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Thread: Anima Ex Machina (PG-15)

  1. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Anima Ex Machina: Ten
    Violence is a last resort.


    Bill was hard-pressed to recall any situation that was more awkward than the one he was in right then. It had been some time since Officer Jenny ordered the pudgy man at the door – who never did reveal his name – to unchain Bill and lead him downtown for negotiations. This involved unchaining Bill, naturally, but it also involved using the chains as a collar and leash to lead him down the empty streets of Mauville City.

    Needless to say, Bill tried to focus more on the fact that the streets were empty than his current state.

    Mauville reminded him a little of Goldenrod City. It looked modern on the surface, but it had a sort of old-city charm underneath that. Both sides of each wide street were lined with brick buildings. Some of these were apartments, their revolving, glass doors shaded by weather-beaten awnings. Others were stores with windows full of colorful displays.
    Good description of Mauville City, I can definitely picture that.

    However, the difference between this place and where Bill grew up – a difference that made his heart feel chilled – was that this place was completely devoid of visible people. Technically, it wasn't completely devoid of people in general; Bill could catch the scraping sound of people moving on rooftops around him. It was just that the streets were empty. Even the man who led him there had subsequently dashed for a hiding spot as soon as the end of the chain was securely locked around a lamp post.

    Ignoring this form of company, Bill could tell that there hadn't been crowds on that street for some time. On closer inspection along the way, he had noticed that all of the store displays were coated with thick dust that gave every color a gray tint. The garbage cans didn't even smell like something was rotting in them – as if there wasn't anything left to rot at all. Most of all, the place was quiet: extremely quiet, like the entire city block was gone. He couldn't even hear the buzz of electricity or the hum of traffic in the distance.
    Chilling...

    Leaning against the lamp post, he waited. He couldn't quite tell what time it was, but the sun hung halfway between the earth and its zenith. For awhile, he watched the shadows by his feet elongate while he wondered what the humans wanted him to do.

    How boring. I hope you were not planning on remaining here for much longer, Bill.

    At the voice, Bill jolted back into reality. "Adam!"

    Did you expect anyone else? Tell me, human, what is your plan?

    "Plan?"

    To escape, of course. We have things to do. We cannot be chained here forever.

    "Are you insane?" Bill whispered. "We can't escape!"

    Why? Are you concerned about breaking the chain? I could give you the ability to do so.

    "That isn't the problem."

    Then what is?

    Bill looked up, scanning the rooftops. Catching sight of the corner of a shadow, he turned towards it and leaned back a little.

    "Do you see that figure on the roof?"

    I can see it through your eyes.

    Ignoring the creeping shiver he got from that statement, Bill frowned. "That man is carrying a gun."

    A gun?

    Balling his hand into a fist, Bill carefully used the back of his wrist to rub the bridge of his nose. He was starting to get a headache, but the last thing he wanted was to put out his own eyes.

    "Guns," he said. "They're weapons that can kill us both from a distance by firing lead projectiles at us at high velocities."

    How primitive.
    I hear Obi-Wan Kenobi's disgust for blasters here. XD;

    It occurred to Bill right then that he knew next to nothing about Adam or the rest of his species. He knew that they apparently began appearing around the crater outside of Fortree City in Hoenn, and from that, he guessed that they were extraterrestrial in origin. Other than that and what little data Project Stardust gathered about the way they functioned? Nothing. He didn't know where they actually came from, let alone how they lived before coming to Earth. Adam's comment right then sent an electric shock to his brain – a shock that made him realize he was dealing with something that most likely was far more advanced than he had originally believed.

    "Adam," he said, "what did--"

    Before Bill could go any further, a howl rose in the air. He felt his nerves prickle under his metal armor, and instinctively, he crouched.

    "What was that?" he whispered.

    One of us, I should think, Adam replied. Prepare yourself, Bill. We will need to treat this delicately.

    "What do you mean by that?" Bill asked.

    Before the parasite could say a word, the howling grew close. Looking forward, Bill could see a pair of purple blurs streak towards him. Yelping, he scrambled to run away, but he got no further than a few feet from the post before the chain yanked at his neck. He choked and grabbed it, holding it taut. Although he knew it was locked, he still pulled at it, hoping it would somehow come undone.

    A purple hand grasped the chain. Stopping short, Bill felt his breath catch in his throat. Cautiously, he turned his head to find that the purple blurs had stopped, and both of them were standing uncomfortably close to him.

    As far as he could tell, both of the creatures must have been teenagers when they transformed. They looked about as young as he was, with smooth, round faces and wide eyes. The long, purple quills all over their bodies rose and fell as they leaned in to study him, and their tails, both ending in spike-studded balls, waved like the tails of a pair of content dogs. One of them – female, as far as Bill could tell from the chest – ran long fingers along his tail to find the arrowhead. The other, a male, looked down but kept his own hand on the chain.

    "Monarch," she whispered. "Tail. Look."
    I wouldn't be laughing so hard here if I wasn't a Venture Bros. fan.

    What he thought was the corpse of the female sat up. Bullets hit her, biting off parts of her body little by little. Her shoulder was ripped open. Several holes went right through her torso. Parts of her brain were exposed to the open air, and some parts of it were ripped completely out of her skull. Yet, she still stared at Bill with the same expressionless face, and keeping her wide, blank eyes on him, she stood without a problem.

    Sinking to the ground, Bill felt his mind go completely blank. He couldn't think of a single thing right then, except for the thought that he really wanted to scream.
    That's terrifying.

    Change your expression.

    He kept his eyes on the female. His entire body felt numb, not because he was losing control but instead because he couldn't sense anything else but the image of the girl with her brains in full view. He had no idea Adam was trying to communicate with him.

    Bill. I gave you an order. Change your expression.

    Closing his mouth, Bill tried to push himself backwards. His body shook as the girl knelt in front of him and stared with her wide eyes.

    Bill. Listen to me. Humans express their emotions on their faces. My kind does it by other means. A human who has recently become a drone struggles with transitioning from one mode of expression to another, but a monarch is in control of their body language at all times.

    "What?" The word stumbled out of Bill's mouth so softly he almost believed he had imagined he said it.

    You are putting us in danger by staring at her the way you are! Change your expression!
    Creative.

    Although Bill heard him, he couldn't comply. All he could do was continue to stare at the girl as she reached down and grabbed his chin. He felt her slick, cold fingers grasp his face tightly, the claws stinging his skin.

    "Rogue," she rasped.

    She knows.

    Bill couldn't make sense of either voice – the girl's or Adam's. His eyes fell on the female's free hand as she drew it back. She pressed her fingers together, each one glowing with a bright, violet glow. Then, her arm shot forward, aiming directly for the red jewel in Bill's chest.

    Acting on its own orders, Bill's hand reached up to grab the girl's wrist just before the strike connected. Suddenly, Bill's expression blanked, and all of it wasn't even his doing. After all, he felt himself slip backwards, as if all of his body had gone numb for a completely different reason.

    "Bill," Adam said, using his mouth, "I want you to watch what I do. Let this be a learning experience."

    Then, the parasite bent the girl's arm until it snapped. Kicked backwards into the street, she shrieked and grasped her broken arm frantically. Adam rose from where it sat and walked forward. It extended one of its hands, spreading its claws to prepare for a strike. Each finger took on a white glow as the muscles tensed to the point where it felt like all that existed in that appendage was pure steel.

    Above them, Bill could hear the male's shriek, but whereas he would have reacted a second too late, Adam twisted and thrust the glowing hand upwards. The male fell, intending on ambushing Adam, but before he could so much as plant a claw on the steel-type, its glowing claws stabbed into his stomach. Turning, Adam threw its victim back into the street, letting him slam into the pavement. The female bent over him and whimpered as he curled on his side.

    "Lesson one," Adam said. "When engaged in battle, always be aware of your surroundings."
    When did Bill become a badass. Geez.

    The shots stopped. By then, Adam could see people gather on the edges of buildings with their guns lowered and their eyes fixed on the scene on the street. The female rose and lifted her arms in front of her. Each quill that ran along her forearms stood and pointed themselves at Adam. Calmly, it turned its head back towards her and shielded its face with its own arms. For a second time, Bill sensed that the muscles of his body tensed as his armor began to glow with a white light. Pins shot from the female's arms and struck Adam's with a volley of clinks; not a single one of them pierced armor.

    Behind it, Adam's tail stiffened and began to glow. As soon as the attack finished, it lunged forward, crouched, and spun. Its tail whipped around it and sliced cleanly through the girl's legs halfway down her thighs. The rest of her body smacked back into the pavement and fell still, her mouth open in death. However, one of her amputated legs twitched. Adam bent down to pick it up.

    "Lesson two," it said, "locate and destroy the core. The core is our source of life. Our host may be decapitated, and we can still control its body to fulfill our needs. However, if the core is broken, we die."
    Again, very creative...

    It turned the leg over and found the female's crimson jewel embedded in her heel. Adam's fingers dug into the flesh surrounding it, cutting through the spindly threads that anchored the parasite to its host. With a rip, Adam yanked the creature free from the leg. The parasite squealed and thrashed its tentacles as the rest of the leg was tossed onto the girl's body. Adam held it up, studying it for a few seconds. Then, metal fingers gripped the parasite in a palm until its exoskeleton cracked. The squealing abruptly stopped, and the red body flashed several times before bursting in a splash of blood and acid. Opening its hand, Adam licked the blood.

    Without warning, a purple arm wrapped around his shoulders. Another hand lashed forward, its claws ripping across the exposed flesh of Adam's throat. The steel-type rasped, feeling the blood run from its neck and the cut in his windpipe.

    Taking advantage of my distraction. Using Slash instead of a venomous move, Adam thought. This one is intelligent. However...

    It reached over its shoulder. The five claws on its hand began to glow white again. Taking notice, the male grabbed Adam's hand and wrapped his tail around its waist. Adam struggled to free its wrist, but the male held on with a crushing grip. The glow faded before Adam could do anything with his second Metal Claw.

    But then, it stabbed the male through the shoulder with the arrowhead tip of its glowing tail. Instantly, the parasite on the poison-type's back burst, and the creature shuttered. Withdrawing its tail, Adam pulled itself free from the man's weakened grip. It looked at the infected human as he dropped to his knees. Bringing a hand to its throat, Adam felt the wound across it heal, and with that, it coughed.

    If he wanted to cripple me, he would have broken my horns, Adam continued.

    It finished its victim off by whipping its tail through his neck. The man's head fell off his shoulders with a thud, and the rest of the body collapsed sideways.
    Wow...

    Walking into the middle of the street, Adam looked towards the rooftops. Every single human stood there, still as people in a photograph. A few of them still held guns, but these remained at their sides. Adam had nothing to say to them.

    "No contest."

    Turning its head towards the whisper, Adam caught sight of three familiar faces. The first was the chubby man who had led Bill to that spot, and the second and third were Officer Jenny and Ellen. All three of them were standing at a street corner several feet away, but although Jenny whispered, the place was silent enough for Adam to hear her voice.

    "Two ixodida in less than ten minutes. I... I don't believe it."

    Bill, take over, Adam thought. They do not intend on attacking us, and I have spent too long outside as it is.

    There was no answer.

    Bill?

    Still, there was silence.

    Jenny started forward. Her face was pale, and her movements were sluggish, as if someone had sapped all her energy. Without a word to her, Adam turned away, dropped to all fours, and started running.
    Overall, it's certainly an interesting chapter to return with. We'll have to see how things go from here.

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  2. #77
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    You know, I probably should be asleep right now, but hey!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cryptic Blaze View Post
    You're back, and with a new chapter!
    *high fives* Good to see you too! You too, m'dear Nando. :D

    The two poison ixodida shrugging off being practically torn apart by bullets like it was just a minor inconvenience surprised me, but it also made me think of the necromorphs from Dead Space for some reason.
    Probably due to the whole space zombie thing. Which is actually pretty cool (that you thought of that because that's what I was going for).

    I mean, seriously. Zombies. In space. I love this genre for pulling stuff like that all the time.

    What really took the cake though was that Adam just wiped them out like they were the inconvenience. You made him into a tank!
    Pretty much. ;D

    Talk about an Achilles heel,
    Literally!

    ...And just now do I realize that this scene was just a lead-up to an intensely terrible pun that I swear I did not actually plan, and for that, I'm deeply sorry. XD;

    but I like how you made it so that the ixodida can only be killed by destroying the "jewel" that they have.
    Thanks! I wanted to make the ixodida be as horrifying as possible. So, I figured a good way to do that would be to make it so that their bodies could be completely mutilated except the core, and they'd still be able to get up and walk around. In other words, it's an excuse to have space zombies.

    And thanks for the review in general! :D

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Good description of Mauville City, I can definitely picture that.
    Thanks and awesome. :D I wasn't entirely sure whether or not it was too vague.

    I hear Obi-Wan Kenobi's disgust for blasters here. XD;
    Which is hilariously ironic, considering Adam is like an Obi-Wan who's trying to convince Luke Skywalker to screw choosing sides and just go off and eat Jedi and Sith babies. XD

    I wouldn't be laughing so hard here if I wasn't a Venture Bros. fan.
    XDDDD Things I Never Noticed When Writing Them for $400, Alex.

    It's probably terrible of me to say this, but this is made slightly more amusing to me because Bill would totally prance around in a black and yellow butterfly costume if given the chance. Adam... not so much.

    When did Bill become a badass. Geez.
    XD Oh, Bill wishes he could be a badass. But unfortunately, until maybe next chapter, Adam gets the honors of doing some awesome stuff with their body.

    ...And that sounded a little less wrong in my head.

    Overall, it's certainly an interesting chapter to return with. We'll have to see how things go from here.
    Thanks! I'm glad you liked it, especially after the, uh, half-a-year-long wait. XD;

    The next chapter is actually done, edited, and waiting to be coded. Maybe it'll be up later on today if I actually get off my lazy rear to do it. b)'')b

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

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  3. #78
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    And for once, I make good on my promise. :D


    Anima Ex Machina: Eleven
    In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.


    A young woman stood on the edge of a cliff enveloped in fog. The fog wasn't so much the byproduct of the area as it was the result of her presence: fog emitted in wisps from her indigo skin while dark purple clouds shrouded most of her body. Her eyes glowed with a soft, blue light as she gazed through the mist.

    Suddenly, she gasped and shivered, and the glow faded from her eyes.

    Behind her something stirred. "My lady?"

    Looking over her shoulder, she made out the silhouette of a second ixodida standing a few feet away.

    "I sense a rogue on this island," she said.

    "Does that worry you?" the male replied. "It is not wise to concern yourself so much with something like that. We have identified multiple rogues on this planet, and all of them are weak. It is the mind of this world's dominant species, my lady. While it may be intelligent, it lacks the ability to adapt to the transitional process. Many of them will die shortly after creation, and those few that survive will either lack the power to be considered a threat or be killed by their own follies."

    "You underestimate the earthlings," she replied. "Besides, this may not be any ordinary rogue. I feel its presence already. Whatever it is, I sense that it may be powerful and clever. It killed two of Venom Clan's drones and disappeared..." She narrowed her eyes. "...as if it was mocking me."

    The other ixodida straightened. "My lady, the likelihood that we fell to the same planet as--"

    "Nonetheless," the woman interrupted, "please investigate it. I will not rest well until I know for sure what this rogue is."

    Without further questioning, the other ixodida bowed. "Yes, my lady. It will be done."

    Straightening, he turned and walked away from her. She waited for awhile until she heard the buzz of his departure. Then, she lifted a hand and glanced at the pink silk lotus she held in her palm.

    "If you did indeed follow us to this planet--" She gripped the flower in her hand. "--then for the sake of our kind, I will not allow you to live."

    ---

    Adam entered the gray forest easily. For its kind, it wasn't difficult at all to access a host's mind. After all, the ixodida and their hosts were one being. Everything that was part of the host was also a part of the parasite. So, everything that Bill's brain contained was just a casual thought away for Adam, even the parts that Bill himself had long forgotten.

    Technically, the same relationship existed in reverse. Everything that was contained within Adam's mind could just as easily be accessible to its hosts as their mind was to it; the host just needed to be willing to explore. This openness was most of the reason why Adam's kind typically overwhelmed and trapped the host's mind within itself upon infection, but there were certain advantages, as Adam had discovered long before coming to Earth, to having multiple minds in one body. Amusement, for one. Although Adam hoped that Bill would never discover that the link between them went both ways, the parasite was already making a game out of seeing how long it would take for one of the brightest minds humanity could offer to figure the ixodida out.

    However, humanity had its weak points, and Bill's were beginning to test his parasite's patience.

    Adam found its host sitting against a tree. His arms were resting on his knees, and his face was buried in them. He didn't say anything. He didn't even move.

    "It would be a problem if you have already broken after witnessing your first real battle," Adam drawled. "I would need to find a new host, and I have no doubt you would die wherever I left you, either from the gaping wound in your chest I would leave behind or the fact that the tentacles I have planted all over your body would secrete acids to liquify all your internal organs in a matter of hours."

    Still, there was no response.

    "Get up," Adam said.

    Silence.

    "Bill. Get up."

    After awhile, Bill shook his head and whispered, "That girl... I don't understand..."

    It wasn't a question, but Adam knew from their bond what Bill was trying to say. The most unfortunate side to humanity was, quite simply, the fact that the human brain frequently failed to process whatever was well outside of their normal understanding of the world. For example, on Earth, getting shot multiple times in the head killed a person. The dead did not get up and walk. People were not normally dismembered in broad daylight. A rational human who previously claimed to be a pacifist did not rip another living being apart with his own bare hands. All four facts combined left Bill, despite all his intellectual abilities, overwhelmed to the point where his brain shut down. He was no more useful, therefore, than a mumbling idiot.

    Knowing this, Adam's answer was quick.

    "I did nothing that was not necessary for our survival."

    Bill clenched his fists. Evidently to Adam, that wasn't what he wanted to hear. "Did you kill her?"

    The question didn't surprise Adam. In fact, it knew Bill would eventually ask, just because he was human. What surprised Adam was the fact that the question came clearly, even though Bill could barely process a thing just a few seconds ago. The human was recovering – or had decided to recover a long time ago. A part of Adam felt relieved, if only because Bill's ability to grab onto whatever sounded like sanity and climb back up made things easier. Not much easier, but at least Adam didn't have to explain the basics again.

    "It was necessary, Bill," it said. "She intended to kill us."

    "A-and the other one?"

    "Necessary as well."

    "Oh gods..."

    Bill turned his head and covered his eyes with a hand. For a while, Adam simply watched him, waiting for him to look at it. When that never happened, Adam flexed its fingers, each joint clacking with irritation.

    "You cannot face my kind with the fear you displayed before our battle," Adam said. "The second you hesitate, our enemies will rip you apart, and I mean that literally. That female may have been weak against us, but she still possessed the ability to tear us limb from limb if we did not defend ourselves. Imagine what will happen if a stronger member of my kind encountered us."

    Still, Bill said nothing. After a moment of this silence, Adam lashed one of its hands downward. Bill felt a metal hand grab his hair and yank it, pulling his head backwards. With another hand, Adam grabbed its host by the neck, pulled him to his feet, and pinned him to the tree behind him.

    "Human, are you listening to me?" it asked.

    Bill glared at Adam. His eyes were red and wet.

    Flicking its tail, Adam tilted its head. "Are you mourning the deaths of our enemies?"

    "I don't want to be a murderer," Bill mumbled.

    Adam's tail flicked again, this time kicking up dirt behind the parasite as it leaned close to Bill. "What was that, human?"

    "They're just like me, aren't they?" Bill said. "They're... they're just victims. We need to help them, not kill them."

    "Even if they wish to kill us?"

    "No. That's you... isn't it? That's why that girl could get back up, and that's why she attacked us. The ixodida. They're controlling us, ar--"

    Adam threw him across the clearing. He slammed into the ground, yelping as pain shot up the arm he had landed on. Unfortunately for him, he had no time to think about it. Adam was on top of him a second later, hands pinning Bill's shoulders to the ground and tail wrapped around his legs.

    "Perhaps they are, but not one of those hosts have the power to reject my kind. More importantly, most of my brethren would try to kill us instantly if they knew what we were. Did you hear that female call you a rogue? Do you know what a rogue is? It is nothing more than an ixodida who defies the natural order of our species. They are anomalies, and if they threaten to disrupt our survival as a whole, then every member of our species will do everything they can to eradicate us. You are no friend to the ixodida, Bill, just because you exist."

    Although Bill's expression faltered, revealing a flash of uncertainty, it was erased in seconds by a glare of determination.

    "So, you want me to be a traitor as well as a murderer?" he snapped.

    "No," Adam replied. "I want you to fight."

    "I'm sorry, but I can't. I can't kill another living being, and I certainly don't want to have anything to do with threatening the existence of an entire species."

    "Our contract, Bill. The consequence of violating it is death."

    "Kill me, if it means that much to you!"

    The words echoed throughout the forest. Bill was shocked he had even said them, and because of that, he stared at Adam with a blank expression. Of course he was terrified of the thing pinning him to the ground – or whatever it might be doing to make him feel as if he was being pinned – but right then, for the first time in his life, he felt enough motivation to fail at caring. He knew he was most likely about to die, but he took a certain pleasure in the idea that if he did, he would at least go out with as clean a conscience as he could get.

    So, when Adam lifted a hand, Bill did nothing to stop it. Just as the claws on the parasite's fingers began to glow silver, he closed his eyes and waited. Any second, he knew everything would be over.

    The blow never came.

    Opening one eye, Bill realized that the glow had dissipated. The claws lowered, and Adam carefully pulled away.

    "In all my travels across this galaxy, I have never met a creature with such open audacity," it said as it stood. "You humans may be weak, but you are at least... interesting."

    Bill sat up. "I... uh. Thank you?"

    Adam scoffed and turned away. "If you will not fight to defend yourself, fight for the sake of humanity, then."

    Any confusion Bill had over what just transpired immediately vanished. Keeping his eyes on Adam, he furrowed his eyebrows. "What do you mean?"

    "This city is empty for a reason," Adam replied. "Something is compelling the ixodida to attack humans. I feel that the purpose of this goes far beyond just survival. I can sense it, but I cannot pinpoint its source." It looked over its shoulder. "That was your area of expertise, was it not? Deciphering why a pokémon acts the way it does? I can only wonder how long it will take you to figure it out – how many people will die while you stand by and simply observe."

    Hastily, Bill scrambled to his feet. He held his sore arm with one hand as he stared at Adam's back. For the second time in their conversation, Bill remained silent, waiting for Adam to continue. This time, it wasn't out of defiance. Rather, it was out of the fact that he had no idea what to say.

    Meanwhile, Adam began walking away, into the forest. "I have given you the power to protect your kind. Everything you could ever need is now within you. You simply need the will to use it. Think about it, Bill."

    With that, Adam disappeared beyond the trees, leaving Bill alone in the clearing. Backing up, Bill found the nearest trunk and leaned against the bark. He closed his eyes, his mind sifting through everything Adam had just told him. Him? Defend humanity? He couldn't possibly... could he? As far as he was concerned, his only purpose in life was to stand back and observe. He was a researcher, a source of information – someone to help the plot along at the very most, if he compared his life to a story. Naturally, he would be more than happy to help a hero, but to be cast into that role himself? He just didn't think he was born for that kind of duty.

    With this in mind, he opened his eyes, expecting to see more of the gray forest.

    ---

    What he saw instead was the sideways view of an empty room. Blinking, it took him a moment to realize he was actually lying flat on his stomach on a hard floor. He groaned and flipped over, bringing a hand to his head. The sharp scent of blood filled the air, and he gasped and pulled his hand away from his face.

    His vision was monochrome. At first, he couldn't tell why, but after a second, the dark background and the sharpness of every light tone around him – namely, the tones of his hand – caused something to click in his head. Night vision. It had to be.

    Of course, at that moment, he didn't bother searching for Adam to get a confirmation. That was the least of his concerns, after all.

    Evidently, Adam was kind enough to lick most of the blood off his claws before he awoke, but despite that and the fact that Bill could only see in a limited spectrum of colors, he still caught dark patches on his joints and at the tip of each claw. His hand shook as he stared. The patches were dry and crusty, with some parts flaking off each time he moved a finger. As a result, his joints felt stiff and dirty.

    He couldn't remember most of the battle, but one image kept coming to mind: the girl. Her brains exposed. Her body rising up and lurching towards him. Her expression blank. Her mouth open. Her eyes dead...

    Bill closed his hand. Don't think about that.

    Breathing in, he meditated. The girl was dead. There was nothing he could do about it. Yes, it was alarming, but he had to maintain his composure. He knew it wouldn't be the last time he would see a zombie-alien-girl getting--

    Don't think about that!

    Sitting up, Bill shook his head and buried his face in his palms. His entire body was trembling.

    I can't do this. I just can't. There's no possible way I can.

    Moving his hands from his face, Bill pushed off the floor and stood.

    I'm not a fighter. I'm not a killer. What do I do now? ...What is that smell?

    His tail whipped back and forth behind his legs. Each joint along it felt just as stiff as the ones in his hands, and he smelled blood every time he moved it. It even crackled with dried blood flaking off its surface. Wrapping one of his arms with a hand, Bill shifted a foot and placed it gently on the arrowhead tip of his tail to get himself to stop moving it. The entire appendage tingled, and a sharp pain radiated from its base. Yelping, he let go, and his tail went back to wagging behind him.

    "Water," he murmured as he held his head. "I need to clean myself up. Then, maybe I'll be able to think straight. Where can I get water?"

    Looking around, he took in more of the room. It was, for the most part, empty. A bench sat on one side, and along the walls, a balcony hung. Other than that, there was nothing interesting about the space except the markings on the floor: a large rectangle with boxes attached to the shorter ends.

    A battlefield, Bill thought. Why on Earth did you bring me here, Adam?

    As expected, he got no response. Sighing, Bill gave up on trying to contact the parasite and started for a door in the corner of the room. He figured that it was probably better that no conversation happened, given what he had experienced in his dream. Besides, he didn't particularly want to know what Adam was expecting him to do on a battlefield.

    Approaching the door, he placed a hand on it. It occurred to him that the door seemed a little unusual. It was made of metal, and by the sound it made when he knocked on it, it was thick. Yet, to make matters even more interesting for him, there was no doorknob or door handle, and it didn't budge when he pushed it. Looking up, he tried to find a window large enough for him to fit through or another door, but there was nothing around him except that single entrance.

    He furrowed his eyebrows as a single thought entered his mind. How did I get in here if I can't get out?

    Briefly, the idea of shouting for help crossed his mind, but then, two problems occurred to him. First, he had no idea if anyone was actually within earshot. Second, he didn't want to know what would happen if someone found him like that, what with the way that his body looked at that moment and the fact that he was covered in blood. Backing up, he fixed his eyes on the door. If calling for help wasn't an option, he had no other choice.

    What attacks do I know? he asked himself.

    Raising his claws, he concentrated. One of the attacks in his head had to do with them. That much he knew. But how was he supposed to use it?

    Breathing out, he pulled back his hand. He supposed he had nothing to lose when it came to experimenting. As far as he could tell, after all, he wasn't about to use Explosion or something like it, so what was the worst that could happen?

    Swinging his arm, he brought his claws across the metal door. Scratch. It was a basic attack for most pokémon, so it didn't surprise him that much to learn that this was what he had in his arsenal so far. What actually surprised him, though, was the fact that the second his claws scraped across the door, the metal underneath them screamed. Crying out, he pulled his hand away, covered his ears, and dropped to his knees. There was still a ringing in his head long after the cause of it stopped.

    Scratching metal on metal. Brilliant idea, Bill, he thought.

    As if he didn't endure enough pain, the lights suddenly blasted on. Flinching, he felt a wave of pain rush through his head as his eyes struggled to adjust to the sudden light. Even after his vision cleared and his eyes finally picked up color, his head ached from the double assault. Shaking it, he stood and blinked until the pain subsided. Then, he looked up at the source of the lights, the rows of fluorescent lamps in the ceiling.

    "Hello?" he called. "Who's there?"

    Silence answered him. A cold feeling crept through his body, and he turned back to the door. The sooner he was out, the better, he figured. Reaching for the door, he intended on prying it open, but before he could touch it, it slid apart with a whir. Behind it stood a tall, yellow and white creature. It bared its long fangs as it stared at Bill with glowing, red eyes. Electricity crackled off its muscular body as a tiger's growl rumbled from its maw.

    One of the more noteworthy aspects of Johto was the fact that, because the region held a deeper and darker connection to its own folklore than most of the other regions barring maybe Sinnoh, every person who came from there was by default something of an expert in the matter of the regional legendary pokémon. As such, Bill could easily recognize a raikou when he saw one, not because he was a researcher but instead because he had spent a little over half of his life being told the stories about how encountering one would mean the thundering wrath of the gods would be inflicted upon the unwitting traveler shortly afterwards.

    Knowing this, Bill immediately took the bravest course of action he could think of: dropping to the floor and screaming.

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  4. #79

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    Eeek! You're back! You have no idea how huge of a smile I had when I saw this was updated.

    The battle did not disappoint, though it was creepier than I had anticipated. Ixodia standing up, no problem, with bullets riddling their body? I don't blame Bill for shutting down like he did. That's not something you expect even aliens to be capable of. Hopefully he can learn to push that aside and save the human race. I know Adam will help him do that, one way or another. lol

    And a new character appears, and she's creepy to boot! Definitely can't wait for you to elaborate on that.

    *crosses fingers* Don't get turned into ash by that Raikou there, Bill.

    Is it mean to admit that I almost laughed at the image of Bill just dropping to the floor and screaming? xD;

    Also, I would love to still get PMs informing me about updates!

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    Oh yeah, I'd like to be on the PM list, although it would only take about a minute more to find out if it was updated, I don't get PM's anymore. So yeah.

    I can admire Bill's courage when faced with such a creature as Raikou. I mean, Raikou has freaking thunderclouds on his back and REAL LIGHTNING! More lightning than his body has room for.

    Although I am intrigued.

    Why is Raikou in this weird place where Bill is? Hmm. Perhaps (because he was in Mauville before) he was put in Wattson's gym and it's the robotic Raikou that he has. It wouldn't surprise me, Wattson is pure win.

    I has theories and now we wait to see if they come true.
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    Sorry it's taken me forever to get back to this. Busy weekend + NaNo = "And Jax is managing to write coherent sentences how?"

    Here's a hint. She's not. That line up there took an extra minute to write because she was trying to correct typos. Typos like, "There's only one T in it's, and it's not after the apostrophe."

    (This may also explain the tone and tangents all over the place here. Sorry!)


    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    Eeek! You're back! You have no idea how huge of a smile I had when I saw this was updated.
    *high fives!* Yep, I'm back! Thanks for the welcome, for being so patient, and for also being awesome.

    The battle did not disappoint, though it was creepier than I had anticipated. Ixodia standing up, no problem, with bullets riddling their body? I don't blame Bill for shutting down like he did. That's not something you expect even aliens to be capable of. Hopefully he can learn to push that aside and save the human race. I know Adam will help him do that, one way or another. lol
    Thank you! And yep, I wouldn't worry too much about Bill pushing past this. He will, just because I've got plenty more chapters planned for him. *tents fingers*

    Luckily, even if he tries to shut down, Adam will most likely unceremoniously boot him back into consciousness. *motions to the middle of the next chapter*

    And a new character appears, and she's creepy to boot! Definitely can't wait for you to elaborate on that.
    Oh yes. You'll be seeing a lot of her. ;D

    *crosses fingers* Don't get turned into ash by that Raikou there, Bill.
    Don't get turned into Ash, either. That'd be awkward.

    Is it mean to admit that I almost laughed at the image of Bill just dropping to the floor and screaming? xD;
    Not at all. ;D This fanfic encourages schadenfreude whenever possible. Because that's a cool word. Schadenfreude.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    Oh yeah, I'd like to be on the PM list, although it would only take about a minute more to find out if it was updated, I don't get PM's anymore. So yeah.
    \o/ Added both you and Phantom Kat!

    I can admire Bill's courage when faced with such a creature as Raikou. I mean, Raikou has freaking thunderclouds on his back and REAL LIGHTNING! More lightning than his body has room for.
    Eeeexactly. And Bill likes not being roasted to a crisp, but tell that to Raikou.

    Why is Raikou in this weird place where Bill is? Hmm. Perhaps (because he was in Mauville before) he was put in Wattson's gym and it's the robotic Raikou that he has. It wouldn't surprise me, Wattson is pure win.
        Spoiler:- Would this count as spoiling the next chapter, actually?:


    And thanks again to the both of you for the welcomes and the reviews. ♥

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    Woah, new chapter! That was fast. I leave for a couple of days to work on a project of mine and you post a new chapter!

    Your new character does add to the creep factor, but what she says makes me wonder...is there some sort of conflict between the different types of ixodida? This story just gets more interesting by the minute.

    So Bill has to face down Raiku now? I can tell this is going to get good, but with Bill being metal, he is now basically a lightning rod of sorts. Hopefully his new powers will help him in this fight. I can't wait for the next chapter.

    Oh, and one more thing, add me to the PM list too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    And for once, I make good on my promise.


    Anima Ex Machina: Eleven
    In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate.


    A young woman stood on the edge of a cliff enveloped in fog. The fog wasn't so much the byproduct of the area as it was the result of her presence: fog emitted in wisps from her indigo skin while dark purple clouds shrouded most of her body. Her eyes glowed with a soft, blue light as she gazed through the mist.

    Suddenly, she gasped and shivered, and the glow faded from her eyes.

    Behind her something stirred. "My lady?"

    Looking over her shoulder, she made out the silhouette of a second ixodida standing a few feet away.

    "I sense a rogue on this island," she said.
    I already like where this is going. I certainly didn't expect a plot like this to come up.

    "Does that worry you?" the male replied. "It is not wise to concern yourself so much with something like that. We have identified multiple rogues on this planet, and all of them are weak. It is the mind of this world's dominant species, my lady. While it may be intelligent, it lacks the ability to adapt to the transitional process. Many of them will die shortly after creation, and those few that survive will either lack the power to be considered a threat or be killed by their own follies."

    "You underestimate the earthlings," she replied. "Besides, this may not be any ordinary rogue. I feel its presence already. Whatever it is, I sense that it may be powerful and clever. It killed two of Venom Clan's drones and disappeared..." She narrowed her eyes. "...as if it was mocking me."

    The other ixodida straightened. "My lady, the likelihood that we fell to the same planet as--"

    "Nonetheless," the woman interrupted, "please investigate it. I will not rest well until I know for sure what this rogue is."

    Without further questioning, the other ixodida bowed. "Yes, my lady. It will be done."
    Now things are getting interesting. I didn't expect there to be clan wars or whatever this is.

    Straightening, he turned and walked away from her. She waited for awhile until she heard the buzz of his departure. Then, she lifted a hand and glanced at the pink silk lotus she held in her palm.

    "If you did indeed follow us to this planet--" She gripped the flower in her hand. "--then for the sake of our kind, I will not allow you to live."

    ---
    Lovely imagery here, even if the actual point of the scene is not meant to be that way.

    Adam entered the gray forest easily. For its kind, it wasn't difficult at all to access a host's mind. After all, the ixodida and their hosts were one being. Everything that was part of the host was also a part of the parasite. So, everything that Bill's brain contained was just a casual thought away for Adam, even the parts that Bill himself had long forgotten.

    Technically, the same relationship existed in reverse. Everything that was contained within Adam's mind could just as easily be accessible to its hosts as their mind was to it; the host just needed to be willing to explore. This openness was most of the reason why Adam's kind typically overwhelmed and trapped the host's mind within itself upon infection, but there were certain advantages, as Adam had discovered long before coming to Earth, to having multiple minds in one body. Amusement, for one. Although Adam hoped that Bill would never discover that the link between them went both ways, the parasite was already making a game out of seeing how long it would take for one of the brightest minds humanity could offer to figure the ixodida out.
    Good explanation of how a parasite like this might work. It's definitely believeable.

    However, humanity had its weak points, and Bill's were beginning to test his parasite's patience.

    Adam found its host sitting against a tree. His arms were resting on his knees, and his face was buried in them. He didn't say anything. He didn't even move.

    "It would be a problem if you have already broken after witnessing your first real battle," Adam drawled. "I would need to find a new host, and I have no doubt you would die wherever I left you, either from the gaping wound in your chest I would leave behind or the fact that the tentacles I have planted all over your body would secrete acids to liquify all your internal organs in a matter of hours."
    I'm not sure whether I should be laughing or screaming here.

    Still, there was no response.

    "Get up," Adam said.

    Silence.

    "Bill. Get up."

    After awhile, Bill shook his head and whispered, "That girl... I don't understand..."

    It wasn't a question, but Adam knew from their bond what Bill was trying to say. The most unfortunate side to humanity was, quite simply, the fact that the human brain frequently failed to process whatever was well outside of their normal understanding of the world. For example, on Earth, getting shot multiple times in the head killed a person. The dead did not get up and walk. People were not normally dismembered in broad daylight. A rational human who previously claimed to be a pacifist did not rip another living being apart with his own bare hands. All four facts combined left Bill, despite all his intellectual abilities, overwhelmed to the point where his brain shut down. He was no more useful, therefore, than a mumbling idiot.

    Knowing this, Adam's answer was quick.

    "I did nothing that was not necessary for our survival."

    Bill clenched his fists. Evidently to Adam, that wasn't what he wanted to hear. "Did you kill her?"
    Typical Bill.

    The question didn't surprise Adam. In fact, it knew Bill would eventually ask, just because he was human. What surprised Adam was the fact that the question came clearly, even though Bill could barely process a thing just a few seconds ago. The human was recovering – or had decided to recover a long time ago. A part of Adam felt relieved, if only because Bill's ability to grab onto whatever sounded like sanity and climb back up made things easier. Not much easier, but at least Adam didn't have to explain the basics again.

    "It was necessary, Bill," it said. "She intended to kill us."

    "A-and the other one?"

    "Necessary as well."

    "Oh gods..."

    Bill turned his head and covered his eyes with a hand. For a while, Adam simply watched him, waiting for him to look at it. When that never happened, Adam flexed its fingers, each joint clacking with irritation.

    "You cannot face my kind with the fear you displayed before our battle," Adam said. "The second you hesitate, our enemies will rip you apart, and I mean that literally. That female may have been weak against us, but she still possessed the ability to tear us limb from limb if we did not defend ourselves. Imagine what will happen if a stronger member of my kind encountered us."

    Still, Bill said nothing. After a moment of this silence, Adam lashed one of its hands downward. Bill felt a metal hand grab his hair and yank it, pulling his head backwards. With another hand, Adam grabbed its host by the neck, pulled him to his feet, and pinned him to the tree behind him.

    "Human, are you listening to me?" it asked.

    Bill glared at Adam. His eyes were red and wet.
    Wait, how is Bill glaring at the thing in his body again? I'm a little lost on this one.

    A good chapter, even if it raised more questions than answers.

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  9. #84
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cryptic Blaze View Post
    Woah, new chapter! That was fast.
    Admittedly, part of the reason why is probably because I've actually already written up to chapter thirteen. So, the rush is mostly me coding everything for my website and going, "Hey! This would be a good time to edit everything, recode it for BB Code, and have a come-back to SPPf now that it doesn't want to kill me or my computer!"

    Or, in other words, aiming to please. ;D Slowing down a bit, though, because I only have up to chapter thirteen written, and with NaNo and a bunch of real-life stuff to get through, fourteen's slow going at the moment. (Luckily, I at least have everything planned out for it.)

    Your new character does add to the creep factor,
    Thank you! ♥

    but what she says makes me wonder...is there some sort of conflict between the different types of ixodida?
    The short of it is yes.

        Spoiler:- The slightly longer of it needs a spoiler cut.:


    So Bill has to face down Raiku now?
    In a way. ;D

    Oh, and one more thing, add me to the PM list too.
    Added! :D The next chapter should be out sometime this weekend hopefully.

    And thanks for the review~!

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I already like where this is going.
    Thank you! :D

    Now things are getting interesting. I didn't expect there to be clan wars or whatever this is.
    Yep. Oh yes. There's going to be plenty of in-fighting with the ixodida.

    Lovely imagery here, even if the actual point of the scene is not meant to be that way.
    Thanks! I'm a bit curious about what you meant about the point of the scene not being that, though. Do you mean that it wasn't meant to focus on the imagery?

    Good explanation of how a parasite like this might work. It's definitely believeable.
    Awesome. :D Thanks for letting me know about that; I was a bit worried it wouldn't make much sense.

    I'm not sure whether I should be laughing or screaming here.
    If you did both at the same time, my mission would be accomplished. ;D

    Wait, how is Bill glaring at the thing in his body again? I'm a little lost on this one.
    This is actually a good point that I didn't think of: the fact that I don't really clarify what's going on.

    Basically, any scene in the Gray Forest (that mental world Bill's in at this point) is a lot like the first one. Remember how he wandered around until he found himself (in ixodida form) behind a tree? Whenever they're in the Gray Forest, Adam takes the form of that creature to approach Bill "physically" because it knows he'd be more comfortable if he perceives he's talking to someone completely separate from him. Or, in other words, the Gray Forest splits Adam and Bill from each other and allows them to talk face-to-face (or what appears to be, considering this is all a mental world) to make it easier for Bill to process everything.

    And to continue on with the "science" of the Gray Forest, anything that Bill perceives is usually inflicted on him by Adam by way of the parasite either imposing its thoughts on Bill (hence why it manipulates his mental world to make him see it as a separate entity) or using the network of tentacles Adam mentioned early in this scene to screw with Bill's nervous system.

    (Aaaaand I think I just came up with a new installment for that extras series linked in my sig.)

    A good chapter, even if it raised more questions than answers.
    Thanks! Glad you liked it, and don't worry, those questions will be answered eventually. ;D

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    Twelve days. That's a good number to wait between chapters, right? XD;


    Anima Ex Machina: Twelve
    We're all in this together.


    Bill could feel his heart pounding. It was the kind of pound that practically shook him with each throb, the kind that thumped against his ribcage and felt like it was going to break something. At the same time, his mind was going through a quick succession of emotions.

    First came fear. This stage was fairly natural for several reasons. To begin with, there was the fact that the creature right in front of him was at least twice as large as him, and it was equipped with fangs and claws that could have - and it should be noted that Bill conveniently forgot about his built-in armor right then - ripped that throbbing heart right out of his chest. Beyond that, there was the fact that Bill knew all too well what the stories surrounding Raikou were, how it called down massive bolts of lightning from the skies to roast the unworthy where they stood. In Johtonian mythology, the creature was called by several different names relating to this fact, including Lord of Storms, Heaven's Thunder, and a number of other ones that would have easily told Bill he wasn't supposed to be screwing with the thing in front of him.

    Second came awe. Bill was most definitely a scientist, and as such, he lacked the sense of caution most normal people had. So, after sitting there in terror for a few seconds, he gradually rose. Rather than run away - which was what a normal, sane, well-adjusted person would have done - he stepped closer. As he crept near the raikou, he realized he wasn't just looking at a rare pokémon. He was looking at the Lord of Storms, one of the creatures that inhabited the ancient, war-torn worlds of Johtonian legends. A part of him also realized what kind of frenzy he would stir in the Symposium if he had a chance to study a raikou thoroughly - if only because he was, after all, a scientist.

    Third, however, came something more difficult to describe. His eyes found Raikou's, and in his wonder of how magnificent the creature looked, he felt something nag at the back of his mind. Initially, he thought it was just Adam, but it wormed its way to the front of his consciousness in the form of the kind of instinct he had developed through years of research. Something wasn't right about this creature, and he could tell, even if he didn't know exactly how at first.

    Starting from the eyes, he noticed that there was something dull and lifeless about them, though they glowed red with an inner light. The way they glistened reminded him more of glass than of something actually wet. Once he noticed that, he listened to the way it was growling at him. Although it would have no doubt fooled anyone else, he had heard enough recordings of pokémon calls to catch the subtle difference in sound quality. It sounded just slightly muffled, as if it was actually coming from deeper inside the creature than it should have. Even if the recording was a high-quality one, what added to the feeling of artificiality was the fact that, as Bill realized right then, the creature's posture was all wrong. It stood up straight and stiffly as it growled instead of crouching and bearing more of its teeth, and its fur was flat instead of on end. No wild pokémon attempting to assert its territory looked that calm, and Bill knew that.

    But more importantly than anything else, he was standing in front of the beast for almost a minute, and it didn't so much as spark. If it was growling at him defensively, why wasn't it attacking?

    Cracking a grin, Bill reached out and touched the raikou's chest. Squeezing, he felt the plush exterior, and one of his claws wormed its way through the cloth material covering its shoulder. Inside, he felt a little embarrassed. He was used to dealing with artificial pokémon thanks to his costumes, and here, he couldn't even tell the difference between a real raikou and a fake one as soon as he saw it.

    "Hey! How'd you know it was fake?"

    Yelping, Bill scrambled to turn and run, but in the process, his claws dug deeper into the shoulder of the mechanical beast and ripped a large chunk of it out. Whirling around, Bill stumbled towards the battlefield as his eyes locked onto the newcomer.

    Emerging from behind the raikou doll was the same bulky man who led Bill down the streets of Mauville City on a chain, but this time, he wasn't giving Bill a cold glare. Rather, his dark eyes sparkled, and a friendly smile stretched across his round face. He planted his large hands on his wide hips as he stopped just beside the raikou doll.

    "You're good!" he exclaimed in a deep, rumbling voice. "Most people don't know this isn't the real deal without being told first! How'd you do that?"

    "I..." Bill stepped back.

    The man's grin faded slightly. "Huh? Oh! You don't have to be nervous or anything. We got off on the wrong foot, right? You're an all right guy, it turns out, so I won't hurt ya! ...Not that I was going to in the first place, but, uh."

    He stopped and glanced at the ceiling for a second. Then, he burst into a loud, booming laughter that echoed off the walls. Bill literally jumped at the sound, and one of his hands flew to his chest. He could feel his heart pounding again, just as much as it had when he first saw Raikou.

    "The name's Thomas. Thomas Wattson, but everyone calls me Thom. 'Cept maybe Officer Jenny, but her opinion doesn't count," he said as he extended a hand. "This is my grandpa's gym. His mecha raikou, too, and let me tell you, he would've loved the look on your face when you first saw it!"

    Bill stared at the hand. After what happened to Officer Jenny - which, strangely, he wasn't entirely guilty about - he was hesitant to take this man's hand for fear of what he might accidentally do in the process of just a handshake. Luckily, his companion interrupted him before he had any chance to respond anyway.

    "You're not much of a talker, are you?" he asked. "That's all right. Hey, listen, why don't we go back to the pokémon center and get you cleaned up? No offense, but you look like hell."

    Blinking, Bill looked at his tail as it curled around his ankles. He had forgotten all about the dried blood, but somehow, it didn't seem to matter anymore. This was probably because Thom decided to cut him off again.

    "That was awesome, by the way."

    Bill looked up. "I'm sorry?"

    "The fight. You know. Between you and those two ixodida. How they jumped you and then POW!" Thom made a fist with one hand and punched the palm of the other. "Both of them are lying in pieces on the ground! Man, we had our doubts about this entire plan. Sorry we tried to use you like that, by the way."

    Flicking his tail, Bill realized two things. First, his hunch about how the city was trying to get him killed was correct. Second, they thought of the ixodida as pests. Neither revelation made Bill feel any less awkward than he already had.

    "Those were people at one time. Technically, that would make me a murderer," he said quietly.

    "Huh?" Thom blinked. "Hey, look. Don't feel too bad. They would've gotten us if you hadn't done something."

    "That wasn't the point."

    Thom shrugged. "Then what is?"

    In response, Bill looked at him with a serious glance. After a beat of hesitation, he replied, "When I transformed into an ixodida, I didn't do it by choice. It was an accident, and I have no doubt it was for the others as well. To make matters even more complicated..."

    Stopping, he looked to the side. He had no idea how Thom would react if he told him about Adam. In the ensuing silence, Thom frowned.

    "Look, I know that, and I'm sorry." Pausing, he lowered his tone. "But those things? They'll kill us if we don't kill them. There's only a few of us left. Officer Jenny says the city's been reduced to less than ten percent of the population it had before the invasion. They're monsters, you know. They're not like you."

    Bill closed his eyes and shuddered. He didn't want to say anything more, but he felt he had to get Thom to understand. "They don't have a choice in what they do, either. There's something inside us that makes us act that way. We're stuck in our own minds whenever it happens; we can't control what our bodies do."

    Thom furrowed his eyebrows. "What are you talking about?"

    "I'm saying..." Bill looked at Thom as his mind struggled to find the best words. "When you saw me kill those ixodida, that wasn't me. I share my body with the ixodida parasite, and he has the ability to take it over at any time. I can't control what happens when he does." He lowered his head. "We have a deal that allows me to do whatever I'd like, but when that fight occurred, it was the parasite who killed them, not me. I couldn't do anything to stop him. As for the others... they're most likely trapped the way I was all the time."

    For a long while, nothing else was said. Bill glanced at Thom with a bit of reluctance, only to find Thom staring at him with curiosity.

    "So, let me get this straight," he said. "You're telling me you don't want us to thank you for saving a bunch of innocent people from a couple of ixodida who would have killed us for reasons the researchers can't figure out yet, and this is because you think that the other ixodida are just people who can't control themselves, and that all somehow justifies the fact that they've wiped out most of our city?"

    After a beat of hesitation, Bill replied, "If you put it like that, it sounds uncomfortably complicated, but essentially, yes."

    Thom sighed. "Guess I don't have much of a choice. Come on."

    He turned and motioned for Bill to follow him. In response, Bill shifted his tail but remained where he was.

    "Where?" he asked.

    "I wanna show you something," Thom answered.

    With that, he disappeared down the hallway. Bill watched him for a short while, uncertain of what to do. Then, finally, he started walking.

    ---

    Veronica Jenny, formerly the deputy of Mauville City and more recently its chief of police, felt like she could have used a stiff drink right then. She didn't used to drink, but after monsters appeared from out of nowhere and reduced the population of the entire city to a mere fraction of what it was for no apparent reason, she thought it would be a nice habit to take up. Veronica had no doubt this and her generally less-than-perky attitude was the only thing that set her apart from all her sisters and cousins, but unlike Ellen Joy, she didn't particularly care about that, even before she became a brooding alcoholic.

    Then again, Veronica didn't care much about her family at all. The problem with the Jenny clan was that, as far back as anyone could remember and as far back as anyone bothered to trace their family tree, every single female Jenny did two things: protect and serve. There were no exceptions. So, everyone expected Veronica would become a police officer as well, simply because she was born into that single family. In that sense, she felt a strong connection with Ellen Joy: the nurse was born into her calling as well thanks to the Joy family. However, whereas Ellen liked being a nurse and accepted her fate, Veronica was a little less eager to assume her role.

    Of course she liked it at first. She used to get a thrill from chasing down bad guys and busting crime all over the city. For a few brief months after she joined the force, it made her proud to see a criminal in handcuffs. But then, the novelty wore off, and Veronica realized that she was forcing herself to enjoy her work because everyone expected her to be a police officer. The trouble was that if she wasn't an officer, what would she be? The word "Jenny" was synonymous with "justice"; no one in the history of the family ever really questioned that.

    This all happened long before the invasion. When that happened and when the ixodida killed most of Mauville's population, that just aggravated a problem that already existed for years. Now, instead of just being dispassionate about her position, she was incompetent, unable to fulfill her duty to protect the population. She had to watch almost all of the city die because she had no idea how to protect it from the ixodida.

    In short, she really needed that drink.

    Gingerly, she flexed her bandaged hand as she walked back to the pokémon center from the police station a block away. Her other hand rested on her belt, three fingers on the poké balls clipped to the holders attached to it and two on the holster of a gun hanging from its side. She knew that the scouts she had organized reported no other ixodida in the city besides the one who killed the poison-types, and she knew the fact that she was hearing from them at all confirmed this. However, the smooth feel of the spheres on her belt made her feel just a little safer, as did the weight of her handgun in its holster.

    The rest of Mauville didn't even need that much. Directly outside of the pokémon center, half of the survivors were gathered. A small group of children were playing with pokémon - mostly oddish, electrike, and zigzagoon. Groups of adults clustered around them, chattering over sandwiches and drinks. Between each group flitted Ellen and her chansey, distributing food and water to whoever wanted them. Looking at her, Veronica noticed an expression on Ellen's face that wasn't there yesterday: a light smile, one that wasn't entirely forced.

    That's when Veronica noticed something else about the group: laughter. The children, most of them orphans, hadn't so much as smiled since the ixodida came, but now, they were playing soccer with each other on the street outside of the center. It was their laughter that she noticed first, the screeching sound tingling her ears. The adults, who used to talk in hushed whispers to one another about whether or not another wave would be coming, were now chattering in louder voices, swapping stories with one another and laughing at the occasional joke. Outside of both circles, Veronica stood there and blinked and felt a lot like an astronaut in the middle of an alien city. Not a single one of them seemed to notice her as she watched them. Instead, she was left alone to listen to their noise. Was it a success? Did this mean she wasn't a failure? She couldn't tell.

    Suddenly, the adults fell silent, and Veronica caught the sound of low pokémon growls. Snapping out of her meditations, Veronica looked up to notice all of the adults' heads turned towards the street. Glancing in the same direction, she saw Thom standing in the street only a few feet away from her. Next to him was the steel-armored monster, the same one she and the hunting party had found outside of the city and the same one she had watched tear apart two ixodida.

    She couldn't figure out why its expression looked so distant to her.

    Thom didn't seem to notice the adults, or if he did, he was completely ignoring them. Instead, he smiled broadly and looked directly at the children. The monster was following his gaze, and there it stood, staring at the game.

    Eventually, the children began to notice, probably because their pokémon companions were no longer interested in the game. One by one, they stopped, eyes falling on the ixodida with a mixture of fear and curiosity. Thanks to their lack of concentration, the ball they were using was allowed to skirt past one of the goalies and roll towards the two bystanders. The ixodida knelt, reaching down just in time to stop the ball with one of its hands. At the same time, a small child ran past the other children, beyond the hands of the oldest, and straight to the creature. She ignored her friends' harsh whispers to come back and stay away from the thing until she nearly ran into it. Stopping short, she lifted her eyes towards it, and her smile disappeared. The creature looked down at her and blinked.

    Drawing in a breath, Veronica stepped forward. Her hand moved to the gun holstered on her hip, but before she drew it, she caught sight of Thom. He was flailing his arms behind the creature almost comically, signaling for her to stop. Although she felt a little hesitant about trusting his judgment — in part because Thom wasn't normally known for making sound choices — she still let her hand rest where it was as she watched the creature carefully.

    It didn't attack the way she thought it would. Instead, it picked up the ball and looked at it as if it had never seen a soccer ball before then. After a few seconds, it held the ball out for the girl, keeping its claws spread as far as they could go. The girl quickly grabbed the ball, held it to her chest, and bowed.

    "Thank you!" she said.

    Then, as quickly as it happened, she turned and ran back into the game. The other children closed the gap behind her. Within a few seconds, the sound of the ball being kicked across pavement rang out, and the children went back to shouting and laughing with each other. Taking this as a sign to relax, the adults slowly went back to their own conversations, and the pokémon darted back into the game.

    Veronica's hand fell to let her arm rest. Cautiously, she turned towards the children but inched towards the ixodida and Thom. She tried to make it look like she was watching the game with the hopes that it would make the alien and the gym leader's grandson think she wasn't eavesdropping on them.

    "A lot of them don't have parents anymore, you know," Thom said. "A lot of the people in this city died, either protecting us from ixodida attacks or, you know, getting attacked."

    "Is that so?" the ixodida said quietly.

    "Mmm. Yeah. It's pretty bad. But you're here now, so we think we'll be all right."

    There was a beat before the ixodida replied, "How would my presence make a difference?"

    "Oh, that's easy. We've tried everything to keep the ixodida from attacking us. Keeping guards posted at all times, ganging up on them when we saw them — you name it. When we first caught you, we thought we could use you to bargain with them. You know, a 'don't kill us because we have one of yours and we'll let him go if you leave us alone' kind of thing, right? But then, you actually killed two of them! By yourself! You did what a lot of us died trying to do — twice!" He paused. "Or, well, you know... that thing did."

    "It was a fluke. I told you."

    Thom scoffed. "You don't get it, do you? Let me spell this out for you. Over there are a bunch of orphans. Their parents died trying to protect us from aliens that keep attacking us for who-knows-why. You've got the power to help us. You can be a hero to those kids, you know. You already are for some of us."

    The ixodida's voice dropped in volume again, almost to the point where Veronica wouldn't have been able to hear it. "I'm not much of a hero, Thom."

    Thom growled in frustration. "Bill, I know it sounds like I'm asking you to do a lot, but look at those kids again. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you see them?"

    There was a long silence. Veronica turned her head slightly to glance at the ixodida out the corner of her eye. What she saw made her turn her head completely towards him.

    Him. She suddenly realized she was thinking of the creature as something more than a monster, but at that point, it just fit. His face looked more human than even some of the survivors'. As he stared at the children, his eyes looked a little misty, and his expression, with the corners of the mouth turned down and the eyes wide open, looked saddened. Veronica felt something twitch inside her, a small pain in her heart. Maybe she was just crazy, but she had a feeling she knew exactly what was going on inside the alien's head.

    "The ones to the side over there," he said. "The older ones. How old are they?"

    Thom shrugged. "Ten. Eleven. Some of them are trainers who got stuck here 'cause the routes are all closed, and others would've started their journeys a few months ago if the League hadn't frozen Hoenn's circuit."

    The ixodida looked down. "I have a sister their age."

    "Huh. A sister?" Thom asked. "She's not in Hoenn, is she?"

    Bill didn't answer. Instead, he looked towards Thom.

    "Okay," he said. "I'll do it."

    "Do what?"

    Turning towards him, Bill straightened. "Protect them. Protect everyone here. I don't know how well I can fight, but I'll try."

    "Are you sure?"

    Bill nodded. "I have to. They need someone to help them. If you say I have the power to do it, there's no way I can say no."

    Instantly, Thom's face lit up. "Great! Just wait 'til I talk to a few people. We'll get you all set up here with a room of your own and someone to help train you and..."

    Thom turned and started walking towards the adults. He hadn't stopped listing off things he would give Bill; he just assumed that the ixodida was following him within earshot. Naturally, he didn't realize that the creature was exactly where he left him, standing on the sidewalk with his tail curling around his feet.

    "You heard all that, didn't you, Officer Jenny?" he asked.

    Veronica froze. After a few moments, she replied, "How honest are you?"

    Bill shook his head. "I'm being completely sincere when I say I want to help you. I don't want to fight, but..." He glanced towards the children.

    She sighed. "I'll tell you the truth. I don't trust you, but you haven't tried to kill anything except other ixodida. I can't even begin to understand why. But... we need your help."

    "I know that." He closed his eyes. "I know."

    His voice was cracking, and his hands, already balled into fists, were shaking at his sides. Inside her own head, Veronica cursed eloquently.

    "Nurse Joy's more sympathetic than I am. Sorry," she said. "But I can tell you're scared, and if it helps you at all, I can say one thing."

    The creature opened his eyes and looked at her. "What?"

    Veronica was taken aback for a second. The expression on his face made him look vulnerable, like he was a puppy that had just been kicked. Yet, she could tell he wasn't making that face at her just to buy her sympathy or manipulate her into letting her guard down. No, there was something there, in the way his mouth looked and the way his eyes glistened, that told her that everything she was seeing was real, and if it was, he was somehow more human than a lot of criminals she had put away before the invasion.

    It was this sign of humanity that made her let her guard down just a little. So, she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and said the most comforting thing she could think of.

    "If you **** up and get the rest of the city wiped out, I'll kill you myself."

    Without even looking at the expression on his face, she turned and started for the pokémon center.

    "I really need a drink," she muttered.

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

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  11. #86

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    "I really need a drink." Just what I expected from the least-pleasant Jenny we know. xD

    Good job on spying the fake, Bill! And lol at his scientist curiosity. I can totally see an Ixodia!Bill giving a lecture about Raikou in some big auditorium or stage, watching everybody's jaws drop. Appearance be damned; he would be in heaven.

    I really liked the Thom and Bill interaction. It was a good way to bring Bill back to Earth and the whole, "Ixodia, though controlled against their will, are killing humans and he's the only one who can do anything about it," thing to the forefront of his mind. Of course, seeing the orphaned children really struck a chord in him.

    Mmm, is Bill's sister in Hoenn? Food for thought. I wonder if it'll mean anything later.

    Once again, awesome chapter! I can't wait for more.

    - Kat


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  12. #87
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    Gods be damned JX! Where do you get off being so good, eh? lar-de-dar, look at me, I can form a coherent plot and update my fic regularly, aren't I so clever!

    Veiled complaints about my own writing inadequacies aside...

    *gloats to self over Mecha-Raikou knowing victory* Although the only reason I knew that is because about three months ago I found a website with all of the episodes of the pokémon anime on them and was watching them from start to finish, although for some reason the videos have died around DPPt. So yeah. I even read the manga online, which was eons better xD

    Ramble, ramble, chapter was great, keep up the good work.
    Skogsrĺ

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    It was this sign of humanity that made her let her guard down just a little. So, she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and said the most comforting thing she could think of.

    "If you **** up and get the rest of the city wiped out, I'll kill you myself."
    This is the best morale speech I've ever heard! XD
    Just thought I should put that out there.

    Anyway, it looks like Bill has finally found a reason to fight the ixodida. Hopefully he won't seize up again and make himself vulnerable to the other ixodida. I also feel the little "is your sister in Hoenn?" will come into play sometime later, although that is just a guess.

    Excellent chapter as always JX. I can't wait for the next one.

    Thanks to Gladeshadow for the trainer card and Felly for the Banner


    'We're casual, why should we put more EFFORT into our games and sacrifice our VALUES?' Come to the Non-Competitive Trainer's Hangout if you agree with this statement.

  14. #89
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    OH, HEY, GUYS. YOU KNOW WHAT'S A REALLY GOOD IDEA? REPLYING TO REVIEWS WHEN YOU'VE ACKNOWLEDGED REPEATEDLY IN A COMPLETELY SEPARATE THREAD THAT YOU'RE JUST BARELY COHERENT... AGAIN! :V

    But I guess you can probably tell from the fic itself that I'm a masochist. And a sadist. Or at least some kind of -ist. I assure you that doesn't include communist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    "I really need a drink." Just what I expected from the least-pleasant Jenny we know. xD
    Eeeexactly. ;D And she did indeed enjoy a stiff drink afterwards. Because apparently, one of the supplies that the citizens of Mauville stocked up on when they were salvaging stuff from the rest of the city is lots and lots of booze.

    Good job on spying the fake, Bill! And lol at his scientist curiosity. I can totally see an Ixodia!Bill giving a lecture about Raikou in some big auditorium or stage, watching everybody's jaws drop. Appearance be damned; he would be in heaven.
    He totally would. And, of course, keep in mind he'd probably be doing it only wearing a lab coat. (Because I'm pretty sure it hasn't occurred to him yet that he's technically been naked all this time.)

    I really liked the Thom and Bill interaction. It was a good way to bring Bill back to Earth and the whole, "Ixodia, though controlled against their will, are killing humans and he's the only one who can do anything about it," thing to the forefront of his mind. Of course, seeing the orphaned children really struck a chord in him.
    Thanks and it really did. I guess you could say that at heart, Bill will always be a softie. Or, well, Bill is a bit of a softie.

    Mmm, is Bill's sister in Hoenn? Food for thought. I wonder if it'll mean anything later.
        Spoiler:- I love it when readers guess things about upcoming parts of the fic. Seriously.:


    Once again, awesome chapter! I can't wait for more.
    Thanks! The next chapter should be out in about a week.

    Y'know. Assuming I don't get killed by Black Friday or anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    Gods be damned JX! Where do you get off being so good, eh? lar-de-dar, look at me, I can form a coherent plot and update my fic regularly, aren't I so clever!
    I just wanted to be special! *runs off crying*

    (But seriously, thanks! You're not a bad writer yourself, y'know. You just need to get the "update your fic regularly" part down, dear sir, because I can't very well review something that hasn't been touched since at least April. >_>)

    Although the only reason I knew that is because about three months ago I found a website with all of the episodes of the pokémon anime on them and was watching them from start to finish, although for some reason the videos have died around DPPt.
    I think I know which one you're talking about. XD Since then, I've switched sites, and the one I've got now has got up until Jasmine's appearance in Sinnoh up. Last I checked, anyway.

    So yeah. I even read the manga online, which was eons better xD
    This, however, I haven't been able to find. Oh, Pokémon media. Why must you be so difficult to obtain? It's not like you're any easier to get via legal means. :|

    Ramble, ramble, chapter was great, keep up the good work.
    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cryptic Blaze View Post
    This is the best morale speech I've ever heard! XD
    I KNOW, RIGHT?

    If you're ever feeling down, just remember. Officer Jenny will kill you if you screw up.

    Anyway, it looks like Bill has finally found a reason to fight the ixodida. Hopefully he won't seize up again and make himself vulnerable to the other ixodida.
    Yep. Hopefully. I mean, he's got at least three different incentives to do it. There's the orphans, sure, but Adam and Officer Jenny have also promised a swift death if he decides to have another heroic BSOD. And he sort of likes being alive, inconveniences aside.

    I also feel the little "is your sister in Hoenn?" will come into play sometime later, although that is just a guess.
    *whistles innocently*

    Excellent chapter as always JX. I can't wait for the next one.
    Thanks! Hopefully, it'll be up soon.

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

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  15. #90
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    Okay, kids! This is the last pre-written chapter. As in, after this point, I actually have to finish writing chapters, which means that progress might be a bit slower than normal (especially since I'm finishing up NaNoWriMo at the same time).

    Also, you should totally nominate this fic for the 2010 Fanfic Awards because I'll nominate yours and because I'd be more likely to take reader suggestions from people who do.

    Also, I'm really terrible at being subtle.



    Anima Ex Machina: Thirteen
    Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together.


    Fact #1: Scotch on the rocks is, by definition, as simple a drink as one would imagine. It involves one glass, half its volume of ice, and half its volume of scotch. The end result is a drink intensely bitter in taste but roughly half as bitter as it would be at room temperature; the cold of the ice dulls the taste of any alcoholic beverage.

    Fact #2: All alcohol had been banned from Polaris Institute from the day it opened. It was agreed years ago by the first director that allowing alcohol would distract the resident scientists from the pursuit of progress. Professor Samuel Oak – who, one must remember, was at the time of Project Stardust the director of Polaris Institute – agreed with this notion and upheld it whenever possible.

    Fact #3: Professor John McKenzie, former leader of the New Bark psychology team, was drinking a scotch on the rocks in front of Professor Samuel Oak.

    Oak had nothing to say about the matter. For one, he knew John. The two of them went way back: they were colleagues when they first went into the field of pokémon research together, graduates of the same class at the same school and protégés of the same mentor. Oak already knew about McKenzie and exactly how effective it would be to tell him that the institute had a rule against alcohol. For another, as much as he didn't want to promote favoritism, he actually liked the man. John had a certain charisma about him that made him difficult to handle. No matter how stern Oak wanted to be (not that he would find this easy anyway), that all dissolved because, simply put, John had a way of making people like him. It wasn't just Oak, either. John was simply the kind of person who could sell someone the Brooklyn Bridge and get away with it if he wanted to do it badly enough.

    For a third, Oak already felt a sense of guilt. This was because after hours of dodging, of insisting that John get settled and briefed on his new position in Polaris Institute, there was no way around telling him the truth, and to do that, he sat down with the man in an empty break room to explain everything. So, Oak couldn't blame the man for wanting a drink. He was just expecting John to want it after he told him everything. That is, Oak hadn't said a word yet, but there John was with scotch poured from his own canteen in a glass of ice provided by the Institute, as if he already knew it would be a good idea.

    Waiting for Oak to say something, John leaned back in his chair with one of his hands on the steel table in front of him and the other on the drink. Oak, still composing the words in his head, held a cup of coffee and kept his eyes steady on his colleague's face.

    "So," John finally said in an effort to start the conversation. "William's one of those things now."

    Oak nodded. "I'm sorry, Profesor McKenzie. We don't know how it happened."

    John waved a hand in the air. "I wouldn't put it past my son to want a closer look at the little *******. But that isn't the important part right now, is it? When can I see him?"

    "You... won't," Oak replied. "There was an accident just before you arrived. Bill and a second XP-650B escaped." He let his shoulders sag a little. "I'm so sorry."

    John peered over the edge of his glass. "Any idea where they might have gone?"

    "Not yet. We didn't think we'd need to tag either of them with tracking devices, and there haven't been any sightings."

    "It's an island. How far could they've gotten?"

    Oak shifted in his seat. "Apparently, Abel can fly. You can look at the security footage as soon as you're ready to get started."

    "Fly?" John took a sip of his scotch. "Now that's interesting. It could explain why no one's found Pandora either."

    "You know about Pandora?"

    John nodded. "The Committee's released the video a week ago, and everyone in New Bark has had a look at it already. We've gotten the reports about Abel and William, too."

    "I see. In any case, Professor McKenzie, I called you here with the hopes that you'd be taking Bill's place on the psychology team. We need someone to help push that part of the project forward, and I thought you would want to work closely with Bill."

    John squinted over his glass. "There sounds like there's a but there."

    Oak leaned back. "Professor Nettle, the current head of the psychology team, will be transferring to another facility. Because you were a team leader for the Johto arm, I'll have to ask--"

    "Yes."

    Oak hesitated, clearing his throat. "Right. I thought you'd agree. You'll be short-staffed and without an example of XP-650B, though. We haven't received any new recruits yet, and the Committee insists – and I agree with them – that creating another XP-650B would be unethical."

    Looking at John's face, Oak could swear that he saw a slight change in expression. It happened extremely quickly: a flash of a frown and a dark glint in the man's eyes. After that, Oak felt a little cold, even though John smiled a second later.

    "Ha! Is that what you call a challenge?" John asked. "Don't you worry. I can work with whatever you've got."

    Oak forced himself to smile. "Great! We'll introduce you to the rest of the team and get you started tomorrow."

    He started to stand up, taking the Styrofoam cup of coffee with him. However, before he could turn to walk away, John placed his glass on the table and spoke.

    "They're in Hoenn."

    Oak turned towards his colleague. "What?"

    "Will, Pandora, and Abel," John answered. "They're in Hoenn."

    The other researcher raised an eyebrow. "What makes you say that?"

    "Think about it, Sam. Some of them can fly, and Hoenn isn't that far from here. Why haven't we seen any outside of captivity anywhere else yet?"

    The realization hit Oak hard. He never thought about it, but John had a point – a very important one at that. For whatever reason, the creatures he knew as XP-650 had infested an entire region... but only an entire region. In the months they've been on Earth, they haven't moved past the region's borders.

    "That must mean..."

    "They're flocking back to Hoenn. All of them."

    Oak sat back down to let the revelation sink in. Why didn't he think of it before? The aggressiveness of Abel. What Bill said about the creature trying to escape. The fact that there wasn't a single sighting of XP-650 outside of mainland Hoenn. It had to be true: the creatures weren't leaving the island. But why? What could be there that drew all of the aliens to one place?

    John stood this time. Turning away from the table, he leaned the small of his back against its edge and took a nice, long drink.

    "By the way," he said, "I wouldn't trust the Committee if I were you. They've been hiding a lot of important information from all of us, and it doesn't make any sense why they would. Something's going on with them."

    Oak stared at John's back. He knew there was something suspicious about the Committee already. That thought came to him as early as the moment he found out about the Pandora video. It was just that he didn't have a choice but to trust them at the moment, but he wasn't about to tell John that. Instead, something else came out of his mouth.

    "Professor McKenzie, there's something else you should know about Bill."

    John didn't even look back. "What's that?"

    "He's not like Pandora or Abel, as far as any of us could tell," Oak told him. "He's lucid. He has the same personality as he did as a human, and he recognized us. For all intents and purposes, I'd say inside, he's still the same Bill we all know."

    The other researcher didn't say anything. Instead, he took another long sip of his scotch.

    "I thought you'd like to know," Oak continued, "so you wouldn't think you've lost your son yet. And if it means anything, John, it's good that he's lucid. Bill's sharp. He'll take care of himself until we can find a way to help him. You don't have t--"

    "Lucid," John repeated. "An XP-650 that's lucid."

    He started for the door. For a long while, he didn't say anything. He only finished off the rest of the scotch, the clink of the ice cubes against glass providing the only sound in the room. Then, placing a hand on the door knob, he said two words without even looking at Oak.

    "That's interesting."

    With that, he turned the knob and walked into the hallway.

    ---

    Blue lightning hit the dirt with a crack. Dust swirled upwards in a brown cloud, and a coppery smell hung in the air. Bill landed on all fours, his claws digging into the earth to anchor him. Wincing, he crouched in a patch of tall grass and peered through the blades to his opponent. Several feet away, a manectric stepped forward, his teeth bared in a growl. Sparks crackled off his blue and yellow body as his nostrils flared to catch any sign of his metal victim.

    This is bad, Bill thought.

    Inside his mind, he felt Adam's presence. Do humans normally state the obvious?

    Now isn't the best time for sarcasm, Adam. What should I do?

    On the contrary. Now is the perfect time. As for what you should do, is it not obvious to you? Get up and fight. Use the new moves you have discovered.


    Bill groaned. Stiffly, he forced himself up and held his claws out to his sides. The muscles in his fingers tensed against his armor while his skin began to glow white. On the other side of the field, the manectric lifted his muzzle to the sky and belted out a long, loud howl. Bill hesitated, trembling as he watched the dog arch his back and bare his teeth just a bit more.

    Now, Bill, Adam ordered. Its guard is down. Strike now!

    Without thinking, Bill launched forward, his glowing claws sweeping low. The manectric watched him with steady eyes, but he didn't move from his spot.

    Why isn't he moving? Bill asked himself.

    Although the thought crossed his mind, he pushed forward. With more speed than he thought he had, his hand swung down, fingers slashing across the crest on manectric's head. The dog yelped and emitted a burst of sparks, but he stood his ground and Bill stumbled to the side and fell to one knee.

    A miss, Adam growled. Get up and do it again.

    Nodding, Bill tried to stand, but suddenly, his body went numb. Crying out, he dropped back down, planting his hands on the earth. He winced and forced himself to look at his arm as electricity arced off his skin.

    Static, he thought. I should have seen that coming.

    What is that? Adam asked.

    Pokémon on this planet have different special abilities. The manectric species... there's a chance some of them have Static. It induces paralysis.

    Paralysis. Does that mean...?

    It means...
    Bill struggled to move, but his body was locked in place. It means that I can't move.

    A bark pulled Bill's attention back to the battle. With some effort, he lifted his chin enough to look directly forward. There, the manectric stood, panting and smiling like a puppy. Then, his mouth pulled towards the front of his muzzle while electricity gathered in a dome of sparks around him. Bill felt cold; he recognized the stance right away.

    Thunder. No!

    Struggling against paralysis, Bill forced his mouth open, but he wasn't quite quick enough to say a word. All of the electricity surrounding manectric surged through the air in a golden beam, and with so little space between the canine and his target, Bill took the full hit in a matter of seconds.

    He couldn't even scream. One moment, he was kneeling in front of manectric. The next, he was lying on his back, lips parted slightly and eyes wide open. He was pretty sure he would have felt an overwhelming amount of pain if he could feel anything at all besides a tingling sensation all over his body.

    You, Bill, are an embarrassment, Adam drawled.

    While Bill felt the parasite recede from his mind, his canine opponent padded around his head and sniffed at Bill's face. A few seconds later, Thom peered over the two of them.

    "Wow," he said. "You're really out of it this time."

    Something landed with a thump next to Bill's head. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a blotch of brown, an object he knew to be Thom's bag.

    "Now, let's see," Thom said, his hands rustling through his bag. "I know I have a revive in here somewhere..."

    "Thomas Wattson!"

    Thom yelped and jumped to his feet, knocking his pack to the ground. Whirling around, he came eye-to-eye with Ellen, who was storming towards them with Chansey not far behind her. On the crest of the hill above them, Thom could see Veronica watching them with a growlithe by her side.

    "What did you do?!" she demanded.

    "Uh, um..." Thom reached up to rub the back of his neck. "Training?"

    "Training?" Ellen's voice grew shriller as she stood just inches from Thom. She placed her hands on her hips, and her lips were drawn tight. "Look at him! He can't even get up!"

    She dropped to her knees beside Bill and passed a hand over his nose and mouth.

    "He's still breathing. That's a good sign." Looking directly into his eyes, she added, "Bill? Can you hear me?"

    It took him awhile to muster up enough energy to speak, but when he did, he replied hoarsely, "Oh, hello, Nurse Joy. Daijoubu da."

    Ellen threw a glare over her shoulder at Thom before turning to Chansey. "Chansey, he's just conscious enough for Softboiled to work. Would you please?"

    Chansey trilled and saluted. Stepping forward, she pulled her egg out of its pouch as it began to glow yellow. A small orb of light pulled away from its smooth surface and drifted towards Bill. He felt its warmth touch his metal skin, and slowly, the rest of his body began to feel warm as he gradually began to recover his energy. Still, although the feeling of weakness was starting to ebb, the numbness in his body persisted.

    Noticing that he still wasn't moving, Ellen said, "Bill? Can you do me a favor? Can you wiggle your fingers?"

    Squinting, he concentrated his energy on moving. His fingers remained still, and he still couldn't feel them.

    "He's paralyzed," Ellen murmured. "Chansey, use Heal Bell, please."

    Stuffing her egg back into her pouch, Chansey brought her arms close together and began to sing in a series of high-pitched, long notes. Her body took on a blue glow as ripples of light ebbed off her body. Bill closed his eyes completely and allowed himself to relax. The music seemed to seep into him, as if he wasn't just listening but absorbing it into his muscles. It left him feeling an unpleasant, tingling sensation through his limbs, like the feeling he got after his foot fell asleep.

    "Try flexing your fingers now."

    Bill opened his eyes and realized that Chansey's music had ended. Keeping his eyes on Nurse Joy, he tried moving the fingers of his right hand. Without any trouble at all, each one of them curled into a fist. Smiling, he sat up, but as soon as he did, he swayed and nearly fell backwards. Ellen grabbed him by the arm and gently supported him.

    "Careful! You're still recovering," she told him. "You should be fine if you take it easy for the rest of the day."

    Nodding, Bill shifted to sit up on his own. "Thank you."

    Ellen smiled, but as soon as she turned to Thom, her expression turned ice-cold. Thom froze, backing up slowly as his manectric whimpered.

    "Using a gym leader's manectric against a low-leveled pokémon. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" she snapped.

    Thom held up his hands. "It was an accident! I was gonna go easy on him, but I just got, y'know, a little carried away."

    "You induced paralysis on him and then proceeded to electrocute him. He could have died!"

    "Ah, Nurse Joy," Bill said, "if I may, aren't you being a bit harsh on--"

    Ellen didn't seem to notice, opting instead to move towards Manectric. She stooped down with her back towards Bill, who instantly fell silent. All of the nurse's attention went towards the dog for a few moments, examining his underside, his paws, his legs, and everything else she could go over in a few seconds. The dog waited obediently, mouth open and tongue lolling out of his muzzle at the attention he was receiving. When the examination was complete, Ellen sat back on her heels and put a hand on Manectric's crest.

    "Chansey, Softboiled should be enough to take care of this cut. Otherwise, he didn't seem to sustain any other injuries, but give him another look over to make sure I didn't miss anything." Then, she stood and turned her icy glare back towards Thom. "As for you, Thom, how long have you been battling like this?"

    While Chansey trilled and got to work, Thom looked skyward. "Uh, since this morning, I guess?"

    "It's past three in the afternoon! You're telling me you've been battling him nonstop for hours?"

    "Hey, not nonstop!" Thom protested. "We've had breaks... here and there."

    "Thom, how could you?" Ellen replied. "We don't know anything about the ixodida or their limits, and you know Bill's new to this! He doesn't know how strong he is or how much he can take!"

    Bill sat a little straighter. "Nurse Joy, I--"

    "You can't go too hard on him," Ellen interrupted. "If he gets seriously hurt, I don't know how well I can fix him up."

    Veronica crossed her arms and moved forward. "You know, maybe Thom has the right idea. Growlithe!"

    The puppy stepped forward. Veronica took off her hat and bent down to put it firmly on her dog's head. Then, she stood, turned, and put some distance between herself and her pokémon.

    "Bill," she said, "there are a lot of ixodida on this island, and they can attack at any moment. Therefore, we need to make sure you're ready to fight them." She turned and motioned to her dog. "If you can get my hat away from my growlithe, you'll earn my respect. If you can't, then Nurse Joy will just have to clean you off the hill. Growlithe, have fun. Got it?"

    The dog barked and lowered her head. Her lips pulled back, revealing rows of sharp, white teeth. Already, orange sparks flicked between each of her fangs.

    "Veronica," Ellen hissed. "What are you doing?"

    She smiled. "Relax. I'm going easy on him. Go on, Bill."

    Bill looked down at the growlithe, who was still snarling at him. He forced himself to his feet and fixed his eyes on the hat. Walking forward, he noticed that the growlithe wasn't moving, wasn't putting an obstacle between him and her. He almost called Veronica's task easy, if he wasn't so suspicious of it thanks to the officer's opinion of him.

    Even with this in mind, he stooped down to reach for the hat. Before his fingers could get within an inch of its blue fabric, Growlithe lifted her head and spat out a ball of fire that hit Bill's shoulder. Although Bill could recognize it as Ember (and not a full Ember at that), he still felt searing pain radiate from where the ball struck him. Reeling back, he sucked in a breath through his teeth and covered his shoulder. Under his hand, he could feel his skin soften, and beneath that, it felt like his muscles and bones were on fire.

    Of course, he thought. I'm a steel-type. I'm weak to fire. But I shouldn't be this weak.

    "What's wrong, Bill?" Veronica asked, her eyes narrowing. "Afraid of a little fire?"

    He glanced at her. "What? No! I..."

    Setting his eyes back on Growlithe, he sighed. Then, he swept himself downward and swiped for the hat as quickly as he could.

    He didn't notice the sparks in Growlithe's mouth until the Flamethrower hit him in the stomach.

    Screaming, he flailed backwards and hit the ground with a bang. Closing his eyes, he tried to will away the burning sensation crawling across his torso. His fingers dug into the earth, ripping through clumps of dried grass. Only a couple of feet away, Growlithe opened her mouth again and released another stream of fire, this time using her tongue to twist it into a spiral headed straight for her target.

    The next thing Bill felt was pain and heat. His eyes snapped open, and all around him, he saw orange light. Growlithe's fire twisted around him like a serpent, rising higher and higher until it obscured Bill completely in a towering inferno. Inside, Bill could only scream; even if the Fire Spin didn't bind him to the spot, his body refused to move thanks to the sheer amount of pain he was feeling. It felt like the fire had entered him and was cooking him from the inside out. Every nerve screamed, every muscle burned under his bubbling skin.

    Over the roar of the fire surrounding him, he heard one other sound: a bark, a single loud bark that penetrated his brain. Right away, his bones felt chilled, and without thinking, he burst out of the fire cyclone and hit the ground just outside it. The fire dissipated shortly afterwards, and Bill was left shaking where he was on the ground.

    In the ensuing silence, Veronica took her hat back from Growlithe and glanced towards Ellen's way. The nurse was staring at the blackened circle where the flaming tornado had been a second ago.

    "Veronica," Ellen whispered. Then, shaking her head, she started forward. "Chansey! Quickly! Use Softboiled!"

    Nodding, the happiness pokémon pulled her egg free from her pouch again. Raising it high in the air, she watched as it began to glow bright yellow. Just as it had not too long ago, the egg spat out a ball of yellow energy that floated gently towards Bill. It gently touched his half-melted skin and spread over his body, enveloping him in a yellow light. He felt the pain gradually recede, his skin reinforce itself and smooth itself out, and his energy come back to him until he was finally able to lift his head.

    "I failed, didn't I?" he rasped.

    "Like you wouldn't believe," Veronica replied.

    "Hey!" Thom yelled. "What's the big idea, anyway?! I thought you said you were gonna go easy on him!"

    "I did," she told him. "Compared to the ixodida, anyway. You keep babying him, and he won't be in any condition to fight. You've seen ixodida. They don't show any mercy when they battle. If he's not prepared to give it his all, then he's useless."

    Bill sat up. He had nothing to say, but he knew Veronica was right. If he couldn't learn how to fight against any normal pokémon, how could he expect to protect anyone?

    "Besides, we just got a radio message from the Caravan," Veronica continued. "They're staying at the Winstrate Estate right now, and they should be here within the next few days. If that thing isn't ready to prove to them that he'll be an asset to our side, then I'd hate to see what they'd do to him."

    Instantly, Thom's eyebrows went up. "The Caravan? They're coming for us?"

    "Of course they are. There's people here, and they don't abandon refugees for any reason."

    "The Caravan?" Bill whispered as Thom went off on another list of questions.

    Ellen nodded. "They're a band of strong trainers that travels all across Hoenn. They stop in places like Mauville to protect survivors and take them to safe places at the edges of the region. They've been through here once, but they couldn't take all of us then."

    Bill turned to look at Ellen. For a long while, all he did was study her face, tuning out the conversation Thom and Veronica were having around them. Ellen's expression softened, and she gently grasped Bill's arm.

    "Come on. We should get you back to the pokémon center. You've been hurt pretty badly, and Chansey's Softboiled can only do so much."

    With some effort and her help, he rose to his feet. "Nurse Joy..."

    She offered him a smile and whispered, "It's okay. Don't listen to her. There are people at the center who have already figured out a way to get the Caravan to take you with us."

    He could only give her a confused look as she led him past Thom and Veronica.

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

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  16. #91
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    Also, you should totally nominate this fic for the 2010 Fanfic Awards because I'll nominate yours and because I'd be more likely to take reader suggestions from people who do.
    For some reason I have the sudden urge to nominate your fic for the 2010 Fanfic Awards JX. I really have no idea why though... XD

    All sarcasm aside, This was another excellent chapter for AEM...better than how the fic I'm starting is working out...grrr (goes and works on the prologue for said fic some more)

    The fact that the ixodida were just staying in Hoenn also puzzled me, although...
        Spoiler:- possibilities?:


    I also liked the training session scene in this chapter, even though Bill gets constantly beaten up by his opponents. Veronica really is out to get him with her practically boiling his skin off, isn't she? I have to agree with her though because he really needs to sharpen his battling skills if he wants to go up against the other ixodida, otherwise he might as well be using a pillow as a weapon against them.

    Keep up the good work, JX!

    Thanks to Gladeshadow for the trainer card and Felly for the Banner


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    I had to use a few sites to read them and there were a few issues and sometimes pages that were missing, but I got the general picture. It moves quickly (at least the early ones do) but the story overall is just way better than any other pokémon thing out there. (I'd say the mystery dungeon games come second)

    It's definitely worth the read if you can find it.

    Don't worry Jax, Masochism, Sadism, Schadenfreude, it's all good in my eyes.


    As for my writing, I've got a new plan, everytime I think of a new idea for a fic I say screw the new fic and try to incorporate the elements into the main fic that I'm the furthest in writing. It seems to be working. Unless I think of a new chapter in the ever-unfolding tales of woe centred around the Azalea Township. Serial Killers gonna Serial Kill.

    Oh right, this is a fic... I'll write about that then shall I?

    Pandora is the Ice Lady mentioned in the beginning of the fic, yes? I liked her. I like all Ice Ladies to be honest, The Ice Queen, Tracy Strauss from Heroes, Frost from Mortal Kombat, Khione Greek goddess of snow. Cryomancy is such a cool power for women to have, you know. Or maybe the reason I like them is the masochism shining through.

    I don't like Bill's dad though. He seems like the kind of guy who would use Bill for nefarious deeds of some persuasion. I don't like imagining Bill performing nefarious deeds, he's such a nice, naive boy.

    Thomas on the other hand, that scurrilous rogue, is beasty.

    This chapter has raised more questions than answers, I shall ponder them... in solitude.
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  18. #93
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cryptic Blaze View Post
    For some reason I have the sudden urge to nominate your fic for the 2010 Fanfic Awards JX. I really have no idea why though... XD
    IT CAN'T BE BECAUSE OF SUBLIMINAL MESSAGING, CAN IT?

    This was another excellent chapter for AEM...better than how the fic I'm starting is working out...grrr (goes and works on the prologue for said fic some more)
    Thank you! And :( I'm sure it'll be fine, though. Sometimes, all a chapter needs is a good rewrite and an unceremonious boot out into a forum.

    The fact that the ixodida were just staying in Hoenn also puzzled me, although...
        Spoiler:- possibilities?:
    *whistles innocently*

        Spoiler:- Bwahahahaaaa...:


    I also liked the training session scene in this chapter, even though Bill gets constantly beaten up by his opponents. Veronica really is out to get him with her practically boiling his skin off, isn't she? I have to agree with her though because he really needs to sharpen his battling skills if he wants to go up against the other ixodida, otherwise he might as well be using a pillow as a weapon against them.
    Pretty much. And then Adam goes :| at him from inside as he gets the crap beaten out of him.

    Keep up the good work, JX!
    Thanks! I'll try~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    I had to use a few sites to read them and there were a few issues and sometimes pages that were missing, but I got the general picture. It moves quickly (at least the early ones do) but the story overall is just way better than any other pokémon thing out there. (I'd say the mystery dungeon games come second)
    Yeah, I sort of have to agree, although to be honest, I have more of a soft spot for Electric Tale of Pikachu. (But that's only because Toshihiro Ono pumped that manga full of fanservice. And Bill being a dork. Which for me is fanservice.) I managed to find one site that has most of the issues, but I think it stops at around the middle of the DP arc. (I'm still on FrLg, so I can't remember where it actually ends.) Which is sad because I've heard BW's arc is amazing so far.

    Don't worry Jax, Masochism, Sadism, Schadenfreude, it's all good in my eyes.
    *high five* ;D

    As for my writing, I've got a new plan, everytime I think of a new idea for a fic I say screw the new fic and try to incorporate the elements into the main fic that I'm the furthest in writing. It seems to be working.
    This is actually a really cool idea, and it sounds like it'd make for awesome fic. I'll have to try this later on 'cause God knows how many plot bunnies I come up with but never touch.

    Also, it makes me want to read your fic even more, just to see what this kind of method produces.

    Oh right, this is a fic... I'll write about that then shall I?
    XD Hey, so long as the mods don't see we've derailed the thr-- *shot repeatedly*

    Pandora is the Ice Lady mentioned in the beginning of the fic, yes?
    Yep!

    Also, you have good taste. ♥ to the Heroes reference especially. I really need to catch up on that show.

    I don't like Bill's dad though. He seems like the kind of guy who would use Bill for nefarious deeds of some persuasion.
    Oh, he most likely already has. (Remember how it was said Bill's good at guessing? Good guesses + Goldenrod Game Corner = ...yeah, that's why Bill doesn't like his father, either.)

    For stuff within the fic, though, maybe. ;D

    Thomas on the other hand, that scurrilous rogue, is beasty.
    And he would take all of this as a compliment.

    This chapter has raised more questions than answers, I shall ponder them... in solitude.
    And I shall be here, imagining you in a dark room... plotting something nefarious.

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  19. #94

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    *pats Bill* It's okay, Bill, you'll man, er, Ixodia up. Veronica has a point. He's going to have to toughen up if he doesn't want to get sliced in half during his next Ixodia encounter. At least Bill has Thom and Veronica to remind him of that.

    As for Bill's dad, he's giving me the heebey-jeebies. As of this point, any character who seems to know more than he lets on is not good news. Of course, I could be wrong, but he didn't exactly jump for joy when Oak told him Bill was still sane. He even referred to him as "XP-650" after he was told. *rubs imaginary beard* Hopefully you'll reveal more of him soon.

    The Caravan! I can just sense an epic encounter coming up. *squirms anxiously*

    Great chapter, Valentine! I can't wait for the next. ^-^

    - Kat


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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    *pats Bill* It's okay, Bill, you'll man, er, Ixodia up.
    Eventually. ;D

    Veronica has a point. He's going to have to toughen up if he doesn't want to get sliced in half during his next Ixodia encounter.
    *le nod* And that's putting it lightly. Of course, I'm the kind of person who would like to see him smacked around anyway, so.

    As for Bill's dad, he's giving me the heebey-jeebies.
    As he should be! I have plenty of delicious things planned for him.

        Spoiler:- Le spoiler!:


    The Caravan! I can just sense an epic encounter coming up. *squirms anxiously*
    Oh yes. There will definitely be an epic encounter of sorts there. ;D

    Thanks for the comment in all! The next chapter might be a bit delayed due to "whoops I accidentally scrapped half of the first scene," but hopefully, it should be up by the new year. After all, there needs to be more epic stuff for Bill's birthday, which is just around the corner.

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  21. #96
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    *realises there has only been one episode of the anime which stars Bill*

    *goes to investigate*

    Anyway, I think about this fic way too much, thinking up obscure possibilities that could possibly happen judging on this fics tendency to be absolutely reference happy. And of course Miss. Valentines own preferences.

    My latest idea came to me whilst I was cooking, (and by the way, this is all yout fault Jax) Bill is Mr. Steel, first name Man Of, and then who's the only female Ixodida we know of? Pandora, the Ice Princess, she and Bill meet and he discovers that it was none other than his old friend Lanette but she doesn't have control like Bill does (however much control Adam lets him have anyway) Bill tries to fix her, cue steamy ixodida lovin'.

    Bill uses Horn Drill!
    It's a One-Hit KO!


    Team Rocket has been quiet lately, surely they're cooking something up?
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  22. #97

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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post



    As he should be! I have plenty of delicious things planned for him.

        Spoiler:- Le spoiler!:


        Spoiler:- I think I know what you're talking about. :o:


    Oh yeah, they mention that Bill's birthday is on the 31st. I should do something, since he's one of my favorite characters. *thinks and ponders*

    - Kat
    Last edited by Phantom Kat; 9th December 2010 at 2:18 AM.


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  23. #98
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    *realises there has only been one episode of the anime which stars Bill*

    *goes to investigate*
    Atta minion boy. ;D

    My latest idea came to me whilst I was cooking, (and by the way, this is all yout fault Jax) Bill is Mr. Steel, first name Man Of, and then who's the only female Ixodida we know of? Pandora, the Ice Princess, she and Bill meet and he discovers that it was none other than his old friend Lanette but she doesn't have control like Bill does (however much control Adam lets him have anyway) Bill tries to fix her, cue steamy ixodida lovin'.

    Bill uses Horn Drill!
    It's a One-Hit KO!
        Spoiler:- \o/:


    Team Rocket has been quiet lately, surely they're cooking something up?
    Oh, they are. Part of the problem is also that it's only been two days in real time. XD More specifically:

    Up to chapter six (the end of Bill's time at Polaris) = night one.
    Chapter seven = day one.
    Chapter eight = morning two (because Bill spent evening and night two unconscious).
    Chapters nine through eleven = day two.
    Chapters twelve and thirteen = evening two.

    So, chapter fourteen will actually be the morning of day three, which means 009 and Professor Nettle will be heading out sometime in the next couple of chapters. (They'll also arrive in Hoenn soon as well.) Once they do, I'll pick up their part of the story.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
        Spoiler:- I think I know what you're talking about. :o:
        Spoiler:- \o/ x2:


    Oh yeah, they mention that Bill's birthday is on the 31st. I should do something, since he's one of my favorite characters.
    As you should~!

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    I apologize for the slapdash review, but I wanted to let you know I did finally catch up.

    I don't have much to say about the plot that hasn't already been said; it's nice that the story is beginning to come together and move forward. I haven't seen any particular details I really want to call out just yet, though I thought Prof. Oak watching John drink was funny, and John seems to definitely have some ulterior motives.

    One thing that bugs me is that a number of species names aren't capitalized, but that's neither here nor there. It's well done overall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    I apologize for the slapdash review, but I wanted to let you know I did finally catch up.
    *high fives* And I'm slowly catching up to XD^everything, so hopefully, I'll finally be able to comment on yours soon. ♥

    I don't have much to say about the plot that hasn't already been said; it's nice that the story is beginning to come together and move forward.
    Thank you!

    I haven't seen any particular details I really want to call out just yet, though I thought Prof. Oak watching John drink was funny, and John seems to definitely have some ulterior motives.
    He miiiiight be. *fingertents* Or he might just be a prick. I know which way he's going, of course, but the answer's long, complicated, and probably liable to make no sense whatsoever. (Even Bill would go WTF at it, I'd imagine.)

    One thing that bugs me is that a number of species names aren't capitalized, but that's neither here nor there.
    *le nod* Stylistic choice. It's probably better explained here.

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