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Atmospheric Pressure

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“You see, Miss Costello,” said a sneery and somehow familiar voice, “When you give your details to someone via Pokégear, they can work out how to find you. They can search for your name on the Internet and discover who you are, when you’ve been involved in something as big as you have. They can also ask around at your accommodation and get some very helpful information from the nurses on how to find you.”

Melody remained calm and silent. She was aware that she was still gripping on to her bag, and she clenched her teeth. Could she release Chikorita and Flaaffy to safety? What was going to happen to all of her other things that she had brought with her or bought on her stay here?”

She berated herself inwardly for using her Pokégear so much today. It had barely topped up when left to rest on the table at the museum due to the stormy weather, and she had never needed it more than now.

Melody thought carefully, while remaining silent as the two people in the room bickered about what to do with her. She recognised their voices from today, certainly. Then she bit her lip in realisation. Of course, the couple in the café who had made Flaaffy so uncomfortable, and had been acting very suspiciously, now she thought about it.

“We’re going to keep you blindfolded,” the man told her, “And we will take you away from this island. We will not confiscate any of your possessions at this time-”

“Of course we are, Julio,” the female voice - Lorrie - berated, “She can’t hold on to that Pokégear, she’ll just be making calls with it and telling people where she is,” and with that, Lorrie snatched the Pokégear from its place in Melody’s jacket; she could see the square imprint on her pocket.

Well, there went any chance at getting rescued.

Melody remained silent as she was sat on the bed. She heard the two of them searching the room for her possessions; they didn’t seem the sort of people that were really too sinister considering what they were doing, what with the care they were taking with her possessions and her comfort.

“We’re leaving through the window. Don’t make any noise, or we may have to use force,” Lorrie advised, holding on to Melody’s forearm firmly. They had apparently removed the entire pane of glass from the wide window, and she stepped down from the windowsill onto the ground quite comfortably.

The noises behind them suggested that Julio was carrying a lot of her things. Melody spoke for the first time since she had been captured, “Could I please carry my own Poké Balls? I am a new trainer and I’m uncomfortable with being away from my Pokémon for too long.”

Lorrie came to a stop and nodded her head at Julio, who rummaged around in Melody’s bag and pulled out the two balls that held Chikorita and Flaaffy. He somewhat awkwardly put them into Melody’s jacket pockets and zipped them up for safety.

“Thank you,” said Melody, and she smiled. Julio and Lorrie weren’t sure what to make of her actions, but they continued.

They started to scale a cliff face. Lorrie advised her to watch her step, as the steps here were makeshift and often only used by Pokémon. Melody sighed and wondered where they were going. It was terribly wet out here, and the path was getting slippery. She didn’t particularly want to end up in the sea while blindfolded; there would be no way out of the sea unless she managed to swim round to the beach, and it wasn’t nearby.

Finally she felt metal under her feet. She stepped on it a bit harder and it made a resonating sound, and bobbed up and down, seemingly riding on the waves.

“Is this a submarine?” Melody wondered aloud.

“Don’t ask questions,” Lorrie snapped back, but Melody could hear a door being opened near her feet, and then she was manhandled down into a narrow tunnel by her and Julio. More hands grabbed on to her legs and lowered her to the floor.

Lorrie and Julio returned, and they led her down another narrow passageway. Another door was opened; this time it was upright. They threw her possessions inside, removed her blindfold, shoved her inside and bolted the door shut from the outside. Melody staggered to her feet and looked out of the porthole window on the door; there was one on the outside wall of her room, but it was shuttered. She saw Lorrie and Julio walking away, so she didn’t bother banging on the door. There was no way they’d release her until they got to their destination.

It was something of a jail cell; there was a basic toilet and basin near the door where it afforded the most privacy, and a small bed; nothing like the luxury in the Pokémon Centre. She threw her bags under the bed and sat down on it, shivering. She hadn’t planned her wardrobe for cold and wet journeys inside a submarine with no daylight.

Melody stood up and twisted the inside shutter away from the sea-side porthole window just as the submarine descended into the water. Sea water roared over the porthole and the top of the small submarine, and she collapsed back onto her bed. She watched through the window as some Magikarp swam by, accompanied shortly by a shoal of Goldeen and Seaking. At least she could comfort herself by watching them from her window; she couldn’t complain about the view.

She pulled out her more expensive book from the bags Julio had brought. She laid out on the bed and flicked to the pages that detailed sea maps of the Orange Islands and nearby coastal regions.

Melody was facing away from the island, and there was nothing but black depths in front of her as they descended further and further. Every so often there might be a Pokémon swim by her window, dimly illuminated by the submarine’s safety lights. It was eerie, that was for certain. In all her life in the water-rich Orange Archipelago, she’d never been in a submarine, but the sea never made her afraid.

The book wasn’t really on a workable scale for her to figure out where she was, but she made some good guesses. She noticed that she wasn’t really turning, so they must be heading west from Valencia Island. Pulling a pencil from her bag, she gently marked an X on the map where she’d been staying. She hadn’t walked far from the Pokémon Centre when she’d been kidnapped and taken down the cliff path, so it was a reasonably safe guess.

She studied the pages before and after. They noted particular colonies of Pokémon breeds, and she continued to watch out of her window. If she craned her neck a little, she could almost see the sea floor below, where the odd Krabby might be wandering across the sand and rocks.

Hours seemed to pass, and Melody was conscious that she had not released Chikorita and Flaaffy from their Poké Balls recently. She stopped watching out the window to do so, and then attempted to release them. The button flashed red on both Poké Balls. Melody considered that this far down, she was probably out of the range of the metropolitan network links - but at least Chikorita and Flaaffy were safe in the storage network.

Conspicuously alone, Melody returned to her vigil at the window. She noticed a large group of Corsola below her, and ran back to her book. There was a scientifically known colony of Corsola at a point just outside the Orange Islands, to the northwest. Melody added another X mark on the map. She was travelling away from the Orange Islands, without a doubt.

Tiredness soon overcame her. She had been up early, and she’d done so much during the day before she’d been captured. She figured that she could afford a small nap and she wouldn’t miss too much of the journey. Just in case she was yanked out of her room before she got back to her mapping, she tidied it all away and stowed it under her bed again. Laying down more comfortably on the bed, hanging her jacket to dry and crawling under the covers, she laid her head down on the pillow; and suddenly she was out like a light.

•••

Grandfather had been waiting for messages from Melody all morning. She was meant to have boarded a commercial flight early in the morning, and should be at Kumquat Island to get a floatplane back to Shamouti by now. He started to - correctly - fear the worst.

“Perhaps you should ask those travellers she’s been hanging out with,” Carol suggested, assuming that Melody was fine, and had just failed to communicate anything to her family; it wasn’t unheard of.

“Travellers?” Grandfather asked, ignoring Carol’s disregard for Melody’s safety; he hadn’t shared the news about potential upcoming disasters with anyone other than Slowking.

Carol nodded, “They seem to be particularly interested in Howie, who rents our letting house as a breeding centre. You can probably find them there.”

Without another word, Grandfather left the house and made his way up the hill in the pouring rain again. At least this time he had taken an umbrella - strangely, there was torrential rain and no wind. He had pulled his rubber boots out from storage and was glad of them today.

He came across a large tent hidden between some palm trees and shrubbery near the house, and could hear voices inside it. Venturing up to it, he called, “Hello?”

A young man with shoulder-length orange hair unzipped the tent, perhaps five years older than Melody. A girl with very short white hair was sat next to him, and both sported black and red clothing. Surrounding them was a great deal of computer equipment, and an Umbreon and Espeon were sat next to them, cuddled up and clearly not enjoying the weather outside.

“Are you friends with my granddaughter?” Grandfather ventured, looking over the two of them, unsure. They seemed rather suspicious people with all this equipment and their matching clothes.

“If her name is Melody, yes,” the girl replied, “Hello, I’m Cisco, and this is my partner Liran. Can we help you? She’s meant to be returning home today, am I right?”

Grandfather nodded, “If you could please help in any way you can...we fear something strange is going on in relation to details of the Legend Festival and we haven’t received any communication from her this morning. Are you able to tell me where you think she could be?”

Liran immediately suggested, “If we could get hold of her laptop, we’d like to see if we can locate her Pokégear using the bundled software. Other than that, we don’t really know how to help you.”

Since Grandfather looked at them quizzically for a moment and didn’t commit to anything, Cisco added, “You can supervise our use of her computer. We have no interest in any of her personal or financial information.”

The old man nodded, “Very well. Come with me, and I’ll welcome you into our family home while you assist us in finding her. Thank you for being good friends to her.”

“Certainly,” Cisco said, with a hint of professionalism in her voice, “Liran, would you like to secure our possessions and I will let you know our location when I get there?”

Grandfather smiled as Liran agreed but looked annoyed, while Cisco pulled on a thick raincoat and zipped Umbreon into it with her. She stood and smiled at Grandfather, inviting him to lead the way.

It was a short but silent walk back into the main town, and Cisco followed behind Grandfather like an obedient and unquestioning Growlithe. The old man led her to a house built in Shamouti’s distinctive historical style; mostly wood and palm leaf thatch, and bricks painted white where they were used. The inside of the Costellos’ house was sparsely decorated with traditional furniture and the wooden walls were whitewashed on the inside. White marble flooring welcomed her, and she slipped off her black boots at the door. Releasing Umbreon from her jacket, she also hung her coat up on a nearby rack.

Grandfather directed her to a room at the end of a wide and brightly lit hallway just off the living room. The room was of a generous size for a secondary bedroom, and it was decorated in neutral colours, but maps, posters and photographs of the Orange Islands were pasted up around the room, and a laptop and a TV with a digital receiver and video game consoles sat around the room, games piled up forgotten under heaps of books on geology and earth science. Bound or stapled copies of Melody’s essays and research papers laid neatly on her desk, next to samples of rock from the three surrounding islands used as paperweights.

“It’s so her,” Cisco said, making Grandfather smile, “If you don’t mind, I’ll try to log in to her laptop.”

Cisco was faced with no such challenge, as the laptop booted into its operating system and presented her with Melody’s administrator account in a highly welcoming manner. She cringed, but she carried on; Grandfather didn’t need to know about the bad security, as he probably didn’t understand computers very well.

She soon located the icon for the Pokégear synchronisation software. She launched it and cancelled the prompt for connecting the device to the computer, and then clicked a hidden option called “Find My Pokégear”.

Umbreon meanwhile was winding his way around Grandfather’s legs, and he leaned down to pet him. He purred in ecstasy, and Grandather grinned down at him.

“His name is Blackberry,” Cisco said, turning to smile at the pair while the page loaded with the Pokégear’s last known location, “You’ve made a permanent friend now; he won’t let you stop petting him.”

“He’s beautiful,” Grandfather commented, looking up over Cisco’s shoulder, “What do you have there? She’s still in the Orange Islands?”

Cisco nodded and pointed at various locations, “She was getting a passenger plane to Kumquat Island, and she would have turned her Pokégear back on there to let you know where she was. Her last known location was this Pokémon Centre on Valencia Island; she hasn’t even made it to Manises Airport on Valencia. What should we assume? She can’t still be asleep.”

Grandfather paused for a moment, “Well, could you get me the contact details for the Valencian Pokémon Centre, please?”

Cisco nodded and obliged, quickly finding them on the Internet. Grandfather made a call, while Cisco remembered to let Liran know where she was so that he could join them.

Grandfather leaned down during the call to write another number down on a scratch notepad on Melody’s desk; the number for the Valencian police. Cisco assumed the worst, and pulled Blackberry onto her lap to hold him in her arms for comfort.

“She’s been kidnapped,” Grandfather said, anger seething under his normally composed exterior, “She was taken from her room with all her possessions and taken down the cliff path to a water vessel.”

Cisco squeezed Blackberry a little harder, to his chagrin, “But she could be anywhere by now!”