Now, I’ve been in some pretty unpleasant places – volcanic tunnels, spooky rotting houses, an arctic wasteland – but I have to tell you, being inside the mouth of the biggest Pokemon I had ever seen trumped them all. It stank; I would be wearing a permanent aroma of eau de rotting fish for the foreseeable future. If there was a foreseeable future. I had dropped to my knees, and the floor (which was, of course, the monster’s tongue) felt precisely like raw meat. That, combined with the odour, had me struggling to keep my breakfast fully contained. Oddly enough, there was air, and the monster had not swallowed us. Eva and I were still clutching one another, and the dim light from Ampharos’s gem cast a hazy red glow about it. Enough to illuminate the creature’s teeth, ivory pillars that lined the upper jaw. From a zoological perspective, it was rather interesting.
From a practical perspective – totally gross.
Sound was muffled, and breathing through my nose brought in the terrible stink, breathing through my mouth added in a distinctly fishy after taste. I suppose I should be grateful that we had air at all.
The creature made a crooning noise, a low, bass rumble that vibrated through my entire body, and we were thrown up, against the ceiling (like being slapped with a raw steak), them tumbled together in a chaotic mix of arms and legs.
The creature must have dived beneath the waves.
Pressure throbbed painfully in my ears.
A minute later, or perhaps five or ten or even twenty, we began rising again. Finally, just when the air was starting to taste stale and sleepiness threatened to drag me under, the mighty jaws cracked open, and we tumbled from the sky, to land with a splash in… a swimming pool?
Hands were reaching for us, helping us out of the water, a towel was wrapped across my shoulders.
“Wailord, return!” A voice called from somewhere up above. A dark-haired man standing on the railing above us, holding a Pokeball above his head. A flash, as the gigantic monster was recalled.
“Are you all right?” my attendant asked. He was tall, slender, with tousled blond hair and large glasses, which enhanced his blue eyes rather than detract from them.
“I think so,” I replied. My ears still ached, but oh, how good the salty tang of the air tasted. “Where are we?”
He laughed. “Not inclined to exchange pleasantries then. Direct to the questions.” A half-smile. “I like that. This is the good ship Sanctuary. Once the cruise ship known as S.S. Anne. Now repurposed to trawl the oceans in search of survivors.”
“How did you find us?” I asked.
He shook his head with a laugh, then offered me his hand. “Hi,” he said, “I’m Clemont. And you must be?”
“Sorry,” I replied, wiping my hand on the towel before accepting and shaking his. “It’s been rather a strange few weeks. I’m Kataryna. And this is…”
I turned to find Eva, staring up at Clemont with eyes that almost bulged out of her head. “You’re Clemont.” She sounded amazed. “For science, Clemont?”
“Ah yes,” he replied. “But that was a long time ago now. Before– ” he gestured one-handed at the ash-laden sky. “You’ve seen the show?”
“Every single episode. Five times!” Eva beamed. “Where’s Bonnie? She’s my favourite.”
Clemont’s expression changed from one of amusement to sorrow. “She’s gone,” he replied.
“Oh.” Eva shuffled, examining her bare feet. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“Thank you,” Clemont replied quietly, reaching out to squeeze her shoulder. “One day I’ll find her again. But first… speaking of science, we need to reactivate the chameleon shields. Delphina has strongly implied that someone would come after you.” He charged off across the deck, snapping his fingers and shouting commands.
Eva stared after him, her eyes wide.
A moment later, what appeared to be some sort of light shield arched across above us. “Wow,” she whispered, sounding awestruck. “Science is amazing.” Then, after a short pause. “We’re not going to blow up, are we?”
Clemont, walking back past, laughed and reached down to ruffle her hair. “Once,” he said. “Once something actually, genuinely blew up.” He rolled his eyes. “And the producers loved it, they thought it was hilarious… so it became a bit of a running gag. Long after it stopped being even slightly amusing…” He groaned. “Don’t worry yourself about it. My science is safe. We’re safe.” He crouched down beside her. “You remind me of Bonnie actually, when she was younger. What’s your name?”
“Evangeline,” she replied. “But my friends call me Eva.”
“Can I call you Eva?” he asked, seriously.
She nodded, blushing a bit with the pleasure of actually being asked. “I’d like that.”
“Excellent.” He grinned at her. “And is that your Ampharos, Eva?” He nodded at the now-dried off ampharos, who was taking his guard duty very seriously and standing quietly behind her.
“He’s a very fine specimen,” Clemont said. “And he obviously cares for you very much indeed.”
“He does. And I care for him too.”
“That’s what true friendship is all about,” Clemont stood, and turned his attention to me. “I’d like to offer Eva a tour of the ship, if that’s okay with you?”
“Please,” Eva added quietly.
Why was he asking me for permission? Oh right, yes, because we’d arrived together and they probably thought I was her mother. Well, I was her mother. Probably. I nodded quickly, before my thoughts overwhelmed me. “Yes, yes of course, that’s absolutely fine.” What would be the responsible thing to say now? Oh yes, that was right, “Ampharos has to go too.”
“Of course,” Clemont replied. “And so could you, if you wished?” There was something a little hopeful in his tone, but in truth, I was exhausted.
“Maybe later,” I replied, trying not to read too much into the disappointment that flashed in his eyes. “I think I’d like to lie down. Rest a while.”
“Oh yes, of course.” Concern replaced disappointment. He’d probably just realised how skeletal I was. Hell, even my bones ached. “Alice,” he called, “would you be so kind as to escort Kataryna to a cabin?”
A girl scurried over. She wore mismatched clothes – a shirt far too large for her small frame, belted at the waist over striped leggings – and her dark hair was braided into plaits that fell to her waist. She could have been maybe 14 or 15. Older than Eva, certainly. She flashed me an uncertain smile. “Where would you like her to be assigned?”
“Check with the steward, but I’d like her as close to the infirmary as possible.” He glanced at me. “Just in case.”
In case of what? Did I look that bad? I followed Alice quietly. A bed actually sounded very good indeed.
My feet were dragging heavily, and I was all but leaning against the walls to stay upright, when Alice finally secured a keycard for me, and showed me to my cabin. The beds were the first thing I saw, twin singles, the porthole between them. To reach them, I passed a miniscule bathroom, and an equally petite lounge area with desk and sofa.
“Dinner is at 1900,” Alice informed me. “We use solar and electric Pokemon to power the ship. To conserve energy, please limit any showers to no more than three minutes.” She shot me a shy smile. “We hope you enjoy your stay aboard the S.O.S. Sanctuary.”
I hardly heard what she’d said, my feet had taken control, directed me to a bed and permitted me to collapse, exhausted upon it.
“How many people are there here?” I asked, stifling a yawn of complete exhaustion.
“At last census, 927,” she replied. “The survivors of the Lumiose City tsunami make up the majority of passengers, but we’ve picked up other refugees where we can.”
My eyelids sagged heavily, and I blinked furiously. There was one question I needed answered before I gave in to sleep. “How did you know where to find us?”
“Delphina,” she replied, somewhat curtly. “She’s an oracle. Has prophetic dreams.” She pondered for a moment, then recited:
“They say two wrongs can’t make a right
but one will come, and bring the light.
On the full moon’s final night,
but you must prepare to fight.”
As she said the last word, a shudder passed through the ship. I jerked alert, as adrenaline surged through me. “He’s found us. What’s your strongest Pokemon?” I tried to push myself off the bed, but Alice shook her head.
“You’re weak,” she said. “You cannot help. Stay here.” She hurried from the room.
“Water Pokemon,” I called after her, swinging my feet to the ground, levering myself from the bed. Grabbing the edge of the bed with one hand, as dizziness threatened to engulf me. “Fire is his strongest element. He’s weak against water.”
The door slammed shut, and I wasn’t sure she’d heard me.