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Thread: Anima Ex Machina (PG-15)

  1. #201
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    I'm probably going to have to respond to those reviews at a later time, but thanks to the awesomeness of both of you. :D

    Also, Absol, I'm just going to say right here and now that I lol'd.

    Aaaanyway, the Christmas special! Funny thing about that, actually. (Besides the fact that I'm not actually Christian and don't normally celebrate Christmas to begin with.) See, most of the volunteers failed to respond after volunteering, one of my voice actors couldn't finish her recordings, and my sound editor (and Bill's voice actor) is currently suffering from severely limited computer time. As a result, the only files I have are a handful of clips of the full play. I may post the play itself (as opposed to the audio file) if people request it, but if not, it may be salvaged for next year. Or whenever. Who knows?

    In the meantime, I wrote and recorded a couple of other things for you instead. The first is the following skit, and the second is something that was requested forever and a day ago by a handful of people here.

    Because the file size actually exceeds... every sane limitation this forum has to offer, I've not only put both recordings in a handy ZIP file but also plopped everything down on an external site.

    To download the entire ZIP folder, simply click this: http://db.tt/dgcVjcn9

    Alternatively, to download each file separately...
    - Click here for the holiday special: http://db.tt/fKscGtXm
    - Click here for just the prologue: http://db.tt/UYlsMdKX

    Or you can simply enjoy this script without listing to anything at the same time! It's completely up to you!

    Lastly, if any of the links aren't working, feel free to let me know. Thanks!

    And happy holidays to all my lovely readers!


    Anima Ex Machina
    Special 01: Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain


    VALENTINE
    Hi, folks! JX Valentine, your friendly neighborhood author here with a special holiday treat for you. And it's going to be really great! There's going to be singing and dancing, and Bill and Thom are going to get drunk at some point, and—

    LANETTE
    Hold on. Hold on. Wait just a second.

    VALENTINE
    Uh, oh hey, Lanette! What's going on?

    LANETTE
    None of this is in the script.

    VALENTINE laughs nervously.

    VALENTINE
    Funny you should mention that.

    LANETTE
    You didn't finish, did you?

    VALENTINE
    Oh, come now! It's really hard organizing an entire cast to do your dirty work, and God help you if you think I should do it by myself. Nobody should be subject to my fake English accent.

    LANETTE
    So instead you half-ass it by doing just one skit with all of the characters you were going to voice yourself in the full play.

    VALENTINE
    Uh, yeah, pretty much.

    LANETTE
    You do realize, don't you, that this isn't going to work, right? We have the same voice, and Domino's is just ridiculous.

    DOMINO
    How is my voice ridiculous?

    LANETTE
    Obnoxious, then.

    DOMINO
    Hey!

    VALENTINE
    Well, we've got to do something for the Christmas special, shouldn't we? I mean, we said we were all going to, and the only clip we have of the other actors is the file where all the guys demonstrate holiday-themed pickup lines. (pause) Actually, maybe I should post that file.

    LANETTE
    If you post a file of Bill and me in a situation that can be remotely construed as romantic, I will castrate him.

    VALENTINE
    Isn't that misaimed retribution? Anyway, okay, so we've got barely half a cast, no gags, no special effects, and most importantly, no time. What do we do now?

    DOMINO
    Admit that you're lazy and failed completely at as simple a task as organizing a group of people to complete a project on time?

    VALENTINE
    Um, no, because that would be admitting that I'm not the textbook definition of perfection. I mean, come on! Next, you'll be suggesting that I should break the fourth -- wait a minute. (beat) Never mind. Point is, I feel really bad that we didn't make it in the end. The play was going to be great. There were musical numbers and sound gags and lots of romantic subtext…

    LANETTE
    As I've said, I will castrate him.

    VALENTINE
    Honestly, I would be entertained if you did. But seriously, I guess this time could be used to talk about all the things that we hope to do in the next year. New year's resolutions and all that jazz. After all, the holidays are a time of peace, love, and renewal, so… actually, I have no idea what that has to do with anything, but anyway, Lanette, how about you? What do you hope to do next year?

    LANETTE
    Eradicate the ixodida threat and prevent their genocide against humankind.

    (There's a significant pause here.)

    VALENTINE
    Well, that's… perky. So how about you, Domino?

    DOMINO
    Oh, you know, the usual. Exercise more, kick a few bad habits, capture more rare pokémon to advance Team Rocket's cause of taking over the world, and maybe learn how to play the guitar! How about you, Jax?

    VALENTINE
    Me? Oh, I hope to finish up the first book of AEM, actually. And man, have I got plans for you. See, at the end, it turns out—

    LANETTE
    Valentine, weren't you thinking about doing something else?

    VALENTINE
    Huh? What do you mean?

    LANETTE
    I found this old clip of you reading the prologue in another folder.

    VALENTINE
    Hey! That thing! I forgot all about that! Actually… that's not a bad idea! I could clean that up and post it, and people will be none the wiser about the whole "failing at organizing a cast to do a holiday audio drama" thing! You're brilliant, Lanette! No wonder Bill's secretly obsessed with you!

    LANETTE
    That's it. He's getting castrated.

    VALENTINE
    Man, that's a relief. And here I was all worked up because I thought people would find out about how we did this entire skit at the last minute and couldn't produce the real audio drama! Now we can throw this clip out, and nobody would actually have to find out about this!

    DOMINO (suspiciously)
    Yeah… nobody…

    VALENTINE
    Anyway, I've got a lot of work to do. This reading isn't bad, but it needs a lot of work before it can be posted. So… anyway, happy holidays, and see you later, Domino!

    DOMINO
    Yup! See you later! (lowers her voice) Sucker.

    VALENTINE
    Huh? Did you say something?

    DOMINO
    Uh, I said, "See you later, Santa!" 'Cause, it's, like, the end of Christmas. Get it?

    VALENTINE
    Uh… yeah. Sure. (lowers her voice) Man, she's weird.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 25th December 2011 at 5:57 PM.

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

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  2. #202
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    You know, I would have posted before you purely to get the 200th post... but then I realised that would be infantile and far below someone of my station... or maybe I just didn't want to be that guy okay.

    Interesting IRL fact about me. For Christmas I got exactly two t-shirts, one was a Dr. Pepper shirt, the other was a Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Clubs Band shirt. If only I had recieved a Red Hot Chili Peppers CD xD

    Anyway... I enjoyed the little skit thingy, the written one anyway. I'm currently downloading the audio thing.

    AND THEN I WILL KNOW WHAT YOU SOUND LIKE AND WHAT HALF OF YOUR FACE LOOKS LIKE! *creepy laughter* Don't mind me, only passing through!
    Skogsrĺ

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

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  3. #203
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    And now I have an excuse to respond to everyone all at once! \o/

    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolXWolf View Post
    Hopefully all the work is behind you, but if it’s not, I hope you break a leg with it! Or a nail! (Bad luck to say good luck, you know)
    Now it is! \o\ At the time you posted, it wasn't, though. I was busy being slaughtered by one last final project. Luckily, I turned that in and passed with flying colors b)'')b

    I recently finished my exams, so I’ll hopefully have some more time to spend reviewing (if my family doesn’t decide they want to hog me for themselves that is)
    High five! And also, yes. XD I know how that is. But hey, it's the holidays, so it's like the one time when they can justify doing it.

    UGH!!! THE IMAGE!! IT BUUUURRRNS!! *angrily stares at Jx while scrubbing brain with mental soap*
    You're welcome. ;D

        Spoiler:- CAUTION: EXTRA LONG CRACK STORY:
    I seriously love you for this. XD Like, I literally have no words for how hard I'm lol'ing right now.

    And now, it's my new headcanon that Amanita totally has a massive crush on Bill. And that Bebe has a thing for S&M, so long as she's the S. Thank you, Absol. XD

    See? Why watch the episode when I can just read your all too accurate summary?
    Inorite? :V Especially when the Hoenn arc didn't even get remotely good until about partway through, when it finally started to forget that it came after Filler Hell Johto.

    One good thing about Johto: Morty. I felt they did a decent job with him while sticking some background info on Ecruteak legend.
    Oh, true. I do like their rendition of Morty (and Eusine by extension), and "For Ho-oh the Bells Toll" is still one of my favorite episodes. (Love-hate bromance! Johto folklore! Pissed off legends deciding to *****slap humanity! What's not to love about that one?) His other two episodes were pretty good too, but something about that particular one just stands out, in my opinion. Probably the whole "pissed off legendary" thing.

    I’d like to think that they didn’t put Will or Karen in the Anime because it technically hasn’t been 3 years since Ash left home (gonna age anytime soon, boy?) but I’m probably only fooling myself and the real reason is that they were lazy.
    Unfortunately, I'm a bit more cynical about the writers. XD

    On the other hand, your explanation also makes a bit of sense. I mean, in the other regions, for the most part, the E4 were shown and explicitly mentioned as being E4 members of other regions. Because Kanto and Johto share an E4, they probably didn't have an explanation as to why there were more than four members.

    But mostly, I just think they were lazy. >_>


    They’re going to run out of names eventually. And Duplica appeared in Johto??
    Unfortunately. I mean, she's a cool character and all, but her second appearance was pretty much a rehash of her first. She got another Ditto with another unique problem (although instead of being unable to change its face, it was unable to change its height). Team Rocket stole it because they wanted it for their specific schemes. Then it changes things up a bit because her new Ditto never overcomes its problems, but Team Rocket still gets defeated in pretty much the same way as they always did. And then everyone lived happily ever after.

    Really, the only important thing this episode brought up (besides "LOL HEY LET'S GO CAMEO A CHARACTER WHO ISN'T AT ALL IMPORTANT TO THE GAMES") was the fact that Jessie's Wobbuffet can use Mirror Coat. Except if you have a Wobbuffet in the games, you should already know that it should be able to do that, so… yeah.

    Maybe they felt like bringing Ditto after they found out it likes to sleep around has an amazing ability in the breeding department.
    Haha, if only they actually gave it that point. Or a point at all.

    Is there something you’d like to share with the class, Jx?
    I'M A BIOLOGY NERD, OKAY? IT'S A COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY INNOCENT FASCINATION. 8|

        Spoiler:- Whew..:
    Naaaturally. ;D

        Spoiler:- Huh.:
        Spoiler:- Yay, spoiler responses! \o/:


    Quote Originally Posted by GastlyMan View Post
    Excellent job. I missed reviewing for a while so here it is for 22 and 23.
    Thank you! And ;_; Yeah, I know how real life can be sometimes. It's good to hear from you again, though!

    That was a really cool battle scene, but what I really liked was the dialogue. ^^ She’s a woman of many names... XD
    Bwahahahahaaa, yes, I'm going to really enjoy writing her for the next few chapters. XD That's not going to be the last bit of banter you see between her and Bill.

    Excellent comparison! And interesting to see how Tracey is fitting into all of this...
    Thank you! \o/ I'm really proud of that comparison myself. Mostly because then I started thinking about my liver, and if you think about things for too long late at night, the feeling you get ends up being a little south of sane.

    Seriously. Think about your liver sometime.

    I’m jumping on the bandwagon of MUST SEE BILL USE ATTRACT! XD It would be amazing.
    Well, I could always write a Valentine's Day special. ;D

    Good battle scene there. Definitely caught me by surprise.
    Thank you! I have to say, I'm trying to worm in a battle at least once per chapter. Sure, I'm probably overloading a bit on the action, but after chapters upon chapters of exposition, I feel like you guys need some good ol' clashes here and there.

    Interesting how Hope was only speaking Japanese...should be cool to see what exactly happened.
    Well, Japanese and fragments. ;D She's like River Tam, only if River Tam abused Mandarin with extreme frequency.

    As for what happened, oh, you'll definitely get a glimpse eventually. Same thing with some of the other characters who faced Ixodida attacks.

    Keep up the good work!
    Thanks! Will do~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    You know, I would have posted before you purely to get the 200th post... but then I realised that would be infantile and far below someone of my station... or maybe I just didn't want to be that guy okay.
    That's okay. 300's a far more awesome post to claim anyway. ;D

    Interesting IRL fact about me. For Christmas I got exactly two t-shirts, one was a Dr. Pepper shirt, the other was a Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Clubs Band shirt. If only I had recieved a Red Hot Chili Peppers CD xD
    Oh, pfft. Clearly, you need a Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt. And if I knew your address, I'd send you one.

    Anyway... I enjoyed the little skit thingy, the written one anyway. I'm currently downloading the audio thing.

    AND THEN I WILL KNOW WHAT YOU SOUND LIKE AND WHAT HALF OF YOUR FACE LOOKS LIKE! *creepy laughter* Don't mind me, only passing through!
    STALKER.

    Seriously, glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoy the clip too.

    Four more days until our next update, guys! \o/

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

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  4. #204
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    So sorry for the lateness! Had been busy lately. >.>; 'kay, breaking this review down over my thoughts on Chapters 22 and 23:

    Chapter 22
    Hahaha, awkward moment there when Bill suggested Attraction. The possibilities, man. :P The action with him and Domino was quite nice (and so is one of her codenames Sienna, hehe). Lanette is right though that asking the enemy questions was stupid. That's to be expected with Bill, though. :P Nice development of him, espeically the mention of him wanting to be the protector/guardian for the Caravan folk that can't fight.

    Other stuff I like a lot are the appearances of Wallace and Steven, especially him going to teach him steel type moves which I look forward to. As for Tate, oh looks like everything is up in the air over what's going to happen.

    Like the little backstory you have with Tracy there and also I can see him doing clerical type stuff in Polaris. Haha over Ariana not liking John with Tracy there. Wondering what kind of help John wants from Tracy, though. Hm...

    Chapter 23
    I remember you mentioning your headcanon over the languages before, so it's nice to see that being referenced in your story. I feel really sorry for Hope after her backstory with her being attacked by the ixodida. Poor her. :<

    Over the part with Bill and Adam finally seeing what's left of Mauville City...all I'm going to say is woah. D: I also really like how you develop Lanette's conflicted feelings over Bill and him being an ixodida, very nicely done there.

    Oh, very intriguing last part there. I do remember Prometheus for the most part, so yay for him being back. Also, Pandora seems interesting too. I remember her from the original version of this story, though not sure if she was mentioned in this version. Sorry. XD; Can't wait to see what her role this time will be.

    Overall I quite like the two chapters very much. A couple fun stuff going on and also Lanette's and Bill's character development are great too. Can't wait for the next chapter!


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  5. #205

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    lol Domino. I knew she would eventually get back at you, the author, for making Bill a slightly-better battler. Haha, if you think you're fake English accent is bad, you shouldn't hear mine. It's... quite interesting, to say the least. xD;

    I actually recorded myself reading the prologue once! It didn't turn out so well.

    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolXWolf View Post


    KAT. IF YOU CAN SEE THIS, MAKE MORE!!!
    *sees*

    Once I get some things completed I totally will! Eek, I'm so excited to draw more fanart for AEM because I've totally changed my shading style and how I draw humans. Plus, I've gotten this new art program that allows me to make art much faster and cleaner. I already have some ideas in mind, like Lanette (with crowbar) and ixodida!Tate.

    - Kat


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  6. #206
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    Quick post because I'm accessing the interwebs via one-hour free wi-fi, but!

    In some parts of the world, it's the 31st, so in case I fail at getting online anytime soon, happy birthday, Bill! Have (another) traumatizing experience! :D

    (Review responses will come when I have stable internet. Sorry!)


    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty-Four
    At noon in the desert, a panting lizard waited for history.


    Keycard. Thumbprint. Iris.

    A door in the heart of Polaris Institute clicked open, and Tracey slipped into the room beyond it. The room was dark, and for a long while, he assumed it was empty until he could just barely make out the silhouette of someone hunched at a computer on the opposite end of the room. Clicking the door closed behind him, he let the room plunge into darkness save for the soft glow of the computer screen. The figure in front of it sat up and reached for a glass beside its monitor, letting the ice within it click against its sides before he spoke.

    "Did anyone follow you?" John asked.

    "No, Professor," Tracey answered.

    "Good. Come here."

    The watcher crept forward, his movements slow as he craned his neck to look over his superior's shoulder. He couldn't tell much from the screen itself. All he could see were two windows: one that contained black-and-white security footage and another that contained lines of code. When he was close enough to smell the alcohol in John's glass, he stood, waiting as John leaned back.

    "Pop quiz, boy." John moved the mouse, guiding the cursor over to the first window and maximizing it. "What is this?"

    Tracey squinted at the screen. On it, he could see an ixodida, the first of the two created at Polaris, talking to Professor Oak. The clip was muted, but Tracey had seen it enough times to know what was being said.

    "The Adam Tape," Tracey replied. "Doesn't that contain—"

    "Be more specific. What's going on in this clip?"

    For a second, Tracey hesitated. His eyes gazed with uncertainty at the back of John's head, but the researcher made no effort to show that he noticed the boy's apprehension.

    "Well? Don't be nervous now," he said.

    The watcher took a deep breath and responded slowly. "Codename Adam is agreeing to being studied, sir."

    "He's taking an awful long time to do it." John took a sip. "Tell me what he's really doing."

    For another second, Tracey hesitated. Then, he replied, "He's talking about ethics. Professor Oak is trying to tell Codename Adam—"

    "It's just you and me here, Mr. Sketchit. Call him by his real name."

    Tracey swallowed. The uncomfortable feeling in his head crept into every inch of his body, and suddenly, he wanted to be anywhere but right there, even if the man was one of his idols.

    "P-Professor Oak is… he's telling Bill that he always has a choice in whether or not we could study him." Tracey's voice was quiet, and the slowness of his every word betrayed just how much thought he was putting into what he was saying. "But then Bill is saying that he doesn't have a choice… because he's a researcher first."

    "Poetic, isn't it?" John commented. He turned the glass in his hand, letting the ice slip to another part of its surface. "To pursue the truth, sacrifice is inevitable. Every good researcher knows that. Do you want to be a researcher, Mr. Sketchit?"

    The question came abruptly, and once again, Tracey couldn't help but stumble over his words in a mad scramble to respond. By then, John was grinning, knowing very well what was going on in Tracey's head.

    "O-of course! Yes! It's been my dream to study pokémon!" Tracey finally stammered.

    "Then you probably already understand what it means to sacrifice for it."

    Tracey straightened. "Well… I left home, if that's what you mean."

    "Not entirely." John paused the video and minimized it to reveal the second window, the lines of code. "Second question. What is this?"

    For once, Tracey had nothing to say, and it wasn't because he was stumbling over his words. Staring at the screen, he couldn't make out any part of it. Some parts he could read. Words in Common and English were scattered throughout the text, sometimes indicating a computer code and other times forming a fragment of a sentence or a word taken out of context. The rest, meanwhile, was complete gibberish to him. Most of it were simply lines upon lines of text with characters from both languages thrown together at random. Others were nothing but symbols: angular, bold characters he had never seen before in his life. He didn't realize that his mouth had fallen open the minute he attempted to read the screen, and because of this, John had to chuckle.

    "Don't bother, boy. No rookie's been able to read this text without proper help. Here. Let me shine some light on this document for you."

    With one hand, John keyed in a command. The text flashed, and characters darted about the screen. Finally, the document reorganized itself into something Tracey could read: a scientific report that detailed the physical description – round body, transparent exoskeleton, eight legs, a mouth on its underside – of an alien that strongly resembled the pokémon he knew as XP-650. The only problem was the header, which contained the name of a research facility rendered in the strange language.

    "What is this?" he asked.

    "A research report found in the encrypted files of the Committee's database," John informed him. "Tell me. What do you notice about this report?"

    "…Where did this come from?"

    "Ah! Good observation!" John placed his glass on the desk. "Project Stardust wasn't the first to study XP-650, you know. This report happens to be five years old."

    "Five years…?" Tracey leaned forward, eying the report in an effort to pick up on some detail he might have missed. "But how? If XP-650 originated from the meteor in Hoenn, then there's no way it could have been here five years ago."

    "It wasn't. I never said these were researchers from Earth."

    Immediately, Tracey stood at attention. His eyes fell on John, and his mouth clenched shut. Noticing the boy's reaction, John laced his fingers together.

    "Tell me. What do you know about the Committee?"

    "Not a lot," Tracey admitted, his voice squeaking with a strained tone.

    "Neither do we."

    The watcher shifted on his feet. "We?"

    "Yes. Last question."

    At this point, John sat back. He rested his hands just over his stomach as he gazed into his assistant's eyes. If there was anything he had learned by working with young and innocent trainers in Goldenrod City, it was how to work an audience. He knew he had Tracey's attention. He was just enjoying every second of holding it.

    And then, finally, he spoke in one last question.

    "Have you ever heard of the Agency?"

    ---

    Ever since the invasion, the forests surrounding Route 118 had been quiet. The thing was that while the ixodida could climb trees, few of them bothered, opting instead to pick off the ground pokémon or move to a different location before trying to hunt the pokémon that hid in the treetops. Because of this behavior, zigzagoon and electrike were the first to go. Then came their evolutions, who were slightly more capable of fighting back. Last came a good chunk of the kecleon and wingull population – whatever couldn't make it back up the trees in time. It didn't take long at all before the populations of the route dwindled until only a handful of wingull and kecleon were left. The rest were far more adept at hiding or putting themselves out of reach. Or at least, they were marginally better than the ones that were killed.

    In the dark of the night, one example of a survivor made its move. A red, jagged stripe hovered over a branch, racing towards the trunk until it crawled onto its rough, black surface. From there, it began to descend, gliding across black bark for several feet until it came to a stop halfway up the tree. Beneath it, a pair of small, black eyes opened and darted in opposite directions like dragonflies over water. Then, a pink tongue lashed out from thin air to slurp at one of the eyes before darting right back into a hidden mouth. After that, the rest of the kecleon appeared, its emerald-green and golden-yellow scales shimmering into view. For a long time, it rested there, eyes scanning the forest for any potential predators, tongue lashing out of the tip of its pointed jaws.

    Beneath it was what summoned it there: a pile of berries, neatly placed at the foot of the tree. Although a variety of fruits lay on the ground, the ones that caught the kecleon's attention were the spherical, yellow aspear berries. Once more, it licked its lips as its eyes centered on the nearest one, and with its claws scratching against the wood of the tree, it scrambled down to the pile, plunged its hands into the fruit, rolled off the bark, and bowled through the feast and onto the ground. At last, it stopped, seated and raising the berry to its wide-open mouth.

    Then, something pounced on it.

    The aspear berry flew out of the chameleon's hands as it struggled beneath the steel claws pinning it to the ground. Its attacker reared back, his mouth open wide as a hiss rushed from his throat. He lunged, fangs bared and ready to tear into the kecleon's back, but before he could finish, he stopped. The kecleon lay still beneath his hands as one of its beady eyes cautiously gazed at the hunter. In that brief moment, he panted, his hot breath falling onto the lizard's scales.

    At last, he let the creature go.

    "I'm sorry. I just can't do this," Bill said.

    What do you mean? Adam snapped. We must eat.

    Cringing, Bill held his head. "I know! I know! I just can't bring myself to do it!" Sitting up, he moved to press his back against the tree. "Sorry, Kecleon. You can go now. I'm not going to eat you."

    The lizard stood and tilted its head.

    Unfortunately, Adam wasn't nearly as forgiving. What are you doing? You cannot let all our prey go!

    "Well, I can't very well kill it when it's looking at me!"

    Bill. They will all be looking at you when you kill them.

    "Exactly!"

    In his head, Adam huffed. If you will not do what is necessary to fulfill our needs, then perhaps I should.

    At once, Bill's arm went numb. He watched it rise towards the kecleon while it still stood at his side. With a gasp, he reached up with his free hand and grabbed his wrist, pulling at his own appendage to keep it from moving towards the pokémon.

    "Stop it, Adam! I'm not going to let you—"

    This is for our own good. Stop resisting!

    "I don't care if it's for our own good! We're not going to—"

    The kecleon punctuated this conversation by lashing its tongue out at Bill's arm. Its tip stuck to his forearm as if it was glued to his skin.

    May I kill it now?

    "No, Adam," Bill growled, "you may not."

    The lizard's tongue parted from Bill's arm with a snap, and it reeled back as the muscle retracted into its wide mouth. Then, as its arms flailed, it righted itself until it stood calmly on two legs. With an added "kec," it tilted its head once again. All the while, Bill, finally back in control of his arm, lowered his hand and stared at it.

    So if we may not eat this kecleon and we may not eat the wingull you had found earlier or the carvanha in the river, then what, if I may ask, may we eat?

    "I'll find us something to eat," Bill promised. Then, he reached over and rested a hand on the lizard's head. "Just not this one."

    He stood, picking up as many of the berries as he could carry. Without a second glance towards the kecleon, he turned and walked in a random direction.

    "Perhaps we'll try a little bit further into the woods," Bill reasoned. "It'll be darker there, so maybe our victims won't be able to see us as easily."

    I highly doubt that anything awake at this hour would lack some way of detecting us, Bill.

    "Just trust me, would you?"

    I have no other choice, do I?

    The host let the conversation fall silent as he adjusted the berries in his arms. Behind him, the kecleon nearly completely vanished, and its stripe tilted and darted into the darkness between the trees. Bill didn't notice, however. He only continued forward, eyes to the parts of the sky he could see beyond the forest's canopy.

    "Adam," he said after a few minutes, "we got away without another lesson today, but there's no telling what will happen tomorrow. I need to know what else we can do."

    You know I cannot tell you so easily.

    "Yes, but…" He looked to the side. "We're facing champions."

    Clearly.

    "League champions, Adam. They're the strongest trainers in this region. No ordinary trainers can beat them."

    Fascinating.

    Ignoring Adam's disinterested tone, Bill paused and thought about the blonde Rocket agent. "And that girl, Sienna. She disappeared after our encounter, and there's no telling what she'll do next. Between her and those two champions, we may be facing one difficult fight after another, especially if I don't have an inkling of what we're capable of."

    In response, Adam remained silent. Bill bent down, placing the berries carefully at the base of another tree.

    "Adam?" he asked.

    You concern yourself with too many things that do not matter. Humans are of no threat to us. The ixodida are.

    "Both are equally troubling," Bill responded. "But speaking of which, what should we do if another ixodida like the one that knocked us out comes along?"

    An interesting question. Perhaps we should test that. Focus, Bill. What do you feel?

    Bill jumped to his feet at those words. He frantically scanned the area around him as he gradually became aware of a feeling inside him. It started as a nagging twinge at the back of his mind, but it quickly grew to a full-blown feeling of absolute dread – a cold, tingling, unpleasant sensation all over his body.

    "No," he whispered. "Oh no, no, no. Not now!"

    An iridescent beam blasted at him from somewhere between the trees. Yelping, he threw his palms towards it, summoning a green barrier just in time to deflect the attack. The beam slammed against his Protect and exploded, illuminating the forest with brilliant, white light. Bill flew into the tree trunk and dropped his feet into the pile of berries. The rest of his body began to sink, but bracing himself against the tree, he managed to remain upright long enough to peer out towards the darkness.

    "That power… It tore my Protect apart!" Bill breathed.

    Then ready yourself, Bill. Let your guard down, and it will not be your Protect that it tears apart next.

    He's right, you know, a boy's voice quipped.

    "Telepathy!" Bill gasped. His fingers dug into the tree trunk. "And a Psybeam! I knew it! You're a Psychic-type!"

    So the rumors about you are true! the voice replied. Steven and Wallace told me all about how you're supposed to be pretty smart, and at first, I didn't think you were such a big deal, especially if your hunting technique was that much of a joke.

    "Steven and Wallace…"

    Bill lowered his gaze. Remembering Wallace brought only one image to mind: the look on his face that morning when Bill asked him if there was another ixodida nearby. He could still picture that smirk perfectly, and he let that image linger in his mind as he recalled the same unpleasant feeling that radiated throughout his body.

    "You… You're the one I sensed this morning!" he finally said. "That's why Wallace didn't say anything! You're on our side!"

    Sort of. Think of it as the enemy of our enemy's our friend. You're going up against the empress. It only makes sense that we make sure you don't die along the way. That way, we've got better odds. Understand what I mean?

    Pushing away from the trunk, Bill took several steps forward. "I hope you don't consider this to be rude, but I'd rather not have a conversation with you if I can't see you. It's bad enough that I already have one voice in my head."

    Can't argue with that. In fact, allow me to introduce myself.

    The underbrush directly in front of him rustled. Bill crouched, his fingers tensing in preparation to defend himself. The rest of him shivered, trembled in anticipation…

    …Until a figure much smaller than him emerged from the bushes.

    Bill relaxed as a dumbfounded look crossed his face. The newcomer couldn't have been much older than twelve before he transformed, judging by his diminutive size and the roundness of his boyish face. What struck Bill the most, though, was the fact that as the stranger approached, he smiled warmly, almost in a friendly manner.

    "My name's Tate. The leader of the Mossdeep Gym, at your service!" He saluted with a wink. "And you're right. I'm an ixodida just like you, but I'm of the psychic type."

    He is a rogue, Adam told him, but be careful. You were right in thinking he is far more powerful than he looks.

    "Relax, Adam. He's on our side." Then, with a smile and a slightly louder voice, Bill added, "Tate, it's a pleasure to—"

    Suddenly, he felt himself being yanked into the air by an unseen force. Before he was fully conscious of what was happening, the force smashed him into the trunk and pulled him back into the air to dangle several feet above the ground. He felt his throat constrict, as if a giant hand was holding him up by his neck. Choking, he opened his eyes to see Tate far below him. The psychic's entire body glowed blue as he held up a hand, curved as if it was holding something. Even worse, the smile that had been on his face just a second ago was completely gone.

    "Don't judge a book by its cover. Sometimes, the opponents you'll be up against will look exactly like friends at first glance, you know," he said. "You were wondering about lesson two earlier, right? Well, here it is. Wallace wants you to improve your reaction times, so he sent me to see how well you'd fare against my psychic powers. So, come on! Let's see you break out and hit me with your best shot!"

    At the same time, fuzzy, white spots began to cloud Bill's vision. He strained against the hold, but as the seconds ticked onward, his thoughts became murkier and murkier.

    "Adam…" he croaked.

    Bill, I will admit it is impossible for you to win this match using the moves you understand so far, Adam responded quickly. Hold on. I will unlock a power for you. In doing so, you must trust me, and you must use this power without any question. Do you understand?

    By then, Bill could no longer think. He simply nodded and opened his mind to Adam. At once, he felt the parasite slither across his brain and stab into his head like a cold knife. He tried to scream, but with little air, he found he couldn't operate his voice. All he could do was open his mouth, close his eyes, and thrash in mid-air. Below him, Tate's eyes flared with a brilliant, blue light as he braced himself and steadied his arm.

    "Something's not right," he murmured.

    The force encircling Bill's throat weakened and spread all over his body, but he didn't notice. He curled in the air and shook. His eyes glazed over, and for that moment, he couldn't see Tate or the forest. He saw in their places flashes of somewhere else.

    A room made of crystal. Light filtering through the walls in rainbow colors.

    A creature at its far end in flowing, white robes. Tall and lean with spindly arms.

    Violet, almond-shaped eyes. A blank gaze.

    A hand – his hand – rising, palm outward.

    In reality, his hand slowly rose. His fingers fanned apart as the jewel in his palm began to glow white.

    Tate's arm went slack slightly. "Hey! What're you trying to do?!"

    A voice echoed through his head.

    "So here we are."

    The vision began to fade, giving way to Adam's voice instead.

    Bill, do it now!

    He stretched his palm towards Tate. For one last second, he saw the figure in white open its arms as the air around it quivered. Concentrating on this image, he mentally pushed his energy into the jewel until it pulsed outward as a green orb of light.

    "Mirror Shot!" he called.

    The blue light in Tate's eyes dissipated as he widened them in shock. "What?!"

    With a bang, the orb exploded in the form of a brilliant, green beam. In seconds, it struck Tate in the chest, blasting him off his feet and into the brush behind him. With Tate's focus on maintaining Psychic broken, Bill dropped from the air like a rock, landing with a thud on the soft ground. He shook his head and pushed himself to his knees. As soon as the dull pain radiating through his limbs faded, Bill pulled out of a grimace and stared at his hands.

    "What was that all about?" he asked himself.

    Nearby, Tate yelled and jumped from the bushes. This time, he supported himself in the air with a pair of glowing, blue butterfly wings.

    "Okay!" he snapped. "You might've had a lucky shot that time, but now, I'm about to get serious! Wallace sent me out here to test you, and I'm gonna do it! So ready or not, here I—"

    Abruptly, he was interrupted by something invisible slamming into his back. With a startled cry, he pitched forward and crashed into the ground, face-first. A jagged, red stripe bounced off a spot between his shoulder blades and arced into the air until it came to land beside the pile of berries Bill had set up. In the meantime, Bill watched the events unfold, and once the stripe landed, he blinked.

    "Was that… Shadow Sneak?" he muttered.

    As soon as he voiced his guess, green scales appeared around the stripe until the kecleon came into view.

    "Leon!" it called.

    For a few seconds, Bill simply stared at it. Then, he straightened in realization. "Wait! You're… you're not the kecleon from earlier, are you?!"

    It nodded. "Kec!"

    He knitted his eyebrows. "I don't understand. Why are you following me?"

    "Kec! Kec kec kecleon!"

    "You… want the aspear berries I gathered?"

    "Kec!"

    He groaned. "You do realize that I was trying to use those berries to catch you so I could eat you, right?"

    "Leeeon?"

    With a sigh, he waved a hand in the air. "Take as much as you'd like. I can't eat any of it, and at this rate—"

    "Hey!"

    Bill paused and then looked back towards Tate. The boy was once again on his feet with his butterfly wings still in full view. His fists were clenched, and he exerted as much effort as possible to stare daggers at his elder.

    "Did you forget about me?!" he snapped.

    "Sorry," Bill replied as he reached up and rubbed the back of his neck. "Actually…"

    The kecleon interrupted by lashing out its tongue and smacking the tip of it against Tate's forehead. Instantly, the psychic's eyes widened and blanked as the lizard's tongue stroked his skin once and slithered back into its mouth. As he watched this, Bill stood and crossed his arms.

    "And that was Lick. As eccentric as this kecleon may be, it certainly knows how to fight according to type," Bill commented.

    Then, Tate leaned back. His wings faded away with a sparkle, and he collapsed backwards until he lay flat on the ground, hands sticking up in the air and twitching.

    "Tate!" Bill gasped as he stooped down and grasped one of the psychic's arms. "Paralysis. And it looks like you took a lot of damage in addition to that. Hold on! I'll take you back to the Caravan! Ellen should be able to help you!"

    With that, he scooped the boy into his arms and stood. Tate shivered and tried to resist, but his joints locked up, rendering him unable to do much else but let his arms and legs dangle. He looked up, straining to look at the face of his former opponent as the latter carried him into the brush.

    "Hey, Bill?" he finally said.

    "Yes, Tate?"

    The psychic reached up and placed a hand on his companion's head. Bill stopped, freezing completely as he felt a presence enter his mind and surround a part of him before Adam resurfaced. In that single part, he heard Tate's voice.

    I wouldn't trust Adam if I were you.

    As soon as those words were passed from one ixodida to the other, the presence retreated. Then, at the piece of advice, Bill couldn't help but force himself to smile as he continued forward.

    "I know that," he said.

    While they disappeared into the forest, the kecleon sat beside the trunk of the tree and watched them leave. Then, it quickly stuffed as many aspear berries into its mouth as it could before getting up and rushing after them. With each step, its scales blended in with the forest around it until it was nothing more than a red stripe following closely behind Bill and Tate.

    At the same time, Domino smiled from her perch in one of the trees. She drew a tulip close to her mouth to hide her amusement.

    "So you learned a new move," she drawled. "Big deal. That just means this will be even more… interesting."

    As a giggle escaped her mouth, she tossed the flower towards the ground and leapt from branch to branch to follow the ixodida.

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

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  7. #207
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    Happy Birthday Bill! Try not to die or whatever.

    Ooh, this chapter was interesting. Tracey and John at the start especially so, five years ago? Not from Earth? Methinks much more than expected is going on behind the scenes.

    Yay for Tate though! I like how you portrayed him, he's powerful, yes. He's also a kid though and he can get sidetracked when things don't exactly go to plan, like with the epic Kecleon xD He's smart, but he isn't wise. I'm guessing he's got as much to learn about things than Bill does, except in different areas.
    Skogsrĺ

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

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  8. #208
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    Also, Absol, I'm just going to say right here and now that I lol'd.
    Thank you! ^ ^ It makes me happy to know that stupid, irrelevant, and sometimes awkward ideas that come floating into my head are at least enjoyed by someone.

    I may post the play itself (as opposed to the audio file) if people request it, but if not, it may be salvaged for next year. Or whenever. Who knows?

    DO ITTTTTTTTTT!!!

    Ethan: DO ITTTTTTT!!
    Kris: DO ITTTTTTT!!!!
    Red: DO ITTTTTTT!!!!
    Random Scyther: DO ITTTTTTT!!!
    Blue: DO ITTTTT!!!!
    Birch Joshua: DO ITTTT!!!!!!

    You see? I got 6 other people to agree with me! (what? They aren’t real? Nonsense! They’re on Facebook! Well, most of them are)

    Geez Jx, I WANT TO SEE THIS. The audio file was an epic feature in and of itself. Post the play, and it will become as epic as…as…I’ll get back to you on that….

    BUT IT WILL BE EPIC.

    Anima Ex Machina
    Special 01: Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain
    This was amazing. I’m at a loss for words, so have these smilies instead:



    Now it is! \o\ At the time you posted, it wasn't, though. I was busy being slaughtered by one last final project. Luckily, I turned that in and passed with flying colors b)'')b
    Congratulations, you are one step closer to graduation, getting a job, and having to deal with something I call Bills (the slips of paper that demand money, not the person. Unfortunately)!

    But hey, it's the holidays, so it's like the one time when they can justify doing it.
    No! Don’t say that! People will start getting ideas!

    I seriously love you for this. XD Like, I literally have no words for how hard I'm lol'ing right now.

    And now, it's my new headcanon that Amanita totally has a massive crush on Bill. And that Bebe has a thing for S&M, so long as she's the S. Thank you, Absol. XD
    AT YOUR SERVICE! *salutes*

    I’m really happy you liked my crack-a-thon there. And I apologize for butchering all their personalities (especially the characters we haven’t met yet). My only defense it that I was sleep deprived and had a strangely strong desire to respond to your post with CRACK.

    What can I say? Your work is an inspiration to those of us who are utterly insane !

    I don’t know. I seem to like bouncing ideas off your story. Because...just because.

    Let me know if you ever get tired of me.

    Oh, true. I do like their rendition of Morty (and Eusine by extension), and "For Ho-oh the Bells Toll" is still one of my favorite episodes. (Love-hate bromance! Johto folklore! Pissed off legends deciding to *****slap humanity! What's not to love about that one?) His other two episodes were pretty good too, but something about that particular one just stands out, in my opinion. Probably the whole "pissed off legendary" thing.
    I didn’t like Anime Eusine too much at first, mainly because the impression I got from him was that he was a self-assured but polite person prone to crazy long-winded speeches. However, by the end of the episode I found myself liking this version of him. I, too, appreciated the rather strange relationship between two obviously opposite people that the writers portrayed as well as the mention of legendary Pokémon (though I was a little bummed Ho-oh never appeared when I first watched the episode). And Morty’s Gengar. Man, when he pulled Eusine’s face like that…it was gold (sorry for the reference pun). Pissed off legendaries are always good. Actually, I tend to like any episode concerning legendaries because most of the time it seems like they don’t exist outside the Pokémon movies’ semi-alter dimensions.

    And then Eusine decided he wanted to suddenly change his name and travel abroad to gain a different accent for that fail Pokémon Chronicles’ episode. I was so tempted to send an exceptionally angry letter to the people who were dubbing that day. So very, very tempted.

    Unfortunately, I'm a bit more cynical about the writers. XD

    On the other hand, your explanation also makes a bit of sense. I mean, in the other regions, for the most part, the E4 were shown and explicitly mentioned as being E4 members of other regions. Because Kanto and Johto share an E4, they probably didn't have an explanation as to why there were more than four members.

    But mostly, I just think they were lazy. >_>
    It’s a pity too, because I think they could have done a lot more with Will and Karen’s characters. At least, a lot more than they could with typical COTD blah blah junk. I mean, they could have at least shed some light and give a little background story, because they seem to be the most ignored E4 memb. in the games. I want to know why he seems so attached to that darn mask. And I don’t want to read the manga, because I have a horrible feeling that doing so might screw up my entire story I had planned for my fic. Besides, I heard that people die in it.

    Unfortunately. I mean, she's a cool character and all, but her second appearance was pretty much a rehash of her first. She got another Ditto with another unique problem (although instead of being unable to change its face, it was unable to change its height). Team Rocket stole it because they wanted it for their specific schemes. Then it changes things up a bit because her new Ditto never overcomes its problems, but Team Rocket still gets defeated in pretty much the same way as they always did. And then everyone lived happily ever after.

    Really, the only important thing this episode brought up (besides "LOL HEY LET'S GO CAMEO A CHARACTER WHO ISN'T AT ALL IMPORTANT TO THE GAMES") was the fact that Jessie's Wobbuffet can use Mirror Coat. Except if you have a Wobbuffet in the games, you should already know that it should be able to do that, so… yeah.
    Don’t get me wrong, I loved Duplica when I was a kid; especially when she and the gang dressed up as Team Rocket and said their motto. But this Johto episode sounds boring.

    THE WOBBUFFET IN THE GAMES HATE ME. No, seriously. Their nature makes it impossible to run away, and they always spam Destiny Bond on me. So I’m out of Pokémon after 6 battles, even though I’m stronger than them. And I’m like -.-

    Haha, if only they actually gave it that point. Or a point at all.
    Brock: Now that I got myself a Ditto…Ditto! Transform!
    Ditto: *transforms into Nurse Joy*
    Brock: Heehee…I knew being a Breeder would pay out.

    But Brock eventually grew tired of his Ditto and decided to become a Doctor so that it would be easier to chase the real Nurse Joy.

    I'M A BIOLOGY NERD, OKAY? IT'S A COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY INNOCENT FASCINATION. 8|
    Don’t worry: I think a great majority of the world’s population shares this hobby to some degree.

        Spoiler:- ;-Yay, spoiler responses! \o/:
        Spoiler:- Spoiler Spoiler Response:


    Ok...so I was typing up my reviews for chapter one (yeah, I know I need to get caught up before you finish this book) and I noticed Chapter two's title:

    Anima Ex Machina: Two
    Helter-skelter, birds flew off with the fallout shelter.
    I got distracted. I listened to American Pie because of this for the first time in like ages, and when I heard “’Cause I saw you dancing in the gym” I couldn’t help but get this image of Brawly hanging out at his gym doing the Cha Cha slide.

    Brawly: Right foot let’s Stomp!
    Hariyama used STOMP
    Brawly: Left foot let’s Stomp!
    Hariyama used STOMP
    Brawly: Cha Cha real smooth.
    Hariyama: …???

    Now if only Hariyama COULD learn Stomp…

    And by the way…You thought you could get away with putting lyrics into your chapter titles, did you? Well I might have missed it the first time I read through them, BUT I NOTICE THEM NOW. Thought you could get away with it, huh? Thought you could just get away with it…WELL THIS IS YOUR PUNISHMENT:


        Spoiler:- Do not read if you didn't read Jx's list of people who are living and dead:


    NOW ON TO CHAPTER 1:

    Pokémon Symposium
    I looked this up on Bulbapedia and this was mentioned by a Professor Westwood in episode 66. Now I’m curious about this. Was this ever mentioned by anyone else in the Anime? Bulba won’t speak further.

    Hands pulled back green, curly hair as a face leaned forward.
    I see you’ve decided to fully immerse yourself in the Anime. I personally thought he always looked better with brown hair but *shrugs* green is cool too. We probably need more green haired people.

    A female, computerized voice finally broke the silence of the hallway.
    Every computerized voice is female. Except the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey

    David Bowman: I hate it when it’s my turn to be awake. HAL, give me the next instructions in a very seductive female voice please. I’m lonely.
    HAL: I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that
    David: Darn you, IBM!

    He was only a senior in his undergraduate career then.

    He was also twelve.
    Hey…Bill, my man. My buddy, my pal. Mind writing a dissertation for me? Please and thank you.

    It was too formal for his tastes;
    Says the man who wears fancy suits and has a British accent.

    Professor Yvonne Nettle
    Of course the Professor has to be named after a plant.

    "Don't be too hard on him," Oak said. "After all, a real researcher is never late."
    Oak smiled. "All I mean is that a researcher is never late because he arrives precisely when he means to."
    Would you mind explaining this concept to the Professors at my school, Oak? I tried telling them this myself. It didn’t go over too well.

    I only wish this quote appeared in “The Hobbit”, because then I could say “Look! It’s Gandalf and BILL-bo Baggins!” *Now waits for the pun ninjas to come and punish me for the horrendous joke*

    "Ah, the innocence of youth. It reminds me of a poem, actually. Would you like--"
    Don’t worry, Professor Oak! How about I compose a Haiku instead?

    Professor Nettle,
    You Do Realize You Have A
    Stick Up Your A**, yes?

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

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

    Granted, she was nearing fifty and had almost as many awards and degrees as she did years on Earth, but it was widely known throughout the complex that she was more than just a little anal.
    Even the Other
    People on Her Team Agree
    With My Lame Haiku.

    In the middle of the room were two clear boxes: one of them held a purple and white rat pawing at the sides of its cage, while the other...
    Though I’ve never read Pokémon Special (for reasons I think I mentioned above), I recently went over Bulbapedia’s info on Bill and it was mentioned that he was fused with a rattata in the manga. COINCEDENTAL FORESHADOWING?

    "Professor Fig,
    PLANT. It’s no wonder that few Professors like Bill; his last name doesn’t salute flora.

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

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

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

    "All right. Perhaps it is," he murmured. "But haven't you seen worse? How many years have you worked on the field, and why are you reacting like this now?"
    Talking to oneself: first sign of madness. Oh that’s right. This is Bill, the guy who frequently dresses up as Pokémon. Never mind.

    LET'S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN~!! (Chapter 24)

    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty-Four
    At noon in the desert, a panting lizard waited for history.
    WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA! Wait just a Dialgan minute. I thought this was going to the “let’s torment Bill because it’s his birthday!” chapter, not the “let’s torment AbsolXWolf for the lovely heck of it” chapter! Because I assure you, it’s NOT my birthday.

    AND YET I SEE A DISGUSTING LITTLE GREEN LIZARD WITHIN.

    Oh, how you abuse me, Jx.

    BTW, nice quote from the poet Stafford.

    "Pop quiz, boy." John moved the mouse, guiding the cursor over to the first window and maximizing it. "What is this?"
    Who’s that Pokémon??!! It’s….

    …oh, not that sort of pop quiz?

    "It wasn't. I never said these were researchers from Earth."
    I knew it. I knew all along.     Spoiler:- After all, it makes sense:

    "Tell me. What do you know about the Committee?"
    They’re aliens too!

    "Neither do we."

    The watcher shifted on his feet. "We?"

    "Yes. Last question."
    Oh hey…my last statement might actually have hit the money. Funny how, when I think of Bill’s father, I think of money.

    "Have you ever heard of the Agency?"
    Agency as in…the G-men? Or whatever Lance was a part of in the Anime.

    Last came a good chunk of the kecleon and wingull population – whatever couldn't make it back up the trees in time. It didn't take long at all before the populations of the route dwindled until only a handful of wingull and kecleon were left.
    YESSS KILL THE KECLEON. REVENGE FOR THE ABSOL. REVENNNGGGGGE

    "I'm sorry. I just can't do this," Bill said.

    What do you mean? Adam snapped. We must eat.
    Yes, Bill. You have to eat. Eat the Kecleon. NAO.

    In his head, Adam huffed. If you will not do what is necessary to fulfill our needs, then perhaps I should.
    Yay! Go Adam!

    The host let the conversation fall silent as he adjusted the berries in his arms. Behind him, the kecleon nearly completely vanished, and its stripe tilted and darted into the darkness between the trees. Bill didn't notice, however. He only continued forward, eyes to the parts of the sky he could see beyond the forest's canopy.
    >_<

    "Telepathy!" Bill gasped. His fingers dug into the tree trunk. "And a Psybeam! I knew it! You're a Psychic-type!"
    I have a feeling Tate has full control over his Ixodida because he’s always been very good at psychic abilities.

    Sort of. Think of it as the enemy of our enemy's our friend. You're going up against the empress. It only makes sense that we make sure you don't die along the way. That way, we've got better odds. Understand what I mean?
    Ok…maybe he doesn’t have as much control over his own Ixodida as I thought.

    "My name's Tate. The leader of the Mossdeep Gym, at your service!" He saluted with a wink. "And you're right. I'm an ixodida just like you, but I'm of the psychic type."
    And he lucked out, getting the very type he was good at. Bill, on the other hand…well even if he wasn’t terrible at raising Pokémon, we’ve still yet to make a steel Eeveelution.

    "Was that… Shadow Sneak?" he muttered.

    As soon as he voiced his guess, green scales appeared around the stripe until the kecleon came into view.

    "Leon!" it called.
    GAH! It came back!

    While they disappeared into the forest, the kecleon sat beside the trunk of the tree and watched them leave. Then, it quickly stuffed as many aspear berries into its mouth as it could before getting up and rushing after them. With each step, its scales blended in with the forest around it until it was nothing more than a red stripe following closely behind Bill and Tate.
    ……
    It may not be as elegant as Stafford’s, but allow me to add another stanza on his poem:

    And there the lizard stood waiting patiently,
    At the Bomb Testing Site. It knew very well
    The dangers within and the unknown that lay beyond
    But that didn’t stop it from getting blown up.

    That’s right, random kecleon. This means war.
    Last edited by AbsolXWolf; 1st January 2012 at 12:39 AM.
    Fanfiction:
    The Twisted Child of Johto

    http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=543996

    Official from Oscars Thread ^

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    I made this ^

  9. #209

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    Tracey, Tracey, Tracey. What has John dragged you into? But this, THIS, just brings a million questions to mind. Five years ago? Not from Earth? How much does Bill's father know, and what is he exactly planning to do about this? This was like a movie trailer, giving only enough to make us string our own theories and wanting more.

    Aww, somehow imagining Bill hunting for Pokemon to eat makes me sad. From promising scientist to an alien-hybrid reduced to hunting for a meal. Once again we get to see how transformations change people, even if they still have their human minds intact. Adapt or die, right? It's one of those chilling aspects of the story that you really manage to bring to life, Jax. Kudos!

    That Kecleon! So adorable! I can just imagine it following Bill everywhere, like a stray dog or something. It's also a handy fighting partner to have as backup. I might shed a tear if an ixodida ends up killing it. ;-; /has jinxed it

    I agree that Tate, as intelligent as he may be, is still a kid. I couldn't help but laugh at how offended he seemed about being forgotten mid-fight. I certainly think Tate and Bill can learn from each other once things settle down. (I don't know how willing Adam may be on this idea, especially since Tate admitted Adam shouldn't be trusted.)

    Domino, stop being a creeper!

    Gah, can't wait for more! Great job!

    And Happy Birthday, Bill! Have some Aspear Berries!

    - Kat
    Last edited by Phantom Kat; 1st January 2012 at 10:50 PM.


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  10. #210
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    Like the other reviewers before me, wow so the report isn't from Earth, eh? Quite a revelation point there. I'm really interested more over where you're going with this.

    I enjoyed Tate in this chapter. Indeed many people forget he's still quite young despite being a gym leader, so glad you had some childish qualities to him. No surprise there though that he figured out Adam and warn Bill about him. And ha, there you are Domino! Looks like round two with Bill vs. Domino is about to happen soon.

    Overall I enjoyed this chapter a lot moreso with the beginning and Bill and Tate's interactions. Can't wait for next chapter!


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  11. #211
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    So sorry for the lateness! Had been busy lately. >.>;
    Haha, I know how that feels. XD;

    Hahaha, awkward moment there when Bill suggested Attraction.
    And knowing him, he's probably completely unaware of the implications.

    (But that's totally getting explored.)

    The action with him and Domino was quite nice (and so is one of her codenames Sienna, hehe).
    *high fives for getting the joke*

    Nice development of him, espeically the mention of him wanting to be the protector/guardian for the Caravan folk that can't fight.
    Thank you!

    Other stuff I like a lot are the appearances of Wallace and Steven, especially him going to teach him steel type moves which I look forward to.
    Oh yes. That's definitely going to be a fun scene to describe, especially now that Tate's shown up.

    Also, now that we all can pretty much figure out it'll probably involve a lot of Metagross-induced pain. (It's okay, guys! Bill's armor is meant to withstand point-blank missile strikes! We think!)

    Like the little backstory you have with Tracy there and also I can see him doing clerical type stuff in Polaris. Haha over Ariana not liking John with Tracy there. Wondering what kind of help John wants from Tracy, though. Hm...
    Bwahahahahaaaaa. *tents fingers*

    I feel really sorry for Hope after her backstory with her being attacked by the ixodida. Poor her. :<
    Aww, don't worry. She's got at least two characters who will look out for her. Aaaand I'm bound and determined to give at least her a happy ending.

    Over the part with Bill and Adam finally seeing what's left of Mauville City...all I'm going to say is woah. D: I also really like how you develop Lanette's conflicted feelings over Bill and him being an ixodida, very nicely done there.
    Thank you~! Those parts were the most fun to write, I have to say.

    Also, Pandora seems interesting too. I remember her from the original version of this story, though not sure if she was mentioned in this version. Sorry. XD;
    Totally cool. She's been in a handful of chapters. Off the top of my head, I can remember that she was the one in the tape shown at the very beginning of the fic. Then, she was mentioned a few times by characters here and there, and then she popped up by Lilith's side after the Lord of the Skies was offed. I think that's about it, really.

    Can't wait to see what her role this time will be.
    Empress lackey. ;D

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    lol Domino. I knew she would eventually get back at you, the author, for making Bill a slightly-better battler.
    Inorite? She's one slippery little *****.

    Haha, if you think you're fake English accent is bad, you shouldn't hear mine. It's... quite interesting, to say the least. xD;
    High five! We should just do the entire audiobook together and do terrible things to English accents.

    I actually recorded myself reading the prologue once! It didn't turn out so well.
    Aww! If you still have it, I'd love to hear it!

    Eek, I'm so excited to draw more fanart for AEM because I've totally changed my shading style and how I draw humans. Plus, I've gotten this new art program that allows me to make art much faster and cleaner. I already have some ideas in mind, like Lanette (with crowbar) and ixodida!Tate.
    Oh goodness, I can't wait to see all of this! ;_;

    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolXWolf View Post
    Thank you! ^ ^ It makes me happy to know that stupid, irrelevant, and sometimes awkward ideas that come floating into my head are at least enjoyed by someone.
    Aww, I don't think they're any of those things.

    DO ITTTTTTTTTT!!!

    Ethan: DO ITTTTTTT!!
    Kris: DO ITTTTTTT!!!!
    Red: DO ITTTTTTT!!!!
    Random Scyther: DO ITTTTTTT!!!
    Blue: DO ITTTTT!!!!
    Birch Joshua: DO ITTTT!!!!!!

    You see? I got 6 other people to agree with me!
    WELL, IN THAT CASE… POST PENDING!

    This was amazing. I’m at a loss for words, so have these smilies instead:

    *bows*

    Congratulations, you are one step closer to graduation, getting a job, and having to deal with something I call Bills (the slips of paper that demand money, not the person. Unfortunately)!
    Or at least two of those things in today's economy! \o/

    I’m really happy you liked my crack-a-thon there. And I apologize for butchering all their personalities (especially the characters we haven’t met yet).
    Haha, no worries. It'd be weird if you actually bothered keeping anyone IC in a crackfic anyway, so!

    What can I say? Your work is an inspiration to those of us who are utterly insane !
    This pleases me greatly. ;D

    Let me know if you ever get tired of me.
    Pfft, m'dear, you're only feeding my ego because I keep taking your stuff to be fanfic of a fanfic, which only makes me go, "LOL GUYS I'M A REAL BNF NOW."

    Soooo… if you should apologize to anyone, it should probably be everyone else for creating a monster. XD

    And then Eusine decided he wanted to suddenly change his name and travel abroad to gain a different accent for that fail Pokémon Chronicles’ episode.
    I like to pretend that special never happened. :|

    It helps that I stopped watching it after the first part (of three) and never picked it up again. Also helps that I only seem to find the dubbed version, not the subbed.

    Point is, yeeeeeeah, the side episodes. Totally keep up with them.

    And by that, I mean, "lol what side episodes?"

    It’s a pity too, because I think they could have done a lot more with Will and Karen’s characters. At least, a lot more than they could with typical COTD blah blah junk. I mean, they could have at least shed some light and give a little background story, because they seem to be the most ignored E4 memb. in the games.
    YES. THANK YOU.

    Although most of the Hoenn E4 would also like a word. Except Drake. We don't know how he managed to get his own episode while Phoebe, Glacia, and Sidney got shunted, but seriously wtf.

    But learning about Will's fondness for masks is also a priority here.

    And I don’t want to read the manga, because I have a horrible feeling that doing so might screw up my entire story I had planned for my fic. Besides, I heard that people die in it.
    Yeah, but then they get better via deus ex machina. Unless they're evil. And then they get killed off for real. Except one of them who got shunted into an alternate time dimension. And one who just won't ****ing die. And one who turned out to be a good guy in the end.

    Actually, I might as well just say right here that I've got many feelings about Special. Many violent feelings.

    Also, as a disclaimer, no, I'm not one of those anime fans who hates on Special because it's OMGSPECIAL. I hate on it because the art is mediocre, the characterization sucks all around, there are ***-pulls littering the plot, and if I meet one more Special stan (stupid-fan, that is, not fans in general) who believes that Special canon = games/anime (wtf)/every other canon besides Special, I'm setting a basket full of Skitty on fire.

    And I'm an Electric Tales fan and not a rabid anime fan, so there's that.

    (For serious, there's so many manga out there for this franchise alone that are just so much better than Special. I tried to like that series, but… no.)

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved Duplica when I was a kid; especially when she and the gang dressed up as Team Rocket and said their motto. But this Johto episode sounds boring.
    It seriously was. :| It was the most pointless cameo ever written, for serious.

    And I really want to make a mention of the fact that they didn't bother to bring back Bill, kicking off a long line of "let's ignore the storage system developers" that the anime writers pulled from that season until forever. Seriously, the hell, anime writers?

    Lol, this post is full of RAEG.

    THE WOBBUFFET IN THE GAMES HATE ME. No, seriously. Their nature makes it impossible to run away, and they always spam Destiny Bond on me. So I’m out of Pokémon after 6 battles, even though I’m stronger than them. And I’m like -.-
    Haha, can't blame you there, honestly. I just throw a high-leveled Pokémon at the ones I encounter and then proceed to stomp them dead.

    Brock: Now that I got myself a Ditto…Ditto! Transform!
    Ditto: *transforms into Nurse Joy*
    Brock: Heehee…I knew being a Breeder would pay out.

    But Brock eventually grew tired of his Ditto and decided to become a Doctor so that it would be easier to chase the real Nurse Joy.
    See, I would watch the mess out of that.

    Not… whatever Johto was trying to do.

    Which is sad because game!Johto is massively awesome.

        Spoiler:- Spoiler Spoiler Response:
        Spoiler:- Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Response:


    I got distracted. I listened to American Pie because of this for the first time in like ages, and when I heard “’Cause I saw you dancing in the gym” I couldn’t help but get this image of Brawly hanging out at his gym doing the Cha Cha slide.
    I'll take "Songs I Haven't Even Thought About Since Middle School" for $100, Trebek!

    …Oh, good times.

    And by the way…You thought you could get away with putting lyrics into your chapter titles, did you?
    *whistles innocently*

        Spoiler:- Do not read if you didn't read Jx's list of people who are living and dead:
    And by "doing this stuff," you mean "DO IT MORE OFTEN," right? ;D

    Seriously, though, that was beautiful. I'm a sucker for filk in general, so I had to lol all over for this one. Especially at that chorus.

    Also, just because of all the parts where you mourned for the loss of Absol, I'm taking that as a ~*~READER REQUEST~*~. Clearly, this means you should filk more often.

    I looked this up on Bulbapedia and this was mentioned by a Professor Westwood in episode 66. Now I’m curious about this. Was this ever mentioned by anyone else in the Anime? Bulba won’t speak further.
    Alas, no, which is a serious shame because it's an awesome concept. ;_; The Pokémon world's greatest minds congregating to discuss SCIENCE? Awesome! The Pokémon world's greatest minds forming an organization that regulates the flow of information, distribution of grants, and general massive competition between scientists? Yes, please!

    I see you’ve decided to fully immerse yourself in the Anime. I personally thought he always looked better with brown hair but *shrugs* green is cool too. We probably need more green haired people.
    I have to admit it's mostly because I got into fandom via the anime, so I feel a certain level of attachment to its characters because part of my mind is still like, "LOL EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHERS ARE WRITING ABOUT THE ANIME, SO I SHOULD TOO." I'm also a sucker for English accents.

    The brown-haired version looks pretty awesome in his own right (save for the neck in the FrLg art), but personally? Nothing's more awesome than the Electric Tales version. For serious.

    Of course, Toshihiro Ono just made everything look pretty, so there's that.

    Every computerized voice is female.
    This is true. There's just something soothing about a female computerized voice.

    Promising you cake.

    And accusing you of being a murderer.

    Before attempting to fry you in pits.

    Hey…Bill, my man. My buddy, my pal. Mind writing a dissertation for me? Please and thank you.
    His going rate is several thousand dollars a paper. Give or take.

    Of course the Professor has to be named after a plant.
    Naturally! *shot!*

    Would you mind explaining this concept to the Professors at my school, Oak? I tried telling them this myself. It didn’t go over too well.
    It didn't go well for mine, either! That's so weird!

    I only wish this quote appeared in “The Hobbit”, because then I could say “Look! It’s Gandalf and BILL-bo Baggins!” *Now waits for the pun ninjas to come and punish me for the horrendous joke*
    Agreed. We just have to content ourselves to thinking that Bill looks sort of like Frodo.

    If you squint hard enough…

    …To be Brock.

    Don’t worry, Professor Oak! How about I compose a Haiku instead?

    Professor Nettle,
    You Do Realize You Have A
    Stick Up Your A**, yes?
    *applauds for this accurate description of a character in actual haiku*

    I’m really trying to get the reference here but…I give up. What’s the quote from?
    o.o If there was one here, I've completely forgotten what it was.

    Even the Other
    People on Her Team Agree
    With My Lame Haiku.
    You described a character in haiku. XD That's what I call awesome.

    Though I’ve never read Pokémon Special (for reasons I think I mentioned above), I recently went over Bulbapedia’s info on Bill and it was mentioned that he was fused with a rattata in the manga. COINCEDENTAL FORESHADOWING?
    Haha, YES. That was, for serious, an actual accident. XD

    PLANT. It’s no wonder that few Professors like Bill; his last name doesn’t salute flora.
    Fun fact the first! This is a Bill M(a)cKenzie.

    Fun fact the second! The clematis (the species of flower this happens to be) symbolizes ingenuity in the flower language.

    Fun fact the third! This all is coincidence, and you're pretty much right here. XD

    Talking to oneself: first sign of madness. Oh that’s right. This is Bill, the guy who frequently dresses up as Pokémon. Never mind.
    They say there's a fine line between genius and madness.

    And that was just small talk because I'm sure we all know which side Bill stands on. ;D

    AND YET I SEE A DISGUSTING LITTLE GREEN LIZARD WITHIN.
    HE JUST WANTS A HUG. PROBABLY.

    BTW, nice quote from the poet Stafford.
    Thank you! You also get a rain of cookies for recognizing the quote.

    I knew it. I knew all along.     Spoiler:- After all, it makes sense:
        Spoiler:- SPOILER:


    No, actually…

        Spoiler:- No, seriously, this one is an actual spoiler.:


    Oh hey…my last statement might actually have hit the money. Funny how, when I think of Bill’s father, I think of money.
    As you probably should. The man is a gambler, a con artist, an entrepreneur of various legitimacies…

    Yeeeeah, there's a reason why Bill doesn't introduce himself with his family name besides the fact that he thinks it's pretentious for some reason.

    Agency as in…the G-men? Or whatever Lance was a part of in the Anime.
    Welllll… more like Agency as in this.

    Now you just need to figure out what in blazes John has to do with them. AND GO. ;D

    YESSS KILL THE KECLEON. REVENGE FOR THE ABSOL. REVENNNGGGGGE

    Yes, Bill. You have to eat. Eat the Kecleon. NAO.

    Yay! Go Adam!

    >_<
    Bwahahahahaaaa.

    I have a feeling Tate has full control over his Ixodida because he’s always been very good at psychic abilities.
    Pretty much. *nods* You'll find out why soon enough.

    And he lucked out, getting the very type he was good at. Bill, on the other hand…well even if he wasn’t terrible at raising Pokémon, we’ve still yet to make a steel Eeveelution.
    Also pretty much. XD

    As for Bill's type, well, he does work with a lot of machinery…

    GAH! It came back!
    It's like a boomerang!

    FROM HELL.

    And there the lizard stood waiting patiently,
    At the Bomb Testing Site. It knew very well
    The dangers within and the unknown that lay beyond
    But that didn’t stop it from getting blown up.

    That’s right, random kecleon. This means war.
    It's going to be awesome to note that Kecleon will soon become a recurring character. ;D

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantom Kat View Post
    Tracey, Tracey, Tracey. What has John dragged you into?
    Goooood question. ;D

    Aww, somehow imagining Bill hunting for Pokemon to eat makes me sad. From promising scientist to an alien-hybrid reduced to hunting for a meal. Once again we get to see how transformations change people, even if they still have their human minds intact. Adapt or die, right? It's one of those chilling aspects of the story that you really manage to bring to life, Jax. Kudos!
    *bows* Thanks very much! I'm pretty sure I totally told you this already, but that's pretty much my favorite theme in transformation fic in a nutshell. Luckily, Bill's not going to stay this low on the metaphorical totem pole for long, I assure you.

    That Kecleon! So adorable! I can just imagine it following Bill everywhere, like a stray dog or something. It's also a handy fighting partner to have as backup. I might shed a tear if an ixodida ends up killing it. ;-; /has jinxed it
    And this is why you'll totally be seeing more of Kecleon. ;D *ducks from the wrath of Absol*

    I agree that Tate, as intelligent as he may be, is still a kid.
    Thank you! I have to admit, rewatching his episodes really helped. He's such a fantastic and adorable character in the anime – so much of a kid you sort of have to wonder how he managed to become a gym leader besides because his sister is awesome.

    I certainly think Tate and Bill can learn from each other once things settle down.
    Absolutely!

    As for Adam's willingness, ha, probably not at all. Adam doesn't think Tate should be trusted either, after all. ;D

    Domino, stop being a creeper!
    NEVER.

    And Happy Birthday, Bill! Have some Aspear Berries!
    He'll probably need them, what with Pandora lurking around. XD

    On the other hand, I'm not sure if he can actually eat them, so that should be hilarious.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    Like the other reviewers before me, wow so the report isn't from Earth, eh? Quite a revelation point there. I'm really interested more over where you're going with this.
    Places that will be so much fun to write, seriously.

    I enjoyed Tate in this chapter. Indeed many people forget he's still quite young despite being a gym leader, so glad you had some childish qualities to him.
    Thank you!

    …Or they go by game canon and turn him into a massively creepy robot-like character. ._.

    Looks like round two with Bill vs. Domino is about to happen soon.
    Ooooof course. ;D

    Overall I enjoyed this chapter a lot moreso with the beginning and Bill and Tate's interactions. Can't wait for next chapter!
    Thanks! Hopefully, I'll be able to get it up soon~!

    And thanks for the reviews in general, everyone!

    As for that Christmas special, yep. Totally will be up later on today, I think. Just needs some edits.

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

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  12. #212
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    By special request, the real Christmas special! The script! Which has been slightly edited here and there, for those of you who have already read it! And I'm terribly sorry for all the violations to the fourth wall and other shenanigans that happen throughout it.

    ...Yeah, no, I'm not.

    Also, consider this to happen sometime in the near future. So, technically, it's full o' spoilers. But whatevs.


    Anima Ex Machina
    Special 02: I want an alien for Christmas.


    NARRATOR
    Twas the day before Christmas
    And progress was slow
    The Caravan still
    Had miles to go
    And supplies were dwind'ling
    And moods, turning sour
    And Thom and Veronica
    Fought once every hour
    So Vito told Lanette,
    "We should stop for the day
    Give us some rest
    And we'll be on our way.
    Tomorrow, we'll go
    I think that is fair.
    It's Christmas, after all
    We should stop somewhere."
    Although Lanette would
    Have something to say
    She agreed, for once,
    Because of the day.
    And so they stopped
    At a poké-center they found.
    All their engines turned off.
    All their feet hit the ground.
    And into the center
    Each of them went
    And there that holiday
    Each of them spent.
    So, dear reader,
    I hope you stay here
    As our favorite survivors
    Spread some holiday cheer.


    SKIT #1: THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

    (Opens up to the sound of tinkling and things being moved.)

    THOM
    Man, it was really lucky of us to find these ornaments in the basement. I mean, okay, not all of them are really Christmasy, but if you squint enough…

    VERONICA
    Thom, your hands had better be on the ****ing ladder! If you let me move just one inch, these lights are coming down, and if these lights come down, I'm using them to strangle you!

    THOM
    Hey! Would I really be the kind of person who will let you down?

    VERONICA
    Yes!

    In another part of the center, BILL is carrying another box of ornaments. He's humming "Sleigh Ride" softly to himself.

    ADAM
    Bill. What are you doing?

    BILL
    Decorating the pokémon center. It's Christmas Eve, after all.

    ADAM
    …Christmas Eve?

    BILL (after a brief pause)
    You don't know what Christmas Eve is?

    ADAM
    No. Explain it to me.

    BILL
    I thought you would have scanned that from my memories.

    ADAM
    Explain it anyway.

    BILL
    Well… I suppose. You see, Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas, which itself is a holiday meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

    ADAM
    Who?

    BILL
    A prophet. Or, well, there's a lot of controversy about that, but I suppose you'd get a better explanation from someone who's actually Christian, I'm afraid. The important thing to know, though, is that Jesus lived over two thousand years ago and had many, many followers. He taught these followers many messages about love and understanding, so today, people celebrate the day of his birth in honor of his messages.

    ADAM
    I see. But you say that you are not Christian. Does this mean that you do not practice his messages?

    BILL
    I feel that they're very universal, but no, I don't consider myself one of his followers.

    ADAM
    Then why do you celebrate a day in honor of a being you do not follow?

    BILL
    Well, Christmas isn't necessarily about Jesus anymore. To many people throughout the world, it's about his message of peace and good will towards each other. Every nation on this planet celebrates some form of Christmas, even though not all of them do so religiously, and all of the traditions are, at their roots, meant to be acts of love towards everyone we meet. Westerners give each other gifts to represent how much they mean to one another and to forge peace with the people around them. Here in Japan, Christmas is actually more of a romantic holiday because we emphasize the idea of being with someone just… on a different level.

    ADAM
    I see. And tell me, what is the point of all of this?

    BILL
    What do you mean?

    ADAM
    What is the point of celebrating peace when we should be more concerned about training to fight the empress?

    BILL
    Oh, come now, Adam. We all need a break once in awhile, and Christmas is a time when everyone should be happy. Relax. We still have plenty of time to train.

    ADAM
    Perhaps. May I ask you another question?

    BILL
    Certainly.

    ADAM
    What, then, is the point of these things you are putting on the walls?

    BILL
    What, these? They're decorations, Adam. Don't tell me your species never decorates anything for their holidays.

    ADAM
    We have no need for such frivolities.

    BILL
    It was a joke. Anyway, on Earth, humans decorate their homes for holidays to help them get into the spirit of it.

    ADAM
    The spirit of it?

    BILL
    Yes! There's something magical about a room full of decorations for just the right occasion. A human can't help but feel the excitement of the holiday.

    ADAM
    Then is that the purpose of hanging that on the doorway?

    BILL
    What, this? Oh! This is mistletoe. Or fake mistletoe, anyway. The real thing is a plant, not plastic. There's something a little special about this particular decoration.

    ADAM
    Special?

    BILL
    Oh yes. You see, it's a Western tradition to hang these in doorways or from ceilings because if someone stands beneath it, you're supposed to give them a kiss.

    ADAM
    Humans have strange traditions.

    BILL (amused)
    Perhaps.

    ADAM
    Why do you sound so happy? Are you waiting for someone in particular? That interesting female of yours, for example?

    BILL
    What?! No! Of course not! Don't be silly! I would never—

    LANETTE
    Talking to yourself again, Bill?

    BILL
    Ah! Oh, Lanette. You startled me. Um, I… well, you see…

    LANETTE
    Never mind. I don't want to know. Steven and Wallace are looking for you. They want to take this opportunity to test your abilities.

    BILL
    Again?

    LANETTE
    Again.

    (Pause.)

    LANETTE
    Well? What are you waiting for?

    BILL
    Nothing.

    ADAM
    She is standing under the mistletoe for you, Bill. Go ahead. Take this opportunity.

    BILL
    Shh!

    LANETTE (irritated)
    What was that?

    BILL
    What? Oh! Nothing! It's nothing!

    ADAM
    Perhaps I should take the opportunity for you.

    BILL (in a harsh whisper)
    Don't you dare!

    LANETTE (impatiently)
    Don't I dare what, Bill?

    BILL
    No! Not you!

    LANETTE
    Then who?

    BILL
    I… um… You know, Lanette, this pokémon center is coming along rather nicely! The decorations are lovely, wouldn't you say?

    LANETTE
    It's gaudy.

    BILL
    I… um. Well…

    THOM
    Hey! Way to go, Bill! You got her under the mistletoe!

    VERONICA (screaming)
    Don't let go don't let go DON'T LET AUGH!

    (Something crashes.)

    VERONICA (screaming)
    Thom, I'm gonna kill you!

    LANETTE
    Got her under the… what?

    BILL
    Um… well. I-it's true. You're standing under the—

    (She slaps him. Hard.)

    LANETTE (coldly)
    If you or that filthy parasite even think about touching me this Christmas, I will castrate you, gift wrap it, and give it to you tomorrow morning. Is that understood?

    BILL (squeaking)
    Yes, Lanette.

    LANETTE
    Good.

    (She walks away. Her footsteps – the sound of boots on floorboards – fade away after awhile.)

    ADAM
    Is castrating how you humans demonstrate the Christmas spirit?

    BILL (exasperated)
    No, Adam. No, it isn't.


    INTERMISSION #1: SNOW MISTRESS

    DOMINO
    Hey, Lanette! I've got a carol for you!

    LANETTE
    Oh gods.

    DOMINO
    No, listen! Listen! (She clears her throat and begins to sing.) You're Madam White Christmas! You're Madam Snow! You're Madam Icicle! You're Madam Ten Below! Friends call you Ice Princess; whatever you touch turns to snow in your clutch!

    LANETTE
    Altaria!

    (An altaria call sounds, followed by the sound of fire. A few seconds of pause ensue.)

    LANETTE
    I'm too much.


    SKIT #2: IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS

    BILL
    So you're probably wondering about the cultural differences between your world and ours. After all, mistletoe and egg nog are really western traditions, not Japanese. You see, years and years ago, our world achieved international peace, so as a result, different people from all across the planet from all kinds of cultures flocked to—

    THOM
    Hey, Bill! Who're you talking to? Your parasite again?

    BILL
    Huh? Oh no! I'm just talking to our readers.

    THOM
    Uh… readers?

    BILL
    Yes! Just beyond the fourth wall.

    THOM
    Whadda whuh now?

    BILL
    Just over there! See them?

    THOM
    …Is this some kind of crazy ixodida host thing I don't know about?

    BILL
    Of course not! Look! They're right there!

    (Significant pause.)

    THOM
    Lanette! I think Bill got into the egg nog!

    BILL
    What?! No! I—

    LANETTE (from a distance)
    That's it! Altaria! Dragon Pulse!

    (Sounds of altaria cries, fire, and BILL screaming. Possibly about the pain/his spleen/something along those lines.)

    THOM
    Seriously, Bill, sometimes I worry about you, man. Anyway, back to work! Yo, Vito! Where did you want this lampshade again?!


    INTERMISSION #2: SILENT NIGHT

    TATE
    Hey, Hope! How's it going? What're you up to all alone over here?

    (As Hope begins to sing her line, creepy horrific screams/sounds play in the background. Serious Halloween stuff, basically.)

    HOPE (singing creepily)
    Silent night. Holy night. All is calm. All is bright. Round yon Virgin Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.

    TATE (uneasily)
    Uh… wow. That's… that's a lovely voice you've got there. Say, um, I'm just going to go over here now. Quickly. While screaming.


    SKIT #3: JOHN MCKENZIE'S TOP FIVE HOLIDAY PICKUP LINES

    NARRATOR
    John McKenzie's Top Five Holiday Pickup Lines. Number five.

    JOHN
    Why, yes, there's a Mrs. Claus, but she doesn't mind me having a few elves. Want to sit on my lap and tell me what you want for Christmas?

    NARRATOR
    Number four.

    JOHN
    Would you like a partridge to go with your pear tree?

    NARRATOR
    Number three.

    JOHN
    Darling, my jingle bells can toll a not-so-ancient Yuletide carol. Would you like to listen?

    NARRATOR
    Number two.

    JOHN
    In case you're wondering, it can stay lit for eight nights.

    NARRATOR
    Number one.

    JOHN
    Baby, it's cold outside, so why don't we go back to my suite? I'll let you roast chestnuts by an open fire.


    INTERMISSION #3: SLEIGH BELLS

    (BILL is humming to himself. In the background, there's the sound of something tingling and someone's boots getting closer. After a few seconds, BILL breaks out into song.)

    BILL
    Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too. Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you. Outside the snow is falling, and friends are calling, "Yoo-hoo." Come on, it's lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you.

    (The footsteps stop abruptly.)

    BILL
    Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, let's go! Let's look at the show! We're riding in a wonderland of snow! Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, it's grand! Just holding your—

    LANETTE (interrupting)
    You have five seconds to let go of my arm and find something else to sing, or I'm jamming my crowbar into something that isn't protected by metal, Bill.

    (Pause. BILL clears his throat.)

    BILL
    Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!


    SKIT #4: THOM WATTSON'S TOP FIVE HOLIDAY PICKUP LINES

    NARRATOR
    Thom Wattson's Top Five Holiday Pickup Lines. Number five.

    THOM
    Hey, baby! I'm Santa! Wanna sit on my lap and tell me what you want for Christmas?

    RANDOM GIRL (gasps)
    Pervert!

    (Sounds of scuffling. THOM screams like a girl at some point.)

    NARRATOR
    Thom never uses numbers one through four. He's normally rendered unconscious until New Year's Eve after number five.


    INTERMISSION #4: SILENT NIGHT, TAKE TWO

    BILL (singing quietly to himself)
    Silent night. Holy night.

    TATE
    Hey, Bill! I was wondering—

    BILL (louder but unaware of it)
    All is calm. All is bright.

    TATE
    Um.

    BILL (a little louder)
    Round yon Virgin Mother and Child! Holy infant so tender and mild!

    TATE (heavily disturbed)
    Oh! Oh gods, not again!

    (He runs away, preferably screaming or babbling to himself. BILL stops singing for a few seconds.)

    BILL
    I wasn't that off-key, was I?

    ADAM (after a brief pause)
    …Too easy.


    SKIT #5: COOKING WITH NURSE JOY

    ELLEN
    Hey, Hope! You know what would be fun? If we baked gingerbread cookies! What do you say? Want to help me?

    HOPE
    Gingerbread men. All smiling, smiling. Can't catch me!

    ELLEN
    Er… okay! Chansey, you help too!

    (Insert chansey cry here.)

    ELLEN
    Okay, here we go. Step one. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. No problem!

    (An oven clicks on.)

    ELLEN
    Step two. In a large bowl, beat together one and a half sticks of softened butter and three-quarters cup firmly packed brown sugar until light and fluffy. Chansey, why don't you do that?

    (Chansey cries again. Afterwards, in the background is the buzzing of an electric mixer.)

    ELLEN
    While she's doing that, Hope, let's combine the dry ingredients. So that's three cups all-purpose flour—

    HOPE
    White. Shiro. Shi. Yuurei. Ghost white. Ghosts of Christmases Yet to Come.

    ELLEN (uneasy)
    Uh… I really like that story too! Now, a teaspoon of baking soda—

    HOPE
    Ebenezer got a happy ending, but Marley sits in chains. Shiro. Shiro. Shi.

    (Brief pause.)

    ELLEN (faintly)
    Where did I put the salt?

    HOPE
    Always watching, you know. Watching Tiny Tim. Waiting. Glowing red eyes on white like little peppermints.

    (Long pause.)

    HOPE
    I eat the heads off gingerbread men first so they don't suffer.

    ELLEN
    On second thought, why don't we just make gingerbread doesn't-look-like-anything cookies?


    INTERMISSION #6: WINTER WONDERLAND

    (BILL is singing quietly to himself again for a few seconds. At first, his lines aren't loud enough to hear. In the meantime, footsteps signal someone approaching.)

    BILL (singing louder this time)
    Then pretend that he is Parson Brown. He'll say, "Are you married?" We'll say, "No, man, but you can do the job when you're in town!"

    (The footsteps stop. Evidently, it was enough to stop LANETTE in her tracks.)

    LANETTE
    Excuse me?

    BILL (still singing)
    Later on, we'll conspire as we dream by the fire.

    LANETTE (irritated)
    Bill.

    BILL (still singing)
    To face unafraid the plans that we've made.

    LANETTE (more insistently)
    Bill.

    BILL
    Walking in a w—whoa-hey! (He stops singing, but his voice sounds incredibly nervous.) Hi, Lanette! Sorry, I didn't see you there! When did you – how long have you been standing there?

    (Sound of a slap, followed by boots stomping away.)

    BILL (croaking)
    Everyone's a critic.


    SKIT #7: EGG NOG

    (Throughout this part of the skit, ADAM can be heard in the background, ad-libbing various quips.)

    THOM
    Lanette, I think the ixodida got into the egg nog!

    LANETTE
    Which one? The small one that won't shut up or the big one who's an idiot?

    TATE
    Did you just compare me to a Chihuahua?

    THOM
    Um, if you mean the big one who's an idiot as in Bill, then… yes.

    LANETTE
    For the love of-- what did he do to his leash?! Who was supposed to tie him up out back?!

    THOM
    Can ixodida even drink egg nog?

    TATE
    No, seriously, did you just compare me to a Chihuahua?

    LANETTE
    Vito!

    VITO
    Yes, Lanette?

    LANETTE
    Weren't you supposed to make sure Bill didn't break out? What did you use as a leash?

    THOM
    I mean, I guess egg is a meat, but I'm pretty sure nog isn't.

    VITO
    C'mon, Lanette. Don't be heartless. It's Christmas! He's not going to hurt anyone, so why not let him sit with us?

    TATE
    I mean, I really have no objection to comparing Bill to a St. Bernard. Or a Great Dane. Or whatever you were aiming for. But a Chihuahua? Really?

    LANETTE
    Because he'll get into the egg nog. Who gave him egg nog, anyway?

    VERONICA (drunk)
    Sorry!

    LANETTE
    Officer Jenny!

    THOM
    What is a nog, anyway?

    TATE
    I guess if you were comparing me to a dachshund or a cute little terrier or something, I'd think it'd be a little less insulting, but a Chihuahua? Steven? Wallace? I'm not a Chihuahua, am I?

    STEVEN AND WALLACE (in unison)
    No comment.

    TATE
    Hey!

    THOM
    Hey, Nurse Joy! What's a nog? Is it, like, some kinda nut?

    ELLEN
    Um…

    VERONICA (now slurring)
    Yes, Thom. That's exactly what it is. We're drinking ****ing creamed nuts. It's a ****ing coffee.

    THOM
    Sweet! Oh wait! Can Bill drink coffee? Coffee's not a meat, right?

    VERONICA
    ...How is it possible for you to be that stupid?

    THOM
    I mean, is it considered a meat?

    ELLEN
    Thom, I think maybe you should sit down.

    TATE
    I'm not a Chihuahua, right, Hope?

    LANETTE
    Well, that's just great. Any moment now, we may have a violently sick ixodida. Domino! Keep an eye on him!

    DOMINO
    What?! Me?! Why me?!

    LANETTE
    Because I hate you.

    HOPE
    Mutt. Not Chihuahua. Mutt's more loyal. Lasts longer. Throw a mutt in the cold, takes longer to die of frostbite.

    TATE
    See? Hope doesn't think I'm a Chihuahua!

    STEVEN
    Tate, are you sure she's complimenting you?

    DOMINO
    How is that fair? Just because I'm the one who got him infected, the one who caught him, and maybe the one who made his life miserable, all of a sudden, I'm the one who has to make sure he doesn't puke everywhere?!

    HOPE
    Mange, though. Mangy mutt.

    TATE (plaintively)
    Hey!

    THOM
    No, seriously, coffee. What is it?

    VERONICA AND ELLEN (in unison)
    Sit down, Thom!

    LANETTE
    Then drag him outside and tie him to a tree or something! I don't want him vomiting in here! Honestly, why would you people give the ixodida egg nog, anyway?!

    (The gang break out into near incoherent shouts over each other.)

    BILL
    Um.

    (The gang ignores him.)

    BILL
    Excuse me.

    (Their volume increases.)

    BILL (shouting)
    Hey!

    (Silence.)

    BILL
    You all realize that I've been drinking water this entire time, right?

    (More silence.)

    THOM
    So what exactly is egg nog, anyway? I mean, are we drinking raw eggs or what?

    (The gang goes back to shouting over each other. Bill sighs in exasperation.)

    BILL
    Happy Christmas, Adam.

    ADAM
    And to all, a good night.


    SKIT? #8: CHRISTMAS CAROLING

    BILL (singing)
    Deck the halls with boughs of holly! Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la! Tis the season to be jolly! Fa-la-la-la-la—

    THOM
    Hey!

    BILL
    La la la la! Don we now our gay apparel! Fa-la-la—

    THOM
    Hey, Bill!

    BILL
    La-la-la-la-yes, Thom? (Yes, he does in fact sing the last two syllables to the tune.)

    THOM
    Y'know, a bunch of us have been really curious, and we've all been meaning to ask you.

    BILL
    Ask me what?

    THOM
    You've been either talking to yourself or singing ever since we got here. What gives?

    BILL
    Oh. That. Well, it's simple, actually. You know about Adam, right?

    THOM
    Your parasite? Sure. Everyone does. What about him?

    BILL
    I found out it's easier to drown him out when I'm singing. It drives him crazy, too.

    THOM
    Wh—

    BILL (singing and gradually getting more and more distant)
    Troll the ancient Yuletide carol! Fa la la la la la la la la!



    INTERMISSION #7: THE FINALE

    (Several piano chords are struck. Alternatively, this could be replaced by random guitar chords.)

    ELLEN
    We wish you a happy non-denominational holiday! We wish you a happy non-denominational holiday! We wish you a happy non-denominational holiday and a happy new year! Good tidings to you, whatever you are because we don't want to exclude you! And a happy new year!

    (The tune changes)

    HOPE
    The first Noel the angels did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay. In fields where they lay keeping their sheep on a cold winter's night that was so deep.

    TATE (not singing)
    Oh gods. Oh gods, no! No!

    (He runs screaming from the scene. The tune changes.)

    VERONICA (completely wasted)
    O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree! You are lookin' so fancy! Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree! Lucky you were set by Chansey! If Thom did it, then you'd be ablaze! If it was Bill instead, he'd be out for days!

    BILL (in the distance)
    Hey!

    VERONICA
    O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree! Lucky you were set by Chansey!

    (The tune changes.)

    THOM
    Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day, you gave it away. This year, to save me from tears, I'll give it to someone special.

    DOMINO (not singing)
    Okay, one, get away from me. Two, did you even have a girlfriend last year?

    (Pause.)

    THOM (dejectedly, not singing)
    No.

    (The tune changes.)

    BILL
    Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.

    VERONICA
    Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

    HOPE
    Make the Yuletide gay.

    THOM
    From now on, our troubles will be miles away.

    ELLEN
    Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore.

    TATE
    Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more.

    LANETTE
    Through the years, we all will be together. If the fates allow.

    BILL
    Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.

    ALL
    And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.


    SKIT #9: THE ACTUAL END

    (The tune changes to "Auld Lang Syne." In the background, there's the sound of wind.)

    BILL
    Lanette? Hey, Lanette!

    (Footsteps in snow.)

    BILL
    What are you doing out here? It's freezing.

    LANETTE
    Meditating.

    BILL
    About what? (adding quickly) If you don't mind me asking, that is.

    (Long pause. BILL sighs.)

    BILL
    Never mind. Just promise me you won't stay out here too long, okay?

    LANETTE
    It's a week until New Year's.

    BILL
    Huh? Oh! Uh, yes. Yes, so it is.

    LANETTE
    And it's six days until…

    BILL
    Until…? Oh. Right. It's not really a big deal or anything, Lanette. Don't worry about—

    (The sound of something shuffling here.)

    LANETTE (quickly)
    Happy birthday, Bill.

    BILL
    W-what? A present? For—hey! Wait!

    (Footsteps crunch in the snow, fading away into the distance until a door opens and slams shut.)

    BILL
    That was weird. I wonder…

    (Paper rips and crunches, and a box opens.)

    BILL
    What's this? Wait. She… huh. (After a moment, he starts singing quietly and wistfully.) Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne. For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne. We'll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.

    ADAM
    Bill.

    BILL
    Yes, Adam?

    ADAM
    Shut up.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 5th January 2012 at 1:01 AM.

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

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  13. #213
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    Sorry this review is so late. I needed the time to really be able to go over it well.

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post


    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty-Four
    At noon in the desert, a panting lizard waited for history.


    Keycard. Thumbprint. Iris.
    Don't know why but I really like the way you did this. It tells me exactly what happened, yet, you only used three words. It works very well.

    A door in the heart of Polaris Institute clicked open, and Tracey slipped into the room beyond it. The room was dark, and for a long while, he assumed it was empty until he could just barely make out the silhouette of someone hunched at a computer on the opposite end of the room. Clicking the door closed behind him, he let the room plunge into darkness save for the soft glow of the computer screen. The figure in front of it sat up and reached for a glass beside its monitor, letting the ice within it click against its sides before he spoke.

    "Did anyone follow you?" John asked.

    "No, Professor," Tracey answered.

    "Good. Come here."

    The watcher crept forward, his movements slow as he craned his neck to look over his superior's shoulder. He couldn't tell much from the screen itself. All he could see were two windows: one that contained black-and-white security footage and another that contained lines of code. When he was close enough to smell the alcohol in John's glass, he stood, waiting as John leaned back.
    Is it okay that I'm picturing Gendo Ikari and either Fuyutsuki or Kaji here? Because I kinda am.

    Also, what kind of alcohol is it, exactly? I'm trying to get an idea of just how close he actually is.

    "Pop quiz, boy." John moved the mouse, guiding the cursor over to the first window and maximizing it. "What is this?"

    Tracey squinted at the screen. On it, he could see an ixodida, the first of the two created at Polaris, talking to Professor Oak. The clip was muted, but Tracey had seen it enough times to know what was being said.

    "The Adam Tape," Tracey replied. "Doesn't that contain—"

    "Be more specific. What's going on in this clip?"

    For a second, Tracey hesitated. His eyes gazed with uncertainty at the back of John's head, but the researcher made no effort to show that he noticed the boy's apprehension.
    I don't blame him for being apprehensive. If ever there was someone with a hidden agenda, it's John right now.

    "Well? Don't be nervous now," he said.

    The watcher took a deep breath and responded slowly. "Codename Adam is agreeing to being studied, sir."

    "He's taking an awful long time to do it." John took a sip. "Tell me what he's really doing."

    For another second, Tracey hesitated. Then, he replied, "He's talking about ethics. Professor Oak is trying to tell Codename Adam—"

    "It's just you and me here, Mr. Sketchit. Call him by his real name."

    Tracey swallowed. The uncomfortable feeling in his head crept into every inch of his body, and suddenly, he wanted to be anywhere but right there, even if the man was one of his idols.
    Gotta give you credit, I'm as uncomfortable as Tracey is here. I can't read John's motives at all, so I cannot tell if he's doing this out of actual concern/compassion for his son or simply interest in his own goals.

    "P-Professor Oak is… he's telling Bill that he always has a choice in whether or not we could study him." Tracey's voice was quiet, and the slowness of his every word betrayed just how much thought he was putting into what he was saying. "But then Bill is saying that he doesn't have a choice… because he's a researcher first."

    "Poetic, isn't it?" John commented. He turned the glass in his hand, letting the ice slip to another part of its surface. "To pursue the truth, sacrifice is inevitable. Every good researcher knows that. Do you want to be a researcher, Mr. Sketchit?"
    That bit about the ice slipping helped give me a chill here.

    I'd probably be soiling myself if I was Tracey right about now, because it sure sounds like John wants to do some terrible things to him.

    The question came abruptly, and once again, Tracey couldn't help but stumble over his words in a mad scramble to respond. By then, John was grinning, knowing very well what was going on in Tracey's head.

    "O-of course! Yes! It's been my dream to study pokémon!" Tracey finally stammered.

    "Then you probably already understand what it means to sacrifice for it."

    Tracey straightened. "Well… I left home, if that's what you mean."
    NO TRACEY, THAT IS NOT WHAT HE MEANS.

    "Not entirely." John paused the video and minimized it to reveal the second window, the lines of code. "Second question. What is this?"

    For once, Tracey had nothing to say, and it wasn't because he was stumbling over his words. Staring at the screen, he couldn't make out any part of it. Some parts he could read. Words in Common and English were scattered throughout the text, sometimes indicating a computer code and other times forming a fragment of a sentence or a word taken out of context. The rest, meanwhile, was complete gibberish to him. Most of it were simply lines upon lines of text with characters from both languages thrown together at random. Others were nothing but symbols: angular, bold characters he had never seen before in his life. He didn't realize that his mouth had fallen open the minute he attempted to read the screen, and because of this, John had to chuckle.

    "Don't bother, boy. No rookie's been able to read this text without proper help. Here. Let me shine some light on this document for you."

    With one hand, John keyed in a command. The text flashed, and characters darted about the screen. Finally, the document reorganized itself into something Tracey could read: a scientific report that detailed the physical description – round body, transparent exoskeleton, eight legs, a mouth on its underside – of an alien that strongly resembled the pokémon he knew as XP-650. The only problem was the header, which contained the name of a research facility rendered in the strange language.
    It strikes me as a little odd that they were able to translate the report so easily, unless there was behind-the-scenes work going on to finish it prior to this.

    "What is this?" he asked.

    "A research report found in the encrypted files of the Committee's database," John informed him. "Tell me. What do you notice about this report?"

    "…Where did this come from?"

    "Ah! Good observation!" John placed his glass on the desk. "Project Stardust wasn't the first to study XP-650, you know. This report happens to be five years old."

    "Five years…?" Tracey leaned forward, eying the report in an effort to pick up on some detail he might have missed. "But how? If XP-650 originated from the meteor in Hoenn, then there's no way it could have been here five years ago."

    "It wasn't. I never said these were researchers from Earth."
    **** you, Jax. You finally ****ing did it, didn't you? Just when one thinks this story can't get any crazier, scientists from space!

    Just... **** you, you glorious, glorious troll.

    I would have had John leaning on his hands at this point.

    Immediately, Tracey stood at attention. His eyes fell on John, and his mouth clenched shut. Noticing the boy's reaction, John laced his fingers together.
    OKAY NEVERMIND. SCRATCH THAT.

    "Tell me. What do you know about the Committee?"

    "Not a lot," Tracey admitted, his voice squeaking with a strained tone.

    "Neither do we."

    The watcher shifted on his feet. "We?"

    "Yes. Last question."

    At this point, John sat back. He rested his hands just over his stomach as he gazed into his assistant's eyes. If there was anything he had learned by working with young and innocent trainers in Goldenrod City, it was how to work an audience. He knew he had Tracey's attention. He was just enjoying every second of holding it.

    And then, finally, he spoke in one last question.

    "Have you ever heard of the Agency?"
    And so it begins. The shadows behind the shadows begin to get light shone upon them...

    ---

    Ever since the invasion, the forests surrounding Route 118 had been quiet. The thing was that while the ixodida could climb trees, few of them bothered, opting instead to pick off the ground pokémon or move to a different location before trying to hunt the pokémon that hid in the treetops. Because of this behavior, zigzagoon and electrike were the first to go. Then came their evolutions, who were slightly more capable of fighting back. Last came a good chunk of the kecleon and wingull population – whatever couldn't make it back up the trees in time. It didn't take long at all before the populations of the route dwindled until only a handful of wingull and kecleon were left. The rest were far more adept at hiding or putting themselves out of reach. Or at least, they were marginally better than the ones that were killed.

    In the dark of the night, one example of a survivor made its move. A red, jagged stripe hovered over a branch, racing towards the trunk until it crawled onto its rough, black surface. From there, it began to descend, gliding across black bark for several feet until it came to a stop halfway up the tree. Beneath it, a pair of small, black eyes opened and darted in opposite directions like dragonflies over water. Then, a pink tongue lashed out from thin air to slurp at one of the eyes before darting right back into a hidden mouth. After that, the rest of the kecleon appeared, its emerald-green and golden-yellow scales shimmering into view. For a long time, it rested there, eyes scanning the forest for any potential predators, tongue lashing out of the tip of its pointed jaws.

    Beneath it was what summoned it there: a pile of berries, neatly placed at the foot of the tree. Although a variety of fruits lay on the ground, the ones that caught the kecleon's attention were the spherical, yellow aspear berries. Once more, it licked its lips as its eyes centered on the nearest one, and with its claws scratching against the wood of the tree, it scrambled down to the pile, plunged its hands into the fruit, rolled off the bark, and bowled through the feast and onto the ground. At last, it stopped, seated and raising the berry to its wide-open mouth.

    Then, something pounced on it.

    The aspear berry flew out of the chameleon's hands as it struggled beneath the steel claws pinning it to the ground. Its attacker reared back, his mouth open wide as a hiss rushed from his throat. He lunged, fangs bared and ready to tear into the kecleon's back, but before he could finish, he stopped. The kecleon lay still beneath his hands as one of its beady eyes cautiously gazed at the hunter. In that brief moment, he panted, his hot breath falling onto the lizard's scales.

    At last, he let the creature go.

    "I'm sorry. I just can't do this," Bill said.
    This is not where the Kecleon scene seemed to be going at first. Glorious trolling once again, seriously.

    What do you mean? Adam snapped. We must eat.

    Cringing, Bill held his head. "I know! I know! I just can't bring myself to do it!" Sitting up, he moved to press his back against the tree. "Sorry, Kecleon. You can go now. I'm not going to eat you."

    The lizard stood and tilted its head.

    Unfortunately, Adam wasn't nearly as forgiving. What are you doing? You cannot let all our prey go!
    What happened to all those Zigzagoon corpses he likes to mutilate?

    "Well, I can't very well kill it when it's looking at me!"

    Bill. They will all be looking at you when you kill them.

    "Exactly!"
    Not if you kill them from behind.

    In his head, Adam huffed. If you will not do what is necessary to fulfill our needs, then perhaps I should.

    At once, Bill's arm went numb. He watched it rise towards the kecleon while it still stood at his side. With a gasp, he reached up with his free hand and grabbed his wrist, pulling at his own appendage to keep it from moving towards the pokémon.

    "Stop it, Adam! I'm not going to let you—"

    This is for our own good. Stop resisting!

    "I don't care if it's for our own good! We're not going to—"
    Why didn't Adam just take over both arms?

    The kecleon punctuated this conversation by lashing its tongue out at Bill's arm. Its tip stuck to his forearm as if it was glued to his skin.
    Why am I finding this way cuter than it should be?

    May I kill it now?

    "No, Adam," Bill growled, "you may not."

    The lizard's tongue parted from Bill's arm with a snap, and it reeled back as the muscle retracted into its wide mouth. Then, as its arms flailed, it righted itself until it stood calmly on two legs. With an added "kec," it tilted its head once again. All the while, Bill, finally back in control of his arm, lowered his hand and stared at it.
    Nice touch throwing in a piece of Kecleon's physiology.

    So if we may not eat this kecleon and we may not eat the wingull you had found earlier or the carvanha in the river, then what, if I may ask, may we eat?

    "I'll find us something to eat," Bill promised. Then, he reached over and rested a hand on the lizard's head. "Just not this one."

    He stood, picking up as many of the berries as he could carry. Without a second glance towards the kecleon, he turned and walked in a random direction.

    "Perhaps we'll try a little bit further into the woods," Bill reasoned. "It'll be darker there, so maybe our victims won't be able to see us as easily."

    I highly doubt that anything awake at this hour would lack some way of detecting us, Bill.

    "Just trust me, would you?"

    I have no other choice, do I?
    Yeah, you do, Adam. Take over his body and use it to do whatever pleases you make him sustain himself.

    The host let the conversation fall silent as he adjusted the berries in his arms. Behind him, the kecleon nearly completely vanished, and its stripe tilted and darted into the darkness between the trees. Bill didn't notice, however. He only continued forward, eyes to the parts of the sky he could see beyond the forest's canopy.

    "Adam," he said after a few minutes, "we got away without another lesson today, but there's no telling what will happen tomorrow. I need to know what else we can do."

    You know I cannot tell you so easily.

    "Yes, but…" He looked to the side. "We're facing champions."

    Clearly.

    "League champions, Adam. They're the strongest trainers in this region. No ordinary trainers can beat them."

    Fascinating.
    Okay, I'll be honest, I feel like I'm getting a little lost at this point. Was there a timeskip at some point, or did I forget something from the past chapters?

    Ignoring Adam's disinterested tone, Bill paused and thought about the blonde Rocket agent. "And that girl, Sienna. She disappeared after our encounter, and there's no telling what she'll do next. Between her and those two champions, we may be facing one difficult fight after another, especially if I don't have an inkling of what we're capable of."
    Are we assuming that's her name now?

    In response, Adam remained silent. Bill bent down, placing the berries carefully at the base of another tree.

    "Adam?" he asked.

    You concern yourself with too many things that do not matter. Humans are of no threat to us. The ixodida are.

    "Both are equally troubling," Bill responded. "But speaking of which, what should we do if another ixodida like the one that knocked us out comes along?"

    An interesting question. Perhaps we should test that. Focus, Bill. What do you feel?

    Bill jumped to his feet at those words. He frantically scanned the area around him as he gradually became aware of a feeling inside him. It started as a nagging twinge at the back of his mind, but it quickly grew to a full-blown feeling of absolute dread – a cold, tingling, unpleasant sensation all over his body.

    "No," he whispered. "Oh no, no, no. Not now!"

    An iridescent beam blasted at him from somewhere between the trees. Yelping, he threw his palms towards it, summoning a green barrier just in time to deflect the attack. The beam slammed against his Protect and exploded, illuminating the forest with brilliant, white light. Bill flew into the tree trunk and dropped his feet into the pile of berries. The rest of his body began to sink, but bracing himself against the tree, he managed to remain upright long enough to peer out towards the darkness.
    Well done on the description here.

    "That power… It tore my Protect apart!" Bill breathed.

    Then ready yourself, Bill. Let your guard down, and it will not be your Protect that it tears apart next.

    He's right, you know, a boy's voice quipped.

    "Telepathy!" Bill gasped. His fingers dug into the tree trunk. "And a Psybeam! I knew it! You're a Psychic-type!"

    So the rumors about you are true! the voice replied. Steven and Wallace told me all about how you're supposed to be pretty smart, and at first, I didn't think you were such a big deal, especially if your hunting technique was that much of a joke.

    "Steven and Wallace…"
    So Steven and Wallace knew about the existence of another entity similar to Bill. Interesting...

    Bill lowered his gaze. Remembering Wallace brought only one image to mind: the look on his face that morning when Bill asked him if there was another ixodida nearby. He could still picture that smirk perfectly, and he let that image linger in his mind as he recalled the same unpleasant feeling that radiated throughout his body.

    "You… You're the one I sensed this morning!" he finally said. "That's why Wallace didn't say anything! You're on our side!"

    Sort of. Think of it as the enemy of our enemy's our friend. You're going up against the empress. It only makes sense that we make sure you don't die along the way. That way, we've got better odds. Understand what I mean?

    Pushing away from the trunk, Bill took several steps forward. "I hope you don't consider this to be rude, but I'd rather not have a conversation with you if I can't see you. It's bad enough that I already have one voice in my head."

    Can't argue with that. In fact, allow me to introduce myself.

    The underbrush directly in front of him rustled. Bill crouched, his fingers tensing in preparation to defend himself. The rest of him shivered, trembled in anticipation…

    …Until a figure much smaller than him emerged from the bushes.

    Bill relaxed as a dumbfounded look crossed his face. The newcomer couldn't have been much older than twelve before he transformed, judging by his diminutive size and the roundness of his boyish face. What struck Bill the most, though, was the fact that as the stranger approached, he smiled warmly, almost in a friendly manner.

    "My name's Tate. The leader of the Mossdeep Gym, at your service!" He saluted with a wink. "And you're right. I'm an ixodida just like you, but I'm of the psychic type."
    Who was talking in the above lines, Tate's true consciousness or the consciousness of the Ixodida controlling him?

    He is a rogue, Adam told him, but be careful. You were right in thinking he is far more powerful than he looks.

    "Relax, Adam. He's on our side." Then, with a smile and a slightly louder voice, Bill added, "Tate, it's a pleasure to—"

    Suddenly, he felt himself being yanked into the air by an unseen force. Before he was fully conscious of what was happening, the force smashed him into the trunk and pulled him back into the air to dangle several feet above the ground. He felt his throat constrict, as if a giant hand was holding him up by his neck. Choking, he opened his eyes to see Tate far below him. The psychic's entire body glowed blue as he held up a hand, curved as if it was holding something. Even worse, the smile that had been on his face just a second ago was completely gone.

    "Don't judge a book by its cover. Sometimes, the opponents you'll be up against will look exactly like friends at first glance, you know," he said. "You were wondering about lesson two earlier, right? Well, here it is. Wallace wants you to improve your reaction times, so he sent me to see how well you'd fare against my psychic powers. So, come on! Let's see you break out and hit me with your best shot!"
    I am seriously beginning to question if that line about "your opponent will look exactly like your friend at first glance" is applying more to Wallace than Tate himself. This reads like a standard invocation of Training From Hell but seems a lot more sinister.

    At the same time, fuzzy, white spots began to cloud Bill's vision. He strained against the hold, but as the seconds ticked onward, his thoughts became murkier and murkier.

    "Adam…" he croaked.

    Bill, I will admit it is impossible for you to win this match using the moves you understand so far, Adam responded quickly. Hold on. I will unlock a power for you. In doing so, you must trust me, and you must use this power without any question. Do you understand?
    Feels a little abrupt that he can learn new moves so easily, but it's not too bad.

    By then, Bill could no longer think. He simply nodded and opened his mind to Adam. At once, he felt the parasite slither across his brain and stab into his head like a cold knife. He tried to scream, but with little air, he found he couldn't operate his voice. All he could do was open his mouth, close his eyes, and thrash in mid-air. Below him, Tate's eyes flared with a brilliant, blue light as he braced himself and steadied his arm.

    "Something's not right," he murmured.

    The force encircling Bill's throat weakened and spread all over his body, but he didn't notice. He curled in the air and shook. His eyes glazed over, and for that moment, he couldn't see Tate or the forest. He saw in their places flashes of somewhere else.

    A room made of crystal. Light filtering through the walls in rainbow colors.

    A creature at its far end in flowing, white robes. Tall and lean with spindly arms.

    Violet, almond-shaped eyes. A blank gaze.

    A hand – his hand – rising, palm outward.

    In reality, his hand slowly rose. His fingers fanned apart as the jewel in his palm began to glow white.

    Tate's arm went slack slightly. "Hey! What're you trying to do?!"

    A voice echoed through his head.

    "So here we are."

    The vision began to fade, giving way to Adam's voice instead.

    Bill, do it now!
    Wait, what just happened? Did Adam do that, or was it Tate? Someone else entirely? And why? So many questions...

    This really is Evangelion

    He stretched his palm towards Tate. For one last second, he saw the figure in white open its arms as the air around it quivered. Concentrating on this image, he mentally pushed his energy into the jewel until it pulsed outward as a green orb of light.

    "Mirror Shot!" he called.

    The blue light in Tate's eyes dissipated as he widened them in shock. "What?!"

    With a bang, the orb exploded in the form of a brilliant, green beam. In seconds, it struck Tate in the chest, blasting him off his feet and into the brush behind him. With Tate's focus on maintaining Psychic broken, Bill dropped from the air like a rock, landing with a thud on the soft ground. He shook his head and pushed himself to his knees. As soon as the dull pain radiating through his limbs faded, Bill pulled out of a grimace and stared at his hands.

    "What was that all about?" he asked himself.

    Nearby, Tate yelled and jumped from the bushes. This time, he supported himself in the air with a pair of glowing, blue butterfly wings.
    Refresh me: does this count as a Flying sub-type, or is Tate just Psychic-type? I've forgotten if Ixodida can even be dual-types, forgive me.

    "Okay!" he snapped. "You might've had a lucky shot that time, but now, I'm about to get serious! Wallace sent me out here to test you, and I'm gonna do it! So ready or not, here I—"

    Abruptly, he was interrupted by something invisible slamming into his back. With a startled cry, he pitched forward and crashed into the ground, face-first. A jagged, red stripe bounced off a spot between his shoulder blades and arced into the air until it came to land beside the pile of berries Bill had set up. In the meantime, Bill watched the events unfold, and once the stripe landed, he blinked.

    "Was that… Shadow Sneak?" he muttered.

    As soon as he voiced his guess, green scales appeared around the stripe until the kecleon came into view.
    I get the feeling this thing isn't going to be done anytime soon.

    "Leon!" it called.

    For a few seconds, Bill simply stared at it. Then, he straightened in realization. "Wait! You're… you're not the kecleon from earlier, are you?!"

    It nodded. "Kec!"

    He knitted his eyebrows. "I don't understand. Why are you following me?"

    "Kec! Kec kec kecleon!"

    "You… want the aspear berries I gathered?"

    "Kec!"

    He groaned. "You do realize that I was trying to use those berries to catch you so I could eat you, right?"

    "Leeeon?"

    With a sigh, he waved a hand in the air. "Take as much as you'd like. I can't eat any of it, and at this rate—"

    "Hey!"

    Bill paused and then looked back towards Tate. The boy was once again on his feet with his butterfly wings still in full view. His fists were clenched, and he exerted as much effort as possible to stare daggers at his elder.

    "Did you forget about me?!" he snapped.
    Kecleon must really love those Berries if it's willing to risk its life for them like this.

    "Sorry," Bill replied as he reached up and rubbed the back of his neck. "Actually…"

    The kecleon interrupted by lashing out its tongue and smacking the tip of it against Tate's forehead. Instantly, the psychic's eyes widened and blanked as the lizard's tongue stroked his skin once and slithered back into its mouth. As he watched this, Bill stood and crossed his arms.

    "And that was Lick. As eccentric as this kecleon may be, it certainly knows how to fight according to type," Bill commented.

    Then, Tate leaned back. His wings faded away with a sparkle, and he collapsed backwards until he lay flat on the ground, hands sticking up in the air and twitching.

    "Tate!" Bill gasped as he stooped down and grasped one of the psychic's arms. "Paralysis. And it looks like you took a lot of damage in addition to that. Hold on! I'll take you back to the Caravan! Ellen should be able to help you!"

    With that, he scooped the boy into his arms and stood. Tate shivered and tried to resist, but his joints locked up, rendering him unable to do much else but let his arms and legs dangle. He looked up, straining to look at the face of his former opponent as the latter carried him into the brush.

    "Hey, Bill?" he finally said.

    "Yes, Tate?"

    The psychic reached up and placed a hand on his companion's head. Bill stopped, freezing completely as he felt a presence enter his mind and surround a part of him before Adam resurfaced. In that single part, he heard Tate's voice.

    I wouldn't trust Adam if I were you.
    I'm not sure whether to trust him or not and I've almost known him for longer! So I wonder if I should be careful or not...?

    As soon as those words were passed from one ixodida to the other, the presence retreated. Then, at the piece of advice, Bill couldn't help but force himself to smile as he continued forward.

    "I know that," he said.

    While they disappeared into the forest, the kecleon sat beside the trunk of the tree and watched them leave. Then, it quickly stuffed as many aspear berries into its mouth as it could before getting up and rushing after them. With each step, its scales blended in with the forest around it until it was nothing more than a red stripe following closely behind Bill and Tate.

    At the same time, Domino smiled from her perch in one of the trees. She drew a tulip close to her mouth to hide her amusement.

    "So you learned a new move," she drawled. "Big deal. That just means this will be even more… interesting."

    As a giggle escaped her mouth, she tossed the flower towards the ground and leapt from branch to branch to follow the ixodida.
    And then she returns. Of course she had to for a chapter like this.

    Well, I liked it. I have nothing terribly negative to say. I do think that it felt a little bit rushed at times with all the different new things coming out of nowhere, and the way this chapter doesn't have many apparent connections to the immediate prior chapter feels a little disjointed on the surface.

    With those complaints out of the way, I have to say that once again you did an excellent job delivering well-written plot in a rich, descriptive manner. That continues to be one of your strongest suits and you just keep getting better at it. The big twist in this chapter, John's revelation about the Committee's true origins, brings the story onto an entirely new level, and you're better off for it.

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  14. #214
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Sorry this review is so late. I needed the time to really be able to go over it well.
    Totally A-OK. I just think it's awesome that you're able to leave a review at all. :D

    Don't know why but I really like the way you did this. It tells me exactly what happened, yet, you only used three words. It works very well.
    Thank you!

    Is it okay that I'm picturing Gendo Ikari and either Fuyutsuki or Kaji here? Because I kinda am.
    Haha, AS YOU SHOULD. I have to admit that John isn't nearly as much of a hard-hearted bastard as Gendo is, but the fact that you're reminded of Gendo when you read this part is totally a good thing.

    Also, what kind of alcohol is it, exactly? I'm trying to get an idea of just how close he actually is.
    Scotch on the rocks. ;)

    More specific because John is a ~*~classy fellow~*~, it's probably a Glenkinchie single malt. Which, yes, he normally drinks straight, but he's watering down his whisky while in Polaris to avoid seeming too drunk. (My excuse is that Oak's letting him drink so long as he's still somewhat functional at the end.)

    I don't blame him for being apprehensive. If ever there was someone with a hidden agenda, it's John right now.
    Pretty much. ;D

    Gotta give you credit, I'm as uncomfortable as Tracey is here. I can't read John's motives at all, so I cannot tell if he's doing this out of actual concern/compassion for his son or simply interest in his own goals.
    This part now makes me excited to explore their relationship a bit more. John really is a complex person (as in, lol at trying to explain him in a sentence), and how he feels about his own son is actually an intensely complicated issue.

    That bit about the ice slipping helped give me a chill here.
    Pun intended? XD

    I'd probably be soiling myself if I was Tracey right about now, because it sure sounds like John wants to do some terrible things to him.
    *cackles madly*

    Seriously, though, don't worry. If anything, Tracey's going to turn into a serious hero in a few chapters. ;D

    NO TRACEY, THAT IS NOT WHAT HE MEANS.
    Haha, the way you say this makes me think that John's saying something dirty here.

    ...Which actually would be in-character for him but still.

    It strikes me as a little odd that they were able to translate the report so easily, unless there was behind-the-scenes work going on to finish it prior to this.
    Ooooh yes. ;D I can't wait to the point were I can elaborate on that because you'll probably be swearing at me some more.

    **** you, Jax. You finally ****ing did it, didn't you? Just when one thinks this story can't get any crazier, scientists from space!

    Just... **** you, you glorious, glorious troll.
    *bows*

    Every sci-fi movie is getting featured. Every one. ;D

    I would have had John leaning on his hands at this point.

    OKAY NEVERMIND. SCRATCH THAT.
    XD You're welcome.

    And so it begins. The shadows behind the shadows begin to get light shone upon them...
    Yep. And it's only going to continue from here. As many doors as possible are getting blown wide open here because we're careening towards the end of book one.

    This is not where the Kecleon scene seemed to be going at first. Glorious trolling once again, seriously.
    Thank you! \o/

    What happened to all those Zigzagoon corpses he likes to mutilate?
    All the other Ixodida got to them before he did. :(

    Also, Thom.

    Not if you kill them from behind.
    Haha, tell this to Bill. He'll probably complain that he can hear them scream in surprise before he puts them out of their misery.

    Why didn't Adam just take over both arms?
    Rule of Funny. Good question. Probably because it figured it was easier to control just the arm closest to Kecleon until Bill started fighting back with the other.

    But really, that's probably just a plot hole right there. XD; I'll think about what to add to that scene to avoid that question while still ending with that cute bit about Kecleon sticking its tongue to Bill's arm.

    Why am I finding this way cuter than it should be?
    Because Kecleon is the adorable not-so-fuzzy mascot. ;D

    Nice touch throwing in a piece of Kecleon's physiology.
    Thank you~!

    Yeah, you do, Adam. Take over his body and use it to do whatever pleases you make him sustain himself.
    The other thing I love about transformation fics: so many things can be taken so wrong.

    Okay, I'll be honest, I feel like I'm getting a little lost at this point. Was there a timeskip at some point, or did I forget something from the past chapters?
    There was a slight timeskip, yep. It actually happened in the middle of the last chapter. Basically, the first half of Twenty-Three took place in the morning, but the last half took place in the middle of the night. This chapter takes place at the exact same time as that latter half.

    Are we assuming that's her name now?
    Nah, just Bill. And he'll probably keep switching names every time he sees her just to annoy her. The others will settle on a name the more she shows up.

    Well done on the description here.
    Ah! Thank you! For that part, I really wanted to get across the heart-pumping feel Bill was experiencing while anticipating the attack, so it's cool to hear that it works. :D

    So Steven and Wallace knew about the existence of another entity similar to Bill. Interesting...
    Yep. Even traveled with him up until now. ;D You'll get that backstory eventually too (although I have to say it's not as interesting as Hope's or Lanette's).

    Who was talking in the above lines, Tate's true consciousness or the consciousness of the Ixodida controlling him?
    Good question!

    But I have to be massively disappointing and say it's Tate's true consciousness. He's a complete rogue (not a partial one like Bill), and the reason why will become a plot point soon.

    I am seriously beginning to question if that line about "your opponent will look exactly like your friend at first glance" is applying more to Wallace than Tate himself. This reads like a standard invocation of Training From Hell but seems a lot more sinister.
    Haha, I'd say it applies to everyone. Poor Bill's stuck in the middle of a hornet's nest.

    Feels a little abrupt that he can learn new moves so easily, but it's not too bad.
    Yeah, that's probably the last time you'll see Bill learn via mind-meld. Like Adam says, it's generally better for Bill to learn on his own because he'll have a better grasp on his attacks than he would if he just abruptly learned them.

    ...And you'll see why this is so when he goes to train with Steven and Wallace, definitely. ;)

    Wait, what just happened? Did Adam do that, or was it Tate? Someone else entirely? And why? So many questions...
    Oh, definitely Adam. Only thing I can tell you at this point is that this is a side effect of mind-melding. Also, that it's part of Adam's memories.

    And now, you'll just have to wonder just what happened there. ;D

    This really is Evangelion
    *cackles again*

    Well, Evangelion is on my long list of inspirations for this fic.

    Refresh me: does this count as a Flying sub-type, or is Tate just Psychic-type? I've forgotten if Ixodida can even be dual-types, forgive me.
    All Ixodida are actually dual-types, but Flying isn't actually one of them. Because I'm pretty sure I'll never get to the part I had in mind where revealing this becomes a plot point, I'll just say that the second type is Bug. So, Tate is actually Psychic/Bug, and the reason why Bill takes massive damage from Fire-type moves is because he's cursed to be Steel/Bug. (On the positive side, while Tate is given a number of weaknesses by his second type, Bill's only weakness should be Fire. This, of course, doesn't stop him from getting curb-stomped, so the fact that he does by everything should tell you something.)

    I get the feeling this thing isn't going to be done anytime soon.
    Haha, nope!

    Yeah, Bill's probably going to go up against the empress without having trained even a bit at this rate.

    Kecleon must really love those Berries if it's willing to risk its life for them like this.
    Yep. XD It's a lax-natured Kecleon.

    I'm not sure whether to trust him or not and I've almost known him for longer! So I wonder if I should be careful or not...?
    *whistles innocently*

    And then she returns. Of course she had to for a chapter like this.
    Naturally. ;D

    Well, I liked it. I have nothing terribly negative to say. I do think that it felt a little bit rushed at times with all the different new things coming out of nowhere, and the way this chapter doesn't have many apparent connections to the immediate prior chapter feels a little disjointed on the surface.
    I do have to agree with you about this. It was actually done this way because the alternatives were either to:

    A. Adjust the end of the last chapter so that it didn't take place in the middle of the night.
    B. Write a chapter that basically goes back in time in order to address the time that passed between both halves of Twenty-Three.

    While B would technically be do-able (and was my original plan), I felt like it would be rather awkward to explain why the timeline was skipping around so much. Not to mention I really wanted to have Bill meet Tate when he was alone, rather than when there were people all around him. That offered a more intimate meeting to let Bill get more in touch with Ixodida than with humans, if that makes sense.

    So the alternative would be going with option A and maybe filling in a few details that lead up to the meeting, but... I dunno. I've yet to figure out how the bridge between Wallace's confrontation and Tate's proper introduction would work, so there's that too. I'll definitely keep it in mind as I'm continuing with the ongoing edit blitz. Maybe I'll be able to come up with something as I go, but let me just say that's definitely a valid point.

    With those complaints out of the way, I have to say that once again you did an excellent job delivering well-written plot in a rich, descriptive manner. That continues to be one of your strongest suits and you just keep getting better at it. The big twist in this chapter, John's revelation about the Committee's true origins, brings the story onto an entirely new level, and you're better off for it.
    Thanks very much! Aww, you really make me blush sometimes. But for serious, I have a lot of fun constructing the plot and everything else, so it's really cool to hear that you're enjoying the ride. :D

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

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  15. #215
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    Wink Sound files! :D

    Hello! So those of you who were reading Jax's script for the Christmas audio-drama-play-thing that was meant to happen may or may not be slightly disappointed that it didn't come through as expected.
    You may also have noticed that in the hastily-written elaborately preplanned skit that replaced it, Valentine said this:
    VALENTINE
    Well, we've got to do something for the Christmas special, shouldn't we? I mean, we said we were all going to, and the only clip we have of the other actors is the file where all the guys demonstrate holiday-themed pickup lines. (pause) Actually, maybe I should post that file.
    In light of me being the one that actually has that file, I figured I would post it! If you do want to hear a bunch of the male characters of Anima Ex Machina attempting to pick up ladies, click here.
    If you want to hear Bill's Dad reading part of the first chapter of Anima Ex Machina, click here!




    Also Jax, thank you for writing this fic. XD

  16. #216
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    Pfft, m'dear, you're only feeding my ego because I keep taking your stuff to be fanfic of a fanfic, which only makes me go, "LOL GUYS I'M A REAL BNF NOW."
    Soooo… if you should apologize to anyone, it should probably be everyone else for creating a monster. XD
    IT’S ALIVE!!! IT’S ALIVE!!!!

    I’M SORRY EVERYONE ELSE, BUT I KIND OF DON’T FEEL LIKE STOPPING.


    I like to pretend that special never happened. :|

    It helps that I stopped watching it after the first part (of three) and never picked it up again. Also helps that I only seem to find the dubbed version, not the subbed.

    Point is, yeeeeeeah, the side episodes. Totally keep up with them.

    And by that, I mean, "lol what side episodes?"
    Yes, the sub is indeed buried under who knows where.

    And it’s very easy to pretend they never happened because they’re never ever mentioned in the "real" Pokémon series.

    YES. THANK YOU.

    Although most of the Hoenn E4 would also like a word. Except Drake. We don't know how he managed to get his own episode while Phoebe, Glacia, and Sidney got shunted, but seriously wtf.

    But learning about Will's fondness for masks is also a priority here.
    I’m guessing the writer had a thing for shirtless sailors at the time.

    But seriously, we need to know more about many important characters.

    Yeah, but then they get better via deus ex machina.
    I like deus ex machina. The concept doesn't always satisfy me all the time, but I love the phrase. That's how I became attracted to your story (before I wrote that little blurb in the writing help section that you so kindly answered). Oh...sorry...getting off track.

    Unless they're evil. And then they get killed off for real. Except one of them who got shunted into an alternate time dimension. And one who just won't ****ing die. And one who turned out to be a good guy in the end.
    Wow…talk about…er…being consistently random.

        Spoiler:- SPOILER:


    Actually, I might as well just say right here that I've got many feelings about Special. Many violent feelings.
    Also, as a disclaimer, no, I'm not one of those anime fans who hates on Special because it's OMGSPECIAL. I hate on it because the art is mediocre, the characterization sucks all around, there are ***-pulls littering the plot, and if I meet one more Special stan (stupid-fan, that is, not fans in general) who believes that Special canon = games/anime (wtf)/every other canon besides Special, I'm setting a basket full of Skitty on fire.

    And I'm an Electric Tales fan and not a rabid anime fan, so there's that.

    (For serious, there's so many manga out there for this franchise alone that are just so much better than Special. I tried to like that series, but… no.)
    …My desire to avoid Special feels suddenly stronger. I wonder why that could be…

    Perhaps it’s the sound of the Skitty in the back of my head saying “Curiousity killed the cat. Become attached to this manga and that will be a literal statement”

    And I really want to make a mention of the fact that they didn't bother to bring back Bill, kicking off a long line of "let's ignore the storage system developers" that the anime writers pulled from that season until forever. Seriously, the hell, anime writers?

    Lol, this post is full of RAEG.
    Yeah I kind of liked their characterization. …Why DID they throw him out, anyway?

    Haha, can't blame you there, honestly. I just throw a high-leveled Pokémon at the ones I encounter and then proceed to stomp them dead.
    Brawly: LEFT FOOT LET’S STOMP

        Spoiler:- Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Response:
        Spoiler:- Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler infinite Response:


    I'll take "Songs I Haven't Even Thought About Since Middle School" for $100, Trebek!

    …Oh, good times.
    And you have found the Daily Double!


    And by "doing this stuff," you mean "DO IT MORE OFTEN," right? ;D
    I’ll try I’ll try! ;.;

    Seriously, though, that was beautiful. I'm a sucker for filk in general, so I had to lol all over for this one. Especially at that chorus.
    Thank you, I do try! *bows* I'm thinking of fixing it up and adding as we go along.

    Also, just because of all the parts where you mourned for the loss of Absol, I'm taking that as a ~*~READER REQUEST~*~. Clearly, this means you should filk more often.
    I'll try if I'm not too busy ;.;

    Reader Request…Are you bringing an Absol back from the dead?! A ZOMBIEFIED ABSOL??? :’-D

    I have to admit it's mostly because I got into fandom via the anime, so I feel a certain level of attachment to its characters because part of my mind is still like, "LOL EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHERS ARE WRITING ABOUT THE ANIME, SO I SHOULD TOO." I'm also a sucker for English accents.

    The brown-haired version looks pretty awesome in his own right (save for the neck in the FrLg art), but personally? Nothing's more awesome than the Electric Tales version. For serious.

    Of course, Toshihiro Ono just made everything look pretty, so there's that.
    XD I can’t blame you there. English accents are win.

    Electric tales….If it has Kris or a lot of people from Johto I’m going to have to pass (for the same reasons I mentioned for Special). If not, I think I’ll read it.

    This is true. There's just something soothing about a female computerized voice.

    Promising you cake.

    And accusing you of being a murderer.

    Before attempting to fry you in pits.
    And then you make yourself some Glad French Fries out of a specific potato you happen to have.

    His going rate is several thousand dollars a paper. Give or take.
    Darn. Bill Gates said the same thing.

    You described a character in haiku. XD That's what I call awesome.
    She was cold-hearted
    Until her death, and then she
    Became Barbeque

    I think I know why Professor Oak likes Haikus: They’re pretty fun to make.

    Haha, YES. That was, for serious, an actual accident. XD
    It’s thanks to you and this story that I started reading up on Bill more often. (BTW, You wouldn’t have anything to do with a website called “Keeper” would you?)
    Fun fact the first! This is a Bill M(a)cKenzie.

    Fun fact the second! The clematis (the species of flower this happens to be) symbolizes ingenuity in the flower language.

    Fun fact the third! This all is coincidence, and you're pretty much right here. XD
    It’s…an actual real…I don’t even….




    MIND-----> BLOWN

    They say there's a fine line between genius and madness.

    And that was just small talk because I'm sure we all know which side Bill stands on. ;D
    The line of course.

    HE JUST WANTS A HUG. PROBABLY.
    ABSOLS EAT THEM FOR BREAKFAST. PROBABLY.

    Thank you! You also get a rain of cookies for recognizing the quote.
    I recognized the line, but I forgot the guy’s name and had to look it up. Do I still get cookies?

        Spoiler:- SPOILER:
        Spoiler:- SPOILER:


        Spoiler:- No, seriously, this one is an actual spoiler.:
        Spoiler:- No, seriously, yeah this one is too:


    Now you just need to figure out what in blazes John has to do with them. AND GO. ;D
    ....He lost a game of poker to them, didn't he? I keep telling him to stay away from the suspicious people with multiple eyes all over their bodies but DOES HE LISTEN TO ME?

    I blame Grimsley.

    Actually, you know what? Grimsley is probably an alien. Explains why he doesn't wear socks and has wings in his hair. Oh no wait. That's his hair.

    As for Bill's type, well, he does work with a lot of machinery…
    …ohyeah…

    I…I knew that. I was just…making sure you were awake and all. I’m looking out for ya, Jx!

    It's like a boomerang!

    FROM HELL.
    BURN IT WITH FIRE THEN.

    It's going to be awesome to note that Kecleon will soon become a recurring character. ;D
    =.= Jx, whyyoudothistome?

    And this is why you'll totally be seeing more of Kecleon. ;D *ducks from the wrath of Absol*
    WRATHWRATHWRATHWRATHWRATHWRATH

    Kat, listen to me. Don't fall for the tricks of this cold-blooded lizard. It's only trying to trick you so that it can lick you to death.

    Anima Ex Machina
    Special 02: I want an alien for Christmas.
    YES! Thank you, Jx!

    AbsolXWolf's Top 20 Favorite things about this (they're not in any order of least or most favorites. Except number 1. Number 1 is my favorite):

    Number 20: The beginning poem
    Number 19: VERONICA
    Number 18: Bill keeps on singing and singing and singing and…
    Number 17: VERONICA
    Number 16: Adam asking about Christmas (I’m sure Adam has good tidings on his world…war tidings still count after all)
    Number 15: VERONICA THREATENING TO KILL THOM
    Number 14: What the-? Domino?
    Number 13:
    THOM

    Seriously, Bill, sometimes I worry about you, man. Anyway, back to work! Yo, Vito! Where did you want this lampshade again?!
    What does Vito want with a lampshade? XD

    Number 12: Tate and Hope moments
    Number 11:
    ADAM

    Is castrating how you humans demonstrate the Christmas spirit?

    BILL (exasperated)

    No, Adam. No, it isn't.
    Grab some scissors and trim the tree.

    Number 10:
    LANETTE (coldly)

    If you or that filthy parasite even think about touching me this Christmas, I will castrate you, gift wrap it, and give it to you tomorrow morning. Is that understood?

    BILL (squeaking)

    Yes, Lanette.
    Aww…and here I was looking forward to a little more smoochies.

    Don’t worry, buddy. I’m sure there are other people in the caravan who like you enough to kiss you. I’d cite Ellen, but she doesn’t know you from Adam *rimshot* *get’s painfully run over by the pun ninjas in a semi-truck*

    Number 9: VERONICA THREATENING THOM IN GENERAL
    Number 8: I’m not really an expert on what a majority of girls and boys think is a good pick-up line, but I somehow doubt John is going to get anyone other than verrrry desperate ladies with those (and they’d probably have to be pretty drunk too). It’s a good thing Bill didn’t inherit his sense of style or else this story would be a little more painful considering the whole Lanette-has-a-blunt-metal-object-and-is-not-afraid-to-use-it thing. The whole pick-up line thing is hilarious though.
    Number 7:
    JOHN

    Baby, it's cold outside, so why don't we go back to my suite? I'll let you roast chestnuts by an open fire.
    …I think he just gave people permission to set his chestnuts on fire….

    THOM

    Hey, baby! I'm Santa! Wanna sit on my lap and tell me what you want for
    Christmas?

    RANDOM GIRL (gasps)

    Pervert!
    Ok, I give. Why was Thom interrupted but not John? They practically said the same things!

    Number 6: HOPE AND JOY HAVING A COOKING TIME AND HOPE BEING VERY DISTURBING
    Number 5: WHAT DID LANETTE GET BILL? MUST KNOW.
    Number 4: DID I MENTION VERONICA YET?
    Number 3: The fact that nobody knows what a nog is. (Come to think of it, I don’t even know what a nog is myself)
    Number 2: Bill being compared to a St. Bernard.
    Number 1: this:
    TATE

    I guess if you were comparing me to a dachshund or a cute little terrier or something, I'd think it'd be a little less insulting, but a Chihuahua? Steven? Wallace? I'm not a Chihuahua, am I?

    STEVEN AND WALLACE (in unison)

    No comment.

    TATE

    Hey!
    BILL

    I wasn't that off-key, was I?

    ADAM (after a brief pause)

    …Too easy.
    This I don't understand.

    Quote Originally Posted by boc View Post
    Hello! So those of you who were reading Jax's script for the Christmas audio-drama-play-thing that was meant to happen may or may not be slightly disappointed that it didn't come through as expected.
    Oh I’m not slightly disappointed. I’m very disappointed. (joking, joking. I know that all of you are pretty busy and all ^ ^)
    Ah, but thank you for these audio files!


    In light of me being the one that actually has that file, I figured I would post it! If you do want to hear a bunch of the male characters of Anima Ex Machina attempting to pick up ladies, click here.
    Ah, yes. A stuffy and somewhat creepy English-accented voice for Bill’s Dad. It’s just as I expected it to sound. Excellent. Ok, who the heck did Bill? Because I want to give them one heck of a pat on the back; he sounded perfect. I don’t feel as good about Thom, but then again we only got to hear a small portion of his voice so. And Tate, you are a Chihuahua.

    If you want to hear Bill's Dad reading part of the first chapter of Anima Ex Machina, click here!
    YOU SEE JX? Even Bill’s Dad didn’t want to read the part where the Absol dies.
    Last edited by AbsolXWolf; 25th January 2012 at 10:01 PM.
    Fanfiction:
    The Twisted Child of Johto

    http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=543996

    Official from Oscars Thread ^

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    I made this ^

  17. #217
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    Quote Originally Posted by boc View Post
    Also Jax, thank you for writing this fic. XD
    And thank you for being so fabulous as to pull those shenanigans off.

    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolXWolf View Post
    I’M SORRY EVERYONE ELSE, BUT I KIND OF DON’T FEEL LIKE STOPPING.
    I have about thirty different dirty things I could say right about now. But I won't because I'm trying to behave.

    And it’s very easy to pretend they never happened because they’re never ever mentioned in the "real" Pokémon series.
    See, this is what I like about the anime. Most people think it's a terrible point and whatnot, but the fact that it always ends up sending the message "lol continuity," that makes writing fic so much easier. Being able to write fic without seeing the side specials is just one perk, but so is handwaving away Professor Akihabara.

    I’m guessing the writer had a thing for shirtless sailors at the time.
    In that case, I question their tastes because Drake. ._.

    But seriously, we need to know more about many important characters.
    For serious. It's one thing I do admit Special has over the anime: the fact that it doesn't bother with a massive CotD list but instead focuses on the canon characters the games have to offer. Well, besides the canon foreigner dex holders, but still, it's rather nice to see Lanette and Brigette actually acknowledged.

    I like deus ex machina. The concept doesn't always satisfy me all the time, but I love the phrase.
    It is a very nice phrase. XD

        Spoiler:- SPOILER:
        Spoiler:- Answer!:


    Actually, I might as well just say right here that I've got many feelings about Special. Many violent feelings.
    *high five*

    …My desire to avoid Special feels suddenly stronger. I wonder why that could be…

    Perhaps it’s the sound of the Skitty in the back of my head saying “Curiousity killed the cat. Become attached to this manga and that will be a literal statement”
    Oh, don't worry. XD I just like tormenting small, cute Pokémon… by throwing them at vicious Elite Four dragons.

    Yeah I kind of liked their characterization. …Why DID they throw him out, anyway?
    My guess is because they pretty much retconned the whole thing about him and the other programmers developing the system in favor of creating a CotD whose only purpose was to be featured in an episode that showcased Porygon.

    Seriously.

    Hilariously, this is the same episode that they decided to permanently shelve before getting into Johto, so I really don't know. >_> I mean, sure, in the games, Bill doesn't have too much of a point except to serve as a flag for opening up the Time Capsule, but it's not like half of the CotDs in Johto had any more significance. (They brought back Copycat. Copycat.) Even just a cameo in the background would have been awesome!

    Although really, IMHO, they pretty much treated Johto like crap in general. They had the Lake of Rage plot but not the Goldenrod one? One of the biggest sideplots of the GSC games? For serious?

    Brawly: LEFT FOOT LET’S STOMP
    CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH.

    And you have found the Daily Double!
    Woot! \o/

    I'm thinking of fixing it up and adding as we go along.
    DO IT.

    Reader Request…Are you bringing an Absol back from the dead?! A ZOMBIEFIED ABSOL??? :’-D
    oh my god that would be so awesome

    WE'LL SEE.

    XD I can’t blame you there. English accents are win.
    Inorite? Any accent, really. I'm also fond of Kiwi and Australian ones. (And oh goodness, the Scottish. *fans self*)

    Electric tales….If it has Kris or a lot of people from Johto I’m going to have to pass (for the same reasons I mentioned for Special). If not, I think I’ll read it.
    Nope! It's actually the only manga that follows the anime instead of the games, and it stops right after the Orange Islands. And by "follows," I mean "follows loosely." Seriously, if you thought the Orange Islands sucked, it's better. They also bother to delve deeper into different characters. (Bill has a backstory! And two appearances! One of which involves a giant Slowpoke authorized by "why Giovanni shouldn't be drunk on the job"!)

    So… yep. No Johto elements (to the point where the only Johto-ish thing about it is the fact that Lugia pops up in the epilogue). Totally worth a read. If, um, you could find it. X_x That's one bad thing about that manga. It's a pain to find. I could scan volumes one and four for you, but that's about it because I never picked up three and sold two. (There are totally justifiable, non-fannish reasons for that.)

    And then you make yourself some Glad French Fries out of a specific potato you happen to have.
    Because she called you fat.

    She was cold-hearted
    Until her death, and then she
    Became Barbeque
    You never cease to amaze me, sir. XD

    I think I know why Professor Oak likes Haikus: They’re pretty fun to make.
    Oh yes. And you should be getting a kick out of the fact that, without fail, you've got a bunch of people you can't see counting syllables on their fingers when they read them.

    It’s thanks to you and this story that I started reading up on Bill more often. (BTW, You wouldn’t have anything to do with a website called “Keeper” would you?)
    OH GOODNESS, THAT THNG. It needs to be updated this year. XD;

    (But totally. XDDD)

    It’s…an actual real…I don’t even….




    MIND-----> BLOWN
    YOU'RE WELCOME.

    The line of course.
    Naturally. ;D

    I recognized the line, but I forgot the guy’s name and had to look it up. Do I still get cookies?
    You dooooo~!

        Spoiler:- SPOILER:
        Spoiler:- SPOILER:


    ....He lost a game of poker to them, didn't he? I keep telling him to stay away from the suspicious people with multiple eyes all over their bodies but DOES HE LISTEN TO ME?
    But cards are so shiny!

    I…I knew that. I was just…making sure you were awake and all. I’m looking out for ya, Jx!
    ;D

    =.= Jx, whyyoudothistome?
    Because I like to hear the screams of innocent—OH WAIT IS THAT A BIRD?

    YES! Thank you, Jx!
    You're welcome!

    Number 20: The beginning poem
    Haha, thanks! That part… just reminded me why I don't write poetry. XD Too much effort. *handwaves*

    Number 18: Bill keeps on singing and singing and singing and…
    Trolling the mess out of Adam…

    Seriously, though, those parts were probably the most fun to write, partly because I love Christmas music and partly because I like imagining Bill singing. His voice actor (for this fic, I mean) actually has a pretty awesome singing voice himself, so maybe next year, I'll write more Christmas music bits to let you listen to. It seriously would've practically made this special, in my opinion.

    Number 16: Adam asking about Christmas (I’m sure Adam has good tidings on his world…war tidings still count after all)
    They don't celebrate holidays in evil organizations. *shot for obscure Sailor Moon reference*

    Number 14: What the-? Domino?
    Haha, yeah. SPOILER ALERT? XD;

    What does Vito want with a lampshade? XD
    To have it hung, of course. ;D

    Number 12: Tate and Hope moments
    Aww, thanks! I'm going to like exploring their relationship more. Tate just sort of wants to hang out with someone his own age… but the only person his own age happens to be suffering from PTSD.

    Grab some scissors and trim the tree.
    And then deck the halls with them, amirite?

    Don’t worry, buddy. I’m sure there are other people in the caravan who like you enough to kiss you. I’d cite Ellen, but she doesn’t know you from Adam *rimshot* *get’s painfully run over by the pun ninjas in a semi-truck*
    *quietly pays the ninja leader*

    Number 8: I’m not really an expert on what a majority of girls and boys think is a good pick-up line, but I somehow doubt John is going to get anyone other than verrrry desperate ladies with those (and they’d probably have to be pretty drunk too).
    Haha, luckily, John happens to have inexplicably amazing charisma.

    True story: The soundbyte you heard in the pickup line special was boc attempting to imitate a terrible Sean Connery impression. Because I told him John sounds like this… and that this man could totally get all the women he wants. He was impersonating a James Bond, after all.

    …I think he just gave people permission to set his chestnuts on fire….
    Whatever floats his boat, if you know what I mean. ;D

    Ok, I give. Why was Thom interrupted but not John? They practically said the same things!
    Because Thom doesn't have the voice of a James Bond (impersonator).

    Number 6: HOPE AND JOY HAVING A COOKING TIME AND HOPE BEING VERY DISTURBING
    I EAT THE HEADS OFF GINGERBREAD MEN FIRST.

    Number 5: WHAT DID LANETTE GET BILL? MUST KNOW.
    It's a mystery. ;D

    Number 4: DID I MENTION VERONICA YET?
    NOPE.

    Number 3: The fact that nobody knows what a nog is. (Come to think of it, I don’t even know what a nog is myself)
    Hilariously, neither did most of the voice cast as we were going over the script. That was the best part of the reading, let me tell you.

    Number 2: Bill being compared to a St. Bernard.
    He would make an adorable one.

    Number 1: this:
    Haha, no Ixodida gets a break. ;D

    This I don't understand.
    Even Adam doesn't want to make fun of Bill's singing… just because it's way too easy. XD

    Ah, yes. A stuffy and somewhat creepy English-accented voice for Bill’s Dad. It’s just as I expected it to sound. Excellent. Ok, who the heck did Bill?
    True story: All of this was boc, who is flipping amazing at sound editing. (This is also the sound editor I'd mentioned in my earlier posts.) And I totally agree. The first time I heard him read Bill's lines, I was like, "Yep. You're Bill."

    And Tate, you are a Chihuahua.
    Tate: "I AM NOT A CHIHUAHUA."

    YOU SEE JX? Even Bill’s Dad didn’t want to read the part where the Absol dies.
    So now there will be ZOMBIE ABSOL.



    That being said, I'm back from a long holiday, and chapter 25 is finally in the works. This comment and the line above it aren't related.

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

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  18. #218
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    I’ll get back to chapter 2, it’s just that I cut it to make this post a little shorter. (Is still trying to catch up though)

    Anima Ex Machina: Three
    If you come across Pandora's Box, don't open it.
    So I remember the first reading around I was rather surprised that Nettle was actually a member of Team Rocket. Of course, by then I already had her on my “To Hate List” that I didn’t really care much, but it still shocked me.

    I don’t really have anything clever to say about this scene other than “Haha! Nettle and Domino get into an argument.”

    The clip cut again. This time, her hair had fallen out, and a pair of rounded horns jutted out of her skull. Her entire body took on a shimmering coat of ice, interrupted every so often by a crystal spike. The creature's thin arms wrapped around her naked body as she shivered and opened her mouth in a silent scream. A few more men in lab coats immediately responded by gathering around her. Their bodies shielded most of her from view, save for the limbs that flashed above their heads.
    Poor girl. The whole thing seems so creepy. And can’t they manage to give her some clothes?? I get that it won’t be all that practical, but they could at least, I don’t know, give her a blanket or something. Stupid scientists. Oh wait. That’s an oxymoron.

    "Codename Pandora, a former intern at the Valencia Institute of Science in the Orange Islands. Shortly after this video was taken, she killed half the staff and destroyed most of the complex before escaping. Valencia Institute was shut down, and the survivors are currently housed in one of the National Defense Forces' bases to be given therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. We refuse to have that happen again."
    You see? She was pissed because you were studying her while she was naked. Reminds me of an old saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s wrath.” Considering Lanette, Pandora, Queen of Ixodida, Veronica…Yep, I don’t think it would be too out of line of me to say that this saying has some meaning in this story.

    Furrowing his eyebrows, Oak meditated briefly on the name. That wasn't the first time she'd heard a designation like that.
    ….Do I see a spelling mistake? Or am I just imagining that the “she’d” should be a “he’d”?

    Therefore, XP-650 literally meant "Unidentified Pokémon #650," the first entry after the most recently documented legendary pokémon
    Genesect
    At least until we get a new game. XD You might end up having to edit your story for all eternity. Or until Pokémon ends. Whichever comes first.

    If the pokémon Oak knew as XP-650 was only the A form with the one in the video being its B form, Oak wondered how many other forms this single creature possessed.
    There’s a C form, too. Unlike the others, it did end up getting an official name: Chuck Norris.

    Naturally, his thoughts wandered back to Bill. He tried to imagine his junior slipping into a violent rampage
    Which would probably be something like:

    Bill: *RAGE RAGE!!*NOOO! I’M OUT OF TEA!!! *RAGE RAGE!!*

    Lanette: Bill…sit.

    Bill: Yes ma’am ;~;

    If he agrees to it, we may begin processing a transfer so that he may work under you. We would suspect that he would be interested in working directly with Codename Adam."
    Interesting. If Bill was considered a patient, it would be impossible, due to ethical codes, for a family member to be a part of his rehabilitation. But I’m assuming Bill is, in this instance, considered a specimen, which would kind of throw out ethics…

    Before Oak could say anything else, the call cut off, and the screen faded to complete black.
    It’s funny, but I keep forgetting that they have video phones in the Pokémon world.

    I have about thirty different dirty things I could say right about now. But I won't because I'm trying to behave.
    And to think I saved you a seat in the gutter…

    See, this is what I like about the anime. Most people think it's a terrible point and whatnot, but the fact that it always ends up sending the message "lol continuity," that makes writing fic so much easier. Being able to write fic without seeing the side specials is just one perk, but so is handwaving away Professor Akihabara.
    They had no choice but to sacrifice continuity for the sake of making more LOLZ COTD.

    In that case, I question their tastes because Drake. ._.
    Hey, whatever floats your sailor studded boat. Am I right?

        Spoiler:- SPOILER:
        Spoiler:- SPOILER:


    Actually, I might as well just say right here that I've got many feelings about Special. Many violent feelings.
    *high five*
    Ah…whoops. That sentence was supposed to be in the quote bubble. On the other hand…I got you to quote yourself XD

    No, seriously. Sorry about that. ^ ^;

    Oh, don't worry. XD I just like tormenting small, cute Pokémon… by throwing them at vicious Elite Four dragons.
    Er…o-ok…Um. Hey….remind me to never get you angry….Or give you a crowbar.

    But speaking of dangerous/dark/evil stuff, I ate at the cafeteria the other day while they were serving “Oriental Beef”, as they called it. For every bite I took, it meowed.

    oh my god that would be so awesome

    WE'LL SEE.
    Nonono, really! I was just kidding around! ^ ^;

    (And oh goodness, the Scottish. *fans self*)
    ….Move to Scotland? XD

    (Bill has a backstory! And two appearances! One of which involves a giant Slowpoke authorized by "why Giovanni shouldn't be drunk on the job"!)
    I almost spat out my water at this, which would have been horrible as it would have gotten my computer wet.

    Totally worth a read. If, um, you could find it. X_x That's one bad thing about that manga. It's a pain to find. I could scan volumes one and four for you, but that's about it because I never picked up three and sold two. (There are totally justifiable, non-fannish reasons for that.)
    I’ll look around. I heard it also has a lot of suggestive stuff in it. Is it designed with adults in mind or something?

    Because she called you fat.
    And yet she still ends up saving you from getting sucked into outer space. So the question that remains is: who was worse when it came to killing you? Female sociopath or male schizophrenic?

    Oh yes. And you should be getting a kick out of the fact that, without fail, you've got a bunch of people you can't see counting syllables on their fingers when they read them.
    I KNOW. It delights me.

    OH GOODNESS, THAT THNG. It needs to be updated this year. XD;

    (But totally. XDDD)
    I had a feeling that you were the owner.

        Spoiler:- SPOILER:
        Spoiler:- SPOILER:


        Spoiler:- SPOILER:
        Spoiler:- SPOILER:


    But cards are so shiny!
    So is acid.

    Because I like to hear the screams of innocent—OH WAIT IS THAT A BIRD?
    And then the bird kidnaps the sociopathic potato.

    Remember, everyone:

    THE BIRD IS THE WORD.

    His voice actor (for this fic, I mean) actually has a pretty awesome singing voice himself, so maybe next year, I'll write more Christmas music bits to let you listen to. It seriously would've practically made this special, in my opinion.
    YES.

    Haha, thanks! That part… just reminded me why I don't write poetry. XD Too much effort. *handwaves*
    Valentine may not
    Like poetry, but guess what?
    I do. VERY MUCH.

    Granted, I don’t need
    To rhyme in Haiku, so it’s
    a bit easier.

    And then deck the halls with them, amirite?
    Well, I wasn’t going to go that far with it….but if you insist! XD

    *quietly pays the ninja leader*
    Haha. I take it you didn’t like my horrible joke.

    Haha, luckily, John happens to have inexplicably amazing charisma.
    I’ll take your word for it…But if:

    JOHN vs. LANETTE

    Ever happens, my money is on Lanette and, by extension, her crowbar.

    True story: The soundbyte you heard in the pickup line special was boc attempting to imitate a terrible Sean Connery impression. Because I told him John sounds like this…and that this man could totally get all the women he wants. He was impersonating a James Bond, after all.
    Until….wait for it….VERONICA.

    Whatever floats his boat, if you know what I mean. ;D
    SAILOR STUDDED BOAT.

    On that note…man, John. He must go to extremes with S and M.

    I EAT THE HEADS OFF GINGERBREAD MEN FIRST.
    Do you really?

    NOPE.
    Well in THAT case…
        Spoiler:- CAUTION: Spam:


    True story: All of this was boc, who is flipping amazing at sound editing. (This is also the sound editor I'd mentioned in my earlier posts.) And I totally agree. The first time I heard him read Bill's lines, I was like, "Yep. You're Bill."
    THANK YOU BOC. YOU ARE INDEED “FLIPPING AMAZING”.

    So now there will be ZOMBIE ABSOL.



    That being said, I'm back from a long holiday, and chapter 25 is finally in the works. This comment and the line above it aren't related.
    Darn. (joking, joking)
    Fanfiction:
    The Twisted Child of Johto

    http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=543996

    Official from Oscars Thread ^

    png image hosting
    I made this ^

  19. #219
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    Author's Note: Hey, Alpha! I'm not ignoring you or anything; I'm just going to be responding to you when I get a chance later on. Because new chapter! One that's twenty pages! The longest yet for this version of the fic! ...We're never doing this again, I swear to God.

    A couple of notes for those of you playing at home:

    1. The title of the fic comes from an episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. That's not the only reference in this chapter.

    2. Hope's quote of the day is a Japanese proverb that (roughly) translates into, "If you speak a rumor about someone, their shadow will appear." It means the same thing as "speak of the devil."

    With that, enjoy~!


    Anima Ex Machina
    Twenty-Five: I won't depend on anyone anymore.


    The Caravan, which had previously been a massive mobile village of up to thirty vehicles and nearly seventy people, now existed as not so much a caravan as a small band of nomads. Excluding the pokémon, its population count was eight, and all eight of these humans plus the supplies needed to sustain them had traveled almost two days away from the remains of Mauville City in nothing but one truck and one van that had miraculously survived the attack of one fire-type ixodida. Presently, the van and the truck sat in a clearing, flanking a fire – the only source of light for the small camp – tended by Vito. Thom lay in the bed of the truck, already asleep and snoring loudly with his manectric lying beside him. Veronica sat on the hood of the truck with one of her hands holding her gun between her spread knees. Her other hand rested on the head of her growlithe, who slept next to her. Lanette stood not far away, her crowbar in her hands. The only sound besides the crackling fire came from the hushed discussion Steven and Wallace were having. They stood over a map spread out on the back of Steven's metagross, heads bent and fingers occasionally pointing to dots spotting the paper's surface. Lanette kept one ear on this conversation as she stood watch, waiting for either news from them or the first sign of a threat to the camp.

    Inside the van, Hope leaned against Ellen's side, her eyes closed and her chest heaving softly in a deep sleep. Ellen, meanwhile, remained wide awake. Leaning her chin on her palm, she stared out into forest. She hadn't had a single second of sleep that night, and she had the feeling she wouldn't, if only because her mind kept thinking about the dark expanse all around her. With her other hand, she reached up to smooth the hair of her charge as she wondered what might have gone through the girl's head. Was she happy? Was she having a good dream? Ellen worried about these things. At least those thoughts were a welcome change from all the mental images that had occupied her mind all day, like the claws and teeth of the ixodida and how many there might have been around them at any given time. Steven and Wallace's presence were only slight comforts to her.

    Just then, Hope opened her eyes. At first, she remained quiet, as if she was hesitant to disturb her companion's peace, but then, her lips parted to utter a single phrase.

    "Uwasa o sureba kage."

    Ellen looked curiously at her companion, drawing her eyes away from the brush. At that same moment, a shadow appeared between the trees, and the snapping of a twig shattered the quiet outside.

    Veronica was the first to react. She drew her legs under her until she crouched on the hood of the truck. Her arms swung up and pointed the gun steadily at the trees as she cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. Taking notice of the officer's stance, Lanette crept towards the source of the sound and raised her crowbar. The conversation between Steven and Wallace deadened with both champions gazing in the girls' direction.

    "It's me! Don't attack!" a voice announced from the forest.

    Veronica gripped her weapon tightly as her finger rested on the trigger. "Damn it, Bill! Get the hell out here so we can see you!"

    Not so much stepping out into the light as rushing, Bill stumbled into the clearing, clutching onto a pink and blue burden as tightly as he could. He came to a halt several feet from the others and panted, lifting his head to gauge the reactions he would get. Just as he predicted, the first one he received was Veronica narrowing her eyes and shifting the gun to the burden, but luckily for it, the second reaction was Lanette lowering her crowbar and running forward. Bill leaned back, holding his companion protectively.

    "Wait! Lanette! Don't—"

    "What happened here?" she demanded.

    Bill glanced briefly at the crowbar resting at her side. Taking it as a sign that she wasn't about to strike, he relaxed slightly, although he gazed at her in confusion. Cautiously, he let her see Tate, unconscious and lying limp in his arms.

    "We-we got into a fight," he explained. "He attacked me from out of nowhere, and there was a kecleon—"

    Lanette carefully pulled at the boy's shoulder to examine his face. She gripped his arm and felt the muscles beneath his pink skin before moving her hand to his chest.

    "He's been paralyzed," she concluded.

    "Lick," Bill replied. "He took a Lick to his face, and before then, I used Mirror Shot on him."

    Lanette gave him a cold look before shifting her gaze over her shoulder.

    "Steven! Wallace!"

    At once, the two champions moved to her side and glanced at the boy in the ixodida's arms.

    "It's Tate all right," Steven said.

    Wallace nodded and took the boy from Bill's arms.

    "I can't tell how serious it is," he said. "Lanette, how much field training does your Nurse Joy have?"

    Veronica intercepted the question before Lanette could answer. "Not much. She's a city nurse, but she can learn on the fly."

    "He won't require much," Lanette added. "His paralysis can easily be cured with one dose of paralyz heal, and he sustained minimal damage from two attacks. Nurse Joy should be familiar with those types of injuries. Please go get her, Officer Jenny."

    The officer nodded and slid off the hood of the truck. As she jogged to the van, Lanette turned to Vito.

    "Vito, stand watch. Steven, Wallace, I'd like one of you to assist Nurse Joy. The other may carry on with what you were doing."

    "And you?" Steven said.

    "I have private matters to attend to," she said as she began walking across the camp.

    Steven followed her for a few steps, leaving Wallace behind with Tate in his arms. "Lanette, would you like someone to keep you company?"

    She turned to him and flashed him a look. Bill froze, noticing right away that it was softer than usual, that her voice was a little more gentle than the one she used with him.

    "Thank you, but no," she answered. "Concern yourself with protecting the camp and tending to Tate, please. Those two tasks are far more important than what I have to do."

    With that, she walked away, passing by the trees framing the clearing. Bill shook off the shock of what he had just seen and started after her, passing by Ellen and Steven along the way. While Ellen only gave him a brief but concerned glance on her way to Tate, Steven reached out to grab his arm.

    "Wait, where are you going?" he asked.

    "After her," Bill replied. "Who knows what's out there?"

    "And you think you can battle against what's out there?"

    "Well, I can certainly try."

    At that answer, Steven relaxed and released the ixodida's wrist. "Be careful out there."

    "Of course," Bill quipped as he turned and walked into the woods.

    For a long while, Steven stood, watching the ixodida until he could no longer see so much as the arrowhead tip of his tail between the trees. Then, the champion crossed his arms and raised his ice-blue eyes to the sky.

    "Something's different about him already. That's for sure," he muttered.

    Some distance behind him, between his back and the small crowd huddled over Tate, was Hope, standing wide-eyed and still by the fire.

    ---

    By the time she stopped, Lanette could no longer hear or see the Caravan. The woods were cold and dark and lonely. At that hour, the moon had set long ago, and her only means to see were the smattering of stars overhead. It didn't matter to her. She knew that the ixodida cores and parasites glowed red, so darkness was safety. As such, she kept to only the darkest parts of the woods, her hand gripping her crowbar as she searched for something. Something familiar.

    She hadn't found it when she stopped. In fact, by her calculations, she was only halfway to her destination – if she was right about its location. The only reason why she stopped, really, was because for the past ten minutes, she heard a faint rustling behind her. She knew who it was already; she didn't expect anything less from him.

    He stopped somewhere behind her. How far, she couldn't tell, but she could no longer hear the sound he produced as he pushed through the brush. She waited for a few moments, wondering if he would come out to meet her. When he didn't, she sighed and reached into one of the pouches on her belt. Drawing a sphere from inside it, she tossed the ball in the air and let it crack open with a brilliant, white light.

    "Solrock! Psychic!" she called.

    The sun-shaped stone appeared in an instant with its eyes already blazing bright blue in the direction of her pursuer. Lanette caught her poké ball and stepped aside, just in time for Bill to miss her while Solrock telekinetically threw him into a tree on the other side of the clearing.

    "Ow," he moaned as he stood and held his arm. "Isn't that a little excessive?"

    She scowled at him. "What's a little excessive is you following me. I don't need protection, Bill."

    He forced a laugh. "Really, Lanette, I may be stubborn and old-fashioned, but I don't need another crowbar to the head to figure out you're strong enough to take care of yourself. No, I'm not out here because I think you'd need an escort."

    "Then why are you out here?" she snapped.

    Straightening to his full height, Bill's expression turned from an awkward smile to an intensely serious look. "I want to ask you a question."

    "Couldn't it wait until I returned?"

    "No." He stepped a little closer – cautiously so as not to alarm her but just enough to make it clear he wasn't about to leave. "I wanted to ask it privately."

    She hesitated slightly. Bill thought, in that brief silence, that she would simply blow him off and attempt to escape him again, but to his surprise, she looked away.

    "Fine. Ask."

    Surprised by how easily he had won that battle, Bill found himself stumbling over his own words. Suddenly, the perfect question that had been burning in his mind for the past several minutes became a muddled, vague mess encapsulated in two words:

    "Why me?"

    Lanette looked at him again, this time with an arched eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

    Gaining a little more confidence, Bill took a deep breath and said, "I don't understand it. You didn't try to kill Tate. I thought you hated all ixodida."

    "I didn't try to kill Tate because he was vouched for by Steven and Wallace."

    "Even so, the people of Mauville know you can trust me, and—"

    "All except Officer Jenny."

    "Nonetheless, Nurse Joy and Thom are comfortable with me!" Bill sighed. "Lanette, I understand your feelings towards Adam. I can't blame you at all if you can't trust him, but I want to know why you treat me like a monster."

    "Because you are!" she snapped.

    Bill groaned in exasperation. "What can I do to convince you that I'm not?"

    "Nothing."

    "I won't accept that as an answer!"

    She glared at him. "Well, that's unfortunate, Bill, because nothing you've ever done has convinced me that you're still human and that that thing inside you is at all under control! Considering both, I'm inclined to believe that you're a monster and that you will never be anything but a monster."

    The silence lingered over their heads for minutes. In the first few seconds, all Bill could feel was utter shock. His limbs hung limply at his side, his tail rested by his feet, and in both, he could feel a dull, cold ache, the only thing that tied him to reality. In the next few seconds, the ache traveled to his chest. His heart felt like it was about to burst, and he could do nothing more than cringe and place a hand over it.

    "Lanette, I—"

    "Don't say anything more about the subject. There's nothing else to say."

    "Then I'll ask you another question," he said, keeping his eyes away from her. He wanted something – anything – to serve as a hint of the Lanette he knew almost a year ago, and as such, he scrambled desperately back towards civil conversation. "Why… why are you out here?"

    "Do you really want to know?" she asked, her voice dangerously low.

    He nodded and breathed. "Yes. Yes, I'd like to know."

    "Very well." She raised her hand and snapped her fingers. "Solrock. Show him."

    The stone's eyes flashed bright red, and a wave of faint, red light pulsed from its body and swept outward. Bill flinched, instinctively shielding his eyes with an arm as the wave washed over him and passed into the forest. Once it passed, he lowered his arm and opened his eyes slowly to gaze at Lanette's pokémon again.

    It was sunny. Literally sunny. He blinked in confusion as he gazed through the tree branches above him at the blue sky. Stepping forward, he craned his neck and felt the warmth of the sunlight on his face.

    That was when he noticed something else amiss about the situation. He knew that his tail would have moved at the pleasure he got from the weather, but he realized right then that he couldn't feel that part of him – not the air around it, not the earth beneath it, not the feet of muscles within it. Quickly, he shot a glance over his shoulder to see absolutely nothing behind him. A look of confusion flashed across his face as he bit the finger of one of his gloves and yanked it off. His fangs were gone, and even more than that, when he removed his hand from the glove, it looked completely and mundanely human. He opened his mouth, letting the glove drop into his other hand as he stared in wonder at it.

    "What's going on?" he murmured.

    "Trick Room," Lanette replied impatiently. "You know what it does, don't you?"

    Bill gave her an uncertain glance. Of course he knew what it was. Trick Room, a technique in which a pokémon distorted space to create a pocket dimension where the laws of science didn't always apply. It was one of the many moves that baffled researchers since its discovery, and Bill himself had never seen it used in person, never mind standing inside the resulting reality warp. He had no idea what to expect.

    "Yes, but—"

    "So long as you're inside Trick Room, Solrock will make you see what you want to see," Lanette explained. "For example, you wish to see yourself as human, so you're human. More importantly…"

    She moved her eyes to the side without turning her head. Bill followed her gaze and noticed that in the distance, he could hear the sound of a truck passing by.

    "…You wish to know what I'm doing here. I'll show you my memories. Take as much time as you'd like. I don't care. Just know that besides me, anyone you meet can't hear or see you," Lanette finished.

    Then, before Bill could ask her anything else, she vanished and left him and Solrock in a clearing. He took a step forward, as if he intended on chasing her, but above him Solrock's eyes flashed red. The world dissolved around him, and in that brief second, he felt as if someone had yanked the ground out from under him. Pitching backwards, he yelped and clawed perfect darkness for something to grab onto, only to fall through thin air.

    Luckily, the fall was short, and before long, he slammed into something metal a few feet below him. Groaning, he sat up and placed a hand on the ground as the world rapidly reappeared around him. He looked up at the blue skies and the green tree branches passing quickly above him; it took him a moment before he realized he was the one who was moving. Glancing around him, he let his eyes sweep over the cabin of the truck – whose roof he was sitting on – to the truck's bed. There, among boxes of research equipment, he saw two young women. One was instantly recognizable: Lanette, as she was when he knew her almost a year ago. The second looked nearly exactly like her, with the same shape of a face, the same lean body, the same bright red eyes and orange hair. In truth, the only differences between Lanette and this young woman were that the latter wore her hair short and choppy and that her clothing – the white sweater and black miniskirt – clung to her body a little more than anything her sister would dare to wear.

    Craning her neck, Brigette smiled and gazed up at the sky above them. Then, twisting around in her seat, she gave her younger sibling an amused look and watched the girl work on a laptop.

    "You'll run out of battery before we're halfway there!" Brigette exclaimed. "Don't you think you should give it a rest for a bit?"

    Without looking up, Lanette replied, "In a minute. I just need to finish this letter."

    "Oh? Who are you sending it to? Bill again?"

    Lanette bowed her head. "Hold on. I'm going to lose my train of thought."

    "I knew it!"

    Brigette scrambled across the truck bed as her smile turned from amused to mischievous. Knowing full well that neither of them could see him, Bill leaned forward in an attempt to glance over Lanette's shoulder and see her screen. Unfortunately, the girl's body obscured most of it, and his view didn't improve when Brigette wrapped her arms around her sister and restrained her. Although Lanette shrieked and struggled in her sibling's grasp, she couldn't stop Brigette from reading what was on the screen.

    "'Dear Bill'—oh, really, Lanette? You'll give him ideas, you know. 'I'd like to congratulate you on your position at Polaris Institute, but I regret to inform you that Brigette and I were blessed with an even better opportunity.' Good gods! You sound like you're writing a rejection letter! Come on, now! Is that any way to treat your crush?"

    At that point, Bill nearly fell off the truck. Instead, he slipped into the bed, slamming face-first into the metal next to Lanette. Scrambling to his knees, he covered his mouth and nose with a hand and watched the sisters with wide eyes and a red face.

    The shade of Lanette's face matched his as she finally broke out of Brigette's grip and shoved her away.

    "Don't be ridiculous!" she yelled. "I do not have a crush on Bill! He's just a close friend, and that's all, Brigette! Close friends can tease each other now and then, you know!"

    The other woman sat back and lowered her eyelids halfway. "Oh? Does he see it the same way?"

    Without thinking, Bill responded, "Are you serious?! Of course I see it the same way!"

    Lanette went back to typing fervently. "I don't have a clue. Goodness knows what goes through that boy's head sometimes, and so long as he keeps things like that to himself, I honestly don't care what he thinks."

    "I don't have a crush on you! I swear!" Bill snapped, his face brightening even more.

    "Anyway, why does it matter to you? Bill and I have known each other for almost seven years, after all. If he and I wanted to take our relationship any further than friendship, we would have, but we won't because I can't even begin to list how many things are wrong with that."

    Brigette sighed and wrapped her arms around her sister again, this time gently.

    "You're way too serious sometimes, Lanette," she said. "I worry about you, you know."

    Lanette smirked. "Why should you worry? If anything, you should be more concerned if I ever do decide to start dating."

    The older sister frowned and buried half her face in Lanette's hair. "Stress isn't good for your health, you know. You should enjoy yourself more often."

    Pausing, Lanette let those words sink in a little. Her fingers rested on the keys, leaving half a sentence punctuated only by a blinking cursor on the laptop's screen. After a moment, she reached up and closed the computer's shell.

    "You know what? Work can wait until we reach Point Zero," she said.

    Brigette tilted her head up to rest her chin on Lanette's shoulder. "And Bill?"

    Lanette grinned. "He can wait too."

    ---

    It didn't register in Bill's mind at first that the scene had shifted. It simply felt as if a dark curtain fell over his eyes, and the sensation of being moved ended. However, the more he stared into the blackness, the more it began to take form, and he slowly started to notice that he wasn't in a void. Rather, it was night, and he was standing in the middle of the woods.

    A flash of light drew his attention to the side. He watched for a few seconds as two glowing spots drew closer and closer. It took a few more seconds for Bill to realize that he was looking at headlights. Tumbling into the underbrush by the side of the road, he narrowly managed to avoid the truck carrying Lanette and Brigette. In the ensuing hesitation, he turned to watch the taillights shrink into the distance as his heart pounded from the scare. After a moment, he shook off the surprise and sprinted after the truck.

    He didn't have far to go. It took a while of tree-dodging and tripping and scrambling in the darkness before he pushed through to a place where the trees were spaced out further than anywhere else in the woods. Moonlight filtered through the canopy onto the forest floor, which was covered with a carpet of splintered wood and broken appliances. Slowing his pace to a walk, Bill made his way down the road that cut between piles of debris, and with each step his eyes scanned both sides of it in wonder. A television set with a shattered screen. A decapitated doll. Scraps of a rug resting on a mountain of broken floorboards. All of them, signs of human life long forgotten. Bill knew at once where he was.

    "Fortree City," he whispered.

    Stopping, he found himself face-to-face with a plush eevee impaled by wood. It looked used, with frays on its edges that Bill could tell were there for years before it fell. Reaching for it, he realized that he recognized it. He had the hazy image of it sitting on a desk. Not just any desk, either. His desk. It was a gift: a birthday gift. The first one she had ever given him. What was it doing there, among all the details of Lanette's memories? His fingers rose, slowly reaching for it as his vision hazed. He could almost hear her shy, twelve-year-old voice, the shape of her words when she pushed the gift into his hands. The way her face looked when he thanked her.

    His heart pounded again, but he couldn't think of a reason why.

    Suddenly, he heard a scream not far away, followed by a crash and the roar of an ixodida. Tearing his hand away from the doll, he snapped his attention in the direction of the cacophony, further into the remains of the city.

    "Lanette! Brigette!" he cried.

    And just like that, he was running again. He didn't think twice about it. It didn't even occur to him that there was no way he could do a thing to save either of the sisters, and it certainly didn't occur to him that, logically, he had no reason to rush to Lanette's aid anyway if she still existed in the present. His body just moved on instinct, carried him closer to danger when he would have normally run in the opposite direction. All he could think about at that moment was the second cry. An ixodida. An ixodida was attacking, and as he considered that, Bill could think of a thousand different possibilities as to what he would be confronting in a matter of seconds.

    The mountains of debris gave way to a space only marginally less cluttered than its surroundings. Research equipment, crates, and supplies lay smashed all over the floor of the clearing. Tents still stood or half-stood with rips in their canvas walls and poles bent or broken. Several vehicles stood like ghosts with broken windows and dust gathering on their otherwise intact surfaces, but the one that was transporting the sisters had its front end smashed into the back of a second truck.

    Bill could just barely pay attention to the wreckage, however. There was too much blood and too many bodies for him to notice. Piles of them lay strewn on the mountains of debris, in some of the vehicles, half inside tents; anywhere a body could lie, there was one.

    There was half of one, in fact, in the right hand of the creature standing in the middle of the clearing. He – or Bill supposed it was a he, considering the way its body was shaped – stood hunched over with his green-skinned arms held away from his bulky torso. Vines adorned his head and moved like snakes down his back as each of the red blossoms that dotted them emitted small puffs of yellow pollen. His tail ended in a club, not an arrowhead, and as it thumped rhythmically against the ground, a golden cloud began to form above it from the pollen emitted by his flowering skin. However, what interested Bill the most wasn't that he existed but instead what he was wearing. Blood-spattered lab coat. Ripped dark t-shirt. Shredded khaki shorts. Once he could picture the man with human skin and human hair, Bill recognized him immediately.

    Professor Birch.

    The ixodida threw back his head and howled before tossing the head in the direction of the crashed truck. Following it with his eyes, Bill watched as Brigette suddenly leapt from the shadows of the vehicle while clutching a crowbar. Swinging the weapon, she smacked the head like a baseball, sending it flying back towards her attacker until it landed with a wet thump between them. Meanwhile, Lanette sat up in the bed of the truck, holding a small, blue bird tightly to her chest.

    "Lanette, stay there!" Brigette yelled. "Swablu!"

    The bird wrenched itself away from Lanette and hopped onto the edge of the truck. Her master swung an arm in the direction of the ixodida.

    "Aerial Ace!" she yelled.

    Her pokémon took flight and dove at Professor Birch as quickly as she could. The ixodida reared back, his hair whipping to his front. Several of the vines framing his face sliced through the air in an attempt to strike Swablu, but the bird dodged, swooping deftly around each tendril until she smashed beak-first into her opponent's chest. Birch reeled as Swablu's cloud-like wings fluttered and carried her out of his reach. However, she wasn't nearly safe then. Swinging an arm towards Swablu, Birch opened his hand and released a barrage of glowing, green leaves from his fingers. Swablu chirped loudly and swooped again in an attempt to dodge, but the leaves followed her, slicing her skin and wings until droplets of blood and fragments of feathers rained onto the ground. The rest of her body endured the brunt of the attack, sailing several feet through the air before crashing into the earth.

    "Swablu, no!" she cried. Without thinking, she took a few steps forward. "Come on! Please! Get up! You're our only hope!"

    Swinging his head in her direction, Birch growled and lashed several of his vines towards Brigette again. Swablu, with some effort, pushed herself off the ground, her wings frantically flapping to launch herself into the air. Although her flight path was awkward and nearly looped back into itself twice, she still managed to push herself between her master and her enemy just in time for the vines to grab her instead of Brigette. The ixodida lifted her high into the air as her body and the vines began to glow with a brilliant, green light. Swablu screamed and writhed in Birch's crushing grip, but with each passing second, her movements became more and more sluggish as the green light pulsed from her skin back down to her attacker's head.

    "Please! You've got to break out!" Brigette begged.

    Hearing her command, Swablu twisted and shrieked, but no matter what she did, she couldn't escape. Brigette ran forward, her arms raised with the crowbar poised to strike, but without even turning towards her, Birch simply lashed several of his tendrils out at her to smack her away. She landed on her side with the crowbar slipping from her hands and thumping just out of her reach.

    Watching this, Swablu struggled desperately, but the more she did, the more her eyes wanted to close. When her movements slowed to a stop, Birch slammed her back into the ground. Towering over her, he transferred the green glow to his right hand. He lifted his arm, balled his hand into a tight fist, and slammed it into the bird's body. Over and over again, he did this, literally pounding Swablu into the ground.

    Picking her head up, Brigette could only watch, but she could feel tears come to her eyes with each successful Needle Arm on Birch's part.

    "Swablu!" she screamed.

    "Solrock, Fire Spin!" Lanette called.

    A swirling tunnel of flame rushed over her and engulfed the ixodida. Lanette gripped the edge of the truck, watching the inferno twist from the ground up to the sky as her solrock remained suspended in the air beside her. In the center, the grass-type screamed. His silhouette twisted and struggled, but the hot air kept him inside, save for the occasional slip of a black claw reaching out of the fire. Swablu dragged herself away from the attack, her body battered and bruised.

    Until, of course, a white light engulfed her.

    Brigette sat up at that point and stared. Her bird – her partner – grew rapidly. A graceful neck arced out of a plumper body. A pair of long, cloud-like wings fanned out of her form on both sides. Her claws grew longer, and her beak sharpened to a point. When the light faded, Altaria's blue feathers shimmered, like her skin was made of jewels.

    In front of her, the fire died down just enough for her to see the charred face of Professor Birch. Altaria didn't need orders at that point. She simply stretched her graceful neck, inhaled deeply, and released a beam of green light from her beak. The strike was point-blank. It catapulted Birch straight out of what was left of the tower and drove him into the ground several feet away, where he lay unmoving in a heap.

    The sisters and their pokémon waited for a good minute for something – anything – to happen. When nothing did, Brigette picked herself up and walked to Birch's side. Using her crowbar, she turned him over on his back and studied his twisted face with its blackened skin, broken jaw, and muscles frozen in a scream.

    "I think he's dead," she said softly.

    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw just the slightest movement across one of Birch's legs. Backing up a step, she raised her crowbar and trained her eyes on the edge of his shorts. A small creature poked out from beneath the hem. Its smooth, round body pulsed red with an internal light as its tiny, claw-like legs pulled itself out from beneath Birch's shorts. Tendrils trailed along beneath it until it cut them using two of its legs while it rested on its host's knee.

    "Brigette? What is it?" Lanette asked.

    She tightened her grip on the crowbar. "I… I don't know."

    Behind her, Bill crept closer. His eyes were wide and fixed on the creature. His chest burned with the memory of the kind of pain he knew would come next.

    "Get out of there," he rasped. "Please, Brigette, run!"

    Then, the parasite leapt at her and latched onto her calf.

    The last thing he heard of her before the world dissolved around him was her scream.

    ---

    For hours after that, Bill was in Hell. The next scenes Trick Room forced him to watch were brief, but time no longer registered to him. In one scene, he watched as Lanette led Brigette to one of the tents, made her sister comfortable, and immediately rushed throughout the broken camp in a frantic effort to find medical supplies. All of her pokémon – Spinda, Solrock, Altaria – dug through piles of debris and broken crates. Lanette's hands began to bleed from the scratches and cuts sharp edges of metal and wood inflicted on her, and Spinda and Altaria, both of whom were forced to dig as opposed to lift objects telekinetically like Solrock, fared no better. By the time the sky began to gray with the first light of dawn, the four of them only managed to find broken and soiled medical supplies, scraps of cloth, and hundreds of other unusable objects. In fact, the only two useful objects they came across were the discarded crowbar Brigette had found and a knife that lay forgotten in the remnants of a kitchen.

    That didn't seem to stop Lanette, however. The scene dissolved into another one, one where Bill stood by the piles of scraps on which Brigette lay. He cringed as he heard her whimpering while Lanette leaned over her leg. Vein-like ridges radiated from the core, forming spider webs up Brigette's calf and over her knee. As Lanette rested a hand on her sister's ankle, the web shifted beneath Brigette's skin, as if to anticipate what was about to happen. Lanette raised her hand, lifting in it the knife that she had pulled from the rubble. Carefully, she brought it to Brigette's skin, intending on slicing around the ixodida core.

    The resulting scream caused Bill to flinch. When he opened his eyes, Brigette was pinning Lanette to the ground as a club-tipped tail whipped above her. On her hands, claws burst through her fingertips and grasped Lanette's shoulders. Brigette sobbed, her body shaking as tears trickled across her skin and dropped onto her sister's cheeks.

    "Lanette," she begged, "help me."

    If only that was the last time Bill heard that plea.

    The next few moments came as quickly as flashes. Lanette pinning down Brigette's flailing, clawing arms. Brigette thrashing and ripping open her own skin. The human tying the ixodida's limbs to a square, makeshift frame made of metal bars she had gathered from the other tents. The ixodida biting whatever she could grasp. All the while, between screams and growls, Bill could hear Brigette's voice.

    "Help me. Lanette, please help me!"

    Some moments, he found himself standing next to Lanette outside the tent. In those moments of peace, Lanette stood, hugging herself and listening to her sibling's screams. Bill wanted to do something for her, to say something, to touch her and comfort her. But whenever he spoke, she didn't notice, and whenever he reached for her, his hand went right through her. For as long as he could remember, he couldn't recall any time that he felt more useless.

    Bill hated it. He hated standing by and watching her suffer. He wanted to go back, to force Solrock to lead him out of Trick Room, to apologize to Lanette for the gods knew what but for something.

    He wanted to stop noticing that Lanette was crying. That she cringed whenever her sister screamed. That she wasn't sleeping.

    Eventually, though, something changed. For the first time, after flickering scenes of Brigette screaming and vomiting and crying, there was silence. In this scene, Bill stood in the corner of the tent, his arms wrapped around himself as he took shivering breaths and watched Lanette kneel beside her sister. By then, Brigette no longer looked human. Her green skin glistened with sweat and the golden pollen from the red blossoms dotting her limbs. Her vine-like hair twitched and slithered around her head like a living halo. Her clawed hands hung limply from the makeshift bed frame while her tail wound around her three-toed feet. When she parted her lips slightly, she simply breathed, the air whistling between her fangs. Then, she opened her red eyes halfway and stared at her sister listlessly.

    Lanette grasped one of Brigette's hands tightly. To her surprise, Brigette squeezed back and forced herself to smile.

    "You're way too serious sometimes, Lanette," she murmured.

    In response, Lanette untied Brigette's hand, brought it to her cheek, and held it there. She pressed her lips together and swallowed, choking back a sob. In the meantime, the elder shut her eyes tightly and suffered through a shudder.

    "There's something I need you to do for me, and you have to do it. Okay?" Brigette said.

    The other woman didn't say a word. She only kept her eyes on her sister as she cried into her fingers.

    "Listen to me," Brigette urged. "I need for you to do what I tell you."

    Slowly, Lanette nodded. At the gesture, Brigette relaxed just a little.

    "Go find your knife and stab the parasite. Hurry."

    With another nod, Lanette scrambled across the tent on her hands and knees, groping for the handle of the knife. In the corner of the tent, Bill's eyes trailed from her to her sister. Quietly, Brigette used her free hand to shred the bind that tied her other wrist to the bed frame, and then, she sat up. At once, Bill froze, his gaze flicking back and forth between both figures in front of him.

    "Lanette, don't turn your back on her!" he cried.

    Just like all the other times he had tried to contact her, she couldn't hear him. Because of that, she had nothing to prepare her for the vines that whipped at her and grabbed her by the waist, wrists, and neck. Her hand clenched around the handle of the knife as her body was yanked into the air and turned around forcibly to face Brigette. The ixodida's expression was blank, her red eyes practically dead and glossy as they stared up at her.

    Then, abruptly, Brigette shuddered and released Lanette, letting her drop to the floor of the tent with a thud. Frantically, she grasped her head and burst into a fit of sobs.

    "Oh gods! Oh gods, I'm so sorry!" she wailed. "Lanette, please! Hurry! Stab this thing! You've got to do it!"

    Lanette's hands scrambled to grab her knife again, but the rest of her body pushed itself back against the opposite wall. Her face blanched, mouth hanging open in shock. Brigette threw her head back and screamed once again, her claws curling in the air.

    "Please!" she screamed. "I can't! I can't hold it back anymore! Lanette…" She tilted her head forward and cried into her knees. "…Lanette, listen to me. There's something inside me. I can hear its thoughts. It wants… it wants…"

    Gripping the handle of the knife a little more, Lanette shakily stood, her feet inching closer to her sister. When she stood in the middle of the room, Brigette looked up at her and smiled one last time.

    "Lanette. I love you."

    With that, her face quickly blanked, and her body snapped the rope used to tie her feet to the makeshift frame. Lanette scrambled for the tent's entrance, narrowly missing her sibling's claws as Brigette lunged for her. The ixodida slammed onto all fours and chased after Lanette, right out of the tent. Bill hesitated for more than a minute, listening in shock to Lanette's screaming as it grew more and more distant. But then, when he started hearing gunshots, he shook himself back to reality and ran after the siblings.

    Outside, the night was dark, with the best light being provided by the waning moon. For this reason, Bill could only see silhouettes, but luckily, Brigette didn't make it difficult for him to find her – and not because the parasite on her leg served as a beacon, either. On top of one of the debris hills, she stood, several feet away from the shadows of a muscular, bald man and a wingull hovering next to him. Lanette stood at the base of the hill, her hands clasped as she watched her sister whip her vine-like hair at the newcomer.

    The man dodged deftly, swinging a bowie knife in front of him to slice Brigette's hair. She screeched, reeling back as she held her head. Taking the opportunity, the wingull swooped at her, its wings glowing with a brilliant, white light before slicing across her chest. Just as soon as the gull struck, it flapped its wings rapidly to gain altitude, allowing the man to start forward with his knife pointed directly at the ixodida's stomach.

    "No! Don't hurt her!" Lanette screamed.

    At the sound of her voice, the man hesitated for a brief second – one that Brigette took full advantage of by lashing out with her claws. Her entire arm was engulfed in a brilliant, green light, making it appear to be one long blade as it sliced across the man's throat. The glow illuminated the human's skin briefly, and the light glittered off the spray of blood that burst from the wound. As the newcomer fell to his knees, the ixodida turned to Lanette and gave her another blank glare.

    "Brigette, please!" she begged. "Please! You're not a killer! You can fight this! We'll… we'll get you help! Real help! I promise! Just… please!" She bowed her head, her voice lowering in volume as she sobbed. "…Please stop."

    The ixodida growled and rose to her full height. Her fingers tensed together, and once again, her arm began to glow bright green. Grinding her toes into the mountain of debris, she crouched and readied herself for a leap.

    But before she could, the wingull decided to make its presence known again. For a second time, the bird dove at the ixodida, striking her across the face with a glowing wing. She turned to it with a snarl and swung her glowing arm at it, but suddenly, something hit her with a whack. All at once, her body froze, and her hand fell limp at her side as she arched her back. Behind her, the old man ground his knife into her spine, twisting as he placed a hand on her stomach to push her into the blade. He pressed his forehead against her back, his body wracking with spasms from loss of blood.

    Then, the both of them fell to the other side of the mountain, out of sight of both Lanette and Bill.

    One last gunshot rang out, followed by a chorus of shouts.

    "No!" Lanette shrieked.

    She launched herself up the mountain, scrambling as quickly as her arms and legs could carry her before coming to a stop at the top of the mountain. Without a word, Bill followed her, clamoring to the peak until he stood beside her, gazing down at the scene on the other side.

    The man lay spread eagle with his head cocked at an unnatural angle. Across his neck, the slash looked like a second smile. His wingull sat on his chest, nuzzling him desperately. Beside him, Brigette lay on her side with her back to the man and the knife still jutting from her spine. The parasite had been shot, leaving a gaping hole in Brigette's leg where it used to be. All around the two, several people were bent down, examining them and chattering between themselves. Only one of them stood still and quiet: a young man with a shotgun. He merely stood over Brigette's head, gazing down at her with an apathetic expression. Then, he moved the barrel of his gun against her temple and pulled the trigger.

    Lanette wailed. This one was louder and longer than anything else Bill had heard since entering Trick Room, and this one tore at his heart. He could only watch his partner drop to her knees and sob as the other humans made their way up the side of the mountain to surround her and gently embrace her.

    ---

    Bill could hardly focus on the next few scenes. He watched the small band of newcomers take Lanette back to their camp – the Caravan of several months ago – by the river, but all he could do was follow mindlessly. None of the things he saw or heard sank into his mind as the people of the Caravan placed her in a bed and gave her food and water. All he could think about was Brigette's death.

    This lasted until Lanette finally woke up. Brigette had been right about her sister; Lanette always took things a little too seriously. Yet, the expression she had on her face when she opened her eyes was a different kind of seriousness. Her eyes were wide. Her mouth was a thin line. Her skin was pale. With trembling hands, she gripped the bed sheets and threw them off her body. One of her hands grabbed her glasses, and as she put them on, she stood and started walking, walking out of the medical tent they had set up for her, walking through the camp, walking forward. Some of the people of the Caravan shouted at her, but she paid no attention to anyone. All she did was continue forward aimlessly.

    As Bill followed her, he could hear her voice, but he wasn't certain it was coming from the figure directly in front of him.

    "No matter what it takes," she said, "no matter what the risks. I will kill all of them. Even if I have to burn Hoenn to the ground, I will kill every single one of those parasites with my bare hands."

    With each step that she walked forward, she and the scene around her shifted. The camp faded away before breaking into flashes of battlefields, of burned ixodida, dismembered humans, and half-eaten pokémon. Her clothing transformed piece by piece from the light green sundress she had been wearing to the battle attire Bill was used to seeing. Flicking her hair over a shoulder, she walked into a black-and-white scene, a still image of Mauville City with a copy of herself kneeling on top of a steel-type ixodida.

    "Except…"

    Color crept into the scene, bleeding over every surface to transform it from a photograph into something real. The first movement either of the spectators saw was a smile crossing the ixodida's face.

    "Hello, Lanette," he said.

    As the scene played out, the other Lanette – the one who stood beside the human Bill at that point – looked down at it with an unwaveringly cold expression.

    "Do you want to know what I was thinking during that?" she asked.

    The ixodida's tail wormed its way from beneath the other Bill and wrapped around his attacker's waist. She was shoved against him, just enough to let him lift his head and whisper into her ear a single word: a password to one of the security layers guarding the storage system. The name of the plush eevee she had given him so many years ago. A fragment of Lanette's full name.

    "Melinda."

    She straightened in her seat, but as she did so, several other images flashed in front of Bill's eyes. Images of Brigette. Her smile. Her words. Her embrace. Her dead body. Bill choked back a cry as he held his head.

    "No," Lanette whispered.

    "Not you. Anyone but you. Why did it have to be you?" the other one said.

    The scene faded to black and white again at that point, but it continued playing in the background. In the meantime, the present Lanette rounded on her companion, her face contorted in seething hatred.

    "Why did it have to be you?!" she demanded. "Do you get it now, Bill?! I can't do it again! I can't watch someone I remotely care about be killed! And the more you demand to be my best friend, the more I can only see you—"

    She stopped short and turned her head. Bill straightened where he stood. He could see her lips quivering, the look on her face breaking from cold to human. Suddenly, something inside him moved, like his mind was settling rapidly on a single thought.

    "They buried them both somewhere out here. That's what I'm doing tonight. I'm trying to find where they buried them so I could…" She shuddered. Her voice lowered and strained against her throat. "Mr. Briney died to protect me because I couldn't kill her when she asked me to. He killed her for me. I couldn't do it. She…"

    Taking a deep breath, Bill stepped forward and reached for her. His hand rested on her cheek and gently nudged her to look at him again. The expression that twisted her face quickly turned into a scowl as she smacked his hand away.

    "I hate you!" she cried.

    Undeterred, he placed his hand on the back of her head.

    "You don't hate me, and no matter how hard you try, you won't," he told her quietly.

    "Don't touch me!"

    She shoved him and took several steps away from him. Before she could get any further, he rushed forward and embraced her from behind. Right away, she struggled against him, trying desperately to wrench herself out of his grip.

    "I said don't touch me!" she barked.

    "No," he replied firmly. "I want you to understand something. No matter what happens, I'm not going to let you go through that again. I swear to you – I promise you – that no matter what happens, I will always be me. I'll fight with everything I've got if necessary."

    All around them, the scenery changed until they were back where they started, in the middle of a forest in the darkest part of the night. Solrock hovered above them as Lanette bent over, pressing all her weight against Bill's arms.

    "I hate you," she muttered, her voice barely much more than a growl by then.

    He let her drag him to the ground. Her legs folded beneath her, and once she knelt, she bent her head down and cried, letting her tears fall freely onto the ground while the rest of her trembled. Leaning against her, Bill could do nothing else but hold her up and wait.

    "I hate you," she repeated.

    Then, resting his forehead on her shoulder, he replied, "I'm sorry."

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

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  20. #220
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    Wow... that was, wow.

    I'm honestly glad that we got to see this, some clarification about Lanette, her past and the glimpse of her past relationship with her sister and Bill. For some reason, throughout the entire chapter, I kept imagining what scenes would look like in a graphic novel and how they would be set out in the panels and such, it was pretty fun.

    I believe I was vastly too "just-woken-up" to find the references, but it's been a while since I watched Madoka anyway. Nothing else jumped out at me as something reference-esque so it's either I'm not paying enough attention or I'm not familiar with the source material. I'm not very good at this game D:

    Not much else I can say, you set the scene up well, the first memories were happy, smiley and innocent enough to make the rest truly heartbreaking. Lanette's fear, loss, sense of hopelessness, uselessness at being able to do nothing to help Brigette first in saving her from the transformation and secondly from not being able to fulfill her sisters last wish before the parasite stole her mind. All of that culminating in her fierce and somewhat insane revenge. I got chills, man.

    And then you end it with a "hug it out" moment, where I can only imagine Lanette sobbing her hate and anger into Bill's shoulder, yet doing nothing to release herself from his iron grip.

    Great chapter. I want to hug Bill and Lanette as well!
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Author's Note: Hey, Alpha! I'm not ignoring you or anything; I'm just going to be responding to you when I get a chance later on. Because new chapter! One that's twenty pages! The longest yet for this version of the fic! ...We're never doing this again, I swear to God.

    A couple of notes for those of you playing at home:

    1. The title of the fic comes from an episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. That's not the only reference in this chapter.

    2. Hope's quote of the day is a Japanese proverb that (roughly) translates into, "If you speak a rumor about someone, their shadow will appear." It means the same thing as "speak of the devil."
    Alpha? New chapter? 20 pages? "Puella Magi Madoka Magica"? WHAT?

    Sorry Jx, but I'm not making a 20 page long review -.- (I hope you're not too dissapointed in me)

    When I have more time I'll make an actual review I will, but I'm liking the equation for this chapter: Steven+Lanette's past+romantic tension+no kecleon appearance+VERONICA=win.
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    Short response, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolXWolf View Post
    Alpha?
    ...How did I manage to do that? O_o No, seriously.

    I think it might've been because, for whatever reason, I was thinking of one of my original beta readers (who ironically actually had nothing to do with this project but had everything to do with my last Bill-centered megafic... which we will never speak of again due to lol things I hated by the second chapter), AlphaWolfNH.

    Which is still not an excuse, and I apologize for that. x_x Clearly, I need to clear out my mental Rolodex.

    Also, I should hope you're not writing a 20-page review. XD Save some of your sanity, dear.

    And thanks very much to both you and Diddy! I swear, proper response will come after I'm not procrastinating like mad on schoolwork.

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Short response, but...



    ...How did I manage to do that? O_o No, seriously.

    I think it might've been because, for whatever reason, I was thinking of one of my original beta readers (who ironically actually had nothing to do with this project but had everything to do with my last Bill-centered megafic... which we will never speak of again due to lol things I hated by the second chapter), AlphaWolfNH.

    Which is still not an excuse, and I apologize for that. x_x Clearly, I need to clear out my mental Rolodex.

    Also, I should hope you're not writing a 20-page review. XD Save some of your sanity, dear.

    And thanks very much to both you and Diddy! I swear, proper response will come after I'm not procrastinating like mad on schoolwork.
    Oh so you’re giving me pet names now? -.-

    Joking, joking. ^ ^; I’m not mad or anything, so it’s all cool. I mean, it was just an accident. Plus, Alpha sounds like a pretty sweet name, and I actually kind of like it.

    I’m trying to do a few things in another forum that I have neglected for far too long, but I’ll come back every so often. Hopefully ;.;
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Anima Ex Machina
    Twenty-Five: I won't depend on anyone anymore.
    The fact you're quoting Madoka Magica at the very beginning frightens me, Jax. What am I getting into?

    The Caravan, which had previously been a massive mobile village of up to thirty vehicles and nearly seventy people, now existed as not so much a caravan as a small band of nomads. Excluding the pokémon, its population count was eight, and all eight of these humans plus the supplies needed to sustain them had traveled almost two days away from the remains of Mauville City in nothing but one truck and one van that had miraculously survived the attack of one fire-type ixodida. Presently, the van and the truck sat in a clearing, flanking a fire – the only source of light for the small camp – tended by Vito. Thom lay in the bed of the truck, already asleep and snoring loudly with his manectric lying beside him. Veronica sat on the hood of the truck with one of her hands holding her gun between her spread knees. Her other hand rested on the head of her growlithe, who slept next to her. Lanette stood not far away, her crowbar in her hands. The only sound besides the crackling fire came from the hushed discussion Steven and Wallace were having. They stood over a map spread out on the back of Steven's metagross, heads bent and fingers occasionally pointing to dots spotting the paper's surface. Lanette kept one ear on this conversation as she stood watch, waiting for either news from them or the first sign of a threat to the camp.
    First question: was there another timeskip? It feels like there might have been.

    Lots of description here, but you did well avoiding the possible danger of repetition, so it didn't feel grueling to get through at all. Good use of Steven's Metagross, too.

    Inside the van, Hope leaned against Ellen's side, her eyes closed and her chest heaving softly in a deep sleep. Ellen, meanwhile, remained wide awake. Leaning her chin on her palm, she stared out into forest. She hadn't had a single second of sleep that night, and she had the feeling she wouldn't, if only because her mind kept thinking about the dark expanse all around her. With her other hand, she reached up to smooth the hair of her charge as she wondered what might have gone through the girl's head. Was she happy? Was she having a good dream? Ellen worried about these things. At least those thoughts were a welcome change from all the mental images that had occupied her mind all day, like the claws and teeth of the ixodida and how many there might have been around them at any given time. Steven and Wallace's presence were only slight comforts to her.
    Simply adorable. A beacon of hope (heh) in the middle of hell like this shouldn't be this cute.

    Just then, Hope opened her eyes. At first, she remained quiet, as if she was hesitant to disturb her companion's peace, but then, her lips parted to utter a single phrase.

    "Uwasa o sureba kage."
    I'll stop you here for a minute.

    I would totally read a spinoff about Hope before the disaster.

    Anyway, ordinarily usage of Japanese in an English story would put me off, but you set it up properly, so I like it here. I think I've said that before, actually.

    Ellen looked curiously at her companion, drawing her eyes away from the brush. At that same moment, a shadow appeared between the trees, and the snapping of a twig shattered the quiet outside.
    Oh ****. Peace couldn't last, could it?

    Veronica was the first to react. She drew her legs under her until she crouched on the hood of the truck. Her arms swung up and pointed the gun steadily at the trees as she cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. Taking notice of the officer's stance, Lanette crept towards the source of the sound and raised her crowbar. The conversation between Steven and Wallace deadened with both champions gazing in the girls' direction.
    This is gonna be serious, isn't it? Sure feels that way...

    "It's me! Don't attack!" a voice announced from the forest.

    Veronica gripped her weapon tightly as her finger rested on the trigger. "Damn it, Bill! Get the hell out here so we can see you!"
    Awwww **** Bill. When are you going to learn to not act suspiciously around people who don't trust you?

    Or is Adam beginning to rub off on him more?

    Not so much stepping out into the light as rushing, Bill stumbled into the clearing, clutching onto a pink and blue burden as tightly as he could. He came to a halt several feet from the others and panted, lifting his head to gauge the reactions he would get. Just as he predicted, the first one he received was Veronica narrowing her eyes and shifting the gun to the burden, but luckily for it, the second reaction was Lanette lowering her crowbar and running forward. Bill leaned back, holding his companion protectively.
    I don't really care for the use of "burden" here. It feels a little awkward, and it made me have to read it a couple of times to absorb it properly.

    "Wait! Lanette! Don't—"

    "What happened here?" she demanded.

    Bill glanced briefly at the crowbar resting at her side. Taking it as a sign that she wasn't about to strike, he relaxed slightly, although he gazed at her in confusion. Cautiously, he let her see Tate, unconscious and lying limp in his arms.
    I think here the description could have been a bit better. I get that you were trying to make Tate be a surprise, but the awkward wording of the previous bit makes it a bit hard to understand just what it was he's carrying without being explicitly told. It would be better if the reader could reasonably guess who it was before; maybe saying something about Tate's clothing could help.

    "We-we got into a fight," he explained. "He attacked me from out of nowhere, and there was a kecleon—"

    Lanette carefully pulled at the boy's shoulder to examine his face. She gripped his arm and felt the muscles beneath his pink skin before moving her hand to his chest.

    "He's been paralyzed," she concluded.

    "Lick," Bill replied. "He took a Lick to his face, and before then, I used Mirror Shot on him."

    Lanette gave him a cold look before shifting her gaze over her shoulder.

    "Steven! Wallace!"
    Always so calculating. Not entirely sure Steven and Wallace are gonna take this well though...

    At once, the two champions moved to her side and glanced at the boy in the ixodida's arms.

    "It's Tate all right," Steven said.

    Wallace nodded and took the boy from Bill's arms.

    "I can't tell how serious it is," he said. "Lanette, how much field training does your Nurse Joy have?"

    Veronica intercepted the question before Lanette could answer. "Not much. She's a city nurse, but she can learn on the fly."
    Interesting. I hadn't really thought of the idea that Nurse Joys don't all have the same training, but again, since you're talking about the field, it's something I wouldn't have even come near.

    "He won't require much," Lanette added. "His paralysis can easily be cured with one dose of paralyz heal, and he sustained minimal damage from two attacks. Nurse Joy should be familiar with those types of injuries. Please go get her, Officer Jenny."

    The officer nodded and slid off the hood of the truck. As she jogged to the van, Lanette turned to Vito.

    "Vito, stand watch. Steven, Wallace, I'd like one of you to assist Nurse Joy. The other may carry on with what you were doing."

    "And you?" Steven said.

    "I have private matters to attend to," she said as she began walking across the camp.
    I wonder what those would be. Suspicious...

    Steven followed her for a few steps, leaving Wallace behind with Tate in his arms. "Lanette, would you like someone to keep you company?"

    She turned to him and flashed him a look. Bill froze, noticing right away that it was softer than usual, that her voice was a little more gentle than the one she used with him.

    "Thank you, but no," she answered. "Concern yourself with protecting the camp and tending to Tate, please. Those two tasks are far more important than what I have to do."
    UH OH. Steven moving in on Bill's turf? Adam isn't gonna stand for this!

    With that, she walked away, passing by the trees framing the clearing. Bill shook off the shock of what he had just seen and started after her, passing by Ellen and Steven along the way. While Ellen only gave him a brief but concerned glance on her way to Tate, Steven reached out to grab his arm.

    "Wait, where are you going?" he asked.

    "After her," Bill replied. "Who knows what's out there?"

    "And you think you can battle against what's out there?"

    "Well, I can certainly try."

    At that answer, Steven relaxed and released the ixodida's wrist. "Be careful out there."
    Not entirely sure Steven would complain if he couldn't battle out there.... (kidding)

    "Of course," Bill quipped as he turned and walked into the woods.

    For a long while, Steven stood, watching the ixodida until he could no longer see so much as the arrowhead tip of his tail between the trees. Then, the champion crossed his arms and raised his ice-blue eyes to the sky.

    "Something's different about him already. That's for sure," he muttered.

    Some distance behind him, between his back and the small crowd huddled over Tate, was Hope, standing wide-eyed and still by the fire.

    ---
    I'm not sure what to think here. Something's different, but what is it? Why is Hope so stunned?

    By the time she stopped, Lanette could no longer hear or see the Caravan. The woods were cold and dark and lonely. At that hour, the moon had set long ago, and her only means to see were the smattering of stars overhead. It didn't matter to her. She knew that the ixodida cores and parasites glowed red, so darkness was safety. As such, she kept to only the darkest parts of the woods, her hand gripping her crowbar as she searched for something. Something familiar.

    She hadn't found it when she stopped. In fact, by her calculations, she was only halfway to her destination – if she was right about its location. The only reason why she stopped, really, was because for the past ten minutes, she heard a faint rustling behind her. She knew who it was already; she didn't expect anything less from him.
    I'm not surprised he'd do it either. Not surprised at all. I do wonder what she's looking for, though.

    He stopped somewhere behind her. How far, she couldn't tell, but she could no longer hear the sound he produced as he pushed through the brush. She waited for a few moments, wondering if he would come out to meet her. When he didn't, she sighed and reached into one of the pouches on her belt. Drawing a sphere from inside it, she tossed the ball in the air and let it crack open with a brilliant, white light.

    "Solrock! Psychic!" she called.

    The sun-shaped stone appeared in an instant with its eyes already blazing bright blue in the direction of her pursuer. Lanette caught her poké ball and stepped aside, just in time for Bill to miss her while Solrock telekinetically threw him into a tree on the other side of the clearing.
    She has an odd way of interacting with her friends.

    "Ow," he moaned as he stood and held his arm. "Isn't that a little excessive?"
    Are you complaining, Bill?

    She scowled at him. "What's a little excessive is you following me. I don't need protection, Bill."
    No, he does when with you. /runs

    He forced a laugh. "Really, Lanette, I may be stubborn and old-fashioned, but I don't need another crowbar to the head to figure out you're strong enough to take care of yourself. No, I'm not out here because I think you'd need an escort."

    "Then why are you out here?" she snapped.

    Straightening to his full height, Bill's expression turned from an awkward smile to an intensely serious look. "I want to ask you a question."
    Don't kneel down, Bill. Don't ****ing do it now you son of a *****.

    "Couldn't it wait until I returned?"

    "No." He stepped a little closer – cautiously so as not to alarm her but just enough to make it clear he wasn't about to leave. "I wanted to ask it privately."

    She hesitated slightly. Bill thought, in that brief silence, that she would simply blow him off and attempt to escape him again, but to his surprise, she looked away.

    "Fine. Ask."

    Surprised by how easily he had won that battle, Bill found himself stumbling over his own words. Suddenly, the perfect question that had been burning in his mind for the past several minutes became a muddled, vague mess encapsulated in two words:

    "Why me?"
    Wait, what? I mean, she surprised me that she's actually listening to him, but what?

    Lanette looked at him again, this time with an arched eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

    Gaining a little more confidence, Bill took a deep breath and said, "I don't understand it. You didn't try to kill Tate. I thought you hated all ixodida."

    "I didn't try to kill Tate because he was vouched for by Steven and Wallace."
    Oh ****. This is going in a completely different direction than I expected. Granted, with the Madoka quote up top, I should have expected my heart to be stomped into a million pieces.

    "Even so, the people of Mauville know you can trust me, and—"

    "All except Officer Jenny."

    "Nonetheless, Nurse Joy and Thom are comfortable with me!" Bill sighed. "Lanette, I understand your feelings towards Adam. I can't blame you at all if you can't trust him, but I want to know why you treat me like a monster."

    "Because you are!" she snapped.
    Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no make it stop make it stop. Please, Lanette, open up to him already...

    Bill groaned in exasperation. "What can I do to convince you that I'm not?"

    "Nothing."

    "I won't accept that as an answer!"

    She glared at him. "Well, that's unfortunate, Bill, because nothing you've ever done has convinced me that you're still human and that that thing inside you is at all under control! Considering both, I'm inclined to believe that you're a monster and that you will never be anything but a monster."
    Why, Lanette...

    The silence lingered over their heads for minutes. In the first few seconds, all Bill could feel was utter shock. His limbs hung limply at his side, his tail rested by his feet, and in both, he could feel a dull, cold ache, the only thing that tied him to reality. In the next few seconds, the ache traveled to his chest. His heart felt like it was about to burst, and he could do nothing more than cringe and place a hand over it.
    And to think I feel the same way right now...

    "Lanette, I—"

    "Don't say anything more about the subject. There's nothing else to say."

    "Then I'll ask you another question," he said, keeping his eyes away from her. He wanted something – anything – to serve as a hint of the Lanette he knew almost a year ago, and as such, he scrambled desperately back towards civil conversation. "Why… why are you out here?"

    "Do you really want to know?" she asked, her voice dangerously low.

    He nodded and breathed. "Yes. Yes, I'd like to know."

    "Very well." She raised her hand and snapped her fingers. "Solrock. Show him."

    The stone's eyes flashed bright red, and a wave of faint, red light pulsed from its body and swept outward. Bill flinched, instinctively shielding his eyes with an arm as the wave washed over him and passed into the forest. Once it passed, he lowered his arm and opened his eyes slowly to gaze at Lanette's pokémon again.

    It was sunny. Literally sunny. He blinked in confusion as he gazed through the tree branches above him at the blue sky. Stepping forward, he craned his neck and felt the warmth of the sunlight on his face.

    That was when he noticed something else amiss about the situation. He knew that his tail would have moved at the pleasure he got from the weather, but he realized right then that he couldn't feel that part of him – not the air around it, not the earth beneath it, not the feet of muscles within it. Quickly, he shot a glance over his shoulder to see absolutely nothing behind him. A look of confusion flashed across his face as he bit the finger of one of his gloves and yanked it off. His fangs were gone, and even more than that, when he removed his hand from the glove, it looked completely and mundanely human. He opened his mouth, letting the glove drop into his other hand as he stared in wonder at it.

    "What's going on?" he murmured.

    "Trick Room," Lanette replied impatiently. "You know what it does, don't you?"
    Creative use of Trick Room, but now I'm confused about what IS going on. What is she after?

    Bill gave her an uncertain glance. Of course he knew what it was. Trick Room, a technique in which a pokémon distorted space to create a pocket dimension where the laws of science didn't always apply. It was one of the many moves that baffled researchers since its discovery, and Bill himself had never seen it used in person, never mind standing inside the resulting reality warp. He had no idea what to expect.

    "Yes, but—"

    "So long as you're inside Trick Room, Solrock will make you see what you want to see," Lanette explained. "For example, you wish to see yourself as human, so you're human. More importantly…"

    She moved her eyes to the side without turning her head. Bill followed her gaze and noticed that in the distance, he could hear the sound of a truck passing by.

    "…You wish to know what I'm doing here. I'll show you my memories. Take as much time as you'd like. I don't care. Just know that besides me, anyone you meet can't hear or see you," Lanette finished.
    The fact she's willing to do this is unexpected. Again, though, creative use of Trick Room.

    Then, before Bill could ask her anything else, she vanished and left him and Solrock in a clearing. He took a step forward, as if he intended on chasing her, but above him Solrock's eyes flashed red. The world dissolved around him, and in that brief second, he felt as if someone had yanked the ground out from under him. Pitching backwards, he yelped and clawed perfect darkness for something to grab onto, only to fall through thin air.

    Luckily, the fall was short, and before long, he slammed into something metal a few feet below him. Groaning, he sat up and placed a hand on the ground as the world rapidly reappeared around him. He looked up at the blue skies and the green tree branches passing quickly above him; it took him a moment before he realized he was the one who was moving. Glancing around him, he let his eyes sweep over the cabin of the truck – whose roof he was sitting on – to the truck's bed. There, among boxes of research equipment, he saw two young women. One was instantly recognizable: Lanette, as she was when he knew her almost a year ago. The second looked nearly exactly like her, with the same shape of a face, the same lean body, the same bright red eyes and orange hair. In truth, the only differences between Lanette and this young woman were that the latter wore her hair short and choppy and that her clothing – the white sweater and black miniskirt – clung to her body a little more than anything her sister would dare to wear.

    Craning her neck, Brigette smiled and gazed up at the sky above them. Then, twisting around in her seat, she gave her younger sibling an amused look and watched the girl work on a laptop.

    "You'll run out of battery before we're halfway there!" Brigette exclaimed. "Don't you think you should give it a rest for a bit?"

    Without looking up, Lanette replied, "In a minute. I just need to finish this letter."

    "Oh? Who are you sending it to? Bill again?"
    Ohhhhhhh boy. This one is gonna be interesting...

    Lanette bowed her head. "Hold on. I'm going to lose my train of thought."

    "I knew it!"

    Brigette scrambled across the truck bed as her smile turned from amused to mischievous. Knowing full well that neither of them could see him, Bill leaned forward in an attempt to glance over Lanette's shoulder and see her screen. Unfortunately, the girl's body obscured most of it, and his view didn't improve when Brigette wrapped her arms around her sister and restrained her. Although Lanette shrieked and struggled in her sibling's grasp, she couldn't stop Brigette from reading what was on the screen.

    "'Dear Bill'—oh, really, Lanette? You'll give him ideas, you know. 'I'd like to congratulate you on your position at Polaris Institute, but I regret to inform you that Brigette and I were blessed with an even better opportunity.' Good gods! You sound like you're writing a rejection letter! Come on, now! Is that any way to treat your crush?"
    Okay, that got a spit-take and a good laugh. Good job.

    At that point, Bill nearly fell off the truck. Instead, he slipped into the bed, slamming face-first into the metal next to Lanette. Scrambling to his knees, he covered his mouth and nose with a hand and watched the sisters with wide eyes and a red face.

    The shade of Lanette's face matched his as she finally broke out of Brigette's grip and shoved her away.

    "Don't be ridiculous!" she yelled. "I do not have a crush on Bill! He's just a close friend, and that's all, Brigette! Close friends can tease each other now and then, you know!"

    The other woman sat back and lowered her eyelids halfway. "Oh? Does he see it the same way?"

    Without thinking, Bill responded, "Are you serious?! Of course I see it the same way!"

    Lanette went back to typing fervently. "I don't have a clue. Goodness knows what goes through that boy's head sometimes, and so long as he keeps things like that to himself, I honestly don't care what he thinks."
    I like this Lanette. Can we at least know why this Lanette isn't around anymore?

    "I don't have a crush on you! I swear!" Bill snapped, his face brightening even more.

    "Anyway, why does it matter to you? Bill and I have known each other for almost seven years, after all. If he and I wanted to take our relationship any further than friendship, we would have, but we won't because I can't even begin to list how many things are wrong with that."

    Brigette sighed and wrapped her arms around her sister again, this time gently.

    "You're way too serious sometimes, Lanette," she said. "I worry about you, you know."

    Lanette smirked. "Why should you worry? If anything, you should be more concerned if I ever do decide to start dating."

    The older sister frowned and buried half her face in Lanette's hair. "Stress isn't good for your health, you know. You should enjoy yourself more often."
    If only Brigette was still around now...

    It didn't register in Bill's mind at first that the scene had shifted. It simply felt as if a dark curtain fell over his eyes, and the sensation of being moved ended. However, the more he stared into the blackness, the more it began to take form, and he slowly started to notice that he wasn't in a void. Rather, it was night, and he was standing in the middle of the woods.

    A flash of light drew his attention to the side. He watched for a few seconds as two glowing spots drew closer and closer. It took a few more seconds for Bill to realize that he was looking at headlights. Tumbling into the underbrush by the side of the road, he narrowly managed to avoid the truck carrying Lanette and Brigette. In the ensuing hesitation, he turned to watch the taillights shrink into the distance as his heart pounded from the scare. After a moment, he shook off the surprise and sprinted after the truck.

    He didn't have far to go. It took a while of tree-dodging and tripping and scrambling in the darkness before he pushed through to a place where the trees were spaced out further than anywhere else in the woods. Moonlight filtered through the canopy onto the forest floor, which was covered with a carpet of splintered wood and broken appliances. Slowing his pace to a walk, Bill made his way down the road that cut between piles of debris, and with each step his eyes scanned both sides of it in wonder. A television set with a shattered screen. A decapitated doll. Scraps of a rug resting on a mountain of broken floorboards. All of them, signs of human life long forgotten. Bill knew at once where he was.

    "Fortree City," he whispered.
    Oh this is gonna be grim. The seatbelt's going on now.

    Stopping, he found himself face-to-face with a plush eevee impaled by wood. It looked used, with frays on its edges that Bill could tell were there for years before it fell. Reaching for it, he realized that he recognized it. He had the hazy image of it sitting on a desk. Not just any desk, either. His desk. It was a gift: a birthday gift. The first one she had ever given him. What was it doing there, among all the details of Lanette's memories? His fingers rose, slowly reaching for it as his vision hazed. He could almost hear her shy, twelve-year-old voice, the shape of her words when she pushed the gift into his hands. The way her face looked when he thanked her.

    His heart pounded again, but he couldn't think of a reason why.

    Suddenly, he heard a scream not far away, followed by a crash and the roar of an ixodida. Tearing his hand away from the doll, he snapped his attention in the direction of the cacophony, further into the remains of the city.

    "Lanette! Brigette!" he cried.
    It's about to get horrible, isn't it?

    And just like that, he was running again. He didn't think twice about it. It didn't even occur to him that there was no way he could do a thing to save either of the sisters, and it certainly didn't occur to him that, logically, he had no reason to rush to Lanette's aid anyway if she still existed in the present. His body just moved on instinct, carried him closer to danger when he would have normally run in the opposite direction. All he could think about at that moment was the second cry. An ixodida. An ixodida was attacking, and as he considered that, Bill could think of a thousand different possibilities as to what he would be confronting in a matter of seconds.

    The mountains of debris gave way to a space only marginally less cluttered than its surroundings. Research equipment, crates, and supplies lay smashed all over the floor of the clearing. Tents still stood or half-stood with rips in their canvas walls and poles bent or broken. Several vehicles stood like ghosts with broken windows and dust gathering on their otherwise intact surfaces, but the one that was transporting the sisters had its front end smashed into the back of a second truck.

    Bill could just barely pay attention to the wreckage, however. There was too much blood and too many bodies for him to notice. Piles of them lay strewn on the mountains of debris, in some of the vehicles, half inside tents; anywhere a body could lie, there was one.

    There was half of one, in fact, in the right hand of the creature standing in the middle of the clearing. He – or Bill supposed it was a he, considering the way its body was shaped – stood hunched over with his green-skinned arms held away from his bulky torso. Vines adorned his head and moved like snakes down his back as each of the red blossoms that dotted them emitted small puffs of yellow pollen. His tail ended in a club, not an arrowhead, and as it thumped rhythmically against the ground, a golden cloud began to form above it from the pollen emitted by his flowering skin. However, what interested Bill the most wasn't that he existed but instead what he was wearing. Blood-spattered lab coat. Ripped dark t-shirt. Shredded khaki shorts. Once he could picture the man with human skin and human hair, Bill recognized him immediately.

    Professor Birch.
    OH ****. And to think I know what ELSE is about to go wrong...

    The ixodida threw back his head and howled before tossing the head in the direction of the crashed truck. Following it with his eyes, Bill watched as Brigette suddenly leapt from the shadows of the vehicle while clutching a crowbar. Swinging the weapon, she smacked the head like a baseball, sending it flying back towards her attacker until it landed with a wet thump between them. Meanwhile, Lanette sat up in the bed of the truck, holding a small, blue bird tightly to her chest.

    "Lanette, stay there!" Brigette yelled. "Swablu!"

    The bird wrenched itself away from Lanette and hopped onto the edge of the truck. Her master swung an arm in the direction of the ixodida.

    "Aerial Ace!" she yelled.

    Her pokémon took flight and dove at Professor Birch as quickly as she could. The ixodida reared back, his hair whipping to his front. Several of the vines framing his face sliced through the air in an attempt to strike Swablu, but the bird dodged, swooping deftly around each tendril until she smashed beak-first into her opponent's chest. Birch reeled as Swablu's cloud-like wings fluttered and carried her out of his reach. However, she wasn't nearly safe then. Swinging an arm towards Swablu, Birch opened his hand and released a barrage of glowing, green leaves from his fingers. Swablu chirped loudly and swooped again in an attempt to dodge, but the leaves followed her, slicing her skin and wings until droplets of blood and fragments of feathers rained onto the ground. The rest of her body endured the brunt of the attack, sailing several feet through the air before crashing into the earth.

    "Swablu, no!" she cried. Without thinking, she took a few steps forward. "Come on! Please! Get up! You're our only hope!"
    This is not going to end well for anyone involved.

    Swinging his head in her direction, Birch growled and lashed several of his vines towards Brigette again. Swablu, with some effort, pushed herself off the ground, her wings frantically flapping to launch herself into the air. Although her flight path was awkward and nearly looped back into itself twice, she still managed to push herself between her master and her enemy just in time for the vines to grab her instead of Brigette. The ixodida lifted her high into the air as her body and the vines began to glow with a brilliant, green light. Swablu screamed and writhed in Birch's crushing grip, but with each passing second, her movements became more and more sluggish as the green light pulsed from her skin back down to her attacker's head.

    "Please! You've got to break out!" Brigette begged.

    Hearing her command, Swablu twisted and shrieked, but no matter what she did, she couldn't escape. Brigette ran forward, her arms raised with the crowbar poised to strike, but without even turning towards her, Birch simply lashed several of his tendrils out at her to smack her away. She landed on her side with the crowbar slipping from her hands and thumping just out of her reach.

    Watching this, Swablu struggled desperately, but the more she did, the more her eyes wanted to close. When her movements slowed to a stop, Birch slammed her back into the ground. Towering over her, he transferred the green glow to his right hand. He lifted his arm, balled his hand into a tight fist, and slammed it into the bird's body. Over and over again, he did this, literally pounding Swablu into the ground.

    Picking her head up, Brigette could only watch, but she could feel tears come to her eyes with each successful Needle Arm on Birch's part.

    "Swablu!" she screamed.

    "Solrock, Fire Spin!" Lanette called.

    A swirling tunnel of flame rushed over her and engulfed the ixodida. Lanette gripped the edge of the truck, watching the inferno twist from the ground up to the sky as her solrock remained suspended in the air beside her. In the center, the grass-type screamed. His silhouette twisted and struggled, but the hot air kept him inside, save for the occasional slip of a black claw reaching out of the fire. Swablu dragged herself away from the attack, her body battered and bruised.

    Until, of course, a white light engulfed her.
    Well, I expected this, given the future.

    Brigette sat up at that point and stared. Her bird – her partner – grew rapidly. A graceful neck arced out of a plumper body. A pair of long, cloud-like wings fanned out of her form on both sides. Her claws grew longer, and her beak sharpened to a point. When the light faded, Altaria's blue feathers shimmered, like her skin was made of jewels.

    In front of her, the fire died down just enough for her to see the charred face of Professor Birch. Altaria didn't need orders at that point. She simply stretched her graceful neck, inhaled deeply, and released a beam of green light from her beak. The strike was point-blank. It catapulted Birch straight out of what was left of the tower and drove him into the ground several feet away, where he lay unmoving in a heap.

    The sisters and their pokémon waited for a good minute for something – anything – to happen. When nothing did, Brigette picked herself up and walked to Birch's side. Using her crowbar, she turned him over on his back and studied his twisted face with its blackened skin, broken jaw, and muscles frozen in a scream.

    "I think he's dead," she said softly.
    Now that's not what I expected. Didn't even think they'd manage to get this far.

    Out of the corner of her eye, she saw just the slightest movement across one of Birch's legs. Backing up a step, she raised her crowbar and trained her eyes on the edge of his shorts. A small creature poked out from beneath the hem. Its smooth, round body pulsed red with an internal light as its tiny, claw-like legs pulled itself out from beneath Birch's shorts. Tendrils trailed along beneath it until it cut them using two of its legs while it rested on its host's knee.

    "Brigette? What is it?" Lanette asked.

    She tightened her grip on the crowbar. "I… I don't know."

    Behind her, Bill crept closer. His eyes were wide and fixed on the creature. His chest burned with the memory of the kind of pain he knew would come next.

    "Get out of there," he rasped. "Please, Brigette, run!"
    OH GOD NO IT'S WORSE THAN I THOUGHT

    Then, the parasite leapt at her and latched onto her calf.

    The last thing he heard of her before the world dissolved around him was her scream.

    ---

    For hours after that, Bill was in Hell. The next scenes Trick Room forced him to watch were brief, but time no longer registered to him. In one scene, he watched as Lanette led Brigette to one of the tents, made her sister comfortable, and immediately rushed throughout the broken camp in a frantic effort to find medical supplies. All of her pokémon – Spinda, Solrock, Altaria – dug through piles of debris and broken crates. Lanette's hands began to bleed from the scratches and cuts sharp edges of metal and wood inflicted on her, and Spinda and Altaria, both of whom were forced to dig as opposed to lift objects telekinetically like Solrock, fared no better. By the time the sky began to gray with the first light of dawn, the four of them only managed to find broken and soiled medical supplies, scraps of cloth, and hundreds of other unusable objects. In fact, the only two useful objects they came across were the discarded crowbar Brigette had found and a knife that lay forgotten in the remnants of a kitchen.

    That didn't seem to stop Lanette, however. The scene dissolved into another one, one where Bill stood by the piles of scraps on which Brigette lay. He cringed as he heard her whimpering while Lanette leaned over her leg. Vein-like ridges radiated from the core, forming spider webs up Brigette's calf and over her knee. As Lanette rested a hand on her sister's ankle, the web shifted beneath Brigette's skin, as if to anticipate what was about to happen. Lanette raised her hand, lifting in it the knife that she had pulled from the rubble. Carefully, she brought it to Brigette's skin, intending on slicing around the ixodida core.

    The resulting scream caused Bill to flinch. When he opened his eyes, Brigette was pinning Lanette to the ground as a club-tipped tail whipped above her. On her hands, claws burst through her fingertips and grasped Lanette's shoulders. Brigette sobbed, her body shaking as tears trickled across her skin and dropped onto her sister's cheeks.

    "Lanette," she begged, "help me."
    NO

    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO THIS IS WORSE THAN ANYTHING I EVER EXPECTED WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS

    /Mami getting chewed.gif

    If only that was the last time Bill heard that plea.

    The next few moments came as quickly as flashes. Lanette pinning down Brigette's flailing, clawing arms. Brigette thrashing and ripping open her own skin. The human tying the ixodida's limbs to a square, makeshift frame made of metal bars she had gathered from the other tents. The ixodida biting whatever she could grasp. All the while, between screams and growls, Bill could hear Brigette's voice.

    "Help me. Lanette, please help me!"
    I can't take this anymore. This is ****ing agonizing...

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  25. #225
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    Some moments, he found himself standing next to Lanette outside the tent. In those moments of peace, Lanette stood, hugging herself and listening to her sibling's screams. Bill wanted to do something for her, to say something, to touch her and comfort her. But whenever he spoke, she didn't notice, and whenever he reached for her, his hand went right through her. For as long as he could remember, he couldn't recall any time that he felt more useless.

    Bill hated it. He hated standing by and watching her suffer. He wanted to go back, to force Solrock to lead him out of Trick Room, to apologize to Lanette for the gods knew what but for something.

    He wanted to stop noticing that Lanette was crying. That she cringed whenever her sister screamed. That she wasn't sleeping.

    Eventually, though, something changed. For the first time, after flickering scenes of Brigette screaming and vomiting and crying, there was silence. In this scene, Bill stood in the corner of the tent, his arms wrapped around himself as he took shivering breaths and watched Lanette kneel beside her sister. By then, Brigette no longer looked human. Her green skin glistened with sweat and the golden pollen from the red blossoms dotting her limbs. Her vine-like hair twitched and slithered around her head like a living halo. Her clawed hands hung limply from the makeshift bed frame while her tail wound around her three-toed feet. When she parted her lips slightly, she simply breathed, the air whistling between her fangs. Then, she opened her red eyes halfway and stared at her sister listlessly.

    Lanette grasped one of Brigette's hands tightly. To her surprise, Brigette squeezed back and forced herself to smile.

    "You're way too serious sometimes, Lanette," she murmured.

    In response, Lanette untied Brigette's hand, brought it to her cheek, and held it there. She pressed her lips together and swallowed, choking back a sob. In the meantime, the elder shut her eyes tightly and suffered through a shudder.

    "There's something I need you to do for me, and you have to do it. Okay?" Brigette said.
    This is gonna go where I think, isn't it. She's gonna ask her to end this, isn't she?

    The other woman didn't say a word. She only kept her eyes on her sister as she cried into her fingers.

    "Listen to me," Brigette urged. "I need for you to do what I tell you."

    Slowly, Lanette nodded. At the gesture, Brigette relaxed just a little.

    "Go find your knife and stab the parasite. Hurry."
    I knew it.

    With another nod, Lanette scrambled across the tent on her hands and knees, groping for the handle of the knife. In the corner of the tent, Bill's eyes trailed from her to her sister. Quietly, Brigette used her free hand to shred the bind that tied her other wrist to the bed frame, and then, she sat up. At once, Bill froze, his gaze flicking back and forth between both figures in front of him.

    "Lanette, don't turn your back on her!" he cried.

    Just like all the other times he had tried to contact her, she couldn't hear him. Because of that, she had nothing to prepare her for the vines that whipped at her and grabbed her by the waist, wrists, and neck. Her hand clenched around the handle of the knife as her body was yanked into the air and turned around forcibly to face Brigette. The ixodida's expression was blank, her red eyes practically dead and glossy as they stared up at her.

    Then, abruptly, Brigette shuddered and released Lanette, letting her drop to the floor of the tent with a thud. Frantically, she grasped her head and burst into a fit of sobs.

    "Oh gods! Oh gods, I'm so sorry!" she wailed. "Lanette, please! Hurry! Stab this thing! You've got to do it!"

    Lanette's hands scrambled to grab her knife again, but the rest of her body pushed itself back against the opposite wall. Her face blanched, mouth hanging open in shock. Brigette threw her head back and screamed once again, her claws curling in the air.

    "Please!" she screamed. "I can't! I can't hold it back anymore! Lanette…" She tilted her head forward and cried into her knees. "…Lanette, listen to me. There's something inside me. I can hear its thoughts. It wants… it wants…"

    Gripping the handle of the knife a little more, Lanette shakily stood, her feet inching closer to her sister. When she stood in the middle of the room, Brigette looked up at her and smiled one last time.

    "Lanette. I love you."
    NO!!

    With that, her face quickly blanked, and her body snapped the rope used to tie her feet to the makeshift frame. Lanette scrambled for the tent's entrance, narrowly missing her sibling's claws as Brigette lunged for her. The ixodida slammed onto all fours and chased after Lanette, right out of the tent. Bill hesitated for more than a minute, listening in shock to Lanette's screaming as it grew more and more distant. But then, when he started hearing gunshots, he shook himself back to reality and ran after the siblings.

    Outside, the night was dark, with the best light being provided by the waning moon. For this reason, Bill could only see silhouettes, but luckily, Brigette didn't make it difficult for him to find her – and not because the parasite on her leg served as a beacon, either. On top of one of the debris hills, she stood, several feet away from the shadows of a muscular, bald man and a wingull hovering next to him. Lanette stood at the base of the hill, her hands clasped as she watched her sister whip her vine-like hair at the newcomer.

    The man dodged deftly, swinging a bowie knife in front of him to slice Brigette's hair. She screeched, reeling back as she held her head. Taking the opportunity, the wingull swooped at her, its wings glowing with a brilliant, white light before slicing across her chest. Just as soon as the gull struck, it flapped its wings rapidly to gain altitude, allowing the man to start forward with his knife pointed directly at the ixodida's stomach.

    "No! Don't hurt her!" Lanette screamed.

    At the sound of her voice, the man hesitated for a brief second – one that Brigette took full advantage of by lashing out with her claws. Her entire arm was engulfed in a brilliant, green light, making it appear to be one long blade as it sliced across the man's throat. The glow illuminated the human's skin briefly, and the light glittered off the spray of blood that burst from the wound. As the newcomer fell to his knees, the ixodida turned to Lanette and gave her another blank glare.

    "Brigette, please!" she begged. "Please! You're not a killer! You can fight this! We'll… we'll get you help! Real help! I promise! Just… please!" She bowed her head, her voice lowering in volume as she sobbed. "…Please stop."

    The ixodida growled and rose to her full height. Her fingers tensed together, and once again, her arm began to glow bright green. Grinding her toes into the mountain of debris, she crouched and readied herself for a leap.

    But before she could, the wingull decided to make its presence known again. For a second time, the bird dove at the ixodida, striking her across the face with a glowing wing. She turned to it with a snarl and swung her glowing arm at it, but suddenly, something hit her with a whack. All at once, her body froze, and her hand fell limp at her side as she arched her back. Behind her, the old man ground his knife into her spine, twisting as he placed a hand on her stomach to push her into the blade. He pressed his forehead against her back, his body wracking with spasms from loss of blood.

    Then, the both of them fell to the other side of the mountain, out of sight of both Lanette and Bill.

    One last gunshot rang out, followed by a chorus of shouts.

    "No!" Lanette shrieked.

    She launched herself up the mountain, scrambling as quickly as her arms and legs could carry her before coming to a stop at the top of the mountain. Without a word, Bill followed her, clamoring to the peak until he stood beside her, gazing down at the scene on the other side.

    The man lay spread eagle with his head cocked at an unnatural angle. Across his neck, the slash looked like a second smile. His wingull sat on his chest, nuzzling him desperately. Beside him, Brigette lay on her side with her back to the man and the knife still jutting from her spine. The parasite had been shot, leaving a gaping hole in Brigette's leg where it used to be. All around the two, several people were bent down, examining them and chattering between themselves. Only one of them stood still and quiet: a young man with a shotgun. He merely stood over Brigette's head, gazing down at her with an apathetic expression. Then, he moved the barrel of his gun against her temple and pulled the trigger.
    Oh God... at least it's finally over...

    Lanette wailed. This one was louder and longer than anything else Bill had heard since entering Trick Room, and this one tore at his heart. He could only watch his partner drop to her knees and sob as the other humans made their way up the side of the mountain to surround her and gently embrace her.

    ---

    Bill could hardly focus on the next few scenes. He watched the small band of newcomers take Lanette back to their camp – the Caravan of several months ago – by the river, but all he could do was follow mindlessly. None of the things he saw or heard sank into his mind as the people of the Caravan placed her in a bed and gave her food and water. All he could think about was Brigette's death.

    This lasted until Lanette finally woke up. Brigette had been right about her sister; Lanette always took things a little too seriously. Yet, the expression she had on her face when she opened her eyes was a different kind of seriousness. Her eyes were wide. Her mouth was a thin line. Her skin was pale. With trembling hands, she gripped the bed sheets and threw them off her body. One of her hands grabbed her glasses, and as she put them on, she stood and started walking, walking out of the medical tent they had set up for her, walking through the camp, walking forward. Some of the people of the Caravan shouted at her, but she paid no attention to anyone. All she did was continue forward aimlessly.

    As Bill followed her, he could hear her voice, but he wasn't certain it was coming from the figure directly in front of him.

    "No matter what it takes," she said, "no matter what the risks. I will kill all of them. Even if I have to burn Hoenn to the ground, I will kill every single one of those parasites with my bare hands."

    With each step that she walked forward, she and the scene around her shifted. The camp faded away before breaking into flashes of battlefields, of burned ixodida, dismembered humans, and half-eaten pokémon. Her clothing transformed piece by piece from the light green sundress she had been wearing to the battle attire Bill was used to seeing. Flicking her hair over a shoulder, she walked into a black-and-white scene, a still image of Mauville City with a copy of herself kneeling on top of a steel-type ixodida.

    "Except…"

    Color crept into the scene, bleeding over every surface to transform it from a photograph into something real. The first movement either of the spectators saw was a smile crossing the ixodida's face.

    "Hello, Lanette," he said.

    As the scene played out, the other Lanette – the one who stood beside the human Bill at that point – looked down at it with an unwaveringly cold expression.

    "Do you want to know what I was thinking during that?" she asked.

    The ixodida's tail wormed its way from beneath the other Bill and wrapped around his attacker's waist. She was shoved against him, just enough to let him lift his head and whisper into her ear a single word: a password to one of the security layers guarding the storage system. The name of the plush eevee she had given him so many years ago. A fragment of Lanette's full name.

    "Melinda."

    She straightened in her seat, but as she did so, several other images flashed in front of Bill's eyes. Images of Brigette. Her smile. Her words. Her embrace. Her dead body. Bill choked back a cry as he held his head.

    "No," Lanette whispered.

    "Not you. Anyone but you. Why did it have to be you?" the other one said.

    The scene faded to black and white again at that point, but it continued playing in the background. In the meantime, the present Lanette rounded on her companion, her face contorted in seething hatred.

    "Why did it have to be you?!" she demanded. "Do you get it now, Bill?! I can't do it again! I can't watch someone I remotely care about be killed! And the more you demand to be my best friend, the more I can only see you—"
    Damn it, Jax. Why did it have to come out like this?

    She stopped short and turned her head. Bill straightened where he stood. He could see her lips quivering, the look on her face breaking from cold to human. Suddenly, something inside him moved, like his mind was settling rapidly on a single thought.

    "They buried them both somewhere out here. That's what I'm doing tonight. I'm trying to find where they buried them so I could…" She shuddered. Her voice lowered and strained against her throat. "Mr. Briney died to protect me because I couldn't kill her when she asked me to. He killed her for me. I couldn't do it. She…"

    Taking a deep breath, Bill stepped forward and reached for her. His hand rested on her cheek and gently nudged her to look at him again. The expression that twisted her face quickly turned into a scowl as she smacked his hand away.

    "I hate you!" she cried.

    Undeterred, he placed his hand on the back of her head.

    "You don't hate me, and no matter how hard you try, you won't," he told her quietly.

    "Don't touch me!"

    She shoved him and took several steps away from him. Before she could get any further, he rushed forward and embraced her from behind. Right away, she struggled against him, trying desperately to wrench herself out of his grip.

    "I said don't touch me!" she barked.

    "No," he replied firmly. "I want you to understand something. No matter what happens, I'm not going to let you go through that again. I swear to you – I promise you – that no matter what happens, I will always be me. I'll fight with everything I've got if necessary."

    All around them, the scenery changed until they were back where they started, in the middle of a forest in the darkest part of the night. Solrock hovered above them as Lanette bent over, pressing all her weight against Bill's arms.

    "I hate you," she muttered, her voice barely much more than a growl by then.

    He let her drag him to the ground. Her legs folded beneath her, and once she knelt, she bent her head down and cried, letting her tears fall freely onto the ground while the rest of her trembled. Leaning against her, Bill could do nothing else but hold her up and wait.

    "I hate you," she repeated.

    Then, resting his forehead on her shoulder, he replied, "I'm sorry."
    My mind is full of feelings, Jax. Completely full of feelings.

    That was the most gut-wrenching thing I've read in a very, very long time. I knew Lanette's backstory would be bad, but I never expected once that it was going to be this painful to read. Those scenes of Brigette slowly being lost to the parasite were absolutely agonizing and horribly sad. I felt like I'd start bawling as it was going.

    You did good, Jax. You did damn good and it's bringing tears to my eyes.

    (Banner by Matori)
    Beyond all ideals, the truth shall set you free...
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