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    Default Anima Ex Machina (PG-15)

    Latest Chapter:
    31, posted 8/6

    Author's Notes:

    Hi there. Sort of new around these parts, so I'm really glad that you're taking the time to pop in. Before you read, a small warning:

    1. This fic is in the process of toning down violence and death, but you may still see some disturbing scenes. Chapters with particularly disturbing images will get warnings at the beginning, but generally keep in mind the fact that anyone can die and get hurt here. Sometimes in violent ways.

    2. Most of this fic is a nod to campy sci-fi media, so you may see tropes, lines, or concepts that sound suspiciously recognizable. If you do, high five. There will not be entire scenes of references, but you may see a character in a dress swearing by his pretty floral bonnet that he will end someone. Why? Because this author is a massive and easily amused geek.

    If either make you feel uncomfortable, please hit the back button, not the post reply button. Thanks, and for the rest of you, enjoy. Feel free to leave any sort of comment.

    Chapter List
        Spoiler:- Chapter list be LONG.:


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    Zero: I'll bring down the stars for you.

    Twilight broke into night over Hoenn in waves: blue swallowed by red, red swallowed by black. One by one, taillow retreated to the trees for sleep, giving way to zubat darting across the black sky in search of prey. Street lamps and fluorescent lights flickered on in the cities, and above them, white dots began to appear gradually in the night sky.

    One of those dots moved.

    The meteor in question sported the size and approximate mass of a small car. That, along with the fact that its path crossed neatly with Earth's, had kept astronomers' eyes on it for several months prior to its destined approach. For the past twenty-four hours, the city closest to the estimated point of impact, Fortree City, remained completely deserted save for some of the area's wild pokémon. The flying-types had been gone, of course, as were the linoone and the mightyena packs. As for the rest? The water-types kept to the lake, knowing they couldn't wander much further than that without risking territory wars with wailmer, and the grass-types and kecleon, neither of whom were particularly known for their mobility, didn't have much further to go than sticking to the surrounding forests and hope for the best.

    What was strange was the fact that most of the absol stayed behind. Absol had the capability of relocating. They knew they could move and feed off of whatever they found along the way. It was just that only a handful of them actually left the area. All of them looked towards the sky for months, as if knowing already that no matter where they went, it wouldn't matter.

    Standing atop a hill, within a circle of rocks countless years old, was one of these absol. He shifted on his paws as the cold but familiar feeling of dread sank into his bones. The minutes ticked away, but he could do nothing during that time except watch. He didn't bother to warn anyone, in part because he couldn't tell where the meteor was going to land and in part because of that feeling of inevitability that was plaguing his pack for all that time. It wasn't just the meteor, he felt. There was something else, but for the life of him, he couldn't pinpoint what.

    Above him, the meteor punched through a cloud and streaked closer in a brilliant ball of red and white. Looking up, the absol hesitated. He certainly didn't expect the meteor to arrive so soon. Jolting into action, he burst into a run down the face of the hill, his claws scraping against dirt and rock. To his side, the meteor fell rapidly, descending hundreds of feet in seconds towards the soft earth.

    He barely reached the edge of the lake some distance from the base of the hill when the meteorite landed. The ground beneath his paws shook violently as a cloud of red dust spewed towards the heavens and quickly engulfed the area. In the distance, a great crack and subsequent crash signaled the literal fall of Fortree City, shaken free from its perch in the trees of the forest. Unable to ground himself, the absol flew through the air and landed awkwardly on a paw. His mouth opened to release a loud cry, but it was drowned by the rumbling of aftershocks and the screams of dying pokémon farther north.

    The absol lay on the earth for what felt like hours as he watched the red cloud of dust above him fade. Eventually, he tried to move, but his body ached. One of his paws was definitely injured -- the back one that was already beginning to swell. He whimpered as he limped north, back towards the remains of his home.

    Not far away, a hole stood in his path. It was mostly concealed by the dust still in the air, but he could just make out the shadow of its edge. Gingerly, he limped on his twisted paw towards it. He whined, not only from the pain shooting up his leg but also from the familiar, cold feeling in his bones. The ground beneath his feet grew hotter until it was almost unbearable, but it wasn't the pain that made him hesitate a few yards away from the crater. It was fear. He stood, leaning more on his good paws as he stared directly at the red glow. At first, he thought it was simply from the intense heat emanating from the earth, but something was wrong about it. He could feel it.

    Abruptly, the glow shifted. Instantly, the absol realized that it wasn't coming from the nearly molten rocks around the crater but instead from something inside it. A loud crack -- like the sound of rock being smashed with a sledgehammer -- filled the air, followed by a chorus of scratches. The absol tried to scramble backwards, but his weight came down on his bad paw. As soon as it did, he collapsed on his knees with a high-pitched whine. He closed his eyes tightly until the pain faded, but when he opened them, he found that it was too late to escape.

    A massive, red wave had risen from inside of crater and lingered on its edge. Then, the mass rushed like a tsunami at the dark-type creature. With a whimper, the absol struggled to stand, but the small, red beads that flowed towards him were already washing against his legs. Small mouths tore into his flesh.

    Instantly, his eyes widened. He threw back his head, and his high-pitched howl filled the air.

    Then, shortly after the howl began, it ended abruptly. The pokémon surrounding Fortree City would have no other warning.

    Neither would the rest of Hoenn.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 27th August 2012 at 12:36 AM.

  2. #2
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    The R in the title drew me in, however, the content kept me reading.

    Normally this is the section where I'd make a detailed evaluation of perhaps what sections of the fic I didn't like, mistakes and the likes.

    I can't really say anything because there wasn't anything wrong.

    It was detailed, saturated in description to which I was able picture everything in my mind and wasn't boring, most importantly. I can't really think of anything else to say, it was basic to say the least in terms of plot, but you can't really expect it to at the very start.

    I'll keep reading as you keep updating to see how it continues you have me intrigued.
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    very nice... it's very detailed and captures you attention. could you please VM when you come up with a new chapter

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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    I can't really say anything because there wasn't anything wrong.
    Thanks for the compliment. I've worked hard on this fic, so I'm glad you're enjoying it so far. Beyond that, I've heard of you before from my friends list, so I'm actually incredibly flattered that it's caught your attention so far.

    Admittedly, yeah, it's going to be slow and pretty straightforward for awhile. I don't think it'll pick up until maybe the fifth or sixth chapter, but I'm trying to condense the beginning so the plot starts happening sooner.

    Quote Originally Posted by 11tjcoulombe View Post
    very nice... it's very detailed and captures you attention. could you please VM when you come up with a new chapter
    Thanks kindly, and not a problem.


    That being said, the first chapter. I usually don't update this frequently, but because the first nineteen chapters are actually revisions of stuff I've already gotten done, I think I can put a new chapter up once or twice a week. Depends on whether or not people tell me to "omg slow down."


    Anima Ex Machina: One
    It's a pleasure to meet you.


    Polaris Institute existed before Project Stardust, but back then, it mostly centered around technology, rather than the direct study of pokémon. However, when Hoenn succumbed to an infestation of mysterious, pokémon-eating predators, the national government stepped in to take over the most secure and high-tech research centers in its other regions, including Polaris. The best of the best in the Pokémon Symposium, the elite community of pokéologists across the country, were hand-picked by each center to lend their skills to the government in a time of desperation. Hence, Stardust: the project geared towards studying the creature that shut down an entire region.

    Ten months had passed since that day when each member of Polaris' team gathered to the circular citadel on Seafoam Island. Not long afterwards, an armored car rolled past the gates, and safely inside that car was a metal box.

    The box had since been removed, but the thing that was formerly within it now dwelled in the very heart of the institute, inside a circular building just beyond the rings of the living quarters. Even here, past two other rings with their own complicated systems of locks and gates, security remained absurdly tight. The corridors weaved within the building like a giant, white maze of linoleum and bitter-scented air. Doors were thick, metal beasts with only a small sign next to them to tell them apart. Even then, security cameras -- the most recent feature, actually -- hung above each door with one glass eye staring at the tops of heads with a scrutinizing gaze.

    Then, even more annoying was the lock. Key card, thumbprint, iris. Those were the keys to unlock every door in the inner chambers of Polaris Institute. It was of the utmost importance that the thing inside remained completely removed from the outside world – as opposed to keeping the people outside from getting inside, as most locks tend to do.

    Outside one of the doors, a key card slipped through the slot on the side of the lock, and a pale thumb pressed against the silver thumb pad. Lights blinked while the panel above the thumb pad slipped upward to reveal a camera. Hands pulled back green, curly hair as a face leaned forward. A red beam flashed from the lens and trailed down one dark eye before vanishing. After that, the man in front of the scanner straightened, his hands working their way into the pockets of his lab coat as he waited.

    A female, computerized voice finally broke the silence of the hallway. "Identity confirmed. Welcome, Professor McKenzie."

    The door slid open, and the figure stepped into a room full of machinery.

    To much of the Pokémon Symposium, it was strange to think of this young man as a professor, but that was what he was. Born into a family of gifted scientists, Professor William McKenzie burst onto the scene of pokéology only a few years before he came to Polaris, when he wrote a thesis that all but solved one of the greatest mysteries of ancient pokémon behavior to date. He was only a senior in his undergraduate career then.

    He was also twelve.

    Not long afterwards, he teamed up with a young programmer in Hoenn to develop a device that revolutionized pokémon training itself: the storage system. It, combined with no fewer than six other papers centered around pokémon psychology, guaranteed that the scientific community couldn't ignore him. He and his partner Lanette were inducted into the Symposium the same year the storage system went public. At the time, he was fourteen, effectively making him one of the youngest researchers to receive the honor.

    But Professor McKenzie hated titles, and he felt embarrassed when other people flaunted his track record for him. It was too formal for his tastes; it made him feel as if he was expected to act like he was on equal footing with the likes of Professor Rowan of Sinnoh when he knew without a doubt he still had much to learn about his own field.

    For this reason, he insisted on being known by a less formal name, a nickname he had acquired in college: Bill.

    He had hoped it would make people feel more comfortable around him, but of course, there were still quite a number of people who looked at him strangely. Some researchers felt his method of using costumes to emulate pokémon was a mockery of traditional practices. Others said he was too inexperienced, that his techniques kept him from learning how to work with real pokémon. The controversy nearly caused the Japanese government to skip over him in recruiting researchers for Project Stardust, but luckily for him, he had one powerful backer.

    "Good morning, Bill!"

    Bill lifted his eyes towards the end of the room, past the rows of humming machines. A window spread across the far side, creating a deep, white indentation in the wall, and by one end of it stood an old man with near-black eyes. Professor Oak's wrinkled face drew into a wide grin as he motioned for Bill to come forward. With a small nod, Bill took a few more steps into the laboratory, but before he could go any further, another voice rose from the side.

    "McKenzie!" A woman turned fully from the machinery at the side of the room to address him. "Do you realize what time it is?"

    At once, Bill cringed, taking a step back towards the door. He wasn't normally shy around his fellow scientists, but Professor Yvonne Nettle, one of those Symposium members who didn't exactly support him wholeheartedly, had that sort of effect on almost everyone. From behind a pair of oval-framed glasses, her hazel eyes flashed angrily at Bill. Her thin face contracted into a deep frown as she crossed her thin arms. In many ways, her entire being reminded Bill of fragments of glass: the smaller and thinner they were, the more someone had to worry about crossing them.

    "Yes, Professor," he finally replied. "Half past ten in the morning."

    The long fingers of her right hand began to drum on her left elbow. "When were you scheduled to arrive here?"

    Bill paused, swallowing hard. "Half past... ten?"

    "Yes." Nettle narrowed her eyes. "And what time is it now?"

    Right then, Bill's blood felt cold in his veins. What time? Wasn't it half past ten? Reaching into the pocket of his own lab coat, Bill pulled out a silver pocket watch. He pressed his lips together and found himself trembling slightly as he glanced at its face. The hour hand was almost to eleven, but the minute hand sat comfortably just past the ten. Immediately, the color drained from his cheeks, and he found he couldn't speak. How could he have lost track of that much time?

    Nettle, meanwhile, knitted her eyebrows and set her jaw.

    "McKenzie," she said. Her voice lowered in volume, but it was still winter-cold. "If you wish to be a fully recognized pokémon researcher, then you should learn that punctuality and professionalism in the laboratory--"

    Oak stepped forward. "Excuse me, Professor Nettle."

    Immediately, Nettle stopped and looked at her superior. Her eyebrows rose at Oak's sudden interruption.

    "Don't be too hard on him," Oak said. "After all, a real researcher is never late."

    Nettle's expression softened slightly. "With all due respect, Professor Oak, that's exactly my point. A real researcher is always on time, which is why McKenzie should be taught to arrive promptly, when he promised to arrive."

    Oak smiled. "All I mean is that a researcher is never late because he arrives precisely when he means to."

    "Given that we're working for the government, surely we should take into consideration a strict schedule..."

    "Ah." Oak nodded. "Considering the government, yes, I think we should consider the time he arrived compared to when he was scheduled to work here."

    Nettle suppressed a smile as she turned her attention back towards Bill. Her subordinate cringed again. He knew the worst part of his day was just about to begin.

    "And in that case, we should consider the fact that Bill was actually on time then too," Oak added.

    Nettle turned her head sharply towards Oak. "I'm sorry?"

    Even Bill had to send his superiors an odd expression. After all, his watch was in perfect working condition. He made sure of that. It was his mental clock that needed adjusting.

    In the meantime, Oak took off his watch and offered it to Nettle with a firm nod. "Absolutely. Check my watch if you'd like."

    Without a word, Nettle reached for the leather strap of the watch. Her mouth opened slightly as she examined the face. On it, the hour hand pointed towards the eleven, but the minute hand nestled itself between the six and the seven. If it was correct, then Bill would have arrived just a couple of minutes before 10:30 in order to endure the conversation until the minute hand ticked to 10:32. Realizing this, Nettle handed Oak his watch.

    "Maybe your watch is a few minutes fast," Oak said with a shrug as he put his watch back on. "You should be careful about that, Professor Nettle. You know how the other teams feel about interruptions, and I'd hate to break up another argument if you go back to Laboratory F to find the biochemistry team still there, especially when we're getting along so well today."

    "Right," Nettle said with a slow nod. "Right then."

    She glared at Bill. He still appeared heavily confused, and that expression alone tried Nettle's patience. Nonetheless, she hid that fact well.

    "McKenzie, I'll assume you've been briefed about Experiment #22a already. Prepare to record observations."

    Leaving it at that, she turned and walked briskly to the other side of the room. Bill watched her lean over someone else to check a computer screen.

    "You can relax now," Oak said. "She'll go easy on you for this experiment."

    At Oak's consent, Bill exhaled a breath he didn't even realize he was holding. "Professor... thank you. You lied for me."

    Oak pulled up his sleeve to examine his watch. With his large fingers, he pulled out the pin in its side and twisted the head to turn the hands back to their original positions.

    "Eh, I should've known you would notice. Luckily for you, Nettle didn't." He pushed the pin back in. "Bill, I know you don't mean to do it, but please, for your sake, try not to get Professor Nettle worked up again. I can't keep helping you like this, as much as I want to."

    Bill lowered his head. He felt the heat of a blush cross his cheeks. "I understand."

    "It's different, working in a team compared to working freelance, especially if the laboratory is government or corporation-owned and operated, and I want you to realize that. As harsh as she may seem to you, Professor Nettle is right. There're certain rules you need to follow in order to work well with the rest of the team."

    Inside, Bill felt himself flinch. It was one thing to be scolded by Professor Nettle, who was perpetually in a sour mood, but it was a different thing altogether to be scolded by Professor Samuel Oak. For one, Oak rarely felt the need to reprimand team members, although his typically jovial personality was slowly being replaced by weariness thanks to being Polaris's current director. For another, even without that title, Oak was the foremost figure in the field of pokéology aside from Professor Rowan. To receive praise from Oak was the ultimate affirmation for a pokémon researcher. To receive criticism meant that one had a long way to go.

    "Yes, Professor," Bill said after a long pause.

    Sensing the youth's discomfort, Oak's stern face cracked into a warm smile. "You'll learn," Oak assured him. "Ah, the innocence of youth. It reminds me of a poem, actually. Would you like--"

    Bill couldn't decide whether it was a relief or impending doom that Nettle's voice suddenly interrupted.

    "Excuse me, Professor," she said. She stood stiffly a few feet away, and her voice was strained, as if she was struggling to keep the sharpness out of her words. "With all due respect, we need McKenzie at his station now."

    Oak's smile grew, and without warning, he tilted back on his feet to laugh. His deep, rumbling voice bubbled over every other noise in the laboratory. A few other scientists even looked up to watch him close his eyes and rub the back of his neck.

    "Oh yes! I'm sorry. You're absolutely right." He opened his eyes and glanced towards his protégé. "Well, Bill, go on! Work hard for Hoenn's sake! I don't expect anything less than excellence from you."

    Although the director probably didn't realize it, Bill had definitely heard that line of encouragement before, uttered to another researcher who felt the cold, hard snap of the voice of another team leader. Nonetheless, Oak's smile and tone were enough to let Bill ease from humiliation-born anxiety to a slightly more comfortable zone. He responded with his own smile -- albeit a significantly more timid one -- and nodded.

    "Right. Thank you, Professor."

    He walked briskly to his station in a corner of the laboratory. Oak stood back, smiling as he waited for the experiment to begin, but as a result, he didn't seem to notice Nettle's icy stare at Bill before she focused on the window and what lay beyond it.

    Even the other members of the psychology team couldn't quite understand how Nettle became their leader. Granted, she was nearing fifty and had almost as many awards and degrees as she did years on Earth, but it was widely known throughout the complex that she was more than just a little anal. She had previously been a field researcher, known mostly for her endeavors to understand the jynx communication patterns. Bill wasn't the only one who noticed she lacked much in the way of mercy: it was a whispered joke that she could relate more to the ice women than any human being.

    "McKenzie?" she said sharply as she looked away from a computer.

    Bill recoiled as he settled at his station across the room. The observational deck of Laboratory D was just large enough for the five scientists working on the psychology aspect of Kanto's Project Stardust, yet with Nettle so close by, Bill felt just a little uncomfortable being there, as if the space was smaller than it actually was. He turned towards Nettle and tried to look as professional as possible.

    "Yes, Professor Nettle?" he asked.

    She eyed him with a serious, nearly suspicious gaze. "Are you ready?"

    Turning back to his station, Bill placed his hands on the keyboard of the computer in front of him. With a few quick key strokes, he brought the machine back to life, and a few more let him through its digital security system. The black screen was quickly replaced by a desktop sparsely populated with icons. Bill ignored most of these graphics as he keyed in a few more commands to fill the screen with two boxes. One was a blank document, and the other was a box with a video feed of an open, white room. In the middle of the room were two clear boxes: one of them held a purple and white rat pawing at the sides of its cage, while the other...

    He tried not to think about it as he switched to the blank document.

    "I'm ready, Professor," he finally said.

    Nettle nodded. "Very well." She turned away from him. "Professor Fig, stand by for release. Everyone else, this will be Experiment #22a: Hunting Tactics of XP-650. Are you ready?"

    All four of her colleagues promptly replied, "Yes, Professor."

    "Good." She nodded. "Open both doors, Professor Fig."

    Fig turned his bright blue eyes towards a large console at his work station. His large hand rose and hit the smooth face of a red button with a fleshy palm.

    "Doors released," he said as he slowly turned back to his monitor.

    Nettle touched her chin as she watched through the window at the far end of the laboratory. Beyond it was the exact same thing Bill was seeing on his computer screen: a large, open room with solid, white walls and a concrete floor. Sitting in the middle of the room were the very same boxes.

    One side on each respective cube swung outward, and the cautious rattata in the first box was the first to move. He crawled into the open, twitching his long whiskers as he blinked at the strange creature in the other box. The creature clacked its numerous legs to pull itself forward from Plexiglas onto concrete. It had no eyes, yet it seemed to be staring at the rattata. A cold feeling settled in the prey's heart as he crept towards his left with his eyes fixed on the red creature.

    Suddenly, the thing leapt at him. With a screech, the rattata lunged towards the open space to the side. His paws scrambled desperately as his small heart beat against his chest in his mad dash for safety. Yet, even with his speed, he felt the searing pain of eight small, sharp needles planting themselves into the flesh of his shoulder. He screamed once again, and his eyes widened at the bulbous creature resting on his body. His legs still pounded in a frantic, tumbling run as something slid under his skin and sucked on his veins. No matter what he did, including bashing his shoulder into the cement, the creature refused to let go.

    With the rapid blood loss, the rattata's movements became sluggish, eventually slowing to the point where he could only stumble inch by inch towards his box. Just before the rodent reached the Plexiglas walls again, he collapsed and closed his eyes.

    "Dear God," Nettle whispered. "How long was that?"

    "Two minutes, forty-seven seconds," Fig recited.

    Bill's fingers clacked on the keyboard to record the number. Then, he glanced at the video feed on his monitor again. Curiosity got the best of him, and he tapped his mouse over and clicked a button to zoom in. He had hoped to get a better view of what the parasite was doing, but instead, a strange feeling settled in his stomach. Right then, he felt his face flush. Although he wanted to turn away, he couldn't stop watching the flickering image of the creature consuming the rattata from the inside out. It crawled up the rodent's side, ripping the flesh as it went until the ribs and the slick insides were exposed. Bill had seen a vast number of different things since he became a pokémon researcher, but never had he seen a pokémon consume live prey with such clean efficiency. Not a drop of blood was spilled, and the alien cut through skin with the deftness of a surgeon.

    Already feeling lightheaded, Bill covered his mouth with a hand, but he still couldn't tear his eyes away from the creature. Then, when it began to ooze a strange, green gel into the wound, Bill leaned back in his chair and shuddered, catching Oak's attention again.

    "Bill?" he murmured.

    Taking a breath, Bill pushed away from his station and stood.

    "Excuse me for a moment," he said quietly.

    Without any further explanation, Bill quickly walked out of the room.

    ---

    "Stop it."

    Bill hunched over the sink in a bathroom down the hall. Moving his hands beneath the silver faucet, he watched the red sensor blink and click. Cold water sprayed over his hands and into the granite basin beneath them. Cupping his hands, he caught enough water to splash his face before he straightened. One of his hands grabbed a paper towel from a small pile next to the sink and used it to dry himself. Peering over the towel, he caught sight of his reflection in a mirror that occupied one wall of the room. His face still looked paler than usual.

    Sighing, he crumpled the paper towel and tossed it into a garbage can by the door in the corner. Then, he turned back to the mirror and placed his hands on both sides of the sink.

    "You're a trained researcher," he said to himself. "You've been studying pokémon for years. Why are you having this reaction now? Is it any different from watching a scyther hunting?"

    His mind wandered back to the images he saw on his computer. He thought about the parasite slicing open the rattata, about the sight of the rat's innards, about the green gel oozing into the wound...

    A queasy feeling churned his stomach, and he doubled over to gag into the sink. It took a good portion of his will not to throw up. Instead, he coughed and took a few gasps of air. After a few moments of this, he shook his head and looked up to stare at his reflection again.

    "All right. Perhaps it is," he murmured. "But haven't you seen worse? How many years have you worked on the field, and why are you reacting like this now?"

    He shut his eyes tightly and shook his head for a second time. Gingerly, he straightened his back once more.

    "Right. You need to do this, Bill. It's why you're here."

    Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and looked at his reflection again. Already, color was beginning to come back to his cheeks.

    "There. That's it. Just remember, what can possibly go wrong? You're doing this as a scientist. There's no reason to be afraid of it."

    Nodding, he smiled at himself and turned towards the door.

    "Nearly fainting at a pokémon's hunting behavior. Honestly, Bill, what kind of researcher are you?"

    Pulling open the door, he emerged in the hallway, assuming it was completely empty. After all, it was between lab hours. Most personnel were probably occupied in one room or another.

    Except, apparently, for the three fairly large lab assistants who suddenly grabbed him.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 9th October 2011 at 8:25 AM.

    REBOOT: Chapter fifteen now available. | Original: Chapter thirty-one now available.

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  5. #5
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    Judging by the people on your friends list I don't know whether to be honoured or a little worried that you know of me. I do hope it's the former.

    Loving the Lord of The Rings, Gandalf quote early on in the chapter xD

    Oak even has his own curly haired youngling to look after. It's nice to see Frodo Bill in a fic, you don't see him too often in a main role.


    anyway

    Bill couldn't decide whether it was a relief or impending doom that Nettle's voice suddenly interrupted.
    This sentence is a little clunky and doesn't make much sense. I can see what you mean but it's perhaps a little syntactically challenged.

    That's my only gripe.

    Onto Speculation!

    XP-494. eXperimental Project-494? There are 493 pokémon in the pokédex, so I'm guessing it's a fakemon.

    Judging by it's eating habits and scant description I'm going to say it's arachnid in origin. That's all I've got at the mo. Till next time
    Skogsrĺ

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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    Judging by the people on your friends list I don't know whether to be honoured or a little worried that you know of me. I do hope it's the former.
    XD

    Well, if it helps, the impression I got from them is that you're the second bluntest reviewer on this forum who doesn't actually cuss out writers. (The top of this list, from what I hear, is Yami Ryu.) I'm not sure if you'd take that as a compliment, but it should give you an idea of why I had an "oh crap" moment as soon as I saw that you replied.

    Loving the Lord of The Rings, Gandalf quote early on in the chapter xD
    Thanks kindly. Oh, geek references. They need to happen in fanfiction more often for the entertainment of fellow elitist nerds.

    It's nice to see Frodo Bill in a fic, you don't see him too often in a main role.
    Thanks for this as well, and I'll have to say that it's a shame that he doesn't pop up in fanfic that often and that I hope this fic can somehow serve as an encouragement to give the poor schmuck justice. I mean, he's a cool character if used decently, but people think he's only good to be turned into a Pokémon so he can shove S.S. Tickets on OTs. [/rant]

    This sentence is a little clunky and doesn't make much sense. I can see what you mean but it's perhaps a little syntactically challenged.
    The more I read that sentence, the more I see what you mean. I've been thinking about it for awhile, and I'm just about to edit it with this line:

    Bill felt a sense of relief when Nettle interrupted.

    It's probably not that much better (which means I'll probably think about it a bit more), but at least it gets rid of that weird beginning.

    Onto Speculation!

    XP-494. eXperimental Project-494? There are 493 pokémon in the pokédex, so I'm guessing it's a fakemon.
    Sort of. Since it's not really spoiler-tastic, I can say it stands for Unknown Pokémon #494. Or, in other words, X Pokémon. Or Pokémon X. (I have no idea why I didn't just have it be PX. Probably because XP sounds cooler.) In any case, I actually go into a bit more detail about naming conventions later, but either way, yeah, the name's just a temporary designation because they have no idea what they're dealing with.

    Other than that, I'll have to admit that it is a fakemon, but in case that turns anyone off, rest assured that it's the only one in the fic. (Technically. There's other forms of it, but they're all considered to be the same species.)

    Judging by it's eating habits and scant description I'm going to say it's arachnid in origin.
    Oh yeah. In the next chapter (which will hopefully be posted later today), you'll even get to see that it's a specific type of arachnid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    XD

    Well, if it helps, the impression I got from them is that you're the second bluntest reviewer on this forum who doesn't actually cuss out writers. (The top of this list, from what I hear, is Yami Ryu.) I'm not sure if you'd take that as a compliment, but it should give you an idea of why I had an "oh crap" moment as soon as I saw that you replied.
    Simply having a reputation is a compliment in my eyes. It shows that people have recognised me to be Something in a certain area. In this case, a proverbial Frying Pan to the head of any fiction I deem in need of a reviewing.

    Thanks kindly. Oh, geek references. They need to happen in fanfiction more often for the entertainment of fellow elitist nerds.
    Sci-Fi/Fantasy is uber quotable so why not? Everyone needs a good nerdgasm every now and then xD

    I mean, he's a cool character if used decently, but people think he's only good to be turned into a Pokémon so he can shove S.S. Tickets on OTs. [/rant]
    Or shoving Eevee's legitimately into people's hands There was one fic, which frankly was crazy as bat guano, that had Bill as an MC. Then again, it also had an obsession with male purses, breaking the fourth wall and Nukes xD

    The more I read that sentence, the more I see what you mean. I've been thinking about it for awhile, and I'm just about to edit it with this line:

    Bill felt a sense of relief when Nettle interrupted.

    It's probably not that much better (which means I'll probably think about it a bit more), but at least it gets rid of that weird beginning.
    It does sound a lot better, at least it doesn't seem to get confused half way through and decide to make a new sentence ending.

    Other than that, I'll have to admit that it is a fakemon, but in case that turns anyone off, rest assured that it's the only one in the fic. (Technically. There's other forms of it, but they're all considered to be the same species.)
    Then my more recent speculation has come true then xD. hehe, I'm good at this.
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    not too badI personally like the intro better but judging by the way you left off, there'll be more action in the next chapter

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    Thanks for the response, 11tjcoulombe. Yeah, it's a bit slow at first, but hopefully, I'll get it to pick up soon. (I say hopefully because, well, it all depends on how much of the slow crap is taken out during the revision process.)

    Also, to Diddy...

    Sci-Fi/Fantasy is uber quotable so why not? Everyone needs a good nerdgasm every now and then xD
    Amen there. XD

    Furthermore, that fanfic sounds familiar. It wouldn't happen to have been written by The Decapitated Mole, would it? Or am I thinking of something else?



    Aside from that, apparently, "later today" in my vocabulary actually means "a couple of days after papers and convenient loss of electricity." In any case, happy Thanksgiving, guys!


    Two: Helter-skelter, birds flew off with the fallout shelter.

    That day, Bill decided, was not his day. As far as he could tell, the people who had just ambushed him were certainly not normal assistants, and he wondered briefly how he could have missed them. All three of them were large men; each were at least a foot taller than he was and built like football players underneath their starched, white lab coats and sea-green scrubs. They knew their size was an advantage too. As they walked Bill along the corridor, they kept themselves close enough to him that he could sense them towering over him, just from the heat of their breath on the top of his head. To make matters worse, one of the assistants placed a hand on his shoulder to make it appear as if the group was only meeting casually, but Bill felt the man's meaty thumb and forefinger grip the flesh by the sweep of his neck to the point where it was almost excruciatingly painful.

    There were a few reasons why Bill didn't scream or cry for help. One of them was because the assistant – the one who held Bill's shoulder and chattered away about his excitement concerning the project – tensed his hand over his captive's collarbone every time the group passed the occasional Polaris employee. It felt like his companion was trying to poke through his skin to the major artery underneath, and Bill knew that one good squeeze there would bring him to his knees. The touch itself wouldn't knock him out, but he knew it would stun him just enough to give the men an opportunity to do something else to him. He didn't want to think about what "something else" might have been if he became any more vulnerable than he already was, even out in the open corridor.

    Another reason was because the third bulky assistant, the tallest of the three, walked behind the group at a distance that cast a shadow directly over the scientist in its middle, even when they passed beneath the hallway's lights. Bill didn't have to look back to know that the top of his head barely reached the man's chest, and he had a feeling that meant the man could easily reach up and twist his head off with the same amount of effort one might use to turn a doorknob.

    This was, of course, ignoring the third reason: the fact that any resistance Bill would have put up would be met with three football players beating him into submission. The simple fact of the matter was that Bill was by no means a fighter. He had no pokémon or weapons on his person; Polaris's security measures meant that someone of his rank wasn't authorized to carry any. Besides that, aside from a few self-defense lessons in college and a lifetime of watching B-list kung fu movies, he had absolutely no unarmed combat training.

    In short, he was screwed.

    Silently, he let himself be led to a laboratory further down the hallway. Whatever scientists the group encountered along the way took one look at the four of them and continued to scurry away towards another laboratory. Bill couldn't blame them. Aside from the fact that the assistants went out of their way to make the walk seem like a casual stroll between a researcher and three enthusiastic interns, all of the employees they passed were focused on their own jobs and their own tasks at Polaris, so in a way, his captors' entire attempt to look at all friendly was rather unnecessary in Bill's view. Of course, he couldn't bring himself to say a word on the matter. All he could do was play along because it meant that at the end of the day, he would walk away with his body intact.

    He hoped, anyway.

    At the door, the second assistant swiped a card and proceeded through the rest of the security measures. Bill watched with mild interest. He didn't know who these people were, but he at least understood from this procedure that they hadn't broken in. Once the iris scan finished and the computer's feminine voice chimed a name Bill couldn't quite catch, the door swung open, and he calmly passed through the threshold without another glance towards his three captors.

    Right after the door closed behind the group, all pretenses were dropped. Bill was shoved forward, into a group of waiting hands. Looking up, Bill found himself surrounded by a large crowd of people, and almost all of them wore the lab coats and sea-green scrubs that identified them as assistants. Only one of them was any different, a male security officer who stood by the door with his hands clasped behind his back. With one glance at the latter, Bill felt the sick feeling in his stomach grow a little worse.

    Only now did he begin to react to his situation. Trembling, he glanced around in order to piece everything together. He couldn't see much of the room thanks to how many people were crowding it, but as far as he could tell, it was nearly identical to Laboratory D, with the only difference being a tank of red water instead of a window to a concrete room. Backing up as much as the hands that now held him would allow, Bill immediately recognized where he was based on that window alone.

    "Laboratory F," he murmured. "This is where they keep XP-650, isn't it?"

    "Very good. You know your way around Polaris Institute already."

    He looked straight ahead to the source of the voice. The crowd parted just enough to allow him to view a space that extended across the room. At the opposite end of the space, a petite blonde woman sauntered forward. One of her pale hands reached into a pocket of her lab coat, and with fluid movement, she brought out a black PDA and slid its stylus into her opposite hand. Her purple eyes shifted her gaze to the device's screen as she tapped a few options.

    "Now, let's see. Who are you?" she asked. "Oh! Profile match already!"

    She looked up and flashed a smile at Bill. Although her face looked like a young girl's, something about that smile made Bill shudder. The expression was just a little too wide and showed just a bit too much of her clean, white teeth. Or perhaps it was the fact that the girl looked a little too innocent with curly, golden pigtails caressing the sides of a round face, yet she was in a room full of kidnappers. It reminded him of victreebel: the kind of thing that lured prey in by looking appealing just before killing them off with one swift blow.

    "Don't you just love technology?" she asked, using the same tone a girl would use with her best friend. "Of course you would. It says here your specialty, other than pokémon behavior, is pokémon-related technology. I'm a big fan of that storage system of yours, Professor McKenzie. It's a shame we can't talk about it. I know someone who'd be very interested in learning everything you could teach him. Speaking of which..."

    She pocketed the device in her hands and walked forward, brushing past Bill to approach the assistants behind him. Bill turned to face her, intending on speaking to her, but before he could move, two of the other grunts wrenched his arms behind his back.

    "Whose brilliant idea was it to grab him before identifying him?" the blonde demanded.

    All three of Bill's former companions cringed. Not a single one of them said a word.

    "Don't you know how valuable he could be to us? Giovanni isn't going to be happy," she snapped.

    The tallest one wrung his hands. "Well, 009, ma'am, he was the first one we could grab, and you said–"

    "Hmph." She turned away from the grunts. "Useless. All of you agents are useless. We can't just let him go and find a new subject because he's the kind of person who would talk, and we can't just capture him and keep him quiet because that'll be suspicious. I guess we have no other choice but to use him anyway."

    At that, the girl Bill now knew as 009 turned her eyes back on him. Bill froze, noticing at once that her expression changed slightly. It wasn't the same childlike grin he had seen on her face just a moment ago. This time, her eyes were slanted, and her mouth was pulled into a smirk. As the girl walked towards him, Bill tried to pull himself away, but the assistants held him still.

    "What are you talking about?" he asked, his voice strained and low. "Use... use me for what?"

    The girl chuckled. "An experiment. Don't worry. It's all in the name of science, isn't it?"

    "What?!"

    Bill struggled, twisting his arms in an attempt to yank himself free, but the grunts gripped him tighter with every turn he made. Wincing, he doubled over and glared at the blonde, only to see an orange-haired woman step between them. In her hands was a long, glass capsule with metal ends. Within the capsule, XP-650 clicked its legs against the glass, scrambling to climb up a side. As soon as he saw the creature, his eyes widened.

    "Wait! What are you doing?!" he asked.

    The blonde grinned and took the capsule from her subordinate. "You have no idea what happens when XP-650 comes in contact with a human, do you? Of course you don't. The Committee's been keeping that kind of thing from you for reasons I can't even figure out, but allow me to let you in on a little secret of my own. Team Rocket has agents everywhere. We know a thing or two about this cutie pie. Soon, you will, too."

    Bill knew at once what she was about to do, and with that realization, he tried to wrench his arms free again. "No! I won't let you! You won't get away with this!"

    She arched a golden eyebrow and straightened her back. "'You won't get away with this'? Are you serious? What, do you think you're some kind of hero in a cheesy science-fiction movie? Oh, we'll get away with it, all right. In no time at all, you're going to be Team Rocket property. We've already got all the arrangements set to transport you out of the complex when the time's right. And who knows? If you keep your sanity after everything you're about to go through, Giovanni will even get the keys to Kanto and Johto's storage systems, so I think we could consider this a win for our side, couldn't we?"

    Growling, he kicked the shin of one of the men gripping his arm. The grunt snorted, smiled, and responded by stomping Bill's foot. Right away, Bill was reminded of why he didn't try struggling as he was led there: the larger the opponent, the more painful it would be to get beaten to a bloody pulp. After only the foot stomp, Bill gritted his teeth and let loose a strained cry. His body leaned forward, but the grunts held his arms tightly enough to keep him upright. The burning pain that was developing in his shoulders as a result was only adding to the blinding one in his foot, and despite all of his nerves screaming at him at once, he could only shut his eyes tightly and whimper as his leg began to throb. Briefly, he wondered if his foot was broken, and if that was the case, that was certainly not going to make escaping any easier.

    He realized a second too late that the pain was a distraction. Opening his eyes again, he found the orange-haired girl right in front of him. Her hands yanked his lab coat down his arms, tore off his cravat, and let the scarf flutter to the floor. Behind her, 009 flicked her wrist and slipped a black tulip into her free palm. The other hand held the capsule out for an aqua-haired man to grab. As soon as the capsule was out of her grasp, she turned her face to the side and hid her mouth behind the flower's black petals.

    "Let's make this quick and easy, shall we?" she said. "We've got a mission, and you know how the boss doesn't like to clean up potential messes."

    The orange-haired girl huffed and frowned. With a quick motion, she ripped open Bill's shirt and shoved him backwards. To his sides, the men holding him went with the movement, eventually pinning Bill to the tiled floor by his shoulders. At that point, Bill yelped and thrashed, attempting to use the shift in the grunts' grips as an opportunity to get away, but this only prompted more hands to reach out and hold him down to the floor. In the meantime, the aqua-haired man moved to position the capsule over Bill's bare chest. Upon feeling its cold, metal surface, Bill shivered and tried to squirm out of the way, but he knew it was no use now.

    "Scream all you want, Professor McKenzie," 009 told him cheerfully. "That's what I really like about this place. It's so off-the-hook, isn't it? The walls are so thick and the doors so secure that you can scream and scream and not bother anyone! It's so exciting and secretive, don't you think?"

    The man holding the capsule in place pressed a button on its base. Bill felt the opening in the capsule's base slide open. His breathing grew rapid as something scratched across his skin.

    Please, he thought. Please no please no please no...

    What he felt next was pure agony. It was like feeling a large, hot needle getting jammed into his chest. It was like being shot in the heart with Poison Sting. It was like getting molten lava pumped into his veins.

    Bill was certain he screamed because he could feel his throat vibrate. He even saw several of the people around him flinch. It was simply that he was too terrified to let it register that he reacted physically. By the end of it, he was lying on the floor, breathing heavily and staring blankly at the ceiling. The pain dulled after a short time, but it was still there.

    He could feel it crawling under his skin. Literally crawling.

    The hands released him, but he didn't get up. Suddenly, he felt too weak to even move. All he could do was stare straight upwards while the people above him moved out of the way. 009's face floated into view, and before he knew it, she was kneeling next to him.

    "Now, this next part is really going to hurt," she told him. "I'll tell you what, though. I'm going to be nice because Giovanni doesn't like it when his property gets damaged. So, before you do anything to yourself or anyone around you, I'm going to put you to sleep for a while. Okay?"

    Naturally, Bill didn't answer. He barely moved his eyes to look at her.

    She smiled. "Great. Good night!"

    009 placed the blossom by his nose and squeezed the stem between her fingers. A cloud of blue, glittering spores puffed out of the flower, and although Bill would have easily identified it as an extract of Sleep Powder had he been fully aware, he did nothing except lie on his back and allow himself to breathe it in. As soon as the small, blue cloud disappeared, 009 stood.

    "Already taking orders. I can tell this is going to be a wonderful relationship," she said. Then, to her subordinates, she barked, "Well, don't just stand there! Make this look like an accident! And you. We're gonna need a code red out there. Some idiot lab assistant dropped the container, and XP-650 escaped! Go!"

    As the crowds of Team Rocket grunts filtered towards the door, Bill's head began to swim. His vision blurred, and it seemed to be made worse as he felt himself being picked up. The people who were moving him quickly turned into fuzzy blotches of color and then faded into shadows. Slowly but surely, every inch of him went numb. Part of him wanted to fight it, to stay awake and maybe stop the thing from creeping deeper inside him, but he knew that he had just as much a choice in the matter as he had since he was ambushed outside the bathroom: none at all.

    Instead, he could only let his head fall back and his limbs go limp as his consciousness slipped away.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 11th September 2012 at 5:51 AM.

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    o_o

    XP-494 is one creepy sonnuvva-gun. Poor Bill though, getting messed up by Rockets and then having a malicious space parasite choose him for a light snack. That's not how I'd like to spend my weekend.

    I have a little theory about Agent 009, nothing major, it's just a few things I've noticed, she wears white gloves and they've been mentioned a few times. Why bring up such a seemingly pointless bit of information more than once? Because it's somewhat relevant says I! She jumps out of the way of the red blood/water thingy like a shot. Why? Because she's a clean freak. That's what I think. And I think that will be somehow important information.


    anyway, devious musings aside. I've always wondered whether your username was Resident Evil inspired, obviously, with it being the infamous Jill Valentine. If so I'd just like to have a small fan moment and say I can't wait for the new Resi Evil 5 DLC.
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    is agent 009 the name for that team rocket girl in mewtwo strikes back or whichever mewtwo movie it was?
    other than that, basically I agree with diddy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    XP-494 is one creepy sonnuvva-gun.
    Thank you. Just one of the many things that come from the "I'm trying to make this sound like a campy sci-fi film" part of this fic. Because seriously? Creepy aliens are awesome. (Just look at xenomorphs, right?)

    Poor Bill though, getting messed up by Rockets and then having a malicious space parasite choose him for a light snack. That's not how I'd like to spend my weekend.
    Oh yes. And his weekend is about to get worse because it's just not as fun to kill him off and move on.

    I have a little theory about Agent 009, nothing major, it's just a few things I've noticed, she wears white gloves and they've been mentioned a few times. Why bring up such a seemingly pointless bit of information more than once? Because it's somewhat relevant says I! She jumps out of the way of the red blood/water thingy like a shot. Why? Because she's a clean freak. That's what I think. And I think that will be somehow important information.
    You know, I'm almost tempted to make her have OCD now (especially since I'm going to have so much fun with her in later chapters anyway), but I think the white gloves were just something I left in from the overly descriptive original. XD I'll have to go back over it a bit more carefully when I've got a spare moment. Thanks for pointing this out.

    anyway, devious musings aside. I've always wondered whether your username was Resident Evil inspired, obviously, with it being the infamous Jill Valentine. If so I'd just like to have a small fan moment and say I can't wait for the new Resi Evil 5 DLC.
    I'll have to admit that I haven't really touched the Resident Evil franchise for a couple of years now, even though I do have to say it's pretty cool. I mean, really. Zombies. Also, although I know that people didn't really care for the Resident Evil films, I thought Alice was nice eye candy.

    The Valentine part is partially from a character in the movie MirrorMask (because I'm a Neil Gaiman fan) and partly because a lot of badass characters have the name Valentine. The JX part refers to a couple of past usernames I had on another board.

    Quote Originally Posted by 11tjcoulombe View Post
    is agent 009 the name for that team rocket girl in mewtwo strikes back or whichever mewtwo movie it was?
    You're probably the first person to make the connection and actually come out and ask about it, but yep, she is.

    Thanks for the review as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Also, although I know that people didn't really care for the Resident Evil films, I thought Alice was nice eye candy.
    They were fun for watching. Annoying thing is people take the films and compare them to the games, and the games will always win. So they say they're crap.

    And yes, milla jovovich is very high on my list.
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    H'okay. First off: HI VALENTINE.

    Second, I can't really say much about this story because it's really too good for me to nitpick. I actually did notice the 009 thing too, but it looks like 11TJ (please excuse the shortening of your username, I can't make anything out of it D: ) beat me to the punch. So I'll just note that Bill as a main character makes me happy (even if he's just been chomped upon by an experimental Pokémon) and that XP-494 has just claimed the title of most BA Fakemon ever.


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    I admit, I had to take a second look over it, but now I appreciate it for what it is.

    I just read it all in one sitting, so there's far too much to do individual points on, but I will say that it is very well themed and written.

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    ^hmm well I just vaugely remember watching the movie, but yeah I remember her. As for team rocket, I'm assuming their going to play a large role within your story

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    Quote Originally Posted by 11tjcoulombe View Post
    As for team rocket, I'm assuming their going to play a large role within your story
    Oh yes. They won't be at first, but they will be much later on. (It's one of the many things I'm hoping to bring into this version of the fic, at least.)

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    I always feel bad for not reading your stuff. Mostly because I really like your writing-- when I was younger, I read a long-since-abandoned fic of yours on FFN, "Hawthorne and Witch Hazel" or something similar, and I still remember really enjoying it.

    Cities gained white haloes of electric light as the human race fought the darkness of night.
    The plural of "halo" is "halos."

    I kind of dislike the "halo" metaphor, though. Lighted cities aren't series of rings, you know? To me, something as simple as "dots" would have been less confusing. It did kind of throw me for a second.

    Far above, ignorant of mankind's attempt to preserve the daylight, the celestial forest of diamonds flickered to life.
    You're mixing your metaphors here, a little bit, and it's kind of confusing. My first issue is that the "ignorant of mankind's attempt to preserve the daylight" doesn't really make sense, because starlight doesn't in any way negate this attempt and there's kind of an implication that's what's happening. The last clause is kind of odd because it implies that the cosmos' light turns on and off, as opposed to just fading in and out of view (a phrase I think would have fit here much more smoothly). And the thing as a whole coupled with the odd personification makes it seem like the stars have a conscious decision to make regarding if/when they turn on... I dunno, it doesn't work as a metaphor for me.

    That, along with the fact that it streaked down a path that crossed neatly
    I think saying simply, "...the fact that its path crossed neatly..." would read much smoother here.

    the area, particularly with the lack of anywhere else to go.
    I find the wording of this odd. Part of me wants to change "with" to "for," but I think it's mostly that it could use to be its own sentence.

    but he could do nothing during that time but watch.
    Two "but"s very close to each other (hah! /twelve). Sounds weird, IMO.

    There was no one to warn, not because the place was deserted but instead because of something else he could sense -- a feeling of inevitability.
    Here-- if I'm reading this right-- I think the first clause would work better as, say, "He did not bother to warn anyone," since it wasn't as if the inevitability literally meant there wasn't anyone to warn, it meant warnings would be futile (again, if that's the correct reading).

    Waves from the lake swallowed the sandy shores and flooded the Scorched Slab.
    I don't recognize the name "Scorched Slab," and am just kind of curious as to whether it's canon or fanon.

    A loud crack -- the sound of rock being smashed with a sledgehammer --
    "...like the sound of rock..." Assuming that it wasn't literally a sledgehammer, of course.

    ----

    As usual, you're just a good writer. You got a little metaphor-heavy at the beginning and it was a bit tough, but that was quite entertaining. I'd do chapter one now if it wasn't quite so long, but I'll definitely come back for it later. But I really, really enjoyed this. =]

    Is this up in its entirety somewhere, or just in you LJ? /curious


    Edit: Okay, I read the rest. xP It's really very awesome.

    However, I have a few logistical issues. It's a big scary text blob, but I only really had three problems with the whole story:

    The first: Why did the Rockets suddenly start to filter out? They gave the order for the tyrannitar to hyper beam the tank; obviously some destruction would be involved. That whole part was very fuzzy for me. The leader says, "**** it, just blow up the tank to we can get it," so they blow it up, and the content spill out, and there's a bit of haywire because there had been an explosion, but instead of taking this in stride, suddenly the rockets go, "EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING????" I didn't get that. I kind of was thinking you'd have Leader Girl send in a grunt to get it after breaking open the cage, and then he'd get devoured, and then the every man for himself thing would happen. But as is, they kind of flee for no reason.


    The second, Team Rocket acts very... naively, and you even lampshade it. Purple Eye Leader Girl said it herself: They quarantined all of freakin' Johto. The thing isn't a joke. You don't close a whole country because a tiger got free from a zoo; this thing is obviously far beyond "vicious animal." And, further, she said she had informants "everywhere." Yet she somehow manages to barge in without any real plan, and obviously has no idea the magnitude of what they're looking for. She tells them to take it, and even sees that it's some kind of anamorphic blob. It's pretty obviously the scientists are afraid of it (which is my third point but I'll get to that). Even if for some far-out reason they sent in a low-ranking Rocket that hadn't been briefed at all, *some* red flags should have gone up. I think the place is very obviously designed to keep LETTERS-NUMBERS in as much as others out. So she goes in without anyone bothering to tell her whatever intel TR has, and on top of that doesn't draw any conclusions about danger from any of the really obvious things she herself acknowledges? They just barge in, like they'll give it a dirty look and it will come with them. It doesn't make very much sense, even as a suicide mission by TR.

    The third thing is... Oak. I get it, he's old and grandfatherly and loves everyone. But all I could think while I was reading this was... why is Oak obsessing so much about saving lives and ignoring the realest threat there: the alien. In fact, everyone seems to have forgotten about it. As soon as Purple Eye starts to mull out loud freeing it, the first reaction of SOMEONE in that room should have been: It will ****ing kill us all!!! It doesn't matter that that's intel-- TR has been given access to it anyway. Why is everyone so okay with it being released? Why isn't someone more afraid of THAT than the Rockets? I mean, I was thinking, "She's going to release it, it's going to devour anyone, and the story will be trying to catch it again."

    A caveat or two: I do get Oak's forgetting about it while he was helping Bill. It's still a bit of a stretch, but okay. But... the whole thing seemed to very obviously be a plot device to get the thing free and on Bill, and in trying to meet that end there were some things that didn't make sense. If this wasn't simply a means to an end and TR plays a huge roll and this invasion is very important, it needs some tweaking so it's more sensible on TR's part.


    Yet, like I said, I really, really enjoyed it. You're a wonderful writer, as always. I might have to go back and read up everything on your LJ (unless there's major differences between those drafts and these).
    Last edited by Act; 3rd December 2009 at 2:51 AM.

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  19. #19
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    Answering in reverse order because I was smart enough to choose multiquote in exactly that way...

    Quote Originally Posted by Act View Post
    I always feel bad for not reading your stuff.
    It's totally cool. You're in college, so it'd be more surprising to me if you were following me so far. I mean, I barely have time to write myself which may or may not explain the ridiculous spans of time between every new chapter. (That and the old version of the fic had chapters that were ridiculously long.)

    But seriously, it's totally okay. If you'll forgive me for not being able to read your work right away (because I probably won't really get to reviewing until winter break), we'll call it even.

    Mostly because I really like your writing-- when I was younger, I read a long-since-abandoned fic of yours on FFN, "Hawthorne and Witch Hazel" or something similar, and I still remember really enjoying it.
    Oh yeah. XD The one fic I should've gone with instead of Warp Series and maybe Midsummer Knights. It was a fun idea, but that one could've used some better execution.

    The plural of "halo" is "halos."
    It can actually be either. I personally prefer putting the E in because it's consistent with the English rule that you put an E in the plural of any word that ends with a consonant + O. I mean, I know the lack-of-E version exists because it's a Greek word or something like that, but... *shrug*

    I kind of dislike the "halo" metaphor, though. Lighted cities aren't series of rings, you know?
    Yeah, I get what you mean. I was trying to describe that hazy aura large cities tend to have when you look at them from a distance, which I guess would be better described as, well, "aura." On the other hand, going with what you're saying, "dots" would probably work better, especially considering a lot of the cities in Hoenn aren't that big anyway. I'm just rambling here to see which one people think would make more sense.

    Right about here, I'll simply say thanks for the advice on the metaphors and confused wording as well. I really don't have much else to say in that regard. I definitely get what you're saying, and now that I look at it, I can see how it's a bit too wordy for its own good. I'll go back and try to fix it up a bit.

    I don't recognize the name "Scorched Slab," and am just kind of curious as to whether it's canon or fanon.
    Game canon. It's a cave in the middle of the lake in that area between Fortree and the Safari Zone where you can pick up Sunny Day. There doesn't seem to be much of a significance to it in-game, but it's mentioned here in an attempt to give the reader a fix on where the meteor fell. (To add, the circle of stones that Absol stands near is actually the tomb where Registeel sleeps, so the meteor fell between the lake and the hill -- right in the middle of Route 120.)

    I'd also say something equally rambly about why I use anime characters and the game's Hoenn, but it's best summed up as, "I'm terrible at keeping track of geography while watching episodes of the cartoon." Which is a really, really lousy reason, I know.

    As usual, you're just a good writer. You got a little metaphor-heavy at the beginning and it was a bit tough, but that was quite entertaining.
    Thanks. I'll definitely look back over the chapter and see what I can do to work out all the weird stuff with it.

    Is this up in its entirety somewhere, or just in you LJ? /curious
    The older version (lax the prologue, which is the same as this one) is up on Fanfiction.net. Good luck getting through it. I think the longest chapter there is about nineteen pages. (And now you know why I'm revising this. XD)

    Edit: Okay, I read the rest. xP It's really very awesome.
    *bows*

    Anyway, for the way Team Rocket was going about things, there's a reason for it that I hope to get into in the shiny, new version of chapter three. All I can say about why they didn't just try to pick it up or show a bit more prudence about handling it is because they actually weren't intending on capturing it in the first place. This point is something that I'm ashamed I couldn't get across in the original version of the fic. Wallbanger? Definitely yes, especially because, as you've pointed out, without bringing up exactly what the Black Tulip was trying to do here, those scenes seriously do not make any sense.

    Of course, I can't necessarily guarantee that they'll make complete sense after the plan is revealed, but hopefully, I'll at least get close to Team Rocket's usual "well, this seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight, maybe not so much" level of cleverness.

    the first reaction of SOMEONE in that room should have been: It will ****ing kill us all!!!
    Actually, this amuses me, so I'm going to go back to the second chapter and take care of this. I mean, really, I'm surprised at myself. I set out to do a fic that reads a lot like a campy sci-fi fic, and not a single person reacts to the monster by running away from it and screaming a la a Japanese kid in a Godzilla movie. I even set it up. The fic is set in Japan, and there's a deadly monster. Way to fail at being a sci-fi geek, self. This is like that time you were playing an RPG, facing a giant enemy crab, flipped it on its back, and only went two-thirds of the way through the "hit it for MAXIMUM DAMAGE" joke.

    (Please also feel free to have as many lulz or facepalms as you'd like over the fact that I'm fixing this for the sake of inserting more terrible geeky inside jokes into this fanfiction instead of fixing it so it makes more sense.)

    Yet, like I said, I really, really enjoyed it. You're a wonderful writer, as always. I might have to go back and read up everything on your LJ (unless there's major differences between those drafts and these).
    Thank you! As for the differences, well, it depends on the chapter. Oddly enough, the ones you commented on are the ones that were mostly left as-is. The first chapter, meanwhile, actually had about 50% of it rewritten after I merged the first two scenes of the original. So, I guess the lesson here is that from here on out, rather than be a lazy effer, cut chapters in half, and make small corrections here and there based on past reviews, I should actually work closely with the scenes I'm working on and not generally half-*** the revision process.

    (Of course, we'll see how this theory holds up once I post chapter three, which was literally rewritten from the ground up because I decided the conversations in the original chapters two and three are actually kind of boring and need to be tossed.)

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I just read it all in one sitting, so there's far too much to do individual points on, but I will say that it is very well themed and written.
    Thanks for the compliment and for taking the time to read through everything. I really appreciate it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Giratina! View Post
    H'okay. First off: HI VALENTINE.
    XD Hi, Giratina. Jesus, it seems like you're everywhere. Giratina, you're everywhere too, but-- *shot*

    Second, I can't really say much about this story because it's really too good for me to nitpick.
    Thank you!

    I actually did notice the 009 thing too, but it looks like 11TJ (please excuse the shortening of your username, I can't make anything out of it D: ) beat me to the punch.
    You still get a cookie for noticing. *nods*

    So I'll just note that Bill as a main character makes me happy (even if he's just been chomped upon by an experimental Pokémon) and that XP-494 has just claimed the title of most BA Fakemon ever.
    Thanks to both compliments. As I've said before, Bill needs more lovin' in this fandom, and one cannot have too many creepy aliens. Unless it's Alien Resurrection, but, uh.


    Anyway, sorry to delay the third chapter. After reading over Act's review, there's something else I want to add to it. It'll hopefully be up this weekend, however.

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  20. #20
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    There's something that rubs me the wrong way about the second scene in this fic, and I'm not sure what it is. Sorry to those of you who can spot it. (My guess is that it's a bit rushed and abrupt, but if I'm off, feel as free as you'd like to tell me.)

    Also, yeah, I haven't gone back to edit the first few parts yet, but that'll be done soon, too.

    In the meantime, cookies to whoever can find the Joss Whedon reference in the middle of this chapter.


    Three: If you come across Pandora's Box, don't open it.

    The alarms were still blaring when 009 darted into her apartment in the Outer Ring of Polaris Institute. She had already shifted command over to her mole in security. Now, she had more important things to worry about. Shutting the door behind her, she ran down the small hallway and into a bedroom furnished with only a cot and a dresser against the far wall. She rushed for the dresser and placed her hands on the knobs of its drawers, but before she could pull it open, she heard a cough.

    Slowly, she straightened back. She peeked over her shoulder to see Professor Nettle standing in the doorway of the room. The woman’s arms were crossed, and her mouth was contracted into a small frown.

    “Professor Nettle!” 009 gasped. “How did you get in here?!”

    “Sloppy work, Black Tulip, especially for you,” the scientist replied. “You failed to lock your door just now.”

    “Hmph!”

    009 pulled the drawer open. She didn’t say a word; instead, she pulled a black case from under neatly folded clothes. Nettle squinted at the other woman’s lack of response.

    “What I don’t understand,” she said, “is why you felt the need to stage all of this in the first place. Why would you call our forces in security to sound a false alarm?”

    Tossing the black case onto her cot, 009 busied herself with opening it and drawing from its depths a manila envelope. At Nettle’s question, she glanced over her shoulder again.

    “Headquarters didn’t notify you?” she asked.

    Nettle raised an eyebrow. “Of what?”

    “Giovanni must not trust you that much.” Turning, 009 slipped a hand into the envelope and pulled from it a photo. “The Stardust Operation is for gathering intelligence, but my mission, the Polaris Operation, is a bit different. I was sent here to collect this.”

    Walking forward, she handed the photo to Nettle. Glancing at it, the scientist saw the image of a creature crouched on all fours on a cement floor. Even though the image was black-and-white, the thing was the palest object in the room. Crystal spikes jutted out of its back, tracing along its spine and down a tail that ended in a glassy arrowhead. Straight, white hair draped across the back and around the wrists of the creature. Locks of hair pooled around a pair of rounded horns on its head and fell in front of its face. The tips of each lock, meanwhile, brushed long claws on both its hands and three-toed feet.

    “XP-650B,” she said as she handed the photo back. “I already know about this. My operation hasn’t collected nearly enough data concerning it, however. We’ve been blocked from further observation thanks to the Committee’s concerns over human experimentation. Surely our leader already understands we wouldn’t know what to do with one of these things if we captured one.”

    Placing the photo on the dresser, 009 flicked her free wrist to let a black-petaled tulip slide into her hand. “Giovanni doesn’t care. He wants this and the A form, and he’ll figure out the rest in our own laboratories, beyond the Committee’s reach. I’m surprised he never notified you of my mission. That says a lot about his opinion of you. Then again, he gave you the Stardust Operation to run, and he’s highly disappointed in your lack of results.”

    Nettle smirked. “Or perhaps he realizes that one should never send in a team leader to do a grunt’s job. You misunderstood my question, 009. You assume I don’t know about Operation Polaris, but I asked you why you staged the attack, not why you’re here. Now that Polaris Institute is aware of the possibility that XP-650A can escape, everyone will be keeping a sharper eye on it. How do you propose to complete your mission now?”

    “Now, you’re underestimating the organization, Professor Nettle,” the Black Tulip replied. “Our operatives have a hand everywhere. We can slip in and out of this place easily, regardless of how well-guarded it is.”

    In response to her claim, Nettle turned her head slightly and stared at the Black Tulip from the corner of her eye. The blonde noticed the scientist’s skeptical look and responded with an exasperated sigh.

    “Instead of questioning me, why don’t you make yourself useful and ensure that our agents secure XP-650A? Operatives on the chemistry team have told me that the green substance in that test rattata you used today was actually a cluster of eggs. I’m certain the little cuties will be hatching shortly, and with the number of eggs that were laid, who’s going to miss one tiny specimen out of hundreds? Our agents will rendezvous with you tonight outside of Laboratory F. Act like you’re bringing them in to brief them on tomorrow’s experiment and—”

    “And make the exact same mistake you have?”

    009 arched her eyebrows but then scowled. Her hand swung up and pointed the head of the flower at Nettle. In response, the scientist merely smirked, slipped her hands into her pockets, and watched the blossom spit a shower of sparks.

    “I know what I’m doing,” 009 drawled. “Why don’t you leave worrying about how to smuggle XP-650A and B out of the institute to me and follow my orders?”

    “Because you forget my place in the organization,” Nettle replied. “As far as you’re concerned, if you work in a Rocket-run laboratory, you answer to me, not the other way around.”

    009 lowered her tulip and glared at Nettle. She couldn’t argue with the scientist’s statement when it was absolutely true.

    Grinning at the surrender, Nettle shrugged. “However, for the sake of a potential Rocket victory, I’ll humor you and follow your suggestion. Whatever failures come from this are your responsibility, not mine. Do you understand?”

    The agent gripped the stem of her flower until another burst of electricity exploded from its petals. She didn’t seem to notice. “I understand.”

    “Good.” Turning away, Nettle was about to head for the door when she stopped. “By the way, for the sake of curiosity, which poor, unfortunate soul did you choose to become XP-650’s host?”

    “You should know him very well. McKenzie, from the psychology team.”

    Nettle laughed. “I don’t know whether to congratulate you or pity you. Our leader will be thrilled to know you infected one of the few people in this complex we were explicitly told not to touch.”

    With that, she walked out of the room, leaving 009 to glower at her back.

    ---

    Professor Oak stood in front of the desk in his office with his dark eyes fixed on the wall-sized screen behind it. There, he saw a black-and-white clip of a young, dark-haired woman in a hospital gown. She sat on a bed at the far end of an otherwise empty room, and her shoulder was exposed to reveal the glistening, round head of an XP-650 parasite. At first, it was simply a shot of her, swaying as she tried to remain conscious, but then the clip cut abruptly to the image of the woman with her head craned back and several scientists gathered around her. One of them attempted to stick her with a long needle, only to be knocked away by her flailing arms. Pale crystals burst from her shoulders, letting the scraps hang in bloody flaps down her arms.

    The clip cut again. This time, her hair had fallen out, and a pair of round horns jutted out of her skull. Her entire body took on a shimmering coat of ice, interrupted every so often by a crystal spike. The creature’s thin arms wrapped around her naked body as she shivered and opened her mouth in a silent scream. A few more men in lab coats immediately responded by gathering around her. Their bodies shielded most of her from view, save for the limbs that flashed above their heads.

    Suddenly, the girl sat alone in the room with long, pale hair shielding her pallid face. Behind her, a tail flicked back and forth. She hugged her knees tightly to her chest and kept her clawed feet curled around the edge of the bed. After a few seconds, a scientist appeared in the side of the shot with his back turned towards the camera. His hands moved as if he was speaking with her, to which she responded by lifting her head.

    In the next instant, no one was on the bed, and the scientist had disappeared. Something dark sprayed across the lens of the camera, partially obscuring the image of the room.

    Then, a mouth with a pair of long fangs appeared in the shot, followed by a split-second flash of a claw. Static followed, the only sound that broke the long silence.

    Eventually, a new image appeared on the screen: one of five silhouettes sitting at a long desk. The Committee.

    Its full name was hardly ever used by its members, and no one else who knew about its presence ever felt the need to know what it was. All anyone knew for certain was that it comprised of a board of individuals who oversaw the funding and activity of government-sponsored scientific endeavors. In other words, they were the ones currently in charge of all operations concerning Project Stardust: monitoring all operations, collecting all information, and deciding the best choice of action based on the research they received. They funded the efforts, summoned each scientist, and most importantly, watched each designated research facility carefully.

    So several hours after Bill was discovered and the assistants were questioned about the apparent accident (the story being that one of them had dropped XP-650’s carrying case in the hallway and that Bill had accidentally gotten in its way), Professor Oak called them to explain the situation and seek advice. He expected to be reprimanded or even dismissed from his position. However, he only got as far as informing them about Bill and XP-650 when the Committee calmly showed him the video of Pandora.

    “XP-650B,” the center silhouette said. “Codename Pandora, a former assistant at the Valencia Institute of Science in the Orange Islands. Shortly after this video was taken, she killed half the staff, destroyed most of the complex, and escaped to parts unknown. Valencia Institute was shut down, and the survivors are currently housed in one of the National Defense Forces’ bases to be given therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. We refuse to have that happen again.”

    Furrowing his eyebrows, Oak meditated briefly on the name. XP-650B. That wasn’t the first time he had heard a designation like that. Typically, when a pokémon species lacked an official name, the Pokémon Symposium simply referred to it as XP, followed by its number in the National Dex. Therefore, XP-650 literally meant “Unidentified Pokémon #650,” the first entry after the most recently documented legendary pokémon genesect. Letters at the end of such designations, Oak recalled, usually indicated alternate forms: A for the first, B for the second, and so on. The practice was rare; only a handful of pokémon were documented in this manner prior to receiving their official names, with rotom being the last case. If the pokémon Oak knew as XP-650 was only the A form and if the one in the video was its B form, Oak wondered how many other forms this single creature possessed.

    “Why weren’t we told about this?” Oak whispered.

    “We have very little information about it other than what I have just told you,” the leader explained. “XP-650B has the potential of becoming an uncontrollable beast. Valencia made the mistake of not taking caution in handling Pandora. Do not follow their example with this researcher you described to us.”

    Oak swallowed. Naturally, his thoughts wandered back to Bill. He tried to imagine his junior slipping into a violent rampage, but it didn’t quite fit in his mind. For that reason, he laughed nervously.

    “But this is Bill we’re talking about,” he said. “He’s a pacifist. He wouldn’t intentionally hurt anyone.”

    His superior shook his head. “It will not matter. Soon, XP-650 will invade his body and alter his thought processes. Should he survive the transformation, he will not be the same person you know. You must remove the parasite quickly. If you fail, then you must take heavy precaution. Sedatives, restraints, and increased security, Professor.”

    Oak’s smile faded. “Isn’t that all a bit much?”

    “If anything, it may be too little to keep your staff safe. XP-650B is a powerful creature that should not be taken lightly,” the leader replied. “Nonetheless, killing him is not an option. This is the second time a member of Project Stardust has been infected. If you cannot remove the parasite, then we must use this opportunity to find out how the infection process occurs and why to fully understand what we are facing. Perhaps then we may be able to find a way to stop or reverse the transformation.”

    Oak listened carefully and nodded once the Committee finished. “I understand.”

    The leader straightened. “Additionally, we will send you all of the reports salvaged from Valencia to establish your base of information. In the meantime, we request that your reports designate this Bill of yours as Codename Adam to protect his identity once we begin chronicling your reports. We had hoped that we could learn the secrets of the parasite without resorting to a violation of the Nuremberg Code, but perhaps it may be impossible if we wish to continue our work on XP-650. For that, we sincerely apologize. All of the institutions have a right to know, not only yours but also Sinnoh’s and Johto’s as well.”

    Sinnoh’s and Johto’s as well, Oak thought. …Oh no.

    At once, the professor remembered the victim’s family. Frowning, he looked away. Bill wasn’t the only researcher in the McKenzie clan, and even worse, hadn’t Bill once mentioned that his father was lending his own talents to Project Stardust?

    “Professor?” the Committee inquired.

    Shaking himself back into reality, Oak responded, “I understand, but there’s something else that’s bothering me. Bill’s father, John McKenzie – he’s a member of Project Stardust with the Johto branch. Shouldn’t we at least tell him?”

    The Committee leader nodded. “Tell him whatever you wish, but there must be victim confidentiality between you and the rest of Project Stardust. If he agrees to it, we may begin processing a transfer so that he may work under you. We would suspect that he would be interested in studying Codename Adam directly.”

    Oak nodded. “Thank you. I’ll tell him as soon as I can.”

    “Very well,” the leader replied. “Remember, we will take special interest in Polaris from now onward. Very rarely have we been able to study XP-650B. The first and last instance was Pandora, who had completely surprised us with both her generation and her behavior. We can only emphasize that if a similar reaction occurs every time XP-650A comes in contact with a human being, it should be quite obvious that maintaining Adam’s captivity at this moment is of the utmost importance.”

    “Yes. I understand.”

    “Very good.”

    Before Oak could say anything else, the call cut off, and the screen faded to complete black. Oak stared at the dark screen for a long while before turning to the rest of his office. With shaking steps, he made his way around the desk, pulled out the chair behind it, and dropped himself into his seat. Leaning back, he sighed and wiped his forehead.

    “I’m getting too old for this,” he muttered to himself.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 1st January 2013 at 6:37 PM.

    REBOOT: Chapter fifteen now available. | Original: Chapter thirty-one now available.

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  21. #21

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    Funny you should mention repetition mistakes. I recently stumbled upon this one in chapter one after deciding to reread this from the beginning:

    Sensing the youth's discomfort, Oak's stern face cracked into a warm smile. "You'll learn," Oak assured him. "Ah, the innocence of youth. It reminds me of a poem, actually. Would you like--"

    "You'll learn," Oak assured him. "Ah, the innocence of youth. It reminds me of a poem, actually. Would you like--"

    Bill couldn't decide whether it was a relief or impending doom that Nettle's voice suddenly interrupted.
    Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think you meant to repeat this part. xD; (I'm not sure if someone already pointed this out.)

    I'm a moderator on PokemonElite2000 for Other:Chat and the the large Ultra Role Playing Game (URPG, for short) we have. Since the URPG has expanded to the Bulbagarden forums last year, I also moderate there. There's a a Stories section where you basically capture Pokemon through fan-fiction (different Pokemon need different story length, more complex plot, and so on) that I help run there. The awesome part of this section is that you always get a detailed review for your story saying whether you have successfully captured the Pokemon you're aiming for. My writing has improved a lot through these reviews over the four years I've participated.

    (What I'm currently writing is actually for this URPG, which I may post here now that I know someone is actually interested in reading it.)

    /stops advertising xD;

    Hehe, I agree with the /short/ rant about people claiming the Pokemon anime needs to be edgy and dangerous. If the anime was as we envisioned, there would be no fan-fiction, which is no fun at all.

    I'm actually going to copy-and-paste all of the chapters of AEM onto my pendrive tomorrow to have something to read on my seven-hour car trip to our new house this Friday. :D

    - Kat
    Last edited by Phantom Kat; 29th June 2011 at 7:33 AM.


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    I should be finishing a paper and preparing an oral report. What am I doing instead? Posting this. Because my priorities are awesome.

    Also, a huge thank you to The Great Butler for betaing this chapter. And probably subsequent chapters unless he tells me, "lolnope." Or something to that effect.


    Lastly, not to spoil anything, but in the middle of the chapter, you're going to be introduced to the Ixodida homeworld. Play this as mood music. You'll thank me later.



    Anima Ex Machina
    Twenty-Six: In the mist of a memory, you wander back to me.


    Purple eyes.

    Bill couldn't look away. They hovered in his field of vision, staring deep into him. Their pupils contracted, narrowing into slits as the violet of the irises flashed. The creature's mouth tensed until it formed a straight line. At the same time, the skin of the rest of the face – the oval, hairless face – pulled back until it looked like someone was grasping the creature's flesh from the back of her head.

    He wasn't sure how he could tell this was a female; something inside him simply knew. More importantly, he felt as if he had seen this being before, but he couldn't place his finger on where.

    That was not a good sort of déjŕ vu. In fact, as she floated in front of him, he had never felt as terrified in his life as he was right then. He tried desperately to move, to squirm away from her, but his body felt distant, like he was floating inside it.

    Because of that, he could do nothing but watch as the creature extended her willowy arms towards him. Her long, thin fingers brushed his face. Each fingertip felt ice cold.

    Then, all of a sudden, it felt as if every part of Bill's body burst into flames all at once. He tried to scream, tried to move, tried to do something to cope with the pain, but all he could do was float inside himself and feel every last part of him burn. The purple eyes continued to burn into his skull as if in search of something while the ice-cold hands drifted to his chest.

    He could feel cold fingers stabbing into burning flesh and curl around his heart.

    His hand rose without his consent to grasp the creature's head. But it didn't look like his hand. The fingers were too long. The arm was too spindly.

    As his claws dug into the other being's skull – bone cracking beneath each finger – he could hear a woman's voice whisper from everywhere all at once.

    Ereshkigal.

    Then, the last thing he saw was a flash of blue, human eyes, and the last thing he heard was a long, piercing wail.

    ---

    Bill jolted awake. Much to his relief, instead of purple eyes, the first thing he saw was a blue sky and the branches of trees moving above him. His body no longer burned, but it ached. It wasn't with the lingering sensations of his dream; rather, it was because he was crammed in an uncomfortable position between boxes of supplies in the bed of the truck. He stiffly pushed himself to sit up as his tail unwound itself from the tight, tense coils it created around one of his legs. His hands reached down to grasp it, rubbing feeling back into it as his shoulders pulled back in a half-stretch.

    "Hey! Look who's awake!" Thom called.

    Bill looked up to see the young man sitting on the edge of the truck bed. Between Thom's knees was a plastic bag, from which he drew out a strip of jerky. As Thom bit into it, Bill caught the smoky, salty scent of meat, and involuntarily, the tip of his tail began smacking against his hand in an attempt to wag. Realizing what he was doing, Bill quickly shoved his tail under his feet, but by then, it was too late to keep Thom from noticing. With a loud guffaw, Thom tossed the bag at Bill, letting it fall awkwardly in his lap.

    "Saved the rest for you," he said. "You haven't eaten anything today, right?"

    Bill shook his head and reached into the bag. "Not really, but I'm not sure if I can eat this."

    "Why not? It's meat, isn't it?"

    At that, Bill threw his companion a startled glance. Noticing his expression, Thom frowned.

    "What? Something I said?"

    "No, it's just…" Bill laughed and slapped a hand to his forehead. "It's all too simple! I should have thought of it ages ago!"

    Thom leaned forward, letting his hands droop between his knees. "Okay, now you're creepin' me out. What are you talking about?"

    "Cooked meat!" Bill drew a strip from the bag and held it up. "All this time, I've been trying to force myself to kill pokémon for food, but it never occurred to me that meat is meat! I could eat the same things you can, just not plant matter!" As if to punctuate his point, he bit off a piece of the jerky and relaxed. "Assuming, anyway, that we're right about this."

    "Well, yeah, I figured you already knew that," Thom said. "When the ixodida invaded Mauville City, they ate any kind of meat. Didn't even matter where it came from. I thought it was really stupid that Lanette's making you go hunt for food, honestly. Everyone knows ixodida can eat all kinds of meat. They just like pokémon meat more for some reason. And she probably wants you to train, but that's stupid because we said we'd help you with that."

    As soon as Thom said that, Bill's face dropped from excited to annoyed. "Everyone… already knew that?"

    "Yeah, but hey!" Thom leaned over to punch Bill lightly in the shoulder. "Now you know, right?"

    "Oh yes," Bill replied with a light hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Now I know."

    Ripping off another bite, he watched the trees of the forest pass by as the truck continued ambling down the road. He wondered idly if the Caravan was nearing Fortree City, if somewhere close by, Brigette's grave lay. His mouth slowed as he thought about last night – Lanette trembling in his arms for the first time in months, sobbing into the dirt. They must have spent hours in the forest without a word passed between them, with the only sound coming from Lanette's soft whimpering. She wouldn't look at him at any moment after that. Even when she had stopped, wiped the last of the tears from her face, and pulled herself away from him, she had refused to let him see her expression.

    She had been avoiding him ever since. When dawn came, she had busied herself with breaking down camp, packing up the supplies, and arranging the passengers and drivers of both vehicles. No matter how many times Bill had come to help, she turned her head away and gave him orders while diverting her attention to some other task. Eventually, she had stopped addressing him altogether, opting instead on sending Thom to tell him what to do and where to go. Then, when the Caravan started moving, she had given up her usual space in the bed of the truck, taking Thom's in the cabin next to Vito. Looking over his shoulder, Bill could see the back of her head and the occasional sliver of her face as she spoke to her human partner. She was so close, yet she was separated from him by glass and metal and an expanse of awkward silence.

    That, Bill decided, was far more aggravating than having her hate him. He couldn't figure out why.

    "Hey, you okay?"

    Bill turned back to Thom. "Sorry, what?"

    "You've been acting a little weird," Thom said. "Spending all night out in the woods with Lanette, only to have her look all fussy when she gets back." He cracked a grin. "Be honest with me. Did you…?"

    The ixodida's expression instantly turned horrified. "I beg your pardon?!"

    "You know. Did you…" Thom bobbed his head. "Go at it like rabbits. Know each other biblically. Dance the horizontal tango. Make love."

    "I…" Bill furrowed his eyebrows. "I honestly don't know how to respond to that."

    "Simple yes or no question, Bill. I mean, it's not like there's anything wrong with that. You guys are just picking up where you left off, right?"

    Bill coughed, choking on his own words in surprise. "W-what?! What on Earth are you talking about?!"

    Thom leaned back and made a small, circular motion with one of his hands in the air. "Y'know. You guys were awfully close, right?"

    "You… you think Lanette and I were in a relationship?!" Bill squeaked. "An intimate relationship?!"

    "Well, weren't you?"

    "No!" Bill sighed. "We were partners, Thom. Colleagues! Didn't I mention that before?!"

    "No."

    Pausing, Bill took another bite of jerky. Hadn't he mentioned it? Everything from the time Lanette appeared in Mauville onwards had happened so fast. Bill couldn't remember how much information he had shared and with whom, and all of a sudden, he realized that despite the fact that Thom was probably the closest thing he could call a friend in the Caravan besides Ellen, there was a lot they didn't know about each other. Swallowing, Bill straightened in his seat and tried to explain.

    "Lanette and I are both researchers, Thom," he said. "We worked on a number of projects together, and before the quarantine and my transformation, yes, we were close. But we were close as friends, not as… good gods, do you normally think that two people who fight…?!"

    Thom shrugged. "Why not? It's pretty classic. Girl violently denies that she even likes guy. Guy acts all protective and caring and soft towards girl. You see it all the time."

    "In fiction!"

    "So?" Thom shook his head. "Anyway, point is, a bunch of us got worried about you."

    Bill couldn't help but crack a smile. "A bunch of you?"

    "Okay, only me and Nurse Joy. But still, the way you were following around Lanette like a puppy and how bad you looked when she just blew you off… I might not be the smartest guy around, but I know how heartbreak is sometimes."

    At that, Bill looked at his lap as his smile faltered. "Thom—"

    "'Sides, you didn't look like you were having a good sleep."

    The ixodida looked up. "What?"

    "Yeah." Thom slid into the truck. "You were shaking. Tossing. Turning. Your tail looked like it was wrapping around your leg pretty tightly. You just looked like you were in pain. I would've woken you up ages ago, but Lanette told me to let you sleep."

    "She did?"

    Bill forced himself to smile, but his throat felt dry. He had spent the past few minutes trying to forget the dream, but now that Thom brought it up, he could almost see the burning, purple eyes again. One of his hands drifted to his chest. He tried to make it seem as if he was simply wiping it on the front of his shirt, but his fingers grasped the jewel over his heart.

    "It was… it was just a nightmare," he said. "That's all."

    Yes, Bill, Adam whispered. Do not concern yourself with it now, but we will need to talk about it eventually.

    "Adam," Bill murmured.

    When the human cannot hear you. It has been far too long since we have last spoken, anyway.

    "Bill?" Thom leaned forward. "You okay?"

    "Huh?"

    Shoving the rest of the jerky strip in his mouth, Bill shakily stood. His arms flailed against the movement of the truck, but he managed to remain on his feet. Swallowing, he looked up at the sky, narrowing his eyes in thought.

    "H-hey, Bill? You're gonna fall over or something, and Nurse Joy's gonna be pissed," Thom said. "Why don't you sit back down, and we can talk about it?"

    Bill frowned. "I'm fine. I just need some time to think."

    "Well, okay, but you can think—"

    "Magnet Rise!"

    Quickly, Bill surrounded himself with a golden aura, and his translucent wings burst from his back. Thom reached out to grab him, but without another word, the ixodida crouched and sprang off the truck bed, pushing himself into the air.

    "…By sitting down," Thom muttered as he watched his companion rise several feet into the sky.

    Above the treetops, Bill drifted forward, following the convoy down the road. In his mind, he searched for any sign of Adam's presence.

    "Indeed we do need to talk," he snapped.

    Upset, are we? Adam purred.

    "I'm not upset. I'm just… disoriented." Bill exhaled. "Adam, were you in my mind while I was asleep?"

    Yes.

    "Then you know about that vision. About that-that creature with the purple eyes."

    Yes.

    The conversation lulled briefly. Bill huffed and pushed himself higher, rising into the air until the Caravan looked more like toys racing along a thin, brown line.

    "What was that?" Bill asked softly. "What did I see?"

    A memory.

    The answer came so suddenly and so nonchalantly that Bill halted in mid air, righted himself, and glanced down at the parasite.

    "A memory?" he repeated. "What, yours?"

    You are falling behind, Bill. Pay attention and follow the Caravan, Adam snapped. Yes, mine. This is only one consequence I was afraid of when you asked me to teach you how to use those moves. Forcing parts of my knowledge onto you and opening up your mind that wide requires more direct contact with you than simply reading your memories or speaking to you telepathically. Parts of my subconscious entered yours. I apologize.

    "Only one consequence?" Bill swooped down, speeding after the Caravan in an attempt to catch up with them. "What about the others?"

    There is only one other consequence. You know how the move works, but you have not mastered it. There are no guarantees that you will be able to use that move successfully the next time you attempt it.

    Bill smirked. "That doesn't sound too bad. I can learn. It's not like it'll take my arm off the first time I use it or anything, right?"

    That is actually a distinct possibility.

    For a second time, Bill abruptly stopped. "What?!"

    But that is hardly relevant.

    "How can that not be relevant?!"

    In any case, I feel that there are quite a few things that we need to discuss.

    "No, really!" He threw up his hands in frantic gestures in front of him. "Are we talking about a 75% chance that I will severely injure myself in my next attempt to use it, or is it more like a 5% chance?"

    Bill, concentrate. We must talk. There are many things I have never told you that you must know now.

    "And that's the other thing," Bill growled. "It seems you're very fond of keeping me in the dark. Wouldn't it be easier for me to keep us alive if you answered my questions in the simplest and most straightforward manner possible?"

    It would if you knew what to ask, which you do not. Your first question, for example. "Who is that creature with the purple eyes? Is she dangerous?" One of these is irrelevant, and the other is obvious. But I cannot blame you. Humans think too simply.

    "If humans think too simply," Bill answered impatiently, "then what should I be asking?"

    The parasite didn't respond. It simply left Bill to hang in the air in complete, utter silence.

    "Adam?" Bill asked, his voice slightly softer.

    When the silence only lingered onward, Bill huffed and swooped towards the Caravan for a second time. It was all strange to him. When he was a human, he couldn't recall ever feeling this frustrated, this confused, this spectrum of extreme emotions, but now – now that Lanette began avoiding him, that Adam refused to speak to him, and that everything else in the universe dictated his life to him, all he could think about was how there were walls all around him that he wanted so badly to tear down. It wasn't the first time he felt trapped, caged by things outside him, and he never did like the feeling. Yet, these moments were different. In the past, he knew he could overcome a mental wall by thinking through them or avoiding them altogether, but the walls that blocked him now from the truth or happiness or whatever else he was trying to seek were going to be there for the unforeseeable future.

    That and he didn't like the fact that those walls were being purposefully erected. He wouldn't mind if he had any sort of clues to go on in order to piece together answers, but Lanette and Adam, at the very least, left him with absolutely nothing. It wasn't a game anymore. Bill couldn't remotely call the numbers of times he was left to figure things out fun. He wasn't sure what he could call his relationship with both his parasite and his former partner, but all he knew for certain was he didn't like a piece of it.

    That was probably the reason why, when Adam finally spoke again, Bill wasn't entirely willing to listen until he caught the echo of the last syllable.

    --Gal.

    "Excuse me?" he said tonelessly.

    "Who is Ereshkigal?" Adam repeated. That is a question you may ask, but I am afraid you would not understand the answer unless you asked a better one.

    "And what question might that be?"

    That is obvious. "Where are you from?" Naturally.

    Bill scoffed. "Naturally."

    Sarcasm. Your sense of humor is growing. That is a good thing. Humor allows one to survive the most horrific of challenges.

    By then, Bill caught up with the convoy, but he skirted the treetops above its tail end. He trained his eyes on the metagross bringing up the rear; the last thing he wanted was to draw the attentions of either of the champions riding it. So far, they kept their gazes on the van ahead of them. Even though he knew it was unlikely that they could hear him, Bill's voice dropped in volume, lowering to a near mumble.

    "Is this another conversation where I end up more confused than I was when we started talking?" he asked Adam.

    Of course not. I am only making idle conversation so that you may be in the best mood to handle what I have to tell you.

    It was roughly at that point that Bill decided he just didn't care anymore. For a third time, he paused mid-flight, but this time, it wasn't out of surprise. Instead, he closed his eyes in exasperation briefly as he carefully constructed an appropriate response.

    "Adam," he said slowly – deliberately. "Please."

    Right then, Bill got the distinct feeling that Adam was amused. A light, warm sensation tickled his chest, as if his nervous system was laughing while the rest of him wasn't. Behind his closed eyelids, he could see a flash of a smile that wasn't his. Instinctively, he snapped open his eyes and pulled himself backwards.

    Of course, Adam answered. And I will, as you say, answer them in the simplest and most straightforward manner as possible, but I must warn you, it is a long story. Close your eyes.

    "Close my eyes?" Bill glanced all around himself, scanning the area carefully. "Now?"

    Now. I would suggest landing as well. You are far behind as it is, but the Caravan will stop soon. You will be able to catch up soon enough.

    Bill hesitated. In his silence, he drifted forward and downward slowly as he watched the metagross grow further and further away from him.

    Do you not trust me? Adam asked. Or do you simply not want to know the truth after all?

    That was all it took. Bill's boots hit the dirt path, his aura faded, and his wings burst into crackles of golden energy that fizzled in the air behind him. Exhaling, he shut his eyes and relaxed.

    "Okay," he said. "Tell me."

    A blue flash flooded his field of vision. With a shocked cry, he doubled over and clutched the sides of his head with both hands. He squeezed his eyes shut, but the harder he did it, the more he began to see stars.

    It eventually dawned on him that he was seeing literal ones.

    Taking a step back, Bill craned his neck but didn't open his eyes. He didn't have to. In the darkness behind his eyelids, stars appeared before him: first one by one and then flooding the void as if it was the night sky. At the center of it all, a blue and gray spot appeared. Bill focused on it until it resolved from a haze to form four perfect spheres: a small, azure-and-brown one with white streaks floating across its surface and a massive silver one with purple flashes of lightning illuminating the clouds rolling across its atmosphere. Beyond the first two were the last objects, a faint red dwarf just barely noticeable next to its brilliant, blue sister star.

    "What is this place?" Bill asked breathlessly.

    My home, Adam replied with uncharacteristic patience. This is Nila, the blue moon, orbiting the storm-ridden planet Avani. My kind made their homes in the jungles of Nila. It was far different from Earth, Bill. You would have liked it.

    The scene before him became consumed by a white flash, and when it cleared, Bill found himself floating far above the surface of the blue moon. Lush, green forests spread out beneath him, with vast, blue oceans skirting the edges of the sprawling continent. As Adam guided his vision close to the jungle, Bill slowly realized that many of the plants he was looking at weren't trees. Most of the forest was a vast sea of floating, bulbous, green balloons huddled in swaying bunches that shadowed the earth beneath them. The rest of the forest consisted of tall, thick-trunked trees with broad, waxy pads branching from them instead of leaves. Wherever thick trunks of the pad-leafed trees didn't grow, the long, thick vines anchoring each balloon plant to the continent sprang from the soft, black earth.

    Beneath the canopy, the ground was dark and shadowy, with a few beams of light filtering through the balloon plants and the thick, waxy pad leaves. Every so often a shadow – a broad-winged, stingray-like creature with glowing, red eyes and two long tails – swooped between the vines and trees and sang softly with a high-pitched cry. Bill followed one with his gaze until he spotted a dark puff of fur with six, long arms propel itself from pad-leaf to pad-leaf just before the skate snatched it from mid-air. As the creature gracefully soared back towards the balloon plants, Bill stood beneath it, trembling in wonder.

    "It's beautiful," he whispered.

    The ixodida came from forests like these. Not this particular one, however. I am making you see this place because it is where the original hosts made their greatest city.

    "The original hosts?" Bill's voice tumbled across his lips almost inaudibly. His concentration wasn't on speaking at all, and he almost didn't realize he said a word.

    Another flash of light brought him to someplace new. In the heart of the forest, massive, violet crystals rose high into the air, parting the balloon plants just enough to reach the sunlight above them. Light filtered down their shafts, illuminating the clearing enough to reveal the mouth of a stone tunnel. The vision guided Bill into the earth, following the twisting corridor for several yards until, finally, he came to a massive underground chamber illuminated by countless glowing crystals of all colors embedded in the smooth, rock walls. Terraces were carved out of the walls of the cave, and on each terrace was a cluster of stone buildings. Tiled roads twisted throughout the cave, connecting terrace to terrace in an intricate web. Silver machines shaped like the flying creatures outside of the cave darted over and under each bridge to smoothly land on terraces throughout the cave.

    And on every road and on the backs of every silver skate, Bill saw the exact creature from his dream.

    The ones on the roads didn't so much walk as glide while the hems of their long, colorful robes brushed the tiled road and concealed each creature's feet. Every last one of them was tall and willowy, with the smallest being only a head shorter than him. They held their pale, hairless heads high as they moved, and no matter which facial expression their long, oval-shaped faces made, their white skin seemed to pull towards a point on the back of their skulls. Their eyes glittered each time they turned their heads; each face possessed a different, vivid color of the rainbow. When they spoke, their hands and long, thin fingers made sweeping gestures with each word, and their voices echoed throughout the chamber in tongues Bill couldn't begin to decipher.

    These, Bill, were the original hosts, Adam explained. The Relians.

    "The Relians?" Bill repeated in a soft voice.

    Those of the Empire of Relia.

    Bill's vision moved rapidly through the sea of Relians. All around him, he heard the rolling syllables of their language, saw the bright colors of ornately embroidered robes and sparkling eyes, even smelled the smoky scent of incense and spices wafting in the air. Yet, his brain felt like it was on pause, like it was overloaded with the massive loads of information assaulting three of his basic senses. He floated, allowing Adam to pull him through a memory until the vision ascended to an entranceway at the very top of the cave. The lights there were dimmer, with the crystals embedded in the walls emitting a soft, violet light.

    The Relian Empire, Adam continued. It is difficult to find words to describe it. The Relians were the only kingdom on the entire moon of Nila, and that is not without good reason. For eons leading up to the final days of their world, they were a peaceful race, united under one crown. They knew no war, no famine, no disease, and no poverty, and their technology was the envy of the galaxy. By the time your planet was young, the Empire had already developed instantaneous space travel and had already mapped much of the known universe. By the time you were born, they had assisted in the civilization of hundreds of planets. Never Earth, however. They wished to reach you, but alas, tragedy befell the Relian Empire.

    Upon Adam's last word, the vision passed through a flash of bright, purple light, and the next image Bill saw was a smaller chamber. The walls of this place were made of pale violet crystal, and the floors were made of smooth, white stone. Silks of various colors were hung from the ceiling, stretching across the room to create a rainbow canopy. In the center was a bed covered with shimmering, white sheets and golden pillows. Relians in plain, white robes darted back and forth across the room carrying trays piled with bowls and cups. The only place where they stopped was by the edge of the bed to speak in their rolling language.

    On the other side stood a figure that made Bill's blood freeze. The female, the same one from his dreams, stared down at the bed with her deep, purple eyes. She stretched one of her long hands towards the center, fanning the sleeves of her colorful robes out beneath her arm. Her fingertips caressed the forehead of the bed's occupant, a sickly, gray Relian with dull, blue eyes.

    Beneath her touch, the Relian trembled and turned its head with a long, deep moan. Other Relians – nurses, Bill realized – immediately stopped what they were doing to gather by the bedside.

    Relians once had extraordinarily long lives, Adam said. They had no disease on their moon, and their medical technology was far more advanced than you could imagine. But they were not immortal by any means, and the last emperor's reign lasted for many, many years.

    The Relian's – the emperor's – head lolled to the side to stare at the female. One of his hands shook as he raised it to touch her face. A single fingertip grazed her cheek before the hand fell to the bed with a thump.

    So it should be natural to say that he died.

    Another flash of purple flooded Bill's vision, and in the next instant, he saw a large, familiar chamber: the one from his dreams. This place was largely bare. It was only a hall with violet crystal walls and the same smooth floors of the emperor's bedchambers. The only decoration was the red carpet running from the massive arch serving as a doorway at one end of the room to the elevated platform at the other. On the platform was a stone bench with red cushions covering its surface. Otherwise, the only color came from the rainbow of robes worn by the crowds gathered on both sides of the room. The female from the bedchamber stood at the foot of the platform, dressed in the flowing, white robes Bill had seen in his dream. Before her was an older Relian flanked by two younger ones, all of whom were in gold robes embroidered with red trim. The elder held a bowl in one wide hand as the other reached into it and wet itself on the rose-scented oils inside.

    While the emperor had been widowed for years before his death, he did not leave this world without a successor, Adam told its host. Shortly after his funeral, his eldest daughter ascended the throne.

    The female bowed before the elder, who placed its oil-slicked hand on her head. All around them, the crowd erupted in cheers as the female straightened her back. Without looking at her subjects or changing her neutral expression, she climbed the stairs, turned, and took her seat on the bench.

    But while the last emperor was a kind and wise man, his daughter was not.

    Another flash erupted across the vision. This time, Bill could only see a dark room, and in the dark room, he saw the red glow of molten metal and heard the deafening roar of machines and hammers on steel.

    It was during her reign that the Relians came to know war.

    There were no flashes this time. The scene simply changed to the silhouette of the empress and several Relians in armor standing at the mouth of a cave entrance similar to the one Bill had seen earlier. Only this one was massive – a giant chasm gouged into the earth. The empress stood at the edge of stone with her gaze on the sky, on the gray planet Nila orbited. A buzz filled the air, and the glow of green lights filled the mouth of the cave. Within seconds, hundreds of silver skates burst from underground with armored riders, flanking a giant skate-shaped ship. All of them quickly filled the sky, the smaller skates cutting down treetops to make way for the larger one's ascent.

    I cannot say who the Relians fought or why. I never cared, and it is irrelevant. The fact, though, is that the Relians would never know victory with their technology alone.

    The vision cut to another forest, one full of pad trees but no balloon plants. Here, the air was still and quiet, without so much as the shriek of one of the six-legged monkeys. But more importantly, the main difference between this forest and the one at the mouth of the Relian city, was that the trees and the forest floor were covered with glowing, red creatures.

    Ixodida parasites.

    So they found the ixodida.

    A hum signaled the approach of silver skates. Through the trees, Bill could see their green lights descending until they landed gracefully. Their riders dismounted and walked into the red-lit clearing. There, they stood in thick boots in a sea of parasites. Armored tails swept behind them, brushing parasites off their thick, bird-like feet. It was then that Bill realized that when in full-bodied, plated armor and helmets, the Relians looked uncannily like ixodida. He was about to say something about it when one of them strode forward and stooped down to spread a spindly hand on the ground. One of the parasites crawled onto one of the long fingers, and as it stood, the Relian tilted its head and examined the creature. Then, its other hand rose to take off its helmet, revealing deep, purple eyes that resembled those of the woman in Bill's dreams. Yet, there was something different about this pair. They looked weary and angry.

    Without speaking to its companions, the Relian soldier placed the parasite on its head and closed her violet eyes.

    The clearing filled with the sound of its ensuing scream.

    That was the first host, Adam said. My kind had victims in the past – attempts to invade other creatures and escape our isolated jungle – but the Relians were the first intelligent hosts, the first to truly allow us to escape our home. It was the first time I had tasted power.

    "That was you?" Bill breathed, watching the female collapse in writhing pain.

    The soldier's companions stood silently. Then, the largest among them took off its helmet and stooped down to pick a parasite of its own. The others followed in unison.

    Yes, Adam replied. We were one from that point onward, and I felt the pain of the Relians. I knew that for the good of the people – our kind – I had to fight the Relian throne, to help usher in a new era.

    Abruptly, the vision returned to the Relian city, but this time, it wasn't peaceful. Relians in colorful robes dashed across bridges in a panic, chased by soldiers. Ixodida flew through the air, diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps. Bridges fell, and the sounds of Relian screams and falling rock roared through the air.

    So I did.

    The vision entered the throne room. Bodies of soldiers and ixodida lay in piles along the edges of the room, and green smears of parasite innards streaked across the crystal walls. At the opposite end of the chamber, the empress rose from her stone bench and glided down the steps towards Bill. Her hands reached for him, and her purple eyes glittered. All around him, he could hear the voice of a woman whisper.

    "Ereshkigal."

    Bill snapped his eyes open. As he panted, he looked around himself frantically. Earth trees. Earth sky. The soft cry of Earth wingull in the distance. He placed a hand over his heart and doubled over. A lingering, uncomfortable feeling crawled across his chest.

    You must understand, Bill, I did only what was necessary.

    "What… what happened?" he murmured. "What happened after that?"

    The empress was overthrown. Nila was destroyed.

    Bill bowed his head. "How?"

    How what?

    "How?" he asked, a little louder this time. "How was Nila destroyed? What happened? Why are you here? Why are you telling me this?"

    After a long pause, Adam answered, The empress was overthrown but not killed. She escaped, and I sense that the ixodida empress of this planet is connected to her.

    As Bill straightened, he stared in the distance, struggling to process this information. The uncomfortable feeling in his chest grew, but he was too preoccupied to grasp it. Still, he was vaguely aware of the fact that the air seemed to grow heavier and hotter.

    Ereshkigal, Adam finished, was the last empress on Nila, Bill. And she is here.

    "She's… here." Bill swallowed. "Ereshkigal."

    "You must be quite a brave creature to have the audacity to speak that name."

    Bill whirled around, only to find the fire-typed ixodida hovering behind him. Prometheus smirked and held out his hands, allowing a flame to arc between them.

    "I would address you as the Lord of Iron, but the truth is that I am surprised you exist at all," he said. "Her Majesty is quite intrigued by this and requests your audience. Accept and come with me."

    His body burst into flames. Bill, startled by the sudden show, tried to back away but tripped over his tail and went sprawling into the dirt.

    Smiling at this display, Prometheus added, "As you can see, denying this request would be far from your best interests."

    REBOOT: Chapter fifteen now available. | Original: Chapter thirty-one now available.

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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    I should be finishing a paper and preparing an oral report. What am I doing instead? Posting this. Because my priorities are awesome.

    Also, a huge thank you to The Great Butler for betaing this chapter. And probably subsequent chapters unless he tells me, "lolnope." Or something to that effect.
    I'll be betaing as long as I don't get infected and turn into an alien hybrid. XD

    Anima Ex Machina
    Twenty-Six: In the mist of a memory, you wander back to me.


    Purple eyes.

    Bill couldn't look away. They hovered in his field of vision, staring deep into him. Their pupils contracted, narrowing into slits as the violet of the irises flashed. The creature's mouth tensed until it formed a straight line. At the same time, the skin of the rest of the face – the oval, hairless face – pulled back until it looked like someone was grasping the creature's flesh from the back of her head.

    He wasn't sure how he could tell this was a female; something inside him simply knew. More importantly, he felt as if he had seen this being before, but he couldn't place his finger on where.

    That was not a good sort of déjŕ vu. In fact, as she floated in front of him, he had never felt as terrified in his life as he was right then. He tried desperately to move, to squirm away from her, but his body felt distant, like he was floating inside it.

    Because of that, he could do nothing but watch as the creature extended her willowy arms towards him. Her long, thin fingers brushed his face. Each fingertip felt ice cold.

    Then, all of a sudden, it felt as if every part of Bill's body burst into flames all at once. He tried to scream, tried to move, tried to do something to cope with the pain, but all he could do was float inside himself and feel every last part of him burn. The purple eyes continued to burn into his skull as if in search of something while the ice-cold hands drifted to his chest.
    I'm glad I beta'd it right now, if for no other reason than I won't think Bill is about to get some freaky alien action here.

    He can't though. It would cause the end of the world like in Species or something.

    He could feel cold fingers stabbing into burning flesh and curl around his heart.

    His hand rose without his consent to grasp the creature's head. But it didn't look like his hand. The fingers were too long. The arm was too spindly.

    As his claws dug into the other being's skull – bone cracking beneath each finger – he could hear a woman's voice whisper from everywhere all at once.

    Ereshkigal.

    Then, the last thing he saw was a flash of blue, human eyes, and the last thing he heard was a long, piercing wail.

    ---

    Bill jolted awake. Much to his relief, instead of purple eyes, the first thing he saw was a blue sky and the branches of trees moving above him. His body no longer burned, but it ached. It wasn't with the lingering sensations of his dream; rather, it was because he was crammed in an uncomfortable position between boxes of supplies in the bed of the truck. He stiffly pushed himself to sit up as his tail unwound itself from the tight, tense coils it created around one of his legs. His hands reached down to grasp it, rubbing feeling back into it as his shoulders pulled back in a half-stretch.
    After that dream, I'm glad it was his tail he grabbed when he woke up.

    "Hey! Look who's awake!" Thom called.

    Bill looked up to see the young man sitting on the edge of the truck bed. Between Thom's knees was a plastic bag, from which he drew out a strip of jerky. As Thom bit into it, Bill caught the smoky, salty scent of meat, and involuntarily, the tip of his tail began smacking against his hand in an attempt to wag. Realizing what he was doing, Bill quickly shoved his tail under his feet, but by then, it was too late to keep Thom from noticing. With a loud guffaw, Thom tossed the bag at Bill, letting it fall awkwardly in his lap.

    "Saved the rest for you," he said. "You haven't eaten anything today, right?"

    Bill shook his head and reached into the bag. "Not really, but I'm not sure if I can eat this."

    "Why not? It's meat, isn't it?"

    At that, Bill threw his companion a startled glance. Noticing his expression, Thom frowned.

    "What? Something I said?"

    "No, it's just…" Bill laughed and slapped a hand to his forehead. "It's all too simple! I should have thought of it ages ago!"

    Thom leaned forward, letting his hands droop between his knees. "Okay, now you're creepin' me out. What are you talking about?"

    "Cooked meat!" Bill drew a strip from the bag and held it up. "All this time, I've been trying to force myself to kill pokémon for food, but it never occurred to me that meat is meat! I could eat the same things you can, just not plant matter!" As if to punctuate his point, he bit off a piece of the jerky and relaxed. "Assuming, anyway, that we're right about this."

    "Well, yeah, I figured you already knew that," Thom said. "When the ixodida invaded Mauville City, they ate any kind of meat. Didn't even matter where it came from. I thought it was really stupid that Lanette's making you go hunt for food, honestly. Everyone knows ixodida can eat all kinds of meat. They just like pokémon meat more for some reason. And she probably wants you to train, but that's stupid because we said we'd help you with that."

    As soon as Thom said that, Bill's face dropped from excited to annoyed. "Everyone… already knew that?"
    HAHAHA OH WOW. I DIDN'T THINK OF IT EITHER. I bet that poor Zigzagoon from earlier really wishes SOMEONE had though, right?

    "Yeah, but hey!" Thom leaned over to punch Bill lightly in the shoulder. "Now you know, right?"

    "Oh yes," Bill replied with a light hint of sarcasm in his voice. "Now I know."

    Ripping off another bite, he watched the trees of the forest pass by as the truck continued ambling down the road. He wondered idly if the Caravan was nearing Fortree City, if somewhere close by, Brigette's grave lay. His mouth slowed as he thought about last night – Lanette trembling in his arms for the first time in months, sobbing into the dirt. They must have spent hours in the forest without a word passed between them, with the only sound coming from Lanette's soft whimpering. She wouldn't look at him at any moment after that. Even when she had stopped, wiped the last of the tears from her face, and pulled herself away from him, she had refused to let him see her expression.

    She had been avoiding him ever since. When dawn came, she had busied herself with breaking down camp, packing up the supplies, and arranging the passengers and drivers of both vehicles. No matter how many times Bill had come to help, she turned her head away and gave him orders while diverting her attention to some other task. Eventually, she had stopped addressing him altogether, opting instead on sending Thom to tell him what to do and where to go. Then, when the Caravan started moving, she had given up her usual space in the bed of the truck, taking Thom's in the cabin next to Vito. Looking over his shoulder, Bill could see the back of her head and the occasional sliver of her face as she spoke to her human partner. She was so close, yet she was separated from him by glass and metal and an expanse of awkward silence.

    That, Bill decided, was far more aggravating than having her hate him. He couldn't figure out why.
    I think Lanette doesn't know how to feel now that Bill knows her darkest secrets. The events back there really smacked of her hitting rock bottom, and I almost think that she had no plan for handling herself after all those revelations.

    "Hey, you okay?"

    Bill turned back to Thom. "Sorry, what?"

    "You've been acting a little weird," Thom said. "Spending all night out in the woods with Lanette, only to have her look all fussy when she gets back." He cracked a grin. "Be honest with me. Did you…?"

    The ixodida's expression instantly turned horrified. "I beg your pardon?!"

    "You know. Did you…" Thom bobbed his head. "Go at it like rabbits. Know each other biblically. Dance the horizontal tango. Make love."
    CLEARLY I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE EXPECTING THIS. THANK YOU THOM.

    "I…" Bill furrowed his eyebrows. "I honestly don't know how to respond to that."

    "Simple yes or no question, Bill. I mean, it's not like there's anything wrong with that. You guys are just picking up where you left off, right?"

    Bill coughed, choking on his own words in surprise. "W-what?! What on Earth are you talking about?!"

    Thom leaned back and made a small, circular motion with one of his hands in the air. "Y'know. You guys were awfully close, right?"

    "You… you think Lanette and I were in a relationship?!" Bill squeaked. "An intimate relationship?!"

    "Well, weren't you?"

    "No!" Bill sighed. "We were partners, Thom. Colleagues! Didn't I mention that before?!"

    "No."
    Colleagues... in mattress research.

    /turns around 360 degrees and moonwalks away to the IT'S GENDO theme

    Pausing, Bill took another bite of jerky. Hadn't he mentioned it? Everything from the time Lanette appeared in Mauville onwards had happened so fast. Bill couldn't remember how much information he had shared and with whom, and all of a sudden, he realized that despite the fact that Thom was probably the closest thing he could call a friend in the Caravan besides Ellen, there was a lot they didn't know about each other. Swallowing, Bill straightened in his seat and tried to explain.

    "Lanette and I are both researchers, Thom," he said. "We worked on a number of projects together, and before the quarantine and my transformation, yes, we were close. But we were close as friends, not as… good gods, do you normally think that two people who fight…?!"

    Thom shrugged. "Why not? It's pretty classic. Girl violently denies that she even likes guy. Guy acts all protective and caring and soft towards girl. You see it all the time."

    "In fiction!"
    PSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAH OKAY. Why does it not surprise me that 1) you make jokes about the stereotypical tsundere relationship and 2) I can't get the image of Asuka out of my head now. Seriously.


    Yes, Bill, Adam whispered. Do not concern yourself with it now, but we will need to talk about it eventually.
    He's baaaaaaaaaaaaack. Been a while actually.

    "Adam," Bill murmured.

    When the human cannot hear you. It has been far too long since we have last spoken, anyway.

    "Bill?" Thom leaned forward. "You okay?"

    "Huh?"

    Shoving the rest of the jerky strip in his mouth, Bill shakily stood. His arms flailed against the movement of the truck, but he managed to remain on his feet. Swallowing, he looked up at the sky, narrowing his eyes in thought.

    "H-hey, Bill? You're gonna fall over or something, and Nurse Joy's gonna be pissed," Thom said. "Why don't you sit back down, and we can talk about it?"

    Bill frowned. "I'm fine. I just need some time to think."

    "Well, okay, but you can think—"

    "Magnet Rise!"

    Quickly, Bill surrounded himself with a golden aura, and his translucent wings burst from his back. Thom reached out to grab him, but without another word, the ixodida crouched and sprang off the truck bed, pushing himself into the air.

    "…By sitting down," Thom muttered as he watched his companion rise several feet into the sky.
    Poor Thom. Why do I get the feeling he's going to be out the money if anything on that truck got damaged?

    Above the treetops, Bill drifted forward, following the convoy down the road. In his mind, he searched for any sign of Adam's presence.

    "Indeed we do need to talk," he snapped.

    Upset, are we? Adam purred.

    "I'm not upset. I'm just… disoriented." Bill exhaled. "Adam, were you in my mind while I was asleep?"
    He's always in your mind Bill. Alwaaaaaaaays.

    Yes.

    "Then you know about that vision. About that-that creature with the purple eyes."

    Yes.

    The conversation lulled briefly. Bill huffed and pushed himself higher, rising into the air until the Caravan looked more like toys racing along a thin, brown line.

    "What was that?" Bill asked softly. "What did I see?"

    A memory.

    The answer came so suddenly and so nonchalantly that Bill halted in mid air, righted himself, and glanced down at the parasite.

    "A memory?" he repeated. "What, yours?"

    You are falling behind, Bill. Pay attention and follow the Caravan, Adam snapped. Yes, mine. This is only one consequence I was afraid of when you asked me to teach you how to use those moves. Forcing parts of my knowledge onto you and opening up your mind that wide requires more direct contact with you than simply reading your memories or speaking to you telepathically. Parts of my subconscious entered yours. I apologize.
    I'm kind of liking Adam showing a bit more emotion here. It's giving his character a bit of a new angle, and it is easy to forget sometimes that a glowing parasite is still a character.

    Bill, concentrate. We must talk. There are many things I have never told you that you must know now.

    "And that's the other thing," Bill growled. "It seems you're very fond of keeping me in the dark. Wouldn't it be easier for me to keep us alive if you answered my questions in the simplest and most straightforward manner possible?"

    It would if you knew what to ask, which you do not. Your first question, for example. "Who is that creature with the purple eyes? Is she dangerous?" One of these is irrelevant, and the other is obvious. But I cannot blame you. Humans think too simply.

    "If humans think too simply," Bill answered impatiently, "then what should I be asking?"

    The parasite didn't respond. It simply left Bill to hang in the air in complete, utter silence.

    "Adam?" Bill asked, his voice slightly softer.
    Yeah, I'm really liking how Adam is showing a much more distinct personality here. Maybe this is just how it happened, or this is foreshadowing of more ominous events forthcoming, like Adam beginning to infect Bill's mind further.

    When the silence only lingered onward, Bill huffed and swooped towards the Caravan for a second time. It was all strange to him. When he was a human, he couldn't recall ever feeling this frustrated, this confused, this spectrum of extreme emotions, but now – now that Lanette began avoiding him, that Adam refused to speak to him, and that everything else in the universe dictated his life to him, all he could think about was how there were walls all around him that he wanted so badly to tear down. It wasn't the first time he felt trapped, caged by things outside him, and he never did like the feeling. Yet, these moments were different. In the past, he knew he could overcome a mental wall by thinking through them or avoiding them altogether, but the walls that blocked him now from the truth or happiness or whatever else he was trying to seek were going to be there for the unforeseeable future.

    That and he didn't like the fact that those walls were being purposefully erected. He wouldn't mind if he had any sort of clues to go on in order to piece together answers, but Lanette and Adam, at the very least, left him with absolutely nothing. It wasn't a game anymore. Bill couldn't remotely call the numbers of times he was left to figure things out fun. He wasn't sure what he could call his relationship with both his parasite and his former partner, but all he knew for certain was he didn't like a piece of it.

    That was probably the reason why, when Adam finally spoke again, Bill wasn't entirely willing to listen until he caught the echo of the last syllable.

    --Gal.

    "Excuse me?" he said tonelessly.

    "Who is Ereshkigal?" Adam repeated. That is a question you may ask, but I am afraid you would not understand the answer unless you asked a better one.

    "And what question might that be?"

    That is obvious. "Where are you from?" Naturally.

    Bill scoffed. "Naturally."

    Sarcasm. Your sense of humor is growing. That is a good thing. Humor allows one to survive the most horrific of challenges.
    Naturally, right. I'd never think of that, Adam.

    Why does he know about sarcasm and the benefits of humor? Just how intelligent is this thing?

    By then, Bill caught up with the convoy, but he skirted the treetops above its tail end. He trained his eyes on the metagross bringing up the rear; the last thing he wanted was to draw the attentions of either of the champions riding it. So far, they kept their gazes on the van ahead of them. Even though he knew it was unlikely that they could hear him, Bill's voice dropped in volume, lowering to a near mumble.

    "Is this another conversation where I end up more confused than I was when we started talking?" he asked Adam.

    Of course not. I am only making idle conversation so that you may be in the best mood to handle what I have to tell you.

    It was roughly at that point that Bill decided he just didn't care anymore. For a third time, he paused mid-flight, but this time, it wasn't out of surprise. Instead, he closed his eyes in exasperation briefly as he carefully constructed an appropriate response.

    "Adam," he said slowly – deliberately. "Please."

    Right then, Bill got the distinct feeling that Adam was amused. A light, warm sensation tickled his chest, as if his nervous system was laughing while the rest of him wasn't. Behind his closed eyelids, he could see a flash of a smile that wasn't his. Instinctively, he snapped open his eyes and pulled himself backwards.
    I'm beginning to get a little alarmed. It almost seems like Adam is starting to get more and more control that he didn't have before.

    The ixodida came from forests like these. Not this particular one, however. I am making you see this place because it is where the original hosts made their greatest city.

    "The original hosts?" Bill's voice tumbled across his lips almost inaudibly. His concentration wasn't on speaking at all, and he almost didn't realize he said a word.

    Another flash of light brought him to someplace new. In the heart of the forest, massive, violet crystals rose high into the air, parting the balloon plants just enough to reach the sunlight above them. Light filtered down their shafts, illuminating the clearing enough to reveal the mouth of a stone tunnel. The vision guided Bill into the earth, following the twisting corridor for several yards until, finally, he came to a massive underground chamber illuminated by countless glowing crystals of all colors embedded in the smooth, rock walls. Terraces were carved out of the walls of the cave, and on each terrace was a cluster of stone buildings. Tiled roads twisted throughout the cave, connecting terrace to terrace in an intricate web. Silver machines shaped like the flying creatures outside of the cave darted over and under each bridge to smoothly land on terraces throughout the cave.

    And on every road and on the backs of every silver skate, Bill saw the exact creature from his dream.

    The ones on the roads didn't so much walk as glide while the hems of their long, colorful robes brushed the tiled road and concealed each creature's feet. Every last one of them was tall and willowy, with the smallest being only a head shorter than him. They held their pale, hairless heads high as they moved, and no matter which facial expression their long, oval-shaped faces made, their white skin seemed to pull towards a point on the back of their skulls. Their eyes glittered each time they turned their heads; each face possessed a different, vivid color of the rainbow. When they spoke, their hands and long, thin fingers made sweeping gestures with each word, and their voices echoed throughout the chamber in tongues Bill couldn't begin to decipher.

    These, Bill, were the original hosts, Adam explained. The Relians.

    "The Relians?" Bill repeated in a soft voice.

    Those of the Empire of Relia.

    Bill's vision moved rapidly through the sea of Relians. All around him, he heard the rolling syllables of their language, saw the bright colors of ornately embroidered robes and sparkling eyes, even smelled the smoky scent of incense and spices wafting in the air. Yet, his brain felt like it was on pause, like it was overloaded with the massive loads of information assaulting three of his basic senses. He floated, allowing Adam to pull him through a memory until the vision ascended to an entranceway at the very top of the cave. The lights there were dimmer, with the crystals embedded in the walls emitting a soft, violet light.

    The Relian Empire, Adam continued. It is difficult to find words to describe it. The Relians were the only kingdom on the entire moon of Nila, and that is not without good reason. For eons leading up to the final days of their world, they were a peaceful race, united under one crown. They knew no war, no famine, no disease, and no poverty, and their technology was the envy of the galaxy. By the time your planet was young, the Empire had already developed instantaneous space travel and had already mapped much of the known universe. By the time you were born, they had assisted in the civilization of hundreds of planets. Never Earth, however. They wished to reach you, but alas, tragedy befell the Relian Empire.
    Once again, I am glad that I beta'd this. This time, it's because I would have begun speculating upon the how Adam knows so much about the Relians and the nature of the tragedy that hit them.

    Upon Adam's last word, the vision passed through a flash of bright, purple light, and the next image Bill saw was a smaller chamber. The walls of this place were made of pale violet crystal, and the floors were made of smooth, white stone. Silks of various colors were hung from the ceiling, stretching across the room to create a rainbow canopy. In the center was a bed covered with shimmering, white sheets and golden pillows. Relians in plain, white robes darted back and forth across the room carrying trays piled with bowls and cups. The only place where they stopped was by the edge of the bed to speak in their rolling language.

    On the other side stood a figure that made Bill's blood freeze. The female, the same one from his dreams, stared down at the bed with her deep, purple eyes. She stretched one of her long hands towards the center, fanning the sleeves of her colorful robes out beneath her arm. Her fingertips caressed the forehead of the bed's occupant, a sickly, gray Relian with dull, blue eyes.

    Beneath her touch, the Relian trembled and turned its head with a long, deep moan. Other Relians – nurses, Bill realized – immediately stopped what they were doing to gather by the bedside.

    Relians once had extraordinarily long lives, Adam said. They had no disease on their moon, and their medical technology was far more advanced than you could imagine. But they were not immortal by any means, and the last emperor's reign lasted for many, many years.

    The Relian's – the emperor's – head lolled to the side to stare at the female. One of his hands shook as he raised it to touch her face. A single fingertip grazed her cheek before the hand fell to the bed with a thump.

    So it should be natural to say that he died.
    That should go without saying. Adam's really stating the obvious here.

    Another flash of purple flooded Bill's vision, and in the next instant, he saw a large, familiar chamber: the one from his dreams. This place was largely bare. It was only a hall with violet crystal walls and the same smooth floors of the emperor's bedchambers. The only decoration was the red carpet running from the massive arch serving as a doorway at one end of the room to the elevated platform at the other. On the platform was a stone bench with red cushions covering its surface. Otherwise, the only color came from the rainbow of robes worn by the crowds gathered on both sides of the room. The female from the bedchamber stood at the foot of the platform, dressed in the flowing, white robes Bill had seen in his dream. Before her was an older Relian flanked by two younger ones, all of whom were in gold robes embroidered with red trim. The elder held a bowl in one wide hand as the other reached into it and wet itself on the rose-scented oils inside.

    While the emperor had been widowed for years before his death, he did not leave this world without a successor, Adam told its host. Shortly after his funeral, his eldest daughter ascended the throne.

    The female bowed before the elder, who placed its oil-slicked hand on her head. All around them, the crowd erupted in cheers as the female straightened her back. Without looking at her subjects or changing her neutral expression, she climbed the stairs, turned, and took her seat on the bench.
    Wait, what gender is the elder? It feels a bit odd to be using specific pronouns for one but "it" for the other.

    But while the last emperor was a kind and wise man, his daughter was not.

    Another flash erupted across the vision. This time, Bill could only see a dark room, and in the dark room, he saw the red glow of molten metal and heard the deafening roar of machines and hammers on steel.

    It was during her reign that the Relians came to know war.
    This is a stupid point, but the Relians must have "known" war if she knew how to introduce it. I get what you meant here, it just maybe could have been worded a bit better.

    There were no flashes this time. The scene simply changed to the silhouette of the empress and several Relians in armor standing at the mouth of a cave entrance similar to the one Bill had seen earlier. Only this one was massive – a giant chasm gouged into the earth. The empress stood at the edge of stone with her gaze on the sky, on the gray planet Nila orbited. A buzz filled the air, and the glow of green lights filled the mouth of the cave. Within seconds, hundreds of silver skates burst from underground with armored riders, flanking a giant skate-shaped ship. All of them quickly filled the sky, the smaller skates cutting down treetops to make way for the larger one's ascent.

    I cannot say who the Relians fought or why. I never cared, and it is irrelevant. The fact, though, is that the Relians would never know victory with their technology alone.

    The vision cut to another forest, one full of pad trees but no balloon plants. Here, the air was still and quiet, without so much as the shriek of one of the six-legged monkeys. But more importantly, the main difference between this forest and the one at the mouth of the Relian city, was that the trees and the forest floor were covered with glowing, red creatures.

    Ixodida parasites.

    So they found the ixodida.

    A hum signaled the approach of silver skates. Through the trees, Bill could see their green lights descending until they landed gracefully. Their riders dismounted and walked into the red-lit clearing. There, they stood in thick boots in a sea of parasites. Armored tails swept behind them, brushing parasites off their thick, bird-like feet. It was then that Bill realized that when in full-bodied, plated armor and helmets, the Relians looked uncannily like ixodida. He was about to say something about it when one of them strode forward and stooped down to spread a spindly hand on the ground. One of the parasites crawled onto one of the long fingers, and as it stood, the Relian tilted its head and examined the creature. Then, its other hand rose to take off its helmet, revealing deep, purple eyes that resembled those of the woman in Bill's dreams. Yet, there was something different about this pair. They looked weary and angry.

    Without speaking to its companions, the Relian soldier placed the parasite on its head and closed her violet eyes.
    That's actually a brilliant way of tying up several plot points here. The Relians tried to use the Ixodida parasites to increase their own power, didn't they?

    The clearing filled with the sound of its ensuing scream.

    That was the first host, Adam said. My kind had victims in the past – attempts to invade other creatures and escape our isolated jungle – but the Relians were the first intelligent hosts, the first to truly allow us to escape our home. It was the first time I had tasted power.

    "That was you?" Bill breathed, watching the female collapse in writhing pain.
    Something amuses me about Adam's original host being a female warrior.

    Yes, Adam replied. We were one from that point onward, and I felt the pain of the Relians. I knew that for the good of the people – our kind – I had to fight the Relian throne, to help usher in a new era.
    I'll be honest, this part feels a little strange. It feels a little... abrupt, maybe? ... that Adam suddenly has or had a noble goal. I kind of think that maybe he is not being totally forthcoming about his motives.

    Abruptly, the vision returned to the Relian city, but this time, it wasn't peaceful. Relians in colorful robes dashed across bridges in a panic, chased by soldiers. Ixodida flew through the air, diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps. Bridges fell, and the sounds of Relian screams and falling rock roared through the air.

    So I did.

    The vision entered the throne room. Bodies of soldiers and ixodida lay in piles along the edges of the room, and green smears of parasite innards streaked across the crystal walls. At the opposite end of the chamber, the empress rose from her stone bench and glided down the steps towards Bill. Her hands reached for him, and her purple eyes glittered. All around him, he could hear the voice of a woman whisper.

    "Ereshkigal."

    Bill snapped his eyes open. As he panted, he looked around himself frantically. Earth trees. Earth sky. The soft cry of Earth wingull in the distance. He placed a hand over his heart and doubled over. A lingering, uncomfortable feeling crawled across his chest.

    You must understand, Bill, I did only what was necessary.

    "What… what happened?" he murmured. "What happened after that?"

    The empress was overthrown. Nila was destroyed.

    Bill bowed his head. "How?"

    How what?

    "How?" he asked, a little louder this time. "How was Nila destroyed? What happened? Why are you here? Why are you telling me this?"

    After a long pause, Adam answered, The empress was overthrown but not killed. She escaped, and I sense that the ixodida empress of this planet is connected to her.

    As Bill straightened, he stared in the distance, struggling to process this information. The uncomfortable feeling in his chest grew, but he was too preoccupied to grasp it. Still, he was vaguely aware of the fact that the air seemed to grow heavier and hotter.

    Ereshkigal, Adam finished, was the last empress on Nila, Bill. And she is here.
    Something doesn't feel right about this. I'm immediately asking myself why Adam spared Ereshkigal in the past; it smacks of an ulterior motive. It's just too suspicious.

    "She's… here." Bill swallowed. "Ereshkigal."

    "You must be quite a brave creature to have the audacity to speak that name."

    Bill whirled around, only to find the fire-typed ixodida hovering behind him. Prometheus smirked and held out his hands, allowing a flame to arc between them.

    "I would address you as the Lord of Iron, but the truth is that I am surprised you exist at all," he said. "Her Majesty is quite intrigued by this and requests your audience. Accept and come with me."

    His body burst into flames. Bill, startled by the sudden show, tried to back away but tripped over his tail and went sprawling into the dirt.

    Smiling at this display, Prometheus added, "As you can see, denying this request would be far from your best interests."
    And then **** just got real.

    Now for my thoughts on the chapter as a whole:

    The biggest comments I have are in regard to the backstory of Adam, the Ixodida, the Relians, Ereshkigal, and Nila. This was simply magnificent. It must have taken an extraordinary amount of careful planning to devise such an intricate and vast setting along with the history alongside it. As far as the planet - or perhaps all of the settings seen - goes, the sheer level of inventiveness in just how elaborate everything was was what impressed me. You really put in a lot of thought to come up with the native planet and animal species, distinct visual cues for all of the settings, the very well defined appearance of the Relians, and so on. The story was very impressive as well; while the idea of a peaceful species that turned warlike upon the ascendance of a new ruler is somewhat simple in detail, the way you built on it pushed it over and above, especially the detail about the Relian warriors apparently deliberately infecting themselves with the Ixodida parasites to increase their powers.

    I'm becoming a little confused by and more than a little suspicious of Adam's motives, however. He seems to be subtly gaining more and more control over Bill and influencing his mind more as well, but that's minor compared to some of my suspicions regarding his history with Ereshkigal. I can't imagine that he spared her, so if it isn't that she merely stunned him and escaped, the biggest question is why Adam supposedly made it his mission to end her reign of terror but then let her live. I am very suspicious that he may have an ulterior motive in sparing Ereshkigal and her appearance on Earth may not be a coincidence.

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  24. #24
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    Yes, Adam replied. We were one from that point onward, and I felt the pain of the Relians. I knew that for the good of the people – our kind – I had to fight the Relian throne, to help usher in a new era.

    Abruptly, the vision returned to the Relian city, but this time, it wasn't peaceful. Relians in colorful robes dashed across bridges in a panic, chased by soldiers. Ixodida flew through the air, diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps. Bridges fell, and the sounds of Relian screams and falling rock roared through the air.

    So I did.
    The bit in the middle, "diving at soldiers and blasting attacks through corps." I don't think that's quite right somehow...

    Dunno, it just jumped out at me.

    Also, I would give my opinion on the whole backstory thing, but TGB said this:

    The biggest comments I have are in regard to the backstory of Adam, the Ixodida, the Relians, Ereshkigal, and Nila. This was simply magnificent. It must have taken an extraordinary amount of careful planning to devise such an intricate and vast setting along with the history alongside it. As far as the planet - or perhaps all of the settings seen - goes, the sheer level of inventiveness in just how elaborate everything was was what impressed me. You really put in a lot of thought to come up with the native planet and animal species, distinct visual cues for all of the settings, the very well defined appearance of the Relians, and so on. The story was very impressive as well; while the idea of a peaceful species that turned warlike upon the ascendance of a new ruler is somewhat simple in detail, the way you built on it pushed it over and above, especially the detail about the Relian warriors apparently deliberately infecting themselves with the Ixodida parasites to increase their powers.
    QFT. This was a brilliant chapter purely for this backstory. It really gives the Ixodida a new kind of legitimacy, they have a homewolrd, they have a history... they apparently assimilate intelligent species like some kind of primal, tribal Borg. I'm surprised Ol' Prometheus didn't say "Resistance is futile" xD

    Speaking of, that ending was great. Cliffhangery as all hell and badass to boot.
    Skogsrĺ

    Gardenia never liked the Old Chateau, but what if the Old Chateau liked her?

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  25. #25
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    Actual responses will be coming at a sane hour of the day, but in the meantime...

    THE 300 POST SURPRIIIIIIIIISE~!

    Do you like roleplaying? Would you like to roleplay a random side character in the AEM universe? Now you can!

    [CLASSIFIED], a sparkling-new tumblr blog, will be home to all your random documents and sparkly speculations in the forms of character journal entries, images, voice posts, and so forth. If you have a tumblr blog, feel free to use the submissions link to send in something new. If you're anonymous, that's what the ask blog is for! Both crack and serious entries are highly encouraged. For inspiration, feel free to read the SCP Foundation Wiki to understand both the tone the game uses and also what levels of crack are perfectly acceptable.

    Note: You may be susceptible to thorough Jossing somewhere down the line. Unless I think your post is awesome, in which case I will probably steal the **** out of it incorporate your idea and give you appropriate credit somewhere in the story.

    Would you like to ask me questions about the story and obligate me to answer them truthfully? Now you can! Would you like to have a place to submit fanarts and fanfics and fan-whatevers but don't want to submit it via this thread? You can do that too! [CLASSIFIED] also has an ask feature that enables you to do all that and more!

    And for the tropers in the audience, AEM now comes in Inescapable Vortex of Time flavor! Turn AEM into a game by attempting to point out and chronicle all the tropes I've ever used in this fic. And then feel immensely disappointed that I'm not that creative an entity. (Note: I've already filled the page with the obvious ones. There are many, many others that I was conscious of when writing the fic. Good luck!)

    Go forth and interact, dear readers! For making it this far, you deserve to have fun!

    Disclaimer: JX Valentine is not liable for the lost hours of time you may experience by being linked to TVTropes, tumblr, and the SCP Foundation Wiki all in one post.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 12th August 2012 at 10:54 AM.

    REBOOT: Chapter fifteen now available. | Original: Chapter thirty-one now available.

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