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Thread: ~ The Good Fight ~

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    Default ~ The Good Fight ~

    A/N: This was my entry for the tragedy contest--first place winner! *does a little dance*

    *cough* Anyway. This is PG-15 for swears and violence. I don't own Pokemon, but I gave Falkner and Karen their family names, Southernwood Town and Tamarack City are mine, and so is Jace Patterson and a couple of minor OCs. I don’t own the Dragon Clan, but I did make up some of the traditions implied in the story.

    This is the first in a trilogy of one-shots called ‘Disillusions’. Game inspired, but there may be a few tinges of the anime. There'll also be a spin-off because of some plotbunnies planted by the judges.

    Enjoy!



    ~ THE GOOD FIGHT ~



    “HEY, YOU!”

    The irritable voice rang through the corridor, making Lance stiffen slightly with apprehensive expectation. He halted mid-stride, turning to face the black-haired operative who had just burst through the doors Lance was passing, and cursed inwardly when he saw the man’s eyes were indeed on him and not one of the other grunts hurrying through the corridor. Damn. I don’t have time for this.

    “Yes, sir?” the Elite Trainer asked in a neutrally deferential tone, keeping his head down so the brim of his cap shaded his eyes and face. True, people usually recognised him through his hair and bearing, but there was no point in being careless and he wasn’t entirely sure his annoyance wouldn’t show in his eyes. He was a good actor—he had to be—but he could never get his eyes to lie.

    It was bad enough being where he was; he didn’t need to get picked up for being disrespectful. Not now, not with so much at stake.

    The sallow-faced man thrust a sheaf of papers at him, and Lance had to restrain the instinctive twitch to go for a pokéball, instead taking the forms quietly. “Take these to Inventory,” the man snarled. “And leg it, we don’t have time to dawdle!”

    Without further explanation the Rocket spun around and stalked with a bang back through the double doors, headlined by a sign saying ‘Engineering’. With an internal sigh, forcing his taut muscles to relax—damn, but I hate it when they call me up for something inconsequential like that—Lance turned on his heel and started back way he’d come, mentally cursing the horrible timing.

    If he wasn’t on that chopper by the time it left …

    Not gonna let that happen, the Dragon Master thought grimly, shuffling the papers into order, keeping a wary eye on the busy grunts he passed in the shiny, well-lit corridor. We’ve waited too long for a break like this; I can’t afford to miss this opportunity.

    He hadn’t exactly planned on the opportunity, either, but when Koga had called it in he wasn’t about to pass it up, even though he was disturbingly under-equipped. He simply hadn’t had the chance to sign out on some of the gear he usually would have wanted at hand; he just had to hope that nothing went wrong and he wouldn’t end up needing a wiretap or bug.

    Worst comes to worst, I can call in; Will’s standing by, and he should’ve contacted the others by now.

    He mentally ran through the list of Elites who would be available for backup, jogging up a metal stairwell leading to the string of rooms housing Inventory, his boots clanging on the steps. Surge’s been chomping at the bit for some action for weeks—he’ll have to be teleported in, but that’s not much of a loss. The Vermillion City gym was one of the few non-clan-owned facilities which actively taught combative techniques, and was a favourite of retired or discharged military and law enforcement types. The lieutenant ran the place like a boot camp, but it did mean that Lance had some trained men at his disposal in addition to the team of dragon tamers he’d called in from Blackthorn City.

    Falkner’s on call, and Bruno would still have been at the Plateau when I left.

    Blaine had been waiting for a breakthrough in the case, same as everyone else, but he wasn’t exactly qualified for field operations; Will had probably contacted him and the other scientists but not much else. At the very least he’ll be waiting and ready for when the raid’s over. Between the five of us, my and Surge’s men and the local police we should be able to handle everything.

    At least that was one thing in their favour, Lance reflected as he dodged a black-uniformed grunt rushing the other way, carrying a stack of small cartons. The operation they were trying to take down was covert—it had been working under the radar for over a year since they came aware of its existence, and God-only-knew how much longer than that—which meant it was relatively small in terms of men.

    Small, but frighteningly deadly.

    Just thinking about it made Lance’s stomach twist with anger. Sure, the Rockets hired unscrupulous scientists to work their trade all the time, but rarely was there so much collateral damage involved. This case, however…

    This case involved nothing less than the endangerment of thirteen small-time towns across Tohjo, to say nothing of the pokémon populations surrounding them. In certain secluded areas the Rockets had deliberately placed foreign substances in the springs, in the groundwater, in the soil… and it was seriously affecting the health of the towns that used the resources. In one town, thirty-four percent of the population had cancer—eighty-seven percent had been at increased risk of such—and sixteen percent had been listed as fatal!

    And the reason?

    Controlled experimentation of the pokémon populations—just another attempt to create super-pokémon, without morals, without regard for the excess, without care for the consequences—

    The rattle of a trolley brought him up short and he just managed to step out of the way of the crate-burdened vehicle and the blue-skinned machoke pushing it. Shit! The dragon tamer flattened himself against the wall as the pokémon and its trainer passed, head lowered to hide the steel in his eyes. Get a grip, this is no time to be getting distracted!

    He pushed down the anger beating in his chest, forcing his previous thoughts from his mind, and made his hands unclench, smoothing out the crinkled paper. Then he took a deep, bracing breath and slipped into the broad antechamber which connected the string of supply rooms to the main section of the depot.

    Almost instantly he realized he probably should have taken a moment or two longer to compose himself. The more people around, the more likely it was that someone would recognise him; his stomach was still tight with nervous tension, making his eyes flit automatically, warily, around at all the activity.

    Can’t help it now.

    He kept his face down as he dodged agents—and some pokémon—hurrying every which way, moving crates and boxes, pushing trolleys, and generally just trying not to crash into each other in the chaos. His back prickled insecurely every time someone went out of sight-range and he had to consciously stop himself from jerking for a pokéball, swallowing his heart back down, when a stocky grunt dragging a trolley snarled at him as he darted past.

    He finally reached the other side of the room where the irritable-looking officer in charge stood, her long blonde hair tucked in beneath her cap, her hand moving with ill-tempered motions as she checked off supplies on her clipboard. “What?” she snapped without looking up.

    “Ma’am,” he said, mercifully straight-faced and monotone, and held out the forms, eyes flickering discreetly down to her board as he banished all thoughts of what had brought him there and returned to what he was supposed to be doing. With an impatient click of her tongue the woman snatched the papers out of his hand, scanning them quickly and covering up her own pages in the process.

    With a mental sigh Lance could only stand back and wait, eyeing the equipment going past him at a furious pace and wishing he could find out what to expect. Not that there’s any guarantee all this stuff’s going to the lab; this outlet probably helps supply a dozen different Rocket operations.

    It was galling to let it continue to run, but the Rockets had no idea the Elites knew of its presence and location. They’d used it as a lead more than once, although that might have to change if the Team suspected they’d used it to get to the lab—he hadn’t had time to be cautious about covering his tracks. With luck Koga would be able to lay a false trail before the ninja pulled out of his mission.

    “Parker!” the woman bellowed suddenly, making Lance twitch violently in surprise, his heart striking up against his ribs and his breath catching.

    Damnit, woman, give me some warning, will you?!

    A mousy-looking man hurried up, struggling past a rogue cardboard box, and the woman handed him Lance’s papers. “Deal with this.”

    Parker nodded and disappeared into the bowels of Inventory while his superior went back to muttering under her breath and checking off supplies, totally ignoring Lance and leaving the dragon tamer to back away to the wall to wait.

    A discreet check of his cellphone’s clock told him he had little over forty minutes to get down to the hangar and make himself useful. He took another deep, relatively calming breath, still keeping a wary eye on the bedlam in front of him in the event one of the Rockets wasn’t concentrating too hard on their work to notice him. Unlikely, since they were all constrained by the clock, but Lance was feeling severely under-prepared, uneasily fingering one of his dragon’s pokéballs and wishing he’d had a little more time to get ready.

    Hell, he’d settle for just a little more time.

    Parker slipped back into the main room with a plastic packing case in hand, looking harassed as he navigated through the pandemonium and practically shoved his burden into Lance’s hands. “Sign here,” the man said shortly, slapping the forms on top, and between juggling the box and handling the pen Lance managed to scrawl down one of his pseudonyms. Parker took it just as his superior hollered his name again, and with a roll of his eyes he turned around and left the Dragon Master to fend for himself.

    Tucking the box under his arm, the Elite turned on his heel and wove his own way out of the supply room, hurrying as much as he could while trying to control his heart-rate with deep, controlled breaths, resisting the urge to check the clock again. Instead he focussed his mind on thinking of alternatives, of shortcuts, of backup plans, in the event that he was sent on another useless errand away from the hangar bay.

    S’pose I could always throw it off onto someone else… faking authority is something I’m good at. He smiled grimly. Probably because it’s not usually faked.

    By the time he got back to Engineering he’d lost over fifteen minutes and the senior agent in charge was practically spitting chips, snatching the box out of Lance’s hands almost as soon as he came through the door and thrusting it at a hapless technician. “Get that fucking hardware fixed!” he snarled, gesturing violently at a partially disassembled computer bank before turning back to Lance. “And you—”Lance tensed—“get that down to the hangar!”—pointing at a loaded trolley in the corner.

    Snapping a salute for good measure—not that the man saw it, he’d already turned away—Lance gratefully interposed himself behind the cart, manoeuvring it out of the spacious room. I might actually make my flight after all.

    The hangar, when he got there, was even more of a hive than Inventory, although this time there was space enough for agents to step back and allow pokémon to do the heaviest lifting. Most of the activity was centred around the twin-rotor helicopter settled in the centre of the area, beneath a blast-door leading up and out, as agents frantically prepped the vehicle for its supply run.

    Lance steered the trolley around a stack of crates still to be loaded, and then around the sleek-furred vigoroth who had just stepped in his way. His eyes found the huge clock on the opposite wall, telling him there was less than twenty minutes left before the chopper was scheduled to leave, and his stomach tightened with familiar urgency, his pace automatically quickening as he navigated the buzzing floor-space.

    He came to the chopper’s open hatchway, pulling into line behind a brown-haired woman and her brawny machoke, and settled down to wait until the man at the entrance had finished checking off the supplies the muscular pokémon was carrying.

    Not much longer, the Elite trainer thought grimly, resisting the urge to tap his fingers, or fidget, or anything. God, he hated inaction.

    You’re in the middle of a Rocket base, isn’t that enough for you? a mental voice which sounded remarkably like Clair said acerbically, and Lance’s mouth twisted wryly. He’d specifically ordered Ephraim not to wake his cousin up when he’d called into the Blackthorn gym for reinforcements—she and her dragons had just come off an intensive training regime, he didn’t want to disturb her if he could help it—but somehow that never stopped her from nagging him, even if it was only in his own mind.

    At least one of us is getting a good night’s rest. It was a quarter past two in the morning.

    The minutes dragged past with all the ease of a kingdra on land. The brown-haired woman got into an argument with the other grunt, and their voices punctuated the general chaos with sharp words and exclamations—to say nothing of gestures. Lance watched them with one eye, keeping the other open for whoever was in charge of the hangar and who would no doubt come down on them like a flight of dragons any minute. He really didn’t want to be involved in this just for being nearby.

    The last thing I need right now is further complications.

    He had barely completed the thought when there was a ruckus somewhere out in the corridor through the open double-doors, faint, but growing louder. Lance’s brow furrowed, his gut tightening slightly as his eyes flickered once again to the clock. It’s nowhere near past my call-in time yet, and besides, a raid would make a helluva lot more noise than that.

    It was possible that a member of the backup team had gotten picked up on the radar, but with so much at stake Lance couldn’t imagine that any one of them would be so careless.

    “Let go of me!” a slightly muffled voice shouted—a young voice—and Lance’s heart plummeted.

    Oh God, don’t tell me …

    Eyes all around the hangar strayed to the exit as there was a thud and the tramp of many feet, and then a black-clad security team swept into the room, dragging three bound, struggling and shouting teens with them.

    Lance stood frozen, his heart pounding in his throat and his stomach a coil of knots, all other considerations abruptly swept away by the course his sleepless night had suddenly taken.

    Three kids. Here. Kids.

    It seemed incomprehensible that this could be happening—there were members of the League keeping watch, for God’s sake—

    Members whose focus was on the base and what was coming out, not going in, and if the kids had come from a different direction or already been nearby …

    Shit.

    One of the boys—he can’t be more than twelve!—tried to bite his captor as the thickset Rocket dragged him deeper into the hangar, closer to the chopper, and in response the man belted the kid across the face with an audible smack. With a pained grunt the boy’s head snapped to the side and his body followed, landing with a hard thump on the concrete floor, his backwards cap tumbling from his tousled hair.

    Lance twitched violently as the other kids, a scrawny short-haired girl and a taller, stocky boy, were shoved to the ground beside their friend. He swallowed hard, fisting his white gloves and forcing himself to calm down, to breathe deeply, to think rationally. You can’t afford to blow your cover—not now. You can leave with the chopper and then come back with a team to rescue the kids. It’s about time we took out the trash here anyway.

    The tension in his stomach didn’t ease—taking out the depot was a huge task, but if it had to be done then it had to be done. It just didn’t change the fact that three kids were still here and at the mercy of the Rockets, with no idea what they had gotten themselves into, no idea what they were up against … they never knew, they always thought that having pokémon made them powerful enough to take on anyone, they didn’t know …

    A cold voice sounded through the havoc, silencing just about everyone and halting most—if not all—activity.

    “Would you care to explain what the hell’s going on here, Agent?”

    That was when Lance saw him, only a dozen feet away and half-hidden by the chopper’s bulk: a tall blond man, striding into sight with languid steps, his black uniform straight and crisply cut as per the officers’ uniform regulations, one hip adorned with a pokéball and the other a gun.

    Lance’s stomach turned over in dread and realisation. Oh God.

    Jace Patterson.

    Sub-admin. Wanted in relation to six confirmed murders, who knows how many unconfirmed, several counts of fraud, blackmail, and various other crimes common to the Rockets.

    And he doesn’t leave witnesses.


    “Caught ‘em prowling around,” one of the Rockets said matter-of-factly, a nondescript man in the same black uniform as almost everyone else, except he bore an eclectic trio of bags slung over his shoulder. “Behave,” he admonished the girl a second later when she tried to stagger to her feet, forcing her back down again with his hand on her head. She jerked away from him, her nose wrinkled with disgust and fear.

    Lance’s jaw tightened at the look on her face, schooling his muscles to stillness. It was taking everything he had just to keep himself from going for one of his dragons. Closing his eyes for a moment helped, cutting off the sight of the younger boy looking oh-so-naively defiant, the girl pale but rebellious, the older, stockier teen grimly apprehensive.

    “You won’t get away with this!” the younger boy shouted, fighting the ropes tying his wrists, half rising up onto his knees only to be shoved roughly back down again. Lance’s tingling fingers spasmed momentarily before he managed to block out the sounds of furious, childish threats, forcing himself not to act, to think, because there was far too much at stake here to just jump into the fray.

    If I call in for backup it would blow my cover. I can’t attack without blowing my cover. If I can’t get to the lab tonight it could be another year before we get another opportunity like this.

    Meanwhile, the people and pokémon of those towns would continue to suffer and die. They were trying to help, they had health experts and doctors all over the data, but it wasn’t enough without knowing exactly what the Rockets used as contaminants. There was only so much they could pinpoint from blood tests and symptoms.

    Help these kids and lose the chance to end this case.

    Or take down the lab … and sacrifice these kids.


    He couldn’t make that decision. He couldn’t. They were kids. He had to do something—

    I have to do nothing.

    Swallowing hard against the rock in his throat, the dragon tamer fought himself to continued immobility, his fists clamped at his sides and gaze locked upon the scene not more than a dozen feet in front of him.

    “Was there anyone else with them?” Patterson was asking the man who led the security detail, and Lance tried to listen, tried to pay attention in case someone said something important, but it was so hard just to look and not act.

    “Nada,” the man answered with a shrug.

    Patterson nodded without a change in expression, ignoring the younger boy’s yells and threats, his indignation that the sub-admin wasn’t taking them seriously. Instead the Rocket reached for the gun at his hip, drawing it, racking the slide with an intimidating clunk-snap which made the boy fall silent at long last, staring at him with too-wide eyes as all the agents nearby stepped out of firing range.

    Lance went cold. No. No you don’t, you bastard, don’t you dare

    —do something, do something, do something—


    His hands clenched, trembling slightly against the roaring in his ears which seemed to be taking over every other sound, against the beast in his chest that was ravaging him from inside out, he could swear that he was being eaten alive—

    Patterson raised the gun.

    —don’t you dare, I’ll hunt you down if you do, I’ll throw you into a lake of gyarados—

    BANG!

    —I AM GOING TO FUCKING KILL YOU YOU BASTARD—


    There seemed to be a split second of utter silence as the boy’s body toppled. Then there was a slight thud as it hit the ground, and the spell was broken.

    With a hysterical, incoherent scream, the girl threw herself at Patterson, her voice almost drowning out the hoarse shouts of the other boy, but the Rocket just caught her roughly around the arm and threw her back down to the concrete. Without a change in expression he shifted his aim and a gunshot later there were two bodies on the blood-streaked floor.

    Lance hardly heard it or saw it—the pound of his heart in his ears had taken over everything, his vision a haze of smouldering red as he trembled beneath the fury consuming him from within. It took white flashes in front of his eyes before he realized he wasn’t breathing and managed to inhale shallowly, shakily, not daring to take more than that in case he drew attention to himself.

    The next thing he knew he was staring at three limp corpses, spreadeagle and slumped in a pool of red.

    His hand spasmed violently and he quickly turned away, clenching an iron grip around the handle of the trolley instead of a pokéball as he so desired, shaking with rage and anguish and guilt so sharp that for one irrational moment he thought Patterson had shot him as well.

    And that might actually come true in a minute if you don’t get a grip! rebuked some part of him that was still paying attention, and he managed to swallow once, twice, taking deep, unsteady breaths until the pounding in his head and chest eased and he could once more pay attention to what was happening around him.

    The bustle of the hangar had started up again, the sounds of many echoing footsteps and the scrape of wood against concrete and metal. Yes. I am … loading the helicopter.

    I am loading the helicopter to go to the lab.


    He narrowed his focus on that one thing; that was his task, and it was an easy one. If he could just do that then he could handle the thing to come after, and when he’d handled the next thing then he could handle the next …

    It was still a moment before he could unclench his hand from around the handle of the trolley and straighten, trembling from the massive adrenaline rush.

    “Is there a problem, Agent?” an emotionless voice asked from the side.

    Lance’s body seized up, his heart skipping, and for a moment his vision wavered red once again as he turned his head slightly to look out beneath the brim of his cap—just enough to see Patterson beside him.

    The hidden blade he wore at his back burned him through his clothes. So near—so close—

    It would be so easy, he wasn’t expecting it, no one was expecting it—

    Lance unstuck his throat, his jaw aching from his teeth being gritted, his voice coming out hoarse as he lied, every word harsh on his lips. “My apologies, sir … I have a sister their age.”

    Patterson studied him for a moment longer with those sharp eyes, a moment in which Lance didn’t dare breathe or move, his chest painfully tight and arms locked into place.

    Then the thin Rocket seemed to shrug, accepting that some people had family, loved ones, even if he didn’t. “To work, Agent.”

    “Yes, sir,” the Elite whispered as Patterson turned away, and one hand quivered slightly as though with the lingering desire to unleash the full fury of his dragons upon the Rocket, a desire Lance bridled and pounded down until numbness was the only thing left.



    Will fidgeted restlessly, fingering the edge of his mask and swivelling slightly on his revolvable chair, his brown eyes fixed to the flatscreen in front of him. On it the region’s topography was laid out in bright green contours, the gridded map centred on an area in the mountains northeast of Violet City, quite close to Southernwood Town, where he was currently stationed. There were five glowing red dots strung out near the base of the map, motionless and waiting.

    As are we all, the dark-haired psychic thought, sitting back in his chair and swinging idly around on the rotating chair to scan the rest of the room.

    It was relatively quiet, aside from the stamp of Surge’s boots as the broad-shouldered blond paced the wooden floor restlessly and the soft click of metal as two of the gym leader’s men silently checked and rechecked a set of handguns they’d brought with them over in the opposite corner. Will wrinkled his nose a little at the sight; he wasn’t qualified to fire a gun and wouldn’t have taken one anyway, but not everyone was equipped to defend themselves the way he was in the event pokémon weren’t able to handle the danger.

    Bruno was seated on the floor in the corner to Will’s right, legs crossed and eyes closed, his lowered face half shadowed by his thick, shaggy hair. The psychic wasn’t sure if he was meditating or just trying to snatch a few more minutes of sleep—both states of mind had some similarities, depending on their depth. This whole situation had been a rude awakening for everyone except Koga, who had, apparently, been undercover since morning.

    The only other people present, seated at the long oval table in the centre of the room, were the last two of Surge’s squad, both of them ruddy, muscular and grim, occupying themselves by double-checking the rest of the equipment brought from the Vermillion City gym.

    Quiet, maybe, Will thought with a slight frown, rubbing his forehead as he turned back to his computers. But definitely tense.

    He’d caught Surge projecting once or twice, radiating displeasure and impatience, wishing he could be out there ready to storm the depot instead of ‘locked inside this prison of a meeting room waiting for that pretentious porcupine-haired dragon tamer to drop us a nonexistent line’.

    You’d think he hates Lance, the way he’s been going on.

    It wasn’t true, of course; hostility was just the lieutenant’s way of dealing with the tension. Will had taken his fair share of insults in the past, and so had just about everyone else Surge worked with.

    The slender psychic fingered his earpiece glumly, wishing Lance would hurry up and call in already and not entirely sure whether the thought belonged to him or not.

    Or he could at least leave the depot. The base was installed with signal-suppressing equipment, so Will couldn’t lock onto the dragon tamer’s cellphone until he left the facility.

    He could have called Falkner for an update, but the idea that Falkner would know more about what was going on just because he was closer was a fallacy. The bird trainer was as near to the supply outlet as he dared to go without tipping the Rockets off, and the team of Dragon Clan tamers was waiting in the wings a little further back—most dragons didn’t have particularly good night-sight compared to Falkner’s noctowl and hoothoot.

    Meantime, Karen had already been alerted and was taking care of things on the political and administrational end, while Blaine and the other scientists were en route to the labs at the Plateau (or already present, as was in the case of most of them). Other than that there wasn’t anything any of them could do but wait.

    Restlessly the psychic shifted in his seat, crossing his legs and then uncrossing them again, inwardly cursing the atmosphere of the room. It’s times like this I hate being empathic. He could feel Surge’s impatience like it was his own, despite his attempts to block it, and it was making him uneasy.

    Abruptly Will’s stomach turned over and his breath caught, making him swallow hard against an intense feeling of nausea. His skin prickled, the scars on his left cheek seeming to burn, and one hand automatically came up to rub them anxiously beneath the mask. Okay, Surge isn’t causing that.

    There was only one thing Will knew of which caused ‘that’. He may not have visions as powerful or often as Sabrina did, but he did get premonitions, and right now one was telling him that something had just gone horribly wrong.

    His fingers twitched for the earpiece to call Falkner, but he hesitated, staring at the green-lined map on the screen, at the clock down the bottom. It’s only two-nineteen. Not even two hours since Lance went in.

    He wasn’t supposed to send in reinforcements unless an operative had missed their call-in time by more than an hour.

    He didn’t give me a call-in time.

    But he had said to give him four hours at the outside.

    What if whatever had gone wrong wasn’t something that would keep Lance from completing the mission? Sending Falkner in could blow the dragon tamer’s cover.

    Dissatisfied, Will forced himself to sit back in his chair and cross his legs in a parody of composure—but he wasn’t able to take his hand from his still-tingling scars.

    Ten minutes later, when a small red dot blipped up on the screen and flashed, his heart leapt to his throat and he almost catapulted forward for the keyboard, his fingers flying as he logged in the time and location of the signal and set the satellite to track it.

    Behind him he heard Surge’s footsteps halt, felt every eye on his back, and tapped his earpiece with a hand trembling with adrenaline. “Falkner, they’re on the move.”

    “Understood. Returning to Southernwood.”

    Once Falkner got there—it was too dangerous to try and track the helicopter by air, the vehicle was sure to be equipped with a high-tech radar—the fliers could transport the equipment and men while Will directed them from the Southernwood Police Station. When Lance had arrived at his destination, Will would radio the nearest local police force and then teleport there to help set up a control room and meet the others.

    “Let’s saddle up, people!” Surge barked from somewhere behind him, and the room was abruptly filled with the sound of people moving, but Will didn’t shift his focus from the monitor, automatically blocking out the veritable buzz of grim apprehension and hoping, praying, that his premonition had been wrong after all.

    * * *

    “Early this morning, the city of Tamarack witnessed its largest spate of arrests since the Anti-Pokémon Evangelist Movement four years ago. Following a raid on a nearby Team Rocket laboratory—”

    Falkner shut the door, momentarily blocking out the low sound of the television, and ran a hand through his already dishevelled hair with a sigh. Should’ve known the news would be on.

    He didn’t mind reporters so much, and often it was useful just to see what the media was saying—and how much they were getting wrong—but he didn’t have the energy to listen to it right now, not when it was something he’d experienced himself. He’d gotten all of two hours’ sleep before the raid and hadn’t managed to drop off afterwards; it was now early afternoon and he’d given up on his nap after tossing and turning for half the morning.

    So he’d pulled on a yukata, left his shared lodge, and made his way through the gardens to the gatehouse common room. At first glance the tastefully furnished room appeared to be empty, even despite the blare of the massive flatscreen television on the opposite wall, casting flickering light over the leather armchairs and polished, ornately carved tables. The bird trainer frowned and took a few steps in to find the remote and turn the TV off, the carpet soft under his bare feet, before he finally spotted Will sitting cross-legged and half buried within a pile of cushions, the psychic’s hair blending in remarkably well with the navy-blue of the couch. Will looked as tired as Falkner felt; he wasn’t even wearing his mask, the scars on the left side of his face looking pearly in the intermittent light from the television.

    That doesn’t bode well, Falkner thought grimly as he changed his course, shifting aside some cushions and plopping himself down on the couch next to the younger man.

    “Why aren’t you in bed?” the bird trainer asked quietly, sinking gratefully back into the pillows—he still ached where he’d taken a glancing blow from an arbok’s Poison Sting. Thank God for body armour.

    “Why aren’t you?” Will returned almost rhetorically, his gaze still fixed upon the television and voice strangely morbid.

    “Yeah, well …” Falkner trailed off with a wry half-smile, quickly vanished. It had been a difficult night and morning. He wasn’t entirely sure how or why, yet; on the outside it seemed like it had been the most successful bust in a year. The whole lab and everyone involved had gone down, and that included the suppliers, if not the depot.

    It had included Jace Patterson, wanted for murder, extortion, and God only knew what else. He’d been on the Elites’ watch for/wanted list for months.

    And yet …

    Falkner looked around the empty room again, gaze drifting past the moving images on the TV which held Will spellbound. It seemed ironic that they were about the only two who got a chance to sleep and couldn’t. Bruno was probably still in Tamarack City, helping out with the prisoners’ transport to the Cianwood Detention Facility. Surge had received a bad raticate bite, which was luckier than one of his men, who had broken a few ribs and received several burns after being sideswiped by some pokémon’s Explosion. Since he’d been pulled off duty by the bite Surge insisted on staying in Tamarack until Sergeant Murdoch was released from the hospital, which probably wouldn’t be for a while.

    And Lance …

    Falkner frowned. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen Lance since the raid itself. He hadn’t stayed in Tamarack to help secure the prisoners until Chuck and his people came to transport them, which in itself was uncharacteristic; but neither could Falkner recall seeing him helping a harassed-looking Karen handle the press, and while the Dragon Master harboured a strong distaste for reporters he preferred to at least be present for such high-profile releases.

    And that, the brunet gym leader suddenly realised with a pang, was why he kept on feeling that something was amiss. Lance.

    He hadn’t had a chance to think about it at the time, but during the raid Lance had been … unsettled.

    Falkner pondered that word for a moment, then mentally slapped himself upside the head. ‘Unsettled’ is an understatement, Arrington, he berated himself. Try upset, agitated, discomforted, distressed …

    Detached.


    He had to stop on that one. When was Lance ever detached? Composed, sure, he was composed all the time—it came with the territory—but if there was one distinguishing characteristic about Lance (besides his hair) it was that Lance had energy, he had focus, he had presence. Even when he was consciously keeping himself from letting it out, as he frequently did when undercover, you could always see it just by looking in his eyes.

    Falkner had only spoken to Lance face-to-face once after the raid, and something had gnawed at him, something that screamed ‘wrong!’ during the whole conversation.

    It was his eyes, the bird trainer realized with another, sharper pang, his stomach twisting. His eyes had been …

    Like staring at a window while there was a storm going on outside. You knew there was motion there, but while you stared at the window all you could see was your own reflection. A barrier. Nothingness.

    Except when I mentioned Jace Patterson, Falkner recalled with still more clarity. He had been the one to catch the sub-admin, attempting to escape with some of his subordinates in a Landrover. He knew that Lance would have wanted to hear that personally, to know that such a threat was off the streets.

    And for a moment it seemed like the glass was breaking. A chill ran down his spine at the memory, an echo of the one he’d felt at the time, the one he’d attributed to the cold night air and the breeze. Whatever was behind it … is something I don’t think I want to see. Ever.

    Then the moment had passed … Lance had apparently shored up his walls without Falkner ever noticing.

    Not consciously, at least.

    “Have you seen Lance since the raid ended?” Falkner asked Will, breaking the silence abruptly, the bird trainer’s unease settled between them like thick cotton.

    The dark-haired psychic didn’t bat an eyelash, but his gaze darkened and one hand came up to his face to trace the scars which crossed his eye. “Only in passing,” he said quietly, but then lapsed into silence.

    “And?” Falkner prompted after a moment, feeling a little more unsettled than before. Will could be frustrating to talk to, especially when he felt he was gossiping, but he didn’t usually finger his scars unless something was bothering him. He doesn’t usually let them show unless something’s bothering him.

    “He was projecting,” Will answered slowly, as if half in thought, although his gaze never shifted once from the flickering television screen. “A lot.” He moved for the first time, turning his head slightly to look at Falkner out of the corner of his eye. “Lance usually has more control than to project like that. It was almost painful to be near him.”

    Falkner stomach twisted tighter, his unfounded fears confirmed, his mind racing to put the pieces together. He was trying to shut everything out, but he was projecting strongly enough that Will couldn’t block it. “Why …?”

    Will shook his head, his thick hair ruffling, getting in his eyes. “I don’t know. But I did have a premonition of something horrible sometime last night, while we were waiting.”

    “You didn’t—” Falkner began, but cut himself off with a shake of his head and a mumbled ‘idiot, of course he didn’t’. If Will had Seen anything specific he would’ve said so. Unless it was something he doesn’t feel he has the right to tell, a doubtful voice said inside him, but with a sidelong glance at the Elite member Falkner dismissed it. Psychics were notoriously strict about keeping oaths and secrets, but Will would have done something, even if it was just to go to Lance himself, and right now he seemed as much in the dark as Falkner was.

    Ignorant of, or more likely ignoring, Falkner’s inner dialogue, the slighter young man shrugged slightly, his too-big nightshirt slipping down one shoulder. “When the signal came I thought maybe I’d been wrong.”

    At that the gym leader could only stare at him with mixed incredulity and apprehension. “When have you ever been wrong?”

    Another shrug, then nothing. This time both the Elites let the silence linger, turning back to their unwatched and unabsorbed program, the light flickering over their faces, one grim with thought and the other bleak with the knowledge of some unknown horror.

    “—although the Dragon Master Lance was unavailable for comment, the significance of the bust today indicates his involvement. This makes the Dragon Master directly or indirectly responsible for almost twenty-one percent of the arrests made in the past year—”

    He didn’t comment at all? Not even in Tamarack? Falkner brushed his hair back with a frown, ignoring the wisps that fell beneath his hand and back into his eyes. That is …

    “Unusual,” Will murmured, and when Falkner looked over to him he found the psychic sitting ramrod-straight in his seat, one hand still tracing the scars on his cheek and his eyes glittering strangely with the light of the television. “Very, very unusual.”

    Chilled, Falkner made a decision. “I’m going to call Clair.”



    It was quiet. That was good. Quiet meant that he didn’t need to focus on anything. He didn’t want to focus on anything. Nothingness, right now, was … what he wanted. What he needed.

    “… arrested almost three dozen men and women affiliated with Team Rocket, including the seizing of sensitive research material. Frederick Johansson, mayor of Tamarack City, has cited the raid as the most successful bust this year …”

    He gazed down at the thick black overshirt in his hands, rubbing a thumb over the seam marking the edge of the glaring red ‘R’. What was I doing?

    I was … putting this away, wasn’t I?


    He couldn’t remember.

    “—contribute to the safety and security of our citizens, thanks to the efforts of Tohjo’s Elite—”

    A chime went off. One o’clock. Eight hours since the raid. How many since he’d come home?

    … Two. And a half. I think.

    Did it matter? He couldn’t think why it did.

    … except perhaps that he still hadn’t put the uniform away … but what was the rush …?

    He rubbed the red fabric again, thoughtfully, consideringly. It was easier to look at the red than his room.

    Why is that?

    “Among those arrested today includes Jace Patterson, a known Rocket operative for more than three years. He has been linked to at least six murders around Tohjo, including the assassination of Kanto’s former Executive Minister of Environmental Health, Don Whitley …”


    The jacket hit the carpeted floor.

    Lance stared it numbly for a moment, trying to decide why he’d thrown it down in the first place. He lifted his head, his eyes trailing over the boots lying abandoned on the floorboards by the closed doors, the shirt he’d worn beneath the coat rumpled on the carpet, his belt and gloves and vacant pokéball holster beside it.

    Where are my dragons?

    He didn’t remember coming in, but he must have met one of the handlers on his way up and given them to him or her to heal and feed. Yes, that’s right … they’ll take care of them.

    He considered the clothes strewn over the floor, knowing that he should pick them up to save the cleaning staff some work, but it seemed like far too much effort. Instead his gaze drifted over the carved stone walls of his suite, the colourful tapestries, the plush chairs and antique timber of the tables …

    The huge window he skipped, the sky looking disturbingly blue through the glass, although he knew if he went to look out he’d be able to see the whole eastern side of the gym’s grounds, and wasn’t that thought almost as bad?

    I think … I might prefer it …

    It was high, but he had no problem with heights … and it was far, far away from everyone else, which was what he wanted …

    Isn’t it?

    The closed door to his study beckoned from across the carpeted floor to his right, but he just stared at it for several long moments. His computers were in there. His television. His link to the Plateau and the world outside his rooms.

    He hadn’t been in there yet. He hadn’t needed to. There had been some initiates watching the news in their common room as he passed, and he had heard all he needed to hear.

    “—unavailable for comment, but Karen Delaney, noted member of the Elite Trainers of the Indigo Plateau, has confirmed the Dragon Master’s direct involvement in this case—”

    Abruptly he wished he hadn’t lost the jacket, because it was so much easier to look at that than at this …

    Why is that?

    … because that, at least, was truth …

    So is this. Isn’t it?

    He knew he could have just picked it up again but that seemed like too much trouble. Instead he turned around mechanically, intending to go into his bedroom—he didn’t feel like sleeping, but he thought he should probably go to bed anyway, that’s what people who’d been up for a night and a day and a half usually did, right?—but then remembered that he’d been in a fight not all that long ago, so he should probably shower first. Don’t want to make Clara lecture me for getting blood on the sheets again.

    That brought up another thought: was he injured? He didn’t think so, but then, it was hard to tell. Everything was so—

    “—Rockets were killed during the course of the raid, while seven more were wounded. Members of the League suffered only minor injuries—”

    —disconnected.

    He reached the en suite bathroom adjoining his bedroom, unconsciously taking in the marble surroundings: most of it white, some of it grey, with deep steps leading down into the spa-sized tub, rippled glass bordering the broad shower area, heavy opaque curtains obscuring where the staff entrance was to the left. It was all so rich, so opulent—

    Why is that …?

    —so fitting to someone of his status and wealth…

    Movement caught his eye and he stopped, stared.

    His reflection stared back at him from the mirror adorning the entirety of the opposite wall.

    And yet it wasn’t his at all.

    Who … is that …?

    That
    man’s hair was windswept and tangled, shaggy with dust, greyed by ash and mortar. His face was caked with grime and dirt and oil, his black-rimmed eyes hollow, his shoulder and arm coloured an awful red by the heat of flames—I don’t remember that happening—the blood- and sweat-stained undershirt leaving a stark pale outline over his torso.

    Where was the spiky hair, gelled back into some semblance of order, where was the confident bearing, the sharp eyes, the handsome young man who appeared so often in magazines and papers—

    “Oh, in case you were wondering: that ridiculous ‘Star Watchers’ publication voted you the most exciting Elite member of the year. Again. I believe the words ‘dashing’, ‘heroic’ and ‘gorgeous’ were used. Run and read by women, obviously.”

    “I wasn’t wondering, Karen.”


    —where was the Dragon Master, pride of the Clan, the Elite Trainer, the so-called hero—

    He’s just an illusion.

    —replaced by this usurper, this soldier, this spy, this killer—

    Child-killer.

    The reflection shattered.

    There was a moment of complete stillness in which he hardly felt the mirror’s shards digging into his knuckles, the tremble of his body, his breathing loud and ragged despite the fact that his throat was so tight he could hardly breathe to begin with—

    Child. Killer.

    Something roared in his ears, something hot and unstoppable, there was something pushing at the block in his throat, something over his eyes, he couldn’t see through the red—

    —redredredredredredred—

    —someone was screaming, he could hear them through the thundering in his head, he was hitting something, and pain, there was pain, he was burning—

    Sound, shouting; something wrenched him away from the hazy image of a shattered mirror, someone pulled him close, the cold unyielding wall replaced by warm skin.

    Abruptly the red haze snapped. He was in someone’s arms, his flushed, hot face pressed against their shoulder, his throat raw, his head still pounding with his heartbeat and the throb in his bloodied knuckles cutting away the last of his rage.

    The only thing left was the fist clenched so tightly around his chest that he could hardly breathe.

    He tried to take in some air and failed, shuddering with a sob, and then another, and another, until he quaked with gasps and tears, his knees buckling under their force. Whoever had him took his weight, lowering him gently to the debris-strewn floor, but he couldn’t pull back to see who it was or speak to them or do anything except cling to them desperately and cry.

    Stomach twisting with apprehension, Clair could only hold her shaking cousin to her more tightly, helplessly stroking his hair as they sat, collapsed, in a sea of red-stained glass.

    ~ finis


    A/N: A yukata is a piece of Japanese clothing, similar in cut and style to a kimono but duller and used more informally, like after a bath or for sleepware.

    That isn’t Ash and company, but the boy/boy/girl recipe's pretty common. In stories and two of the canons the protagonists always deal with TR on their own, even though they're only teens. TR is a feared and powerful crime syndicate, it’s the adults who should be taking care of them. So I wanted to make a point by making the kids' appearances vague but similar.

    Will having a scarred face isn’t canon, but there's been speculation on why he wears his mask and that’s one of the theories that's come up. I’m of that camp, obviously. :P
    Last edited by purple_drake; 28th December 2009 at 3:37 AM.

  2. #2
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    That was really good. I liked that. I can't wait for the next two! One thing is that this was long but I still liked it and I cannot wait for the rest!
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    *Hugs Lance* Poor thing. ;.;


    ... I shall confess now, I am probably one of your biggest closet readers. xP I've read almost all your works, especially where Lance is concerned, because I too am a fangirl. (And those are few and far between on the internet!)

    I'm jealous that you can keep him in character though... I remember I use to write fics about him, but I always ran into the same snag you have him in here. Save kids, or save the operation? And I was never 100% sure which one the cannon Lance would choose. 'Cause I look at the anime, and I say "he'd go for the kids", but then I see the manga and shake my head, "No, no, he'd totally go for the bigger picture,". ._.;

    So I ended up scrapping the whole thing, and never writing about him again. :P I want to, but I'm so afraid of screwing over his character. And God-forbid I ruin my favorite character's personality. xD

    There needs to be more fanfics about him though. 'Cuz it's hard to find good fiction nowdays, especially stuff that's not.. yaoi. >.>

    ... eh, maybe I should dust off the pen and try to re-write something...

    Anyway, I digress. If Serebii had a "fav thread" feature I'd be using it right now. :P

    A well-deserved first-place fic. *nods*

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    (Hope lag doesn't come XD)

    Well, wanna say congrats on winning first place. You deserved it! ^^

    I say you protrayed Lance's situation between saving the kids or saving everyone else. I was also quite speechless when those kids were killed. Also, love the aftermath of how Lance seemed to be confused and all. Great protryal of that. ^^ Last thing, like how you have the other characters notice his sudden demanor change, give another character's POV of this operation sting and such.

    There are a couple things I want to mention though.

    Like Omega, I too got annoyed at the pacing of the beginning. I know that not all stories have to be with action and such, but sometimes things can get a bit boring if not much progress is made. Also, this may just be me, but I kind of wished you explained why the helicopter was needed a bit sooner. I know why Lance came to the base (the reports of chemicals and such in the water), but I'm left wondered why a helicopter is needed and it wasn't answered until much later.

    Another thing is the Elite and Gym Leaders. Okay, I admit I thought it's cool you made them work like the CIA (I love those kind of things XD) and the characters featured in it you did well with them. However, I was just a bit confused whose doing who, so many of them doing this and that. Then again, some big operations do need a lot of people to work together and such. That's probably just me, though. ^^;

    Again, great job on this story and once again congrats! ^^


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    Legend of Lucario: Haha, yeah, my stuff tends to be long, even things supposed to be one-shots. XD

    I'm glad you liked it, although I wouldn't mind knowing which parts you liked and why you liked them. Thanks for the review, though! ^^


    . IC Ghost .: *bares teeth* Mine!

    XD Nah. In fact... *glomps* Fwee, you made my day! ^^ Welcome outta the closet... not that I can talk. *cough* Although lol, most of the fics I have planned have Lance in them somehow... my chaptered fic doesn't yet, but it will. Even the ones that don't focus on him, he sneaks in there... glory hog. :P

    It's good to find other fans--there must be more than I thought, although I think many of them are yaoi fans. I don't have anything against homosexuality, and if the pairing/person's orientation is clearly canon then I really don't give a toss and will write about it freely, but I do think yaoi in fanfiction is way overrated. It's like people are overcompensating or something... anyway. XD I shouldn't get into it, or I'll start ranting. But it's good to see someone who likes the character without the pairings (or, well, the mainstream pairings)!

    As for keeping him in character, woah XD that's a loaded statement! The problem is that his character is probably the one that changes most over all the canons. I'll admit, I used to just blend them together, but a conscientious reviewer (on ff.net, no less!) pointed out some stuff which caused me to realise I couldn't do that anymore in good conscience.

    The way I solved that was to distinguish between anime-Lance and manga-Lance and even game-Lance; doing so means I can keep his character on a more even tack. Of course, that means limiting myself to the world that the version of his character I'm writing about belongs to, but it's actually really interesting because it's limiting me to a specific set of constraints and had me thinking about his character in totally new ways.

    That's the reason I specified this story is based on the game; one, it's the most flexible of the canons 'cos so much of it is from the perspective of the hero/ine and leaves more open to speculation if you read beneath that perspective; and two, because I like that version of his character the most. And yes, the game version of him does have characterisation. :P Don't listen if someone tells you game characters don't. You have to look for it, but it's there.

    That's partly where the conflict in this story comes from. You're right, the anime-Lance would go for the kids and the manga-Lance is far too ruthless to care about 'em. However, in the GSC games he's at the Lake of Rage for no reason other than to help, but then you see him order a Hyperbeam on a Rocket--on a Rocket, not a Rocket's pokemon--so he's got some streak of ruthlessness in him, which pretty much makes him a good balance between the other two.

    And the one in the game has a sense of humour. :3 Eg: after having just kicked a Rocket's arse and made him give up the specs of the base, Lance says to the hero/ine: 'This is what we have to do to stop them. This Rocket here very nicely told me so.' Sarcasm much? <3. Or, this isn't exactly a joke, but I found it funny: after you battle him and win and reporters come in to interview you, he goes 'It's getting too noisy in here' right to their faces and then leads you away. Muahaha. >D Lance no like reporters.

    *cough* Uhm. ^.^;; Sorry, I talk too much, especially when it comes to my favourite characters. But yes, I encourage you to write about him. Just, if you're having trouble, that's my advice: write about the anime version, or the manga version, or the game version; don't try to combine them, or you'll end up with clashes.

    Or, if this helps, a fellow canon advocate pointed out that all three Lances have three things in common: his dedication to pokemon; his pride in his own power; his proactive nature. I think if you've got them, you've a basic Lance. Still, there are characteristics of one version that's going to clash with another, so... yeah. :P He pretty much demands you pay careful attention to him (again I say, glory hog!).

    Okay, now I'm done. Really. I swear. XD *glomps again* Thanks a ton, it's good to know you're reading!


    Bay: Thanks! ^^ The anime in particular annoys me a bit how there's that 'there's no such thing as death' mentality... I partly wanted to challenge that, so there's the situation. And I just like the Elites/gym leaders, so more incentive. :3

    Well, I asked Omega and they said the mundaneness was okay, but I'll ask you the same question: is it bad enough that it needs tightening up? It did actually occur to me while I was writing, but I couldn't change it without interrupting the flow; as it is, I tried to keep the same emphasis on everything (his thoughts, his route, his tasks, etc), and trying to actively skip over pieces struck me as... well, unbalanced. Did that make sense?

    Also, I had that problem with the helicopter while I was writing. >.< I wanted to explain its purpose much earlier, only every place I tried just didn't fit or ruined the flow or whatever. Eventually I just gave up and left it where it was and didn't think about it again until you just mentioned it. XD Perhaps I should take another look.

    Muahaha, secret agent men (women) are cool. :3 Uhm, were there any characters or places in particular you were confused? I didn't find it confusing, but that could be 'cos I've got their hierarchy all worked out in my head. XD Even so, yes, it's a fairly decently sized operation (whatever Lance said to the contrary XD ), plus all the people involved in the aftermath, so it might just have been the general chaos that got you, especially since I didn't go into a lot of detail (if I sketched out all of that we would be here for days XD ).

    Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the feedback! ^^

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    Yeah, I understand it's at a slow pace so that we'll be able to at least know why Lance's at the base and what's going to happen, which I actually like because it shows Lance and his group had been planning this for quite some time. I guess part of the reason why I thought it was slow is the helicopter thing and also part of me wished the action came a tiny bit sooner. Overall though, the pacing isn't that bad. If you think you're fine with the pacing, then you don't need to change the beginning. ^^;

    And as for me confusing with the list of Elites and Gym leaders, you don't need to change that. Yeah, it's the general chaos that confused me and yep if you list the whole thing we'll be here for days. :P


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    -_- I just won't learn to save my reviews, will I? Unfortunately my review was eaten by an error, so let's try this again shall we?

    First of all, let me say this. Fantastic job, definitely worthy of winning. I enjoyed every minute of this, as it had such an overall feeling of quality I was left grinning at how good it was. The attention to detail, the nicely matched description to pacing, the excellent emotions and the great plot all left me entertained.

    Unlike everyone else, I enjoyed the beginning and don't think it took away from the story at all. True, some of the backstory could have been dropped, but that would be unnecessary in my opinion.

    Just about the only thing (besides one typo I found before and can't find now) that I didn't like all that much was the ending, or rather how the battle was skipped. Don't get me wrong, I can understand why you did it. But for a bit there, I didn't even realize that the battle had been skipped, and I had to go back to see if I had missed something. However, a relatively small thing compared to the rest of it.

    I'm sorry for the short review, but I'm too lazy to retype up the whole thing again. =P Fantastic job here, and congratulations on the well earned win. I surely enjoyed it.

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    I don't really have a paticular part about the story. I liked the whole thing. The plot is good. And I always liked Lance from his R/B/Y/G/S/C/FR/LG debuts. And he is disguised as a Team Rocket member right (that is what I thought from what's at the beginning of the story.)
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    Bay: Hahhah, well, maybe not having planned it for quite some time so much as prepared for the opportunity should it ever arise. :P

    Well, now that two people have brought it up I am a little worried about the pacing, so I'll probably think of it every time I reread it now. XD But that's not a bad thing, because if I ever do find a way to make it better, at least I'll be aware of the possibility, you know?

    Thanks for your opinion, though! ^^


    duncan: Ahh, the mysterious vanishing review. >.< I sympathise; losing work is always a boitch.

    Well, in the first draft of the story there was a ton of irrelevant backstory. :P It took me a while to get it down to what I did... if there's anything in particular you thought could be cut, don't hesitate to bring it up!

    Yes, the raid. ;_; I did want to write that; but it sounds like the problem you had with it wasn't so much that it was cut, but more that the scene change wasn't specific enough? I had planned to add in asterisks there, to indicate a bigger scene change than the one before it, but obviously I forgot. >.<

    If that doesn't help or you think some of the actual text could be clearer, don't hesitate to call me on it. :P That said, thanks to Omega Deathstrike I'm already planning a spin-off, so to speak (probably more like a deleted scene) of the raid, which will probably lead up to some more deleted scenes of the other fics in the trilogy (because I have them planned out and already I know there are some scenes which I'd love to write but won't fit into the stories themselves), so if you were disappointed in not seeing the raid itself, keep an eye out for that one. :P

    Thanks for the review, even if it's not as long as it might have been! ^^ I'm glad you enjoyed it!


    Legend of Lucario: Ah, I get stories like that sometimes, where you just... like it all. :P I just don't know what to say... usually I end up saying nothing. XD Yes, he was disguised as a TR member. And yay, another Lance fan! ^^ Go Teh Lance!

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    Very interesting, and it made me feel for Lance, which is almost impossible to do (especially since seeing him on the show).
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    First story on my mass review-strike (besides another one months ago).

    Anyways, the story was quite nice; I liked it, and can see why you did well on the contest.

    My favourite parts had to be the actual part when the kids were killed, and the ending too. Quite moving, and very nicely delivered.

    On the killing scene, it was just mastered and controlled so well - perfect pacing and emotion, and Lance's reactions really went well there, drawing me in. Having the death 'off-screen' also went well, followed by you showing them being dead - you went the right way there I feel. And I guess that is what happens to kids who plan to become teh champions and take on the criminal syndicates with their pokeymans and aren't successful. :P

    And the last scene too I quite like - nice reactions from a rather disturbed Lance - being a Champion must be harder then it seems. Summed up the tragedy of Team Rocket's doings and all quite well for me, and you tugged at the right strings there. (or, rather, a )

    There's very little wrong with it as well, in my eye, although I would have like the whole battle scene and all - but that wasn't the focus of the fic, after all. All I can say is that I'll also be keeping an eye out for the 'spinoiff' fic, or whatever you may want to call it.

    The beginning was also IMO a tad slow and drawn out - just a bit, but noticeable for my part. On the other hand it was interesting to see you set things up and all in such a way, so I'm not sure how one would go about adjusting it a tad, honestly. But that's pretty minor.

    One other thing, a matter of presentation:
    That doesn’t bode well, Falkner thought grimly as he changed his course, shifting aside some cushions and plopping himself down on the couch next to the younger man. “Why aren’t you in bed?” the bird trainer asked quietly, sinking gratefully back into the pillows—he still ached where he’d taken a glancing blow from an arbok’s Poison Sting. Thank God for body armour.
    Maybe separate the dialogue from the first sentence, as it's what you did other times - transferring fics to serebii can be a pain though, I know it firsthand...

    I really liked this though - overall very well-written - a nice level of description and although the beginning was a tad slow for my liking, the rest was great, and you really delivered the 'climax' and the ending well.
    Last edited by bobandbill; 2nd August 2008 at 3:02 AM.

    A parody of the Pokemon Colosseum game, full of pastries and Miror B.
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  12. #12
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    My, my, you are evil to your fangirled character, aren't you? xD

    I love the emotions in this thing so much. You totally deserve your first place with this (well, most likely, as I haven't had a chance to read Psychic's entry yet and for all I know I might like it more, but I doubt anything could surpass this. Really).

    As other people have been saying, the first scene does drag on a bit. I don't think I minded quite that much, because during the dragging-on bit you did a great job of portraying Lance's agitation about the whole thing and making him out to be not a fearless, unflappable superhero, but a human being. In general, I tend not to be too fazed by long stretches of not much happening in a story as long as there's some enjoyable emotions going on, and you certainly had them. I also think it was a good move to put in near the start that he can never manage to get his eyes to lie, because from then on I could picture that steel in his eyes, hidden under the Rocket cap so that no-one else noticed. This particularly worked for the killing scene -

    - and what a scene that was. Such a cruel choice to give Lance there - how can you decide between the lives of three children who are in front of you and about to die right now or an undetermined number of faceless people and Pokémon who might die sometime in the vague future in a town miles and miles away? I have to say, for a moment I wondered if Lance was about to save the kids and blow his cover, the ensuing tragedy being that the people in that town continued to die and it was his fault for being too much of a hero. But I think this one works better for the sheer amount of emotion, rage and guilt you could get out of it, which I am no doubt going to keep telling you you did brilliantly. The words racing through Lance's head, the imagery used to describe what his mind was going through, the sheer ruthlessness of Patterson killing those kids...

    You also get kudos for making me seriously believe he'd offed Ash, Misty and Brock until I read the author's notes at the end. xP

    After the pure emotion-filled awesomeness of that scene, it was a bit of a bump back down to relative normality going into the next one. I did like the way you got across the impatience of everyone in the room - Will was probably the best character to use for this what with his empathy and all - but I think this is the scene that probably dragged on the most needlessly, and you could perhaps have shortened it a bit at the start before anything like the premonition started happening. 'Cause after having read something as amazing as that killing scene, my mind kept wandering back to it and how good it had been rather than concentrating on reading something else which didn't promise to show any more of Lance's reaction - the thing I was most eager to have more of - any time soon.

    Falkner's scene was even more of a return to ordinariness than the last one given that there were no especially interesting emotions from any of the characters present, which was what had still had me gripped by the fairly mundane parts earlier. I too was a little confused for a short time to start with about whether the raid had taken place or not - perhaps it would be a good idea to extend the amount of the news report we hear at the beginning to include something along the lines of "Following the raid on a Team Rocket base..."?

    But what I did like in that scene was that we got to hear more about what Lance had been like, and from an observer rather than from his own perspective, because that often gives you an outside view on things that you wouldn't be able to get from inside his head. In particular, I think I died when I read this paragraph due to the sheer awesomeness of it:
    Like staring at a window while there was a storm going on outside. You knew there was motion there, but while you stared at the window all you could see was your own reflection. A barrier. Nothingness.
    Simply amazing way of putting it. I swear the only way I could possibly love this any more than I do would be if I fangirled over Lance as well. Unfortunately, I don't. ^^;

    To continue the summing up of scenes I've been doing, the last one was just so Ican'tthinkoftheword. *nods* You did a brilliant job of getting inside Lance's head and showing us the dullness and confusion in his thoughts, which wasn't perhaps what I was expecting him to feel, but unexpected emotions are often best because of their impact. I also remember registering how I liked the way the mirror suddenly shattered without any mention that Lance had done it himself; it really worked with the whole feeling of breaking that the scene had. Seeing him go from numbness to a full-on breakdown is even more effective when you compare it to how strong a personality you'd made him come across as earlier in this, as well.

    So in summary, love love loved the emotion, and how much you could get inside Lance's head, and just yes. It's clear from the amount of effort you put into his portrayal here that you really, really like him as a character; in fact, you're almost making me wish I fangirled over him so that I could enjoy this even more. x3
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  13. #13
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    Aha, now that I have made some edits, I can reply to reviews. ^^

    Since the pacing of the start is what everyone is pointing out: thanks, I really appreciate everyone's opinions! ^^ I've reread it through again myself, and I can see how it's slow. The problem is that it gives a lot of background; I was very conscious of forgetting things relevant to the raid and leaving readers thinking, 'hang on, how did that work?' So I tried to explain how they were doing things as concisely as I could... only because the operation is fairly complicated, to say nothing of unexpected, there was quite a bit of background to fill out.

    I guess what I'm saying is, I have no idea what I'd cut. XD If anyone has any specific advice on what information is unnecessary, that would be great. If not, well, the sequel is a direct follow-up; perhaps while I'm writing it I'll find places to tie up threads which were begun in this one, and be able to edit it appropriately then to cut out some unnecessary info.


    Blackjack Gabbiani: Thanks! ^^ If I can make a non-fan feel something, then I guess I did something right. And the show's Lance isn't *so* bad... well, I liked him in the Lake of Rage episodes, anyway. They screwed him around a bit in the Groudon/Kyogre ones. ;_;

    I'd like to see the Japanese versions of the eps to see how well they were done, but... that means I gotta find the Japanese versions. I wouldn't even know where to start looking.


    bobandbill: Hee, I'm glad you enjoyed it. ^^ I actually didn't originally plan to have the deaths 'off-screen', at least not consciously, but during the writing I was very aware of using cliche descriptions and really worried about maintaining the effect. Since the focus was supposed to be on Lance's reactions, it made it easier to cut describing the kids, and thus avoid the risk of making things... well. XD Yeah, that scene was tough.

    And I guess that is what happens to kids who plan to become teh champions and take on the criminal syndicates with their pokeymans and aren't successful. :P
    Haha, indeed. :3 It can't all be flowers and fluff, and angst is fun~

    And the last scene too I quite like - nice reactions from a rather disturbed Lance - being a Champion must be harder then it seems.
    Well, he's the top of the heap, so everyone's going to be looking to him for answers and instructions. There's quite a bit of stuff about the glory of being the best and all that, but what about the responsibility? ^.^;

    All I can say is that I'll also be keeping an eye out for the 'spinoiff' fic, or whatever you may want to call it.
    Well, it'll probably be more like a series of missing scenes. XD But that's neither here not there. I just hope I can write it to a good standard, after how well people have taken this story. ^.^;

    The beginning was also IMO a tad slow and drawn out - just a bit, but noticeable for my part. On the other hand it was interesting to see you set things up and all in such a way, so I'm not sure how one would go about adjusting it a tad, honestly. But that's pretty minor.
    XD Yeah, that seems to be what's pulling people up the most, I just wish there was some way I could fix it... but I guess some set up is necessary in any story, so maybe all I can do is just minimise the mundanity as much as possible.

    Maybe separate the dialogue from the first sentence, as it's what you did other times - transferring fics to serebii can be a pain though, I know it firsthand...
    Ah, thanks. Sometimes when a character thinks or says something and then thinks or says something else after a line of description I tend to leave it all in the same paragraph, but it's probably stylistically correct to start a new paragraph when he starts speaking. XD

    Thanks for reviewing, and good luck with your other reviews. ^^


    elyvorg:

    My, my, you are evil to your fangirled character, aren't you? xD
    What, you mean there are people who aren't? >D

    As other people have been saying, the first scene does drag on a bit. I don't think I minded quite that much, because during the dragging-on bit you did a great job of portraying Lance's agitation about the whole thing and making him out to be not a fearless, unflappable superhero, but a human being. In general, I tend not to be too fazed by long stretches of not much happening in a story as long as there's some enjoyable emotions going on, and you certainly had them.
    *nodnod* I don't mind stretches of nothing happening if there's character development of some kind, and I did try to keep the background information interspersed with Lance's own reflections... but even so, while I was writing it even I was worried about the slowness of that bit. XD

    Thanks, though! ^^ I wasn't really thinking much about trying to portray him as human at that point, more like... empathising with the fact he was taking so long to get to the hangar bay? XD Since it was all unexpected, that made it easier to put him on the edge (and thus more emotive), because he's coming from this op almost literally straight from his bed.

    ...aw, gosh darnit, now I have the urge to write a little missing scene about him getting the call! XD

    You also get kudos for making me seriously believe he'd offed Ash, Misty and Brock until I read the author's notes at the end. xP
    Muahahahahaha. >D I wasn't actually sure how convincing it was to make people believe that it was those three, but since I did put a bit of effort into it I thought it would be safer to put a disclaimer at the end. XD

    After the pure emotion-filled awesomeness of that scene, it was a bit of a bump back down to relative normality going into the next one. I did like the way you got across the impatience of everyone in the room - Will was probably the best character to use for this what with his empathy and all - but I think this is the scene that probably dragged on the most needlessly, and you could perhaps have shortened it a bit at the start before anything like the premonition started happening.
    I do see what you mean, and the beginning of that scene gave me trouble for the same reasons as the beginning of the story as whole--because it just wasn't as exciting as other parts, but there was background information I thought was necessary. Luckily, the stuff about the computer technicians and whatnot will probably be the part that'll be easiest to transfer over to the sequel--I'd just prefer to write the sequel so I know exactly how it's happening before I edit stuff out. XD That way I know exactly how much information will be necessary to leave in.

    ...and is it weird of me to do it that way? Oo

    That said, there can't all be action. I think the hardest part of raids like that is probably the waiting beforehand, especially knowing that one of your own is in there with tenuous backup. So I... was trying to portray the tension of having to wait even knowing something might have happened? XD Ah well. I will definitely take another look once I know how much is possible to put into the next one.

    Falkner's scene was even more of a return to ordinariness than the last one given that there were no especially interesting emotions from any of the characters present, which was what had still had me gripped by the fairly mundane parts earlier.
    When you put it like that, I can see how it would be a bit of a letdown. But... well, things have to return to ordinariness sometime, right? :P And things are happening that Lance isn't exactly in the state of mind to respond to, like how the raid ended, so that required either writing the end of the raid itself (which would have added a hefty number of pages to the count, as well as risking it seeming unfinished or the reader shortchanged by the fact that they got the end, but not the beginning, of the battle) or a scene from someone else's perspective explaining things.

    To be honest I did try returning to Lance straight off the bat, but it seemed... unfinished. It just felt like there needed something to lead up to the final scene. I tried writing it from Falkner's perspective, but actually at the raid's end when he tells Lance he's caught Patterson, but that wasn't working out either.

    In the end I decided to just go with a reflection of events and Lance's state of mind, with them having already happened; it was the only thing that actually came out okay. I hated the news reports, I really did, because at that stage I didn't have exact numbers and events worked out (which I still quite don't, really XD ) so they were a little vague, but they at least came in useful to get across some of the events, so...

    I too was a little confused for a short time to start with about whether the raid had taken place or not - perhaps it would be a good idea to extend the amount of the news report we hear at the beginning to include something along the lines of "Following the raid on a Team Rocket base..."?
    Thanks for the suggestion, and since the motion was seconded and carried, I have now edited that bit to reflect a bit more... directness. I hope it's less confusing now. ^^ I hope you don't mind that I used some of those exact words... it just sounded like something a reporter would say. XD

    Simply amazing way of putting it. I swear the only way I could possibly love this any more than I do would be if I fangirled over Lance as well. Unfortunately, I don't. ^^;
    Aw, how could you not fangirl over Lance? *pokes* XD Considering how badly I treat him, he'd probably welcome a new fangirl.

    I was rather proud of that line, though, so I'm happy it was a standout. ^^ Thanks!

    showing us the dullness and confusion in his thoughts, which wasn't perhaps what I was expecting him to feel, but unexpected emotions are often best because of their impact.
    It was unexpected, really? XD It just seemed... I dunno, logical, I guess. I mean, he's spent the past few hours trying to pretend he doesn't feel emotion, just so he can finish the raid without going bonkers on everyone or murdering Patterson in cold blood, so think of it as a kind of... uhm, after effect, I guess. Aftershock? Iono. XD

    So in summary, love love loved the emotion, and how much you could get inside Lance's head, and just yes. It's clear from the amount of effort you put into his portrayal here that you really, really like him as a character; in fact, you're almost making me wish I fangirled over him so that I could enjoy this even more. x3
    Ahaha, well, to be honest I have to put more effort into him than I usually need to when writing my favourite characters. ^.^; I think it's because he's got three completely different personalities so I have to choose between them (or stop them from crossing over with one another in my mind), and then there's the fangirl living inside my head who wants to make him a superhero. XD So yus, I'm still learning about how he thinks. Thanks so much for the compliment, though, it's good to know I'm getting a handle on his character! ^^

    And come on, join the dark side. *beckons* >D There aren't enough Lance fangirls!

  14. #14
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    Well, as you already know, both because I’ve already said it as have the rest of your reviewers, this was really great, and I liked it quite a lot. Even though I’m sure you’ve never been in the base of a crime syndicate during a huge operation, it seemed really realistic, and I think you did a great job capturing the mood, like some kind of organized chaos. I personally didn’t think it really dragged on, but that could partly be due to my fascination with the execution of the operation, and watching Lance squirm/generally react to everything around him. I thought it was more doing its job, making you eager for the action, which is sort of what’s going on with Lance, and it’s pretty clear that hanger = action. Seemed to make sense, really. :P

    As mentioned, the complexity of the operation from the Elite’s side is also rather…*waves arms around looking for the word* hectic. It’s confusing, knowing how much there is being done and all of it just barely brushed over, but considering that the characters understand it perfectly and don’t need to explain it, there isn’t exactly anywhere to fit it in. It seems perfectly organized, at least, and yet there seems to be enough doubt that it’s not like everything is perfectly in control. I liked the tenseness of the waiting scene, especially with how the intensity of the mood was increased as Will was receiving thoughts, making him a good choice for a character here. And of course, the way Lance was just so detached…it felt strange, but really got you “into” that sort of headspace. I’d say the flow was great, but it wasn’t so much that it was good as it was right, you know? In other words, it was the right pace for the moment. ^^;

    Only one thing:
    He couldn’t make that decision. He couldn’t. They were kids. He had to do something—
    Imo, it would be good to have another sentence before “he had to do something” just to stress the fact that they’re a bunch of young, innocent, inexperienced children and are really in trouble. Drive the point home and really make the reader think “oh shi-.” *nodnod*


    And language thing I never noticed before:
    Lance hardly heard it or saw it—the pound of his heart in his ears had taken over everything, his vision a have of smouldering red as he trembled beneath the fury consuming him from within. It took his white flashes in front of his eyes before he realized he wasn’t breathing and managed to inhale shallowly, shakily, not daring to take more than that in case he drew attention to himself.
    Two quickie mistakes: “his vision a have of smouldering red” whose meaning I don’t quite understand, and imo, “It took his white flashes” should be “took the white flashes.” Lots of possessive pronouns (or whatever they’re called) already, and imo, “the” just sounds better here.


    But anyhow, that’s about it. I really want to see what happens next, now; Lance is…just…gah, must see more. Now I want to go read Mirrorscape again, and your other Lance fics. I’d review them if it didn’t feel like rule-breaking – I can rarely think of much constructive crit to give to you. XD Great piece which wasn’t completely angsty and whiney the whole way through, makes you think, has quite the home-hitting ending, and deserving of winning first place. I’m glad to have lost to you.

    Great job, congrats, and looking forward to more!

    ~Psychic

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  15. #15
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    I enjoyed this for the most part, but I did lose myself in a few spots. Nothing too major though.

    Don't really have anything substantial to say...more of an "I read this" review than anything.

    I remember when "The Authors' Cafe" was still "The Author's Cafe".
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