Shattered Gemstones Chapter 9: The Appeal

Chapter 9

The Appeal


   His name is Damian. Hers is Ariana. Both somewhat unusual names these days, making me vaguely curious if their parents were the pretentious type, who would name their children odd things just to look cool. But that’s not where my attention needs to be right now.

   We sit in a booth with a good view of the door, just in case Lucas decides to make a surprise move. I’m drinking deeply from a chai tea purchased at the counter. It tastes horrible, but its warmth is soothing. The scent helps me focus.

   Damian does most of the talking. He describes Vistian town, a place I had never visited myself. I had heard reports about the Cerberus fiasco, and remembered the name Malakai from a few news stories, but I hadn’t known how bad things were there. Hearing it from the mouth of someone who was there made it sound so much more real. And, ironically, less sane.

   As Damian describes Lucas, Malakai, and Cerberus, I begin to paint a picture in my head of Lucas’ motivation. He could have come seeking revenge, having somehow found out that the liberation of his former headquarters was Damian’s doing. Conversely, it could also be that he had just been trying to make a new start for himself here, and didn’t want Damian to rat him out. Unfortunately, the more Damian says, the less likely this second option becomes.

   The whole time Damian is speaking, Ariana watches me carefully. She sits with her arms crossed, body leaned against the window. She doesn’t really look antagonistic towards me, more like she’s trying to get a read on me. Deciding for herself whether to trust me. Smart girl.

   “It sounds like this guy at least wants to scare you,” I say when Damian is finished. “But it seems likely that his motivations are a little worse than that. Since you’re both safe for now, this would be a good time to plan from here on out.”

   “Hold on.” Damian crosses his arms, leaning back in his seat. “I’m sorry, but before we go any further, I need to know for sure if we can trust you. You put up a very convincing performance outside, but now that we have time, I think we deserve to know a little more about you.”

   I sigh, nodding. I probably should have told them more from the get-go. I reach into my back pocket, taking out my wallet. I extract my trainer card, handing it to Damian.

   As he looks the card over, I begin to speak. I start with my parents; my mysteriously absent mother and my wise father who taught me everything. I tell a little about some of the places we visited, just a few that stand out in my mind. I skim over my father’s death, only saying that he isn’t around anymore.

   “What about your Pokemon?” Damian asks, tapping the single poke ball sticker on the back of the card. So I tell about Checkers, how I saved his life and had kept him ever since. I notice a small smile on Ariana’s face as I describe Checkers, and how happy he was once he was healed.

   “So there you go,” I finish. “that’s pretty much my life story. Are we cool?” I outstretch a hand to shake. Instead of shaking my hand, Damian places my trainer card in it.

   “Yeah, Toby…I guess we are. I still don’t really get why you wanted to help us, but your story seems legitimate, and your I.D. doesn’t look fake to me.”

   I shrug as I put my card back in my wallet. “I guess I just wanted to help you two out of interest. I take an interest in people, and sometimes I even start trying to get a read on people without even realizing it. Just be glad I noticed Lucas.”

   Damian nods slightly, locking his eyes with mine. “I am grateful. That said, it’s still not impossible that you’re working with Lucas. You’re right, in that we’re safe as long as we’re on the boat, but if you intend to travel with us on the mainland you might have to prove yourself a little more. I know it sounds extreme, but Ariana and I have to be cautious.”

   It makes sense, I suppose. But I hope that whatever proof he wants me to show is something I’m actually capable of doing.

   “Well,” I say, after a moment of silence. “For now, you should try to think of me as an ally. If Lucas tries to attack you or anything, any number of people here could become involved. If word spread that something took place, there might be some serious misunderstandings. I’m just someone who doesn’t want that to happen. For the good of everyone here.”

   “That makes sense.” Damian and I both look over at Ariana, who’s speaking for the first time. “You’re just trying to help everyone here by preventing something bad, right?”

   “Exactly.” I say, with a  smile. At least one of them seems to be starting to trust me. I almost feel like I should be on Lucas’ side, someone working to gain the trust of these two. I’m glad they’re believing the truth, despite the suspicious circumstances.

   “So,” I say, clapping my hands together. “Let’s talk strategy. Are you both new trainers? What kind of Pokemon do you have?”

   Damian looks away, almost self-consciously. “We don’t have Pokemon yet. We’re part of the new trainer program, they’ll be giving us our first Pokemon when we arrive.”

   This isn’t welcome news. If these two are busy learning how to train Pokemon while under the predatory eye of Lucas, it would leave ample opportunities for him to strike. If they want to stay safe, they may need some help training. Someone to watch their backs while they get their footing. I’m about to say so, but Damian beats me to it.

   “I know, we’ll need to be careful, but we didn’t have a choice. We had to leave, and didn’t have time to learn how to train or anything. This seemed like the best way to do things.”

   “Right,” I reply. “That makes sense, and I’m glad you can see the danger.”

   “We’re kind of accustomed to it.” He says, a little stand-offishly. Flusters me a little.

   “Of course, sorry. Anyway, I know I said I’m not very experienced, but I still know enough to help you out. Show you both the ropes, help you get going.”

   “So you do want to travel with us?” Damian says. He doesn’t sounds wary, but he still looks a little hesitant. I lean back in my seat.

   “I know we still don’t know each other all that well, but you don’t know anyone better here. I don’t particularly want to travel alone, and I think you’ve already realized that it would be wise to have someone else watching your back. Let me come with you, and it will benefit all three of us.”

   As I speak, hearing the sincerity in my own words, I begin to realize something. I realize that, for all of my ambition and desire to start anew, I’ve been harboring a deep-seated fear about what’s to come. Fear of isolation, of winding up in some horrible situation with nobody but little Checkers, who still can’t even fight very well, to help me. Along with all that, there’s also a fear that, in a way, is linked to my want to be my own man; that, instead of making any kind of friends, I would make only enemies here, and would only wind up worse off than before. I just want an ally, and I guess I convinced myself that I should help Damian and Ariana because, in the back of my mind, I thought that I could make them trust me.

   Damian looks out the window for a moment, and then at Ariana, who doesn’t speak but looks like she’s ready to trust me. After a minute or two of stony silence, he nods and locks eyes with me.

   “Okay, we’ll travel with you. Until you give us a reason not to, anyway. It’s nothing personal, but I’m just finding it a little difficult to give anyone my trust right now. But you’ve made your case, and you seem okay. So,” he says, outstretching a hand. “Welcome to the group.”

   I shake his hand, unable to hide a grin from my face. Ariana notices it, and chuckles.

   I’m about to thank him, but my thoughts are interrupted by a loudspeaker.

   “This is your captain speaking. We are now approaching Lilycove harbor. All trainers, please assemble on deck and await further instruction.”

   “Well,” I say, standing up. “Sounds like it’s go time. Let’s see what’s awaiting us out there.”