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22 October 2011 @ 01:06 am
Refuge at Sea [Part 6]  
Part Six
 
The Jamison was somehow grander than it had seemed through Dolos’ eyes, though as Looker had been more concerned with sniffing out suspicious activity than admiring the decor, he shouldn’t be too shocked. Not that the decor was grand at all, really; it just seemed that way because everything was built on a larger-than-human size. Not surprising, given that most shipping companies used machoke and machamp to move their goods about - and they had to be able to navigate the ship somehow - but Looker still didn’t see that sort of scale very often.
 
Looker barely had to show his ID for the other sailors aboard to direct the three of them to the captain’s quarters on the fourth floor-- deck? He wasn’t well-versed in ship terminology. It might have been his imagination, but some of the greetings seemed forced. He made a mental note of their faces, just case the next Agent would find it helpful.
 
It was a long shot, but there was no harm in being prepared.
 
Captain Clark Forde opened the door a few seconds after Looker knocked. He was different than Looker had expected, despite having seen the photo: in that he had had a small beard and messy brown hair; here it was only stubble and the hair was mostly covered by his cap. Apart from looking less accumstomed to heavy lifting, Forde could have passed for any old member of the crew. Apparently, he didn’t hold that much value in his title.
 
He seemed confused to see the three of them at first, but his expression cleared when he saw Mihara. “Oh, you’re the officer that interviewed me that time.”
 
Even Forde’s Japanese was better than his. Looker frowned.
 
“Uh, yes...”
 
“More questions?” he asked, but no one could answer before he waved them inside. “Come in, it’s fine, whatever you need help with - anything to catch Kent’s killer.”
 
Looker was grateful that Forde wasn’t looking at Surge when he spoke. Between Surge’s absolutely glacial expression and suddenly clenched fist, there was no hope Forde wouldn’t have realised the danger he was in.
 
The Captain’s quarters was larger than Looker expected, even considering that they could get away with minimal crew presence on these sorts of ships these days. It sort of surprised him, actually, given Forde’s rather nondescript appearance, to see his taste in furniture: wooden, old and patterned, something not often indulged in at sea.
 
It made Looker think of the grand, but battered, chest Dolos had found in that room.  
 
Forde’s jacket was almost a blue version of Looker’s long coat, and he pulled it off the back of a chair to slip it on. The buttons were shiny brass, and it looked almost tailored. It was designed to draw attention, and Looker was suddenly certain that humbleness was only the impression Forde wanted people to have.
 
“Actually, I was just about to go up on deck for some fresh air,” he said, smiling and apparently unaware of the less-than-warm atmosphere. “Care to join me?”
 
“No,” Looker said.
 
Something in his tone brought Forde up short. The smile faded, replaced by something closer to nervousness. He tugged at the edges of his coat anxiously and forced up a much weaker smile, but there was no change in his voice. “Well, I suppose here is fine, although I think you’re missing out--”
 
“You are being arrested for the murder of Kent Matthews,” Looker interrupted.
 
He enjoyed the way all colour instantly drained from his face, and if he hadn’t already been sure Forde had done it, the look of terror on his face might have convinced Looker otherwise.
 
“Wh-- What?” Forde asked; the distinct tremor did not go unnoticed. He tried to smile again - Looker suspected that he thought it was one of his positives, but it wouldn’t help him this time - only for it to come out more as a grimace. “That’s... that’s preposterous. Are you crazy? I was nowhere near him when he died!”
 
“You do not have to be near someone for them to use the poisoned capsules you gave them,” Looker said, “From a container that has both your fingerprints, and traces of the poison cyanide.”
 
Forde lost all trace of a smile this time, and looked just plain terrified. “Wh-- Wha-- W-Well, I... I would have had no reason to kill him! We were good friends...”
 
His voice got quieter towards the end of his sentence. Looker could see why when he glanced at Surge, whose expression said it all: You don’t get to use that excuse in front of me.
 
“Perhaps you were,” Looker allowed. “But that did not stop you from killing him when he discovered you were smuggling illegal immigrants into the country. I also believe that there is a room on one of your lower decks, which will hold fingerprints from immigrants who were arrested only yesterday. Records, they will probably show that your ship seems to arrive at port almost when illegal immigrants do.” He suppressed the twitch of a smirk. Forde looked beyond pathetic at this point, but he deserved every minute of it. “I think you begin to see the picture.”
 
Forde somehow managed to go even paler. He took several shaky steps backwards, until he collided with a dark wood writing desk and clutched at it for support.
 
“H-How...” He shook his head frantically and put his hands over his ears. “No!”
 
“Yes,” Looker said simply. He gestured. “I do not think he needs any more time, Detective Mihara.”
 
It would have been nice to arrest him himself, since Looker didn’t get the chance to do that very often anymore - which was almost a shame, because there was something very final about putting someone in handcuffs. Although that wouldn’t stop Looker from extracting a confession after he was in handcuffs. Less dramatic, but--
 
Mihara stepped forward, reaching into her pocket, and something in Forde’s expression changed. The hands clutching at his desk steadied. He looked no less terrified, but his face regained a little colour.
 
He moved and tipped the desk over, throwing its contents into the air. Mihara threw up her hands to cover her face on instinct at the same time as Looker moved forward. He grabbed one of her arms and pulled her back, just as he saw Forde go for something in his pocket.
 
There was a brief flash of light, and an arbok was suddenly hissing at them dangerously.
 
Looker was already pushing Mihara towards the door, whilst trying to keep an eye on Forde’s pokemon at the same time. Stupid, stupid, stupid... he should have seen this coming; if anyone should have known this was coming, it should have been him, or what had Stacia’s death been for.
 
“This isn’t making things better for yourself, sir!” Mihara yelled, eyes locked on the huge snake.
 
“Get them! They can’t leave!” Forde shouted, high-pitched and panicked.
 
The arbok leapt forward after them too fast for Looker to do more than make sure Mihara was behind him, but something blurred and yellow crashed into it, knocking it into the wall. It dented with the force of the blow. He had a chance to see the arbok trying to coil around an electrabuzz before he turned. He hadn’t even known Surge was carrying his pokeballs on him, but if he was staying...
 
“Mihara, get out of here,” he said shortly. Forde had other pokemon, didn’t he? He couldn’t remember what they were - damnit, remember - but, knowing that, he could hardly leave Surge to fight him alone, Gym Leader or not.
 
“Sir--” she tried to say.
 
“No.” He was not letting Mihara stay here; close quarters fighting was dangerous, and it was Looker’s job to stop anyone else getting hurt here. “Get backup. Quickly.”
 
He didn’t wait for her reply, but heard her leave at a run -- Surge’s electrabuzz roared from behind him and Looker turned to find it wrestling with the arbok’s jaws, trying to stop it biting down on its head.
 
“Magnus, discharge,” Surge ordered.
 
He was pressed up against the wall in an attempt to avoid the arbok’s writhing tail. If Looker had thought the room oddly small before then it seemed tiny now, all of them trying to avoid the pokemon fighting in the centre of the room.
 
The electrabuzz--Magnus--lit up with sparks and the arbok screened in pain, pulling away from him. Looker smelt scorned flesh and saw burns where Magnus had been holding it. Even that allowed only a brief respite before the arbok hissed and threw itself at him again.
 
They thrashed about on the floor, the arbok’s tail cracking Forde’s desk in half and sending splinters into the air; Magnus’ sparking fist missing it and punching a hole in the floor. Now the tail whipped over their heads - Surge ducked it and dragged Looker down with him - and scored a line in the wall-- Looker had Julius’s pokeball clutched so tightly in his hand he could feel his knuckles turning white, but he didn’t dare release him when there was such chaos in the room already--
 
“Get out of here!” Surge hissed, trying to push him towards the door.
 
Looker shook his head. “It is too dangerous--” He ducked another wild strike, mostly instinct this time. “--to leave you here alone.”
 
Surge made a noise of frustration. “You dumb fuck! Go!
 
“No,” Looker answered, equally vehemently, but there was a roar of pain from Magnus and he saw Surge’s horrified face pale: the arbok had bitten down on his chest and Looker had the sinking feeling of realising he was probably to blame for being a distraction. But he couldn’t leave a friend behind to deal with this sort of danger on his own, not if he wanted to live with himself afterward--
 
The arbok dropped Magnus, who struggled weakly, with uncoordinated limbs.
 
“Return him!” Looker snapped, recognising the signs, “He has been poisoned!”
 
But Surge didn’t have a chance to before the arbok turned on them; Looker released Julius as the arbok lunged at them, because now he didn’t have any choice. His croagunk recognised the situation instantly and met it without fear, but he couldn’t stop momentum--
 
Looker and Surge moved in opposite directions as the arbok slammed Julius into the wall where they had just been. Looker felt his heart constrict in fear and reminding himself that Julius was tougher than he looked didn’t help to calm him.
 
Now Looker was standing right next to the two of them. The arbok shifted its coils and all escape routes disappeared before he could move, pressing Looker against the wall and setting crushing pressure on his ribs - he would have laughed if he could have, because he didn’t think the arbok had even noticed him, but he was struggling to see Julius from his position, Julius please be alright-- the pressure on his ribcage increased and then there was absolute agony, so intense that it blinded him for a second, and he would have screamed if he could have; all that came out was a choked gasp.
 
And then suddenly the pressure was gone. Looker staggered after being so unexpectedly freed, sending another wave of intense pain through his chest that made his vision spotty for a second, and he only distantly registered that the arbok had been sent flying into the remnants of Forde’s desk.
 
Probably ‘Revenge’ - Julius’ favourite move. He couldn’t help but grin a little, a mixture of relief and pride, even though he was trying desperately to control his breathing. Every movement seemed to hurt, but if he kept his breathing shallow, the pain was bearable.
 
He still wished he could help Julius more - he was the only one of Looker’s pokemon trained for fighting, but he could normally poison them. Knowing he was fine for now didn’t help much, especially when the arbok reared up and hissed at his croagunk threateningly.
 
Then a jolteon joined him in a blur, crackling with electricity, growling without the slightest hint of fear at the pokemon towering above it.
 
“Don’t get cocky, Lena,” Surge warned. He met Looker’s eyes and jerked his head towards the door. Looker shook his head in return - even though his ribs protested at the movement - and he frowned, but gave him a curt nod after a pause.
 
The arbok attacked again.
 
Looker struggled to keep up and keep out of the way without aggravating his injury - that jolteon was fast, and keeping most of the arbok’s attention off Julius, which Looker was grateful for, but it was having just as much trouble trying to follow Lena’s movements as he was and was thrashing around sporadically as a result. Looker was being forced into one of the corners of the room, which he definitely didn’t want, and he didn’t even think that would keep him safe for very long.
 
There was the sound of a scuffle from the other side of the room and Looker’s head snapped round and panic made him momentarily oblivious to the pain-- had Forde released another pokemon?  Now? They were already in stupid amounts of danger--
 
It wasn’t another pokemon. Surge had Forde’s arm behind his back in a position that was a fraction away from being broken, and his expression was cold enough that even Looker was convinced he wouldn’t hesitate to push it that extra bit if he had to. He didn’t want to think about what else Surge would be willing to do.
 
“Call it off,” Surge said, in an eerily flat way that demanded he be obeyed.
 
Looker was reminded that all of the military trappings at Vermillion’s Gym weren’t just for show. He couldn’t reconcile the Surge that he had poked fun at for being a mother hen with this. It wasn’t even like his earlier anger; that had been human, and this was a ruthless professional.
 
A tense silence fell. Forde’s arbok abandoned its fight and instead watched Surge and his master carefully, coils shifting and moving incessantly. It hissed in displeasure, but must have recognised Forde’s delicate position, because it did nothing. Surge’s jolteon kept a close eye on it, but Julius moved back toward Looker.
 
“You alright?” he asked softly, and then did his best to conceal a grimace as another spike of pain shot through his chest.
 
Julius tore his eyes away from the arbok long enough to give Looker a flat stare. He looked tired, and he was breathing heavier than normal, but he was still more concerned about his alleged trainer than himself.
 
“I’m fine,” Looker murmured, without any hope he would believe it.
 
“Cro,” Julius said, with a snort. He flexed his arm experimentally, and took a firmer position between Looker and the arbok.
 
He almost smiled.
 
“Call it off,” Surge said again. He did something that Looker couldn’t see, but made Forde hiss in pain. “I won’t repeat myself a third time.”
 
Still, Forde didn’t say anything immediately. He looked torn, and helpless, and terrified, and if they had come to arrest him for anything else, Looker might have felt sorry for him.
 
Not for murder, though. He could never make allowances for that.
 
Eventually, Forde said, voice shaking, “You can stop now, Myla. It’s alright.”
 
The arbok hissed loudly.
 
Myla.
 
It still shifted restlessly, but this time stayed silent. Looker barely dared to breathe.
 
After several long seconds, Surge relaxed his hold, but did not let go, and Forde’s arm was still in an awkward position.
 
“Return it,” Surge said, just as curtly, “And hand it over. The rest of them, too.”
 
Forde hesitated. “They’ll be okay, right?”
 
“Of course,” Looker answered automatically. He managed to keep his reaction to a grimace and a hiss of pain.
 
Surge gave him an alarmed look, but Looker waved off his concern. He could at least hold it together until Mihara arrived back with the others.
 
“...They haven’t done anything,” he said eventually to Forde, although half of his attention was still on Looker. “They’ll remain in my custody for now, but I give you my word that no harm will come to them.”
 
Implicit in that sentence was: ‘I can’t say the same for you.
 
Julius didn’t relax until Forde had handed all his pokeballs over.
 
*
 
Looker had to give Yamato and his team credit for their quick reactions: they were there within five minutes.
 
“Got the situation well in hand, I see,” Yamato said dryly, scanning the destroyed room. “Attacking an Interpol Agent would technically put him under your jurisdiction, Looker, but do you mind if we handle this?”
 
Looker grinned faintly, which was about as much as he could manage right now. “You can have him.”
 
“Excellent,” Yamato said, with relish.
 
Detective Mihara was paying little attention to the movements of the other members of her team, which seemed out of character for her.
 
He didn’t realise why until she took a few hesitant steps in his direction. “Sir? Are you alright?”
 
“Gunk,” Julius said, from by his feet, shaking his head.
 
Looker frowned at him. “It is only minor,” he said, which was a complete and utter lie. The adrenaline had worn off - the adrenaline that he hadn’t even realised was having an effect - and he had been left with a severe, incessant, ache in his chest, and that was only if he was careful with it. He didn’t want Mihara worrying about him when she had the case to close up, though.
 
“Seriously, do you ever stop bullshitting?” Surge said from over his shoulder, making Looker jump and then grimace, stifling a gasp of pain. Julius snickered. “It’s his ribs, I’d guess. Can’t be that bad though, or he’d be on the floor by now.”
 
“What?” Mihara asked, eyes wide. “Sir, you need to get to a hospital immediately! Should I call for paramedics?”
 
“I am perfectly able to walk,” Looker said irritably; he didn’t know how far away the hospital was, but there was no need for this sort of fussing.
 
Surge was not inclined to take him at his word, and studied him critically for several seconds. “I reckon he can make it,” he decided, eventually. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he gets there.”
 
She breathed a sigh of relief as Looker rolled his eyes.
 
“Mihara!” Yamato yelled. “Take this guy down to the station with Himura and then come straight back. He can stew down there while we get all of this processed.”
 
“Yes, sir!” Mihara answered. She turned back to Looker. “I hope you make a swift recovery. It’s been a pleasure working with both of you.”
 
Mihara!” said a tall man irritably from the doorway. She gave both of them a hasty salute and then hurried after him.
 
“Lena,” Surge said. His jolteon perked up her ears halfway through a yawn. “Go with them, make sure they stay outta trouble. Don’t know how long I’ll be, but I’ll see you back at the Gym later.”
 
Lena barked cheerfully and disappeared in a blur.
 
“She will be okay wandering around the city by herself?” Looker asked, frowning.
 
“When she’s that fast?” Surge countered. Looker conceded the point with a tilt of his head. “She won’t get lost either. Don’t worry about her.”
 
“You would know better than me,” he said.
 
He got a slight grin in return. “Come on. The hospital won’t walk itself here.”
 
More’s the pity, Looker thought glumly. Just because he could walk it didn’t mean he was particularly looking forward to doing so.
 
He’d expected Surge to be fairly talkative on the way there, but he was unusually quiet. At first, Looker left him to it - his thoughts were his own, and Looker didn’t really have a right to pry. After a while, though, when Surge still hadn’t said anything, he began to worry a little. “Are you... alright?”
 
“What?” He blinked, startled, and then relaxed. “It’s nothing, I guess.”
 
Looker raised his eyebrows. “It is acceptable when this is your excuse, but not when it was mine?”
 
Surge winced and laughed. “Yeah, that’s kinda hypocritical of me. It’s just that...” He trailed off.
 
Their pace had now slowed all the way to a stop, but Looker didn’t prod him. He had survived this long without the hospital; a few more minutes wouldn’t make much difference, and Surge needed it.
 
“It’s weird,” he said eventually, voice strangely hollow. “I’ve been focussed on catching the guy who killed Kent, I expected it to feel... different. But it doesn’t, really. I don’t even feel relieved.”
 
Looker remembered the same feeling after Ioanna had been sentenced. It was exactly what he had been praying for, but Stacia was still dead, and no amount of prayers would change that.
 
“A life in prison or the death penalty cannot make up for what has been lost,” he said. “It is always like that.”
 
Surge smiled, sadly, at nothing in particular. “Then I don’t envy you.”
 
Looker said nothing.
 
“Kent was a good guy,” he continued, after a pause. “I’ll miss him. He deserved... a better way to go.”
 
“I am certain he did,” Looker said softly.
 
“You know what the worst thing is?” Surge asked, but he already knew that it didn’t require an answer. “He would’ve kept it secret.”
 
Looker blinked. “Pardon?”
 
“Forde didn’t need to kill him,” Surge said. His voice had dropped to a murmur. “He wouldn’t have liked it, but he would have kept it a secret.” That sad smile again. “He was that kinda friend. ...Guess you wouldn’t have liked him much.”
 
Defying the law, defying all common morality, for the sake of a friend and his little illegal business venture? Looker’s first instinct was to say that he would despise such a man. But was he so different? Nico was the only friend he valued so highly, but he would have done anything for him, or for his family - at least, for what was left of it.
 
“Perhaps not,” Looker said slowly. “But... I think that would be a sort of attitude I could respect.”
 
Surge grinned, with a little more humour this time. “You’re not as bad as I first thought.”
 
After what happened in Sinnoh two years ago, he had believed that all the Gym Leaders in this country were selfish, lazy - didn’t care anything about protecting their city, at least as long as nothing threatened their own position. The wealth, the power that came from being a Gym Leader, ticking all the correct boxes to keep that; that was all they really cared about, not making genuine improvements to their city, or trying to better the lives of the people they were responsible for.
 
That’s what Looker had believed.
 
“Neither are you,” he admitted.

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