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Thread: Baton (Criminal Intent One-Shot)

  1. #1

    Default Baton (Criminal Intent One-Shot)

    This was my entry for the latest one-shot contest, and given that almost everything else I write is set in Kanto, I figured I'd go ahead and make this about Team Rocket. I was in quite a rush when I wrote it, so some of that messiness might still linger, but I think with some proofreading and taking some of the advice of the judges, it's at least better than it was. Let me know what you think!

    Baton


    If there was anything Grunt Robbie hated more than guard duty, it was guard duty with Grunt Victor. Apparently unsatisfied with the crushing boredom of pacing back and forth down a single hallway for eight hours, Grunt Victor felt the need to whistle. Any old tune would do, although Grunt Victor definitely showed a preference for higher-keyed songs that resulted in more wheezy breaths than actual whistling.

    Grunt Robbie supposed it could be worse. He once had sentry duty with Grunt Tony, who spent the whole shift talking about his timeshare in Olivine. Of course, that was nothing compared to Grunt Joshua’s legendary political rants. Stories of those were regularly circulated by whoever had worked on his maintenance shift that day. And at the end of the day, absolutely anything was better than his old job at the wiseman gifts counter at the Celadon Department Store.

    All in all, whistling really was pretty tolerable. True, it was annoying; and sure, it was almost never in tune; and yes, the songs that were recognizable usually weren’t even enjoyable before being whistlefied; and okay, maybe Grunt Victor’s velvety, four-octave singing voice made the fact that he chose whistling even more frustrating, but it wasn’t the literal worst thing to be stuck with.

    However, when Grunt Victor hit a note so sour that it made Grunt Robbie physically flinch, he decided that yes, it was the worst.

    “Shut up,” he said abruptly.

    “Huh?”

    “Your whistling. It’s terrible.” They both stopped walking.

    “I have to practice if I want to get better,” Grunt Victor said, crossing his arms. He leaned against the wall and yawned.

    “Practice at home. Practice on the weekend. Practice literally anywhere other than here.” Despite his annoyance, he couldn’t help but yawn too. “It’s bad enough I have to walk until my blisters pop.” He yawned again, this time much wider and longer. “But I shouldn’t… have…” His eyes drooped, and he saw the air was speckled with tiny, purple flakes. As he fumbled dully with his alert transmitter, he fell heavily to the floor, with Grunt Victor soon following after.

    Once both lay sleeping on the cold metal floor, a hatch on the air vent above them swung open, and a butterfree fluttered out, followed by a broad-shouldered man who landed deftly on his feet. His perfectly coiffed hair had remained undamaged despite the close quarters, as had his pressed suit. Once the dust had settled on the ground, he pulled the bandana off of his mouth, revealing a devilish grin that suggested he could just as easily seduce an enemy as incapacitate them with a flying arm bar.

    “Nice sleep powder, Wings,” he said, cocking an eyebrow and returning the pokémon to its ball. “It’s too bad, though.” He nudged one of the grunt’s cheeks with his glossy shoe, finding the poor guy totally unconscious. “They probably could have told us how to get to Giovanni.”

    The Pokémon League had given him the task of flushing out the Rockets as soon as possible and by any means necessary. While he was sure the organization could probably become trouble if left unchecked for too long, the fact that one kid had stopped all of their recent missions did little to heighten his sense of urgency. So it was with utter calmness that he sauntered down the hallway.

    “Freeze!” It was a shout from behind him.

    Reinforcements, he thought drolly, brushing his fingers across the poké balls on his belt and turning around. “Finally, some service!” he shouted as the squad of black-clad men approached. Their rattata scampered in front of them. “I need directions, but I haven’t seen a soul since I got here. Other than these two gentlemen.” He motioned toward the sleeping grunts. “Obviously their hospitality could use a little work.”

    “Directions?” one of the grunts snarled. “To where? The exit?” His crowd chuckled.

    “Witty!” the trainer replied enthusiastically. “But no, I’m actually looking for an elevator pass. I’m extremely claustrophobic, and being this far underground is not ideal.” He adjusted his tie. “I’d be very appreciative to anyone who could help me out.”

    “I’ll help you out.” One of the grunts walked forward, and three rattata scampered menacingly behind him. “If you stop talking right now, we might let you keep a hand.”

    “What a deal!” He could feel the rats sniffing at his calves, so he had no choice but to let the grunt restrain his hands with a rope. “It’s very tempting, really. I have a counteroffer, though.”

    “Oh yeah?” The grunt yanked the knot, digging the rope into the wrists of his captive.

    “Indeed.” He turned his head toward the grunt behind him and smiled pleasantly. “If you promise not to struggle, I’ll make sure you’re out of range.”

    Before the grunt could question it, his right calf was being hooked by the man’s foot, pushing him off balance and sending him falling to the ground. A cloud of sleep powder puffed up around him, flying into the faces of his rattata, whose aggression dulled immediately. Before the group of grunts could get any closer, the man shook loose the poké ball he had slipped down his pant leg, ramped it off the toe of his shoe, and kicked it into the crowd. Immediately upon hitting a grunt’s chest, it bounced back to the trainer, leaving behind a glowing white pokémon that quickly exploded in a blast of fire.

    The man turned away not only in order to keep the heat from chapping his lips, but more importantly to allow the flames to lick the rope. The loose embers reached just far enough to burn it off and set him free. Quickly enough, the fire was reduced to a gang of smoldering bodies and one elegant arcanine.

    “Excellent range control, Ace.” He recalled the pokémon to its ball and clipped it back onto his belt. “And I got to use my poké ball kick. Always a crowd pleaser.”

    “Wh-… who are you?” As promised, the fallen grunt had remained out of range, though his eyelids were currently fluttering as he fought the sleep that had taken down his rodent partners.

    The man smiled and adjusted his suit jacket. “Me? I’m known as many different things by many different people. To some, I’m a shadow, too commonplace to notice but too pervasive to escape. To others, I’m an angel, goodness in human form that appears from nowhere. To you, though?” He paused. “You can call me-”

    He was cut short as a raticate violently bit through his neck from behind. After sputtering blood for a few moments, he fell dead to the ground, his hair immaculately kempt even as red pooled around his face.

    Sure of the kill, the raticate bounded back to its trainer. He was another Rocket grunt, although his uniform had been freely adjusted from standard issue. White gloves, no hat, and a button-up in place of a sweatshirt set him apart from the crowd of his mostly blackened teammates.

    “Sorry to be so violent,” he said with a grin and shrug. “But you could really learn a thing or two from me about getting straight to the point.” He scratched his pokémon behind the ear. “I’m Ben, by the way.” He held out his hand and shrugged when the dead man didn’t respond.

    He looked around at the three sleeping men, the passed out rattata, and the burned corpses and rolled his eyes.

    “Dumbasses,” he mumbled, flicking off a piece of sleep powder that had stuck to his sleeve. “Not sure why tying him up was a better option than killing him, but I guess I have a lot to learn about mediocre villainy. I’d better get the cleanup crew in here.”

    Not that he made it a secret, but Ben was far from impressed with Team Rocket. When he defected from Team Aqua and moved to Kanto, he was grateful for the chance to work with a team that was just after money instead of literally trying to flood the entire world. What he soon learned was that even if Aqua was batshit crazy, they were a well-oiled batshit crazy. They had leadership and factions and forethought, so that even when they led members off a figurative cliff and into a literal ocean, it was with a clearly articulated purpose. It really unified the whole team.

    The Rockets, on the other hand, just tossed members onto random heist squads with a vague plan to steal. Which would be great if they succeeded in anything other than “causing trouble again,” but they always fell apart at the last minute thanks to any one person’s inability to organize the team into a collective attack. Sure, there were a few successes, mostly due to the incompetence of their targets. But stealing pokémon made enemies fast, and Team Rocket wouldn’t last long if their victims ever teamed up.

    Ben considered it a personal duty to change that.

    Later in the break room, he recounted his run-in with the intruder, emphasizing his common sense and proactive attitude. “I heard an explosion, so naturally I released my raticate and came running. I didn’t wanna be caught without my pokémon. Her fangs can snap a wartortle’s shell right in half. That’s a good lesson for you guys: take the offensive if you’re able to surprise your opponent.”

    His audience, several young grunts drinking coffee and eating donuts, listened raptly. They were a batch of fresh recruits, minds fertile for learning. Ben knew he had to get to them before basic training poisoned their poor little heads with discouragements of any ambitions or aims for glory.

    “The guy was in the middle of a big speech about his name or something, which is a huge mistake, oh my god.” He took a drag of his banned cigarette. “You know when most people let their guard down? When they’re bragging.” The crowd nodded with wide eyes. “Don’t monologue, don’t preach, and don’t you dare pontificate.” He pointed the pair of fingers holding his smoke around the room.

    “So anyway,” he continued, “I fought the urge to surprise him with a one-liner and instead went straight for the kill.” He paused. “And I do mean that literally.” His wink triggered laughter and cheers. How could Giovanni turn down his admin request when he practically had a pre-existing squadron? “What do I always say, everybody?”

    In unison, the grunts said, “Victory is in the kill, not the thrill,” to which Ben responded with enthusiastic thumbs up. In fact, he was so wrapped up in his motivational speech that he didn’t notice the silent grunt in the corner.

    Leonard Nix. 18. Hometown: Cerulean City. Pokémon issued: Zubat. That was about all anyone knew about the quiet young man, and even that much would require a peek into the member database. Having joined the Rockets looking for some structure, he was quite disappointed to find it full of rough young men who refused to do the simplest of tasks, like polish their boots or make their beds. And good god, who could expect them to when radicals like Ben scampered around the base practically inciting riots?

    Unable to stomach the display any longer, he stood, took a final sip of his black coffee, and poured the rest down the sink. With one last, unnoticed glare, he left the break room and walked briskly down the hallway, boots glimmering under the fluorescent lights.

    Did these people even respect Team Rocket? Did they understand the art of crime at all? Leonard didn’t think so, if that awful speech was any indication. Victory was not a single moment, or even a successful heist or two. It was systematic. Persistent. Victory meant that everyone knew you and everyone feared you. Constructing it required patience and panache. Some had to die, yes, but others had to live to tell the tale.

    Another grunt nodded and smiled as he passed, but Leonard merely scowled.

    Two weeks of shenanigans was enough. If he wanted yelling and cheering, he would have just stayed home. There was only one person he could turn to that would understand. It wasn’t Ben or any of the drunk party boys Leonard was with in basic training. No, he had to talk to the man who shared his vision of a society controlled by Rockets.

    Reaching the end of the hallway, he swiped his elevator pass and stepped inside. Once arriving at basement level 4, he made a beeline for Giovanni’s office. Two guards stood post outside.

    “I need to speak to Giovanni.”

    “What for?” the grunt on the right asked.

    “To report absolute, chaotic insubordination,” he answered tightly. “Now let me in.”

    The guards shared a looked and shrugged. “Okay.” As the left one pulled out his access pass, Leonard cleared his throat aggressively.

    “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

    Again, they looked at each other and shrugged.

    With an exasperated sigh, Leonard yanked his ID from his pocket and showed it to the guards. “You can’t just let anyone run around in here. IDs, people. We have them for a reason.”

    With a final shrug, the guards let him in.

    It was the first time Leonard had been in Giovanni’s office. As expected, it was tidy and filled with knick-knacks from various places and time periods. A pair of wooden lugia and ho-oh carvings from Johto. A miniature model of the luxurious Royal Unova . Even a glass-encased gracidea flower from Sinnoh. So refined and artistic. The man himself was seated behind his sturdy oak desk, reading from the stack of papers in front of him.

    “Sir?”

    The boss looked up and smiled politely. “What can I do for you? You’re a new recruit, aren’t you?”

    “Yes, sir,” he answered. “My name is Leonard Nix, and I’m very excited to be a part of this wonderful organization. I think the team – no, the empire you’ve built here is one of the most impressive in the world, and knowing I get to play a-”

    Giovanni raised his hand with a small laugh, and Leonard stopped. “Thank you, Leonard, but I’m assuming you came here to do more than compliment me.”

    Leonard couldn’t help but grin. Precise, no frills, not an ounce of showmanship. Giovanni was truly everything he was said to be. “Yes, sir. I thought you would interested to know that one Benjamin Vanguard has been attempting to influence new recruits with private lessons that often conflict directly with what basic training provides us.”

    Giovanni’s stare was friendly but distant, a frozen center wrapped in a warm blanket. It sent shivers down Leonard’s spine.

    “In what way?” the boss asked patiently.

    As the grunt-in-training explained the situation in the break room – as well as several like it he had seen over the past two weeks – his listener nodded intermittently, letting no specific emotion bleed into his facial expressions. When the report was finished, both parties stayed silent for a moment.

    “This is very serious,” Giovanni said finally. “Our training is obviously designed with specific purposes in mind, as I’m sure you understand.” The boy nodded eagerly. “Thank you very much, Leonard. It is admirable the way you devote yourself to Team Rocket above any one of its members. I assure you Benjamin will receive the proper reprimand. I have to ask, though: why tell me? Surely this won’t make you popular with the fellow trainees.”

    “Well, Gio- sir, I just think it’s important for there to be a network of trustworthy people in order to weed out the dissidents. I want you to know that I’m someone you can trust, someone who can handle any responsibility you throw at me.” He adjusted his posture to a straighter position. “If you need anything, just know that I am your right-hand man.”

    Giovanni laughed out loud at this. “Ambitious young man, aren’t you?” He stood from his desk and walked toward the trainee. “I’ll keep that in mind.” With a firm handshake, he said goodbye to Leonard and leaned back against the front of the desk. As soon as the door slid closed behind the boy, Giovanni’s slight smile hardened into an expression of stony neutrality. He pressed a button on the phone next to him, and after a few speakerphone rings, the person on the other line picked up.

    “Yes, sir?” the voice crackled.

    “Please locate Benjamin Vanguard and have him come to my office as soon as possible. Oh, and for the next two weeks, make sure trainee Leonard Nix’s rations are cut in half.”

    “Will do, sir.” The line went silent. Returning to his seat, Giovanni began reading the reports once again.

    It wasn’t that he enjoyed punishing people. If he had his way, all of his grunts would live in blissful homogeneity. Unfortunately, there was always a frustrated veteran or an overly ambitious novice dying to have their voice heard, and they had to be punished. If he let them seize the reins of Team Rocket, his brainchild would no longer be his.

    He stood and tucked the papers in the top drawer of a filing cabinet. Just as he was doing so, the electronic door swished open, and Ben walked in.

    “You needed to see me, sir?”

    “Benjamin,” he said, smiling and strolling toward him. “Good to see you. How is everything?”

    His rigid position of attention softened slightly. “I’m fine, sir. I stopped an intruder earlier today, so I guess the base is a little safer, huh?”

    “I heard about that,” Giovanni said with a nod. “Quite efficient.”

    “Thank you, sir.” He stayed silent for a second before continuing. “You know, I don’t mean to overstep my bounds, but… I was thinking I’ve earned a promotion, maybe to an admin level. I would really love to train a team and influence some of our younger recruits.”

    Giovanni smiled tersely. “It sounds like you already have.” There was a sickening pause. “Listen, Benjamin. I know you’re talented. I know you’re smart. But this isn’t the first report I’ve gotten of you trying to exert your influence. What you need to understand is that we have a very specific way of doing things in Team Rocket. Everyone is expected to pull their own weight. No heroes. No eccentrics. Just a group of people following orders. My orders.”

    Ben was breathing shallowly. “Understood, sir. I’ll make sure to keep in line in the future. My apologies.”

    “That’s very mature. Unfortunately, it’s too late for that.” He gently tossed a poké ball in front of him, releasing his gargantuan kangaskhan. It stood imposingly in between the trainers.

    “Gi-Giovanni,” Ben sputtered, stepping back. Thinking fast, he ripped his raticate’s ball off the belt clip but was stopped when the kangaskhan grabbed hold of his fist with a sickening grip. Then, with a squeeze, bones and thermoset plastic crunched in the pokémon’s palm, and Ben crumpled to the floor screaming, held up only by the monster still clutching his disfigured hand.

    “I’m sorry to see you go, Benjamin,” Giovanni said, not bothering to raise his voice over the labored whimpering of the grunt. “You’re a good battler, and I think you deserve much better than this. Unfortunately, protocol is protocol, and disobedience is not tolerated.” In response to her trainer’s nod, the kangaskhan seized Ben’s head.

    It wasn’t that Giovanni liked the violence. He would much prefer if nobody stepped out of line and his floors could remain clean. Still, he knew that zero tolerance was the only feasible policy. Nobody knew Team Rocket like he did. Nobody understood the delicate balance between criminal and murderous. If he wanted trained killers, he would train them. If he wanted terrifying maniacs, he would torture them. He didn’t see crime as a way to scare people or enslave a region. He didn’t even care about building a reputation, although that was certainly a bonus. No, as long as he was leader of the Rockets, there was only thing he focused on: profit. Anything else was just a distraction.

    His phone began ringing, and returning his kangaskhan to her ball, he walked over and pulled the receiver to his ear.

    “Giovanni.”

    Someone on the other line began speaking frantically, and Giovanni turned his attention to the security screens lining the wall to his right. After a few moments of scanning, he saw it. A boy had just come downstairs and was looking curiously around.

    “Don’t worry,” he assured the other speaker. “You did what you could. We don’t need any mavericks in this organization. I’ll send an alert to the base and we’ll take him out.”

    After hanging up, he dialed a few buttons on the phone, sending a notice to every grunt’s transmitter. He then called the cleanup crew and sat back at his desk to wait for them. Looking at the monitor, he saw the boy wandering around. He was on the basement level 2, tapping his foot on an arrow-marked tile and yanking it away as it began to pull him forward. Just one pathetic child thinking he can be a hero. No matter. He would be flushed out soon.

    On cue, a guard came on screen, and the boy tossed out his wartortle in self-defense. After a quick skirmish, the grunt’s koffing was taken down and the boy continued onward.

    “Don’t get too excited, boy,” Giovanni muttered. “There’s more where that came from.”
    Last edited by [Imaginative]:[Clockwork]; 15th January 2016 at 11:53 PM.

  2. #2
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    I really like this story! How it jumps from one character to another made the story very interesting, but what really draws me in is how you explore different facets of Team Rocket through escalating degrees of annoyances with the team. You start of with something as simple as whistling, then you build it up to these critical views of Rocket that hurts its reputation to each character, and this reaches its peak perfectly with the one man responsible for it all and makes sure it stays that way. I like that sense of progression, and I feel it was a really creative way of exploring Team Rocket.

    I was really floored by how you presented Giovanni here, and it really hammers it in how Rocket is his and his alone, with every grunt recruited serving as pawns and nothing more. You can really get how eerie the whole situation is for everyone in Rocket barring Giovanni, and I like how that nicely complements and contrasts with the annoyances each of the three grunts presented earlier in the story.

    I do have to agree with Creepychu's comment about the ending, though, in that I'm not really sure how to feel about it given how Red's small section feels a bit too abruptly placed there. I get that it serves the purpose of bringing up elements you put in the story like the reference to Wartortle and Benjamin's untimely death as well as being the reason why the debonaire in the first part of the story took Rocket for granted. But I do feel like the impact of the ending relies a little too heavily on how the reader knows that this character is Red and he is the reason for Rocket's eventual downfall, which don't really come up within the story's boundaries and has to be filled in by the reader. I feel that the ending could be solidified a bit more to make it a better fit with the story as a whole.

    There's a couple of quotes I thought were really good:

    However, when Grunt Victor hit a note so sour that it made Grunt Robbie physically flinch, he decided that yes, it was the worst.
    Really like this line! I think it's a strong and humorous opening that does well in setting the tone of the story.

    When he defected from Team Aqua and moved to Kanto, he was grateful for the chance to work with a team that was just after money instead of literally trying to flood the entire world. What he soon learned was that even if Aqua was batshit crazy, they were a well-oiled batshit crazy. They had leadership and factions and forethought, so that even when they led members off a figurative cliff and into a literal ocean, it was with a clearly articulated purpose. It really unified the whole team.

    The Rockets, on the other hand, just tossed members onto random heist squads with a vague plan to steal. Which would be great if they succeeded in anything other than “causing trouble again,” but they always fell apart at the last minute thanks to any one person’s inability to organize the team into a collective attack.
    I remember one of the judges pointing it out in one of their reviews, but I really like the imagery you used here. Yeah, it's a playful nod to Team Aqua's water-centric goals, but I feel you put across the stark difference between Rocket and Aqua here very well, and it really helps in characterizing Ben.

    Overall it's an amazing read, and while I think the ending can be stronger, the entire story is already strengthened by the concreteness of the situation and the relatability of the characters. Really awesome job with it.

  3. #3
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    ...I like this story's Giovanni more than my story's Giovanni. So focused on the things going on, and such a clear view of a dream that he has made into a reality.

    The story feels pretty well like a sort of study on what Team Rocket "should be", in-universe wise. We get three clear views of how TR is perceived by the way how it acts (or doesn't act), and while there is an in-universe pressure that understandably marks one of them as the One True Truth by its progenitor, at no point is any of those postures made to be how Team Rocket is defined as, functionally or foundationally. Team Rocket works the three ways, at different levels, but even thrown together they don't necessarily make a good Team Rocket. Team Rocket is for profit but that's a goal, and the means to that goal is a certain stability, taking the risk of staying in a tried path that won't garner inadequate kinds of attention (and I have to give kudos here for the implications of comparing to Team Aqua/Magma via the character of Ben).

    It plays well story-wise with all the villain tropes that usually come up when one has to wonder how villain teams manage to work in this verse, too. "Why don't we just shoot him?" Because that's not the kind of attention Team Rocket wants. "Why don't we go chanting our motto?" Because you guys don't even get what it's about. "Why can't I be the right-hand man?" Because your over-achieving ego is harming the organizational mission. Plus I'm hoping this Giovanni also has a right-hand cat already. :3


    I have to say when I got to the point where I read of this unknown boy going all James Bond / Jason Bourne on the Rocket base and suddenly take a bite to the neck and "there, problem solved"... I kind of thought the story would be one of a comedy of equivocations or some sort of parody of the spy genre. The scene's focus on each character is quite well placed, and it overallt reads well designed. Definitively, the second best part of the story for me. the first? The late part of the Benjamin meeting with the other grunts where Benjamin is oh so sanctimonious about his view of how to do things and "plus, it works", yet the other grunts' responses are so mechanical in their alignment that it feels more like being back at college and "we already went through this crap last semester, please end it already". As if they know the spiel already and don't think much of it, hinting that some of those people have been here already enough to have a better feeling of what the TR mission statement means. Dunno if that was intentional, but given the nature of Team Rocket's activities, the most mundane of the bunch of villainous teams the canon has to offer so far, I found it to be very revealing and very fitting to the concept of the story.

    The ending, it feels too premature. It's as if the story ended two or three paragraphs before it should have. Part of it might be how coupled it is to the result of Giovanni's meeting. The team's just dispatched an intruder and two mission strays, not without having to literally clean up the messes I have to say, and then right off the bat we have yet another intruder? It feels like either the story takes place too close to a breaking point in the story of Team Rocket that Giovanni should have seen coming, of that this particular base is quite lacking in security standards.

    Other than that, a quite enjoyable read, and with the surprise of taking me for the wrong genre turn guess at places.
    Writing what the Pokémon canon lacks since 2010!

    Serebii-Published Writing
    Sixth
    Playfield; 3rd place elsewhere
    Built for Risk - 3rd place Interpretations 2013
    Silly human, romance is for Nidoran~ - a Valentine's oneshot; nominated for Best Comedy, Best Pokémon Centric 2015
    Overlord - 5th place Criminal Intent 2015; nominated for Best Pokémon One-Shot 2015

    » Serebii Catalog ÷ FF catalog «

    Coming Up
    Counterparts in Crime -- Interim -- Built for Risk [complete] -- Scalar 2.0 -- Codename: Cardinal -- untitled hyperfiction

    Can help with: character development
    Can't help with: getting rich fast™ schemes.

  4. #4
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    Hi there! I saw this was a criminal one-shot about one of my favorite teams so I thought I'd drop by with a review

    I'm going to say right off the bat that I really like the introduction; I can totally sympathize with Grunt Robbie on the annoyance of being with someone who won't stop whistling, and how that's nothing when compared to someone's political rants XD

    Directions?” one of the grunts snarled. “To where? The exit?” His crowd chuckled.
    I feel like they must have been under some sort of obligation to laugh at that; or that he had been waiting for an opportunity to use that joke.

    Before the grunt could question it, his right calf was being hooked by the man’s foot, pushing him off balance and sending him falling to the ground. A cloud of sleep powder puffed up around him, flying into the faces of his rattata, whose aggression dulled immediately. Before the group of grunts could get any closer, he shook loose the poké ball he had slipped down his pant leg, ramped it off the toe of his shoe, and kicked it into the crowd. Immediately upon hitting a grunt’s chest, it bounced back to the trainer, leaving behind a glowing white pokémon that quickly exploded in a blast of fire.
    Dang, this guy has style.

    He was cut short as a raticate violently bit through his neck from behind. After sputtering blood for a few moments, he fell dead to the ground, his hair immaculately kempt even as red pooled around his face.
    Holy crap. I did not expect that o_o You, sir, are good with surprises. Kindof a shame that a guy who was so smooth and competent was killed so suddenly, though I guess that's what he gets for bragging and being overconfident.

    What he soon learned was that even if Aqua was batshit crazy, they were a well-oiled batshit crazy. They had leadership and factions and forethought, so that even when they led members off a figurative cliff and into a literal ocean, it was with a clearly articulated purpose. It really unified the whole team.
    Ah yes, represent! Team Aqua knows what's up!
    (Sorry if my bias is a little too apparent :P In case you couldn't tell, I'm a big fan).

    “I heard an explosion, so naturally I released my raticate and came running. I didn’t wanna be caught without my pokémon. Her fangs can snap a wartortle’s shell right in half."
    Makes me wonder how he knows his Raticate's teeth can do that...

    How could Giovanni turn down his admin request when he practically had a pre-existing squadron?
    Probably because he has a pre-existing squadron XD

    “I need to speak to Giovanni.”

    “What for?” the grunt on the right asked.

    “To report absolute, chaotic insubordination,” he answered tightly. “Now let me in.”

    The guards shared a looked and shrugged. “Okay.”
    XD Just proving Leonard right!

    “Please locate Benjamin Vanguard and have him come to my office as soon as possible. Oh, and for the next two weeks, make sure trainee Leonard Nix’s rations are cut in half.”
    Another unexpected twist o_o

    It wasn’t that Giovanni liked the violence. He would much prefer if nobody stepped out of line and his floors could remain clean. Still, he knew that zero tolerance was the only feasible policy. Nobody knew Team Rocket like he did. Nobody understood the delicate balance between criminal and murderous. If he wanted trained killers, he would train them. If he wanted terrifying maniacs, he would torture them. He didn’t see crime as a way to scare people or enslave a region. He didn’t even care about building a reputation, although that was certainly a bonus. No, as long as he was leader of the Rockets, there was only thing he focused on: profit. Anything else was just a distraction.
    I think this paragraph was particularly well-written. It really emphasizes what Team Rocket is about while at the same time displaying Giovanni's thought-process and how it molds Team Rocket into what it is. I feel like, when writing about an evil team, it would be easy to get lost in the ideas of grunts and other members working hard and trying to get promoted. In the end, though, it all boils down to what the team wants most, and Team Rocket's goal is to profit and I think that this paragraph explains it very well.
    Also, a little chilling that a Pokemon and his trainer just died x_x

    The transition at the end between perspectives was a little awkward, in my opinion. It went from Giovanni's perspective right to the trainer's, and when I read the first "he," I immediately thought it was Giovanni before I went back and checked. It also seemed to come to a rather abrupt end, without much of an ending really, though I can understand that it could be difficult to do so in this situation. Anything else I want to say has already been said by the previous viewers.

    All in all, I really enjoyed this! This was quite a fun read The changing perspectives kept it fresh, and as said before, you kept it to what Team Rocket is really about and that in the end, it all is centered around Giovanni and his goals.

    I just have one little nitpick:
    “The guy was in the middle of a big speech about his name or something, which is a huge mistake, oh my god.”
    ...
    And good God, who could expect them to when radicals like Ben scampered around the base practically inciting riots?
    In the first line, you write "god," with a lowercase "g," whereas in the second, it has a capital "G." I suppose that technically, either could be correct, but it was just a small inconsistency that bugged me when I read it.

    But still, great job! I really enjoy reading your stuff, and congrats on how you did in the contest! Best of luck in the future


    My fic, Drowning.
    Cye of the Torrent is my bishie.
    Credit to Sketchie of Coronet Designs

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dramatic Melody View Post
    I really like this story! How it jumps from one character to another made the story very interesting, but what really draws me in is how you explore different facets of Team Rocket through escalating degrees of annoyances with the team. You start of with something as simple as whistling, then you build it up to these critical views of Rocket that hurts its reputation to each character, and this reaches its peak perfectly with the one man responsible for it all and makes sure it stays that way. I like that sense of progression, and I feel it was a really creative way of exploring Team Rocket.

    I was really floored by how you presented Giovanni here, and it really hammers it in how Rocket is his and his alone, with every grunt recruited serving as pawns and nothing more. You can really get how eerie the whole situation is for everyone in Rocket barring Giovanni, and I like how that nicely complements and contrasts with the annoyances each of the three grunts presented earlier in the story.
    Thank you! I couldn't pick exactly what aspect of the team to explore, so I tried to make something that would allow me to look at a bunch of different ones. Giovanni was particularly fun to write, since it was a huge shift from the slightly sillier sections before it. It was cool to write something more overtly villainous, since I hadn't written anything quite like it before.

    I do have to agree with Creepychu's comment about the ending, though, in that I'm not really sure how to feel about it given how Red's small section feels a bit too abruptly placed there. I get that it serves the purpose of bringing up elements you put in the story like the reference to Wartortle and Benjamin's untimely death as well as being the reason why the debonaire in the first part of the story took Rocket for granted. But I do feel like the impact of the ending relies a little too heavily on how the reader knows that this character is Red and he is the reason for Rocket's eventual downfall, which don't really come up within the story's boundaries and has to be filled in by the reader. I feel that the ending could be solidified a bit more to make it a better fit with the story as a whole.
    Given that Creepychu, you, solovino, and starliteevee have all mentioned it, I really need to change that ending. I did shorten it in this revision, since I wanted to keep it for the reasons you mentioned, but I think this is a situation where my sensibilities are probably making the one-shot worse. ^^; I'll try to think of a way to either recontextualize Red's part so that it's a more fitting ending or eliminate it altogether, maybe moving certain aspects to Giovanni's point of view.

    Overall it's an amazing read, and while I think the ending can be stronger, the entire story is already strengthened by the concreteness of the situation and the relatability of the characters. Really awesome job with it.
    Thank you! I'll definitely work on that ending, but I'm glad you think the rest is strong! Thanks for the review!

    Quote Originally Posted by solovino View Post
    ...I like this story's Giovanni more than my story's Giovanni. So focused on the things going on, and such a clear view of a dream that he has made into a reality.
    Don't worry, I like your Persian more than any character in my one-shot.

    The story feels pretty well like a sort of study on what Team Rocket "should be", in-universe wise. We get three clear views of how TR is perceived by the way how it acts (or doesn't act), and while there is an in-universe pressure that understandably marks one of them as the One True Truth by its progenitor, at no point is any of those postures made to be how Team Rocket is defined as, functionally or foundationally. Team Rocket works the three ways, at different levels, but even thrown together they don't necessarily make a good Team Rocket. Team Rocket is for profit but that's a goal, and the means to that goal is a certain stability, taking the risk of staying in a tried path that won't garner inadequate kinds of attention (and I have to give kudos here for the implications of comparing to Team Aqua/Magma via the character of Ben).
    Something I wanted to communicate in this is that despite what every member thinks, there's no "right" way to run the organization. Every method has upsides and downsides (something I tried to show when different characters offered different points of view on other characters' thoughts), but even if Giovanni is the one who gets to decide how Team Rocket will operate, the team is too large for him to effectively eliminate opposing views. Instead of listening to other ideas and taking parts of them as necessary, he tries to squash them, and he ends up getting rid of the people capable of carrying out their ideas without actually eliminating the ideas themselves. Like you said, Giovanni gets obvious prominence as the head of Team Rocket, but even he can't force each and every grunt to perform exactly like he wants, and Team Rocket is therefore not representative of any single idea.

    It plays well story-wise with all the villain tropes that usually come up when one has to wonder how villain teams manage to work in this verse, too. "Why don't we just shoot him?" Because that's not the kind of attention Team Rocket wants. "Why don't we go chanting our motto?" Because you guys don't even get what it's about. "Why can't I be the right-hand man?" Because your over-achieving ego is harming the organizational mission. Plus I'm hoping this Giovanni also has a right-hand cat already. :3
    I did enjoy looking at the rationale behind certain villainous actions, especially from the points of view of people with different opinions on villainy in general. As for persian, this is game canon, so it's up to you to headcanon that this is in the Yellow universe (the superior universe, imo).

    I have to say when I got to the point where I read of this unknown boy going all James Bond / Jason Bourne on the Rocket base and suddenly take a bite to the neck and "there, problem solved"... I kind of thought the story would be one of a comedy of equivocations or some sort of parody of the spy genre. The scene's focus on each character is quite well placed, and it overallt reads well designed. Definitively, the second best part of the story for me. the first? The late part of the Benjamin meeting with the other grunts where Benjamin is oh so sanctimonious about his view of how to do things and "plus, it works", yet the other grunts' responses are so mechanical in their alignment that it feels more like being back at college and "we already went through this crap last semester, please end it already". As if they know the spiel already and don't think much of it, hinting that some of those people have been here already enough to have a better feeling of what the TR mission statement means. Dunno if that was intentional, but given the nature of Team Rocket's activities, the most mundane of the bunch of villainous teams the canon has to offer so far, I found it to be very revealing and very fitting to the concept of the story.
    I had just watched The Kingsman when I wrote that part, so was definitely in the mood to write some over-the-top spy stuff, although I tried to contain it to just his section. I'm glad it came across! As far as Ben's speech, I pictured a mixture of new recruits genuinely into his antics, a chunk of middling people like the ones you described, and then Leonard at the opposite end of the spectrum. Although I have to admit that the fresh faces absolutely eating it up were the focus for me.

    The ending, it feels too premature. It's as if the story ended two or three paragraphs before it should have. Part of it might be how coupled it is to the result of Giovanni's meeting. The team's just dispatched an intruder and two mission strays, not without having to literally clean up the messes I have to say, and then right off the bat we have yet another intruder? It feels like either the story takes place too close to a breaking point in the story of Team Rocket that Giovanni should have seen coming, of that this particular base is quite lacking in security standards.

    Other than that, a quite enjoyable read, and with the surprise of taking me for the wrong genre turn guess at places.
    I get that, and I agree that maybe a little too much is happening today in the base. However, I think that my portrayal of the Rockets here does suggest that maybe they leave themselves open to attacks like these. In the end, Giovanni actively praises the poster guard for the fact that he follows orders despite the fact that Red still got in. And as we can see, Team Rocket's operation is maybe a little more fragmented than Giovanni would like, resulting in a messier organization than it would initially appear. However, if not for his self-appreciation, I do think two intruders in one day (especially one that's messed up your plans before) would signal a need for tighter security. ^^

    I'm glad you liked it, though! The ending keeps coming back to haunt me, so I'll need to do something about it haha.

    Quote Originally Posted by starliteevee View Post
    Hi there! I saw this was a criminal one-shot about one of my favorite teams so I thought I'd drop by with a review

    I'm going to say right off the bat that I really like the introduction; I can totally sympathize with Grunt Robbie on the annoyance of being with someone who won't stop whistling, and how that's nothing when compared to someone's political rants XD
    Thank you! I wanted to start with something just a little more mundane to indulge my desire to write a slice-of-life criminal story, so it's great that you liked it!

    I feel like they must have been under some sort of obligation to laugh at that; or that he had been waiting for an opportunity to use that joke.
    XD Maybe he has excellent delivery.

    Holy crap. I did not expect that o_o You, sir, are good with surprises. Kindof a shame that a guy who was so smooth and competent was killed so suddenly, though I guess that's what he gets for bragging and being overconfident.
    Thanks! I feel like it's hard to really surprise with writing, since everything seems so deliberate to me. I'm glad you think I pulled it off, though! But yeah, if he had been just a little more careful, he may have been able to stop Team Rocket completely.

    Ah yes, represent! Team Aqua knows what's up!
    (Sorry if my bias is a little too apparent :P In case you couldn't tell, I'm a big fan).
    Haha, same! Sorry for Ben's insults!

    I think this paragraph was particularly well-written. It really emphasizes what Team Rocket is about while at the same time displaying Giovanni's thought-process and how it molds Team Rocket into what it is. I feel like, when writing about an evil team, it would be easy to get lost in the ideas of grunts and other members working hard and trying to get promoted. In the end, though, it all boils down to what the team wants most, and Team Rocket's goal is to profit and I think that this paragraph explains it very well.
    Also, a little chilling that a Pokemon and his trainer just died x_x
    I figured as long as Giovanni is at the head of the whole thing he deserved some pretty significant focus on his own ideas of what should make the organization run. It was also fun to write from his perspective.

    The transition at the end between perspectives was a little awkward, in my opinion. It went from Giovanni's perspective right to the trainer's, and when I read the first "he," I immediately thought it was Giovanni before I went back and checked. It also seemed to come to a rather abrupt end, without much of an ending really, though I can understand that it could be difficult to do so in this situation. Anything else I want to say has already been said by the previous viewers.
    Just another nail in the coffin for the ending as it exists now, I'm afraid. It's too bad, because I'm personally a fan of the way things winded up, but I may have to go with the crowd on this one and make some big adjustments. Thanks for pointing out some places for improvements!

    All in all, I really enjoyed this! This was quite a fun read The changing perspectives kept it fresh, and as said before, you kept it to what Team Rocket is really about and that in the end, it all is centered around Giovanni and his goals.
    Thank you! I had a lot of fun writing this, and it's awesome to know people liked it! And I'll take care of the capitalization problem.

  6. #6
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    Soooo like I said, this was definitely my favorite of the contest entries, but I'll elaborate a bit more here...

    Well, mostly I just thought the POV-shifting "relay race" concept was brilliant. It really gave me the impression of one long tracking shot that's shifting from focusing on one character to the next as the story unfolds, kind of like the super-long one that got a lot of attention in The Avengers. It's a technique that wouldn't work well in a longer story, because you'd either end up with so many POV changes it'd get exhausting, or you'd have to spend so mucn time with each character that the shifts would lose their effect, but for a story this length it was just perfect. It's an unusual technique, but I think you pulled it off spectacularly, and it totally worked for the kind of story you were trying to tell.

    Of course, the POV shifts wouldn't have worked at all if you hadn't been able to nail the POV's themselves, and I think you did a great job there, too. Although we spend only a short amount of time with each character, you manage to make them all very distinct and interesting. They're a little over the top, but I think that works well for the anime-ish feel of the story as a whole and contributes to the humor of the piece. Although the subject matter gets a bit dark (I mean, one guy ends up with his skull crushed), it doesn't read at all depressing. One the whole, I think my favorite POV's were Ben, Leonard, and Giovanni, just because they show such different, but believable and well-constructed, perspectives on what Team Rocket's goals should be and how to achieve them. Which I think was your primary intent with the story, so it's a good thing those parts were so strong!

    “They guy was in the middle of a big speech about his name or something, which is a huge mistake, oh my god.” He took drag of his banned cigarette. “You know when most people let their guard down? When they’re bragging.” The crowd nodded with wide eyes. “Don’t monologue, don’t preach, and don’t you dare pontificate.” He pointed the pair of fingers holding his smoke around the room.
    I really just love this paragraph. It's such an excellent image of Ben dragging on his contraband cigarette (because he's just so cool and gives no ****s) while he holds forth on what an idiot this guy was for making a big speech... while he himself is in the middle of a monologue that prevents him from noticing Leonard, and which ultimately leads to his death. The irony is fantastic.

    Also, I'm sure you're tired of hearing it by now, but I do agree that I found the ending a bit of a let-down (even after reducing the length of Red's section). I agree that the wartortle callback is great and worth keeping if you can find a way to swing it, but I don't think you need to actually have Red appear to have the overconfident trainer's reference to TR being taken down by a kid make sense--we all know who he's talking about there. It's really a question of what you want the overall point of the story to be, and how you want to use Red (or some other character, if you decide not to end with him) to bring it home neatly. As it is, for me, the reason the ending was a bit underwhelming was because it didn't feel that well-connected to the rest of the story; not in terms of subject matter, but rather in terms of theme. While I felt like you had a clear idea for each of the other POV's you used in the story, I wasn't so sure about Red's, which is why it made for a somewhat anticlimactic ending.

    I also have some small sentence-level nitpicks:

    “Witty!” he replied enthusiastically.
    Probably want to say "the man" or "the trainer" or something here--"he" still refers to the grunt who was talking last.

    “Indeed.” He turned his head toward the grunt behind him. “If you fall hard, I’ll make sure you’re out of range.”
    I was a bit confused by this, because "If you fall..." doesn't read like a counteroffer (even in jest) to me. I get that he's setting up for knocking the guy over in a moment, but I guess "fall hard" doesn't read like an action-movie quip to me. idk, something like "take a quick nap" or "quit blocking my light" or something would have indicated to me that it wasn't meant to be taken literally; as it was I spent a while trying to puzzle out what was meant by "fall hard."

    Before the group of grunts could get any closer, he shook loose the poké ball he had slipped down his pant leg...
    Again, the "he" in this sentence still refers to the grunt from the previous one.

    He looked around at the three sleeping men, the passed out rattata, and the burned corpses and rolled his eyes.
    "Passed out" should be hyphenated because the two words together act as a single modifier on "rattata."

    “*******es,” he mumbled...
    When Dragonfree posted your entry, she formatted the curse word so it wouldn't be censored... not sure if you want to do that for yourself, but if so, all you need to do is add BBCode around one of the letters. I usually use font=verdana, which on most computers is an invisible change.

    I’d better get cleanup crew in here.
    If "cleanup crew" is a proper name (the way it's being used in the sentence currently suggests that), it should be capitalized. Otherwise it'd be "a" cleanup crew or "the" cleanup crew.

    As expected, it was tidy and filled with knick-knacks from various places and time periods.
    It would be a lot more interesting and character-building if you gave specific examples of one or two of those knick-knacks.

    With a firm handshake, he said goodbye to Leonard, and leaned back against the front of the desk.
    You don't need a comma after "Leonard."

    “I heard about that,” he answered with a nod. “Quite efficient.”
    Again, you probably want to use Giovanni's name here, since "he" still refers to Ben.

    Thinking fast, he ripped his raticate’s ball off the belt clip but was stopped when the kangaskhan grabbed hold of his fist with a sickening grip.
    A "sickening" grip?

    Then, with a squeeze, bones and thermoset plastic crunched in the pokémon’s palm, and Ben’s crumpled to the floor screaming, held up only by the monster still clutching his disfigured hand.
    I think it should be "Ben," not "Ben's," here.

    On the whole, though, I really enjoyed this, and there's hardly anything negative to say. Good luck with your revision, if you decide to do one--I know how frustrating it is to have to edit something you're not sure how to fix--and with your future stories. This one was a lot of fun.

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Negrek View Post
    Soooo like I said, this was definitely my favorite of the contest entries, but I'll elaborate a bit more here...

    Well, mostly I just thought the POV-shifting "relay race" concept was brilliant. It really gave me the impression of one long tracking shot that's shifting from focusing on one character to the next as the story unfolds, kind of like the super-long one that got a lot of attention in The Avengers. It's a technique that wouldn't work well in a longer story, because you'd either end up with so many POV changes it'd get exhausting, or you'd have to spend so mucn time with each character that the shifts would lose their effect, but for a story this length it was just perfect. It's an unusual technique, but I think you pulled it off spectacularly, and it totally worked for the kind of story you were trying to tell.
    Thank you! My idea was originally just the second POV, but when I thought of doing it like this it seemed way more interesting. I'm glad it worked out!

    Of course, the POV shifts wouldn't have worked at all if you hadn't been able to nail the POV's themselves, and I think you did a great job there, too. Although we spend only a short amount of time with each character, you manage to make them all very distinct and interesting. They're a little over the top, but I think that works well for the anime-ish feel of the story as a whole and contributes to the humor of the piece. Although the subject matter gets a bit dark (I mean, one guy ends up with his skull crushed), it doesn't read at all depressing. One the whole, I think my favorite POV's were Ben, Leonard, and Giovanni, just because they show such different, but believable and well-constructed, perspectives on what Team Rocket's goals should be and how to achieve them. Which I think was your primary intent with the story, so it's a good thing those parts were so strong!
    The over-the-topness is probably a result of me trying to make them distinct. Hopefully I didn't go too far. ^^; And yeah, I opted out of describing the skull crushing in detail to keep it lighthearted (and avoid a rating warning). This was primarily supposed to be a fun one-shot.

    I really just love this paragraph. It's such an excellent image of Ben dragging on his contraband cigarette (because he's just so cool and gives no ****s) while he holds forth on what an idiot this guy was for making a big speech... while he himself is in the middle of a monologue that prevents him from noticing Leonard, and which ultimately leads to his death. The irony is fantastic.
    Ben was probably the most fun to write (maybe tied with Leonard) because his ego almost knows no bounds. I'm glad you liked the cigarette, too. That was a detail that made me laugh when I was writing it!

    Also, I'm sure you're tired of hearing it by now, but I do agree that I found the ending a bit of a let-down (even after reducing the length of Red's section). I agree that the wartortle callback is great and worth keeping if you can find a way to swing it, but I don't think you need to actually have Red appear to have the overconfident trainer's reference to TR being taken down by a kid make sense--we all know who he's talking about there. It's really a question of what you want the overall point of the story to be, and how you want to use Red (or some other character, if you decide not to end with him) to bring it home neatly. As it is, for me, the reason the ending was a bit underwhelming was because it didn't feel that well-connected to the rest of the story; not in terms of subject matter, but rather in terms of theme. While I felt like you had a clear idea for each of the other POV's you used in the story, I wasn't so sure about Red's, which is why it made for a somewhat anticlimactic ending.
    I have some ideas for what to do with the ending, but I'm still trying to work out exactly what I'm going to do. The more I look at it, the more I agree that Red was by far the least distinct, and the focus of his section is unfortunately more on introducing wartortle than actually showing another unique perspective. Thank you for elaborating on your feelings!

    On the whole, though, I really enjoyed this, and there's hardly anything negative to say. Good luck with your revision, if you decide to do one--I know how frustrating it is to have to edit something you're not sure how to fix--and with your future stories. This one was a lot of fun.
    Thank you, especially for the sentence-level notes! I'll get those taken care of, especially since I plan on doing some additional revising. It'll just take me some time to get it all worked out how I want. But again, thank you for the great review!

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