud. She ran her hands over it - the shell was very smooth. "But then, there are flying types like Natu and Xatu that are green, and some alternate colourations of others…" she put her head in her hands, "You are a mystery, little egg!"
She located a breeder's bulletin board and quickly registered. Finding the forum she needed, she took a snapshot of the egg with her webcam and posted a new thread asking opinions on the species.
After half-heartedly refreshing the page a few times, Melody pushed her laptop shut, putting it into sleep mode. With the egg still nestled in her lap, she lay back, gazing at the photos tacked to her ceiling. These were pictures taken for her college assignments; observations on the coastlines of Shamouti and its three neighbouring islands, detailed observations of rock formation, photographs of the cirrus clouds that forever mysteriously lingered around Ice Island's mountain, and the ash that constantly billowed out of the stratovolcano on Fire Island. What a meteorological nightmare the area was.
She absently picked up a plastic replica of Shamouti Island's traditional ocarina and began to practice. She could never tire of the Guardian's Song - the peace and relaxation it brought her was amazing, and reminded her, frustrating as it was, that not everything she was worried about could be explained by earth science.
Melody always played with her eyes closed to help her concentrate, but her eyes snapped open when she detected an unfamiliar scent. It was faint, but it was very sweet and pleasant. She put the ocarina back on her bedside table and sat up, looking at the egg. It was moving the tiniest bit, and was definitely the source of the sweet scent.
"Yes," Melody said, placing her hands on the shell again. "I definitely think you're a grass type."
Satisfied that evening was providing them with enough cover of darkness, two young visitors to the island put their latest plan into play. Cisco clipped a collar to her Aipom's neck, switching on a tiny device attached to it. She patted the little Pokémon on the head, reminding her not to stray too far, lest the signal be lost.
Aipom grinned and winked, making a quiet but swift run for the house. Cisco watched her climb a drainpipe and hang by her tail from the roof gutter, slightly above Howie's open office window. Cisco gave a thumbs-up and retired further into the bushes, making sure as she retreated that the voice was still clear.
"--remember all the interviews and reports from that incident. I mean, really, I'm renting this house from Carol Costello, her sister. There are no doubts in my mind."
Liran and Cisco raised their eyebrows to each other.
"I'm trying to persuade her to participate in the Orange League, so she'll be out of our way. What? Yes, she'll be easy to find. She trusts me, she'll tell me where she is if I ask as a friend. I can always send my Sharpedo or Crobat after her if needed."
Cisco removed her headphones for a moment, and suggested to Liran, "Do you think he's not really got dear Melody's best interests at heart?"
Liran nodded solemnly. "I did say he was suspicious, from the beginning."
They had grown rather fond of Melody; she always stopped to say hello and happily answer questions about attractions on Shamouti and surrounding islands. Umbreon and Espeon were also always pleased to see her, enjoying the attention she gave them.
"Liran, I'm worried something bad will happen to her," Cisco said at length, too uncomfortable to continue listening in to the conversation. She pulled a Pokémon whistle from her pocket and blew on it to recall her Aipom - much to Liran's horror.
"Cisco, you can't do that here!" Liran growled, snatching the whistle back. "There are too many Pokémon in the--"
Liran didn't need to finish his sentence. Not just the Aipom had heard the whistle; the entire breeding centre erupted into a cacophony of Pokémon voices. In a split second, a furious Howie had flung the window open wider, seen the panicking Aipom hanging from his guttering, and yanked her inside.
"Nera!" Cisco cried, as Liran tried to restrain and quiet her. "Liran, we have to do something, Nera's just a baby! She'll be so scared!"
There was a resounding crunch noise over the receiver as the transmitter from Nera's collar was destroyed under Howie's foot. Liran discarded his headphones in agony, detaching himself from an anxiety-stricken Cisco in order to nurse his ears.
"Damn," he said, putting his arms around his shaking partner. "Damn. Cisco, she'll be okay. Melody works there; she won't let anything bad happen."
Cisco looked up at him, "Melody, that's right!"
"Cisco, it's too late in the evening to bother--" he stared incredulously as his partner got up and ran away. He stumbled to his feet and gave chase. "Cisco!"
The main street of Shamouti Island was eerily quiet at this time of the morning, but that was the way Melody wanted it right now; she didn't want anyone to notice what she was doing. She was, after all, carrying a fairly large Pokémon egg directly through the streets. She hadn't found a bag she was comfortable with carrying it in, so she'd been forced to carry it in her arms every day to the daycare centre; she didn't want to leave it at home where it might hatch in her absence, or Carol might throw it out, for all she knew.
Every day she had made this journey early in the morning, but today Melody was extra-early, because she had someone she wanted to go and visit before she started work for the day. Someone she trusted, and someone she shared some special memories and knowledge with.
She located the shrine at the top of the hill past Howie's house, and then looked down the steep granite path around the right-hand side of it. There were blades of grass, hibiscus flowers and various weeds growing up through cracks in the path, and there was a fair amount of rubble. Melody bit her lip in apprehension; she should have found a bag to carry the egg in. She could have bought one; she wasn't short of money.
This visit had to be done, though, and she didn't have long before she would normally start walking to work. Carefully she secured the egg in her right arm, and cautiously steadying herself with her left palm against the smooth cliff wall, she started her precarious descent around and below the shrine.
It was cool and shady in the cave mouth below the shrine, but still well-lit, and decorated by the wayward hibiscus plants that seemed to have the whole island in their clutches. Finding herself on the stable floor of the cave, Melody smiled as she recognised a familiar silhouette curiously advancing towards her. The being shielded its eyes against the bright sunrise outside, and then beamed back at her.
"Young maiden, I haven't been expecting you! I fear you're bringing bad news?"
"I wasn't sure how to forewarn you, Slowking." Melody said apologetically, "But no, it's not bad news. Well, it's not all bad news, anyway."
She shared with him the news about her egg, and her new job for the summer. It wasn't something she expected to be telling a Pokémon like Slowking, the guardian of the shrine, but he smiled as she told the story, intelligence and interest shining in his eyes, quite unlike his previous and alternative evolutionary stages. Slowking furrowed his regal brows when Melody told him what Cisco had come running to tell her the night before, however.
"Really? That's undoubtedly strange behaviour for a breeder. You should certainly keep your wits about you with this Howie character..."
Melody nodded, deep in thought. This was the first time she had seen Cisco or Liran for quite some time; she had missed them, and it had upset her to see Cisco as distraught as she was. At the same time, she had felt a great warmth to know that she would be the first person they came to in a crisis on their island; she hadn't had many friends at college due to her tunnel vision for her project on that life-altering natural catastrophe years ago, and new human contact was suddenly a real and welcome thing.
"Just keep your wits about you, young maiden," was all the advice Slowking could offer at great length.
After a few more minutes of silence from Melody, he asked if she was feeling okay, and she responded by shaking off the question and beginning to discuss the legend festival with him. Hiding his concern to mull over later, he indulged in Melody’s distraction.
Soon, she had a flash of inspiration, untucked the egg from under her shoulder and inched it forwards towards him, "Slowking, are you good at identifying Pokémon inside eggs? I ask because you’re a psychic-type and you’re the most intelligent person I know."
Slowking smiled in amusement, "Please, you are the one that has graduated now. But no. I can tell from the scent - as you likely have - that it is a grass-type, but I would have the faintest idea about what species is inside. That’s part of the fun of hatching Pokémon, isn’t it?"
Melody’s walk back to the breeding centre was a slow one. Slowking had given her the impression that she shouldn’t trust Howie as much as she felt she could before, but also that she shouldn’t change how she acted around him despite the whole ordeal with Cisco’s Aipom.
She sighed and hugged the egg close to her. Was the Pokémon inside the egg possibly dangerous, then? Melody shook her head, reprimanding herself. She knew that there was no such thing as bad Pokémon; any actions perceived as bad could all be related back to their masters without fail.
"Good morning, Melody!" Howie greeted cheerfully. He was sweeping up in the tiled section of the outdoor enclosure, where the food was normally served up to the resident Pokémon.
Melody put on the most honest smile she could muster, "Good morning, Howie! I’ll just go inside and put my baby somewhere safe, and then I’ll come out and help-"
Howie quickly walked up to her, snatching the egg from her hands, "Oh, don’t worry about that, I’ll take care of the egg if you would like to continue cleaning up..."
She tried not to look angry, "No, I’ll take it, thank you very much. A friend of mine asked me to check on her Pokémon indoors, anyway. An Aipom. She’d like me to take her home."
Howie gave her a long, contemplative look, and then handed the egg back to her, "Fine, you can do that. Tell I won’t charge any fees for the overnight stay in this case. The poor thing was terribly anxious all night, I’d feel bad to charge."
Turning away with the egg held closer than ever before, Melody sighed with relief and then steeled herself. There had to be something sinister going on here. It couldn’t be her imagination, could it? Howie hadn’t acted surprised when she’d mentioned the Aipom, but she wasn’t sure what she had expected him to say, if she was honest with herself.
She turned on the lights in the indoor enclosure and wandered down the long corridor of roomy cages. Howie operated on a policy of filling the ones closest to each end of the room first, as they were the closest to the windows. But at last, in the middle of the room, all on her own, she found Cisco’s Aipom, Nera.
Nera had clearly been crying in the night, but she had since decided to hide herself away as far into the corner of the cage as she could. She recoiled when she saw Melody come close to the bars on the door, hiding her face behind the dexterous end of her tail.
"Nera? Nera, I’m a friend of Cisco’s, you don’t need to be afraid of me," Melody said softly, poking her fingers through the wire experimentally, "You can hang out on my shoulders for the day and then I’ll take you to Cisco when my shift finishes. I won’t let Howie get you again. Now, let’s get you out of this cage."
Nera regarded her and the egg with her wide eyes for a moment, and then tentatively brushed Melody’s fingers with her tail. Slowly the signature Aipom grin spread onto her babyish face, nervous as it was. Melody smiled back and quietly slid the barrel lock open, then the door. The Aipom carefully edged closer to the opening, and then ran that same hand-like tail over the shell of the egg now balanced in Melody’s lap. This seemed to reassure her that Melody was her friend, and she finally leapt deftly over to sit on her shoulder, steadying herself by winding her tail around Melody’s other shoulder.
"Let’s go and do some work, shall we?" Melody said brightly, conscious of Poochie whining outside the door. At least she didn’t have to worry about Howie’s Pokémon being on her side; Poochie and the Sharpedo, Athena, had both become good friends of hers. She often wondered when she’d get to meet the Crobat that slept in the attic so much, and considered that she should make an effort to visit it some day soon.
Poochie turned out to be particularly jealous of Nera’s perch on Melody’s shoulder, and reverted to yapping constantly and trying to tangle himself in her legs. Nera responded by alternately pulling faces and giving him haughty looks, switching between Melody’s shoulders with an agility Poochie could only dream of one day when he evolved.
Howie didn’t talk to her much that day, and once his sweeping was done, busied himself with front-of-house work - dealing with customers - and sitting in his back office organising orders and payments. Melody found herself with rather a lot of work to do that day, but she couldn’t complain, and she was quite happy to spend quality time with her new friend Nera.
She had sent Cisco a message a long time ago on her Pokégear, letting her know that Nera was safe and that they were getting on like a house on fire. Cisco had gushed her thanks, but apologised for feeling that Nera still wasn’t safe as long as she was still in that building. So Melody had decided to spend as much time outside as she could, in the hopes that Cisco might be watching her and see that the little Aipom was doing fine.
"You’re free to go," Howie said matter-of-factly, about an hour and a half before Melody was normally due to finish her afternoon shift, "I’ve paid you for the full day."
She looked at him quizzically, but his eyes remained averted and his expression unreadable. He held out to her the envelope of cash that he normally gave her at the end of the day, so she took it and stuffed it into the pockets of her jeans. She pulled the apron from over her head, making sure to remove her Pokégear from the front pouch, and handed it to him, "I’m just going to get my egg, then."
Howie nodded and remained outside, sat on a fence post, until Melody returned. He still did not meet her gaze, and mumbled a goodbye as she left. Poochie emerged from the door and looked at each of them in turn, his head cocked in confusion.
"What do you think is going on there, Nera?" Melody wondered aloud, waving a silent goodbye to Poochie, who was now wandering in circles around Howie’s stationary feet.
No sooner had she walked beyond visual distance of the breeding centre that Cisco ran up to her at full tilt, and Nera, previously chattering absent-mindedly into Melody’s ear, became alert and made a flying jump for her trainer.
Liran ran behind, struggling for breath as he carried expensive parts of computer equipment that he obviously didn’t want to leave unattended at their camp during tourist season, "Thank god you got her for us, Melody, Cisco was terribly worried."
Cisco looked up from her frenzied nuzzling and cuddling with her Aipom and said, "Yes, thank you so much, Melody, did you get into trouble? Did he act weird or anything?"
Melody shifted the egg in her arms, pleased to be free of Nera’s weight on her small shoulders, "He did seem a little strange, yes, and of course he let me leave early with full pay...but guys, please don’t go checking up on him again. This was no trouble, but it was heartbreaking to see how Cisco was after Nera was taken. Can you go back to doing whatever work it is you’re meant to be doing here?"
Melody had made a personal decision to never push them for what they were actually posted on the island for, and by whom. She liked them both, and she didn’t want to find out that some other people she trusted might be up to something strange and sinister as well as Howie.
"We’ll make a better effort," Liran said, nodding in agreement.
Melody smiled halfheartedly, but knew they were far too interested in these goings-on as much as she was. So she walked back to their camp with them, and she told them about her conversation with Slowking that morning. She made sure to leave out the information about the whereabouts of Slowking’s residence; she trusted her friends, but she didn’t want the information to leak out. When it came down to it, he was a rare Pokémon that could converse with humans, and he’d probably be a prime target for Team Rocket or the like.
"So your wise elder thinks you should be careful too," Cisco summarised, looking out towards the ocean as she considered all this new information, "Well, I certainly won’t be sending my Pokémon near him again any time soon."
"When it comes down to it," Liran commented, "We were spying on him. I think it’s probably against the law."
Cisco shot him a look that could kill, and then turned back towards Melody, scratching Nera’s chin as she did so, "Anyway, Melody, you should probably be getting home rather than spending your afternoon with us. Your egg is looking like it might hatch soon. I’m thinking it’s probably around the same age as ours."
Melody beamed, "You think so? I should probably take it home, so it’s somewhere safe. Good luck with hatching yours as well!"
Last edited by Camisado; 11-27-2011 at 10:04 PM.