Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ Secrets in the Night ( Chapter 8 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Home Is Where the R Is
Chapter Eight – Secrets in the Night

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« How are you feeling, dear? » the doctor asked Anari later that evening.

« All right, I guess, » Anari answered, which was a complete lie. Her scalp, hand and backside were in agony, despite the ointment and painkiller she’d been given. She wasn’t about to admit it, though, for fear that the woman might feel inclined to give her another shot. She hated shots.

« You’re a very brave little girl, » the woman told her, before walking away to attend to another patient.

« Yes, she is, » Dan agreed, patting Anari’s left hand. The right had been wrapped in bandages.

« Not to mention foolish, » Henry chided gently. « I don’t want you ever going near barbed wire again. »

« I won’t. »

« EVER! » the old man emphasized.

« Okay, okay. »

« Want another cookie? » Lou asked. Anari took two, put one in her mouth and grabbed a third. Lou always made good cookies.

« You should have tasted the food they were serving before Lou got his job downstairs, » Dan said. « The stew was bad enough to turn a Muk’s stomach and don’t get me started on their so-called meatloaf! »

« It was so bad half the people here were sneaking off base to eat at the little ramen shop nearby, » Tony added. « Myself included. Lou is probably killing their business. »

Anari, despite her pain, was enjoying herself immensely. It had been a long time since she’d been able to eat Lou’s food and socialize with these particular people she loved.

« Tell me a story! » Anari pleaded to Henry, who was sitting on a chair next to the bed she currently occupied in the infirmary. Lou was sitting beside him, while Dan and Tony occupied the two chairs on the opposite side.

« All right, » Henry chuckled, motioning for her to lay down. She did so. « Once there was a world that didn’t have any Pokémon in it, » he began.

« Our world! » Anari said. She’d heard the tale from him many times before. Although she didn’t know it, he’d made up the story along with many others specifically to please her.

« Yes, our world. There was only humans back then and they came in all different sizes. Some were as large as giants, while others were so small they only came up to your knees. There were middle-sized people as well, but apart from their varying heights they all basically looked the same. »

Viper, who’d been silently observing them for some time, leaned against the wall. He chuckled softly at how the old man gestured with his hands as he told his story.

« The humans had quite a lot of trouble getting along, » Henry continued. « The giants complained that they were always tripping over the shorter people, and the midgets complained that they were constantly being stepped on. The middle-sized people complained the most, because they were both tripping over the midgets AND constantly being stepped on by the giants who towered above them. So a petition was drawn up and a delegation was sent to speak with the Creator Of The World about the problem. The Creator Of The World used his power to make humans all relatively the same size, but was saddened by the loss of diversity he had lovingly installed in the race. So, instead, he made the humans several different colors and shapes. For a while everything was peaceful, until the humans began to quarrel with each other again, this time over their physical appearance. Fat, skinny and middle-sized people all began to mock and insult each other and each race claimed to be superior to all the others. When a delegation was again sent to the Creator Of The World, this time to officially degree which race of humankind was supreme, he became enraged that his gift of diversity was once again the cause of discontent by the unappreciative humans. He sent the delegation away and left humanity to its own devices, deciding to start again from the very beginning. »

« So what did he do? » Dan asked, not realizing that he too had become absorbed in the old man’s story.

« He invented Pokémon, » Anari explained.

« That’s right, » Henry nodded, pleased to find his tale was capturing the adults’ attention as well.

« The Creator Of The World began anew, creating Pokémon of all different kinds. He gave to them also the gift of diversity, making them all different colors and shapes, and unlike the unappreciative humans the Pokémon reveled in it. So, to reward them for their gratitude he bestowed upon them many powers. Some were gifted with great strength, others psychic ability and still others the powers of the elements. In a select few he instilled the greatest powers of all, and they became-« 

« Legendary! » Anari finished for him. Henry smiled.

« Yes, Legendary. The mightiest Pokémon of all. But in time the Creator’s attention again turned to his first creation, the foolish humans, and he tried to determine what was to be done about them. Leaving them to themselves had accomplished nothing, they’d become even more stupid in his absence. They’d long since abandoned sending delegations and decided to make war on each other instead. He was seriously considering just turning every one of them into stone and be done with them, when an idea came to him… »

« To make people and Pokémon teach each other! » Anari interrupted. Henry nodded.

« He felt that Pokémon could help to teach humans the value of cooperation and encourage them to appreciate everyone’s unique differences. In turn, they could teach Pokémon how to grow in strength and power. Through their bond both Pokémon and trainer would each learn the most valuable lesson of all: The value of love. »

« A strange parable for a man of your background, » Viper commented. Henry shrugged.

« I wanted to be a storyteller when I was a boy, » he replied. « I was very disappointed to learn it wasn’t something one could make a living with. »

« You really thought people would PAY you for telling stories? » Anari laughed.

« Indeed I did. My father got so tired of hearing my nonsense he decided I needed a real job, so he apprenticed me to a locksmith. »

« That explains a lot, » Viper remarked dryly.

« Did you like it? » Anari asked.

« Working for the locksmith? No, I hated it. But I was good at it; too good, as the locksmith would eventually learn. One night I decided I’d had enough of spending my days training at such a boring profession so I raided the cash box and took off. Tried my hand at quite a lot of different things over the years until your father hired me as a mercenary. I’ve worked for your family ever since. »

« Do you think your father would be disappointed in you? » Anari asked. « I mean, because you work for thieves? »

« Most likely, » Henry said. « I never returned to find out. But thievery goes back to the beginning of time, or so the old stories say. They’re filled with heroes, kings, peasants and children willing to do whatever they had to do to get what they wanted. Some made deals with devils or even challenged the gods! »

« Do you think any of the stories are true? » Anari asked.

« I think the ancients had wild imaginations, personally, » Tony commented. Viper agreed with him. Neither of them believed in gods or devils.

« Who can say? » Henry shrugged. « The days of yore are gone, and there’s no one left to remember them. »

« Well, on that note, I’m off, » said Lou. « I’m going to grab some leftovers from the cafeteria before I go to bed. » He gave Anari a pat on her sore head (which she could have happily done without) and left. Viper also bid the child good night before vacating the room, intent on making sure Lou only took what was left over from the late day meal. Food in the supply room seemed to be disappearing at a far greater rate since Lou’s employment.

« Lou sure loves to eat, doesn’t he? » Anari asked after they’d gone.

« He’s caught in the pleasure trap, » Henry told her.

« Pleasure trap? What’s that? »

« You like cookies because they taste good, right? »

Anari nodded. « Right. » She shoved her final remaining cookie in her mouth.

« Even though they aren’t particularly good for you, you eat them because you like how they taste. The « pleasure trap » is what causes a person to keep eating them long after they are full, until they get a stomach ache. Unfortunately for Lou, it also makes you fat if you keep at it long enough. »

« Why is it called a « trap »? » Anari wanted to know.

« Because when something feels or tastes good, that pleasant feeling is like a trap, causing us to keep doing it even when we know in our minds that we shouldn’t. »

« Sounds like our former employer, » Tony remarked dryly. « Although his addiction of choice was not food. »

Before Anari could inquire what he meant by that, the doctor came in and told them it was time for them to return to their quarters so her patient could sleep.

« Giovanni wants her under close supervision until she goes home tomorrow, » Henry told the woman. « And I agree with him. We don’t want anymore mishaps. »

« Very well, one of you can remain with her overnight. The rest need to leave. »

« It’s my responsibility, » Henry told the two younger men. « Go to bed. »

« You’ve got two lectures tomorrow, » Dan said. « I’m the youngest. Go ahead and get some sleep. »

« YOU have to redo that obstacle course tomorrow, » Tony reminded his partner. « Viper’s going to run you ragged, so I suggest you get as much rest as you can. »

Dan sighed heavily, but didn’t argue. He suppressed the urge to call Viper a slave driver. He’s been caught doing so once before and Viper had made certain he would never repeat that error. He silently swore to himself that once he completed his training he’d make sure to get an assignment that did not include pitfalls, barbed wire and angry drill sergeants with no sense of humor, even if he had to get on his knees and beg Giovanni for it. A five mile run with an energetic Scyther swiping at him from behind to « motivate » him seemed an unnecessarily harsh punishment for having a smart mouth.

In the end it was agreed that Antony would remain behind. Henry and Danial both affectionately wished the child a good night and vacated the room and the doctor followed suite after giving Tony the number to her cell phone to call if he had any problems.

« She wanted to go to bed, too, » Anari observed.

« Indeed. I think you should try to sleep, too. »

« Tony… what did you mean when you mentioned Big Brother earlier? » the child asked. « You said he was addicted to something. »

« He certainly was, » Tony replied. « He was addicted to dominance. »

This was entirely true. A need for power- for absolute control- had driven Antonio’s actions from moment he’d returned from the fatal trip that had left his mother and father at the mercy of the raging sea. His appetites for exercising that control ranged from the sadistic to the perverted. Tony’s mind recalled an incident years ago when Anari, not quite four years old, had wandered into a room where her brother had a terrified woman gagged and tied to a bed. The child had been told that the woman was being « punished » because she had been « bad ». Tony had been summoned to remove the little girl and entertain her, and had been warned that he would be severely punished if he spoke of the incident or if Anari were allowed to wander into the room again. He’d even threatened to strike the child. Tony was certain that Anari had long forgotten that day but he would never forget the sound of that childish voice in his ear as he carried her down the hall, asking, « Will Big Brother do that to ME if I’m bad? »

« What is « dominance »? » the present, older version of Anari asked.

« It’s where a stronger person controls a weaker one, » he explained. « But don’t think about it now. Try to get some sleep. »

« All right. Good night, Tony. »

« Good night, little one. »

Anari rolled over and closed her eyes but sleep was a long time in coming. Her sore body was part of the problem, but it wasn’t the main thing keeping her from dozing off. Her mind kept dragging her to places she didn’t want to be. Memories of her brother- who she still wasn’t sure if she loved or hated more- were first, followed by painful speculation as to what her life might have been like if she hadn’t lost her parents because of him. Those bitter thoughts caused another old, suppressed fear to resurface. What if her brother and her uncle were exactly the same? And if they were…

What if she couldn’t save him, either?

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In was dark… and cold. Anari hated the dark. She was wandering inside a huge maze with walls that were covered with barbed wire. The place had an unmistakable aura of danger emanating from it and Anari felt like a very small animal lost in a vast jungle. She wanted to hide. She tried to slowly navigate the maze, hoping with each turn that she was almost out, but each time proved to be a disappointment. She couldn’t tell if she was making any progress at all, or just getting herself more lost. She soon became aware that someone was following her, and she didn’t like it.

« Who are you? » she called out. The shadowy form looked familiar, but it was too dark see his face.

« Uncle? » she guessed, praying she was right. No response. « Big Brother? » she tried again. Even a familiar ghost was better than a frightening stranger. The shape’s clothes were dirty and torn. Neither her uncle nor her brother would ever have permitted themselves to appear in public in such an unseemly fashion.

Her unknown stalker lifted the large carving knife he was holding and the child screamed. Finally she ran, ripping both her clothes and her flesh as she brushed against the walls. The shape did not follow her. Random knives suddenly came flying in her direction, either thrown by some unseen hand or somehow operating under their own power. She managed to dodge them all except the last, which missed her face by a fraction of an inch but sliced through her hair. Clumps of it fell to the ground and she bumped into a wire-covered wall, screaming in pain. Torn and bloody, she fell to her knees and crawled away from the wall.

« Get me out of here! » she screamed. « Please get me out… »

« Need some help? » a familiar voice asked. It was her brother. Anari held out her bloody hand and he took it, helping her to her feet.

« How do I get out? » the sobbing child asked her deceased sibling.

« There is no way out, » Antonio Gambini told her. « Not for people like us. »

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« Anari! Anari! »

Anari opened her eyes. She was frightened, then relieved, to find Tony’s scarred face looming over her in the dark. The light of the moon coming in through the window gave him an almost unearthly appearance. She sat up and looked at her hands. One was bandaged, but neither of them were bloody. She rubbed them together just to make sure. She then reached up and felt where the flying knife had sliced though her hair in her dream and screamed when she found that some of it was missing.

« Calm down, Anari! You’re all right! »

« M- my h-h-hair, » she sobbed, terrified and confused. « Wh- what h-happened to my- my hair? »

« I cut it in the training yard, remember? » Tony explained. « It was stuck in the barbed wire. »

« Oh. That’s right. The… the training yard. »

« Bad dream? » he inquired when she latched onto him. She nodded against him. It took her a few minutes to calm down and re-adjust to the waking world. There was no blood, no knife-wielding stalker and her brother was most definitely not alive and wandering through some creepy labyrinth. She hoped his ghost wasn’t, either.

« Want to talk about it? » Tony asked.

« I dreamed about my brother, » she told him.

« That would scare anybody, » Tony muttered. He still dreamed of his former employer quite frequently. It scares the shit out of me every time…

« I knew he was dead, but it was like he wasn’t. He said… that there was no way out. Not for either of us. » Tony stroked her face soothingly. His scarred hands felt strange against her smooth flesh.

« But that’s not true, is it? » he said gently. « He’s gone. You’re still here. »

« Do you think my uncle will wind up like my brother? » Anari asked. « He does bad things. Big brother did bad things too, and now he’s-« 

« Are you afraid that he’ll hurt you? » Tony cut her off, concerned. Neither of them could handle a repeat of their former lives and he decided then and there that if Giovanni was mistreating his niece then someone would have to step in. He would talk to the others, smuggle her out of the region if need be. I’ll never stand by and let her go through that again! He separated the child from himself and looked her in the eyes. « Has that man done anything bad to you? » Anari shook her head and Tony visibly relaxed, relieved that he wasn’t going to have to wake his comrades in the middle of the night and plan a last-minute rescue operation.

« No, my uncle is kind to me, » Anari said. « I’m afraid somebody will hurt him, because… because of the bad things he does. » And I’m afraid he’s going to deserve it.

« That may happen, » Tony agreed. It fact it probably will happen… He thought to himself. To him and to all of us… « A man can’t outrun fate. »

« That’s what my uncle told me, » the child said softly. « You can’t escape fate. »

Tony thought back on the day Gambini had died; the day his and this child’s lives had changed. He’d been made to hold a man at gunpoint while his employer attempted to assault a woman. Not for the first time… he mused. How many terrible acts had he helped that demented man commit? And what terrible fate awaited him in the end because of it? Antonio Gambini’s fate had been horrific.

« Uncle Giovanni got hurt today, » Anari said softly, disrupting Tony’s gloomy thoughts. « He hurt his back and couldn’t move. If somebody tried to kill him he wouldn’t be able to run away and I’m not there to help him. I couldn’t help Big Brother, either. »

« A lot of people suspected your brother would come to a bad end, » Tony said. « Especially when he decided to go after your uncle. No matter how strong you think you are, you’re a fool if you aren’t prepared for the possibility that there’s someone out there stronger. A wise man will plan accordingly. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Giovanni, but I know he’s smarter than his nephew. A man running a criminal organization doesn’t live long by being a fool. »

« You think Big Brother was stupid? »

« No, » Tony answered. « He was cunning in many ways, but short-sighted in others. A smart person can still do things that are very, very stupid. Henry tried to warn him against provoking Giovanni but he refused to listen. »

« I wish somebody had stopped him from killing Momma and Daddy, » Anari said. « Then everything would be different. I still don’t understand why he did it. Were they bad parents to him? Would they have been bad parents to me? Or was he just crazy? He didn’t seem crazy to me. »

« He did to me, » Tony responded, staring at his scarred hands in the dark. « Every day of my miserable life. Never sell your soul, Anari. Once you give it away, you don’t get it back. »

« Never, » she vowed.

« Gambini sold his long ago, and he took mine along with it. I always feared he’d drag you down into the darkness with him one day, like he did me. »

« Why was he always hurting you? » Anari asked.

« Because he wanted to punish me for what happened the day your parents were killed… and to keep me from talking. Plus he really hated my name. »

« Why? »

« Because it was so similar to his. I wasn’t allowed to use my name, and no one else was permitted to use it either. Half the people working for him never learned it and most of the others never remembered. He even changed my name on my service file to « Anthony » instead of « Antony ».

« It seems like such a silly thing to be annoyed about, » Anari remarked. « He got mad at a lot of silly things. He used to yell at me for standing on his right side instead of his left and for using my left hand to eat instead of the right… and I remember him getting mad, really mad, at Henry once for calling him by his first name. »

« No one was permitted to use his name without his chosen surname « Gambini » attached to it, » Tony explained. « After he took his father’s place he was adamant about being shown nothing less than absolute respect. Why do you think you were taught to say « Big Brother » instead of calling him by his proper name? »

« I never thought about it. What was wrong with him? »

« Your brother had a mental problem, Anari. No one wanted you to know how deep-seeded his issues were. He liked to dominate other people to make himself feel powerful. He was also extremely paranoid that the people around him were trying to take his power away from him. This is part of the reason everyone kept you unaware. We all feared if you knew too much he would eventually come to see you as a threat as you grew older. » Tony removed the jacket of his training uniform to expose first his black undershirt, then his scarred arms in the moonlight. « It was better to have you treated as a sort of pet. I didn’t want him to begin treating you as he did me… or your parents. »

« How did you GET all these? » the child asked, fingering the scars on his arms. « What did he do to you? » Tony shivered, fighting the memories. He silently vowed to make sure no one ever learned the extent of the humiliation he’d endured over the years. There’d even been one time he had woken up tied to the madman’s bed, realizing too late that his food had been drugged…

« It doesn’t matter now, » he said, rubbing the gooseflesh that had popped up on his arms. « I kept you safe. That was all that mattered after I failed your parents. »

« You mean… because you couldn’t stop him? »

« My guilt is far worse then my failure, Anari. Much worse. »

« Why? » the little girl asked. « What did you do? »

Tony took a deep breath. For years he’d been trying to flee from the memories of what had happened that day, as if he could run away from them the way old Henry had run away from the locksmith in his youth. Life didn’t work that way. He was certainly old enough to know this by now, but it still seemed like he spent every day of his existence futilely fighting that fact. Still, if anyone had ever deserved to know the truth- the whole truth, in its entirety- it was the child who had lost everything because of it. Giovanni was not holding him at gunpoint this time and the room wasn’t filled with over a dozen people staring at him, hanging on his every word. It was just them- just him, the child and the truth.

« Your brother wasn’t the one holding your parents at gunpoint when they jumped out of the plane, » he told her. He lowered his eyes to avoid her gaze as he confessed, « I was. »

There was a brief, uncomfortable silence as his statement sank in. Anari stared at him in horror, both pained and enraged at the sheer betrayal. This man was supposed to be her friend! She had practically begged her uncle to save his life!

« How could you do that? » she yelled. « You killed them! It’s all your fault! » She began to cry and it was all Tony could do not to start crying himself. « Why did you do it? » the little girl sobbed. « Why did you kill my family? »

« He threatened us, » Tony whispered, praying the child didn’t ask him to elaborate. Antonio had threatened to harm his infant sister and blame it on them. « Me and my partner. He threatened us both. »

« So you did what he said, » Anari responded, in a tone of voice that clearly expressed her opinion of his actions. She thought him a coward.

« We followed his orders, yes… but when Antonio learned that we had betrayed him he shot my partner and dumped his body out the plane as well.

« How did you betray him? » Anari asked, and for the first time that evening, Tony smiled faintly.

« After gloating to his father that he’d be in charge of things from now on he took the baby- took you- with him into the cockpit to give new orders to the two men he’d bribed to fly the plane to the middle of nowhere and not ask any questions. He left us to do his dirty work. »

« And you did. You forced my parents to… » She couldn’t bring herself to say it again. Tony nodded.

« Yes, we forced them out of the plane… after we gave them parachutes. »

Another brief silence as Anari considered this. If they’d had parachutes when they vacated the plane…

« Then they could be alive! »

« I doubt that. »

« But why? » Anari asked. All traces of hurt and anger toward the man sitting at the foot of her bed had vanished, like a popped bubble. « If you gave them parachutes they might be okay! »

« Your brother opened fired on them, little one, as they floated down toward the sea. Most likely they were killed before they ever hit the water, or were wounded too severely to swim to shore. »

« But maybe they DID make it! Maybe-« 

« Then why didn’t they come back? » Tony cut her off. « The plane was over the ocean; they must have perished. We gambled and lost, and my partner paid the price for it. » Tony held up his scarred arms. « And that’s why your brother did THIS to me day after miserable day for the next five years. Every time something made him angry I was the target of his wrath. I learned to obey him without question after that first day, back when… » When I thought I was going to die. He shook his head. « I failed… and you’ll never know how sorry I am. »

« You tried, » the little girl said to him. « At least you tried to save them. If you hadn’t… you would have been just like him. »

« I wish I had shot him, » Tony admitted. « But he was holding you in his arms and your parents… your parents would never have understood. »

« My whole family is cursed, » the little girl whispered as she stared at her bandaged hand. « We’re all cursed! » Tony looked away, wishing he had words of comfort to offer her. He didn’t. He wasn’t even certain he could disagree with her. « I’m going to be like him one day, aren’t I? » she asked. « Like both of them… I’ll do terrible things and then I’ll die, just like Big Brother did! »

« No! » he told her firmly, looking her square in the face. « Anari, you have a choice! »

« What if I don’t? »

Tony didn’t have an answer to that. He knew exactly what it was like to live in a world without choices, without any hope of freedom. Was that the life this child was destined for? After five years of hell hope had come to him unexpectedly in the form of the girl sitting before him. What if there was no savior waiting to save her from whatever doom awaited her?

The two sat silently together in the dark for what seemed an eternity to both of them, until finally Anari embraced her older companion and began to weep. Neither of them knew what the future would hold, but one thing was certain: She would never forget Tony’s name again.

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To be continued…

Anari's Training Daze
Disciplinary Action