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Thread: Anima Ex Machina (PG-15)

  1. #151

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

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

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

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

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

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

    /stops advertising xD;

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

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

    - Kat
    Last edited by Phantom Kat; 29th June 2011 at 6:33 AM.


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  2. #152
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    Hey, sorry that this review is so late (and short). :'( The last few weeks of school just about killed me, and then I had vacation...

    You've done a great job, and it was fun catching up to see what I missed!

    But it does, the parasite drawled. You search for your purpose, but you need not look any further than your own name. Wil. From the word will, meaning the unwavering inner strength to carry out one's desires. Helm. From the word helmet, a metaphor for protection. Together, they mean "willful protector," he who defends others regardless of the risk. Your purpose is there, Bill. Every moment of your life is pointing you towards protecting your people. Do not give up on them, even if they turn you down.
    That's pretty insightful of Adam ^_^ I wonder if this will have significance later...
    Behind him, a pair of purple eyes peered out from the alley by the gym. 009 pursed her lips as her hand reached up to press a button on a communicator attached to her ear.

    "This is 009. Target spotted."

    "But not captured?" Nettle hissed over the device.

    "Good things come to those who wait, Professor. Trust me."

    With that, she stalked out into the empty street, taking her time to follow.
    No! Not a trap! Nice cliffhanger

    A wise man once said that if a normal person pulled a lever and received an electric shock, he wouldn't pull the lever again; if a scientist did it, he'd do it at least twice to see if it would happen again. This was largely true in Bill's world. In terms of common sense, pokémon researchers were generally stupid people. This would also explain why Bill, who had very little battling experience and an equal amount of understanding as to how his powers worked, ran headlong into hurricane force winds.
    BEST PARAGRAPH EVER!

    Adam sighed. If you are asking why they are of the Wind Clan but you are not, that would be explained by the fact that I hardly care for their kind at all. Bill, you are in the middle of a battle. What is your next move?

    "My next move?"

    Yes. I would assume you are planning on doing something besides run.
    Aah, I love Bill and Adam's little side conversations XD

    You know, I really liked the flashback Bill had towards the beginning of the chapter. It shows a more compassionate, loving side of Lanette. It does a good job illustrating their prior relationship, making the present more understandable, and a bit sad.

    The ball opened with a pop, spewing out a brilliant, white light onto the pavement.
    I actually don't think that comma is necessary, but I'm not entirely sure.

    And then, its arms wrapped around her, drew her close, and kissed her forcefully.

    For the first time since she joined the Caravan, Lanette Chastain was completely stunned. Her fingers loosened until her knife slipped from her hand and clattered onto the pavement. Although it wasn't the best kiss she had ever experienced, she still felt her eyes widen and her body tingle. Her arms twitched, rejecting her every command to push the ixodida away. Instead, she stared directly at the closed eyes of the all-too-human face in front of her.
    Wow. Stunned is an understatement! I'll be honest; I definitely didn't expect Adam to do that!
    Anyway, good job. Bill and Lanette's relationship is just getting more and more interesting! XD Looking forward to more.
    I will be offline from January 2013 to October 2014.

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  3. #153
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think you meant to repeat this part. xD; (I'm not sure if someone already pointed this out.)
    They actually didn't. XD Thanks for that!

    I'm pretty sure this is another case of copy-paste error. During one edit spree in the early parts of this fic, I used a different technique of editing each chapter. Rather than edit a copy of the entire thing and copy-pasting it over the old one, I simply copy-pasted paragraphs or parts. This unfortunately means that there were times when I'd hit CTRL+V more times than necessary, and I wouldn't catch on to it because my computer sometimes likes to lag at the best possible moments. :|

    Tl;dr, seriously, wow. What exactly was I doing during that early editing process? Making things harder for myself, I see. Because that totally makes a lot of sense. (I'M UBER-TALENTED, GUYS! :D)

    In any case, definitely fixing that up the next time I do an edit spree.

    I'm a moderator on PokemonElite2000 for Other:Chat and the the large Ultra Role Playing Game (URPG, for short) we have. Since the URPG has expanded to the Bulbagarden forums last year, I also moderate there. There's a a Stories section where you basically capture Pokemon through fan-fiction (different Pokemon need different story length, more complex plot, and so on) that I help run there. The awesome part of this section is that you always get a detailed review for your story saying whether you have successfully captured the Pokemon you're aiming for.
    BRB, joining PE2K.

    (What I'm currently writing is actually for this URPG, which I may post here now that I know someone is actually interested in reading it.)
    DO IT. OR WAIT. I MAY BE ON PE2K SOON, SO EITHER WAY WILL WORK.

    ACTUALLY, POST IT ON SEREBII. I ACTUALLY NEED SOMETHING TO NOMINATE THE NEXT TIME WE DO THE FIC AWARDS THING FOR ONCE INSTEAD OF BEING A LAZY-JAX WHO ONLY HITS PRETTY RADIO BUTTONS.

    CAPSLOCK IS TOTALLY NECESSARY FOR THIS TRAIN OF THOUGHT.

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

    And oh, I could go on for pages about the haterade the anime gets. :| A lot of the people who bash it don't actually watch it or haven't watched it when it was really bad (read: Johto), which simultaneously amuses me and makes me go, "OKAY. WHERE IS MY SMACKING STICK?" Because, seriously, the anime isn't actually that bad, especially in these last couple of seasons. It actually has plot (mmm, BW Team Rocket), and the filler isn't the same basic script over and over again.

    Not to mention it's a children's card game anime. Yes, it's going to be Happy Fun Candy Land. That's because it's unfortunately not Evangelion or Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I mean, it's cool if people are into that kind of thing. Things like Witchblade, Elfen Lied, and other more "darker" anime floats my boat, too. But, y'know, I realize that the Pokémon anime isn't meant to be like that, so I know that if I want that kind of fix, I'll just have to go and watch something else. And if someone uses Special as an argument to this thought again, there will be a slapping somewhere along the line, I swear.

    So, in short, yes and exactly to the fanfiction point. I mean, there's nothing wrong with the Happy Fun Candy Land feel of the anime, either; you just need to know how to work with it. And, well, appreciate it for how easily it can be twisted into something like Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

    I'm actually going to copy-and-paste all of the chapters of AEM onto my pendrive tomorrow to have something to read on my seven-hour car trip to our new house this Friday. :D
    Oh good God, seven-hour car trip. x_x I'm happy I could help you survive that, but still, hope you have an easy journey!

    Quote Originally Posted by GastlyMan View Post
    Hey, sorry that this review is so late (and short). :'( The last few weeks of school just about killed me, and then I had vacation...
    Totally A-OK. I know how real life can be sometimes, especially this time of year with the lovelies still in school. Good to hear you survived it with your sanity (relatively) intact, right? :D

    You've done a great job, and it was fun catching up to see what I missed! :D
    Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and it's good to see you around again as well! ♥

    That's pretty insightful of Adam ^_^ I wonder if this will have significance later...
    Oh yes. Repeatedly even. Because I'm a sucker for Chekhov's guns. And plays on names. And a whole bunch of other tiny-detail-oriented things.

    No! Not a trap!
    IT'S A TRAP. :V

    BEST PARAGRAPH EVER! :D
    Thank you! I do have to admit, the wise man referenced? This. And now, my lack of shame knows no bounds.

    Aah, I love Bill and Adam's little side conversations XD
    And those are always fun to write, just because it's so easy to get them to start bantering with each other. ;D

    You know, I really liked the flashback Bill had towards the beginning of the chapter. It shows a more compassionate, loving side of Lanette. It does a good job illustrating their prior relationship, making the present more understandable, and a bit sad.
    *le bow* In that case, that might not be the last flashback/reference to their old relationship you'll see. (Actually, who am I kidding with that "might" there?)

    I actually don't think that comma is necessary, but I'm not entirely sure.
    *headtilt* Y'know, I think you're right about that, although I'm a bit uncertain myself because the comma might also prevent it from being a redundant phrase. I'll have to check into that a bit more (because commas + adjectives = a serious ***** sometimes), but either way, yeah, definitely going to look that part over on the edit spree. Thanks for the sharp eye there!

    Wow. Stunned is an understatement! :D I'll be honest; I definitely didn't expect Adam to do that!
    Neither did Lanette. ;D (Or Bill for that matter, but he doesn't count.)

    Anyway, good job. Bill and Lanette's relationship is just getting more and more interesting! XD Looking forward to more.
    Oh yes indeedy. And I've got evil, evil things planned for those two later on, believe me. >:D

    And thanks again for the review! Here's to hoping that you're chilling at this point in time~!
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 30th June 2011 at 5:03 AM.

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

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  4. #154

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    Oh no, I'm bringing AEM back to the first page. How horrible. :P

    You'll be happy to know that I have survived my car trip, despite the fact that two dogs were breathing down my neck through it all. I got to Chapter Sixteen of AEM on my way, and I found some more typos you can fix during your editing spree.

    Chapter 0

    He whined, partly from to the pain shooting up his leg and partly from the familiar, cold feeling in his bones.
    I don't think that should go there.

    Chapter 10

    Taking advantage of my distraction. Using Slash instead of a venomous move, Adam thought. This one is intelligent. However...
    "Adam thought," should not be in italics.

    Chapter 13

    Static, he thought. I should have seen that coming.
    Forgot to italicize the rest of Bill's thoughts.

    Chapter 14

    His behavior is violent and erratic, far more than even Pandora's; however, while Pandora was more dangerous because of her ability to be calculating, Adam was simply mindlessly destructive.
    "Adam" should be "Abel."

    Chapter 16

    Would anyone try to help the people of Mauville if anyone found out they were trying to protect him?
    Not a typos, but it sounds a bit awkward with two “anyone” in the same sentence.

    ---

    I didn't realize how many details I had forgotten from the past chapters. Ariana, for one, I completely forgot about, but with 009 heading to Slateport with Bill in tow, I feel the Rockets are going to be back into the picture, Ariana included. Then we have the Committee, who might catch wind of this capture and do something. Maybe. They still give me the heebey-jeebies.

    Then I laughed when I re-read Bill and Lanette's meeting. Also, I didn't catch Lanette ordering Hope to stay on the school bus until I re-read that part. of course, that didn't turn out the way she planned.

    Ha, I caught the part where 009 lampshaded the whole "sci-fi fiction" thing and when Bill lampshaded himself as a support character in the plot, rather than the hero. (Read the blog where you mentioned it.)

    - Kat
    Last edited by Phantom Kat; 4th July 2011 at 8:01 PM.


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  5. #155
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    Oh no, I'm bringing AEM back to the first page. How horrible. :P
    Gasp! This is a crime that should truly be brought before the eyes of the mods! *shot*

    You'll be happy to know that I have survived my car trip, despite the fact that two dogs were breathing down my neck through it all.
    Oh goodness, dog breath. x_x (I may or may not be more of a cat person, truth be told. Dogs are cute, but I unfortunately don't have the patience for them myself. I don't know why, but hey.) In any case, good to hear you survived! :D I'm also hoping you enjoyed it. Car trips are excellent if you're going through some interesting territory, so!

    /ramble

    I got to Chapter Sixteen of AEM on my way, and I found some more typos you can fix during your editing spree.
    Which will be soon, definitely. I joined PE2K, which means I may or may not have another medium on which I can ***** AEM out share the story with others. And whenever I decide to do something like that, that means I go back to the beginning and clean the cripes out of it, so yay excuse to do it! \o/

    In the meantime, you really are right about all of those points, including and especially that last one. The double anyone does have a sense of redundancy, so I'll be looking at rephrasing that. The others are pretty easy fixes enough, so they shouldn't be too bad.

    I didn't realize how many details I had forgotten from the past chapters.
    Probably didn't help that I spent months getting from one chapter to the next. XD Sorry about that. (Maybe I should make a chart that lists all those finer points the next time I decide to go a month and a half with not a peep. *shot again*)

    Ariana, for one, I completely forgot about, but with 009 heading to Slateport with Bill in tow, I feel the Rockets are going to be back into the picture, Ariana included.
    Oh definitely. Or at least Nettle. You should be seeing another bit with Ariana and John making sweet, sweet business proposals soon, I should think. They're due to speak up.

    Then we have the Committee, who might catch wind of this capture and do something. Maybe. They still give me the heebey-jeebies.
    As they should. ;D

    Then I laughed when I re-read Bill and Lanette's meeting. Also, I didn't catch Lanette ordering Hope to stay on the school bus until I re-read that part. of course, that didn't turn out the way she planned.
    *le bows* And yes, it didn't go as planned at all. And so long as Hope keeps on thinking she's River Tam, probably a lot of things Lanette plans on having her do will just not happen.

    Ha, I caught the part where 009 lampshaded the whole "sci-fi fiction" thing and when Bill lampshaded himself as a support character in the plot, rather than the hero. (Read the blog where you mentioned it.)
    Oh hey! People are actually reading that thing! \o/

    Seriously, thanks! I love those subtler tropes. It's always so awesome to watch people's reactions when they think about it later and go, "...Hey!"

    Anyway, thanks for the review and the bumpage! Hopefully, chapter twenty will be coming out sometime within a week, so...!

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

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  6. #156
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    I am terribly sorry about the late review, but between trying to enjoy my shortened vacation from school and a ton of power outages, I haven't been able to read your fic. It was fun to catch up with the fic though.

    Now, on with the review.

    Chapter 18:

    Now we have some action going on and we even have Bill trying out some new tricks as well. It is nice to see that Bill is starting to use his new skills to help himself out, but I have to somewhat agree with his "baby step" approach to learning his new powers. If he were to rush into battle learning all his powers at once, he may end up acting a bit more like Adam (but since this is Bill we are talking about, we shouldn't have to worry about that XD).

    Chapter 19:

    This is probably one of my favorite chapters in the whole fic. Lanette turns herself into even more of a badass (if that was even possible) by knifing her captor while in the air and even takes down the flying-type monarch... although looking back on it, he was basically a push-over XD. Bill even learns how to fly, which surprised me.

    Luckily, another hand grabbed hers. Her body jerked to a halt, and in the pause, she looked up to see a gloved hand. Above it, Lanette spotted a familiar face.

    "You!" she snapped.

    "Good to see you're safe, Lanette," Bill said.
    Ah, it is nice to see that Lanette still hates Bills guts even when he is trying to rescue her.
    It is sad, though, that the only reason she does it is because he has been transformed into an ixodida against his will

    Meanwhile, Bill was literally flying circles around the other female – with good reason, too. Every moment he hesitated, she extended her wings and flapped them to launch another attack: another gale, another stream of blue lights, another rain of feathers. He bobbed and darted through the air in an attempt to dodge each one. One blast of wind caught him, driving him towards the ground again. The golden aura around him flickered and nearly faded before flaring up brightly just before he could smack into the ground. As a result, he glided just a few inches from the cement and launched himself into the air to analyze the situation again.

    Protect becomes less effective the more times I use it in a row, he thought. I've already used it twice so far; using it a third time would be too risky. And she's using distance attacks, so Iron Defense won't be effective. What does that leave me?

    Actually attacking? Adam inquired.
    Adam still cracks me up when he has his chats with Bill. The flying ixodida, on the other hand, are pretty unimaginitive with their attacks. Spamming the same attack over and over tends to not work in battle.

    Lanette didn't spend much time watching her partner; she only waited until he slapped his tail against the ground and rose quickly into the air. Once he did, she whirled around and plucked a ball from one of the pouches on the belts across her chest. Her feet stepped forward in wide, graceful arcs as her hand swept downward, fingers clicking the button on the ball to enlarge it before she let it slip from her grasp.

    "Spinda, go! Teeter Dance!" she cried.
    Yay for Lanette using a rarely used pokemon. I like seeing pokemon like spinda used because of the fact you rarely see them. Heck, I even use a...(don't laugh) shuckle in my gym team (I am a gym leader for a group I'm in). It has been fairly effective in my team so far.

    ...What was I saying again? Oh yeah!

    And then, its arms wrapped around her, drew her close, and kissed her forcefully.

    For the first time since she joined the Caravan, Lanette Chastain was completely stunned. Her fingers loosened until her knife slipped from her hand and clattered onto the pavement. Although it wasn't the best kiss she had ever experienced, she still felt her eyes widen and her body tingle. Her arms twitched, rejecting her every command to push the ixodida away. Instead, she stared directly at the closed eyes of the all-too-human face in front of her.
    Adam doing this completely shocked me then somehow creeped me out and made me laugh at the same time. I'm still confused a bit over that and has left me wondering why Adam did that.

    Luckily, before she had a chance to say a word to him, something clocked him in the back of the head. The ball split open, and right away, a red light surrounded him. Lanette backed away, watching as her former colleague and friend was pulled into a purple-and-silver poke ball. It dropped to the road, twitching and swaying violently as the button on its face blinked. All three of the humans stared at it, waiting for something to happen.

    And then it stopped. The button turned from red to an unlit gray.
    And now Team Rocket has captured Bill. It looks like Lanette is going to have to return the favor of Bill's "rescue". I also get the feeling the mysterious Committee will attempt something after hearing of this.

    Now that that is done, I need to go hide from the mods before I get whacked by the judgement hammer for my terrible crime of...bumping *gasp* get some other business done.

    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.

  7. #157
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cryptic Blaze View Post
    I am terribly sorry about the late review, but between trying to enjoy my shortened vacation from school and a ton of power outages, I haven't been able to read your fic. It was fun to catch up with the fic though.
    *brofist* Seems like lots of people have been busy lately, and honestly, I'm not entirely surprised. Oh, this time of year. Some kids in some countries forcing themselves through finals, other kids taking off with families, and some other poor, pathetic souls (like yours truly) working obscene numbers of hours.

    In short, it's all good!

    If he were to rush into battle learning all his powers at once, he may end up acting a bit more like Adam (but since this is Bill we are talking about, we shouldn't have to worry about that XD).
    Or completely go insane and end up like Adam that way, too. *le nod*

    (Or kill himself trying to master too many abilities at once. Y'know, either or.)

    This is probably one of my favorite chapters in the whole fic.
    Thank you! I'm glad it came across A-OK! :D (And, honestly, I felt bad about delaying the action for so long, so I jammed as much action as possible in this chapter. ...Unfortunately, chapter 20 is going to open with a bit of talking. But it's plot-relevant, so hey!)

    Lanette turns herself into even more of a badass (if that was even possible)
    Oh yes. She's currently at only Lara Croft-level of badassery. She still needs a few more pushes to become Samuel L. Jackson-level, I think.

    Bill even learns how to fly, which surprised me.
    Surprised him, too. XD

    Ah, it is nice to see that Lanette still hates Bills guts even when he is trying to rescue her. :D
    It is sad, though, that the only reason she does it is because he has been transformed into an ixodida against his will
    XD Yeah, some things are a bit slower to change than others.

    Rest assured, though, that her attitude towards Bill might change soon. Or not. Depends on how she feels about that kiss Adam planted on her.

    Adam still cracks me up when he has his chats with Bill.
    Thank you! They're always fun to write, just because Adam really is like the patron saint of patience or something. I mean, seriously, all it can do is sit back and watch as its host falls flat on his face over and over again because it certainly can't go, "Okay, seriously? I'm driving. Shove over."

    The flying ixodida, on the other hand, are pretty unimaginitive with their attacks. Spamming the same attack over and over tends to not work in battle.
    Aaaaand that would be why Adam never cared for the Wind Clan. XD

    Yay for Lanette using a rarely used pokemon.
    Thank you! Oh, Spinda. You need more love. ♥

    I like seeing pokemon like spinda used because of the fact you rarely see them. Heck, I even use a...(don't laugh) shuckle in my gym team (I am a gym leader for a group I'm in). It has been fairly effective in my team so far.
    I just want to say that Shuckle is awesome. "Oh, you want to get past me? Sorry! I can't hear you over the sound of every attack you launch bouncing ineffectively off my massive defense stats. Brb, launching Toxic."

    Adam doing this completely shocked me then somehow creeped me out and made me laugh at the same time. I'm still confused a bit over that and has left me wondering why Adam did that.
    Trolling the crap out of Bill/pissing Lanette off/because it could. Adam is a complex creature whose actions come with many a reason. *sage nod*

    I also get the feeling the mysterious Committee will attempt something after hearing of this.
    Oh yes. Yes, they will.

    Now that that is done, I need to go hide from the mods before I get whacked by the judgement hammer for my terrible crime of...bumping *gasp* get some other business done.
    Good luck! And thanks for the review! :D *hides*

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

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  8. #158
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    Thumbs up

    I'm not sure if I should cheer because I read all that, (for the record, on a tablet) or cry because there isn't more to read right away.

    Well, to distract myself from the above, reviewing time.

    My lord! That was incredibly captivating! I could barely manage to tear myself away to eat! Whenever I had to do ANYTHING I would just hope to get back and read more.

    I can't wait for more of some of the best writing I've seen in a looooooong time.

    Thank you, and good fortune on the rest of chapters and all else you do.

    Sincerely,

    -Brawlfan1

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    Quote Originally Posted by brawlfan1 View Post
    I'm not sure if I should cheer because I read all that, (for the record, on a tablet) or cry because there isn't more to read right away.
    Haha, yeah. I'm just coming off (yet) another hiatus due to real life, and AEM 20 is finally underway. I'm hoping to get it out either later this week or next week, depending on how much time I have to sit down and write. (Some of the hang-ups? Trying to figure out how to start the fic.)

    In any case, thanks very much for your kind review! I'm hoping future chapters won't disappoint.

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

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    Side author's note, but after this chapter, I'm going on a short hiatus. First of all, I'd like to get somewhat started on the edit spree I've been promising for months and to get AEM caught up at those other fun places where I've been whoring it out posting it. Second, real life stuff. But I'm hoping to be back by the first of October (which is what's technically the fic's second birthday), even if I end up writing a short chapter followed by some awesome stuff for Halloween (also hopefully). Don't worry, guys. I'm not going to leave you hanging like I did for the past month and a half.



    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty
    So the word of fire burns today.


    In the middle of a grassy field sat a jeep. Sitting in the driver's seat was Professor Nettle with her dozing jynx by her side. All of Nettle's attention was focused on the screen of the laptop in front of her. On it was a window with a map of Mauville City and the surrounding area, and for the past half an hour, a blinking red dot within it was moving towards a white one. With each moment the dots grew closer together, the map zoomed in until Mauville completely disappeared from the screen. When that happened, Nettle smiled, and her jynx stirred and hummed. The human-shape pokémon sat up as her eyes began to glow bright blue, prompting Nettle to reach over and place a hand on her partner.

    "Calm yourself, Jynx," she said. "It's only our field agent."

    "Your field agent?!"

    Nettle's gaze swept to the side to see 009 push her way through the tall grass surrounding the jeep. A scowl was planted across the blonde's face as she jumped into the air and landed with a bang on the jeep's hood. With both feet planted firmly on metal, she sent a furious glare at the scientist.

    "In case you've forgotten, I outrank you according to Giovanni," the Black Tulip barked.

    Nettle lowered her eyes to her laptop and pressed a button. A shelf slid out of the side, and an arm folded out of the side of the screen.

    "In case you've forgotten, you seem to have fallen out of grace with Giovanni, so I would suggest you watch your own tongue if you're desperate to regain his favor," Nettle corrected. "Now. The Master Ball."

    009 growled as she reached under her hat. Her hand drew free the purple poké ball, which she held at arm's length to show to the scientist. Putting the laptop on the dashboard, Nettle stood and reached to grab the ball, but just as soon as she stretched her arm towards 009, the agent smirked and pulled the ball away.

    Nettle stood straight. "What do you think you're doing?"

    "You really don't get procedure, do you?" the agent said. "Contact Giovanni first."

    "Why would we do that?"

    "Easy. We're going to hand XP-650 to him personally. That way, we're guaranteed a ticket home."

    Nettle balled a hand into a fist and pounded the edge of the windshield. Jynx stood, her golden hair flaring to her sides as a blue aura surrounded her.

    "Are you suggesting Mr. di Roketto can't be trusted? Do you realize that's treason?!" Nettle screeched.

    "Hardly," 009 replied as she rolled her eyes. "That's what being a member of Team Rocket is all about, Professor Nettle. Giovanni would be proud of a member who bargains with him instead of just follows orders. You can't trust anyone in our business, you know."

    "This is our leader, 009. How dare you question his intentions!"

    "Seriously?" 009 flicked her wrist, and a black tulip slid from her glove to cover her smile with its dark blossom. "This is Team Rocket. Call Giovanni now, or I'll leave you here and find a way to contact him myself."

    For a few moments, Nettle and 009 stared at one another intensely. Neither woman flinched in her expression – not until Nettle sat back down and huffed. She pulled the computer onto her lap and began keying commands into a prompt window. 009 lowered her flower and grinned widely.

    Suddenly, Jynx turned and exhaled a blast of cold air and snow. The wind cut through the air and swirled around an object high above them. Looking up, 009 and Nettle saw a solrock hovering directly overhead. One of its points glowed bright white just as the wind hit it, forcing it to release the pent-up energy in its stone body. The SolarBeam cut through the air, sailing directly for 009. Instantly, the agent jumped out of the way, diving into the grass just as the beam blasted into the hood of the jeep. Nettle ducked and screamed, covering her head with her arms as the windshield exploded.

    When it was over, Nettle uncurled herself first, placing her hands on the laptop as the images on its screen flickered. Jynx stared intently at the solrock, her eyes glowing as she waited for orders. The Black Tulip stood in the tall grass, a hand wrapped around her arm while the other one gripped the Master Ball.

    "Call Giovanni!" she demanded.

    "How can we rendezvous with him now?!" Nettle snapped, her eyes peering over the screen at the smoking crater that had been the front of her vehicle.

    "Just do it!"

    At that order, Solrock tilted its body until it gazed at the laptop instead. As Nettle's fingers slipped to the keyboard, Solrock's eyes took on a blue glow. Jynx responded quickly, focusing her psychic energies into reaching out and grabbing Solrock, but before she could complete the attack, a ball of blue energy slammed into her back and washed over both her and her owner. The Water Pulse swept them out of the car, laptop and all, and sent them tumbling into the ground on the other side of the broken jeep. In seconds, the laptop hit the ground with a bang, and its display blanked with a fizzle of electricity.

    "No!" 009 screamed. Then, as she turned away from the jeep, her purple eyes scanned the grass. "Who's there?! Show yourself!"

    The grass around her rustled rapidly. She reached for her waist, intending on pulling free her tulip baton, but before she could, a white and red blur leapt at her face. Instinctively, she sidestepped it and swung her arm outward, catching the object in the back of the head. As soon as the blow landed, the creature smacked into the hood of the car and bounced, landing on its hind feet on the ground nearby. As it turned, one of its paws reached up to rub the mark on the front of its face, and right away, 009 recognized it.

    "A spinda," she muttered. Then, with a grin, she turned towards the field. "Lanette, was it? If you want to come out and challenge me, I'll go easy on you, but really, aren't I doing you a favor?"

    There was a bang behind her. She looked over her shoulder just in time to see Lanette grab her arms.

    "I'll decide what is and isn't a favor for me," she growled.

    Glancing to the side, 009 smirked and yanked her body into a turn. Lanette stumbled off the dented hood of the jeep to follow her target, but this put her in range of Jynx. The human-shape creature flew towards her victim with a fist pulled back and covered in ice, and before Lanette could realize what was about to happen, the ice-type slammed her punch into the small of her target's back. 009 wrenched herself away just as the ice extended from Jynx's fist and completely engulfed Lanette. Clicking her tongue, 009 turned and smirked.

    "Sorry, but it looks like we win. Now then…" 009 opened the hand that held the Master Ball, only to find a rock in the palm instead. Freezing, she did a double-take. "What's this?!"

    She turned frantically, searching for the missing ball. A flash of purple caught the corner of her eye, and as she turned, she noticed the spinda's paws hefting the Master Ball just above the top of the grass as the panda ran through the field. Solrock bobbed above her, its stone face fixed on the jeep and the group near it.

    "Abandoning your master? That's rich!" 009 shouted. "Jynx, after them!"

    The frost princess sent her a glare as a sopping-wet Nettle approached the vehicle again.

    "She only listens to me," Nettle informed her.

    At that, the Black Tulip pulled her baton free from its clip across her thigh, and with a flick, she telescoped it to its full length.

    "You both are useless!" she hissed.

    The Black Tulip launched herself at the pokémon with her arms poised to swing the baton at them. Solrock stopped as the glow in its eyes intensified. Just then, 009 felt a force pick her up and throw her backwards, into the back of the jeep. At the same time, the Master Ball vanished into the grass. Nettled watched it as she seethed, but then, she turned to her frozen captive.

    "Honestly, you grunts have no creativity," she sneered. "Jynx, assault their trainer directly. Psychic!"

    The pokémon turned, her eyes lighting as she held her hands towards Lanette.

    As if on cue, something in the grass popped, and a white blaze of energy streaked towards Jynx. Seconds later, the bolt slammed into Jynx, forcing her glow to extinguish. Both she and the newly released pokémon tumbled one over the other until, finally, the two of them crashed into the base of the ice prison. It tipped over, threatening to pin the both of them to the ground until a hand reached up to support it. The glow around the released pokémon faded at that point, leaving Bill kneeling between his frozen partner and the jynx. He stood as his free hand began to glow white, and with a quick swipe, he slashed at the surface of the ice. It shattered quickly, allowing Lanette to fall into her partner's arms. Unable to speak, she clenched her teeth and shivered as Bill pulled her free and set her to the side.

    "Are you all right?" he asked softly.

    She hesitated briefly before wrapping her arms around herself and nodding.

    "Good." As he straightened, his expression darkened, and his next words came across louder and more forcefully than his question. "You and I need to have a word with each other."

    Lanette opened her mouth as she gave Bill a stony glance.

    "No, just listen," he said. "I just want you to know how insanely difficult you're making all of this. Of course, it already was rather difficult because in no way did I choose to become an ixodida, despite what one might say about my research methods. While I wouldn't have exactly minded being a pokémon, the one time I have the opportunity to truly live as one involves more problems than I would ever want in my life! Allow me to enlighten you. Not only did I not have a choice in the matter, I'm almost certain I died at least once during the transformation process. I was nearly captured by a criminal organization. I was sedated. I was kidnapped by an ixodida and dragged to Hoenn. I was pistol-whipped by a police officer. I was restrained to a bed twice. A city full of humans tried to use me as bait. Two ixodida tried to kill me. I had to watch myself kill someone in self-defense. I was burned alive, electrocuted, and thrown into concrete."

    Behind him, Professor Nettle cleared her throat. "Pardon the interruption, but—"

    Bill whirled around and glared at her. "I apologize for my insubordination, Professor Nettle, but if you don't mind, I'd like to finish." Then, turning back to Lanette, he continued, "That's not even the half of it yet. Then, my best friend keeps trying to kill me. My symbiotic partner thinks all of this is incredibly amusing and thought it would be even more entertaining to force me to kiss you – and I don't mean any offense by that, Lanette, but I had absolutely no intent to do that, and that wasn't me. And then, Hope! Moreover…" He pointed a thumb back towards Professor Nettle. "Why is Professor Nettle behind me, and what just happened?"

    By then, Lanette's body had warmed up just enough for her to stop shivering. At the end of her colleague's list, she exhaled, lifted a hand, and slapped him.

    "Would you stop doing that?!" he exclaimed as he brought a hand to his reddened cheek. "I'm very close to being driven absolutely mad from all of this, you know!"

    "This is hardly the time to snap at me!" Lanette growled. "Those two captured you in a poké ball, Bill. A poké ball! And they intend on keeping you, and you're worried about how much grief I'm causing you?"

    "In a poké ball?" He stood and faced the Rockets. "Let me see it."

    Nettle narrowed her eyes at him. "McKenzie, we may not be at Polaris Institute, but I am still your superior. You'll address me with respect."

    "Normally, I'd oblige," Bill replied as he twitched his tail. "However – and I must apologize for this, professor – my patience has been worn very thin by now. I would like to see the poké ball you used to capture me."

    The corners of Nettle's lips curled upwards as she purred, "Do you really think you're in any position to make demands? I own you, you annoying insect!"

    "Uh, correction?"

    Nettle swiveled her head towards her fellow agent. "What is it?!"

    009 tossed the limp spinda she was dragging behind her, allowing it to land with a thud at Lanette's feet. With her other hand, she held up the Master Ball.

    "I was the one who captured him, so wouldn't I be the one who owns him?" she asked.

    Bill spread his hands to extend his claws as he took a step forward. "Neither of you own me. You may have that ball, but if you think I'll obey either one of you—"

    "Oh, you grew a spine since we last saw you," 009 quipped. "That's good. Giovanni likes a challenge." She tossed the ball into the air, caught it, and pointed the button directly at the ixodida. "Speaking of which, he's probably waiting for you, so back in the ball you go!"

    Every muscle in Bill's body tensed at that point; he prepared himself to dodge the Master Ball's retrieval beam, although he knew he hardly had the speed to avoid it. Luckily for him, at that moment, a blob of purple light slammed into her hand from the side, forcing his would-be trainer to release the ball. It arced through the air towards Nettle, but before she could reach up to grab it, a blue glow surrounded it. Then, it shot backwards towards a waiting solrock. As soon as it had a grip on the orb, it darted to Lanette's side as she knelt to scoop Spinda into her arms. Standing, she held Spinda in the crook of one of her arms while the other reached up and swiped the ball out of the air.

    "Neither of you have the right to own him," she said.

    Bill relaxed and looked at her. "Thank you. Now, if you would be so kind as to rel—"

    "He's mine," Lanette finished, punctuating her statement with a cold glare directly at him.

    And then, his expression dissolved into one of utter horror. "What?!"

    009 gripped her baton with both hands and brandished it at the red-head. "Hey! You can't do that! I caught him legally! What kind of hero are you, stealing other people's pokémon like that?!"

    "You know, she's right up until the part about catching me legally," Bill added. "Lanette, you've got to let me go! You can't keep me like this!"

    Lanette's expression hardened as she stepped closer to him. "Bill, Protect."

    One of Bill's hands lashed outward, and a translucent, green wall erupted around both him and his partner. Drawing his eyes forward, he watched as 009's tulip baton collided with the wall, and the agent herself, in what appeared to be a jump aimed at Lanette, bounced off the barrier and landed on her feet back where she started.

    "What just happened?" Bill breathed.

    "Intercept with Metal Claw," Lanette barked.

    To Bill, it was as if his body was acting on its own. His hand rose, skin glowing bright white, just as the Rocket agent bolted for him. Her baton struck his palm with a clang, and there they stood in a stalemate as they locked gazes with one another.

    "Metal Claw again. Knock her out of the way," Lanette ordered.

    Bill's free hand swiped at 009, but she, anticipating it, jumped into the air, backflipped, and landed out of her opponent's reach.

    "What other attacks do you know?" Lanette asked.

    Her partner half-turned to see her. "A-attacks?"

    "Metal Claw, Protect, Magnet Rise, and what else? Parry with Protect and hurry up!"

    Bill flung his hands outward, his palms facing the Rocket as a green barrier glittered around him. Seconds later, the Black Tulip's baton hit his Protect with a bang.

    "Iron Defense, Scratch, and Slash," he yelled to Lanette. "That's all I know."

    "Fine. Iron Defense!" Lanette ordered. "Bill, you know one more. What about Iron Tail?"

    When 009 swung at him with her baton again, Bill automatically blocked her with his forearm. Underneath cotton cloth, he could feel a warmth pass over his arm and his skin stiffening against his muscles. The agent responded by, once again, somersaulting backwards, landing where she started, and darting to the side.

    As he kept watching her, Bill finally responded, "I can't use that by myself! I've tried, but when I try to focus—"

    "Intercept! Follow with Iron Tail!" Lanette shouted.

    Bill couldn't protest. He didn't even think about it. Instead, as if it was moving on its own, his hand raised just in time to grab the Black Tulip's baton just as she rushed him from the side. Then, his mind cleared, his tail stiffened behind him, and each joint began to glow. His feet slid into motion, turning his body until his tail cut through the air with a whistle. 009 gasped and let go of her baton. She leapt into the air and shoved her boots into Bill's shoulder, using him as a springboard to launch herself out of his reach once more. Thrown off-balance by her dodge, Bill tilted backwards, letting his tail — and the attack — slam into the ground just before he fell onto his seat. He coughed and sputtered at the dust that was kicked up around him as his fingers felt the ditch he had inadvertently created. Eventually, a realization dawned on him.

    "How did I..." He moved his tail, feeling the ache of the attack radiate up his spine. "Adam, was that you?"

    No, that was entirely you, Adam replied. At last. You begin to fight. This is a very good sign.

    "But I—"

    "Bill! Protect!"

    At the sound of Lanette's voice, Bill's arms shielded his face as one more green barrier ignited around him. An orb of light blue energy crashed into the wall and exploded, coloring the dust around him with brilliant turquoise light. Not a single tendril of energy passed the wall, but by the time it faded, Bill smacked his hands into the ground and leaned into his arms. All of a sudden, his vision began to fade, and he felt as if he had already run for miles.

    Lifting his chin, he watched as the dust cleared to reveal Jynx and Professor Nettle standing side by side. Jynx had her purple hands held palm outward as her eyes remained steady on the ixodida.

    "My turn," Nettle drawled. "Jynx! Ice Beam!"

    Obediently, the ice woman opened her mouth as a ball of blue energy formed just in front of her plump lips. Her golden hair rose as she leaned back until the ball grew to the size of her head. Bill braced himself, tensing in case he caught another order from Lanette, but one never came.

    Instead, a black and white object dropped from the sky and smacked Jynx in the head. She immediately tilted backwards and released, allowing the bolt of ice energy to fire into the sky. Following it with his gaze, Bill watched as it narrowly missed a creature suspended above them.

    A creature, Bill noted with a cold feeling in his heart, that was on fire.

    Although the creature's form was blurred with the corona surrounding it, Bill could tell it was another ixodida. It was human-shaped, roughly the size of a lean, fully grown man, with a long tail that curled under reptilian feet. Human arms extended to its sides, ending in red-hot claws. Behind it, a pair of insect wings blazed, keeping it hovering a safe distance away from the group. Its eyes, black in color, scanned each member of the party below it as it silently waited.

    Suddenly, Professor Nettle screamed. Glancing towards her, Bill noticed that she had picked up the object that had been thrown at Jynx, and in her horror, Nettle threw the object as far away from herself as she could. Keeping his eyes on it, Bill watched it bounce once and roll to the side until it stopped. Once it did, he froze, staring deep into the milk-white, dead eyes of a decapitated, feathered ixodida.

    "Solrock!" Lanette shouted. "Stone Edge! Quickly!"

    The rock sun's eyes flared with white light as a pair of light rings crossed its body. It tilted back until all of its face was bathed in the light thrown by the flaming ixodida. At the same time, the rings around it split into sets of white stones hovering like miniature planets around their star.

    Just as Solrock was about to fire both sets, the ixodida finally moved. It lifted a hand to its chest and cast it outward, pointing directly at Solrock. As soon as it did, the flames of its body turned bright blue as fire shot off its arm, sliding down the ixodida's finger until it blasted as a light-blue inferno. Its victim was instantly engulfed with flames as the force drove it into the ground. Lanette dodged, diving with Spinda in her arms into the tall grass nearby. When the fire died down, Solrock lay in a crater, charred and still.

    Bill felt a shudder, but he knew it wasn't his doing. In his chest, he could feel his core drop in temperature.

    "Adam," he whispered. "What's going on?"

    Something far from convenient for us. Be prepared to run.

    "Run?" Bill squeaked.

    "At last, an ixodida worthy of our leader's army," Nettle said with a smile. "Jynx! Psychic!"

    Before the siren moved, the flaming ixodida's other hand flicked outwards to point at Professor Nettle. Blue fire spewed from his other arm and spun directly at the scientist. Jynx cried out and moved towards her master, but she was far too slow to protect her. The flames slammed into Nettle, engulfing her with searing heat. Her screams pierced the air, rising above the roar of the blaze. Bill flinched at the sound, clapping his hands to his ears as his colleague's cries ripped through his head. Through watering eyes, he could see her silhouette bathed in azure. Writhing. Wilting. Collapsing in on itself until it melted into a black mass at the heart of a fire. Her screams faded into nothingness, and all that she left behind was the booming fire and the sobs of her pokémon. Neither of the humans could say a word, their eyes transfixed by the shock of what happened right in front of them. Bill himself couldn't move, couldn't feel a thing except something wet dripping down his face.

    Inside him, Adam remained alert. Bill. Listen to me. Do you see what happened just now? This monster will kill us if you do not focus. I cannot help you to run this time. Do not give him the opportunity to act.

    Yet, even with Adam's orders, the most Bill could do was stand — and even that was done shakily. Looking up, he found that the ixodida's eyes were suddenly on him.

    "At last, I have found you," it said. Its voice was deep. Male in tone. "I have sensed you since you arrived in my territory. It surprises me thoroughly that Her Majesty did not choose me to hunt you, but now that her champion is dead..."

    The creature landed several feet away from Bill. Around his toes, the grass smoldered and blackened.

    "A rogue of the Iron Clan. This is most disturbing," the ixodida commented.

    "W-who are you?" Bill croaked, his throat suddenly tight.

    The other monarch tilted his head. "A better question would be who are you? Your name."

    Do not answer him, Adam advised.

    Bill shut his mouth. The other ixodida narrowed his eyes as the fires dancing across his skin grew. Around him, patches of grass burst into flame.

    "Very well," he said.

    His arm rose, and a clawed finger extended towards Bill. The steel-type tensed as he watched blue fire curl around his opponent's wrist.

    Bill! Run!

    Adam didn't need to tell him twice. Bill lifted a hand, extending a green barrier of light around himself as he turned and pushed off the ground in a sprint. He intended to dodge to the side, to lead the ixodida away from the others, but as soon as he turned and started running, he could hear the roar of fire rush towards him. Almost immediately, a massive force smashed into his barrier and sent him flying backwards into the grass. As soon as he hit the ground, the barrier around him shattered, and the blue fire streamed through to ensnare his body.

    For the next few seconds, all Bill knew was pain: pain greater than anything else he had ever experienced. It was like he was thrown into a vat of magma, where every inch his limbs tried to move was met with extreme resistance, where his flesh began to bubble and melt under the intense heat, where every nerve screamed at his brain. His skin felt as if millions of hot needles were jammed into every part of him all at once. He swore he could hear a woman scream his name, but her voice was drowned by the deafening thunder of the fire. His mind blanked, and although he could perceive Adam barking command after command at him, he couldn't think.

    In other words, it hurt like Hell. Exactly like Hell.

    After some time — and Bill could no longer discern how much time was passing around him — the fire drew away from his body as something stepped between him and the ixodida. His vision resolved just enough to see the hem of a pink dress outlined with blue light. Golden hair rose into a wide halo as a purple hand directed the rest of the blue flames into a curve aimed its source. Above Jynx, dark clouds quickly rolled in, and fat drops of rain fell onto the field. The flames charring the grass began to die as Bill lay, staring blankly at Jynx as the siren's arms swept each fireball away from him and back towards the flaming ixodida. Behind him, he caught the sound of voices. Some of them were familiar. Some of them weren't.

    "Alakazam, good job! Now assist with Psychic!"

    "Manectric, Thunder!"

    "Chansey, hurry!"

    "All right, Growlithe! Let's go!"

    Pokémon stormed around him, but he couldn't move out of their way. He only let them pass over him as he continued to watch. In the meantime, the corners of his field of vision darkened, and his eyesight blurred once more into nothing but colors. Two objects, white and green, lowered beside him.

    "Is he all right?"

    "Bill, can you hear us?"

    "It looks bad. He's been burned. If we don't do something soon—"

    "I get it."

    A purple blotch lowered, overlapping part of the green object.

    "Bill. Return."

    At Lanette's final order, he closed his eyes and obeyed.

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

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  11. #161
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    If he wasn't already, Bill is now officially Lanette's bitch.

    I'd leave something more substantial but time is limited, just know that I read and that I enjoyed.
    Skogsrĺ

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

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  12. #162
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    ...I was so sad when I'd realised I'd caught up. xD This story has been entertaining me for two evenings - I've been really enjoying it! Your characterisation in particular was great, I really like Adam and dear Bill. x3 The last chapter as well... <3 It was funny seeing where you'd edited, as well - I kept on reading parts of the reviews as I passed them, and it was neat noticing the changes. And of course the relationship between Adam and Bill - Adam is officially my favourite character, haha.

    There were a few typos dotted around but they get us all. :3 Great job~!


    Floating over your rocky spine
    The glaciers made you and now you're mine


    Pair: duncan | Lyrics: Great Lake Swimmers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    If he wasn't already, Bill is now officially Lanette's bitch.
    Indeed he is, Diddy. Indeed he is.

    I'd leave something more substantial but time is limited, just know that I read and that I enjoyed.
    Totally okay. I was actually heavily surprised that you dropped by at all, what with the involuntary hiatus you're on and all. Which makes you awesome, but still, I applaud you, sir. o>

    Quote Originally Posted by katiekitten View Post
    ...I was so sad when I'd realised I'd caught up. xD This story has been entertaining me for two evenings - I've been really enjoying it!
    Thank you! Glad to hear it!

    Your characterisation in particular was great, I really like Adam and dear Bill. x3
    This comment really pleases me. I've worked hard on my characterization, and while I know there's some characters who are just a bit on the cliche side (lolnettle), I'm happy with the results. So, it's really awesome to see someone who enjoys that part of the story.

    Especially the relationship between Adam and Bill, for that matter. Because those two are a lot of fun to write.

    It was funny seeing where you'd edited, as well - I kept on reading parts of the reviews as I passed them, and it was neat noticing the changes.
    Haha, yeah. XD That's one of the reasons why I didn't just start a new thread, even though parts of this version are completely different from the original. What's even more fun is watching people try to guess what the original was actually like before the edit blitzes of last year.

    (The typos you'd mentioned, meanwhile, will totally be hunted with extreme prejudice. *fistshake at them*)

    Thanks for the review! Remind me to tackle your fic later. ♥

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

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  14. #164
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    First of all, I unwittingly saw Diddy's review before I began reading the chapter and laughed heartily.

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty
    So the word of fire burns today.


    In the middle of a grassy field sat a jeep. Sitting in the driver's seat was Professor Nettle with her dozing jynx by her side. All of Nettle's attention was focused on the screen of the laptop in front of her. On it was a window with a map of Mauville City and the surrounding area, and for the past half an hour, a blinking red dot within it was moving towards a white one. With each moment the dots grew closer together, the map zoomed in until Mauville completely disappeared from the screen. When that happened, Nettle smiled, and her jynx stirred and hummed. The human-shape pokémon sat up as her eyes began to glow bright blue, prompting Nettle to reach over and place a hand on her partner.

    "Calm yourself, Jynx," she said. "It's only our field agent."

    "Your field agent?!"

    Nettle's gaze swept to the side to see 009 push her way through the tall grass surrounding the jeep. A scowl was planted across the blonde's face as she jumped into the air and landed with a bang on the jeep's hood. With both feet planted firmly on metal, she sent a furious glare at the scientist.

    "In case you've forgotten, I outrank you according to Giovanni," the Black Tulip barked.
    I don't recall if there was explicit confirmation before that Nettle was a formal member of Team Rocket, but with this, I'll say I always knew she was.

    She's reminding me of Paxton from Annihilation Earth now XD;

    Nettle lowered her eyes to her laptop and pressed a button. A shelf slid out of the side, and an arm folded out of the side of the screen.

    "In case you've forgotten, you seem to have fallen out of grace with Giovanni, so I would suggest you watch your own tongue if you're desperate to regain his favor," Nettle corrected. "Now. The Master Ball."

    009 growled as she reached under her hat. Her hand drew free the purple poké ball, which she held at arm's length to show to the scientist. Putting the laptop on the dashboard, Nettle stood and reached to grab the ball, but just as soon as she stretched her arm towards 009, the agent smirked and pulled the ball away.

    Nettle stood straight. "What do you think you're doing?"

    "You really don't get procedure, do you?" the agent said. "Contact Giovanni first."

    "Why would we do that?"
    Because Domino is a stickler for the rules, Nettle. She's Scanty.

    "Easy. We're going to hand XP-650 to him personally. That way, we're guaranteed a ticket home."

    Nettle balled a hand into a fist and pounded the edge of the windshield. Jynx stood, her golden hair flaring to her sides as a blue aura surrounded her.

    "Are you suggesting Mr. di Roketto can't be trusted? Do you realize that's treason?!" Nettle screeched.
    First time I've ever heard that surname for him. Clever variant on the typical.

    Also, bargain with Giovanni. That's real bright, Domino.

    "Hardly," 009 replied as she rolled her eyes. "That's what being a member of Team Rocket is all about, Professor Nettle. Giovanni would be proud of a member who bargains with him instead of just follows orders. You can't trust anyone in our business, you know."

    "This is our leader, 009. How dare you question his intentions!"

    "Seriously?" 009 flicked her wrist, and a black tulip slid from her glove to cover her smile with its dark blossom. "This is Team Rocket. Call Giovanni now, or I'll leave you here and find a way to contact him myself."

    For a few moments, Nettle and 009 stared at one another intensely. Neither woman flinched in her expression – not until Nettle sat back down and huffed. She pulled the computer onto her lap and began keying commands into a prompt window. 009 lowered her flower and grinned widely.

    Suddenly, Jynx turned and exhaled a blast of cold air and snow. The wind cut through the air and swirled around an object high above them. Looking up, 009 and Nettle saw a solrock hovering directly overhead. One of its points glowed bright white just as the wind hit it, forcing it to release the pent-up energy in its stone body. The SolarBeam cut through the air, sailing directly for 009. Instantly, the agent jumped out of the way, diving into the grass just as the beam blasted into the hood of the jeep. Nettle ducked and screamed, covering her head with her arms as the windshield exploded.
    Wow that was badass. A nice and short but exciting action scene.

    When it was over, Nettle uncurled herself first, placing her hands on the laptop as the images on its screen flickered. Jynx stared intently at the solrock, her eyes glowing as she waited for orders. The Black Tulip stood in the tall grass, a hand wrapped around her arm while the other one gripped the Master Ball.

    "Call Giovanni!" she demanded.

    "How can we rendezvous with him now?!" Nettle snapped, her eyes peering over the screen at the smoking crater that had been the front of her vehicle.

    "Just do it!"

    At that order, Solrock tilted its body until it gazed at the laptop instead. As Nettle's fingers slipped to the keyboard, Solrock's eyes took on a blue glow. Jynx responded quickly, focusing her psychic energies into reaching out and grabbing Solrock, but before she could complete the attack, a ball of blue energy slammed into her back and washed over both her and her owner. The Water Pulse swept them out of the car, laptop and all, and sent them tumbling into the ground on the other side of the broken jeep. In seconds, the laptop hit the ground with a bang, and its display blanked with a fizzle of electricity.

    "No!" 009 screamed. Then, as she turned away from the jeep, her purple eyes scanned the grass. "Who's there?! Show yourself!"

    The grass around her rustled rapidly. She reached for her waist, intending on pulling free her tulip baton, but before she could, a white and red blur leapt at her face. Instinctively, she sidestepped it and swung her arm outward, catching the object in the back of the head. As soon as the blow landed, the creature smacked into the hood of the car and bounced, landing on its hind feet on the ground nearby. As it turned, one of its paws reached up to rub the mark on the front of its face, and right away, 009 recognized it.
    Damn. Who would have thought a couple of lesser-memorable Gen 3 Pokemon would be capable of simply saying "**** you" to two high-ranking Team Rocket members like this?

    "A spinda," she muttered. Then, with a grin, she turned towards the field. "Lanette, was it? If you want to come out and challenge me, I'll go easy on you, but really, aren't I doing you a favor?"

    There was a bang behind her. She looked over her shoulder just in time to see Lanette grab her arms.

    "I'll decide what is and isn't a favor for me," she growled.
    Lanette stop making me want to love you.

    Glancing to the side, 009 smirked and yanked her body into a turn. Lanette stumbled off the dented hood of the jeep to follow her target, but this put her in range of Jynx. The human-shape creature flew towards her victim with a fist pulled back and covered in ice, and before Lanette could realize what was about to happen, the ice-type slammed her punch into the small of her target's back. 009 wrenched herself away just as the ice extended from Jynx's fist and completely engulfed Lanette. Clicking her tongue, 009 turned and smirked.

    "Sorry, but it looks like we win. Now then…" 009 opened the hand that held the Master Ball, only to find a rock in the palm instead. Freezing, she did a double-take. "What's this?!"

    She turned frantically, searching for the missing ball. A flash of purple caught the corner of her eye, and as she turned, she noticed the spinda's paws hefting the Master Ball just above the top of the grass as the panda ran through the field. Solrock bobbed above her, its stone face fixed on the jeep and the group near it.
    Spinda continues to impress me with its adorable usefulness.

    "Abandoning your master? That's rich!" 009 shouted. "Jynx, after them!"

    The frost princess sent her a glare as a sopping-wet Nettle approached the vehicle again.

    "She only listens to me," Nettle informed her.

    At that, the Black Tulip pulled her baton free from its clip across her thigh, and with a flick, she telescoped it to its full length.

    "You both are useless!" she hissed.

    The Black Tulip launched herself at the pokémon with her arms poised to swing the baton at them. Solrock stopped as the glow in its eyes intensified. Just then, 009 felt a force pick her up and throw her backwards, into the back of the jeep. At the same time, the Master Ball vanished into the grass. Nettled watched it as she seethed, but then, she turned to her frozen captive.
    I'm honestly surprised that it took this long for Domino to just go after them herself. Of course, she never had a chance.

    "Honestly, you grunts have no creativity," she sneered. "Jynx, assault their trainer directly. Psychic!"

    The pokémon turned, her eyes lighting as she held her hands towards Lanette.

    As if on cue, something in the grass popped, and a white blaze of energy streaked towards Jynx. Seconds later, the bolt slammed into Jynx, forcing her glow to extinguish. Both she and the newly released pokémon tumbled one over the other until, finally, the two of them crashed into the base of the ice prison. It tipped over, threatening to pin the both of them to the ground until a hand reached up to support it. The glow around the released pokémon faded at that point, leaving Bill kneeling between his frozen partner and the jynx. He stood as his free hand began to glow white, and with a quick swipe, he slashed at the surface of the ice. It shattered quickly, allowing Lanette to fall into her partner's arms. Unable to speak, she clenched her teeth and shivered as Bill pulled her free and set her to the side.
    Okay, show of hands. Is Bill the most badass Pokemon ever? It almost is a GOOD thing he's infected by a parasitic alien virus right now!

    "Are you all right?" he asked softly.

    She hesitated briefly before wrapping her arms around herself and nodding.

    "Good." As he straightened, his expression darkened, and his next words came across louder and more forcefully than his question. "You and I need to have a word with each other."

    Lanette opened her mouth as she gave Bill a stony glance.

    "No, just listen," he said. "I just want you to know how insanely difficult you're making all of this. Of course, it already was rather difficult because in no way did I choose to become an ixodida, despite what one might say about my research methods. While I wouldn't have exactly minded being a pokémon, the one time I have the opportunity to truly live as one involves more problems than I would ever want in my life! Allow me to enlighten you. Not only did I not have a choice in the matter, I'm almost certain I died at least once during the transformation process. I was nearly captured by a criminal organization. I was sedated. I was kidnapped by an ixodida and dragged to Hoenn. I was pistol-whipped by a police officer. I was restrained to a bed twice. A city full of humans tried to use me as bait. Two ixodida tried to kill me. I had to watch myself kill someone in self-defense. I was burned alive, electrocuted, and thrown into concrete."
    Damn, Bill, how long have you been bottling this up? Good on you for finally standing up for yourself!

    Behind him, Professor Nettle cleared her throat. "Pardon the interruption, but—"
    Pardon MY interruption, but shut the **** up, Nettle.

    Bill whirled around and glared at her. "I apologize for my insubordination, Professor Nettle, but if you don't mind, I'd like to finish." Then, turning back to Lanette, he continued, "That's not even the half of it yet. Then, my best friend keeps trying to kill me. My symbiotic partner thinks all of this is incredibly amusing and thought it would be even more entertaining to force me to kiss you – and I don't mean any offense by that, Lanette, but I had absolutely no intent to do that, and that wasn't me. And then, Hope! Moreover…" He pointed a thumb back towards Professor Nettle. "Why is Professor Nettle behind me, and what just happened?"

    By then, Lanette's body had warmed up just enough for her to stop shivering. At the end of her colleague's list, she exhaled, lifted a hand, and slapped him.

    "Would you stop doing that?!" he exclaimed as he brought a hand to his reddened cheek. "I'm very close to being driven absolutely mad from all of this, you know!"

    "This is hardly the time to snap at me!" Lanette growled. "Those two captured you in a poké ball, Bill. A poké ball! And they intend on keeping you, and you're worried about how much grief I'm causing you?"
    Because he loves you, Lanette. That's why.

    Also, I feel conflicted about Lanette. I want to like her because of all the badass things she's done, and for the fact that she's just survived all of this, yet I can't help but want her to be at least a little nicer or somewhat grateful for Bill's efforts. I mean, I can understand because she's sure seen some ****, but...

    "In a poké ball?" He stood and faced the Rockets. "Let me see it."
    Wait, he only noticed now?

    Nettle narrowed her eyes at him. "McKenzie, we may not be at Polaris Institute, but I am still your superior. You'll address me with respect."

    "Normally, I'd oblige," Bill replied as he twitched his tail. "However – and I must apologize for this, professor – my patience has been worn very thin by now. I would like to see the poké ball you used to capture me."
    It seems like being in a ball actually made Bill grow a spine.

    The corners of Nettle's lips curled upwards as she purred, "Do you really think you're in any position to make demands? I own you, you annoying insect!"

    "Uh, correction?"

    Nettle swiveled her head towards her fellow agent. "What is it?!"

    009 tossed the limp spinda she was dragging behind her, allowing it to land with a thud at Lanette's feet. With her other hand, she held up the Master Ball.

    "I was the one who captured him, so wouldn't I be the one who owns him?" she asked.
    If Lanette didn't exist, Bill probably wouldn't mind being owned by Domino. XD;

    Bill spread his hands to extend his claws as he took a step forward. "Neither of you own me. You may have that ball, but if you think I'll obey either one of you—"

    "Oh, you grew a spine since we last saw you," 009 quipped. "That's good. Giovanni likes a challenge." She tossed the ball into the air, caught it, and pointed the button directly at the ixodida. "Speaking of which, he's probably waiting for you, so back in the ball you go!"
    And Domino learned to lampshade. Brilliant.

    Every muscle in Bill's body tensed at that point; he prepared himself to dodge the Master Ball's retrieval beam, although he knew he hardly had the speed to avoid it. Luckily for him, at that moment, a blob of purple light slammed into her hand from the side, forcing his would-be trainer to release the ball. It arced through the air towards Nettle, but before she could reach up to grab it, a blue glow surrounded it. Then, it shot backwards towards a waiting solrock. As soon as it had a grip on the orb, it darted to Lanette's side as she knelt to scoop Spinda into her arms. Standing, she held Spinda in the crook of one of her arms while the other reached up and swiped the ball out of the air.

    "Neither of you have the right to own him," she said.

    Bill relaxed and looked at her. "Thank you. Now, if you would be so kind as to rel—"

    "He's mine," Lanette finished, punctuating her statement with a cold glare directly at him.
    Oh Lanette, you possessive *****. Just admit your feelings for him already.

    And then, his expression dissolved into one of utter horror. "What?!"

    009 gripped her baton with both hands and brandished it at the red-head. "Hey! You can't do that! I caught him legally! What kind of hero are you, stealing other people's pokémon like that?!"

    "You know, she's right up until the part about catching me legally," Bill added. "Lanette, you've got to let me go! You can't keep me like this!"

    Lanette's expression hardened as she stepped closer to him. "Bill, Protect."

    One of Bill's hands lashed outward, and a translucent, green wall erupted around both him and his partner. Drawing his eyes forward, he watched as 009's tulip baton collided with the wall, and the agent herself, in what appeared to be a jump aimed at Lanette, bounced off the barrier and landed on her feet back where she started.

    "What just happened?" Bill breathed.

    "Intercept with Metal Claw," Lanette barked.

    To Bill, it was as if his body was acting on its own. His hand rose, skin glowing bright white, just as the Rocket agent bolted for him. Her baton struck his palm with a clang, and there they stood in a stalemate as they locked gazes with one another.
    If this is how it sounds, it's certainly a very interesting angle on how Poké Balls work.

    "Metal Claw again. Knock her out of the way," Lanette ordered.

    Bill's free hand swiped at 009, but she, anticipating it, jumped into the air, backflipped, and landed out of her opponent's reach.

    "What other attacks do you know?" Lanette asked.

    Her partner half-turned to see her. "A-attacks?"

    "Metal Claw, Protect, Magnet Rise, and what else? Parry with Protect and hurry up!"

    Bill flung his hands outward, his palms facing the Rocket as a green barrier glittered around him. Seconds later, the Black Tulip's baton hit his Protect with a bang.

    "Iron Defense, Scratch, and Slash," he yelled to Lanette. "That's all I know."

    "Fine. Iron Defense!" Lanette ordered. "Bill, you know one more. What about Iron Tail?"

    When 009 swung at him with her baton again, Bill automatically blocked her with his forearm. Underneath cotton cloth, he could feel a warmth pass over his arm and his skin stiffening against his muscles. The agent responded by, once again, somersaulting backwards, landing where she started, and darting to the side.

    As he kept watching her, Bill finally responded, "I can't use that by myself! I've tried, but when I try to focus—"

    "Intercept! Follow with Iron Tail!" Lanette shouted.

    Bill couldn't protest. He didn't even think about it. Instead, as if it was moving on its own, his hand raised just in time to grab the Black Tulip's baton just as she rushed him from the side. Then, his mind cleared, his tail stiffened behind him, and each joint began to glow. His feet slid into motion, turning his body until his tail cut through the air with a whistle. 009 gasped and let go of her baton. She leapt into the air and shoved her boots into Bill's shoulder, using him as a springboard to launch herself out of his reach once more. Thrown off-balance by her dodge, Bill tilted backwards, letting his tail — and the attack — slam into the ground just before he fell onto his seat. He coughed and sputtered at the dust that was kicked up around him as his fingers felt the ditch he had inadvertently created. Eventually, a realization dawned on him.
    I'm not sure who's being the most awesome here. Lanette's totally owning Bill, Bill's kicking ***, and Domino is actually holding her own against a freaking mutant possessed by an alien parasite using her bare hands.

    "How did I..." He moved his tail, feeling the ache of the attack radiate up his spine. "Adam, was that you?"

    No, that was entirely you, Adam replied. At last. You begin to fight. This is a very good sign.

    "But I—"

    "Bill! Protect!"

    At the sound of Lanette's voice, Bill's arms shielded his face as one more green barrier ignited around him. An orb of light blue energy crashed into the wall and exploded, coloring the dust around him with brilliant turquoise light. Not a single tendril of energy passed the wall, but by the time it faded, Bill smacked his hands into the ground and leaned into his arms. All of a sudden, his vision began to fade, and he felt as if he had already run for miles.

    Lifting his chin, he watched as the dust cleared to reveal Jynx and Professor Nettle standing side by side. Jynx had her purple hands held palm outward as her eyes remained steady on the ixodida.

    "My turn," Nettle drawled. "Jynx! Ice Beam!"
    I get the feeling Nettle's more about tactics. Domino seems to be the action-oriented one of the two.

    Obediently, the ice woman opened her mouth as a ball of blue energy formed just in front of her plump lips. Her golden hair rose as she leaned back until the ball grew to the size of her head. Bill braced himself, tensing in case he caught another order from Lanette, but one never came.

    Instead, a black and white object dropped from the sky and smacked Jynx in the head. She immediately tilted backwards and released, allowing the bolt of ice energy to fire into the sky. Following it with his gaze, Bill watched as it narrowly missed a creature suspended above them.

    A creature, Bill noted with a cold feeling in his heart, that was on fire.

    Although the creature's form was blurred with the corona surrounding it, Bill could tell it was another ixodida. It was human-shaped, roughly the size of a lean, fully grown man, with a long tail that curled under reptilian feet. Human arms extended to its sides, ending in red-hot claws. Behind it, a pair of insect wings blazed, keeping it hovering a safe distance away from the group. Its eyes, black in color, scanned each member of the party below it as it silently waited.
    Oh ****. Definitely did not see this coming.

    Suddenly, Professor Nettle screamed. Glancing towards her, Bill noticed that she had picked up the object that had been thrown at Jynx, and in her horror, Nettle threw the object as far away from herself as she could. Keeping his eyes on it, Bill watched it bounce once and roll to the side until it stopped. Once it did, he froze, staring deep into the milk-white, dead eyes of a decapitated, feathered ixodida.
    Wait, what? That really came out of nowhere.

    "Solrock!" Lanette shouted. "Stone Edge! Quickly!"

    The rock sun's eyes flared with white light as a pair of light rings crossed its body. It tilted back until all of its face was bathed in the light thrown by the flaming ixodida. At the same time, the rings around it split into sets of white stones hovering like miniature planets around their star.
    That is a really awesome and very appropriate description of Stone Edge as used by a Solrock.

    Just as Solrock was about to fire both sets, the ixodida finally moved. It lifted a hand to its chest and cast it outward, pointing directly at Solrock. As soon as it did, the flames of its body turned bright blue as fire shot off its arm, sliding down the ixodida's finger until it blasted as a light-blue inferno. Its victim was instantly engulfed with flames as the force drove it into the ground. Lanette dodged, diving with Spinda in her arms into the tall grass nearby. When the fire died down, Solrock lay in a crater, charred and still.

    Bill felt a shudder, but he knew it wasn't his doing. In his chest, he could feel his core drop in temperature.

    "Adam," he whispered. "What's going on?"

    Something far from convenient for us. Be prepared to run.

    "Run?" Bill squeaked.

    "At last, an ixodida worthy of our leader's army," Nettle said with a smile. "Jynx! Psychic!"
    So Giovanni STILL hasn't learned his lesson after Mewtwo beat his ***? Wonderful.

    Before the siren moved, the flaming ixodida's other hand flicked outwards to point at Professor Nettle. Blue fire spewed from his other arm and spun directly at the scientist. Jynx cried out and moved towards her master, but she was far too slow to protect her. The flames slammed into Nettle, engulfing her with searing heat. Her screams pierced the air, rising above the roar of the blaze. Bill flinched at the sound, clapping his hands to his ears as his colleague's cries ripped through his head. Through watering eyes, he could see her silhouette bathed in azure. Writhing. Wilting. Collapsing in on itself until it melted into a black mass at the heart of a fire. Her screams faded into nothingness, and all that she left behind was the booming fire and the sobs of her pokémon. Neither of the humans could say a word, their eyes transfixed by the shock of what happened right in front of them. Bill himself couldn't move, couldn't feel a thing except something wet dripping down his face.
    AW ****. I guess they should have called Giovanni after all.

    Inside him, Adam remained alert. Bill. Listen to me. Do you see what happened just now? This monster will kill us if you do not focus. I cannot help you to run this time. Do not give him the opportunity to act.

    Yet, even with Adam's orders, the most Bill could do was stand — and even that was done shakily. Looking up, he found that the ixodida's eyes were suddenly on him.

    "At last, I have found you," it said. Its voice was deep. Male in tone. "I have sensed you since you arrived in my territory. It surprises me thoroughly that Her Majesty did not choose me to hunt you, but now that her champion is dead..."

    The creature landed several feet away from Bill. Around his toes, the grass smoldered and blackened.

    "A rogue of the Iron Clan. This is most disturbing," the ixodida commented.

    "W-who are you?" Bill croaked, his throat suddenly tight.

    The other monarch tilted his head. "A better question would be who are you? Your name."

    Do not answer him, Adam advised.

    Bill shut his mouth. The other ixodida narrowed his eyes as the fires dancing across his skin grew. Around him, patches of grass burst into flame.

    "Very well," he said.

    His arm rose, and a clawed finger extended towards Bill. The steel-type tensed as he watched blue fire curl around his opponent's wrist.

    Bill! Run!
    I don't know why I just thought of htis, but do the differing types of Ixodida have differing levels of sentience/intelligence?

    Adam didn't need to tell him twice. Bill lifted a hand, extending a green barrier of light around himself as he turned and pushed off the ground in a sprint. He intended to dodge to the side, to lead the ixodida away from the others, but as soon as he turned and started running, he could hear the roar of fire rush towards him. Almost immediately, a massive force smashed into his barrier and sent him flying backwards into the grass. As soon as he hit the ground, the barrier around him shattered, and the blue fire streamed through to ensnare his body.

    For the next few seconds, all Bill knew was pain: pain greater than anything else he had ever experienced. It was like he was thrown into a vat of magma, where every inch his limbs tried to move was met with extreme resistance, where his flesh began to bubble and melt under the intense heat, where every nerve screamed at his brain. His skin felt as if millions of hot needles were jammed into every part of him all at once. He swore he could hear a woman scream his name, but her voice was drowned by the deafening thunder of the fire. His mind blanked, and although he could perceive Adam barking command after command at him, he couldn't think.

    In other words, it hurt like Hell. Exactly like Hell.

    After some time — and Bill could no longer discern how much time was passing around him — the fire drew away from his body as something stepped between him and the ixodida. His vision resolved just enough to see the hem of a pink dress outlined with blue light. Golden hair rose into a wide halo as a purple hand directed the rest of the blue flames into a curve aimed its source. Above Jynx, dark clouds quickly rolled in, and fat drops of rain fell onto the field. The flames charring the grass began to die as Bill lay, staring blankly at Jynx as the siren's arms swept each fireball away from him and back towards the flaming ixodida. Behind him, he caught the sound of voices. Some of them were familiar. Some of them weren't.

    "Alakazam, good job! Now assist with Psychic!"

    "Manectric, Thunder!"

    "Chansey, hurry!"

    "All right, Growlithe! Let's go!"

    Pokémon stormed around him, but he couldn't move out of their way. He only let them pass over him as he continued to watch. In the meantime, the corners of his field of vision darkened, and his eyesight blurred once more into nothing but colors. Two objects, white and green, lowered beside him.

    "Is he all right?"

    "Bill, can you hear us?"

    "It looks bad. He's been burned. If we don't do something soon—"

    "I get it."

    A purple blotch lowered, overlapping part of the green object.

    "Bill. Return."

    At Lanette's final order, he closed his eyes and obeyed.
    No more specific thoughts from here.

    I have to be honest, you're really good at keeping me on the edge of my seat, that much I'll say. I think that my favorite part was Nettle's sudden and gruesome death; like we discussed elsewhere, good horror should embody not only the physical definition of the word but also the mental definition. The way you presented Nettle's death, at least to me when I read it, gave me a vivid image of a person in that situation, and that made me just as uncomfortable as the concept itself. I have to admit, though, I was greatly amused by the significant amount of bickering over who owned Bill, too. Poor guy just can't cut a break.

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  15. #165

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    Oh, Bill. I love your rant. Seriously. He's about the most pacient, politest Pokemon canon character I know, and seeing him just blow up on Lanette (in Bill's case, this is him blowing up) made me fall into a fit of giggles that I had to smother due to being the only one awake in the apartment. Yeah, that's right, Bill grew a spine, and with Lanette his trainer, he's ready to kick some butt. (And this may be the most Adam-less chapter since the transformation.)

    And on that note, I utterly loved how after the discussion of who owned Bill it ended up with Lanette claiming ownership; it's like he's a dog or somethi ng. xD Bill's "utter horror" had me laughing. Of everything he was expecting, it certainly wasn't that. Yet, maybe this is a good thing? I don't think the ixodida will wait for Bill to get the hang of battling. Lanette, as crazy as she may be, knows much more than him. Maybe some good will come from this. (That, and Bill being owned by Lanette is funny on so many levels.)

    Nettl burned to a crisp. Bill almost burned alive. All I can say is that this is one hell of a cliffhanger. Yes, pun intended.

    Awesom job, JX! You never disappoint and always leave us wanting more. I wish you luck on your real life stuff! I'll very eagerly be looking forward for any kind of update.

    (I want to do some sort of fanart for AEM. Like, DESPERATELY.)

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  16. #166
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    First of all, I unwittingly saw Diddy's review before I began reading the chapter and laughed heartily.
    Diddy's reviews are always an accurate summary of this fanfic. No exceptions.

    I don't recall if there was explicit confirmation before that Nettle was a formal member of Team Rocket, but with this, I'll say I always knew she was.
    Yeah, I think it was way back in chapter three was the initial reveal. And then she was present for the entire conflict that led up to Bill being kidnapped by Abel and dragged to Hoenn. But that was way back when, and the chapters involved are almost two years old. So, I really don't blame you there. XD

    Also, as you should. ;D Nettle is all kinds of shady. Or was, rather.

    She's reminding me of Paxton from Annihilation Earth now XD;
    ALSO AS SHE SHOULD. :V

    I love professional ***** characters.

    Because Domino is a stickler for the rules, Nettle. She's Scanty.
    I am absolutely adoring this analogy, and it's my regret that I can no longer take advantage of it.

    ...Although it now puts horrifying images of who Panty and Stocking would be for this fanfiction. I really don't want to imagine Bill taking off a pair of stockings after dancing on a stripper pole (although in his human form, I have to admit that would be hilarious), and I'm pretty sure Lanette isn't half the skank Panty is.

    First time I've ever heard that surname for him. Clever variant on the typical.
    Thank you! My lessons in Italian have partially paid off. *bows*

    Also, bargain with Giovanni. That's real bright, Domino.
    Absolutely! He would be proud of her. Probably.

    Wow that was badass. A nice and short but exciting action scene.
    Thank you! Lanette and her Pokémon know how to make an entrance.

    Lanette stop making me want to love you.
    She's trying really hard, but... :<

    Spinda continues to impress me with its adorable usefulness.
    I know! Ever since writing this fic, I've fallen for all kinds of underrated Pokémon. Chansey. Altaria. Spinda. Solrock. Probably Jynx in a few chapters, too. (Yes, folks. Nettle may be dead, but Jynx is not leaving the cast.)

    I'm honestly surprised that it took this long for Domino to just go after them herself.
    Oh Domino. She's trying really hard to lead. *pets her*

    Okay, show of hands. Is Bill the most badass Pokemon ever?
    Or at least he tries to be. ;D If you said that a couple of chapters ago, then that might've been hilarious.

    Damn, Bill, how long have you been bottling this up?
    Since forever. The poor guy takes a beating, but he tries so hard to see the best in every situation. (Or at least most canon universes' Bill does. Oh, Special. Your reactions are so out-of-nowhere, but we still love you.)

    But with a list this long of all the ways the universe has tried to screw him over, even the most patient people can snap under pressure.

    Pardon MY interruption, but shut the **** up, Nettle.
    XD Seems like everyone's reaction when she opens her mouth.

    Because he loves you, Lanette. That's why.
    And this is why I like you.

    Also, I feel conflicted about Lanette. I want to like her because of all the badass things she's done, and for the fact that she's just survived all of this, yet I can't help but want her to be at least a little nicer or somewhat grateful for Bill's efforts. I mean, I can understand because she's sure seen some ****, but...
    Yeah, I can understand. He's trying so hard for her sake, so it's a little difficult to watch her treat him so coldly. But she's already slowly turning around. After all, she did go after Domino to rescue him. It'll probably be a bit more time before she actually thanks him for anything he's done, but it'll happen eventually.

    And it'll probably be something like this.

    (Yes, I did just link to a video of Kung Fu Panda 2. And yes, I do imagine Tigress's voice whenever I think of Lanette speaking.)

    Wait, he only noticed now?
    Bill's not exactly the king of perceptiveness. XD

    Well, he is, but sometimes, he misses key details.

    Also! There is headcanon involved here, so maybe in a chapter or two, what Bill experiences thanks to the Master Ball will be cleared up (including why he can suddenly use his powers so long as he obeys every word his trainer orders).

    It seems like being in a ball actually made Bill grow a spine.
    Or adding that to the already lengthy list of why his life sucks. XD

    If Lanette didn't exist, Bill probably wouldn't mind being owned by Domino. XD;
    Probably not. Save for the entire Team Rocket thing. XD And probably their idea of experimentation if Domino succeeded in transferring him to a Rocket laboratory. (I'm just imagining the hilarity that would ensue if someone attempted to cut open his armor in order to dissect him. Oh, the places that scalpel would ricochet to.)

    And Domino learned to lampshade. Brilliant.
    Only the most awesome skill ever!

    Oh Lanette, you possessive *****. Just admit your feelings for him already.
    But it's more fun to beat up the ones you love by being a massive tsundere!

    Seriously, that's probably the closest to a confession you'll get from her out of this fic.

    If this is how it sounds, it's certainly a very interesting angle on how Poké Balls work.
    I feel like I need to do an entire headcanon post about how I think Poké Balls function. There's just way too much detail there to add to the story.

    Oh, Nando. I should just ask you for ideas for AEM Extras. Every time you review, you give me more ideas for what to write.

    I'm not sure who's being the most awesome here. Lanette's totally owning Bill, Bill's kicking ***, and Domino is actually holding her own against a freaking mutant possessed by an alien parasite using her bare hands.
    Correct answer: All three! Yay for World of Badasses!

    I get the feeling Nettle's more about tactics. Domino seems to be the action-oriented one of the two.
    Pretty much, yep.

    Oh ****. Definitely did not see this coming.
    ;D

    Wait, what? That really came out of nowhere.
    Admittedly, the Fire-type ixodida did (although you'll be seeing a lot more of him later... and he's a hold-over from the last version of the fic), but the head... not so much. You'll find out later on where that came from.

    That is a really awesome and very appropriate description of Stone Edge as used by a Solrock.
    Thank you! Years of ASB reffing pay off. ;D

    So Giovanni STILL hasn't learned his lesson after Mewtwo beat his ***? Wonderful.
    Nope. Because does Team Rocket ever?

    I don't know why I just thought of htis, but do the differing types of Ixodida have differing levels of sentience/intelligence?
    Kind of.

    Among infected forms, there's two different kinds of ixodida: drones and monarchs. Drones include Abel and the Poison-types Adam fought way back when. They're brutes and primarily used for physical tasks, and they possess only rudimentary intelligences. (They can recognize monarchs and figure out problems, but ultimately, their idea of intellect is just following the orders of the monarchs. In other words, they're not too bright, but they can get anything a monarch asks done.) Meanwhile, monarchs like Adam and the Lord of the Skies possess sapient-level intelligence because they're the ones who are head honchos among the Ixodida species. It's the monarchs who order the drones, after all, so they've got to at least understand their hosts and form tactics decently enough to survive and control the drones who serve them. (Except the Lord of the Skies failed miserably at this, and Adam doesn't give a crap. This Fire-type ixodida really would be a better example of a monarch.)

    In terms of elemental types, nope. A Steel-type monarch can be just as intelligent as a Fire-type monarch. The only differences between them is the same as the differences between each race. Everyone has their fair share of complete idiots.

    I have to be honest, you're really good at keeping me on the edge of my seat, that much I'll say. I think that my favorite part was Nettle's sudden and gruesome death; like we discussed elsewhere, good horror should embody not only the physical definition of the word but also the mental definition. The way you presented Nettle's death, at least to me when I read it, gave me a vivid image of a person in that situation, and that made me just as uncomfortable as the concept itself.
    Thank you! And I'm glad you liked it. That part was a bit fun to write, I have to admit, because I always like the challenge of trying to make readers cringe at the sight of a character death. Because you're right. It should be an event that's taken seriously and that messes with a reader's emotions.

    I have to admit, though, I was greatly amused by the significant amount of bickering over who owned Bill, too. Poor guy just can't cut a break.
    No. No, he can't. XD

    But he will eventually, probably!

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    Oh, Bill. I love your rant. Seriously. He's about the most pacient, politest Pokemon canon character I know, and seeing him just blow up on Lanette (in Bill's case, this is him blowing up) made me fall into a fit of giggles that I had to smother due to being the only one awake in the apartment.
    Thank you! That part was fun to write as well. Oh, Bill. You're so adorable when you're angry.

    Yeah, that's right, Bill grew a spine, and with Lanette his trainer, he's ready to kick some butt.
    Or near ready. Lanette will see to it that he eventually becomes ready, whether he likes it or not.

    And on that note, I utterly loved how after the discussion of who owned Bill it ended up with Lanette claiming ownership; it's like he's a dog or somethi ng. xD
    It looks like this is literally everyone's favorite part. XD Even on another forum, one of my main reviewers pointed it out.

    But it's cool because that was the most amusing part to write for me. And that argument certainly isn't done yet. Domino's still alive, after all. ;D

    Bill's "utter horror" had me laughing. Of everything he was expecting, it certainly wasn't that.
    Nope. Not one bit. XD

    But at least it's a step in the right direction (towards getting Lanette to like him again). Sort of.

    Lanette, as crazy as she may be, knows much more than him. Maybe some good will come from this.
    We shall wait and seeeee~!

    Nettl burned to a crisp. Bill almost burned alive. All I can say is that this is one hell of a cliffhanger. Yes, pun intended.
    Thank you! And thank you for the well-wishes, too. Grad school starting soon, so I'm just slightly nervous, but don't worry! I'll find time to write more AEM~!

    (I want to do some sort of fanart for AEM. Like, DESPERATELY.)
    DO IT. You know, my birthday is on September 16...

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

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    :O Not only is your birthday eight days after mine, but it's also on Mexico's Independence Day. You have earned one more cool notch on your totem poll. my friend. *le bow*

    I'm sure Lanette will raise Bill to be a top-notch fighter. Who knows? Maybe Adam will take a liking to her and try to do more than just kiss her for finally shaping Bill to be the ixodida he was meant to be. And Bill will complain all the way through and make her try to see the light of reason; Lanette will just make him see the business end of her crowbar.

    Haha, oh trust me, I plan to do fanart on this. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I don't think I fanfic has ever made me laugh, cringe, and gasp as much as this one.

    - Kat
    Last edited by Phantom Kat; 26th August 2011 at 3:29 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    :O Not only is your birthday eight days after mine, but it's also on Mexico's Independence Day. You have earned one more cool notch on your totem poll. my friend. *le bow*
    *high fives* I'm quite fond of my birthday too for this reason. Also, because it's my birthday.

    I'm sure Lanette will raise Bill to be a top-notch fighter. Who knows? Maybe Adam will take a liking to her and try to do more than just kiss her for finally shaping Bill to be the ixodida he was meant to be.
    Oh, Adam has already taken a liking to her, if you know what I mean.

    Shame. It's literally not a word in the Ixodida language.

    And Bill will complain all the way through and make her try to see the light of reason; Lanette will just make him see the business end of her crowbar.
    And everyone will take bets on how long Bill lasts in that fight. XD

    Haha, oh trust me, I plan to do fanart on this. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I don't think I fanfic has ever made me laugh, cringe, and gasp as much as this one.
    Woot! \o/ Thanks muchly; that means a lot to me. And, of course, I can't wait to see what you cook up in terms of fanart. ♥

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

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    Author's Note: Happy anniversary to AEM! Technically speaking, the fic itself is three years old, when it made its debut on October 1, 2008, on Fanfiction.net and Pokécommunity. Two versions, twenty-one chapters, countless edits, craploads of characters, tons of real-life shenanigans resulting in hiatus after hiatus, and more references than you can shake a stick at later, it's still going strong in the year 2011. And to celebrate, most of the versions of this fic you'll find across the vast intertubes will be updated at some point or another today, starting with right here on SPPf!

    Unfortunately, I didn't finish the edit spree and therefore can't really post all of the new chapters, but as a consolation prize, have a chapter twenty-one!


    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty-One
    So the phoenix burns.


    Forward.

    Bill had no idea where he was or even if it was possible to break free from the Gray Forest, but nonetheless, he walked forward, eyes straight ahead, hands balled into fists. He didn't care that he could feel Adam's stare bear down on him. His mind remained focused, and his pace never slowed.

    He didn't know how much time passed before anything happened, not that he particularly cared. It simply felt like an eternity before he saw a flash of silver at the edge of his field of vision. Suddenly, he was aware that it was to his left, slightly behind him but walking at the same speed.

    "What are you doing?" Adam asked.

    "Walking." Bill was slightly surprised by how blunt his voice sounded, but he tried his best to appear stoic.

    "Are you aware that you will never reach the end of this forest?"

    "I don't care."

    The flash of silver disappeared from Bill's view, but the sound of leaves crunching under metal feet and a cold chill in his bones told him he still wasn't alone.

    "What people say about you is true," Adam drawled. "You certainly are impressive. Quick to adapt. Quick to learn. Your mind yields to change so easily. Yet, at the same time, your heart always stays the same. Determined, chivalrous… stubborn." It paused for a few seconds. "You will never reach the end of the forest, you know."

    Bill gritted his teeth. "I. Don't. Care."

    "You should. I only wish to speak to you this time."

    At that, Bill stopped. He looked skyward briefly before whirling around and glaring at Adam.

    "What?" he demanded. "What do you need to tell me this time? That I'm weak? That I'm easy to manipulate, but it's necessary that I serve as your host for some aggravatingly vague reason? Go right ahead, Adam. Belittle me. It's not as if I have a choice to listen to you, considering it seems that you decide when I can wake up."

    Adam cocked its head, but its face remained blank. Unnervingly blank. Bill felt his own emotions waver as he gazed into Adam's all-too-familiar, soulless eyes.

    "Belittle you?" Adam questioned. "Hardly, I should say. In truth, I wish to congratulate you. I knew you would be powerful in your own right someday. You have my abilities backed by such a keen mind, after all. But never would I have imagined that you would take to fighting so quickly and so abruptly. The way you responded to Lanette and how you fought those humans… it was quite interesting to watch, if I may say so."

    Bill cracked a grin. He normally wasn't the kind of person who would stoop to being petty, but at that point, he wanted the catharsis of arguing with someone. The parasite just happened to be convenient.

    "I'd hate to disappoint you," Bill said, his voice nearly a purr, "but I wasn't in control of what I was doing. Perhaps it wasn't you who was acting for me, but I most certainly wasn't deciding whether or not I should attack. I refuse to fight, and I will always refuse to fight."

    Adam lifted its chin. Although its expression didn't change, there was something in its face that told Bill it wasn't as amused as it had been a second ago. Its features seemed to darken, to gain a shadow that wasn't there, even though its mouth was still a line and its eyes were still glassy and wide.

    "Is that so? Are you certain?" Adam's eyes flicked to the side. "Poké balls are fascinating devices, are they not? A symbol of human ingenuity. You happen to know quite a lot about them, if I understand your memories correctly. They convert pokémon to energy and energy to data, a concept in direct violation of the sciences that apply to humans. They harness the purely pokémon ability to manipulate the fabric of reality itself in order to function. They turn those laws against the creatures that use them in order to draw nets over them. Yet… humans have not been able to use this ability to its fullest. The device only works on a physical level."

    Bill felt as if the ground beneath him was being pulled from under his feet. He knew he was about to lose this argument, to lose his power over Adam, and he wasn't ready to admit it.

    "I know this already," he told the parasite bluntly.

    "Then you know that your logic is invalid," Adam told him. "You cannot blame what you did on the device that holds you captive because you know very well that they do not function in that manner. Lanette did not force you to obey. You chose to obey her, just as every other tamed pokémon chooses to obey their respective humans."

    "Why would I choose to hurt people?" Bill growled.

    Ignoring him, Adam continued, "Is that why you are walking? You wish to defy me, do you not? You are upset because you feel as if your life is being dictated to you by fate, by Lanette…" It took a step closer as its eyes moved back to its host. "…By me. Yet, you fail to realize that no one is forcing you to do anything. You simply choose to let us control the events around you."

    "That's not true. If I had the opportunity to decide, I wouldn't—"

    "Have become an ixodida? You had the opportunity to call for help in Polaris Institute, but you did not. You underestimate your strength, Bill, yet I cannot complain. It makes things far more convenient." Adam's eyes closed halfway. "Or perhaps, to be more specific, are you upset that I kissed Lanette? I told you she fascinates me."

    Bill couldn't help himself. He felt a sudden burst of emotion, and before he knew it, his hands lashed out to encircle Adam's neck. Just as soon as he felt the cool metal beneath his palms, Adam vanished, leaving Bill to choke thin air. A pair of arms wrapped around him from behind, and with a yell, he flailed, his fingers clawing for any part of Adam he could grab. Adam's hands quickly grasped Bill's wrists, its claws scraping his smooth skin. In the meantime, its tail lashed up to take the place of its arms around his waist, and only then, after he realized that he was caught, did Bill finally stop struggling. He panted angrily as Adam leaned close to his ear.

    "You see? The only thing truly controlling you are your emotions. You must learn to master them, or our body will master you."

    "It's not true," Bill hissed. "I wouldn't ever…"

    "Fight? Are you still curious as to why you obeyed Lanette's orders without thinking about them? The answer has always been within you, Bill." Adam's voice lowered to a whisper. "'Getting inside its skin helps me get inside its head.'"

    Bill drew in a sharp breath. He didn't say a word. His teeth clenched as he tried to wrench himself free from Adam's grip, but this only caused the ixodida to hold him tighter.

    "You see it, do you not? The way you are now becoming an ixodida inside as well as out, I mean. How your imagination is forcing you to become not only a pokémon but also the pokémon of that woman." Adam leaned a little closer until its lips brushed Bill's ear. "Well, Bill? How far have you gone? How much of an ixodida have you let yourself become?"

    Adam waited for a few moments. When no answer came, it unwrapped its tail from its host's waist and shoved him to the ground. The impact with the wet earth jarred just enough to shake Bill out of shock. Picking his head up, he looked over his shoulder at Adam. By then, the parasite was already walking away, its tail switching behind it with every step.

    "Humans are fascinating creatures," it said, "but your humanity will kill you, Bill."

    Just as Bill pushed himself to his feet to confront his partner, he noticed the gray world fading around the edges. With that, he sighed and closed his eyes, waiting for his reentrance into the real world.

    ---

    Which hurt like hell.

    It took every ounce of willpower he had not to scream, but somehow, Bill managed. His fingers dug into something soft as every inch of his body felt like it was on fire – which, given what he remembered from before he slipped into unconsciousness, wouldn't have surprised him. All around him, he could hear the sounds of muffled voices, and as he began to focus on them instead of the pain, they slowly became clearer and clearer.

    "—waking up." Ellen's voice, Bill realized.

    "Finally." Lanette's. "How much longer do you think it'll take for him to fully recover?"

    "Any moment now, I think."

    "Any moment now?"

    "Yes. He's recovering faster than anything I've ever seen apart from ditto, and with Chansey's Softboiled helping him, the worst of his injuries are almost healed. Once that's complete, there are only a few minor burns left, but if he continues at this rate, he can even take care of those on his own."

    "Fascinating."

    "What we should be more concerned about is how much energy he's using. If we get more of a reaction than this tonight—" A soft hand brushed Bill's fingers. "—then we should count ourselves lucky. He'll need to rest, and he hasn't been fed lately, either."

    "No worries!" Thom's voice now. "I've got that all taken care of! Look what I got!"

    Bill heard the rustling of cloth. All of a sudden, the room filled with the scent of blood and something musty. He felt his stomach begin to rumble, and at that, he dreaded to know what Thom had just pulled out. Ellen's gasp and sharp whisper didn't really help.

    "Thom! What are you doing?! This is a hospital room!"

    "What? You told me to go out and catch something Bill can eat, and here it is!"

    "He's not awake yet! Besides, do you know how unsanitary that is?!"

    "Oh, come on! It's not like you've never had one in here!"

    "Not dead!"

    "They're not much different when they're alive, right?"

    Lanette sighed. "Nurse Joy, let me take care of him. You keep an eye on Bill and tell me if he regains consciousness."

    "Too late for that, Lanette," Bill told her hoarsely.

    He opened his eyes to see Ellen hovering over him as a pinkish blotch on a stark, white background. When his eyes focused on her, he could see the concerned look in her eyes and the worried frown stretching the corners of her mouth.

    "Bill!" she exclaimed. "How do you feel?"

    "Weak," he admitted.

    "Do you feel any sort of significant pain?" she asked. "Does anything hurt inside?"

    Bill forced himself to sit up. Instantly, a sharp pain hit his side. He yelped and wrapped his arms around his torso. Ellen reached out to grab him as she glanced over the bed to where Chansey had been standing.

    "Chansey, I need a Softboiled," she said.

    The happiness pokémon trilled and yanked the egg out of her pouch. A yellow light glimmered across its surface for a few seconds before pulling away to form a tiny, yellow bubble. It floated lazily to Bill before touching the skin of his forehead. He lifted his head, feeling the warmth of the bubble pass into his body and flow across his skin as a yellow glow washed over his body. The pain dulled, and gradually, he relaxed. Smiling, Chansey slipped her egg back in its pocket and promptly collapsed.

    "Chansey!" Ellen cried as she scrambled around the bed.

    Bill opened his eyes and looked her way before reaching out to her. "What happened?!"

    Ellen knelt and pulled her partner into her arms. The egg-shaped creature panted and curled up close to her master.

    "She's exhausted," Ellen explained. "You sustained serious burns all over your body. Chansey spent all day healing the worst of it."

    "I'm so sorry," Bill murmured.

    "You wouldn't have been able to avoid it. Besides…" Ellen held Chansey a little closer. "She wanted to help you."

    "Wanted…?" Lanette's voice was nearly inaudible, but Bill caught it. It was soft, uncertain, and not that far from him.

    Doing his best to force her voice out of his mind for now, Bill kept his attention on Ellen and Chansey. "Please let her know I appreciate it, but you must let her rest now. I feel fine."

    Ellen bowed her head. "Thank you. I'll be back to check on you as soon as I take care of her." Then, glancing over the bed, she caught sight of Thom. "Thom, come here. I need you to help me carry Chansey to a room where she can rest."

    "Sure thing, Nurse Joy!"

    Thom strode forward quickly, but before he reached her, he glanced at Bill, smiled, and plopped something at the foot of the bed. Bill looked at it, and in his horror, he realized that it was a headless zigzagoon.

    "By the way, it's good to see you awake, buddy! We were all worried about you, you know!" Thom exclaimed. "Hope that'll help you recover a little. I caught it myself!"

    "T-thanks," Bill croaked.

    "Thom!" Ellen snapped.

    The boy jumped and moved to her side. "All right! All right! Jeez!"

    He stooped down to scoop Chansey into his thick arms, and as soon as he knew he had a good grip on her, he scurried out the door. Ellen followed but not without stopping at the door to gaze at the only other human occupant of the room, Lanette.

    "Please be gentle with him. He still needs to recover," she pleaded.

    With that, she disappeared through the door, leaving the human and the ixodida in silence. Lanette turned away from the door, her eyes falling on the dead zigzagoon. One of her pale hands reached over to seize it by the tail, yank it into the air, and plop it smack into Bill's lap.

    "Eat," she said.

    For a second time, Bill felt a pang of hunger hit him. Shuddering, he put a hand over his stomach, only to realize that for the first time since the Caravan came, he was completely naked. He swallowed and tensed. The air was full of the zigzagoon's scent, and that alone caused Bill's instincts to start screaming at him. At the same time, Adam's words echoed through his mind.

    "I'm not a pokémon," he mumbled to himself. "I'm not—"

    "What was that?" Lanette barked.

    Bill took in a breath through his mouth as he placed a hand on the furry carcass. He forced a smile as he looked at Lanette.

    "Nothing. I just…" His mind raced to find something to stall her, to make her forget about the dead zigzagoon in his lap for the time being. "…I just noticed my clothes are gone."

    "You were set on fire. You weren't even wearing trainer-grade material. Did you really think they would have survived any of that?" she replied flatly. "I sent Vito to find you proper trainer-grade clothing. Eat."

    Bill grasped the zigzagoon and lifted it off his lap, moving it away from himself as carefully as possible. Upon realizing what he was doing, Lanette grabbed his wrists and stared directly into his eyes. He shivered, finding himself suddenly unable to turn away from her steady, cold gaze.

    "I'm not about to let you starve yourself to death," she snapped. "Eat. That's an order."

    For a long time, they stared at one another until, finally, Bill pulled the zigzagoon back into his lap, let his eyes fall on its back, and used one of his claws to cut through its fur coat. Its skin parted easily, revealing dark red muscle underneath. Bill took a shaking breath as he sliced off a strip of muscle. His mouth began to water, and suddenly, his brain stopped thinking about it. Lanette sat back, watching the ixodida slice off strips of meat and bring each chunk to his mouth. She didn't say anything as she watched him wince the first time, as blood trickled down his chin, as his expression began to get more and more relaxed with each bite he took.

    After the sixth strip he took, he hesitated.

    "Lanette."

    "You can't be done," she said.

    He shook his head and brought a hand to his mouth.

    She narrowed her eyes. "If you're going to vomit…"

    "No!" He lowered his gaze. "Lanette, I need to talk to you about something, but I want to know that you'll listen."

    "Go ahead."

    His hand dropped to the carcass, and his claws widened the cut in its back. He could see the glistening white of the creature's spine, the purple of its kidneys, the blue and pink of its veins. Suppressing a shiver, he sliced off another piece of muscle.

    "I want you to get rid of the poké ball."

    "No," Lanette replied quickly.

    "I'm asking you as a friend."

    "No." Her voice took on a slightly more forceful tone. "Give me one reason why I should."

    "Lanette," Bill said, his voice heaving in exasperation, "I think I've gone too far."

    "What do you mean?"

    By then, his claws were acting on an almost mechanical manner, slicing off parts of the zigzagoon's muscles without needing his conscious thought to direct them. Soon, the bed sheets were red with blood as a pile of meat strips sat in a pile on top of the creature's rib cage. A window formed in its flesh through which Bill could see the pokémon's slick, winding intestines.

    "The only reason why I followed your orders in that last battle… it may be because lately, I've been thinking more and more like a pokémon, not a human being."

    Even as he said it, Bill flinched. He didn't want to admit that Adam had a point, but he didn't have any other explanation. Not only that, but he realized right then the disturbing truth: that he was staring at he innards of a dead zigzagoon – eating them, even – but he felt nothing but the relief of having his hunger satisfied. It felt natural to slice off parts of that pokémon. It felt right.

    He wondered what else had changed about himself. That was what scared him about the dead zigzagoon in his lap.

    "Lanette, you must destroy that poké ball," he said. "I need to be free. I'm afraid that the more you treat me like a pokémon, the more likely I'll forget that I'm human."

    "Are you afraid of hurting someone?" Lanette asked quietly.

    Bill looked up. "Yes. Yes, that's exactly it, Lanette. I don't want to hurt anyone. I want to be me, but—"

    The zigzagoon was knocked out of his hands. It landed with a wet slap on the tiled floor, but Bill was too preoccupied to notice. The reason why was because at the same time, Lanette forced him back, her hands shoving his shoulders into the bed. When he was down, she sat on his stomach and seized one of his wrists. With a sharp yank, she pulled his fingers to her neck, forcing his claws to circle her soft flesh.

    "H-hey!" Bill stammered. "What are you—"

    "Kill me," she snarled.

    "W-what? What are you talking about?"

    "Kill me, you coward!" she yelled. "If you're the monster you insist you are, then do it!"

    Bill shot her a scared look. "I would never do something like that! What's gotten into you?!"

    She scoffed and released his hand. Then, she swung her leg over him and pushed herself off the bed.

    "The Master Ball will not be destroyed," she said. "I'm keeping it to ensure that you don't do anything. If you want to be treated like a human, work for it. Did you have this much of a problem pretending to be any other pokémon?"

    "There's a difference between my costumes and this. I can't take this off," Bill replied as he sat up.

    "As far as I'm concerned, you still have a human brain. Use it."

    She grabbed the zigzagoon from the floor and threw it at Bill. He caught it but not without letting one of its organs splatter across his chest and fall to the floor on the other side of the bed. Staring at it, he let her words sink in.

    "You're really not the Lanette I knew six months ago," he commented.

    "And you're not the Bill I knew six months ago either. The Bill I knew wouldn't have succumbed to fear so easily. People change."

    "Yes." He let the zigzagoon rest on his legs again. "Lanette… what happened to you?"

    "It's none of your business," she replied quickly.

    He looked at her. "I want to help you."

    "You can't. Not with that thing listening."

    "Thing?" He furrowed his eyebrows. "You don't mean the parasite, do you? He isn't listening to us right now."

    "I'm sorry if I fail to have any confidence in that claim," Lanette replied with as much sarcasm in her tone as she could muster.

    "Lanette, I'm serious. We were friends at one point, weren't we? We can be friends again if you'd trust me."

    "You can't even trust yourself," she sneered.

    Bill recoiled. "Perhaps not. Lanette, I…" He took a deep breath. "I can't do any of this alone. Neither can you."

    "What makes you think I can't?"

    "Why am I still here?"

    This time, it was Lanette who stopped. For the first time since the day they were reunited, a shocked expression crossed her face, and unlike the moment they found each other, this one lingered on her face. Bill studied her expression closely, trying desperately to figure out what she might be thinking.

    "You had every opportunity to get rid of me," he pointed out. "You could have killed me in the gym, but you chose to trap me instead. When I came to find you after escaping, you had pokémon with you, but instead of using one of them to weaken me, you chose to fight me with a crowbar of all things. When Team Rocket captured me, you went after them, and just now, when you could have let me burn to death, you had me brought here."

    "That was because the citizens of Mauville actually insisted that you be saved."

    "But what about the other times? You didn't have to rescue me, but you did. And when you had the opportunity to kill me, you didn't." Bill tilted his head. "The truth of the matter is that if you plan on keeping me – which you are, as you're holding onto my poké ball – we'll need to rely on each other to overcome our problems. I need you to help keep me human inside. And I'm not sure what you need me for, but you do."

    Lanette huffed, and her expression turned stony once again. "You keep telling yourself that, Bill."

    "Does it have anything to do with Brigette?"

    Instinctively, Lanette jumped. Quickly, she turned her back on Bill to hide the expression on her face.

    "It does, doesn't it?" he asked, his voice dropping until it was nearly a whisper.

    "The fire-type ixodida went through Mauville before it found us," Lanette told him. "It killed most of the Caravan and burnt down large portions of the city. When it found us, it was already weak, but it took all of our efforts and help from a group Altaria had led to us to drive it away. It's going to come back, so as soon as you regain your strength, I'm going to take you to meet the people who helped us. They offered to help train you. You're not going to be very useful in a fight against a fire-type, but we'll need you to be in fighting condition to serve as support anyway. Your job will be to keep Hope away from the fight." She looked over her shoulder with the same stony expression she always had. "It's your responsibility to take care of her anyway."

    "Hope… Well, yes, but…" Bill hesitated. "What does this have to do with—"

    "I never thought ixodida would be merciful," Lanette continued. "They didn't kill Altaria. Perhaps they just weren't interested."

    Bill let his shoulders sag. "…You're not going to tell me, are you?"

    "No." Lanette faced forward and started walking towards the door. "And it would be a good idea not to ask again. Eat. I'm expecting you to get back on your feet by tomorrow."

    Her boots thudded heavily on the floor as she left the room. In her wake, Bill sat motionless on the bed, not even making an effort to stop her. Once she was gone, he turned back to what was left of the zigzagoon and stared deep into its furry body.

    "Brigette—"

    Clipping off the thought, he bowed his head.

    "Oh Lanette…"

    ---

    "Sir."

    First sat calmly at the head of the Committee's table. His fingers were laced, elbows propped on the table, and hands hovered close to his mouth. He waited for the voice, Fourth's, to speak.

    "Sir, our technological experts have been able to glean the information from the storage system's poké ball assignment protocol that Codename Adam has been captured. Within the last twenty-four hours, a user logged in with the ID of the Hoenn storage administrator to reassign Adam's trainer manually. Here is his new trainer information."

    Fourth passed a paper to First. The leader accepted it and held it up with as few fingers as possible, as if the ink that crossed its surface was laced with cyanide.

    "Of particular interest here is the name of this trainer," Fourth continued.

    First craned his neck. "So I see."

    "What should we do, sir? Codename Adam is no longer wild. Even more importantly, XP-650 activity is increasing, particularly around Mauville City where our data indicates Adam is currently located. We have reason to believe Adam is somehow connected to the rise in activity, and if this trainer is involved…"

    "Then we will have a difficult time convincing John McKenzie not to interfere," First finished. "Perhaps it would be prudent to make our move at last. I propose that we send one of our own to lead a few members of the Agency in locating Codename Adam. Once found, we should inform him of exactly what he is up against. All those in favor?"

    The other four members of the Committee raised their hands and, in unison, chanted, "Aye!"

    "And opposed?"

    Silence.

    "Then it is done. Fourth, for delivering this information to us, I assign you the task."

    Fourth bowed. "It would be an honor, sir."

    "Of course."

    First placed the paper on the table in front of him. His fingers smoothed over its surface, but they lingered over two particular words: the name of the trainer.

    Hope McKenzie.

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

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  20. #170
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    I'm getting a real Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy vibe from "The Committee". It'll be nice to see what they've cooked up in regards to our favourite researcher and his kin.

    I loved the Bill/Lanette dialogue, (not as much as Thom though, he rocks xD) I like to feel that a lot of things were solved in this conversation. A lot of things were put into the air and the ball is in Lanette's court, if she wants to resolve something, then she has to get it started because Bill is balls out at the moment.

    They are literally sitting on the table.
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    You know, this morning, I didn't want to get out of bed, what with it being Saturday and all. Then I realized what day it was and sat bolt upright. "AEM update!" Needless to say I pulled off the covers and rushed to eat breakfast.

    First off, a mistake!

    By then, the parasite was already walking away, its tail switching behind it with every step.
    Should be twitching.

    Adam, Adam, Adam. *shakes head* I think everybody should have a parasite that's not afraid to tell them the harsh truth. It's especially effective since Bill has nowhere to run to. You know, this is one of my favorite parts of transformation stories: the realization that the transformation has started to become something more than skin deep. With someone like Bill, this will certainly to lead to some very interesting developments.

    Oooh, delicious Lanette/Bill dialogue. I don't know how many things were resolved exactly, but for once Bill was able to make Lanette listen to everything he had to say. And in perfect Lanette-style her anwer is simple: think like a human and you'll continue to be one. Since they'll be no destroying of the Master Ball he doesn't have a choice really. x3

    Speaking of the Master Ball, we come back to the Committee. What a creepy bunch. They're like a corrupted Kid's Next Door. With Hope being the official owner of Bill and them knowing, well, I don't think things will turn out so pretty. D:

    Lastly, I wish AEM a happy birthday! Three years is certainly something to celebrate and I hope that it keeps going strong to the end, whenever that might be. More fanart is in order to celebrate this! :> Away!

    P.S. Awesome chapter as always, JX! ^-^

    - Kat


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  22. #172
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    Soooooo, since it looks like you might not post the story at PC anymore, I'll post my reviews here from now on. XD

    I always enjoyed Bill and Adam’s talks in this story, hehe. Always intriguing stuff. A couple of my favorite parts in this chapter:

    Bill couldn't help himself. He felt a sudden burst of emotion, and before he knew it, his hands lashed out to encircle Adam's neck. Just as soon as he felt the cool metal beneath his palms, Adam vanished, leaving Bill to choke thin air. A pair of arms wrapped around him from behind, and with a yell, he flailed, his fingers clawing for any part of Adam he could grab. Adam's hands quickly grasped Bill's wrists, its claws scraping his smooth skin. In the meantime, its tail lashed up to take the place of its arms around his waist, and only then, after he realized that he was caught, did Bill finally stop struggling. He panted angrily as Adam leaned close to his ear.
    LOL, ouch. Nice use of Adam getting Bill like that there.

    "You see it, do you not? The way you are now becoming an ixodida inside as well as out, I mean. How your imagination is forcing you to become not only a pokémon but also the pokémon of that woman." Adam leaned a little closer until its lips brushed Bill's ear. "Well, Bill? How far have you gone? How much of an ixodida have you let yourself become?"
    Okay, I know you didn’t meant this to happen, but I’m suddenly thinking “Are you seducing Bill now, Adam” XD *drank too much caffeine this morning :x*

    Haha over Thom brought something dead in the hospital room. I know he’s trying to help, but yeah dead and alive Pokemon aren’t the same—especially when the Pokemon is headless. :P

    Bill and Lanette's conversation is nice and like Phantom Kat I too love Lanette saying to him to think like a human. One thing I want to say though is Lanette mentioning Hope and Bill stuttering seemed a bit rushed. Perhaps have Bill thinking why she said Hope's name all of a sudden would make things flow better IMO.

    Wee, back to the committee again. I too think things won’t turn out well for Hope. ._.

    Overall, another great chapter there. Looking forward to more!


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  23. #173
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Author's Note: Happy anniversary to AEM! Technically speaking, the fic itself is three years old, when it made its debut on October 1, 2008, on Fanfiction.net and Pokécommunity.
    Congratulations, first of all. Sticking at it this long ain't easy.


    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty-One
    So the phoenix burns.


    Forward.

    Bill had no idea where he was or even if it was possible to break free from the Gray Forest, but nonetheless, he walked forward, eyes straight ahead, hands balled into fists. He didn't care that he could feel Adam's stare bear down on him. His mind remained focused, and his pace never slowed.

    He didn't know how much time passed before anything happened, not that he particularly cared. It simply felt like an eternity before he saw a flash of silver at the edge of his field of vision. Suddenly, he was aware that it was to his left, slightly behind him but walking at the same speed.

    "What are you doing?" Adam asked.

    "Walking." Bill was slightly surprised by how blunt his voice sounded, but he tried his best to appear stoic.

    "Are you aware that you will never reach the end of this forest?"

    "I don't care."
    Little confused here, going to keep reading.

    The flash of silver disappeared from Bill's view, but the sound of leaves crunching under metal feet and a cold chill in his bones told him he still wasn't alone.

    "What people say about you is true," Adam drawled. "You certainly are impressive. Quick to adapt. Quick to learn. Your mind yields to change so easily. Yet, at the same time, your heart always stays the same. Determined, chivalrous… stubborn." It paused for a few seconds. "You will never reach the end of the forest, you know."

    Bill gritted his teeth. "I. Don't. Care."

    "You should. I only wish to speak to you this time."

    At that, Bill stopped. He looked skyward briefly before whirling around and glaring at Adam.

    "What?" he demanded. "What do you need to tell me this time? That I'm weak? That I'm easy to manipulate, but it's necessary that I serve as your host for some aggravatingly vague reason? Go right ahead, Adam. Belittle me. It's not as if I have a choice to listen to you, considering it seems that you decide when I can wake up."
    Okay, I think I have a better feel on what's going on. They're inside the ball, aren't they? Seems like a dream sequence.

    I have nothing really specific to say yet, but Bill just got really badass again.


    Adam cocked its head, but its face remained blank. Unnervingly blank. Bill felt his own emotions waver as he gazed into Adam's all-too-familiar, soulless eyes.
    I didn't realize until here that they were two separate entities in this vision. Good touch on his emotions, though.

    "Belittle you?" Adam questioned. "Hardly, I should say. In truth, I wish to congratulate you. I knew you would be powerful in your own right someday. You have my abilities backed by such a keen mind, after all. But never would I have imagined that you would take to fighting so quickly and so abruptly. The way you responded to Lanette and how you fought those humans… it was quite interesting to watch, if I may say so."

    Bill cracked a grin. He normally wasn't the kind of person who would stoop to being petty, but at that point, he wanted the catharsis of arguing with someone. The parasite just happened to be convenient.

    "I'd hate to disappoint you," Bill said, his voice nearly a purr, "but I wasn't in control of what I was doing. Perhaps it wasn't you who was acting for me, but I most certainly wasn't deciding whether or not I should attack. I refuse to fight, and I will always refuse to fight."
    Oh you, Bill. Oh you smooth mother****er.

    And yet, this scene is a great window into Bill's moral code, despite how over the top and almost silly it is right here.

    Aaaaand then it hits me what he might be hinting at was driving him if he wasn't making his own decisions. Without scrolling down, I just cracked a smile.

    Adam lifted its chin. Although its expression didn't change, there was something in its face that told Bill it wasn't as amused as it had been a second ago. Its features seemed to darken, to gain a shadow that wasn't there, even though its mouth was still a line and its eyes were still glassy and wide.

    "Is that so? Are you certain?" Adam's eyes flicked to the side. "Poké balls are fascinating devices, are they not? A symbol of human ingenuity. You happen to know quite a lot about them, if I understand your memories correctly. They convert pokémon to energy and energy to data, a concept in direct violation of the sciences that apply to humans. They harness the purely pokémon ability to manipulate the fabric of reality itself in order to function. They turn those laws against the creatures that use them in order to draw nets over them. Yet… humans have not been able to use this ability to its fullest. The device only works on a physical level."

    Bill felt as if the ground beneath him was being pulled from under his feet. He knew he was about to lose this argument, to lose his power over Adam, and he wasn't ready to admit it.

    "I know this already," he told the parasite bluntly.

    "Then you know that your logic is invalid," Adam told him. "You cannot blame what you did on the device that holds you captive because you know very well that they do not function in that manner. Lanette did not force you to obey. You chose to obey her, just as every other tamed pokémon chooses to obey their respective humans."
    Not quite where I expected it to go, but I don't think my suspicion was invalidated just yet...

    "Why would I choose to hurt people?" Bill growled.

    Ignoring him, Adam continued, "Is that why you are walking? You wish to defy me, do you not? You are upset because you feel as if your life is being dictated to you by fate, by Lanette…" It took a step closer as its eyes moved back to its host. "…By me. Yet, you fail to realize that no one is forcing you to do anything. You simply choose to let us control the events around you."

    "That's not true. If I had the opportunity to decide, I wouldn't—"

    "Have become an ixodida? You had the opportunity to call for help in Polaris Institute, but you did not. You underestimate your strength, Bill, yet I cannot complain. It makes things far more convenient." Adam's eyes closed halfway. "Or perhaps, to be more specific, are you upset that I kissed Lanette? I told you she fascinates me."
    Oh snap son, here we go. **** just got real. Adam just crossed the line.

    Bill couldn't help himself. He felt a sudden burst of emotion, and before he knew it, his hands lashed out to encircle Adam's neck. Just as soon as he felt the cool metal beneath his palms, Adam vanished, leaving Bill to choke thin air. A pair of arms wrapped around him from behind, and with a yell, he flailed, his fingers clawing for any part of Adam he could grab. Adam's hands quickly grasped Bill's wrists, its claws scraping his smooth skin. In the meantime, its tail lashed up to take the place of its arms around his waist, and only then, after he realized that he was caught, did Bill finally stop struggling. He panted angrily as Adam leaned close to his ear.

    "You see? The only thing truly controlling you are your emotions. You must learn to master them, or our body will master you."

    "It's not true," Bill hissed. "I wouldn't ever…"

    "Fight? Are you still curious as to why you obeyed Lanette's orders without thinking about them? The answer has always been within you, Bill." Adam's voice lowered to a whisper. "'Getting inside its skin helps me get inside its head.'"
    Even though my humorous guess is now becoming more likely, this part is suitably creepy. I'm visualizing this scene, and if I was watching it in a movie, I could see this being the part where the hero and the creature are in the same room staring at each other, but they're not attacking yet. You just feel the tension.

    Bill drew in a sharp breath. He didn't say a word. His teeth clenched as he tried to wrench himself free from Adam's grip, but this only caused the ixodida to hold him tighter.

    "You see it, do you not? The way you are now becoming an ixodida inside as well as out, I mean. How your imagination is forcing you to become not only a pokémon but also the pokémon of that woman." Adam leaned a little closer until its lips brushed Bill's ear. "Well, Bill? How far have you gone? How much of an ixodida have you let yourself become?"
    Yes Adam, "the Pokemon of that woman." He's always been her Pokemon.

    All joking aside, this is really a chilling metaphor for how outside influences can change a person, and for the loss of humanity. That one question - "how much of an Ixodida have you let yourself become?" - has an incredible amount of punch to it.

    Adam waited for a few moments. When no answer came, it unwrapped its tail from its host's waist and shoved him to the ground. The impact with the wet earth jarred just enough to shake Bill out of shock. Picking his head up, he looked over his shoulder at Adam. By then, the parasite was already walking away, its tail switching behind it with every step.

    "Humans are fascinating creatures," it said, "but your humanity will kill you, Bill."

    Just as Bill pushed himself to his feet to confront his partner, he noticed the gray world fading around the edges. With that, he sighed and closed his eyes, waiting for his reentrance into the real world.

    ---

    Which hurt like hell.

    It took every ounce of willpower he had not to scream, but somehow, Bill managed. His fingers dug into something soft as every inch of his body felt like it was on fire – which, given what he remembered from before he slipped into unconsciousness, wouldn't have surprised him. All around him, he could hear the sounds of muffled voices, and as he began to focus on them instead of the pain, they slowly became clearer and clearer.

    "—waking up." Ellen's voice, Bill realized.
    Is this being released from a ball or is he just unconscious? I'm having trouble telling.

    "No worries!" Thom's voice now. "I've got that all taken care of! Look what I got!"

    Bill heard the rustling of cloth. All of a sudden, the room filled with the scent of blood and something musty. He felt his stomach begin to rumble, and at that, he dreaded to know what Thom had just pulled out. Ellen's gasp and sharp whisper didn't really help.

    "Thom! What are you doing?! This is a hospital room!"

    "What? You told me to go out and catch something Bill can eat, and here it is!"

    "He's not awake yet! Besides, do you know how unsanitary that is?!"

    "Oh, come on! It's not like you've never had one in here!"

    "Not dead!"
    Oh Thom, you're just trying to do the right thing. We can't blame you for bringing literal dead meat into a hospital room.

    "Do you feel any sort of significant pain?" she asked. "Does anything hurt inside?"
    Something hurts inside alright. I'm sure he won't tell them though...

    Bill forced himself to sit up. Instantly, a sharp pain hit his side. He yelped and wrapped his arms around his torso. Ellen reached out to grab him as she glanced over the bed to where Chansey had been standing.

    "Chansey, I need a Softboiled," she said.

    The happiness pokémon trilled and yanked the egg out of her pouch. A yellow light glimmered across its surface for a few seconds before pulling away to form a tiny, yellow bubble. It floated lazily to Bill before touching the skin of his forehead. He lifted his head, feeling the warmth of the bubble pass into his body and flow across his skin as a yellow glow washed over his body. The pain dulled, and gradually, he relaxed. Smiling, Chansey slipped her egg back in its pocket and promptly collapsed.
    Excellent description of Softboiled.

    Thom strode forward quickly, but before he reached her, he glanced at Bill, smiled, and plopped something at the foot of the bed. Bill looked at it, and in his horror, he realized that it was a headless zigzagoon.

    "By the way, it's good to see you awake, buddy! We were all worried about you, you know!" Thom exclaimed. "Hope that'll help you recover a little. I caught it myself!"
    ****, okay, I laughed. Talk about dead meat.

    Did he decapitate it himself too?

    "T-thanks," Bill croaked.

    "Thom!" Ellen snapped.

    The boy jumped and moved to her side. "All right! All right! Jeez!"

    He stooped down to scoop Chansey into his thick arms, and as soon as he knew he had a good grip on her, he scurried out the door. Ellen followed but not without stopping at the door to gaze at the only other human occupant of the room, Lanette.

    "Please be gentle with him. He still needs to recover," she pleaded.

    With that, she disappeared through the door, leaving the human and the ixodida in silence. Lanette turned away from the door, her eyes falling on the dead zigzagoon. One of her pale hands reached over to seize it by the tail, yank it into the air, and plop it smack into Bill's lap.

    "Eat," she said.
    Suddenly Lanette doesn't seem so bad anymore. Now that she trusts him more, it seems like she's really got his back.

    For a second time, Bill felt a pang of hunger hit him. Shuddering, he put a hand over his stomach, only to realize that for the first time since the Caravan came, he was completely naked. He swallowed and tensed. The air was full of the zigzagoon's scent, and that alone caused Bill's instincts to start screaming at him. At the same time, Adam's words echoed through his mind.

    "I'm not a pokémon," he mumbled to himself. "I'm not—"

    "What was that?" Lanette barked.

    Bill took in a breath through his mouth as he placed a hand on the furry carcass. He forced a smile as he looked at Lanette.

    "Nothing. I just…" His mind raced to find something to stall her, to make her forget about the dead zigzagoon in his lap for the time being. "…I just noticed my clothes are gone."
    Ever so modest, Bill. You're a steel-bodied alien mutant and still concerned about your modesty... only you could do it.

    "You were set on fire. You weren't even wearing trainer-grade material. Did you really think they would have survived any of that?" she replied flatly. "I sent Vito to find you proper trainer-grade clothing. Eat."

    Bill grasped the zigzagoon and lifted it off his lap, moving it away from himself as carefully as possible. Upon realizing what he was doing, Lanette grabbed his wrists and stared directly into his eyes. He shivered, finding himself suddenly unable to turn away from her steady, cold gaze.

    "I'm not about to let you starve yourself to death," she snapped. "Eat. That's an order."
    Man, she totally owns him, both figuratively and literally, doesn't she? I guess it's better than being left to die though.

    After the sixth strip he took, he hesitated.

    "Lanette."

    "You can't be done," she said.

    He shook his head and brought a hand to his mouth.

    She narrowed her eyes. "If you're going to vomit…"

    "No!" He lowered his gaze. "Lanette, I need to talk to you about something, but I want to know that you'll listen."

    "Go ahead."

    His hand dropped to the carcass, and his claws widened the cut in its back. He could see the glistening white of the creature's spine, the purple of its kidneys, the blue and pink of its veins. Suppressing a shiver, he sliced off another piece of muscle.

    "I want you to get rid of the poké ball."

    "No," Lanette replied quickly.

    "I'm asking you as a friend."

    "No." Her voice took on a slightly more forceful tone. "Give me one reason why I should."

    "Lanette," Bill said, his voice heaving in exasperation, "I think I've gone too far."

    "What do you mean?"

    By then, his claws were acting on an almost mechanical manner, slicing off parts of the zigzagoon's muscles without needing his conscious thought to direct them. Soon, the bed sheets were red with blood as a pile of meat strips sat in a pile on top of the creature's rib cage. A window formed in its flesh through which Bill could see the pokémon's slick, winding intestines.

    "The only reason why I followed your orders in that last battle… it may be because lately, I've been thinking more and more like a pokémon, not a human being."
    My heart sank a little here, I'll admit it. Things are getting intense, not action intense but emotional intense. Again, it goes back to the whole loss of humanity concept.

    Even as he said it, Bill flinched. He didn't want to admit that Adam had a point, but he didn't have any other explanation. Not only that, but he realized right then the disturbing truth: that he was staring at he innards of a dead zigzagoon – eating them, even – but he felt nothing but the relief of having his hunger satisfied. It felt natural to slice off parts of that pokémon. It felt right.

    He wondered what else had changed about himself. That was what scared him about the dead zigzagoon in his lap.

    "Lanette, you must destroy that poké ball," he said. "I need to be free. I'm afraid that the more you treat me like a pokémon, the more likely I'll forget that I'm human."

    "Are you afraid of hurting someone?" Lanette asked quietly.

    Bill looked up. "Yes. Yes, that's exactly it, Lanette. I don't want to hurt anyone. I want to be me, but—"

    The zigzagoon was knocked out of his hands. It landed with a wet slap on the tiled floor, but Bill was too preoccupied to notice. The reason why was because at the same time, Lanette forced him back, her hands shoving his shoulders into the bed. When he was down, she sat on his stomach and seized one of his wrists. With a sharp yank, she pulled his fingers to her neck, forcing his claws to circle her soft flesh.

    "H-hey!" Bill stammered. "What are you—"
    October 1, 2011: the day Bill McKenzie learned that some things aren't just done in pictures on the internet.

    "Kill me," she snarled.
    Or not. What the ****, Jax?

    "W-what? What are you talking about?"

    "Kill me, you coward!" she yelled. "If you're the monster you insist you are, then do it!"

    Bill shot her a scared look. "I would never do something like that! What's gotten into you?!"

    She scoffed and released his hand. Then, she swung her leg over him and pushed herself off the bed.

    "The Master Ball will not be destroyed," she said. "I'm keeping it to ensure that you don't do anything. If you want to be treated like a human, work for it. Did you have this much of a problem pretending to be any other pokémon?"

    "There's a difference between my costumes and this. I can't take this off," Bill replied as he sat up.

    "As far as I'm concerned, you still have a human brain. Use it."
    Somehow I get the feeling Lanette is vastly underestimating this situation and will soon regret it.

    She grabbed the zigzagoon from the floor and threw it at Bill. He caught it but not without letting one of its organs splatter across his chest and fall to the floor on the other side of the bed. Staring at it, he let her words sink in.

    "You're really not the Lanette I knew six months ago," he commented.

    "And you're not the Bill I knew six months ago either. The Bill I knew wouldn't have succumbed to fear so easily. People change."

    "Yes." He let the zigzagoon rest on his legs again. "Lanette… what happened to you?"

    "It's none of your business," she replied quickly.

    He looked at her. "I want to help you."

    "You can't. Not with that thing listening."
    Okay, I'm quite certain now that something happened to her. Something pretty bad. And I'm suspecting it was personal, not just people dying around her.

    "Thing?" He furrowed his eyebrows. "You don't mean the parasite, do you? He isn't listening to us right now."

    "I'm sorry if I fail to have any confidence in that claim," Lanette replied with as much sarcasm in her tone as she could muster.

    "Lanette, I'm serious. We were friends at one point, weren't we? We can be friends again if you'd trust me."

    "You can't even trust yourself," she sneered.

    Bill recoiled. "Perhaps not. Lanette, I…" He took a deep breath. "I can't do any of this alone. Neither can you."

    "What makes you think I can't?"

    "Why am I still here?"

    This time, it was Lanette who stopped. For the first time since the day they were reunited, a shocked expression crossed her face, and unlike the moment they found each other, this one lingered on her face. Bill studied her expression closely, trying desperately to figure out what she might be thinking.

    "You had every opportunity to get rid of me," he pointed out. "You could have killed me in the gym, but you chose to trap me instead. When I came to find you after escaping, you had pokémon with you, but instead of using one of them to weaken me, you chose to fight me with a crowbar of all things. When Team Rocket captured me, you went after them, and just now, when you could have let me burn to death, you had me brought here."

    "That was because the citizens of Mauville actually insisted that you be saved."

    "But what about the other times? You didn't have to rescue me, but you did. And when you had the opportunity to kill me, you didn't." Bill tilted his head. "The truth of the matter is that if you plan on keeping me – which you are, as you're holding onto my poké ball – we'll need to rely on each other to overcome our problems. I need you to help keep me human inside. And I'm not sure what you need me for, but you do."

    Lanette huffed, and her expression turned stony once again. "You keep telling yourself that, Bill."
    Again, the fact that he's able to keep his logic surprises me. Bill and Lanette actually make a good pair due to this - he uses logic, she is driven by emotion.

    "Does it have anything to do with Brigette?"

    Instinctively, Lanette jumped. Quickly, she turned her back on Bill to hide the expression on her face.

    "It does, doesn't it?" he asked, his voice dropping until it was nearly a whisper.

    "The fire-type ixodida went through Mauville before it found us," Lanette told him. "It killed most of the Caravan and burnt down large portions of the city. When it found us, it was already weak, but it took all of our efforts and help from a group Altaria had led to us to drive it away. It's going to come back, so as soon as you regain your strength, I'm going to take you to meet the people who helped us. They offered to help train you. You're not going to be very useful in a fight against a fire-type, but we'll need you to be in fighting condition to serve as support anyway. Your job will be to keep Hope away from the fight." She looked over her shoulder with the same stony expression she always had. "It's your responsibility to take care of her anyway."

    "Hope… Well, yes, but…" Bill hesitated. "What does this have to do with—"

    "I never thought ixodida would be merciful," Lanette continued. "They didn't kill Altaria. Perhaps they just weren't interested."

    Bill let his shoulders sag. "…You're not going to tell me, are you?"

    "No." Lanette faced forward and started walking towards the door. "And it would be a good idea not to ask again. Eat. I'm expecting you to get back on your feet by tomorrow."

    Her boots thudded heavily on the floor as she left the room. In her wake, Bill sat motionless on the bed, not even making an effort to stop her. Once she was gone, he turned back to what was left of the zigzagoon and stared deep into its furry body.

    "Brigette—"

    Clipping off the thought, he bowed his head.

    "Oh Lanette…"
    Now I'm really starting to think I know what happened.

    ---

    "Sir."

    First sat calmly at the head of the Committee's table. His fingers were laced, elbows propped on the table, and hands hovered close to his mouth. He waited for the voice, Fourth's, to speak.
    Oh ****. Here we go. These guys.

    "Sir, our technological experts have been able to glean the information from the storage system's poké ball assignment protocol that Codename Adam has been captured. Within the last twenty-four hours, a user logged in with the ID of the Hoenn storage administrator to reassign Adam's trainer manually. Here is his new trainer information."

    Fourth passed a paper to First. The leader accepted it and held it up with as few fingers as possible, as if the ink that crossed its surface was laced with cyanide.
    As an aside, that little bit about the ink was a great touch.

    "Of particular interest here is the name of this trainer," Fourth continued.

    First craned his neck. "So I see."

    "What should we do, sir? Codename Adam is no longer wild. Even more importantly, XP-650 activity is increasing, particularly around Mauville City where our data indicates Adam is currently located. We have reason to believe Adam is somehow connected to the rise in activity, and if this trainer is involved…"

    "Then we will have a difficult time convincing John McKenzie not to interfere," First finished. "Perhaps it would be prudent to make our move at last. I propose that we send one of our own to lead a few members of the Agency in locating Codename Adam. Once found, we should inform him of exactly what he is up against. All those in favor?"

    The other four members of the Committee raised their hands and, in unison, chanted, "Aye!"

    "And opposed?"

    Silence.

    "Then it is done. Fourth, for delivering this information to us, I assign you the task."

    Fourth bowed. "It would be an honor, sir."

    "Of course."

    First placed the paper on the table in front of him. His fingers smoothed over its surface, but they lingered over two particular words: the name of the trainer.

    Hope McKenzie.
    Okay, when I read that, I just pushed my chair back, put my hands against my forehead, and pushed them through my hair. I don't even KNOW how to react to that.

    This is absolutely excellent a chapter. Almost no action, but so heavy on development that it's more than made up for. I really can't find anything to complain about at all.

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  24. #174
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    I'm getting a real Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy vibe from "The Committee".
    Ooh, interesting comparison. I have to admit I never made the connection, although I will say that, yeah, there's totally some conspiracy stuff going on in the background.

    Also, that I totally need to read/see that title.

    I loved the Bill/Lanette dialogue, (not as much as Thom though, he rocks xD) I like to feel that a lot of things were solved in this conversation. A lot of things were put into the air and the ball is in Lanette's court, if she wants to resolve something, then she has to get it started because Bill is balls out at the moment.
    Pretty much. Now the question is, does she actually want to reconcile with him? Or does she thoroughly enjoy treating him like her Pokémon?

    They are literally sitting on the table.
    She's on a horse. *shot*

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    You know, this morning, I didn't want to get out of bed, what with it being Saturday and all. Then I realized what day it was and sat bolt upright. "AEM update!" Needless to say I pulled off the covers and rushed to eat breakfast.
    *high five* Awesome to hear that it's the highlight of people's days.

    First off, a mistake!

    Should be twitching.
    Good eye, although I'd hate to be a right ***** and say that it could be either. As a verb, "to switch" has two meanings. One is more of an umbrella term that can be summed up as "to change." (This can be broken down further, but for simplicity's sake, let's leave it at that.) The other is "to flick or beat as if with a switch." ("Switch" here would mean "thin twig or rod cut from a tree.")

    I'm not sure if the latter is actually getting to be obsolete, but if it is, I have to say I'd be severely disappointed in the English language. ;_; That definition of switch rocks... and it's the only way I can describe how a cat's tail moves. (Cats are far too dignified to wag.)

    Adam, Adam, Adam. *shakes head* I think everybody should have a parasite that's not afraid to tell them the harsh truth.
    I'm certain Bill would totally (not) agree. XD

    You know, this is one of my favorite parts of transformation stories: the realization that the transformation has started to become something more than skin deep. With someone like Bill, this will certainly to lead to some very interesting developments.
    Amen to the part about transformation stories. It's my favorite part too -- and one that not a lot of TF fics touch upon for some reason. If done right, the psychology of the whole thing can be beautiful and lead to some pretty awesome character development. Of course, there's also the high risk that an author completely screws it over, so maybe there's a reason why I don't see it done too often.

    Also, maybe the reason why I don't see it done too often is because I tend to get my TF fix from FFNet.

    Also also... *cackles* Yes, it's going to lead to a lot of fun things for Bill. Seriously, I'm going to have a lot of fun playing with the implications of his transformation from this point onward because Adam is totally right: Bill does this for a living. So in a way, he's completely different from the standard TF star in that he knows about the risks of going too far but is also more likely to do it because he's already figured out how to delve into a Pokémon's mind. It's like anime!Bill, thanks to canon, already walks on the line between being a human and being a Pokémon (in mindset anyway), so it's just easier to shove him either way and see what happens.

    And in perfect Lanette-style her anwer is simple: think like a human and you'll continue to be one. Since they'll be no destroying of the Master Ball he doesn't have a choice really. x3
    And she so totally enjoys this.

    Speaking of the Master Ball, we come back to the Committee. What a creepy bunch. They're like a corrupted Kid's Next Door. With Hope being the official owner of Bill and them knowing, well, I don't think things will turn out so pretty. D:
    Oh, probably. Hope in general is someone you'll want to keep in mind because, yep, she's pretty much at the cross between so many characters.

        Spoiler:- For the few people who might not have figured this out yet::


    Lastly, I wish AEM a happy birthday! Three years is certainly something to celebrate and I hope that it keeps going strong to the end, whenever that might be.
    Thank you! And definitely. I've got way too many ideas to let it die.

    More fanart is in order to celebrate this! :> Away!
    WOOT! \o\ \o/ /o/ I am looking forward to this like you wouldn't belieeeeeeeeeve~!

    P.S. Awesome chapter as always, JX! ^-^
    Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    Soooooo, since it looks like you might not post the story at PC anymore, I'll post my reviews here from now on. XD
    Yeeeeeeah, best to put your behind in the past.

    ...Uh.

    *shot for gratuitous Disney reference*

    I always enjoyed Bill and Adam’s talks in this story, hehe.
    And I always enjoy writing them. ;D Those two need more heart-to-hearts.

    Okay, I know you didn’t meant this to happen, but I’m suddenly thinking “Are you seducing Bill now, Adam” XD *drank too much caffeine this morning :x*
    Oh, don't worry. I totally did. XD I'm a sad, sad individual who thinks Adam would probably be the kind of promiscuous snake that would seduce anything that moved just because it could.

    Also, I wrote up until the part where Adam grabbed Bill, and then I was like, "You know, this is a rather boring chapter so far. What can I do to entertain myself? I know! Attempt to create crack pairings out of these characters!"

    You'd be surprised by how many conversations in this fic happened with that kind of mindset. (Hint: If you finished a chapter feeling as if you were getting vibes towards Nettle/Bill, Nettle/Domino, Veronica/Thom, Veronica/Ellen, Veronica/Bill, Bill/Chansey, or Nettle/Domino/Lanette/Bill... you're doing it right. Adam just makes it blatant because it doesn't believe in subtlety.)

    Haha over Thom brought something dead in the hospital room. I know he’s trying to help, but yeah dead and alive Pokemon aren’t the same—especially when the Pokemon is headless. :P
    "But it's still a Pokémon, amirite? "

    One thing I want to say though is Lanette mentioning Hope and Bill stuttering seemed a bit rushed. Perhaps have Bill thinking why she said Hope's name all of a sudden would make things flow better IMO.
    Hmm. That's definitely an interesting thought there. I do have to admit I see where you're coming from. Lanette's dominating that part of the conversation, and Bill seems more interested in what happened to Lanette than "oh wait a second why is she mentioning Hope." I'll play around with that part, and when the other locations catch up with this one, I should have a plan formed there, I think.

    Wee, back to the committee again. I too think things won’t turn out well for Hope. ._.
    Nope! Poor girl. She's been seriously traumatized as it is.

    Overall, another great chapter there. Looking forward to more!
    Thank you~!

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Congratulations, first of all. Sticking at it this long ain't easy.
    Thanks very much! And teeeell me about it. Real life keeps trying to kill me before I can finish the fic. But I swear, I'll finish it! Even if I'm nearing thirty by the time I do it! Oh God that's actually a possibility.

    Okay, I think I have a better feel on what's going on. They're inside the ball, aren't they? Seems like a dream sequence.
    Yep! All scenes that happen in the Gray Forest are actually taking place in Bill's mindscape. There's a more detailed explanation here, but to fast-forward, whenever Bill is knocked unconscious or goes to sleep, Adam has the option of directing his mind to form a backdrop known as the Gray Forest. This resembles a section of Route 25 in order to make Bill feel comfortable. Hence why Bill is trying to find the edge of the forest in the beginning of the chapter: it's meant to imply that he's trying to walk back to his home on Cerulean Cape. The problem is that one of the few rules of this world (besides the usual scientific ones) is that Bill can never reach the end of the forest because that would be too much of a distraction.

    The reason why it happens is because Adam finds it's easier to communicate with Bill in this manner. (This is also why the parasite takes a physical form in these scenes. It's easier for Bill to comprehend Adam if Adam is more than just a disembodied voice.) Every scene that takes place in the Gray Forest is one where Adam tries to relate to Bill an important concept about being an Ixodida, so it needs to have him be calm and comfortable so he can focus on what's being told to him.

    In short, Bill's actually unconscious in this scene, but it's really because he fainted from the Fire-type's attack. This is why he doesn't leave the Gray Forest until after he's out of the ball and recovering: because it's what he sees when he's out cold, not what he sees while in a ball. (I may describe what he would see while in the Master Ball at a later time, but for now, let's just say it would probably be... uh, pretty damn surreal.)

    Also, I'm thinking of ways to show this in the fic without being too info-dumpy or awkward about it. I think I might've briefly explained it the first time it happened, but I'm really not surprised if that scene just made it seem like the stuff it mentioned was only true for that particular vision.

    I have nothing really specific to say yet, but Bill just got really badass again.
    Which is a feat for him. XD

    Good touch on his emotions, though.
    Thanks muchly!

    Oh you, Bill. Oh you smooth mother****er.
    There's a mental image I don't get every day: Bill in a pimp hat.

    And yet, this scene is a great window into Bill's moral code, despite how over the top and almost silly it is right here.
    XD Oh, what about Bill isn't over-the-top and almost silly?

    Seriously, yes. That's what I like about writing Bill in this fic. It's like he's surrounded by sadists, perverts, sociopaths, the mentally disturbed, or generally unpleasant people, and he, meanwhile, is probably the only one going, "THE POWER OF GOOD WILL PREVAIL OVER ALL. SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS AND FRIENDSHIP." Besides Chansey. And maybe Spinda. And Ellen doesn't count because she's a massive Stepford Smiler.

    Oh snap son, here we go. **** just got real. Adam just crossed the line.
    And Adam would gladly cross it again, if you know what I mean.

    Yes Adam, "the Pokemon of that woman." He's always been her Pokemon.
    Headcanon says absolutely. ;D

    (Oh, the things I've written concerning sane!Lanette, Bill's habit of turning into Pokémon, and the basis of their relationship. Part of it deserves a headcanon LJ post. Another part deserves an entire fic. Which I may or may not have already written.)

    All joking aside, this is really a chilling metaphor for how outside influences can change a person, and for the loss of humanity. That one question - "how much of an Ixodida have you let yourself become?" - has an incredible amount of punch to it.
    Brofist for thinking like an English major, by the way. You've just hit on one of the many random themes I've scattered all over the place.

    Is this being released from a ball or is he just unconscious? I'm having trouble telling.
    Pretty much just unconscious. I'd say that by that time, he's been out of that ball for hours.

    Oh Thom, you're just trying to do the right thing. We can't blame you for bringing literal dead meat into a hospital room.
    Good because the Mauville survivors can. XD

    Something hurts inside alright. I'm sure he won't tell them though...
    Haha, this is assuming that Bill's even got it figured out himself. He totally thinks his feelings are just for strong friendship.

    Yep. According to Bill, Lanette is just his close friend. That he would like to spend the rest of his life with.

    ...Bill doesn't interact with people much, so... he doesn't really know any better. *pats him on the head*

    Excellent description of Softboiled.
    Thank you! I always enjoy describing Pokémon attacks. It's just not much of a Pokémon fic (with Pokémon in it, anyway) without something sparkly happening.

    ****, okay, I laughed. Talk about dead meat.

    Did he decapitate it himself too?
    Haha, probably. AND NOW WE HAVE TO WONDER WHERE THE ZIGZAGOON'S HEAD IS.

    Probably scaring the crap out of poor Hope.

    Suddenly Lanette doesn't seem so bad anymore. Now that she trusts him more, it seems like she's really got his back.
    Yep. Or she just doesn't want to deal with him if he's dead. Y'know. Either or.

    Ever so modest, Bill. You're a steel-bodied alien mutant and still concerned about your modesty... only you could do it.
    Just wait until somebody asks him whether or not everything below the neck got mutated. (To those of you who are now trying to imagine the intimate details of Bill's anatomy: YOU'RE WELCOME.)

    Man, she totally owns him, both figuratively and literally, doesn't she? I guess it's better than being left to die though.
    PRETTY MUCH.

    Also, Bill secretly prefers it this way.

    October 1, 2011: the day Bill McKenzie learned that some things aren't just done in pictures on the internet.
    Or in your roommate's bedroom.

    (Everyone has a roommate like that in college, amirite?)

    Or not. What the ****, Jax?
    ;D

    Somehow I get the feeling Lanette is vastly underestimating this situation and will soon regret it.
    She definitely is, and most likely, Adam is amused by it. We'll see if it comes back to bite her on the rear later.

    Okay, I'm quite certain now that something happened to her. Something pretty bad. And I'm suspecting it was personal, not just people dying around her.
    Oh, you'll see. *cackles evilly*

    Again, the fact that he's able to keep his logic surprises me. Bill and Lanette actually make a good pair due to this - he uses logic, she is driven by emotion.
    Most of the time, yep. And the times when he's driven by emotion, she's driven by logic (like in the heat of battle).

    Now I'm really starting to think I know what happened.
    You probably aren't too far off, either.

    As an aside, that little bit about the ink was a great touch.
    Thanks! I've noticed that lately, my writing hasn't been too focused on metaphors or similes, which is a little weird for me and something I'd like to add back in with moderation. Because who doesn't like a good comparison?

    Okay, when I read that, I just pushed my chair back, put my hands against my forehead, and pushed them through my hair. I don't even KNOW how to react to that.
    Awesome. I've totally done my job, then.

    This is absolutely excellent a chapter. Almost no action, but so heavy on development that it's more than made up for. I really can't find anything to complain about at all.
    Thank you! I'm glad you liked it, especially because, yeah, you're right. It's not really an action-oriented chapter at all, and I was a little afraid that it'd be a pile of tl;dr instead of something that actually makes it seem like the plot is advancing in any way (even if it's just to clear up a bunch of stuff). Hopefully, next chapter will have a bit of fighting going on, especially after I reveal what happened to Domino and who those random newcomers that Lanette was talking about are. (Hint: The first version of the fic ended with their introduction.)

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

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  25. #175

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    :O I didn't know "switch" could become a verb. I may have heard it used before, or maybe I'm thinking of seeing the noun "switch". You know what this means? I spotted no mistakes! That, and I learned a new word that I will now abuse in my writing until I get bored. I also recently learned that "intimate" can be used to mean "to communicate delicately and indirectly" (and that there's a different pronunciation for it as well.) Oh English. No wonder my sister calls this language "dumb". xP *shakes head*

    Your comment about the zigzagoon's head scaring Hope reminded me of the "Matazetas" (a rebel group)of Mexico leaving the heads of the "Zetas" in front of schools. Poor children. D: As for where Thom left the head, maybe he's saving it for Bill? Let's hope he didn't leave it in those ice machines they have in hospitals.

    Yeah, it seems not a lot of authors spend time on the psychological aspect of a TF story. Like you said, if not done right it can pretty much just fall flat on its face, but isn't that the whole point of fan-fiction, to experiment and improve in areas you don't feel comfortable in? Writing a fan-fiction without risks or challenges can get boring.

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