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Thread: Anima Ex Machina (PG-15)

  1. #276
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Raye is cool, though I'm still pretty found of hope
    I'd have to admit I'll miss the name, but when her point in the story is revealed, it'll seriously be for the best that the change happened. X_x Lol, yours truly and her "let's be obvious" tendencies back in the day.

    I liked that a lot. I went through something similar in my own fic recently.
    Thanks, and I seriously need to catch up with your fic and drop a review. orz I mean, I've checked it out, and it looks incredibly awesome. It's just… blargh, real life. X_x Sorry about that!

    I like that Bill is starting to realize where he is and how he can change his circumstance. The more he frees his mind and settles into more of a 'Mature' state, things are slowly getting better for him. I base that on the fact tht he is able to exercise more control over what's ahppening, (at least in that area)...hope that made sense haha
    It totally did, and you're totally right. Not to give away too much about the next chapter/his cryptic babbling in this one, but that's a large part of what he finally figured out: that he's more in control than he realizes.

    And I'm definitely looking forward to exploring that more. *tents fingers*

    I would change 'Eons'...I know you're trying to describe how drastically long it took, but that portion read weird to me.
    That's a good suggestion. Maybe if I replaced it with "forever"? "An eternity"? I'll have to think about it a bit more, I'd say, but those are the first two that jump to mind, at least.

    This is why I love your writing. What a powerful statement. Seriously. Got a slight chill when Adam said that.
    *bows* Thank you!

    At first I felt like Adam was being intentionally malicious. Baiting Bill with his image in an effort to show him what he had lost. The more I thought about it though, I came to feel like Adam was trying to break Bill out of his depression and angst by showing him that his body/being is still there. Waiting for him in a way. Bill completely lost his train of thought for a second when he saw it. To me, it felt like Adam was trying to tell him that he ISNT a monster, he is still who he was, but he's growing. That's what I got from it anyway haha
    You know, I really like this interpretation.

    And you should totally go with it because you're on to something.

    Aaaaand that's all I can say about that.

    Why do I feel like this means something
    Because it might. ;D

    I knew I liked John.
    Haha, it's hard not to like John.

    Unless you're Team Rocket.

    Or a son with slight daddy issues. Which I'd love to get into eventually because boy howdy is the McKenzie family dysfunctional.

    But otherwise!

    Spelling and stuff was perfect in this chapter as always.
    Thanks!

    The one thing that felt odd to me in this chapter was the pacing. It went from Bill, to Lanette and Steven, to John. Tht's not very many shifts at all, hell I've used a lot more in a single chapter. I was hoping for a little more expansion on the forest, maybe Bill making some Pokemon or changing the scenery Inception style. I don't really have a way for you to fix this, and that suggestion might just be in my head, so pay me no mind lol.
    When it comes to the lack of shifts, that's actually pretty intentional, admittedly. I used to do a lot more each chapter (with each one reaching twenty pages on average, even), but then a lot of people complained that the chapters were too lengthy and covered too much material. So I wound up cutting down the amount of material I covered, which wound up meaning that each chapter contained either very quick scenes or only a maximum of four scenes a chapter. Sort of annoying because now I have to cover a lot of ground in short spurts, but on the positive side, the people who were complaining about godawfully long chapters stopped griping about that. *solemn nod*

    Meanwhile, though, you do bring up an incredibly good point about the Gray Forest. That's something I'd really like to get into within the fic too. I'm not sure if I can fit it in this chapter, but it's certainly something you'll see later on, especially since the fact that Bill now realizes he can control what goes on within it will be a plot point eventually.

    It was a good chapter for the sole reason of Bill coming to terms with the fact that he has to get stronger. I knew that revelation would eventually happen, I just didn't think that Lanette would be the cause of it.
    *brofists*

    Raye/Hope/whatever her name is too, I have to say, which reminds me that I really need to build up that relationship because… whoops. (I totally didn't let my shipping tendencies get in the way of the plot! What are you talking about? >_> <_<)

    Anyway, awesome chapter yet again, and I'm 'hungry for more
    Thank you! Hopefully, the next chapter will be soon~!

    Especially since we're so close to 300 replies. And with 300 replies comes that special surprise(s) that I mentioned earlier. (WHAT COULD THEY BEEEEE~?)

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

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  2. #277
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    Thanks, and I seriously need to catch up with your fic and drop a review. orz I mean, I've checked it out, and it looks incredibly awesome. It's just… blargh, real life. X_x Sorry about that!
    That's quite a compliment coming from you ^^;; You're totally fine! I wait patiently for my chance to be on your proverbial chopping block :P

    That's a good suggestion. Maybe if I replaced it with "forever"? "An eternity"? I'll have to think about it a bit more, I'd say, but those are the first two that jump to mind, at least.
    Either of those sound a little bit better for me. I know that both of those symbolize unending, infinite, etc, but eons just seemed so much bigger.

    And you should totally go with it because you're on to something.


    When it comes to the lack of shifts, that's actually pretty intentional, admittedly. I used to do a lot more each chapter (with each one reaching twenty pages on average, even), but then a lot of people complained that the chapters were too lengthy and covered too much material. So I wound up cutting down the amount of material I covered, which wound up meaning that each chapter contained either very quick scenes or only a maximum of four scenes a chapter. Sort of annoying because now I have to cover a lot of ground in short spurts, but on the positive side, the people who were complaining about godawfully long chapters stopped griping about that. *solemn nod*
    I see. I too have been guided by reviewers when it comes to pacing and POV shifts. I've always felt like you've had a nice balance, this was just the one time it felt slightly off to me

    Meanwhile, though, you do bring up an incredibly good point about the Gray Forest. That's something I'd really like to get into within the fic too. I'm not sure if I can fit it in this chapter, but it's certainly something you'll see later on, especially since the fact that Bill now realizes he can control what goes on within it will be a plot point eventually.
    I hope so. When you showed us in this chapter that it could change things, I literally got closer to the screen. I was excited about the idea of the forest when you first introduced it. But now that I see how Bill can alter what he's seeing/feeling it opens up so many possibilities. It becomes pure creation at that point, which can become fantastically gripping. Now that you said that it will be a plot point, I've formulated a few theories

    (I totally didn't let my shipping tendencies get in the way of the plot! What are you talking about? >_> <_<)
    Hah! Nicely done

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  3. #278
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    First up, a quick response!

        Spoiler:- Huzzah!:


    Aaaand now! I'd hate to keep this short, but I'll admit I'm completely exhausted from real-life shenanigans. So, alas, no creative lead-in tonight. Just pure, unadulterated chapter.



    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty-Nine
    Am I my sister's keeper?


    The fog at the top of Mt. Pyre hung thicker than usual as the empress perched on one of the pedestals that once held the Red and Blue Orbs. Her violet fingers fanned across the first of the two orbs, and her blue eyes blazed with a supernatural light as she examined its blood-red surface.

    "How curious," she murmured, "that the people of this planet once tried to control their gods."

    Beside her stood the source of the fog, Pandora. The ice-type's glistening hands wove patterns through the air, twisting wisps of clouds around her fingers. When she heard her empress's words, she stopped, and the fog around her thinned gradually.

    "My lady?" she asked.

    Twirling the orb in her fingers, the empress shifted her gaze to the light filtering through the clouds above her. "The Sky Clan has chosen a new lady. May she prove to be a capable leader."

    Pandora waved a hand in front of her, completely dispelling the fog she created with a quick motion. Because of that, while Mt. Pyre's natural fog did not completely lift, it thinned enough for her to see not only her fellow ixodida but also the gravestones surrounding her clearly. With the empress now in sight, Pandora stepped carefully towards her, passing like a cat between erect stone markers and toppled marble.

    "Something is wrong," she said.

    The corners of the empress's mouth twitched. "That presence I felt. It is still there. The Lord of Flames failed, and the rogue…"

    "My lady?"

    She sighed. "I do not know. Perhaps he will explain himself."

    "Perhaps he…" Pandora bowed her head. "Oh, I see."

    Pressing her lips together, she swung herself around, tracing an arc of frost on the ground as she moved. Then, she walked forward, towards the edge of the peak. With each step, frost blossomed beneath her claws and spread into white spots that dotted her path. Once she reached the cliff in front of her, she lifted her eyes towards a small, red spot that zig-zagged through the air.

    Some distance away, Prometheus plummeted from the skies surrounded by flames. As she watched him, Pandora held up a hand, spreading her fingers as a ball of blue light formed in her palm. Seconds later, the ball burst into a jagged, blue bolt of light that struck Prometheus head-on before exploding. Pandora crouched, allowing the fire-type to arc over her and into the earth. There he lay for a few seconds, smoldering with the last of the fire dancing in embers across his skin. It was only when Pandora turned that he picked himself up – but only with great difficulty.

    "You are late in returning," Pandora drawled, "and you have done so without the rogue. How very brazen of you."

    Prometheus lashed his head around to hiss at Pandora. She merely stood taller as she watched him turn and stumble to the empress. When he was nearly at her feet, he dropped to a knee and bowed his head.

    "It is true that I have failed you, Your Majesty. Please have mercy on me," he announced.

    The violet-skinned creature continued to roll the Red Orb in her hand as she glanced at Prometheus in thought.

    "Your report," Pandora barked.

    "I would not be so thoughtless as to forget," Prometheus sneered. Taking a deep breath, he calmed himself just enough to address his empress with a toneless voice. "Your Majesty, I have found the rogue. It is indeed of the Iron Clan, as you have feared. I have attempted to capture it as per your orders, but I am afraid that its host is far more clever than I had anticipated."

    "It outsmarted you? The simplistic mind of a native to this unenlightened planet has outsmarted you?" Pandora quipped.

    Narrowing his eyes at the comment, Prometheus continued, "Even worse, it seems that this rogue may be more powerful than we have predicted. Although the Fire Clan has always been stronger than the Iron Clan, it was still able to do this to me."

    At that point, he stood and held his arms away from his chest. One of his hands arced across his stomach, palm up and fingers curled slightly towards the single gaping wound that bore straight through his body. Pandora drew her claws to her mouth and bent down, eying straight through the hole to see the knees of her empress. On the other side, the violet creature took one look at the wound and then looked away, locking her eyes on the Red Orb again.

    "I see. Then we will do well to avoid underestimating this rogue again." She turned her eyes back to Prometheus. "Lord of Flames, is that all to your report?"

    Prometheus lowered himself to a knee again. "No, Your Majesty. Just before it shot me, it asked me to deliver you a message."

    "Is that so? What message might that be?"

    "'Give my regards to Her Majesty.'"

    She uncurled her legs from her stone perch and eased her way past both of her subjects. Her eyes remained on the Red Orb, even as she stepped off the cliff. Both Prometheus and Pandora moved to face her, but neither reacted as their leader hovered in an aura of violet flames.

    "Interesting. But it does not tell me whether or not I should be concerned. Lady of Frost."

    Pandora placed a hand on the shoulder opposite to it and bowed. "Yes, Your Majesty?"

    "It is your turn to confront this creature. Uncover its nature and report back to me."

    "Your Majesty, allow me to do it!" Prometheus begged. "This rogue is powerful, and the Iron Clan's abilities outclass those of the Frost Clan!"

    "Then the Lady of Frost is not to engage in combat with the Iron Rogue," the empress replied. "If you cannot contain it yourself, dear lady, then perhaps it would benefit you to know that it is right now within the Flower Clan's territory. Use them to assist you if necessary. Do not return to me until you have determined whether or not this rogue is indeed the threat that we have been fearing. Do you understand?"

    Pandora stood to attention. "Consider it done, Your Majesty."

    "Very good."

    At the acknowledgement, the ice-type bent over as her long, gossamer wings materialized behind her. With a flutter, she lifted herself from the ground in a flurry of snow and shot away from the mountain.

    "I wish you luck," the empress whispered. "And may you return to me in one piece."

    ---

    Before the invasion, whenever Hope got angry, she puffed her cheeks out a certain way that reminded Bill of jigglypuff. It was meant to be intimidating, but he couldn't hide the fact that he thought it was cute. That was why, the last time she did it at him, he pressed his lips together and tried his hardest not to smile – because he knew all too well that he was the reason why she was doing it at him.

    "You said you'd be here!" she protested.

    As he sat on her bed, he slouched just a bit but kept his eyes on her. It wasn't easy to tell her he would be leaving a week before her birthday – especially when he had promised her he would help her choose a starter for when she departed on her journey the next day – but he had obligations as a researcher. When he looked at her, noticing for maybe the first time how much she had grown up since he left home, he hoped that she would understand even though he knew she wouldn't.

    "I know, and I'm sorry," he replied. "But the Symposium needs me."

    She snapped her head away from him. "And you said you'd take a vacation! Didn't you tell Okaasan that you'd be here for at least another week?"

    "I won't be gone for that long, and I'll be coming straight back here afterwards. You'll see. I'll be back for Christmas, even."

    Hope's hands, which she had placed on her hips the moment her brother told her he was leaving, gripped her sides a little bit harder. She let out most of the air in her cheeks but kept them just a little bit puffy.

    "But I won't," she said, almost inaudibly.

    Although she kept her voice low, the quiet of her bedroom let her brother pick up on those three words. Guiltily, he slouched even lower.

    "Right. You're leaving in a week." He groaned for a second, and then, abruptly, he clapped his hands together and bowed his head. "Please forgive me, Hope! I didn't mean to break my promise, but I'll make it up to you!"

    "Hmph!" She tossed her head. "I'm not five, Nii-chan! That's not gonna work on me anymore!"

    Lifting his head, he smiled and held up an index finger. "You know, you're really cute when you're angry."

    She tensed visibly. "I'm not eight, either!"

    Bill's smile faded, and in his next hesitation, he reached into his pocket. At the same time, he let out a sigh, just loud enough for her to hear him.

    "Well, I was planning on at least leaving you a birthday gift to help you on your journey, but…"

    Hope perked up a little at his words. She pulled her shoulders up as she bowed her head and crossed her arms, all as if that would barricade herself from temptation. Still, she turned her head a little back towards her brother as her cheeks lost all of their puffy appearance.

    "Well… I'll only accept it because it's polite," she said slowly. "But that doesn't mean I forgive you."

    Smiling, he held out a fist to her. She opened one eye and watched him flip his hand so that his palm faced the ceiling. At the same time, one of his fingers pressed into the object he was holding, and in one fluid motion, a poké ball expanded for her to see.

    But it wasn't an ordinary poké ball. Its entire metallic surface was a rusty red, save for gold scratches and patches of paint on its bottom half that made it look older than it actually was. On its top half, a butterfree was etched in gold just above the release button. The button itself was painted in the same color as the rest of the ball, but attached to its surface was a bronze heart laid over a silver gear. As she drew in a shaking breath, Hope reached out to take it from her brother, and as she held it in her own palm, her fingers ran over the smooth top hemisphere while her eyes widened in awe.

    "It's so pretty," she breathed. "What is it?"

    "Something special just for you," Bill replied. "It's a one-of-a-kind poké ball that will help you connect with the pokémon you use it on."

    Hope blinked at him. "What do you mean?"

    "It's difficult to explain. It would be best if you used it to see what happens for yourself."

    Standing, he stepped forward and placed his hands on his sister's shoulders. She looked up as he leaned down, just enough to stare into her eyes.

    "Hope," he said, "I'm really sorry about all of this. If I could, I'd stay here, but I'm doing this for everyone. However… I want you to know that I would never abandon you, understand? I love you, Nee-chan, and Okaasan, and I would do anything for any of you."

    Without skipping a beat, Hope responded, "What about Otousan?"

    There was a long, drawn-out pause. During this time, Bill's expression refused to waver, although Hope's was slowly sliding into an annoyed glare.

    "Our father is a nice man too," Bill finally said.

    "You're really weird, Nii-chan."

    "Better weird than boring."

    He moved one of his hands to her head and ruffled her hair. She responded by closing one eye and batting his arm away with her free hand. Holding his hand above her, Bill allowed his expression to turn grave again.

    "I'm serious, though. I promise you – and I'll be keeping this one – that I'll be there for you. If you need me, even while I'm at Polaris Institute, just call me, and I'll come help you."

    "No matter what?"

    Bill let his expression soften. "No matter what."

    Hope's glare broke to make way for a wide grin as she tried to throw her arms around her brother. She would have succeeded, too, but this time, things were different. Instead of embracing her sibling, her arms circled thin air as darkness enveloped her. Her body pitched forward until she fell onto her side.

    The next thing she saw were eyes. Dead eyes set in the skull of a man lying next to her. Silhouettes of ixodida played across the space between them, and the only sound she could hear was their growls and the squelching of his organs. Suddenly, an unearthly howl pierced the night, just before a blast of wind took out the ixodida hovering in front of her. White paws stepped between her and the corpse, spreading three black claws just in front of her eyes. As she looked up, she caught a glimpse of the creature's face: black but framed in white, with a single black horn curving upwards from the side of its head. Red eyes glowed at her in the light of the moon, filling her vision and leaving her paralyzed and quivering where she lay. The creature bucked its head towards something beyond her, and after a few seconds, it lifted its head and released a long, low howl that shook Hope's soul.

    In another flash, another image filled her vision. This time, she was in a forest, listening to the sound of another unearthly screech – one that was higher pitched and alien compared to anything she had heard before. She found herself running, following a pink mass of light that brought her closer and closer to the source of the scream. Eventually, she emerged in a place where the trunks were spaced out a little further, where mud sucked at her feet with every step.

    Where Lanette, Vito, and Steven stood by and watched a silver creature rise from the earth.

    "Get ready," Steven warned.

    But even with that, Hope couldn't prepare herself, couldn't take cover. She only stood there, watching with wide eyes as the silver creature leapt at Vito's alakazam with its teeth bared and claws extended. Her squirtle cried out and squirmed in her arms, struggling desperately to jump free from his master's grasp in order to join the fight, but with each twist he attempted, Hope clung harder. In her mind, she saw packs full of ixodida, dead eyes, and white beasts with black faces.

    The ixodida flew into a tree, courtesy of an attack by the pink ball of light next to her. But it wouldn't stay down. It rose to its feet again. Its lips pulled back to reveal its glistening fangs. It snarled and flexed its claws as its tail whipped behind it.

    And all Hope could think about was a pair of dead eyes and the squelching of organs.

    Nii-chan… help, she thought.

    The creature crouched and readied itself to leap at the alakazam once more.

    I'm scared. Please help.

    Then, it moved, closing the distance between itself and its prey in seconds.

    Nii-chan, help me!

    Without thinking, she screamed. Instantly, the creature stopped, freezing just inches away from the alakazam. It blinked before turning its wide, brown eyes towards Hope. A flicker of familiarity flashed across them. Hope knew these eyes, that face.

    "Hope?" the creature rasped in her brother's voice.

    Suddenly, her vision darkened, and all she could hear was the unearthly screams. All she could see was the flash of metal and the claws of an entire brigade of ixodida tearing at a man with dead eyes.

    And in Tate's mind, all he could hear was his sister's voice.

    "Tate! Run!"

    ---

    Tate jolted awake. He sat up on the roof of the truck, clutching his chest as he took deep breaths. His heart felt like it was pounding, and his skin felt cold and wet all over. Shaking his head, he listened closely to the quiet of the camp. Except for the standard guard (Veronica this time), most of the humans were asleep. He could hear Thom's snoring from the truck, the crackling of the campfire, the occasional click of Veronica's pistol being loaded and unloaded, and nothing else.

    Nothing, anyway, except the soft whimper coming from the van, a whimper that was almost too soft to be detected. Ellen, who was right next to its source, didn't stir from her sleep, and Veronica, who sat with her back pressed against the van on the outside of the Caravan's camp circle, didn't seem to notice it at all. It was a noise for Tate and Tate alone that night, and by then, he was already familiar with it. As soon as his heart rate calmed, he peered through the windows of the van at the young girl who sat with her knees drawn to her chest. Her head was bowed, and her tangled, green hair served as a curtain between herself and the outside world. But Tate could hear her, could hear every last sniffle she made.

    "Another nightmare," he whispered to himself. "They're getting worse, too."

    Drawing his feet under him, he stood and craned his neck to the sky.

    "I know he told us to leave him alone for the time being," Tate continued, "but somebody should do something about this."

    He sprang off the roof of the truck while his wings shimmered into existence. As he started soaring away from the camp, he failed to notice one of Steven's eyes slowly open to watch him.

    ---

    Meditating under waterfalls, as Bill shortly found out, was harder than it looked. To be accurate, the first time he did it, he slipped clean off his perch and nearly drowned had it not been for a well-timed Magnet Rise. Some variations of this occurred in the three subsequent attempts – including one in which he found out that the changes in his body meant he had to re-learn how to swim eventually – until he finally came to a rest exactly where he wanted to be: sitting cross-legged on a rock with the waterfall rushing down on him.

    The other challenge, Bill soon realized, was that even once one had situated themselves under a waterfall stably, the reason why it was a training exercise in the first place was because having ice-cold water blast the top of your head with the same force as a fire hose at a constant rate wasn't exactly conducive to concentrating. Shutting his eyes, Bill struggled desperately to hone his mind on his task, but every time he came close, his thoughts flickered to everything from the temperature of the water to how he swore this was a good idea an hour ago.

    It didn't help, of course, that Adam wasn't exactly going out of its way to assist him in his mental quest.

    What a funny little practice, it said. Humans are fascinating creatures.

    Bill grimaced as his thoughts careened off track again. Shifting in his seat, he pictured a blank, white space in an attempt to block out Adam's distraction. Still, he felt the parasite poking at the edges of it, and inadvertently, he thought of a meowth slipping through and grinning at him.

    So, host, what is this exercise meant to achieve? Discipline? Focus? How, pray tell, do you intend on acquiring both?

    Clenching his teeth, Bill wiped his thoughts clean and focused on a blank, white space once again. Yet, no matter how hard he pictured it, a single command to his parasitic partner kept forming in his head.

    Adam purred. Shut up? Why on your lovely planet would I do that when it is far more entertaining to test you? Besides, you will get nowhere on your own. It has been hours, and you have tried all sorts of your "meditation techniques" to achieve inner peace. If you wish to understand the secrets to controlling the monster within you, all you need to do is ask.

    Bill pressed his eyes closed and tightened his fists on his knees. This time, it was an ekans that slithered through the edge of his mind and across his white space. As it curled itself around a piece of space, Bill felt something in his chest constrict.

    The problem, dear host, is not that I am distracting you. It is that you allow yourself to be distracted. You may have the potential to be a warrior in terms of strength, but when it comes to discipline and focus on the battlefield… you lack both.

    As the feeling in his chest grew tighter, Bill began to shake. His breaths started to come in short gasps as it grew harder and harder for him to breathe. His hands clicked against his legs, and for the first time since he situated himself, he let out a short, quick grunt as he doubled over slightly.

    Hit a nerve? Do you see what I mean? In battle, our enemies will use every weak point to their advantage. You must not show them that you can be dominated.

    Bill growled, pulling back his lips slightly to expose his fangs. The feeling in his chest only tightened.

    "Adam… Trying to concentrate."

    On what? Waterfalls are too easy anyway. You need a true challenge to hone your discipline. On Nila—

    At last, Bill's willpower snapped. A cough racked his body, and his balance on the rock was finally disturbed. Before he realized what was happening, he plunged into the river and immediately started sinking. His eyes snapped open as the constrictive feeling in his chest dissipated. At the same time, his mind tailspun into a blind panic, and his limbs flailed in an attempt to pull him back to the surface. But his legs wouldn't work properly to propel him upwards, his tail tangled around his ankles, and the weight of his armor bore down on him all at once. He swore he could hear Adam calling out to him, but in those precious seconds, he couldn't make out a single word.

    Eventually, his mind finally cleared, but that was only when his vision faded to black.

    Until, that is, he awoke with a start, courtesy of splash of hot water dousing his face. With a gasp, he snapped his eyes open to the night sky. Shortly afterwards, a coughing fit seized him, and he curled onto his side on the sandy bank of the river.

    "Good thing I've got telekinesis," Tate said. "No offense, but giving a guy mouth-to-mouth isn't exactly high on my list of things I'd like to do."

    Opening his eyes again slowly, Bill groaned. His head still felt muddled and unfocused, and every part of him ached. Besides that, he struggled to piece together how he wound up on the bank of the river, but as he did so, he saw Tate's legs walk into his view. Slowly, he looked up to see the other ixodida peering over him.

    "What happened?" Bill mumbled.

    "You drowned," Tate replied bluntly. "By the time I got to you, you'd almost sunk to the bottom of the river. I used Confusion to pull you out, get that water out of your lungs, and jumpstart your breathing again."

    "Thanks," Bill responded faintly as he sat up. "What are you doing here?"

    "I just saved your life, and that's all I get?" Tate's voice slid smoothly into an imitation of Bill's accent. "Thank you, boy. Now wot the devil ahh you doing 'eaah? Yohr interrupting my tea time, and it's most inconvenient. Now, scurry along while I wah-lloh in my own self-'atred."

    In answer to your unspoken protests, yes, you do in fact sound like that, Adam quipped.

    Ignoring their remarks, Bill reached up to rub one of his temples gingerly. "Tate, I thought I told you this is something I need to do on my own."

    "Well, sure." Tate stood straight and put his hands on his hips. "But someone's got to check in on you now and then. I mean, it's not like any of us want you dead, after all. Trust me on that one. I'm a psychic, so I know how these things work."

    Bill looked at him skeptically.

    "Yeah, even Lanette." Tate shrugged. "Well, it's more like Lanette doesn't want to see you again, but she doesn't really care whether or not—"

    "This isn't about Lanette. Why are you here?"

    "Well, that was rather rude. What if it was about Lanette?"

    At that, Bill rose to his full height. He nearly toppled over at first as his head swam from the lingering effects of his latest near-death experience, but he managed to dissipate the feeling with a wince and a vigorous shake of his head.

    "Something's happened, hasn't it? What's happened to Hope and the others?"

    Tate's eyes locked with Bill's. "They're safe. They're all safe. They haven't seen ixodida besides the two of us since we left Mauville. If you ask me, it's too quiet, especially since we should be entering the heart of their territory."

    "So you came here to warn me about how quiet it's been?"

    "No."

    Bill raised an eyebrow at that statement. There was something in the boy's face right then that he couldn't place: a graveness, a stone-cold seriousness. It was as if Tate was challenging Bill, was demanding all of his attention.

    "It's about Hope. She's been having nightmares. Bad ones. She wakes up in the middle of the night crying."

    As soon as Tate said it, Bill's expression softened into a stunned glance. Then, he sighed and looked at the ground. The image of his sister crying… he was expecting her to be affected by the ixodida attacks. Hope wasn't a delicate flower before she left Goldenrod, but she was still a young girl. There were things Bill had already seen in Hoenn that he knew no one Hope's age should see, and he knew she was there longer – and all alone at one point too.

    "She's traumatized," Bill said at last. "I would be more worried if she wasn't." He looked up. "She needs to get out of this region."

    "So get her out of here," Tate told him.

    "I can't. You've seen how humans react to ixodida like us. I can't take her to human civilization myself. If I did, I have no doubt she'd be put directly in the center of a battle."

    "So you're going to depend on everyone else like you've been doing all this time?"

    Right away, Bill jabbed a finger at the psychic. "Watch it, Tate. I'm doing the best that I can."

    Tate scoffed. "Yeah, you're doing a great job of protecting her. You've been more concerned about Lanette than your own sister. Man, if my sis treated me that way—"

    Bill didn't dignify that with an answer. He merely turned swiftly, making it a point to scrape the ground between himself and Tate with the tip of his tail. Then, he began walking away, heading downstream to a new training spot.

    "Hey!" Tate called after him. "Don't turn your back on me! You're just afraid I have a point, aren't you?"

    Even to that, Bill didn't respond. Tate frowned and ground his feet into the earth. If he was going to get Bill's attention back, he knew he would have to do something drastic.

    "You told her you'd be there for her, didn't you?" he shouted. "You said she could call you at any time, and you'd come help her!"

    That did it. Bill stopped in his tracks and lifted his head slightly. When he spoke next, his voice was quiet, but Tate didn't even need psychic powers to hear the anger in it.

    "What did you say?"

    "I said you told her she could call you at any time, and you'd come help her," Tate repeated slowly.

    "How do you know about that?"

    Tate grinned. "Easy. I'm psychic, aren't I?"

    "So. You invaded Hope's mind without her consent."

    "Well, somebody's got to protect her, and since you're clearly doing such a wonderful job at th—"

    A perfect Mirror Shot blasted him off his feet and into the ground. When he looked up, he saw Bill half-turned towards him with his palm held up and outward. The red jewel in its center flickered with its own light.

    Lowering his arm, Bill warned, "Stay out of my sister's head."

    He turned his back to Tate for a second time and started walking again. However, he took only a few steps before he felt a surge of energy slam into his back. His world lit up in rainbow colors as he was flung off his feet, only to slam face-first into the sandy bank. This time, it was his turn to sit up and turn to an attacker, and when he did, he saw Tate surrounded by a blue light with his wings fluttering behind him.

    With a smirk, Tate raised his hands in a fighting position and yelled, "You want to fight? Bring it on. Let's see how much your training's paid off!"

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

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  4. #279
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    Go bill! Dominate tate!!!! I've been a silent reader for a while. Nice story.
    I have:
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    I used to liek mudkipz, then I took an arrow in the knee. However the arrow turned out to be a seaking. It yelled "F*** yeah" so I screamed "FUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!". The seaking's face became that of a troll while mine became forever alone. The situation was super effective.

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    On the first part, yay Pandora! Nice glimpse of her there. I also quite like the "the people of this planet once tried to control their gods" line from the empress, referencing RSE and fits the context of this story nicely.

    Ha love Adam's "shut up, why would I do that" comment. XD Ouch though when Tate told Bill what he said to Hope a while back (I thought the flashback itself is a sweet but sad moment between the both of them).

    Overall enjoyed this chapter quite a bit. Yep let's see how your training had been going so far, Bill because...yeah, Pandora is coming soon, perhaps with the Flower Clan. D:


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    For some reason, I want to draw Pandora, like some totally made up version I pictured in my head and it's totally not because of my love of Ice Queens. And for the record, after thinking that thought, I totally never thought about an Anima Ex Machina Graphic Novel and definitely not the impossibly unrealistic notion of doing it myself. Because I suck at drawing people. And backgrounds. And pokémon (that aren't ponyta).

    Too bad I don't have that much free time xD

    I've been re-reading Scott Pilgrim, I bet that's what done it.

    Anyway, silly Bill, you may be locked inside the body of a terrifying metal alien, but you simply cannot pull off 'badass' all by yourself. Not yet anyway. Besides, you need a badass opponent to be badass to... Tate is not that person xD. It was nice to see him get all protective over "Ray of" Hope (That's my new nickname for her by the way :P), you make an excellent point in the story when Tate goads Bill by saying that he's been spending a lot more time thinking about his relationship with Lanette than his relationship with his sister. It wasn't even something I'd really noticed until you pointed it out to me. Then I was all like... 'Damn, you're right.'

    I mean, it's okay that Bill has been trying to fix things with Lanette because, let's be honest here, he needs all the help he can get (the lovable goof). His sister has seemed unresponsive/sheltered in terms of her social interactions (what with her reversion into speaking only Japanese) and Bill himself can't do a terrible amount because of him being inside the skin of the very creatures that mentally (and possibly physically, I'm not sure of the extent of her experiences with them) scarred the crap out of her. There was probably a little more he could have done though. It was nice of Tate to remind him of that (in his own special way of course)

    Also, has Tate mentioned Liza to the extent he did in this chapter before? He referenced her at least twice (I believe) and we've not heard much from/about her. I remember you saying she was alive, so I wonder if she's scheduled for a return any time soon.

    One final thing... Meditating under waterfalls? Really, Bill? I would have thought a scientific mind like yours could have come up with something a little less cliché :P
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Anima Ex Machina: Twenty-Nine
    Am I my sister's keeper?
    In a story like this, with the kind of plot it uses regarding a sister, this can't be a good sign.

    Of course, it's Jax too, so is ANYTHING ever a good sign?

    The fog at the top of Mt. Pyre hung thicker than usual as the empress perched on one of the pedestals that once held the Red and Blue Orbs. Her violet fingers fanned across the first of the two orbs, and her blue eyes blazed with a supernatural light as she examined its blood-red surface.

    "How curious," she murmured, "that the people of this planet once tried to control their gods."
    I wonder if this plot thread is going to go anywhere, because it has some interesting implications.

    Beside her stood the source of the fog, Pandora. The ice-type's glistening hands wove patterns through the air, twisting wisps of clouds around her fingers. When she heard her empress's words, she stopped, and the fog around her thinned gradually.

    "My lady?" she asked.

    Twirling the orb in her fingers, the empress shifted her gaze to the light filtering through the clouds above her. "The Sky Clan has chosen a new lady. May she prove to be a capable leader."

    Pandora waved a hand in front of her, completely dispelling the fog she created with a quick motion. Because of that, while Mt. Pyre's natural fog did not completely lift, it thinned enough for her to see not only her fellow ixodida but also the gravestones surrounding her clearly. With the empress now in sight, Pandora stepped carefully towards her, passing like a cat between erect stone markers and toppled marble.
    Impressive, striking visuals here. Good job.

    "Something is wrong," she said.

    The corners of the empress's mouth twitched. "That presence I felt. It is still there. The Lord of Flames failed, and the rogue…"

    "My lady?"

    She sighed. "I do not know. Perhaps he will explain himself."

    "Perhaps he…" Pandora bowed her head. "Oh, I see."

    Pressing her lips together, she swung herself around, tracing an arc of frost on the ground as she moved. Then, she walked forward, towards the edge of the peak. With each step, frost blossomed beneath her claws and spread into white spots that dotted her path. Once she reached the cliff in front of her, she lifted her eyes towards a small, red spot that zig-zagged through the air.

    Some distance away, Prometheus plummeted from the skies surrounded by flames. As she watched him, Pandora held up a hand, spreading her fingers as a ball of blue light formed in her palm. Seconds later, the ball burst into a jagged, blue bolt of light that struck Prometheus head-on before exploding. Pandora crouched, allowing the fire-type to arc over her and into the earth. There he lay for a few seconds, smoldering with the last of the fire dancing in embers across his skin. It was only when Pandora turned that he picked himself up – but only with great difficulty.

    "You are late in returning," Pandora drawled, "and you have done so without the rogue. How very brazen of you."

    Prometheus lashed his head around to hiss at Pandora. She merely stood taller as she watched him turn and stumble to the empress. When he was nearly at her feet, he dropped to a knee and bowed his head.

    "It is true that I have failed you, Your Majesty. Please have mercy on me," he announced.
    Prometheus just can't catch a break, can he? I almost wonder how long his failure will be tolerated. If he has another encounter with Bill and fails, well... I wouldn't want to be him.

    The violet-skinned creature continued to roll the Red Orb in her hand as she glanced at Prometheus in thought.

    "Your report," Pandora barked.

    "I would not be so thoughtless as to forget," Prometheus sneered. Taking a deep breath, he calmed himself just enough to address his empress with a toneless voice. "Your Majesty, I have found the rogue. It is indeed of the Iron Clan, as you have feared. I have attempted to capture it as per your orders, but I am afraid that its host is far more clever than I had anticipated."

    "It outsmarted you? The simplistic mind of a native to this unenlightened planet has outsmarted you?" Pandora quipped.

    Narrowing his eyes at the comment, Prometheus continued, "Even worse, it seems that this rogue may be more powerful than we have predicted. Although the Fire Clan has always been stronger than the Iron Clan, it was still able to do this to me."

    At that point, he stood and held his arms away from his chest. One of his hands arced across his stomach, palm up and fingers curled slightly towards the single gaping wound that bore straight through his body. Pandora drew her claws to her mouth and bent down, eying straight through the hole to see the knees of her empress. On the other side, the violet creature took one look at the wound and then looked away, locking her eyes on the Red Orb again.

    "I see. Then we will do well to avoid underestimating this rogue again." She turned her eyes back to Prometheus. "Lord of Flames, is that all to your report?"
    And nobody really cares about him either, do they? I almost feel bad for him.

    I just thought of something. Have you ever elaborated on the language skills of the Ixodida? Like, how do they decide which language to speak, how do they learn it, do they have a native language, etc.

    Prometheus lowered himself to a knee again. "No, Your Majesty. Just before it shot me, it asked me to deliver you a message."

    "Is that so? What message might that be?"

    "'Give my regards to Her Majesty.'"

    She uncurled her legs from her stone perch and eased her way past both of her subjects. Her eyes remained on the Red Orb, even as she stepped off the cliff. Both Prometheus and Pandora moved to face her, but neither reacted as their leader hovered in an aura of violet flames.

    "Interesting. But it does not tell me whether or not I should be concerned. Lady of Frost."

    Pandora placed a hand on the shoulder opposite to it and bowed. "Yes, Your Majesty?"

    "It is your turn to confront this creature. Uncover its nature and report back to me."

    "Your Majesty, allow me to do it!" Prometheus begged. "This rogue is powerful, and the Iron Clan's abilities outclass those of the Frost Clan!"
    Well done remembering the Steel type's natural power over Ice types, and by extension the Fire type's strength over the Steel type.

    "Then the Lady of Frost is not to engage in combat with the Iron Rogue," the empress replied. "If you cannot contain it yourself, dear lady, then perhaps it would benefit you to know that it is right now within the Flower Clan's territory. Use them to assist you if necessary. Do not return to me until you have determined whether or not this rogue is indeed the threat that we have been fearing. Do you understand?"

    Pandora stood to attention. "Consider it done, Your Majesty."

    "Very good."

    At the acknowledgement, the ice-type bent over as her long, gossamer wings materialized behind her. With a flutter, she lifted herself from the ground in a flurry of snow and shot away from the mountain.

    "I wish you luck," the empress whispered. "And may you return to me in one piece."
    I get the feeling that "may you return to me in one piece" line is a bit of fate-tempting.

    Before the invasion, whenever Hope got angry, she puffed her cheeks out a certain way that reminded Bill of jigglypuff. It was meant to be intimidating, but he couldn't hide the fact that he thought it was cute. That was why, the last time she did it at him, he pressed his lips together and tried his hardest not to smile – because he knew all too well that he was the reason why she was doing it at him.
    Oh God, this is adorable.

    And when something in AEM is adorable, it usually means heartstrings are about to be pulled. Hard.

    "You said you'd be here!" she protested.

    As he sat on her bed, he slouched just a bit but kept his eyes on her. It wasn't easy to tell her he would be leaving a week before her birthday – especially when he had promised her he would help her choose a starter for when she departed on her journey the next day – but he had obligations as a researcher. When he looked at her, noticing for maybe the first time how much she had grown up since he left home, he hoped that she would understand even though he knew she wouldn't.

    "I know, and I'm sorry," he replied. "But the Symposium needs me."

    She snapped her head away from him. "And you said you'd take a vacation! Didn't you tell Okaasan that you'd be here for at least another week?"
    This scene is relatively standard fare so far, but the Japanese that Hope uses spices it up a bit. It kind of suits her, too. I like it.

    "I won't be gone for that long, and I'll be coming straight back here afterwards. You'll see. I'll be back for Christmas, even."

    Hope's hands, which she had placed on her hips the moment her brother told her he was leaving, gripped her sides a little bit harder. She let out most of the air in her cheeks but kept them just a little bit puffy.

    "But I won't," she said, almost inaudibly.

    Although she kept her voice low, the quiet of her bedroom let her brother pick up on those three words. Guiltily, he slouched even lower.

    "Right. You're leaving in a week." He groaned for a second, and then, abruptly, he clapped his hands together and bowed his head. "Please forgive me, Hope! I didn't mean to break my promise, but I'll make it up to you!"
    Oh, will he ever.

    "Hmph!" She tossed her head. "I'm not five, Nii-chan! That's not gonna work on me anymore!"

    Lifting his head, he smiled and held up an index finger. "You know, you're really cute when you're angry."
    Cute indeed.

    She tensed visibly. "I'm not eight, either!"

    Bill's smile faded, and in his next hesitation, he reached into his pocket. At the same time, he let out a sigh, just loud enough for her to hear him.

    "Well, I was planning on at least leaving you a birthday gift to help you on your journey, but…"

    Hope perked up a little at his words. She pulled her shoulders up as she bowed her head and crossed her arms, all as if that would barricade herself from temptation. Still, she turned her head a little back towards her brother as her cheeks lost all of their puffy appearance.

    "Well… I'll only accept it because it's polite," she said slowly. "But that doesn't mean I forgive you."
    I wish we'll get to see more of this Hope at some point. I love her.

    Smiling, he held out a fist to her. She opened one eye and watched him flip his hand so that his palm faced the ceiling. At the same time, one of his fingers pressed into the object he was holding, and in one fluid motion, a poké ball expanded for her to see.

    But it wasn't an ordinary poké ball. Its entire metallic surface was a rusty red, save for gold scratches and patches of paint on its bottom half that made it look older than it actually was. On its top half, a butterfree was etched in gold just above the release button. The button itself was painted in the same color as the rest of the ball, but attached to its surface was a bronze heart laid over a silver gear. As she drew in a shaking breath, Hope reached out to take it from her brother, and as she held it in her own palm, her fingers ran over the smooth top hemisphere while her eyes widened in awe.

    "It's so pretty," she breathed. "What is it?"

    "Something special just for you," Bill replied. "It's a one-of-a-kind poké ball that will help you connect with the pokémon you use it on."

    Hope blinked at him. "What do you mean?"

    "It's difficult to explain. It would be best if you used it to see what happens for yourself."
    I wonder if she did use it, because it seems like something I want to know more about.

    Just got an idea for what it could be used for that might be major to the story.

    Standing, he stepped forward and placed his hands on his sister's shoulders. She looked up as he leaned down, just enough to stare into her eyes.

    "Hope," he said, "I'm really sorry about all of this. If I could, I'd stay here, but I'm doing this for everyone. However… I want you to know that I would never abandon you, understand? I love you, Nee-chan, and Okaasan, and I would do anything for any of you."

    Without skipping a beat, Hope responded, "What about Otousan?"
    I think a mention of what some of these words mean might be helpful, as a pointer.

    There was a long, drawn-out pause. During this time, Bill's expression refused to waver, although Hope's was slowly sliding into an annoyed glare.

    "Our father is a nice man too," Bill finally said.

    "You're really weird, Nii-chan."

    "Better weird than boring."

    He moved one of his hands to her head and ruffled her hair. She responded by closing one eye and batting his arm away with her free hand. Holding his hand above her, Bill allowed his expression to turn grave again.
    Adorable...

    "I'm serious, though. I promise you – and I'll be keeping this one – that I'll be there for you. If you need me, even while I'm at Polaris Institute, just call me, and I'll come help you."

    "No matter what?"

    Bill let his expression soften. "No matter what."
    We all know how this is gonna end. AEM wouldn't disappoint us.

    The next thing she saw were eyes. Dead eyes set in the skull of a man lying next to her. Silhouettes of ixodida played across the space between them, and the only sound she could hear was their growls and the squelching of his organs. Suddenly, an unearthly howl pierced the night, just before a blast of wind took out the ixodida hovering in front of her. White paws stepped between her and the corpse, spreading three black claws just in front of her eyes. As she looked up, she caught a glimpse of the creature's face: black but framed in white, with a single black horn curving upwards from the side of its head. Red eyes glowed at her in the light of the moon, filling her vision and leaving her paralyzed and quivering where she lay. The creature bucked its head towards something beyond her, and after a few seconds, it lifted its head and released a long, low howl that shook Hope's soul.

    In another flash, another image filled her vision. This time, she was in a forest, listening to the sound of another unearthly screech – one that was higher pitched and alien compared to anything she had heard before. She found herself running, following a pink mass of light that brought her closer and closer to the source of the scream. Eventually, she emerged in a place where the trunks were spaced out a little further, where mud sucked at her feet with every step.
    Do we have a new contender for Most Frightening Scene in the 2012 awards? I daresay we do.

    Where Lanette, Vito, and Steven stood by and watched a silver creature rise from the earth.

    "Get ready," Steven warned.

    But even with that, Hope couldn't prepare herself, couldn't take cover. She only stood there, watching with wide eyes as the silver creature leapt at Vito's alakazam with its teeth bared and claws extended. Her squirtle cried out and squirmed in her arms, struggling desperately to jump free from his master's grasp in order to join the fight, but with each twist he attempted, Hope clung harder. In her mind, she saw packs full of ixodida, dead eyes, and white beasts with black faces.

    The ixodida flew into a tree, courtesy of an attack by the pink ball of light next to her. But it wouldn't stay down. It rose to its feet again. Its lips pulled back to reveal its glistening fangs. It snarled and flexed its claws as its tail whipped behind it.

    And all Hope could think about was a pair of dead eyes and the squelching of organs.
    This is what it looks like, isn't it?

    Remember what I said about heartstrings?

    Nii-chan… help, she thought.

    The creature crouched and readied itself to leap at the alakazam once more.

    I'm scared. Please help.

    Then, it moved, closing the distance between itself and its prey in seconds.

    Nii-chan, help me!
    And there's the pulling. Right on schedule.

    Tate jolted awake. He sat up on the roof of the truck, clutching his chest as he took deep breaths. His heart felt like it was pounding, and his skin felt cold and wet all over. Shaking his head, he listened closely to the quiet of the camp. Except for the standard guard (Veronica this time), most of the humans were asleep. He could hear Thom's snoring from the truck, the crackling of the campfire, the occasional click of Veronica's pistol being loaded and unloaded, and nothing else.

    Nothing, anyway, except the soft whimper coming from the van, a whimper that was almost too soft to be detected. Ellen, who was right next to its source, didn't stir from her sleep, and Veronica, who sat with her back pressed against the van on the outside of the Caravan's camp circle, didn't seem to notice it at all. It was a noise for Tate and Tate alone that night, and by then, he was already familiar with it. As soon as his heart rate calmed, he peered through the windows of the van at the young girl who sat with her knees drawn to her chest. Her head was bowed, and her tangled, green hair served as a curtain between herself and the outside world. But Tate could hear her, could hear every last sniffle she made.

    "Another nightmare," he whispered to himself. "They're getting worse, too."
    The nightmares getting worse is a plot point, calling it now.

    Meditating under waterfalls, as Bill shortly found out, was harder than it looked. To be accurate, the first time he did it, he slipped clean off his perch and nearly drowned had it not been for a well-timed Magnet Rise. Some variations of this occurred in the three subsequent attempts – including one in which he found out that the changes in his body meant he had to re-learn how to swim eventually – until he finally came to a rest exactly where he wanted to be: sitting cross-legged on a rock with the waterfall rushing down on him.

    The other challenge, Bill soon realized, was that even once one had situated themselves under a waterfall stably, the reason why it was a training exercise in the first place was because having ice-cold water blast the top of your head with the same force as a fire hose at a constant rate wasn't exactly conducive to concentrating. Shutting his eyes, Bill struggled desperately to hone his mind on his task, but every time he came close, his thoughts flickered to everything from the temperature of the water to how he swore this was a good idea an hour ago.

    It didn't help, of course, that Adam wasn't exactly going out of its way to assist him in his mental quest.
    I don't blame Adam for annoying him. This sounds so ridiculous that I almost wonder why Adam isn't simply staying on Earth to observe the absurdities of humanity.

    What a funny little practice, it said. Humans are fascinating creatures.

    Bill grimaced as his thoughts careened off track again. Shifting in his seat, he pictured a blank, white space in an attempt to block out Adam's distraction. Still, he felt the parasite poking at the edges of it, and inadvertently, he thought of a meowth slipping through and grinning at him.
    What the...? XD;

    So, host, what is this exercise meant to achieve? Discipline? Focus? How, pray tell, do you intend on acquiring both?

    Clenching his teeth, Bill wiped his thoughts clean and focused on a blank, white space once again. Yet, no matter how hard he pictured it, a single command to his parasitic partner kept forming in his head.

    Adam purred. Shut up? Why on your lovely planet would I do that when it is far more entertaining to test you? Besides, you will get nowhere on your own. It has been hours, and you have tried all sorts of your "meditation techniques" to achieve inner peace. If you wish to understand the secrets to controlling the monster within you, all you need to do is ask.
    Make a contract with me, Bill, and become a magical alien.

    ...wait, that Meowth... hahahaha, ****. Nice one, Jax. Nice.

    "Thanks," Bill responded faintly as he sat up. "What are you doing here?"

    "I just saved your life, and that's all I get?" Tate's voice slid smoothly into an imitation of Bill's accent. "Thank you, boy. Now wot the devil ahh you doing 'eaah? Yohr interrupting my tea time, and it's most inconvenient. Now, scurry along while I wah-lloh in my own self-'atred."

    In answer to your unspoken protests, yes, you do in fact sound like that, Adam quipped.
    Okay, I laughed. That was genuinely funny.

    Sorry I can't write any more. I really liked the chapter though - I'm finding that the Hope-centric chapters really are the most emotional, so I'll admit, I'm kind of hoping for more featuring her.

    It looks like more conflict is beginning to pick up, which is also exciting. I can't imagine that infighting between Bill and Tate is going to help.

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        Spoiler:- Responses!:



    Tl;dr version: Thanks to everyone who responded!

    And now, to answer one of those questions brought up a little further, another extra! This is also the first extra that's being showcased (as opposed to tagged onto the end of a response post as an afterthought), and in a few, it's going to be the newest one added to a brand-new list that I'm putting up under the index. Because I realized it was rather stupid to fail at indexing the extras.

    Anyway!


    Extra #3: The Ixodida Language
    Ixodida language tends to be a very complicated thing because there… are actually quite frankly multiple. Just to make it easier, here's a breakdown of what languages the average parasite knows.

    As a warning, I'm not much of a linguist, so I can't give you all the rules of each Ixodida language, especially the alien ones. All I can do is describe each one as much as possible.

    Also as a note, each language has two names. The parenthetical in each header will tell you the name of the tongue according to the Relians. So basically, you'll get a few Relian vocab lessons too.


    Relian: Cha'lailan (lit. "High Language")
    The original, high language of the first hosts. To put it simply, it's a very flowing language that does not include many hard sounds (like K and T). Also, when it's spoken, the first syllable of every word is the strongest one, and each subsequent syllable gets increasingly softer. Moreover, the first word of each sentence receives the strongest emphasis, with each subsequent word being slightly softer. As a result, the Relian language is spoken a lot like one would read poetry, with sentences sometimes being broken up into "lines" that feature one strongly spoken word and four words that are slightly less emphasized following it.

    Grammatically, the emphasis really has nothing to do with whether or not the word being emphasized is important. It's usually just coincidence that the strongest syllables in a line falls on certain words. However, it's true that the grammar of Cho'lailan isn't like what we're used to. Most concepts are backwards, with the predicate coming first and the subject coming last. So for example, while humans might say, "Spot runs," Relians say, "Runs Spot." The object of a sentence as well as any prepositional phrases come first as well, so for example, instead of saying "Sally got milk at the store," Relians might say, "At the store milk got Sally." The logic of this is pretty simple. Relians have a tendency to visualize the action itself before who's doing it. So, they envision any random Relian going to a store and getting milk before replacing that random Relian with Sally. It's more that they're envisioning the biggest unit first. As in, the action is bigger than the person doing it (to them), while the person doing it is always the smallest piece of an overall puzzle. It has to do with the way they believe all things that happen affect the general universe.

    They also have a system of writing that's a little more alien than what we're used to. While they have an alphabet of individual characters, they don't string them together the way English does. Rather, they nest characters within a circle representing syllables, with the boldest strokes representing one or two letters and fainter strokes representing each letter that follows it.

    For example, this is a single syllable in the written Relian language. (It's actually an entire word. No, I'm not telling you what it means because it's not relevant.) The boldest circle and line represent the first letter of the syllable. The next boldest symbol is the next letter, and the faint lines at the bottom represent the third. (Note: Relian does not double up on letters the way many human languages do. So, for example, you will not see two letter E's right next to each other in the word "see"; you will simply see a character for S and a character for E because the latter is basically the same sound. Relians do not have homophones, either.) Each of these circular symbols are arranged in lines with no punctuation and are read from left to right.


    Ixodida: Has'lailan (lit. "Rage Language")
    Normally, Ixodida parasites communicate with each other using a series of flashes. No scientist as of yet has been able to discern what these flashes actually mean, given that they don't seem to follow any known pattern.

    However, the language is translated among hosts as a psychic and physical scream. Because of the hive-minded tendencies of the parasites, all hosts are able to scream and have their meaning be understood by others simply because the scream also contains a "psychic imprint" of what they're trying to say. It's basically like psychometry, only with hearing instead of touching.

    Drones use this language more often than monarchs, mostly because drones tend to be pretty dim-witted. They fail to understand the fact that the vocal cords of most host species are not built for long-term screaming, and as such, this is a pretty easy way to destroy the host's ability to speak. Monarchs only use this language when they have something important that a vast number of Ixodida need to hear, as the Ixodida language is louder and more powerful in meaning than either Relian or (insert host tongue here).

    As for meanings, because of its psychic nature, there are no individual words within the spoken version of this language. All concepts are conveyed as concepts, and the sounds themselves have no meaning.


    Host: Oa'lailan (lit. "Host Language"); also Ela'lailan (lit. "Star Language")
    The rules for host languages vary intensely, depending on the species of the host themselves. As such, it's not entirely possible to describe this one because, well, there's a plethora of different possible rules.

    What can be said about the Host Language is that parasites can pick it up via the psychic connection between themselves and their hosts. You see this happening a lot with Adam within the story: whenever Adam wishes to learn something new about the human race, it dips into Bill's mind to uncover the answer. To Adam, it's a lot like watching a movie, only if the movie happened faster and if everything that happened in it became permanently etched in one's brain. Because of the last part, it's possible for a parasite to pick up languages from more than one host species and remember each one for as long as it lives.

    Ixodida generally speak in the language of their host because that's the one that's guaranteed to be compatible with the host's physiology. Remember, while the transformation inflicts many kinds of transformations on a host, in general, the throat (vocal cords) remains the same, and the shape of the mouth and tongue are still closer to those of the host's species than the parasite's. So in short, it's just easier and safer for a parasite to use Host Language than anything else.


    Subsets of Host Language
    The people of the Pokémon world speak in Common, which is a hybrid international language that strongly resembles a mix of Japanese and English (among other things, including Chinese). This may be elaborated on in a different extra, but basically, most of the time, "Host Language" for Earth actually means Common.

    Occasionally, other characters will still know languages besides Common, which are collectively known by the people of the Pokémon world as the Old Languages. These are basically the tongues as we know them today, and while there's plenty of nations that still stick to theirs, it's usually very rare to see people speak predominantly an Old Language or for someone to speak an Old Language outside of the country where it existed. For example, while English is still spoken in Unova (which is located in the United States), not that many people speak it outside of the region, and not that many people within the region speak it as a first language. This is mostly because Pokémon-based professions tend to be more international, so the world just cannot function with language barriers. It helps that there's now international peace as well.

    But as a fun fact, John's side of the family comes from Scotland, which renders English as their native Old Language, and because Bill and Hope's mother was born and raised in Japan, Japanese is the native Old Language of her side of the family. Consequently, Bill and Hope (and the third sibling) are fluent in Common, English, and Japanese, and Adam's Host Language can refer to any one of these at any given time. …As well as others because Bill is fluent or capable of speaking in more than those three languages as well.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 26th June 2012 at 6:25 AM.

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  9. #284
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    ohey look who swore she was going to catch up countless times over the last ~two years and has only gotten around to it now (and coincidentally decides to do so at the same time she finally decides to try to read moar and lurk less on SPPF in general)

    by marathoning straight through by re-reading from the prologue with a side of "sleep? que es sleep?"

    I gave up sleep for your fanfic last night, Jax. Precious, precious sleep. I would try and hold it against you, but I can't because said marathon reminded me how sdgasfj;bn;gsad;gnj I love this fic ;-;

    Oh, man it feels good to finally start reading AEM again, even if it's been so long that I've lost all context and had to start over again. It's come such a long way since I read it last, and spiraled off in crazy directions based on what little I'd read before.

    Now. Last night I crawled my way through twenty-nine chapters of fic, and it's already 5 AM again as I'm starting to clean up these notes (but I am going to sleep this time daaaaaarn you). Ordinarily I'd do a more thorough review of each chapter, or at least each chapter that has materialized since I last read AEM, but that is like. Twenty chapters. And I do not and will not have the intestinal fortitude to try and comb back through all that to squee fangirlishly over every other line especially becaue Phoenix is dumb and forgot to take notes/quotes as she was reading until the end blaaaar. So, disappointed though I'm sure you are to miss out on the spectacle that is me squeeing fangirlishly over every other line of twenty-nine chapters of fic, I'mma just touch on some of my more recent thoughts (which are probably not in a coherent/chronological order, sorry) and leave this here. 'Kay? 'Kay.

    --

    -First off: I'm curious about your choice of the name "Ereshkigal" for the Relian empress. I do realize that it's just a reference, as with all of the other tasty mythological references you've snuck in with the ixodida in true B-movie fashion, but it sticks out to me because it seems to be her actual name, or the one that the ixodida have come to associate with her, at least. All the other names of deities and first men/women are codenames given to them by humans, whose mythologies those are. The ixodida attach no meaning to the names, and presumably have never even heard them, until they probe their hosts' minds to learn more, yes? But neither the ixodida nor the Relians should understand who Ereshkigal is, so it doesn't seem like a name they'd have come up with.

    ...eh, I'll get over it, I'm sure. Just gotta keep chanting B-movie B-movie B-movie under my breath, because frankly I'm sure you've considered this already. Meanwhile I'm just happy to see something even more obscure than the Greek/Judeo-Christian names crop up. \o/

    -So, according to your ixodida hierarchy notes + important Hoennian status notes, I assume we can assume that Winona is the new Lord/Lady of the Skies? Does "luckily we'll never meet her" (from the notes) mean that you just don't feel like killing Winona on-screen, or that if she were to appear Bill et al would be screwed six ways to Sunday? :P

    badass harpy Winona go go go go

    (also, the harpy thing is awesome and all, don't get me wrong, but for some reason after I read the notes about the ixodida clans and how they're all basically bugs I. all I could see. was this. *flail*)

    -I'm intrigued by the earlier mention of "blessing" in the first Pandora/Prometheus convo, by the way. Should I just assume that was a holdover from the influence of the Relians, who seem pretty likely to have had some sort of religion? Or do our horrible horrible crawly bitey xenomorph spidercrab friends have a Horrible Horrible Crawly Bitey Xenomorph Spidercrab Jesus we'll be meeting in the future?

    (also Nila was so preeeettyyyyy halp conworldgasm)

    -While we're on the subject of Pandora and Prometheus, the image of Pandora putting her hands to her mouth while she looks at the hole Adam punched through Prometheus amuses me. I'm not sure if this was the intent, but it just seems like a sudden display of involuntary human emotional reaction and I like it. (Shock. Not concern. Wouldn't want anyone to think those two could get along, now would we? :P)

    -Here's a probably sort of big question that I don't think has been brought up here yet: why did the ixodida choose humans as their host species on Earth? Adam keeps complaining about how weak they are, and I'd bet that he's not the only ixodida to have thought that, even if most of the others aren't rogues with a lucid host to complain to and blame it on. Do they just seem to gravitate toward the dominant/most technically advanced species, assuming one's available? (Have they ever used multiple host species on a planet before—could they, theoretically, start parasitizing both humans and, say, furret, at the same time? Or would that create incompatibility problems of some sort when trying to reproduce? I guess it'd cause communication problems, at the very least, given your latest extra...) Adam made a remark about how some pokémon on earth were both physically superior to and more intelligent than humans; why not use those as hosts? How badass would they be if they took something that already had awesome killer monster powers and infected it with more awesome?

    I'm quite certain the answer is full of delishus spoilers, so it doesn't bug me if you can't say at this time, but I'm just surprised no one's mused this aloud yet. (Orrrr maybe they have and I shouldn't skim the other reviews and your replies to them. Maybe. no sleeeeep)

    Perhaps less spoilery, what would've happened if they had parasitized pokémon instead? Not so much whether they'd target more than one species, but more typing- and physiology-related, I guess. If they're all element/bug, what would theoretically happen if they infected something that already had an elemental type? What would happen if they infected a dual-type? And how much of their hosts' physiology do they retain aside from the face? At least with boring ol' humans I can see a need to augment the body with claws and whippy tails and what have you, but a charizard is already plenty capable of killing you and can also fly on its own as an added bonus. Why don't all the rock ixodida go chow down on some charizard or something? :P Or would most of what's charizardy about it go away in favor of the same appearance they have now?

    -Breaking away from all the ixodida questions for a sec, is there a reason Bill needs to say "magnet rise" nearly every time he uses it, but not declare the names of any other attacks? If it's a habit, why would he only pick it up for the one move? Or are we just assuming that he is declaring them but we just don't catch him doing it?

    -While I'm at it—and this is a general comment about the fic as a whole (one which I might have already made at PC but so long agooooooo)—I want to take a moment and applaud you for what you've done with the ixodida transformations in this fic. I've never really read any TF fic or fic at all herp, so I admit that I don't know how often this happens elsewhere, but to me it's so interesting that the transformation into an ixodida seems so irreversible. At least if you're a werewolf, you can usually go back to looking like a normal dude at the end (or, if you don't end up cured, you can be normal when there's no full moon out, etc.). Here, you are literally having people spend weeks physically ripping the flesh off of their bodies, having bones break and twist into configurations they ought not be in, and it (especially with the skin bit imo) sinks in that holy **** Batman, they are never ever going to be human ever again. And while I can make an educated guess that other transformation stories in general have done similar things, what strikes me as the most impressive is that you are irreparably disfiguring canon characters in this way, taking people that we love (or, er, can point to and say "oh, yeah, I remember who that is"; okay, you picked Bill and Tate and iirc they get like 0 attentions sobbu sobbu) and apparently condemning them to be hideous abominations forever and ever. Even if Liza turns out to be okay (and assuming she's not infected), she's got a freaking psychic twin brother who will be a horrible horrible crawly bitey xenomorph monster man until the day he dies. Just... ouch.

    Somehow, man, even though they're alive and lucid and still (mostly) themselves, it feels like you've violated them in a way that's worse than killing them; people write fic with major character death all the time, but this hits me much harder. And for that, Jax, you have all of my respects.

    ...assuming you don't in fact have some sort of cure planned. Which would be boring. I'm sure you could handle it and make it awesome instead of a cop-out because you're you, but. Don't undo all of my respects, man.

    (holy italics and parenthetical clauses batman)

    um yes and. That's all? Except the specials. *flaaaaaaail* is the only appropriate response I can come up with for those. (Aside from apologizing for not following up with the volunteering for VAing, dammit. )

    long story short slow Phoenix still drools over AEM so moar plz k thx bai. Lessee if I can finish that (also comparatively brief given that I'm catching up) review/comment/*flailing* for Mary Sue Must Die! before the sun comes up.
    Review requests currently on hold for contest judging + some other stuff. Sorry!

  10. #285
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    So many good questions. SO MANY.

    But seriously… *brofist* Welcome back to the world of SPPf, Phoenix! It's… still just as special as it was when you went idle. *le nod*

    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenixsong View Post
    I gave up sleep for your fanfic last night, Jax. Precious, precious sleep.
    I officially feel like the coolest person ever. For serious. *dons sunglasses*

    But srsly, sleep = good. ;_;

    Oh, man it feels good to finally start reading AEM again, even if it's been so long that I've lost all context and had to start over again.
    It's okay! There will eventually be an abridged version to help everyone remember what's going on! Because this fic is two years old and almost thirty chapters long and what the serious ****.

    So, disappointed though I'm sure you are to miss out on the spectacle that is me squeeing fangirlishly over every other line of twenty-nine chapters of fic, I'mma just touch on some of my more recent thoughts (which are probably not in a coherent/chronological order, sorry) and leave this here. 'Kay? 'Kay.
    Actually, I'm kinda glad you didn't go with the "review every chapter" route because I'm pretty sure attempting to tackle all twenty-nine chapters in one go would make anyone's head asplode.

    -First off: I'm curious about your choice of the name "Ereshkigal" for the Relian empress. I do realize that it's just a reference, as with all of the other tasty mythological references you've snuck in with the ixodida in true B-movie fashion, but it sticks out to me because it seems to be her actual name, or the one that the ixodida have come to associate with her, at least. All the other names of deities and first men/women are codenames given to them by humans, whose mythologies those are. The ixodida attach no meaning to the names, and presumably have never even heard them, until they probe their hosts' minds to learn more, yes? But neither the ixodida nor the Relians should understand who Ereshkigal is, so it doesn't seem like a name they'd have come up with.
    This is a really good point, especially now that the third extra has firmly established the fact that, technically, a name like Ereshkigal is literally impossible in the Relian's native language. (lol my foresight) There are four different possible explanations to this, though, and one of them will be revealed later:

    1. Ereshkigal is not actually her name but instead a codename given to her by a different culture, much in the same way that Pandora and Prometheus are not their names either.

    2. Ereshkigal is her name… but just a translation. A weird one. In that the Relians do have a goddess that's essentially Ereshkigal only alien, so they adopted the human name for her because it's like calling the sky the sky instead of (insert circle-line-scribble here). And the actual Relian name for her is about as bizarre and unpronounceable as Cxaxukluth. Or Prince's former name. (This explanation would make more sense if one remembers one of the first things Adam told Bill. But I won't say what for now because there are some spoilers I'm resisting giving you folks.)

    3. Jax is a hilariously terrible person who did not have the foresight to think about this in depth.

    4. Jax is a hilariously terrible person, and it's actually some combination of the above.

    -So, according to your ixodida hierarchy notes + important Hoennian status notes, I assume we can assume that Winona is the new Lord/Lady of the Skies? Does "luckily we'll never meet her" (from the notes) mean that you just don't feel like killing Winona on-screen, or that if she were to appear Bill et al would be screwed six ways to Sunday? :P
        Spoiler:- Answer!:


    (also, the harpy thing is awesome and all, don't get me wrong, but for some reason after I read the notes about the ixodida clans and how they're all basically bugs I. all I could see. was this. *flail*)
    Oh hey look it's Tate. *shot!*

    -I'm intrigued by the earlier mention of "blessing" in the first Pandora/Prometheus convo, by the way. Should I just assume that was a holdover from the influence of the Relians, who seem pretty likely to have had some sort of religion? Or do our horrible horrible crawly bitey xenomorph spidercrab friends have a Horrible Horrible Crawly Bitey Xenomorph Spidercrab Jesus we'll be meeting in the future?
    Definitely a hold-over from the Relians, although I'm having hilarious mental images of Horrible Horrible Crawly Bitey Xenomorph Spidercrab Jesus right now. (Obscure sci-fi reference time! This actually happened in the comic Creature Tech, and it was insanely glorious in ways that I'm pretty sure the writer/artist didn't intend. And because I'm taking cues from every sci-fi thing I liked, there may or may not be an alien Jesus as of this moment.)

    (also Nila was so preeeettyyyyy halp conworldgasm)
    Don't worry! There will be plenty more pretty things to imagine!

    -While we're on the subject of Pandora and Prometheus, the image of Pandora putting her hands to her mouth while she looks at the hole Adam punched through Prometheus amuses me. I'm not sure if this was the intent, but it just seems like a sudden display of involuntary human emotional reaction and I like it. (Shock. Not concern. Wouldn't want anyone to think those two could get along, now would we? :P)
    Haha, I actually intended on Pandora thinking, "Oh. There is a hole there. That's different. *teasip if she had a cup of tea*" But the idea that she's experiencing emotion is definitely an interesting one…

    -Here's a probably sort of big question that I don't think has been brought up here yet: why did the ixodida choose humans as their host species on Earth?
    Awesome question – and one that hasn't been fully explained as of yet! And because it may be spoilertastic (because I haven't decided how much will be revealed at the end yet), spoiler tag, I choose you!

        Spoiler:- A brief explanation!:


    -Breaking away from all the ixodida questions for a sec, is there a reason Bill needs to say "magnet rise" nearly every time he uses it, but not declare the names of any other attacks? If it's a habit, why would he only pick it up for the one move? Or are we just assuming that he is declaring them but we just don't catch him doing it?
    Because he's an idiot at battling.

    On a serious note, he has a tendency to announce attacks he hasn't yet mastered. (This is why he announces Mirror Shot unless he's pissed off enough to use it on his own.) Announcing it helps him focus on it, and because Magnet Rise is not only not a Steel- or Normal-type move (meaning it's actually outside of his element anyway) but also a move where he actually has to fight the planet itself (because it works via repelling against Earth's own magnetic field), it takes a lot of effort on his part to use it.

    Fun note: Any other move he uses on his own without announcing it first came because he didn't entirely have control over what he was doing or how he was learning it. For example, he was able to use Scratch and Slash without announcing it because Adam forcibly taught him those, and those are far simpler to master than Mirror Shot. Protect he used on instinct (probably because it ties with his nature, not to be overly cryptic or anything), and he first used moves like Metal Claw and Iron Tail on his own after being ordered by someone else (and his body apparently reacts to orders for some reason that you will of course never learn within the fic because it's not a plot point or anything what are you talking about). We never got to see him master Iron Defense, and pretty much the only time he's been able to use Mirror Shot without announcing it was because he was too pissed off to realize that's what he was doing.

    In short, when he's calm, Bill needs an extra push to help him use moves he hasn't fully mastered or that would take more effort on his part to use, Magnet Rise included. If he was angry, though, damn he can fight.

    I've never really read any TF fic or fic at all herp, so I admit that I don't know how often this happens elsewhere, but to me it's so interesting that the transformation into an ixodida seems so irreversible.
    Thank you~! I have to say that a lot of TF fics go one of two ways. The first way is that the transformation is irreversible, but this is never really explored. I mean, sure, the characters acknowledge that it's irreversible and angst about it for a bit, but ultimately, they're okay with it. The second involves the characters not being okay with it but also eventually finding a cure anyway.

    Honestly, I think both routes are boring too, which is why I have a lot of fun writing AEM. The truth is that no one is okay with the transformation being permanent here. In many cases, they want a way to turn themselves back into humans, but that's just not going to happen because any practical means would give them about five seconds of happiness before they melt from the inside out. (And then there's Bill, who's actually okay with the general concept of being a Pokémon… but less okay with the idea that others are trapped within their own minds, that people want to kill him for being an Ixodida, and that he has to hunt Pokémon for food. But really, he figures that he can go back to being a researcher no matter what his body is. Because he's crazy.)

    So you get all these people who are basically fighting for their lives, constantly thinking that there's going to be a light at the end of the tunnel… when in a lot of ways, there really won't be. And oh yes, I will explore the crap out of that, either by the end of this story or throughout the next one.

    what strikes me as the most impressive is that you are irreparably disfiguring canon characters in this way, taking people that we love (or, er, can point to and say "oh, yeah, I remember who that is"; okay, you picked Bill and Tate and iirc they get like 0 attentions sobbu sobbu) and apparently condemning them to be hideous abominations forever and ever.
    Re, the parentheses: ikr? And both of them are, like, the awesomest. I mean, one of them is a super-genius and embodiment of the Pokémon fanbase; the other is a flipping psychic twin. Who was adorable in the anime but actually legit psychic in the games. And let's face it. The first double gym battle? Pretty awesome.

    Anyway, yes to the rest of that. ;D My spine. Let me show you it.

    Even if Liza turns out to be okay (and assuming she's not infected), she's got a freaking psychic twin brother who will be a horrible horrible crawly bitey xenomorph monster man until the day he dies. Just... ouch.
    And she'll still love him. And nag him. Constantly. *nods*

    Somehow, man, even though they're alive and lucid and still (mostly) themselves, it feels like you've violated them in a way that's worse than killing them;
    Haha, and I haven't even told you the worst parts yet. Sure, there's the permanence. Sure, there's the fact that the Ixodida are apparently crazy. Sure, there's even the fact that they're horrible, bitey xenomorph monsters that all humans want to see dead.

        Spoiler:- Spoilers! No, seriously, this may actually ruin a scene later. If it gets put in.:


    And for that, Jax, you have all of my respects.
    *le bow*

    ...assuming you don't in fact have some sort of cure planned.
    Haha, nope!

    But you'll get to see Bill try to come up with one. And it won't be pretty.

    (Aside from apologizing for not following up with the volunteering for VAing, dammit. )
    Aww, totally cool. Mia and I came up with pretty fun alternatives. ;D

    long story short slow Phoenix still drools over AEM so moar plz k thx bai.
    Thank you~!

    Luckily, since the last chapter I posted was for Mary Sue, the next one will be for AEM, so! Hopefully that'll be up soon, assuming real life doesn't try to kill me first.

    Also! Guys, we are officially fifteen posts away from hitting comment #300. The surprise offer is still valid. WHAT COULD IT BEEEEEE~?
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 5th July 2012 at 8:42 PM.

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  11. #286
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    I’m back! Summer = more family time = good, but unfortunately it also means less time for fanfics. Aaaanyway . . . I know this chapter’s been up for a while, but I now have the opportunity to review it, so I will.
    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    The fog at the top of Mt. Pyre hung thicker than usual as the empress perched on one of the pedestals that once held the Red and Blue Orbs. Her violet fingers fanned across the first of the two orbs, and her blue eyes blazed with a supernatural light as she examined its blood-red surface.

    "How curious," she murmured, "that the people of this planet once tried to control their gods."
    Here’s a scary thought brought on by the reference to Kyogre and Groudon: Legendary-level Ixodida. Thanks, Jax.
    Beside her stood the source of the fog, Pandora. The ice-type's glistening hands wove patterns through the air, twisting wisps of clouds around her fingers. When she heard her empress's words, she stopped, and the fog around her thinned gradually.
    While I like the atmosphere this imagery creates for the scene, I’m not entirely sure why Pandora’s creating/playing with the fog. Maybe this could be cleared up a bit (no pun intended).
    "You are late in returning," Pandora drawled, "and you have done so without the rogue. How very brazen of you."

    Prometheus lashed his head around to hiss at Pandora. She merely stood taller as she watched him turn and stumble to the empress. When he was nearly at her feet, he dropped to a knee and bowed his head.

    "It is true that I have failed you, Your Majesty. Please have mercy on me," he announced.

    The violet-skinned creature continued to roll the Red Orb in her hand as she glanced at Prometheus in thought.

    "Your report," Pandora barked.

    "I would not be so thoughtless as to forget," Prometheus sneered. Taking a deep breath, he calmed himself just enough to address his empress with a toneless voice. "Your Majesty, I have found the rogue. It is indeed of the Iron Clan, as you have feared. I have attempted to capture it as per your orders, but I am afraid that its host is far more clever than I had anticipated."
    For some reason, this exchange reminds me of some of the Sailor Moon villains returning to their boss after failure.
    "Interesting. But it does not tell me whether or not I should be concerned. Lady of Frost."

    Pandora placed a hand on the shoulder opposite to it and bowed. "Yes, Your Majesty?"

    "It is your turn to confront this creature. Uncover its nature and report back to me."

    "Your Majesty, allow me to do it!" Prometheus begged. "This rogue is powerful, and the Iron Clan's abilities outclass those of the Frost Clan!"

    "Then the Lady of Frost is not to engage in combat with the Iron Rogue," the empress replied. "If you cannot contain it yourself, dear lady, then perhaps it would benefit you to know that it is right now within the Flower Clan's territory. Use them to assist you if necessary. Do not return to me until you have determined whether or not this rogue is indeed the threat that we have been fearing. Do you understand?"
    And now I’m even more reminded of Sailor Moon villains. Man, it’s been ages since I last saw that show . . . Uh, right, review . . .

    I love how deceptively peaceful a name like “Flower Clan” sounds (especially in light of the Ixodida that appeared in Lanette’s memory).
    Before the invasion, whenever Hope got angry, she puffed her cheeks out a certain way that reminded Bill of jigglypuff. It was meant to be intimidating, but he couldn't hide the fact that he thought it was cute. That was why, the last time she did it at him, he pressed his lips together and tried his hardest not to smile – because he knew all too well that he was the reason why she was doing it at him.
    Ooh, another Hope (or whatever her name’s going to be) flashback. The last sentence, especially the bolded part, just didn’t read right to me. I think it was the repetition of “at him” that threw me off. Maybe change the last part to something like “he was the reason why she was doing it now”?
    "You said you'd be here!" she protested.
    . . .
    "I know, and I'm sorry," he replied. "But the Symposium needs me."
    Ah, the family vs. work theme has entered into Anima Ex Machina, too. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but I’ve recently been watching a lot of the Nostalgia Critic’s videos and have seen that theme come up in a lot of the movies he’s looked at.

    It’s not really that you don’t pull it off well, it’s just that I’ve seen it (a lot of it) fairly recently before looking at this chapter. In other words, I’m not sure what sort of advice to give here, so I’ll shut up before making a fool of myself.

    Hope's hands, which she had placed on her hips the moment her brother told her he was leaving, gripped her sides a little bit harder. She let out most of the air in her cheeks but kept them just a little bit puffy.
    Although, this scene was certainly cute enough to be worth the set up for it.
    Hope perked up a little at his words. She pulled her shoulders up as she bowed her head and crossed her arms, all as if that would barricade herself from temptation. Still, she turned her head a little back towards her brother as her cheeks lost all of their puffy appearance.

    "Well… I'll only accept it because it's polite," she said slowly. "But that doesn't mean I forgive you."
    Bribery works wonders, it seems.

    "You're really weird, Nii-chan."

    "Better weird than boring."
    Yep! Crazy people are so much more fun to read about!
    "I'm serious, though. I promise you – and I'll be keeping this one – that I'll be there for you. If you need me, even while I'm at Polaris Institute, just call me, and I'll come help you."

    "No matter what?"

    Bill let his expression soften. "No matter what."
    Hope: “Even if there’s an alien invasion and you get possessed by a snarky metal monster?”

    Bill: “Uhhh . . .”
    Hope's glare broke to make way for a wide grin as she tried to throw her arms around her brother. She would have succeeded, too, but this time, things were different. Instead of embracing her sibling, her arms circled thin air as darkness enveloped her. Her body pitched forward until she fell onto her side.

    The next thing she saw were eyes. Dead eyes set in the skull of a man lying next to her.
    Cute, heartwarming scene followed by dead eyes? Yep, looks like this is still the same story after all!

    I’m not sure about the phrase “the next thing she saw were eyes” as I think the verb would refer to “thing” rather than “eyes” and thus be singular (was).
    In another flash, another image filled her vision. This time, she was in a forest, listening to the sound of another unearthly screech – one that was higher pitched and alien compared to anything she had heard before. She found herself running, following a pink mass of light that brought her closer and closer to the source of the scream. Eventually, she emerged in a place where the trunks were spaced out a little further, where mud sucked at her feet with every step.

    Where Lanette, Vito, and Steven stood by and watched a silver creature rise from the earth.
    And now Bill gets to star in her nightmares, following up such pleasant imagery as squelching organs. What an honor!
    And all Hope could think about was a pair of dead eyes and the squelching of organs.

    Nii-chan… help, she thought.

    The creature crouched and readied itself to leap at the alakazam once more.

    I'm scared. Please help.

    Then, it moved, closing the distance between itself and its prey in seconds.

    Nii-chan, help me!

    Without thinking, she screamed. Instantly, the creature stopped, freezing just inches away from the alakazam. It blinked before turning its wide, brown eyes towards Hope. A flicker of familiarity flashed across them. Hope knew these eyes, that face.

    "Hope?" the creature rasped in her brother's voice.

    Suddenly, her vision darkened, and all she could hear was the unearthly screams. All she could see was the flash of metal and the claws of an entire brigade of ixodida tearing at a man with dead eyes.
    Wow. This . . . this is good. I love how you were able to capture her fear – and other emotions – without ever once stating how Hope felt. Just seeing what she’s seeing is enough for the reader to feel it too. This scene here is what they mean by “show, don’t tell” and it’s very powerful. Why can’t I write like this?
    And in Tate's mind, all he could hear was his sister's voice.

    "Tate! Run!"

    ---

    Tate jolted awake. He sat up on the roof of the truck, clutching his chest as he took deep breaths. His heart felt like it was pounding, and his skin felt cold and wet all over. Shaking his head, he listened closely to the quiet of the camp. Except for the standard guard (Veronica this time), most of the humans were asleep. He could hear Thom's snoring from the truck, the crackling of the campfire, the occasional click of Veronica's pistol being loaded and unloaded, and nothing else.
    The sudden transition from intense to calm is just as (or perhaps even more) startling than the change from a peaceful memory to a frightening nightmare. The tension’s still there but there’s nothing to fight (or watch the characters fight, anyway), so it sets the atmosphere of a world under the constant threat of alien attacks very effectively.
    Meditating under waterfalls, as Bill shortly found out, was harder than it looked. To be accurate, the first time he did it, he slipped clean off his perch and nearly drowned had it not been for a well-timed Magnet Rise. Some variations of this occurred in the three subsequent attempts – including one in which he found out that the changes in his body meant he had to re-learn how to swim eventually – until he finally came to a rest exactly where he wanted to be: sitting cross-legged on a rock with the waterfall rushing down on him.
    I don’t know if it was the shift into the opposite direction from the tone of the previous scene or the scene itself, but I burst into laughter at this!

    At the bolded: I think that might work better if you word it “he would have to re-learn how to swim eventually” since the inclusion of both “he had to” and “eventually” sort of threw me off when I was re-reading it to actually review.
    The other challenge, Bill soon realized, was that even once one had situated themselves under a waterfall stably, the reason why it was a training exercise in the first place was because having ice-cold water blast the top of your head with the same force as a fire hose at a constant rate wasn't exactly conducive to concentrating. Shutting his eyes, Bill struggled desperately to hone his mind on his task, but every time he came close, his thoughts flickered to everything from the temperature of the water to how he swore this was a good idea an hour ago.

    It didn't help, of course, that Adam wasn't exactly going out of its way to assist him in his mental quest.
    Still giggling here.
    Bill grimaced as his thoughts careened off track again. Shifting in his seat, he pictured a blank, white space in an attempt to block out Adam's distraction. Still, he felt the parasite poking at the edges of it, and inadvertently, he thought of a meowth slipping through and grinning at him.

    . . .

    Bill pressed his eyes closed and tightened his fists on his knees. This time, it was an ekans that slithered through the edge of his mind and across his white space. As it curled itself around a piece of space, Bill felt something in his chest constrict.
    Meowth and Ekans? What, couldn’t find a way to work a Koffing metaphorically into the scene, too?
    Eventually, his mind finally cleared, but that was only when his vision faded to black.
    It’s really quite amazing how often Bill loses consciousness in this story. What is it, an average of once every chapter or two?
    "Good thing I've got telekinesis," Tate said. "No offense, but giving a guy mouth-to-mouth isn't exactly high on my list of things I'd like to do."
    I like how you find inventive ways to use Pokémon powers beyond battling. Now quick! Tell me the use of Muk slime in medicine. Three, two, one, go!
    "I just saved your life, and that's all I get?" Tate's voice slid smoothly into an imitation of Bill's accent. "Thank you, boy. Now wot the devil ahh you doing 'eaah? Yohr interrupting my tea time, and it's most inconvenient. Now, scurry along while I wah-lloh in my own self-'atred."

    In answer to your unspoken protests, yes, you do in fact sound like that, Adam quipped.
    Adam’s really such a helpful parasite, isn’t it? The truth hurts, Bill.
    "Well, that was rather rude. What if it was about Lanette?"

    At that, Bill rose to his full height. He nearly toppled over at first as his head swam from the lingering effects of his latest near-death experience, but he managed to dissipate the feeling with a wince and a vigorous shake of his head.
    Bill has a one-track mind, doesn’t he. At least until tate informs him of another track or two it could be on.

    Also, something about the term “latest near-death experience” really shows how bad Bill’s luck has been lately.
    Tate's eyes locked with Bill's. "They're safe. They're all safe. They haven't seen ixodida besides the two of us since we left Mauville. If you ask me, it's too quiet, especially since we should be entering the heart of their territory."
    Looks like Bill’s not the only one who likes tempting fate. Cue Pandora and the Flower Clan in five . . . four . . . three . . .
    "She's traumatized," Bill said at last. "I would be more worried if she wasn't."
    Does that mean we should be worried by the fact that you’re not traumatized, Bill? (Or Thom, for that matter?)
    "So you're going to depend on everyone else like you've been doing all this time?"

    Right away, Bill jabbed a finger at the psychic. "Watch it, Tate. I'm doing the best that I can."

    Tate scoffed. "Yeah, you're doing a great job of protecting her. You've been more concerned about Lanette than your own sister. Man, if my sis treated me that way—"

    Bill didn't dignify that with an answer. He merely turned swiftly, making it a point to scrape the ground between himself and Tate with the tip of his tail. Then, he began walking away, heading downstream to a new training spot.

    "Hey!" Tate called after him. "Don't turn your back on me! You're just afraid I have a point, aren't you?"
    More painful truth, huh? Well, he needed to hear it.
    "How do you know about that?"

    Tate grinned. "Easy. I'm psychic, aren't I?"

    "So. You invaded Hope's mind without her consent."

    "Well, somebody's got to protect her, and since you're clearly doing such a wonderful job at th—"

    A perfect Mirror Shot blasted him off his feet and into the ground. When he looked up, he saw Bill half-turned towards him with his palm held up and outward. The red jewel in its center flickered with its own light.

    Lowering his arm, Bill warned, "Stay out of my sister's head."
    This opens up a new can of worms altogether. Now I’m curious about what the laws are for psychic power use (especially privacy invading ones like this) in your universe (or even just the general attitudes toward mindreading).
    With a smirk, Tate raised his hands in a fighting position and yelled, "You want to fight? Bring it on. Let's see how much your training's paid off!"
    Well, as late as this review is, at least I haven’t missed the fight!

    I’m impressed with the wide range of emotions you can jump through in a single chapter, and also intrigued by the thought of the empress toying with the Red Orb. Although, as I was reading this chapter, it dawned on me that I’ve never been entirely sure where the Caravan’s been heading all this time. I mean, I guess they’re traveling around looking for any survivors and avoiding Ixodida, but I can’t for the life of me seem to remember if they had any concrete destination in mind.
    Also! Guys, we are officially fifteen posts away from hitting comment #300. The surprise offer is still valid. WHAT COULD IT BEEEEEE~?
    An Anima Ex Machina and Mary Sue Must Die crossover event?
    Oh, look! I wrote a fanfic! Weak (One-Shot. Rated G). Can Iris convince Bianca that she can't just avoid her problems?

    And another one: Mischief (One-Shot. Rated G). A little fun for October.

  12. #287
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    Let's play the Confuse the People Who Subscribed To This Thread Game! 8D

    (No, seriously, I love you guys, and I'm sorry. orz If it makes you feel any better, the next chapter of AEM is done and in my beta's inbox, so you can expect it hopefully later tonight/sometime tomorrow.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ememew View Post
    I’m back! Summer = more family time = good, but unfortunately it also means less time for fanfics.
    Inorite? Or it means summer jobs and doing crazy-awesome things offline. *sage nod*

    Aaaanyway . . . I know this chapter’s been up for a while, but I now have the opportunity to review it, so I will. Here’s a scary thought brought on by the reference to Kyogre and Groudon: Legendary-level Ixodida. Thanks, Jax.
    Oh, you mean like this? ;D

    (True story for those of you who haven't yet been in the know: This was totally the original plot of AEM before it was called AEM and before it involved parasitic fakemon instead of Deoxys. Or, well, more accurately, this and this were.)

    While I like the atmosphere this imagery creates for the scene, I’m not entirely sure why Pandora’s creating/playing with the fog. Maybe this could be cleared up a bit (no pun intended).
    Boredom. ;D

    On a serious note, there's a practical reason why, but the hint-dropping for that's coming at the end of the next chapter.

    For some reason, this exchange reminds me of some of the Sailor Moon villains returning to their boss after failure.
    As you should because I totally am not watching a lot more Sailor Moon these days what are you talking about. (Although I really need to update that thing.)

    I love how deceptively peaceful a name like “Flower Clan” sounds (especially in light of the Ixodida that appeared in Lanette’s memory).
    Totally also intentional. ;D

    The last sentence, especially the bolded part, just didn’t read right to me. I think it was the repetition of “at him” that threw me off. Maybe change the last part to something like “he was the reason why she was doing it now”?
    You've got a good point, and I definitely like the suggestion for the change. So! I'll be sliding it in when I've got a moment to edit (which should be soon because haha I'm behind in updating my website again).

    Ah, the family vs. work theme has entered into Anima Ex Machina, too. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but I’ve recently been watching a lot of the Nostalgia Critic’s videos and have seen that theme come up in a lot of the movies he’s looked at.
    Oh, I really don't blame you. The Critic's got a point. It really is an overdone theme, especially if you're looking at anything from the 90's. So normally, I wouldn't suggest it…

    …Unless you're not planning on creating a Disney ending. ;D Or if your characters aren't telling you everything.

        Spoiler:- Like, for example…!:


    Bribery works wonders, it seems.
    Hope is easily distracted. *sage nod*

    Yep! Crazy people are so much more fun to read about!
    They're fun to write too. ;D

    Hope: “Even if there’s an alien invasion and you get possessed by a snarky metal monster?”

    Bill: “Uhhh . . .”
    Bill: "You have quite an imagination, little one." *headpat*
    Hope: "AND THEN YOU'LL EAT POKÉMON."
    Bill: "…"

    I’m not sure about the phrase “the next thing she saw were eyes” as I think the verb would refer to “thing” rather than “eyes” and thus be singular (was).
    Tense agreement, my old foe, WE MEET AGAIN. *fistshake*

    Also fixing that eventually!

    And now Bill gets to star in her nightmares, following up such pleasant imagery as squelching organs. What an honor!
    I'm sure some part of him, if he knew about this, would be happy she had him in mind at all. XD

    Wow. This . . . this is good. I love how you were able to capture her fear – and other emotions – without ever once stating how Hope felt. Just seeing what she’s seeing is enough for the reader to feel it too. This scene here is what they mean by “show, don’t tell” and it’s very powerful. Why can’t I write like this?
    It takes a lot of practice. And sadism. *another sage nod*

    But seriously, thank you! ♥

    The sudden transition from intense to calm is just as (or perhaps even more) startling than the change from a peaceful memory to a frightening nightmare. The tension’s still there but there’s nothing to fight (or watch the characters fight, anyway), so it sets the atmosphere of a world under the constant threat of alien attacks very effectively.
    Good to hear! I was hoping that scene wouldn't come off pointless, so!

    I don’t know if it was the shift into the opposite direction from the tone of the previous scene or the scene itself, but I burst into laughter at this!
    It's okay. Laughter is always an appropriate reaction to Bill failing at life.

    At the bolded: I think that might work better if you word it “he would have to re-learn how to swim eventually” since the inclusion of both “he had to” and “eventually” sort of threw me off when I was re-reading it to actually review.
    Good point. It's definitely meant to be a conditional, not pluperfect, so yeah, "would have to" is definitely the correct one. Not sure why I didn't write it that way in the first place, but that's what I get when I proofread too quickly.

    Meowth and Ekans? What, couldn’t find a way to work a Koffing metaphorically into the scene, too?
    ALAS, NO. ;_;

    It's the face. You just can't make it look sneaky and clever.

    It’s really quite amazing how often Bill loses consciousness in this story. What is it, an average of once every chapter or two?
    Why no I don't like to think about Bill's prone body that's ridiculous what are you talking about.

    I like how you find inventive ways to use Pokémon powers beyond battling. Now quick! Tell me the use of Muk slime in medicine. Three, two, one, go!
    Doctors can isolate at least thirty-seven different types of viruses and bacteria in order to create vaccines for some of the most common but difficult-to-cure-up-until-they-discovered-this diseases!

    Proper processing of muk mucus after purification to remove these harmful microbes can result in the Pokémon world's equivalent of crystal meth!

    (Hilariously, this isn't the first time I've thought about how people might use Pokémon to create drugs. Guess how many cast members of this fic have tried at least one of these!)

    Adam’s really such a helpful parasite, isn’t it? The truth hurts, Bill.
    Haha, yes, but Bill's probably going to deny it. Watch there be a chapter in the future in which he gets a hold of a recording device just to see if he does, in fact, sound like that.)

    Bill has a one-track mind, doesn’t he. At least until tate informs him of another track or two it could be on.
    Yeeeesss. XD

    Although just to be clear, it is clear that Tate's asking, "What if it is about Lanette," right? Because I realized now that it's not entirely in his character, and I just want to make sure that part of the scene is clear to folks.

    Also, something about the term “latest near-death experience” really shows how bad Bill’s luck has been lately.
    Inorite? I would say "poor guy," except this all is totally my fault.

    Does that mean we should be worried by the fact that you’re not traumatized, Bill? (Or Thom, for that matter?)
    Haha, probably. They're both insane, after all. Thom somehow more so than Bill… which means that Thom is actually crazier than literally every other character. Yet somehow saner? HE'S SO INSANE HE CIRCLED BACK AROUND AND IS SANE AGAIN.

    More painful truth, huh? Well, he needed to hear it.
    Oh yes. Not that he's going to listen without getting I beaten into him first.

    This opens up a new can of worms altogether. Now I’m curious about what the laws are for psychic power use (especially privacy invading ones like this) in your universe (or even just the general attitudes toward mindreading).
    That's an incredibly awesome question that would literally take a post in itself, but let me see if I can at least define a few rules right off the bat:

    1. What Sabrina says is true: everyone has some level of psychic ability in the Pokémon universe. It's just that people with enough power to become apparent are very, very rare. In other words, most people have mild abilities that they don't perceive and that don't affect the world to a significant level, but people like Sabrina, Rui, or Ash (Aura being a type of psychic ability in my headcanon) are very, very rare.

    2. Mild abilities tend to encompass things like déjŕ vu, the ability to see spirits, and the ability to form strong, empathic connections with Pokémon. People who train or own at least one Psychic-type also have the potential to form a psychic connection with their own Pokémon, although this is disputable as to whether or not this is a human ability in itself. Some folks see this as the Pokémon establishing a bridge between themselves and a human of their choosing, rather than the human and the Pokémon meeting halfway.

    3. What human psychics can and can't do depend on their specific abilities and their spiritual strength. Sabrina possesses god-like abilities, for example, and can use her telekinesis to warp reality. Rui possesses only mild abilities just a step above an ordinary human's, so she can only see aura. Ash, who possesses immense abilities that are largely locked away and untapped, can only interact with aura and aura users, which means that while he has precognitive powers (for example), they only work on beings to whom he's sensitive anyway. In Liza's case (and Tate's when he was a human), she only possesses mild precognition and telepathy, but it only works with her brother because they're twins and therefore sensitive to each other. So, she can basically finish his sentences and know exactly what he's thinking, not just because she's his sister but also because she's connected to him – and him alone – psychically.

    4. In Tate's case (as an ixodida), he possesses precognition, clairvoyance, telekinesis, teleportation, and telepathy only, but each of these are extremely powerful. He can basically access information in people's minds regardless of their mental barriers, telekinetically lift objects far heavier than he is (although he can't lift actual tons of material), and see or teleport to any location he desires just by thinking about it. He has less control over these powers when he's asleep, and as such, his mind is prone to reach out to the closest person he feels connected to – in this case, Hope (because she reminds him of Liza).

    5. Generally, using extreme psychic power is taboo, and using abilities to cheat in sanctioned battles is greatly frowned upon. It's just that you can't really argue with anyone using ungodly abilities (meaning League officials have basically said Sabrina can do whatever the hell she wants), and they're extremely difficult to regulate anyway. You'll also see less of this in this fic because the characters are throwing League sanctions out the window in favor of "what will keep me from getting killed today."

    Well, as late as this review is, at least I haven’t missed the fight!
    Oh yes. It's just getting started.

    Although, as I was reading this chapter, it dawned on me that I’ve never been entirely sure where the Caravan’s been heading all this time. I mean, I guess they’re traveling around looking for any survivors and avoiding Ixodida, but I can’t for the life of me seem to remember if they had any concrete destination in mind.
    This is a great point, and I think I have forgotten to mention it in this version of the fic. I've brought it up in the next chapter to fix it, but basically, there's three refugee camps established and guarded by the National Defense Forces (military of Pokémon!Japan) on mainland Hoenn: Rustboro, Slateport, and Lilycove. While Lilycove is the hardest to get to, it's also the safest one and the only one where ferries are still running to evacuate humans. The Caravan was established as a means to transport humans from the Rustboro and Slateport camps (as well as any humans they pick up along the way) to the Lilycove camp for safety. This particular run was a Rustboro-Lilycove run, hence why the camp was moving south, through Fallarbor and the Winstrate farm to Mauville.

    An Anima Ex Machina and Mary Sue Must Die crossover event?
    As hilarious and awesome as that would be, alas no. However! The surprise will be just as good. And interactive. ;D

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

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  13. #288
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    Aaaaand chapter thirty! This is clearly a milestone, guys. AEM is officially the longest fanfiction I've ever written. I should not be proud of the fact that I have no life.

    Also, why, yes, I did reference about three different movies throughout the course of this fic. Why do you ask?

    Also also, preview for next chapter, maybe? *shot!*



    Anima Ex Machina: Thirty
    It's not as easy as it looks.


    The last time Bill had been in a gym battle of any kind, he was eleven years old, he was five badges away from being able to compete in the Pokémon League Tournament for the first time, and for the sixth time in one week, he had to watch Viridian's gym leader at the time smash one of his pokémon's faces into the gym floor. After that point, he swore he would never battle a gym leader again – and, in fact, avoid pokémon battles in general if at all possible.

    Of course, inciting one to smash his face into the ground made that rather difficult.

    Once again, Bill landed hard into the bank, throwing sand into the air as he skidded into the ground. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to his knees and looked at his opponent. It had been ten minutes since Tate had taken to the air and challenged him, but no matter what Bill did, he couldn't even touch the psychic. Still, if Bill was anything besides academically intelligent, he was tenacious, and although this was the twelfth time Tate threw him into the ground with Psychic, he still picked himself back up.

    "Magnet Rise!"

    He dashed forward and sprang off the ground, cutting through the air quickly as he brought back one of his hands. Tate smirked as his eyes flashed blue for a thirteenth time, and as soon as that happened, Bill stopped short in the air. The steel-type's claws lost the white luster they had just gained as every part of him twitched against the unseen force that held him in place. Then, it threw him down, launching him back into the ground like a meteor.

    "It's no use, Bill!" Tate told him. "How are you going to fight an opponent who knows what move you'll make before you make it?"

    Stiffly, Bill forced himself back up as the pain from yet another Psychic ebbed away. As much as he didn't want to admit it, his opponent had a point, and honestly, that point wasn't too surprising to him. He knew he was dealing with a psychic, but if Tate could use his psychic powers to figure out what moves Bill was planning to use, what else could he do?

    "Giving up already?" Tate yelled.

    His entire body began to glow with a blue light that illuminated their battlefield. Lifting a hand, he extended a pink claw towards Bill. Not a word of explanation escaped his lips.

    In the next instant, all Bill could feel was pressure. It was as if hundreds of invisible hands grasped him – like someone had placed a two-ton boulder on his back. He could see the blue light that surrounded his body, but he couldn't break free from it. Instead, he was forced to double over, to grit his teeth against the pressure on all sides of him as it forced him into the ground.

    Do you need my help?

    For once, Bill was grateful to hear Adam's voice, although he was mildly suspicious that it carried no hint of sarcasm or criticism. It sounded, for once, as if Adam was actually concerned for him.

    Do not be so surprised. Even I would not be able to defeat a psychic on my own. We should work together if we are to be victorious in this fight. Please cooperate.

    "What… do you… propose?" Bill grunted.

    First, use Protect to deflect the rest of the child's attack. I will tell you the next step once you buy us some time.

    Steeling himself, Bill ground his claws into the sand and focused. While he couldn't shake the feeling that Adam was up to something, he knew he didn't have much of a choice. His voice rose into a crescendo as he mentally pushed outwards on all sides. All around him, his aura responded by forming a green dome that shoved the blue light away from him until it faded away. The pressure holding his body down immediately dissipated, and once again, he forced himself to his knees, this time holding his hands in front of him as if that would support the green dome. Tate lowered his hand and glared at the barrier with a glowing, blue stare.

    "You can't use Protect forever!" he snapped. "I can hear Adam, you know! No matter what you plan, I'll be able to counter it!"

    We shall see, little boy, Adam responded. Bill, now is your chance. Attack.

    Bill shifted his glance to his chest, noticing for the first time the red glow filtering through his shirt. "Adam, what about Tate's telepathy?"

    Do not concern yourself with that. Focus only on fighting Tate. I will take care of everything else. Now, on the count of three, drop Protect and make your first move. Are you ready?

    "I—"

    One…

    "Adam!"

    Two…

    "Wait!"

    Three! Now!

    Instinctively, Bill obeyed. Protect fell, fading away in a shower of green glitter. His body rocked backwards, hands sweeping up with their palms inches from each other. The jewels set in his hands took on a brilliant, white shine as he fixed his eyes on Tate once again.

    "Mirror Shot!" he called as he pointed his hands at Tate.

    Much to Bill's relief, it was a beam of pure white light this time, not an explosion. However, it was weak, and as it shot into the air, it died down within feet of Tate. The psychic chuckled, flitted to the side, and extended his index finger at the steel-type again. From his long claw shot a rainbow-colored beam that blasted Bill in the stomach. The attack knocked him clean off his feet and sent him sprawling into the riverbank, kicking up a cloud of sand in the process. The smirk on Tate's face broke into a wide smile as he surveyed the swirl of dust.

    "That's how you use a beam-based move!" he shouted.

    When the sand cleared, Tate could see Bill lying on his side, curled in the fetal position with his tail curved around him. The steel-type's eyes were closed, and all of his limbs were limp – as if he was completely unconscious. Raising his eyebrows, Tate let drifted towards his opponent.

    "Really? That's all you've got?" he said. "Wow. You're supposed to be a steel-type, aren't you? And you can only take…" He hesitated as he counted on his fingers the numbers of times he had actually hit Bill during the fight. "Okay, so you took a lot of damage, but come on! You couldn't even get in a single hit!" He landed and padded around Bill to kneel by his head. "And you expect to go up against the empress like that. That's just pathet—"

    Suddenly, Bill's eyes snapped open, and he flung a fist full of sand into the psychic's face. Tate sputtered and desperately tried to wipe the sand out of his face, and in this moment of blindness, his opponent took full advantage of the situation. Bill crouched low and whirled on the spot, whipping his glowing tail a few inches above the ground until it connected with Tate's legs and swept the psychic off his feet. Then, the steel-type sprang up and pounced on his companion, driving them both into the sandy bank. His metal hands grasped Tate's pink wrists, and his tail wound its way around the psychic's ankles. Tate squirmed in an effort to break free, but Bill calmly knelt above him, tightening his grip on the psychic with each second.

    "I'm sorry. What was that about my inability to get in a single hit?" Bill asked.

    Tate opened one eye and grimaced. "I don't get it! Why couldn't I see that coming?"

    "Perhaps because I've gotten better?"

    "Better this!"

    Blue light flared in Tate's eyes again, and Bill felt himself being shoved forcefully. His entire body launched into the air and flew through an arc into the ground, but at the height of his path, he twisted himself to land on his hands and knees. Lifting his head, he bared his teeth at Tate.

    "That doesn't even make sense!" he snapped.

    He pushed himself off the ground and bounded at the psychic. He extended one of his hands to his side, allowing each finger to glimmer with energy. As soon as he came within reach of Tate, he lashed his arm out just as the psychic attempted to dodge to the side, and in the process, his claws slashed across the boy's shoulder. Tate winced and grasped his wound as he took a few steps away. Already, he could feel the stickiness of his blood seep through the shoulder of his shirt.

    "You don't make sense!" Tate replied.

    Bill flicked his wrist, sending droplets of blood to the ground. "Oh, must you? Really, Tate, if you must be critical of me, at least be creative about it."

    "No, I mean you literally do not make sense," Tate answered. His voice carried a hint of fear as he backed away from his opponent. "I can't understand your thoughts!"

    At that, Bill furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, then glanced to the side.

    That is the troublesome thing about rogues who are eager to divorce themselves from their partners, Adam replied. They lose plenty of important skills and knowledge they could be gaining by working together. You are very welcome, by the way.

    Bill couldn't help but grin a little at the opportunity. "Well, then. I suppose this would be what trainers in pokémon battles consider a good opening, wouldn't it?" Then, he added to Tate, "All right, Tate. If you really want to see how well I've been training, allow me to show you my best move!"

    As he started forward again, he brought both his hands back to his sides and tensed his fingers until they began to glow white. At the same time, Tate pulled his body backwards, weaving his own hands in the air in front of him as a rainbow-colored ball of energy formed between them. The two careened towards each other, mere seconds from landing their strikes.

    And then two attacks from completely different sources blasted them apart. Bill was pulled into the air, his limbs lashing through nothingness as something held him out of Tate's reach, and Tate was blasted into the river by a jet of water. It took some time for the boy to pull himself out of the river and for the steel-type to calm down enough to take note of the newcomers who interrupted their battle. That was fine by them. Steven and Wallace felt that they had all the time in the world.

    "Not bad, but it could be better," Steven commented as he leaned against his metagross. "Tate, for the first half of the battle, you held your own, and then you started to underestimate your opponent. Sand-Attack is a move that can easily be replicated, regardless of whether or not a pokémon can technically learn it. The success of that depends on whether or not you're likely to fall directly into its trap. If you kept your guard up, that wouldn't be an issue."

    "Besides that," Wallace added as he petted his milotic, "your strategies leave a lot to be desired. While you did an incredible job at bringing out your abilities by reading your opponent's mind, you simply attacked with brute force. So when he finally began to outsmart you, you became flustered, and your performance suffered. As a result, you prepared to use Psybeam, which would have done damage but not enough to disable your opponent efficiently."

    Tate growled and bowed his head in frustration. "Oh man! You sound exactly like Liza."

    "And Bill," Steven continued.

    He snapped his fingers, causing Metagross to groan and blink. Right away, Bill felt as if the force that was holding him in the air disappeared, and abruptly, he fell into the riverbank with a thud.

    "Nice job coming up with a strategy. I'm not sure what you did for the second half of the battle, but whatever it was, it worked," Steven said. Then, his expression grew darker. "But the first half was absolutely terrible. Strategy is only one half of the equation. You're working with an extremely limited movepool, for one. That ultimate move you tried to pull just now was Metal Claw, wasn't it? Metal Claw is an extremely basic steel-type maneuver. It's not terrible, but most steel-type pokémon learn it as one of their first moves. While I don't expect you to outspeed many pokémon and know you'll be limited that way, I can tell you could become a powerful ally if you tried to learn more than a few moves."

    Before Wallace could mention his own assessment, Bill rose to his feet and balled his hands into fists in his frustration. However, when he spoke, his voice was calm and steady – almost shockingly so to all three of his companions. "I appreciate your feedback, but I already know my shortcomings. If you don't mind, I need time to train by myself. I'm not ready to be taught by either of you yet. I still haven't gotten control of my instincts. I could seriously hurt someone. That's why I came out here alone: to train myself to control this body."

    "As admirable as that is, it's not necessary," Wallace responded with a grin. "If you told us you needed help for that, we would have given you plenty a long time ago."

    Bill sighed. It was then that he realized he wasn't going to be left alone anytime soon, and that thought wormed its way into his head like an itch he just couldn't scratch. "Forgive me for being forward, but I'm not sure this is something anyone can help me with."

    "Hello?" Tate hissed. "Yeah, did you happen to notice that there's more than one ixodida here?"

    "I'm sorry, Tate," Bill said, "but even if you are a fellow ixodida, I feel as if this is something that I should work out with my own parasite."

    "Wait," Wallace interrupted. "Did you just say you still communicate with your parasite?"

    Thrown off, Bill blinked and straightened his back. "Yes. Of course I do. Why is that so surprising? Isn't the entire basis of being a rogue the agreement between a host and their parasite?"

    "What agreement?" Steven asked, his voice low and quiet.

    "The entire agreement that establishes how much control a host and parasite may have. It's the whole foundation to their partnership, after all." Right then, a nagging feeling began replacing the sensation of frustration and annoyance in Bill's head. "Tate… did tell you about that, right?"

    Steven and Wallace exchanged glances before slowly shifting their sight to Tate. In response, the psychic only gave the two of them a small nod and a worried stare. The silence felt thick and uncomfortable to Bill, who shifted on his feet and crossed his arms awkwardly.

    "Anyway, that's why I'm out here," he said. "I know that Adam and I have to work together, regardless of what he does or thinks of me and vice versa. But in order to achieve that, I need to learn how to contr—"

    Suddenly, Steven turned away from him to face his fellow champion. "Wallace, I want you and Tate to start working on some special training. You know the kind, right?"

    "Of course," Wallace replied grimly. He recalled his milotic and added, "It may take some time, but I think we'll be able to develop that skill you want to see. Tate, come with me."

    Obediently and silently, Tate jogged to Wallace's side and walked beside the champion towards the woods. As the boy moved, Bill couldn't help but notice that his eyes were glowing again with psychic energy. After a few seconds, Bill approached Steven.

    "What's going on here?" he asked quietly.

    "Training." Steven turned to him. "As for you, we've got work to do. I've noticed the way you use the moves you have now, and I think I might be able to teach you quite a few new ones. But we'll have to work quickly. We have until tomorrow morning to teach you at least four moves."

    "Why tomorrow morning?"

    Steven narrowed his eyes and nodded towards the forest. "The Caravan will be hitting Fortree City by then, and we're going to need every ally we get if we're going to survive the heart of the ixodida's territory. We may not have enough time as it is. This part of Hoenn is crawling with ixodida, but it's the only way to get to the next refugee camp at Lilycove."

    Bill cast his glance to the ground as he let that information sink in. He couldn't help but remember the vision Lanette forced on him, the images of the ruined city, the infected Birch, Brigette's death…

    "Fortree City," Bill repeated in a whisper.

    Then, he shuddered. At first, he thought it was just out of the cold or fear, but there was something about it, something in the shiver that sank into his bones until he felt as if every part of him was electrified. Slowly, as he watched Steven pace around his metagross, he began to realize what it was.

    "Now then," Steven announced. The volume of his voice made Bill jump, and with each word, he patted the hulking, metal tank beside him. "Let's start with the first move I want to teach you. Meteor Mash is an advanced move, but given how well you use Metal Claw, we may be able to transfer some ideas so that—"

    Bill shook his head and looked at the trees. "I'm sorry, Steven, but I don't think we have time for that."

    Steven stopped, keeping his hand on the side of his pokémon. "What are you sensing?"

    "I'm not sure," he admitted, his voice darkening with each word, "but whatever it is, conveniently, it's big and heading this way."

    ---

    As the helicopter descended on Fortree City, Tracey peered out of its cabin to the ground below. John had told him that the city had undergone vast changes since the invasion, and Tracey believed it. Besides the occasional board left in the treetops, there was absolutely no sign of its famous tree houses, and the rubble that was left after they fell was cleared away. In their place was a settlement of tents surrounding a sleek, black airship shaped like a sting ray. When the helicopter got closer, Tracey could see men and women in black suits scurry into and out of the tents and airship, sometimes herding all kinds of pokémon along with them. A few gathered towards the landing pad, a wide space of cleared land at the edge of the settlement, to greet the helicopter as soon as it landed.

    Once the engines had been turned off, the crowd around the helicopter parted to make way for a tall, dark-skinned woman in a black trench coat. As she approached, her frizzled, aqua-colored hair bounced in the wind as she glared hard at the side of the craft with one blue-green eye. Tracey noticed as he nervously climbed out that the other was covered in a black eye patch; he did his best not to look at it, considering the woman was already giving him a deathly look.

    It occurred to him at that point that he wasn't completely clear on why he was there. All he knew was that he had a manila envelope under his arm, and that envelope was meant for a very specific person, a person this woman and her subordinates – and, by extension, John's – were keeping track of from a distance. But other than that, he felt intensely out-of-place in Hoenn, facing down a group of people in black suits and one angry-looking soldier.

    "You the boy Professor McKenzie sent on his behalf?" the woman shouted with a deep voice.

    "T-Tracey Sketchit," Tracey announced, fumbling to salute with one hand while he held the envelope with the other. "Pokémon watcher and assistant to both Professor Oak and Professor McKenzie."

    "Son, you may have been a lab monkey to famous researchers before, but that doesn't mean jack to anyone as of right now," she said. "I assume he gave you a briefing?"

    Tracey froze in his tracks. He stared blankly at the woman for a second before clearing his throat. Although his hesitation was brief, the woman noticed his expression, and because of that, she whistled and shook her head.

    "What's McKenzie thinking, sending a boy out here without telling him a thing?" She pulled a pack of cigarettes from her coat pocket. "Let's start with who we are, shall we? Nikki Stark, director of the Special Headquarters of Interplanetary Forces, Terrestrial Division, otherwise known as the Agency as far as anyone outside of it is concerned. Our objective is to monitor and maintain all extraterrestrial activity on the planet Earth, including but not limited to enacting interplanetary diplomacy and law-enforcement, regulating alien immigration, and if at all possible, covering this kind of shit up." Stark paused only long enough to pull a cigarette from the package and stick it in her mouth. "Now as I understand it, Professor McKenzie wishes to use us as your babysitter so that you can give a little present to a certain son of his who's running around contributing to our little invasion problem. I'm here to tell you that I don't care how high-ranked Professor McKenzie is in the Agency, you're not staying here longer than it needs to take for that chopper to refuel."

    "Perhaps," a feminine voice replied, "Director Stark, it would be best to allow the boy to complete his mission."

    Stark looked over her shoulder in time to see a tall, pale, willowy creature walk through the ranks of the agents in black. Tracey couldn't help but blanche at the sight of this newcomer: a pale-skinned being with eyes of a deeper and more brilliant shade of green than he had ever seen. Her body was clad in a tight-fitting black suit, save for the slender hands that crossed in front of her and the bulky, inhuman feet that sank into the soft earth with each graceful step. On her face, she wore a small smile, although it lacked lips and sent shivers down Tracey's back. There was something unearthly about her – something that went far beyond her physical appearance.

    Relians had that effect on most beings not from Nila, it seemed.

    "Allow me to introduce myself," she said. "I am one of five senatorial representatives for the planet Nila on the Quadral Alliance, an interplanetary committee dedicated to maintaining peace and order within the galaxy. My name is unpronounceable in your language, but you may call me Fourth. It is a pleasure to meet you, Tracey Sketchit. Perhaps you may be the best person to assist me in addressing an individual of our… mutual interests."

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

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  14. #289
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    I enjoyed the battle between Tate and Bill. Yes, never underestimate Bill, heh. Hm, so Wallace and Steven aren't aware of the host and parasite agreement. I probably missed the mention of this (or analyzing this wrong XD), but I'm going to assume Tate has got that covered with his parasite already but still feels uncomfortable talking about it.

    LOL I know one of the movie references is The Avengers. Nikki is a good name, haha. I think the second reference is Men in Black, but I could be totally wrong. :x Anyways, oh Tracey is being recruited for a sort of assignment? Shall be quite interesting.

    Overall really like this chapter, looking forward to the next one!
    Last edited by Bay; 18th July 2012 at 9:31 PM. Reason: Woops, read one part of the fic wrong derp, Wallace and Steven actually aren't aware of what was going on with Bill and Adam


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  15. #290
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Anima Ex Machina: Thirty
    It's not as easy as it looks.
    No, it never is, is it Jax?

    The last time Bill had been in a gym battle of any kind, he was eleven years old, he was five badges away from being able to compete in the Pokémon League Tournament for the first time, and for the sixth time in one week, he had to watch Viridian's gym leader at the time smash one of his pokémon's faces into the gym floor. After that point, he swore he would never battle a gym leader again – and, in fact, avoid pokémon battles in general if at all possible.

    Of course, inciting one to smash his face into the ground made that rather difficult.
    It was always inevitable that he would end up back on the battlefield, but it took him a while to feel this way, didn't it?

    Once again, Bill landed hard into the bank, throwing sand into the air as he skidded into the ground. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to his knees and looked at his opponent. It had been ten minutes since Tate had taken to the air and challenged him, but no matter what Bill did, he couldn't even touch the psychic. Still, if Bill was anything besides academically intelligent, he was tenacious, and although this was the twelfth time Tate threw him into the ground with Psychic, he still picked himself back up.

    "Magnet Rise!"

    He dashed forward and sprang off the ground, cutting through the air quickly as he brought back one of his hands. Tate smirked as his eyes flashed blue for a thirteenth time, and as soon as that happened, Bill stopped short in the air. The steel-type's claws lost the white luster they had just gained as every part of him twitched against the unseen force that held him in place. Then, it threw him down, launching him back into the ground like a meteor.

    "It's no use, Bill!" Tate told him. "How are you going to fight an opponent who knows what move you'll make before you make it?"

    Stiffly, Bill forced himself back up as the pain from yet another Psychic ebbed away. As much as he didn't want to admit it, his opponent had a point, and honestly, that point wasn't too surprising to him. He knew he was dealing with a psychic, but if Tate could use his psychic powers to figure out what moves Bill was planning to use, what else could he do?

    "Giving up already?" Tate yelled.
    It strikes me as a little odd, and I just realized this, that Tate's powers seem to be evolved far enough that he can battle while still reading minds. He isn't slowed down at all while using his powers.

    His entire body began to glow with a blue light that illuminated their battlefield. Lifting a hand, he extended a pink claw towards Bill. Not a word of explanation escaped his lips.

    In the next instant, all Bill could feel was pressure. It was as if hundreds of invisible hands grasped him – like someone had placed a two-ton boulder on his back. He could see the blue light that surrounded his body, but he couldn't break free from it. Instead, he was forced to double over, to grit his teeth against the pressure on all sides of him as it forced him into the ground.

    Do you need my help?

    For once, Bill was grateful to hear Adam's voice, although he was mildly suspicious that it carried no hint of sarcasm or criticism. It sounded, for once, as if Adam was actually concerned for him.
    Yeah, this doesn't sound legit at all. Adam should not be trusted.

    Instinctively, Bill obeyed. Protect fell, fading away in a shower of green glitter. His body rocked backwards, hands sweeping up with their palms inches from each other. The jewels set in his hands took on a brilliant, white shine as he fixed his eyes on Tate once again.

    "Mirror Shot!" he called as he pointed his hands at Tate.

    Much to Bill's relief, it was a beam of pure white light this time, not an explosion. However, it was weak, and as it shot into the air, it died down within feet of Tate. The psychic chuckled, flitted to the side, and extended his index finger at the steel-type again. From his long claw shot a rainbow-colored beam that blasted Bill in the stomach. The attack knocked him clean off his feet and sent him sprawling into the riverbank, kicking up a cloud of sand in the process. The smirk on Tate's face broke into a wide smile as he surveyed the swirl of dust.

    "That's how you use a beam-based move!" he shouted.
    Have I mentioned how much I like your description, Jax? I can visualize this all perfectly.

    When the sand cleared, Tate could see Bill lying on his side, curled in the fetal position with his tail curved around him. The steel-type's eyes were closed, and all of his limbs were limp – as if he was completely unconscious. Raising his eyebrows, Tate let drifted towards his opponent.
    Why is the image of Bill-as-Adam in the fetal position so hilarious?

    "Really? That's all you've got?" he said. "Wow. You're supposed to be a steel-type, aren't you? And you can only take…" He hesitated as he counted on his fingers the numbers of times he had actually hit Bill during the fight. "Okay, so you took a lot of damage, but come on! You couldn't even get in a single hit!" He landed and padded around Bill to kneel by his head. "And you expect to go up against the empress like that. That's just pathet—"

    Suddenly, Bill's eyes snapped open, and he flung a fist full of sand into the psychic's face. Tate sputtered and desperately tried to wipe the sand out of his face, and in this moment of blindness, his opponent took full advantage of the situation. Bill crouched low and whirled on the spot, whipping his glowing tail a few inches above the ground until it connected with Tate's legs and swept the psychic off his feet. Then, the steel-type sprang up and pounced on his companion, driving them both into the sandy bank. His metal hands grasped Tate's pink wrists, and his tail wound its way around the psychic's ankles. Tate squirmed in an effort to break free, but Bill calmly knelt above him, tightening his grip on the psychic with each second.
    Now that was the kind of thing I've been waiting for from Bill! Honestly, though, I'm equally pleased to see Tate getting smacked down right now, because he was getting on my nerves a bit in the last chapter.

    "I'm sorry. What was that about my inability to get in a single hit?" Bill asked.

    Tate opened one eye and grimaced. "I don't get it! Why couldn't I see that coming?"

    "Perhaps because I've gotten better?"

    "Better this!"

    Blue light flared in Tate's eyes again, and Bill felt himself being shoved forcefully. His entire body launched into the air and flew through an arc into the ground, but at the height of his path, he twisted himself to land on his hands and knees. Lifting his head, he bared his teeth at Tate.
    Holy **** that's badass. I can tell that you really visualize this stuff as you write it, which lets you write it in a way that gives us a strong visualization ourselves.

    On another note, I wonder if that last bit is indicative of Adam taking over to some degree, given the sudden feral actions.

    "That doesn't even make sense!" he snapped.

    He pushed himself off the ground and bounded at the psychic. He extended one of his hands to his side, allowing each finger to glimmer with energy. As soon as he came within reach of Tate, he lashed his arm out just as the psychic attempted to dodge to the side, and in the process, his claws slashed across the boy's shoulder. Tate winced and grasped his wound as he took a few steps away. Already, he could feel the stickiness of his blood seep through the shoulder of his shirt.
    "Bounded." I like that word, might use it myself.

    This is yet another great moment of action too, by the way.

    "You don't make sense!" Tate replied.

    Bill flicked his wrist, sending droplets of blood to the ground. "Oh, must you? Really, Tate, if you must be critical of me, at least be creative about it."

    "No, I mean you literally do not make sense," Tate answered. His voice carried a hint of fear as he backed away from his opponent. "I can't understand your thoughts!"

    At that, Bill furrowed his eyebrows in confusion, then glanced to the side.

    That is the troublesome thing about rogues who are eager to divorce themselves from their partners, Adam replied. They lose plenty of important skills and knowledge they could be gaining by working together. You are very welcome, by the way.
    I get a very bad feeling about this. It sounds good on the surface, but we all know how things that sound good for Bill usually go. I found it a little vague however, so I wouldn't mind if you'd explain what Adam is saying a bit more clearly.

    Bill flicking his wrist to get blood off his claw is impossibly awesome, too.

    Bill couldn't help but grin a little at the opportunity. "Well, then. I suppose this would be what trainers in pokémon battles consider a good opening, wouldn't it?" Then, he added to Tate, "All right, Tate. If you really want to see how well I've been training, allow me to show you my best move!"

    As he started forward again, he brought both his hands back to his sides and tensed his fingers until they began to glow white. At the same time, Tate pulled his body backwards, weaving his own hands in the air in front of him as a rainbow-colored ball of energy formed between them. The two careened towards each other, mere seconds from landing their strikes.

    And then two attacks from completely different sources blasted them apart. Bill was pulled into the air, his limbs lashing through nothingness as something held him out of Tate's reach, and Tate was blasted into the river by a jet of water. It took some time for the boy to pull himself out of the river and for the steel-type to calm down enough to take note of the newcomers who interrupted their battle. That was fine by them. Steven and Wallace felt that they had all the time in the world.
    Aww man, thanks for interrupting a good fight, Steven and Wallace. :P

    Would Bill have been able to win if they didn't stop the fight?

    "Not bad, but it could be better," Steven commented as he leaned against his metagross. "Tate, for the first half of the battle, you held your own, and then you started to underestimate your opponent. Sand-Attack is a move that can easily be replicated, regardless of whether or not a pokémon can technically learn it. The success of that depends on whether or not you're likely to fall directly into its trap. If you kept your guard up, that wouldn't be an issue."

    "Besides that," Wallace added as he petted his milotic, "your strategies leave a lot to be desired. While you did an incredible job at bringing out your abilities by reading your opponent's mind, you simply attacked with brute force. So when he finally began to outsmart you, you became flustered, and your performance suffered. As a result, you prepared to use Psybeam, which would have done damage but not enough to disable your opponent efficiently."

    Tate growled and bowed his head in frustration. "Oh man! You sound exactly like Liza."
    Well, I would think that given the fact they were both Gym Leaders of Hoenn before all this started, Liza and Wallace most likely had time to interact. Also, it amuses me greatly that Tate is a monster alien hybrid like Bill yet gripes about Wallace acting like his sister.

    "And Bill," Steven continued.

    He snapped his fingers, causing Metagross to groan and blink. Right away, Bill felt as if the force that was holding him in the air disappeared, and abruptly, he fell into the riverbank with a thud.

    "Nice job coming up with a strategy. I'm not sure what you did for the second half of the battle, but whatever it was, it worked," Steven said. Then, his expression grew darker. "But the first half was absolutely terrible. Strategy is only one half of the equation. You're working with an extremely limited movepool, for one. That ultimate move you tried to pull just now was Metal Claw, wasn't it? Metal Claw is an extremely basic steel-type maneuver. It's not terrible, but most steel-type pokémon learn it as one of their first moves. While I don't expect you to outspeed many pokémon and know you'll be limited that way, I can tell you could become a powerful ally if you tried to learn more than a few moves."

    Before Wallace could mention his own assessment, Bill rose to his feet and balled his hands into fists in his frustration. However, when he spoke, his voice was calm and steady – almost shockingly so to all three of his companions. "I appreciate your feedback, but I already know my shortcomings. If you don't mind, I need time to train by myself. I'm not ready to be taught by either of you yet. I still haven't gotten control of my instincts. I could seriously hurt someone. That's why I came out here alone: to train myself to control this body."
    I'm almost surprised by Bill's maturity here. It's not all that long ago that he would have been unable to realistically assess his weaknesses or what he needs to do to strengthen himself. There's a definite development of his character that can be noticed at this point.

    "As admirable as that is, it's not necessary," Wallace responded with a grin. "If you told us you needed help for that, we would have given you plenty a long time ago."

    Bill sighed. It was then that he realized he wasn't going to be left alone anytime soon, and that thought wormed its way into his head like an itch he just couldn't scratch. "Forgive me for being forward, but I'm not sure this is something anyone can help me with."

    "Hello?" Tate hissed. "Yeah, did you happen to notice that there's more than one ixodida here?"

    "I'm sorry, Tate," Bill said, "but even if you are a fellow ixodida, I feel as if this is something that I should work out with my own parasite."

    "Wait," Wallace interrupted. "Did you just say you still communicate with your parasite?"

    Thrown off, Bill blinked and straightened his back. "Yes. Of course I do. Why is that so surprising? Isn't the entire basis of being a rogue the agreement between a host and their parasite?"

    "What agreement?" Steven asked, his voice low and quiet.
    Suddenly I think that someone has been withholding some very important information. If the Caravan has been operating on faulty intelligence regarding the exact capabilities of the Ixodida, then they might have missed chances to do things differently, and that's serious.

    "The entire agreement that establishes how much control a host and parasite may have. It's the whole foundation to their partnership, after all." Right then, a nagging feeling began replacing the sensation of frustration and annoyance in Bill's head. "Tate… did tell you about that, right?"

    Steven and Wallace exchanged glances before slowly shifting their sight to Tate. In response, the psychic only gave the two of them a small nod and a worried stare. The silence felt thick and uncomfortable to Bill, who shifted on his feet and crossed his arms awkwardly.

    "Anyway, that's why I'm out here," he said. "I know that Adam and I have to work together, regardless of what he does or thinks of me and vice versa. But in order to achieve that, I need to learn how to contr—"

    Suddenly, Steven turned away from him to face his fellow champion. "Wallace, I want you and Tate to start working on some special training. You know the kind, right?"

    "Of course," Wallace replied grimly. He recalled his milotic and added, "It may take some time, but I think we'll be able to develop that skill you want to see. Tate, come with me."

    Obediently and silently, Tate jogged to Wallace's side and walked beside the champion towards the woods. As the boy moved, Bill couldn't help but notice that his eyes were glowing again with psychic energy. After a few seconds, Bill approached Steven.
    Yeah, something is going on with Tate. It sure looks like he might be keeping his own agenda that he's playing close to his chest, because he seems to be withholding information from the others. This doesn't sound right.

    "What's going on here?" he asked quietly.

    "Training." Steven turned to him. "As for you, we've got work to do. I've noticed the way you use the moves you have now, and I think I might be able to teach you quite a few new ones. But we'll have to work quickly. We have until tomorrow morning to teach you at least four moves."

    "Why tomorrow morning?"

    Steven narrowed his eyes and nodded towards the forest. "The Caravan will be hitting Fortree City by then, and we're going to need every ally we get if we're going to survive the heart of the ixodida's territory. We may not have enough time as it is. This part of Hoenn is crawling with ixodida, but it's the only way to get to the next refugee camp at Lilycove."

    Bill cast his glance to the ground as he let that information sink in. He couldn't help but remember the vision Lanette forced on him, the images of the ruined city, the infected Birch, Brigette's death…

    "Fortree City," Bill repeated in a whisper.

    Then, he shuddered. At first, he thought it was just out of the cold or fear, but there was something about it, something in the shiver that sank into his bones until he felt as if every part of him was electrified. Slowly, as he watched Steven pace around his metagross, he began to realize what it was.

    "Now then," Steven announced. The volume of his voice made Bill jump, and with each word, he patted the hulking, metal tank beside him. "Let's start with the first move I want to teach you. Meteor Mash is an advanced move, but given how well you use Metal Claw, we may be able to transfer some ideas so that—"

    Bill shook his head and looked at the trees. "I'm sorry, Steven, but I don't think we have time for that."

    Steven stopped, keeping his hand on the side of his pokémon. "What are you sensing?"

    "I'm not sure," he admitted, his voice darkening with each word, "but whatever it is, conveniently, it's big and heading this way."
    Well, here we go. I was kind of wondering when they would finally show up...

    As the helicopter descended on Fortree City, Tracey peered out of its cabin to the ground below. John had told him that the city had undergone vast changes since the invasion, and Tracey believed it. Besides the occasional board left in the treetops, there was absolutely no sign of its famous tree houses, and the rubble that was left after they fell was cleared away. In their place was a settlement of tents surrounding a sleek, black airship shaped like a sting ray. When the helicopter got closer, Tracey could see men and women in black suits scurry into and out of the tents and airship, sometimes herding all kinds of pokémon along with them. A few gathered towards the landing pad, a wide space of cleared land at the edge of the settlement, to greet the helicopter as soon as it landed.
    Really love this imagery.

    Once the engines had been turned off, the crowd around the helicopter parted to make way for a tall, dark-skinned woman in a black trench coat. As she approached, her frizzled, aqua-colored hair bounced in the wind as she glared hard at the side of the craft with one blue-green eye. Tracey noticed as he nervously climbed out that the other was covered in a black eye patch; he did his best not to look at it, considering the woman was already giving him a deathly look.

    It occurred to him at that point that he wasn't completely clear on why he was there. All he knew was that he had a manila envelope under his arm, and that envelope was meant for a very specific person, a person this woman and her subordinates – and, by extension, John's – were keeping track of from a distance. But other than that, he felt intensely out-of-place in Hoenn, facing down a group of people in black suits and one angry-looking soldier.

    "You the boy Professor McKenzie sent on his behalf?" the woman shouted with a deep voice.

    "T-Tracey Sketchit," Tracey announced, fumbling to salute with one hand while he held the envelope with the other. "Pokémon watcher and assistant to both Professor Oak and Professor McKenzie."

    "Son, you may have been a lab monkey to famous researchers before, but that doesn't mean jack to anyone as of right now," she said. "I assume he gave you a briefing?"

    Tracey froze in his tracks. He stared blankly at the woman for a second before clearing his throat. Although his hesitation was brief, the woman noticed his expression, and because of that, she whistled and shook her head.

    "What's McKenzie thinking, sending a boy out here without telling him a thing?" She pulled a pack of cigarettes from her coat pocket. "Let's start with who we are, shall we? Nikki Stark, director of the Special Headquarters of Interplanetary Forces, Terrestrial Division, otherwise known as the Agency as far as anyone outside of it is concerned. Our objective is to monitor and maintain all extraterrestrial activity on the planet Earth, including but not limited to enacting interplanetary diplomacy and law-enforcement, regulating alien immigration, and if at all possible, covering this kind of shit up." Stark paused only long enough to pull a cigarette from the package and stick it in her mouth. "Now as I understand it, Professor McKenzie wishes to use us as your babysitter so that you can give a little present to a certain son of his who's running around contributing to our little invasion problem. I'm here to tell you that I don't care how high-ranked Professor McKenzie is in the Agency, you're not staying here longer than it needs to take for that chopper to refuel."
    Put simply, the amount of sheer ****ing win in this cannot be overstated. The description is still as perfect as ever, but there's more than just that. The characterization of Tracey and Stark is crystal clear, I'm in love with this scene playing out, and did I mention just how awesome Nikki Stark is? She's here to kick ***, take names and not give a **** as she does it, I can tell already.

    "Perhaps," a feminine voice replied, "Director Stark, it would be best to allow the boy to complete his mission."

    Stark looked over her shoulder in time to see a tall, pale, willowy creature walk through the ranks of the agents in black. Tracey couldn't help but blanche at the sight of this newcomer: a pale-skinned being with eyes of a deeper and more brilliant shade of green than he had ever seen. Her body was clad in a tight-fitting black suit, save for the slender hands that crossed in front of her and the bulky, inhuman feet that sank into the soft earth with each graceful step. On her face, she wore a small smile, although it lacked lips and sent shivers down Tracey's back. There was something unearthly about her – something that went far beyond her physical appearance.

    Relians had that effect on most beings not from Nila, it seemed.
    I was already interested in this entity because of who she appears to be a reference to, but that last sentence really threw me for a loop. I'm completely surprised one of them is still alive, let alone here on Earth trying to do something about the Ixodida on this planet.

    "Allow me to introduce myself," she said. "I am one of five senatorial representatives for the planet Nila on the Quadral Alliance, an interplanetary committee dedicated to maintaining peace and order within the galaxy. My name is unpronounceable in your language, but you may call me Fourth. It is a pleasure to meet you, Tracey Sketchit. Perhaps you may be the best person to assist me in addressing an individual of our… mutual interests."
    And I think you and your boss are going to be two individuals I will be watching closely.

    Certainly an interesting chapter, to say the least. While not a lot happened in terms of events I could list out here, it was an important chapter because it established several important plot points (Tate possibly withholding information from the Caravan, Bill's training, the impending Ixodida attack, Stark and Fourth preparing to make their move) and introduced several clearly important characters. The fact you can work so much into a single chapter is what keeps impressing me about this story, well, at least one thing that does it.

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  16. #291
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    Once again, Bill landed hard into the bank, throwing sand into the air as he skidded into the ground. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to his knees and looked at his opponent. It had been ten minutes since Tate had taken to the air and challenged him, but no matter what Bill did, he couldn't even touch the psychic. Still, if Bill was anything besides academically intelligent, he was tenacious, and although this was the twelfth time Tate threw him into the ground with Psychic, he still picked himself back up.

    "Magnet Rise!"

    He dashed forward and sprang off the ground, cutting through the air quickly as he brought back one of his hands. Tate smirked as his eyes flashed blue for a thirteenth time, and as soon as that happened, Bill stopped short in the air. The steel-type's claws lost the white luster they had just gained as every part of him twitched against the unseen force that held him in place. Then, it threw him down, launching him back into the ground like a meteor.

    "It's no use, Bill!" Tate told him. "How are you going to fight an opponent who knows what move you'll make before you make it?"
    You know, that's one thing I've always though about when it was brought up in the anime. (Which as far as I'm aware was pretty much only the Sabrina gym battle section and the Mewtwo movie) Using Psychic is a perfect offense and defense. What's to stop the psychic grabbing an opponent, flinging them across the room, picking them up and rinsing and repeating until they're pulp? I can see that there would be a element of willpower or mental strength at work (Which kinda explains why Psychic is super effective against the Fighting type, all about brawn etc. And why it's Not Very Effective against Steel types, defensive and you can imagine them being mentally stubborn etc.) but seriously, a powerful psychic would just win everything unless they got overconfident, like Tate. And Dark types of course (I love those guys, have we seen the Dark type Ixodida yet?)

    Going by this and what you said about Sabrina in an earlier post, I imagine she's nice and safe. Or something like this happened. For the squeamish of you out there, that there link contains blood, and exploding heads, and decapitation of limbs and nakedness. In short, it's awesome, go watch it!

    Much to Bill's relief, it was a beam of pure white light this time, not an explosion. However, it was weak, and as it shot into the air, it died down within feet of Tate. The psychic chuckled, flitted to the side, and extended his index finger at the steel-type again. From his long claw shot a rainbow-colored beam that blasted Bill in the stomach. The attack knocked him clean off his feet and sent him sprawling into the riverbank, kicking up a cloud of sand in the process. The smirk on Tate's face broke into a wide smile as he surveyed the swirl of dust.

    "That's how you use a beam-based move!" he shouted.
    Bill should take some lessons from this guy. Seriously though, Bill, you'll get it one day.

    Suddenly, Bill's eyes snapped open, and he flung a fist full of sand into the psychic's face. Tate sputtered and desperately tried to wipe the sand out of his face, and in this moment of blindness, his opponent took full advantage of the situation.
    HEY! Sand Attack is banned in competitive play! I never knew you were that sneaky, Bill...

    "I'm sorry. What was that about my inability to get in a single hit?" Bill asked.

    Tate opened one eye and grimaced. "I don't get it! Why couldn't I see that coming?"

    "Perhaps because I've gotten better?"

    "Better this!"

    Blue light flared in Tate's eyes again, and Bill felt himself being shoved forcefully. His entire body launched into the air and flew through an arc into the ground, but at the height of his path, he twisted himself to land on his hands and knees. Lifting his head, he bared his teeth at Tate.

    "That doesn't even make sense!" he snapped.

    He pushed himself off the ground and bounded at the psychic. He extended one of his hands to his side, allowing each finger to glimmer with energy. As soon as he came within reach of Tate, he lashed his arm out just as the psychic attempted to dodge to the side, and in the process, his claws slashed across the boy's shoulder. Tate winced and grasped his wound as he took a few steps away. Already, he could feel the stickiness of his blood seep through the shoulder of his shirt.

    "You don't make sense!" Tate replied.
    Okay, have a cookie. No! An entire cake. Have an entire cake for this scene here. I'm sure this is a reference to something, but at the moment, all I can think of is this: http://youtu.be/sCIrSW7QZfU?t=6m54s

    Either way, the entire first half of this chapter was full of win, from awesomely described battle scenes to champion based badassitude. Applause is necessary.

    The massive Men In Black tribute at the end of the chapter made me chuckle so damn much though, so extra applause for that. But mostly, the new Relian lady sounds very pretty, and for some reason the feeling I got from the end is that Fourth's ideas of Mutual Interests revolve solely around Tracey's supple man-flesh. Or perhaps that's just wishful thinking

    Also, I'm pretty sure we've seen these guys before, in a scene in what seemed like a super secluded boardroom where the people (pretty sure there were five of them) referred to each other in such a manner, Fourth etc. So she's one of those guys? Those guys were Relians all along?
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  17. #292
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Let's play the Confuse the People Who Subscribed To This Thread Game! 8D

    (No, seriously, I love you guys, and I'm sorry. orz If it makes you feel any better, the next chapter of AEM is done and in my beta's inbox, so you can expect it hopefully later tonight/sometime tomorrow.)
    Sorry, must have been my psychic powers telling me to pop by your thread a day early.
    Oh, you mean like this? ;D

    (True story for those of you who haven't yet been in the know: This was totally the original plot of AEM before it was called AEM and before it involved parasitic fakemon instead of Deoxys. Or, well, more accurately, this and this were.)
    Those are cool looking! But actually, I was referring to Legendary alien Pokémon (other than the-one-that-already-exists-that-seems-to-have-been-involved-in-an-early-version-of-this-story). Though I guess this leads to another question: how many of your aliens (i.e. the Relians) are fakemon and how many are just other planets’ equivalent of humans?
    As you should because I totally am not watching a lot more Sailor Moon these days what are you talking about. (Although I really need to update that thing.)
    I’ll have to look at that a bit closer when I have time.
    Oh, I really don't blame you. The Critic's got a point. It really is an overdone theme, especially if you're looking at anything from the 90's. So normally, I wouldn't suggest it…

    …Unless you're not planning on creating a Disney ending. ;D Or if your characters aren't telling you everything.

        Spoiler:- Like, for example…!:
    This seems to be a theme with Bill.
    Doctors can isolate at least thirty-seven different types of viruses and bacteria in order to create vaccines for some of the most common but difficult-to-cure-up-until-they-discovered-this diseases!

    Proper processing of muk mucus after purification to remove these harmful microbes can result in the Pokémon world's equivalent of crystal meth!

    (Hilariously, this isn't the first time I've thought about how people might use Pokémon to create drugs. Guess how many cast members of this fic have tried at least one of these!)
    The Badge-based item selection finally makes sense!

    Also, are we talking “out of characters currently still alive” or anyone mentioned so far in this fic?
    Although just to be clear, it is clear that Tate's asking, "What if it is about Lanette," right? Because I realized now that it's not entirely in his character, and I just want to make sure that part of the scene is clear to folks.
    Yeah, it’s clear that Tate’s the one broaching the topic. I was just referring to how quickly Bill started paying attention again once her name was brought up.
    HE'S SO INSANE HE CIRCLED BACK AROUND AND IS SANE AGAIN.
    That is quite possibly the most amazing description of a character I have ever read.
    That's an incredibly awesome question that would literally take a post in itself, but let me see if I can at least define a few rules right off the bat:

    1. What Sabrina says is true: everyone has some level of psychic ability in the Pokémon universe. It's just that people with enough power to become apparent are very, very rare. In other words, most people have mild abilities that they don't perceive and that don't affect the world to a significant level, but people like Sabrina, Rui, or Ash (Aura being a type of psychic ability in my headcanon) are very, very rare.
    Ash has powers outside of one movie and maybe two or three anime episodes?! Seriously, though, I was so annoyed that the anime introduced the idea of Aura use, gave it to a main character, and then just sort of forgot about it for most of the show. I mean, I kinda get why, as a main character in a show to promote game sales using powers you can’t actually use in the games would be a bit odd, but still . . . Argh . . . I’m rambling, aren’t I?
    You'll also see less of this in this fic because the characters are throwing League sanctions out the window in favor of "what will keep me from getting killed today."
    Totally understandable.
    This is a great point, and I think I have forgotten to mention it in this version of the fic. I've brought it up in the next chapter to fix it, but basically, there's three refugee camps established and guarded by the National Defense Forces (military of Pokémon!Japan) on mainland Hoenn: Rustboro, Slateport, and Lilycove. While Lilycove is the hardest to get to, it's also the safest one and the only one where ferries are still running to evacuate humans. The Caravan was established as a means to transport humans from the Rustboro and Slateport camps (as well as any humans they pick up along the way) to the Lilycove camp for safety. This particular run was a Rustboro-Lilycove run, hence why the camp was moving south, through Fallarbor and the Winstrate farm to Mauville.
    Well, now willingly traveling into the heart of Ixodida territory certainly makes more sense!
    As hilarious and awesome as that would be, alas no. However! The surprise will be just as good. And interactive. ;D
    Aw . . . Guess I’ll settle for imagining human-Bill trying to study ixodida-Bill while everyone else is wondering why they aren’t in the least bit phased by the existence of two Bills.

    I kid, I kid. I’m sure whatever you do have planned will be just as, if not more, entertaining.
    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    The last time Bill had been in a gym battle of any kind, he was eleven years old, he was five badges away from being able to compete in the Pokémon League Tournament for the first time, and for the sixth time in one week, he had to watch Viridian's gym leader at the time smash one of his pokémon's faces into the gym floor. After that point, he swore he would never battle a gym leader again – and, in fact, avoid pokémon battles in general if at all possible.
    Viridian? Does that mean he fought who I think he fought?
    Do you need my help?

    For once, Bill was grateful to hear Adam's voice, although he was mildly suspicious that it carried no hint of sarcasm or criticism. It sounded, for once, as if Adam was actually concerned for him.
    Who are you and what have you done with Adam? It’s up to something.
    When the sand cleared, Tate could see Bill lying on his side, curled in the fetal position with his tail curved around him. The steel-type's eyes were closed, and all of his limbs were limp – as if he was completely unconscious. Raising his eyebrows, Tate let drifted towards his opponent.
    Since The Great Butler’s already said most of what I would have about the action scenes, I’ll point this out. I think you meant “Tate let himself drift” or “Tate drifted” here.
    "Really? That's all you've got?" he said. "Wow. You're supposed to be a steel-type, aren't you? And you can only take…" He hesitated as he counted on his fingers the numbers of times he had actually hit Bill during the fight. "Okay, so you took a lot of damage, but come on! You couldn't even get in a single hit!" He landed and padded around Bill to kneel by his head. "And you expect to go up against the empress like that. That's just pathet—"

    Suddenly, Bill's eyes snapped open, and he flung a fist full of sand into the psychic's face. Tate sputtered and desperately tried to wipe the sand out of his face, and in this moment of blindness, his opponent took full advantage of the situation. Bill crouched low and whirled on the spot, whipping his glowing tail a few inches above the ground until it connected with Tate's legs and swept the psychic off his feet. Then, the steel-type sprang up and pounced on his companion, driving them both into the sandy bank. His metal hands grasped Tate's pink wrists, and his tail wound its way around the psychic's ankles. Tate squirmed in an effort to break free, but Bill calmly knelt above him, tightening his grip on the psychic with each second.

    "I'm sorry. What was that about my inability to get in a single hit?" Bill asked.

    Tate opened one eye and grimaced. "I don't get it! Why couldn't I see that coming?"
    I wonder what it was that Adam did, think strongly of a brick wall?
    "Perhaps because I've gotten better?"

    "Better this!"
    Tate’s . . . inventive with comebacks, huh?
    Tate growled and bowed his head in frustration. "Oh man! You sound exactly like Liza."
    Even with all he’s been through, Tate’s still a kid.
    "Hello?" Tate hissed. "Yeah, did you happen to notice that there's more than one ixodida here?"

    "I'm sorry, Tate," Bill said, "but even if you are a fellow ixodida, I feel as if this is something that I should work out with my own parasite."

    "Wait," Wallace interrupted. "Did you just say you still communicate with your parasite?"

    Thrown off, Bill blinked and straightened his back. "Yes. Of course I do. Why is that so surprising? Isn't the entire basis of being a rogue the agreement between a host and their parasite?"

    "What agreement?" Steven asked, his voice low and quiet.

    "The entire agreement that establishes how much control a host and parasite may have. It's the whole foundation to their partnership, after all." Right then, a nagging feeling began replacing the sensation of frustration and annoyance in Bill's head. "Tate… did tell you about that, right?"

    Steven and Wallace exchanged glances before slowly shifting their sight to Tate. In response, the psychic only gave the two of them a small nod and a worried stare. The silence felt thick and uncomfortable to Bill, who shifted on his feet and crossed his arms awkwardly.
    Interesting . . . but didn’t Lanette at least already know about Bill communicating with Adam? Or did she never find a decent opportunity to bring that up to the others (or just otherwise not know there was an agreement involved)?

    Either way, it seems as though either Tate or Bill is a little different from other rogue Ixodida.
    "Training." Steven turned to him. "As for you, we've got work to do. I've noticed the way you use the moves you have now, and I think I might be able to teach you quite a few new ones. But we'll have to work quickly. We have until tomorrow morning to teach you at least four moves."
    Yeah, that’ll go well.
    Then, he shuddered. At first, he thought it was just out of the cold or fear, but there was something about it, something in the shiver that sank into his bones until he felt as if every part of him was electrified. Slowly, as he watched Steven pace around his metagross, he began to realize what it was.

    "Now then," Steven announced. The volume of his voice made Bill jump, and with each word, he patted the hulking, metal tank beside him. "Let's start with the first move I want to teach you. Meteor Mash is an advanced move, but given how well you use Metal Claw, we may be able to transfer some ideas so that—"

    Bill shook his head and looked at the trees. "I'm sorry, Steven, but I don't think we have time for that."

    Steven stopped, keeping his hand on the side of his pokémon. "What are you sensing?"

    "I'm not sure," he admitted, his voice darkening with each word, "but whatever it is, conveniently, it's big and heading this way."
    Bill’s Ixodidy senses are tingling . . . remind me to never say “Ixodidy” again.
    It occurred to him at that point that he wasn't completely clear on why he was there. All he knew was that he had a manila envelope under his arm, and that envelope was meant for a very specific person, a person this woman and her subordinates – and, by extension, John's – were keeping track of from a distance. But other than that, he felt intensely out-of-place in Hoenn, facing down a group of people in black suits and one angry-looking soldier.
    Something tells me Tracey’s about to get in over his head.
    "You the boy Professor McKenzie sent on his behalf?" the woman shouted with a deep voice.

    "T-Tracey Sketchit," Tracey announced, fumbling to salute with one hand while he held the envelope with the other. "Pokémon watcher and assistant to both Professor Oak and Professor McKenzie."

    "Son, you may have been a lab monkey to famous researchers before, but that doesn't mean jack to anyone as of right now," she said. "I assume he gave you a briefing?"

    Tracey froze in his tracks. He stared blankly at the woman for a second before clearing his throat. Although his hesitation was brief, the woman noticed his expression, and because of that, she whistled and shook her head.

    "What's McKenzie thinking, sending a boy out here without telling him a thing?"
    Yep, definitely in over his head.
    She pulled a pack of cigarettes from her coat pocket. "Let's start with who we are, shall we? Nikki Stark, director of the Special Headquarters of Interplanetary Forces, Terrestrial Division, otherwise known as the Agency as far as anyone outside of it is concerned. Our objective is to monitor and maintain all extraterrestrial activity on the planet Earth, including but not limited to enacting interplanetary diplomacy and law-enforcement, regulating alien immigration, and if at all possible, covering this kind of shit up."
    Gee, what could Jax be referencing here?
    Relians had that effect on most beings not from Nila, it seemed.
    Why did it take me this long to notice that “Relian” actually has the word “alien” in it?
    "Allow me to introduce myself," she said. "I am one of five senatorial representatives for the planet Nila on the Quadral Alliance, an interplanetary committee dedicated to maintaining peace and order within the galaxy. My name is unpronounceable in your language, but you may call me Fourth. It is a pleasure to meet you, Tracey Sketchit. Perhaps you may be the best person to assist me in addressing an individual of our… mutual interests."
    A lot of set up for future action in this chapter – Tracey appearing in person for the first time in ages in Fortree of all places, Bill sensing something big coming, Tate keeping things from the others, and Adam being oddly helpful. Can’t wait to see what’s coming.
    Oh, look! I wrote a fanfic! Weak (One-Shot. Rated G). Can Iris convince Bianca that she can't just avoid her problems?

    And another one: Mischief (One-Shot. Rated G). A little fun for October.

  18. #293
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    Yes, never underestimate Bill, heh.
    Oh yes. Piss him off enough, and he'll find creative ways to pay you back for it.

    Hm, so Wallace and Steven aren't aware of the host and parasite agreement.
    Exactly.

    I probably missed the mention of this (or analyzing this wrong XD), but I'm going to assume Tate has got that covered with his parasite already but still feels uncomfortable talking about it.
    Ooooorrrrr there's more than one way to be a rogue. ;D

    LOL I know one of the movie references is The Avengers.
    *brofist!*

    I think the second reference is Men in Black, but I could be totally wrong. :x
    Indeed it is!

    Fun fact? The other references include Lilo & Stitch (and there's actually a weird amount of influence from that movie all over this fic, actually) and this.

    Anyways, oh Tracey is being recruited for a sort of assignment? Shall be quite interesting.
    Just imagine Tracey in a black suit. It's pretty awesome.

    And yes, he totally is.

    Overall really like this chapter, looking forward to the next one!
    Thank you! And it'll probably be soon (assuming I can keep up with my schoolwork), as I've decided this week to skip the update for Mary Sue and gun straight for the big battles here.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    No, it never is, is it Jax?
    Especially for our favorite researcher, amirite?

    It was always inevitable that he would end up back on the battlefield, but it took him a while to feel this way, didn't it?
    Haha, or it would've been avoidable for him if his luck didn't suck so hard. ;D Part of his internal whining? "I could've been doing research right now."

    It strikes me as a little odd, and I just realized this, that Tate's powers seem to be evolved far enough that he can battle while still reading minds. He isn't slowed down at all while using his powers.
    Good observation, and the short of it is you're right. Ixodida are generally stronger than normal Pokémon, which in turn are generally stronger than humans. So all of those latent psychic abilities that a normal human might've had get emphasized in the extreme when one becomes a host. After that, it's just a matter of gaining control over those heightened abilities, and let's just say Tate's had plenty of time to work on that (or at least more than Bill's had when it comes to his abilities).

    Fun fact that I forgot to mention earlier, by the way? Tate's telepathy is most definitely a two-way street. So not only can he read minds while multitasking, but he can project his own thoughts into the minds of others. This also explains why Hope sees Tate as a pink blur in her dream: because he made her see him that way by telepathically convincing her that he's a pink blur, Jedi-mind-trick-style. You could say this could be considered mind-control, but the limitation is that he just can't puppeteer anyone, as that would pretty much completely overwhelm his mind.

    And he still can't turn people into dolls.

    Have I mentioned how much I like your description, Jax? I can visualize this all perfectly.
    Thank you!

    Why is the image of Bill-as-Adam in the fetal position so hilarious?
    Glad I'm not the only one who thinks so. *shot!*

    Now that was the kind of thing I've been waiting for from Bill! Honestly, though, I'm equally pleased to see Tate getting smacked down right now, because he was getting on my nerves a bit in the last chapter.
    Typical little brother, amirite? ;D

    Unfortunately, Tate's probably not going to learn from this, so we're most likely going to see Annoying Little Brother Archetype vs. Bumbling Geek With Priority-Sorting Issues, Round 2.

    Holy **** that's badass. I can tell that you really visualize this stuff as you write it, which lets you write it in a way that gives us a strong visualization ourselves.
    Oh, absolutely to the visualization bit. It makes writing so much more fun. ;D

    Seriously, though, yep. Pretty much everything I write I visualize as a movie first. It makes it a little more difficult to put things into words because I'm like, "I sort of want to just sit here and 'watch' this about thirty more times instead of writing it down," but it helps me pick out all the details that I should be putting down on paper.

    On another note, I wonder if that last bit is indicative of Adam taking over to some degree, given the sudden feral actions.
    Either that, or this is finally kicking in.

    *walks away whistling*

    "Bounded." I like that word, might use it myself.
    Oh, please do! Awesome words need to be used more often. 8D

    I get a very bad feeling about this. It sounds good on the surface, but we all know how things that sound good for Bill usually go. I found it a little vague however, so I wouldn't mind if you'd explain what Adam is saying a bit more clearly.
    WELL! If you don't mind a spoiler…!

        Spoiler:- No, seriously. That question people are asking about Tate? Totally got answered. THIS IS DEFINITELY A SPOILER, GUYS.:


    Aww man, thanks for interrupting a good fight, Steven and Wallace. :P
    Inorite?

    Would Bill have been able to win if they didn't stop the fight?
    Hilariously, most likely. Which means that Bill's win-loss ratio is still 0-ungodly-number.

    I think this may be the only Pokémon fanfiction that can say it's gone for thirty chapters without letting its main character win once. (Incomplete battles and battles won when he wasn't in control of what he was doing don't count here.) So I also think it's safe to say Bill sucks as a hero.

    Well, I would think that given the fact they were both Gym Leaders of Hoenn before all this started, Liza and Wallace most likely had time to interact.
    They probably made fun of Tate while he was in earshot all the time. *nod*

    Also, it amuses me greatly that Tate is a monster alien hybrid like Bill yet gripes about Wallace acting like his sister.
    Some people don't change!

    I'm almost surprised by Bill's maturity here. It's not all that long ago that he would have been unable to realistically assess his weaknesses or what he needs to do to strengthen himself. There's a definite development of his character that can be noticed at this point.
    Awesome observation! But yep, he's finally growing up. Watching the people he cares about suffer was probably the best kick in the pants he needed to start taking his situation seriously.

    Suddenly I think that someone has been withholding some very important information. If the Caravan has been operating on faulty intelligence regarding the exact capabilities of the Ixodida, then they might have missed chances to do things differently, and that's serious.
    Oh yes.

        Spoiler:- Even more spoilers!:


    Yeah, something is going on with Tate. It sure looks like he might be keeping his own agenda that he's playing close to his chest, because he seems to be withholding information from the others. This doesn't sound right.
    You just can't trust anyone on this cast. *nod* Pretty soon, I'm sure some of you will be thinking that Bill's up to some—

    Oh wait. He is. *flees while cacking*

    Well, here we go. I was kind of wondering when they would finally show up...
    Yep!

    Is Bill ready to fight them? Nope!

    Will Steven and Bill bicker over Lanette in a frantic attempt to train? Most likely!

    Put simply, the amount of sheer ****ing win in this cannot be overstated. The description is still as perfect as ever, but there's more than just that. The characterization of Tracey and Stark is crystal clear, I'm in love with this scene playing out, and did I mention just how awesome Nikki Stark is? She's here to kick ***, take names and not give a **** as she does it, I can tell already.
    Oh yes. She is tired of these mother****ing aliens on this mother****ing island. And she's about to open some ****ing windows.

    I was already interested in this entity because of who she appears to be a reference to, but that last sentence really threw me for a loop. I'm completely surprised one of them is still alive, let alone here on Earth trying to do something about the Ixodida on this planet.
    Oh yes. There's actually a fun part of the backstory (that is totally not a reference to Ender's Game) that Adam conveniently glossed over. But you'll get that part soon enough! Two chapters from now, if my pacing's decent.

    And I think you and your boss are going to be two individuals I will be watching closely.
    Cue 70's porn music? *shot!*

    Certainly an interesting chapter, to say the least. While not a lot happened in terms of events I could list out here, it was an important chapter because it established several important plot points (Tate possibly withholding information from the Caravan, Bill's training, the impending Ixodida attack, Stark and Fourth preparing to make their move) and introduced several clearly important characters. The fact you can work so much into a single chapter is what keeps impressing me about this story, well, at least one thing that does it.
    Thank you! It's definitely something I've been trying to do since chapter one to keep chapters at a reasonable length while at the same time making it feel like we're actually getting somewhere. At this point, we're definitely going to be picking up the pace because right after the end of the Fortree Arc (read: what we're technically on now) comes the Mt. Pyre Arc, and the Mt. Pyre Arc is the one leading right up to and including the battle against the empress (read: basically the climactic battle for this particular book). So hopefully, I can balance action with what you need to know still.

    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    You know, that's one thing I've always though about when it was brought up in the anime. (Which as far as I'm aware was pretty much only the Sabrina gym battle section and the Mewtwo movie) Using Psychic is a perfect offense and defense. What's to stop the psychic grabbing an opponent, flinging them across the room, picking them up and rinsing and repeating until they're pulp? I can see that there would be a element of willpower or mental strength at work (Which kinda explains why Psychic is super effective against the Fighting type, all about brawn etc. And why it's Not Very Effective against Steel types, defensive and you can imagine them being mentally stubborn etc.) but seriously, a powerful psychic would just win everything unless they got overconfident, like Tate. And Dark types of course (I love those guys, have we seen the Dark type Ixodida yet?)
    And that is why Gen II's general message was, "Whoops, Gen I accidentally made Psychic broken."

    Seriously, agreed so hard here. It doesn't help that psychic abilities are always vaguely defined when they're brought up. For example, there was an Orange Islands episode where an entire island full of Pokémon were mind-controlled by a Drowzee except a Gastly because ghosts were somehow immune to it, but that immunity was never brought up again. And then, in several other episodes, Pokémon like Ninetales and Mismagius with psychic abilities (for some reason) had the power to produce presumably psychic-based illusions (considering at least Mismagius screwed around with people's dreams), but that was never explained in-depth. And don't get me started on the wtf-ery that was the Sabrina gym episodes. I mean, seriously? How the **** do psychic abilities let you turn people into dolls?

    Going by this and what you said about Sabrina in an earlier post, I imagine she's nice and safe. Or something like this happened. For the squeamish of you out there, that there link contains blood, and exploding heads, and decapitation of limbs and nakedness. In short, it's awesome, go watch it!
    Oh, Elfen Lied. I love you.

    Bill should take some lessons from this guy. Seriously though, Bill, you'll get it one day.
    If not, there's medication for that. *shot!*

    HEY! Sand Attack is banned in competitive play! I never knew you were that sneaky, Bill...
    What's even sneakier is Bill technically can't even learn that move. That was him just Batman Gambiting the battle by assuming Tate would actually come down low enough for him to pull it off. And it worked.

    And he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those meddling champions.

    Okay, have a cookie. No! An entire cake. Have an entire cake for this scene here. I'm sure this is a reference to something, but at the moment, all I can think of is this: http://youtu.be/sCIrSW7QZfU?t=6m54s
    AHHAHAHAHAAA oh Friends, how I missed you.

    Anyway, it is a reference to something, but not really so much media.

    Put it this way. The proper response to Tate's comment would have been, "Your mother doesn't make sense!"

    Either way, the entire first half of this chapter was full of win, from awesomely described battle scenes to champion based badassitude. Applause is necessary.
    Thank you!

    The massive Men In Black tribute at the end of the chapter made me chuckle so damn much though, so extra applause for that. But mostly, the new Relian lady sounds very pretty, and for some reason the feeling I got from the end is that Fourth's ideas of Mutual Interests revolve solely around Tracey's supple man-flesh. Or perhaps that's just wishful thinking
    No, Diddy, Fourth does not have tentacles. That you're aware of.

    But now I'm thinking of Relian porn, and I'm greatly amused.

    Also, I'm pretty sure we've seen these guys before, in a scene in what seemed like a super secluded boardroom where the people (pretty sure there were five of them) referred to each other in such a manner, Fourth etc. So she's one of those guys? Those guys were Relians all along?
    Yes. ;D

    Which probably explains why John warned Professor Oak not to trust them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ememew View Post
    Sorry, must have been my psychic powers telling me to pop by your thread a day early.
    CLEARLY. Can't you get that under control? >8|

    Those are cool looking! But actually, I was referring to Legendary alien Pokémon (other than the-one-that-already-exists-that-seems-to-have-been-involved-in-an-early-version-of-this-story).
    Oh! Oh yes. There are plenty. ;D You might meet a few in the next book when the Quadral Alliance finally decides to say to Earth, "lol HI THE GALAXY IS SORT OF FILLED WITH INTERESTING THINGS." To which the people of Earth will go, "HOLY FOUR-LEGGED POKÉ-JESUS."

    Though I guess this leads to another question: how many of your aliens (i.e. the Relians) are fakemon and how many are just other planets’ equivalent of humans?
    I’ll have to look at that a bit closer when I have time.
    True story: Fewer than one would think, pretty much. Nila is probably the closest thing to a planet that doesn't have any Pokémon whatsoever. (The literal spider-monkey and the flying skates are actually animal-like, not Pokémon-like.) But there's plenty of planets populated with Pokémon in various percentages. (Try saying that quickly.) And in the cases of some planets, the line doesn't even exist, and you've got sapient Pokémon that are the dominant species of their respective rocks (although they still can't be infected by the Ixodida).

    Tl;dr, aliens are complicated things, but there's definitely a lot of potential Ixodida fodder out there. And a lot more animals than Pokémon, I'd say, but there's plenty of Pokémon too.

    And now I leave you with the mental image of Clefairy as a technologically advanced race whose terrestrial colonists forgot millennia ago that they were the mighty space conquerors of the planet Ariala. This will of course be an adorable development that will most likely mind**** Bill in the next book.

    This seems to be a theme with Bill.
    PRETTY MUCH. :V

    The Badge-based item selection finally makes sense!
    Thank you!

    Also, are we talking “out of characters currently still alive” or anyone mentioned so far in this fic?
    Haha, still alive, unfortunately. Among the dead, I'm pretty sure only Joel Nelson Abel did anything interesting, probably because… well.

    Yeah, it’s clear that Tate’s the one broaching the topic. I was just referring to how quickly Bill started paying attention again once her name was brought up.
    Awesome. b)'')b

    And haha, okay, yes. He's really not making it subtle, is he? XD

    That is quite possibly the most amazing description of a character I have ever read.
    *bows* Thom is just talented like that, though.

    Ash has powers outside of one movie and maybe two or three anime episodes?!
    He can even fly! …For some reason!

    Seriously, though, I was so annoyed that the anime introduced the idea of Aura use, gave it to a main character, and then just sort of forgot about it for most of the show.
    Inorite? :| They brought it up a grand total of three other times, if I recall correctly, and two of those times were actually part of a two-part special. And the third time, he technically wasn't using Aura anyway. And that's assuming we don't get into Riley's cameo.

    But the short of it is Ash is a walking vault of the most random superpowers ever. Seriously, wtf, writers. You give him a new power literally every arc, and you forget about the ones you gave him in the last arc. Anyone remember the time he was able to view Larvitar's memories via dreams in the Johto arc? Or the time he effing flew in the Manaphy movie?

    Well, now willingly traveling into the heart of Ixodida territory certainly makes more sense!
    Awesome! I'm just a little guilty that I had to bring it up outside the fic. XD; That'll get fixed in a later chapter; don't worry.

    Aw . . . Guess I’ll settle for imagining human-Bill trying to study ixodida-Bill while everyone else is wondering why they aren’t in the least bit phased by the existence of two Bills.
    OR THAT CAN BE THE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. \o/

    Only with more snow. And extra-alcoholic egg nog.

    Viridian? Does that mean he fought who I think he fought?
    Yes. Pre-Mewtwo, naturally. ;D

    Edit: So just think. If said Viridian mob boss gym leader hadn't kicked his *** so hard and so frequently in one week, Bill might have still been a trainer. Just not a particularly good one.

    Who are you and what have you done with Adam? It’s up to something.
    ;D

    Since The Great Butler’s already said most of what I would have about the action scenes, I’ll point this out. I think you meant “Tate let himself drift” or “Tate drifted” here.
    Huh. Wonder how I managed to do that, but in any case, thanks for pointing that out! I definitely meant the latter, but for some reason, I was talented enough to forget to delete what was already there (the former). x_x

    I wonder what it was that Adam did, think strongly of a brick wall?
    Even better! A bunch of circles and squiggles that represent the word "wall" in the Relian language. 8D

    Tate’s . . . inventive with comebacks, huh?
    On the positive side, we can give him points for not cracking a your mom joke.

    Even with all he’s been through, Tate’s still a kid.
    Pretty much, which makes him so very adorable. (Except then we have to ask why he hasn't broken down psychologically a la Hope, but eh.)

    Interesting . . . but didn’t Lanette at least already know about Bill communicating with Adam? Or did she never find a decent opportunity to bring that up to the others (or just otherwise not know there was an agreement involved)?
    She knew, but she never had a chance to tell at least Steven and Wallace, partially because she's mostly leaving them alone to form strategies for going at the empress and mostly because she's really hoping that knowing anything about Bill would be irrelevant eventually. (Read: She's been hoping since Steven and Wallace officially joined the Caravan – just after they left Mauville, that is – that Bill would wander off and not come back, but so far, her luck hasn't been great in that department because Bill is apparently a boomerang ex-quasi-boyfriend.) The others in the Caravan have been told by Lanette, however. Or they figured it out on their own. Or Bill actually told them. (That last one is pretty much occupied by Thom, although he had an idea already anyway.)

    Tl;dr, Steven and Wallace just assumed that Bill was a rogue for the same reason Tate's a rogue, and Lanette never really corrected them because she hoped that she wouldn't have to be in a situation where they would need to know.

    Either way, it seems as though either Tate or Bill is a little different from other rogue Ixodida.
    Oh yes.

        Spoiler:- And!:


    Yeah, that’ll go well.
    How To Train Bill, According To This Fic

    Step One
    Announce that you'll start training him.

    Step Two
    Get interrupted by Ixodida attacks.

    Step Three
    Forget that you're trying to train him until you remember again.

    Step Four
    Repeat steps one through three several more times unless interrupted by an 80's montage.

    Bill’s Ixodidy senses are tingling . . . remind me to never say “Ixodidy” again.
    Or "senses are tingling" in the same sentence as "Bill's"? XD

    Something tells me Tracey’s about to get in over his head.
    Probably because he accepted a job from John McKenzie.

    Gee, what could Jax be referencing here?
    JERSEY SHORE. CLEARLY.

    Why did it take me this long to notice that “Relian” actually has the word “alien” in it?
    Because anagrams are awesome. ;D

    A lot of set up for future action in this chapter – Tracey appearing in person for the first time in ages in Fortree of all places, Bill sensing something big coming, Tate keeping things from the others, and Adam being oddly helpful. Can’t wait to see what’s coming.
    Well, we can at least be certain it will have nothing to do with Bill doing any sort of training. *shot!*

    Seriously, though, thanks for the review! Hopefully, the next chapter will be coming along soon. (Taking a summer course, so finals are around the corner already.)

    In the meantime, the other thing you can expect soon (besides the 300-comment surprise WHICH MAY JUST BE RELEASED IN AUGUST IF WE KEEP GOING AT THIS RATE) is another extra, this time to address the one thing that confuses people the most about this fic: the flipping timeline. I would've attached it to this post, but I just haven't had the time to finish it yet. X_x
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 22nd July 2012 at 3:39 PM.

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

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    So, the extra will actually have to wait because -- surprise! -- the thirty-first chapter is actually finished sooner than I thought it would be. The next chapter might take a bit because it's a massive battle scene, and I'm currently running through finals for a summer class, preparation for a week's vacation, and moving at the end of the month. (She's also mooching off public internet at the moment because lol, home internet issues.) Tl;dr, Jax is going to be busy, but she'll see what she can do in the meantime. b)'')b



    Anima Ex Machina: Thirty-One
    Rise to the challenge of your rival.


    Unlike most decisions Bill had made in his life, this one didn't take long at all. He fixed a determined glance on the Hoenn champion as every thought in his mind settled on that single decision.

    "Steven," he said, "go back to the Caravan and convince them to get moving. I'll try to hold the ixodida off to give you more time."

    To his surprise, Steven's response to the situation as a whole came just as quickly as his did.

    "No."

    Bill raised his eyebrows. "No?! What do you mean 'no'?!"

    "No, I'm staying here to train you," Steven told him firmly. "Every moment we put it off is another moment closer to the empress. We're entering territory filled with stronger ixodida. You need to be trained right now."

    His companion frowned in frustration. "We don't have time for that! There are ixodida headed this way! If you don't get back to the Caravan, they won't know to run!"

    "The Caravan would stay where they are, even if they had warning. I have a hunch Lanette isn't someone who would just run away from danger."

    Startled by Steven's tone, Bill turned his head back towards the direction he thought the ixodida were coming from. "That's crazy," he replied quietly.

    "Maybe so, but it's no crazier than what you were planning," Steven chided. "You can barely hold your own against Tate. How do you expect to last in a battle against multiple ixodida – ones who have no plans to hold back?"

    "Regardless, we don't have time to train," Bill responded, his voice growing stronger again. "I can feel them. They're moving slowly, but they're growing in power. I think they're trying to gather every ixodida in the area." He gave Steven another glance, this time with his eyebrows furrowed in worry. "I know it's me they want. Do you remember that fire-type you and Wallace chased away just before we formally met? He told me the empress wants to see me. I can lead them away from the Caravan so that you can warn—"

    "And then what, considering you can't fight them?" Steven crossed his arms. "Tell me, why are they after you?"

    "I…" Bill stopped, dropping his gaze to the ground. His expression of worry shifted to one of confusion as he realized that Steven had a very good point.

    "You don't know, do you?" Steven asked. "So if you faced the ixodida alone at this point, they would be guaranteed a victory in whatever it is they're planning. If the empress herself is so keen on finding you, then that could mean one of two things. First, it could mean that you're strategically vital to the ixodida, and if that's the case, then your capture would mean that losing you would put humanity in jeopardy. Second, it could mean that you're a threat to the ixodida, and if that's the case, then your death would mean humanity would lose a powerful weapon."

    Bill balled his hands into fists as his tail switched back and forth in agitation. "Is that so?"

    "It's so, which means it would be in your best interests to get started. Allow me to teach you what you need to know. Your chances of survival would at least be marginally better."

    However, Bill had other plans. He muttered "Magnet Rise" under his breath and surrounded himself with a golden aura. Once the words left his mouth, he crouched low and sprang into the air, rising several feet with the magnetism-boosted jump. At the climax of his leap, he felt something snatch him out of the air and throw him into the sand. Rolling onto his stomach, he hissed and looked up, into the eyes of a faintly glowing Metagross. Steven kept his hand on the steel behemoth's side as he glared at the researcher.

    "Just what were you planning on doing?" he inquired.

    "Flying back to the Caravan," Bill spat. "I can at least warn them myself before leading the ixodida away."

    He tried to magnetize himself again, but the metagross refused to allow him. A grating growl rumbled from somewhere inside it as its glow intensified. At the same time, Bill could feel invisible hands pulling him into the air and holding him there. Only his fingers and mouth could move; the rest of him was held in place by the unseen force.

    "Steven!" he yelled. "Let me go!"

    "Not until you're willing to train right here, right now," Steven replied.

    Bill gritted his teeth. "You're joshing me."

    "No. I'm not."

    Closing his eyes, Bill took a few deep breaths, just enough to think things through. "Fine. Let me go. I'll train."

    Nodding, Steven raised a hand and snapped his fingers. Metagross relaxed and allowed the glow within its body to fade, and at the same time, Bill dropped to the ground. Quickly, he twisted in the air to land on his hands and feet, and in the next instant, he sprang back up and started running away from Steven and Metagross.

    "Hey!" Steven snapped.

    Without looking back, Bill responded, "Sorry, but I never said I'd train now!"

    Keeping his gaze steady, the champion narrowed his eyes at the researcher's back and drummed his fingers on his arms.

    "Is that how it's going to be?" Steven muttered. "Fine. Metagross! Bullet Punch and follow through with Hammer Arm!"

    Another screeching growl tore out of the behemoth as it turned on its side. Its arms began to glow a bright, angry red while the rest of it spun like a wheel towards its target. The distance between the two closed rapidly, far too quickly for Bill to realize the creature was heading straight for him, and in no time at all, it slammed into his back and tore him off his feet. Then, before Bill could hit the ground, his attacker stopped spinning, and the red glow of one of its arms turned white. Within seconds, the arm connected hard into Bill's side, sending him splashing into the cold river. All around him, the world spun while he felt water rush to envelope him completely. His limbs flailed in a desperate attempt to keep from drowning again, but luckily, an unseen force ripped him out of the water yet again and sent him crashing into the riverbank. Groaning from the onslaught of three attacks – one of which he wasn't even forewarned about – he lifted his head and squinted at the behemoth that stood above him.

    "Meteor Mash," Steven began as he walked towards the two, "is not a simple move to master, but I have reason to believe it will be easier for you than most pokémon."

    "What makes you think I'll be able to learn it before the ixodida attack?" Bill panted. "I can't even figure out how to use moves I already have."

    "Perhaps it's because you're trying too hard to use moves that don't connect with the ones you're used to using." Steven stooped down to grab one of Bill's arms and help him up. "You're having trouble with Mirror Shot, right? That's a beam move. You're used to relying on moves that channel energy around your body; you don't know how to release it away from your body. So the answer is simple. We need to get you to build up to that skill, not force you to do something you haven't taught yourself yet."

    Bill pulled his arm out of Steven's grip and stood on his own, albeit shakily. "Even so, you're asking me to learn four moves in one night. Pokémon who were born as such can't even do that!"

    To that, Steven said nothing as he walked away from Bill. The silence unnerved the researcher, and he tensed himself in preparation for anything. Steven stopped several meters away from him before raising a hand.

    "Metagross," he announced.

    The behemoth moved, gliding inches above the sand to hover beside its master. Bill took this as a sign that something was about to happen, and as such, he shifted his feet and held up his arms in a fighting stance. However, an attack never came. Steven simply placed a hand on his pokémon's side and kept his blue-gray eyes on it.

    "You're making this harder than it has to be," Steven said. "It's no wonder Lanette's gotten frustrated."

    At the sound of her name, Bill dropped his guard ever so slightly. His expression faltered, and his eyes shifted away from his opponents and back to them in seconds.

    "Lanette is a fascinating young woman," Steven continued. "I knew about her already, of course, what with her being responsible for our storage system, but I never knew how strong or incredible she can be until she felt comfortable to confide in me." He stopped briefly. "Oh. And Tate has been eavesdropping on your sister's thoughts since he met her. I hope you realize that."

    Abruptly, Steven heard a drawn-out battle scream from his companion. Shifting his gaze, he saw the steel-type ixodida dive at him with a fist raised and glowing gold. Metagross quickly lifted an arm, clipping Bill neatly in the stomach before he could so much as graze the champion's face. Steven continued to stand perfectly still as he watched the ixodida get winded from the clip and end up on his back on the sand. Bill kept his fist raised above him for a few seconds as the golden light that enveloped his arm fizzled away in tiny sparks and stars. Then, it dropped to his side as he curled up and gasped for breath like a fish.

    "Apparently," Steven said as he quirked an eyebrow, "you're the kind of person who learns best when he lets his emotions become a factor. But congratulations on learning Meteor Mash. Now all we need to do is teach you how to use it when you're not experiencing overwhelming rage, and we can move on to the next one."

    Bill grumbled into the sandy bank in response.

    ---

    Veronica jolted in her seat and shook her head vigorously. She normally wasn't one to nod off on the job, but on the other hand, she also realized that she had been standing watch for what felt like a long time – too long, in fact. Squinting upwards, she tried to discern what time it was until she gave up and stood. Yawning, she started around the van to wake up Thom and force him to take over. She stopped, however, when she realized that someone was already awake at the campsite. Cautiously, she crossed the patch of dirt between the vehicles and approached Lanette.

    "Take a rest, Officer Jenny," Lanette said without turning away from the forest beyond the edge of the camp. "I'll take over from here."

    Although part of her felt immense relief at the offer, Veronica crossed her arms and leaned against the truck. "Can't sleep?"

    At first, Lanette didn't answer. Taking this as an invitation, Veronica turned and pulled herself up until she could reach over the bed of the truck. Somehow, she managed to dig a pair of water bottles out from under Thom's head without waking the youth before she dropped back to the ground and extended one of the bottles to Lanette. The red-head gazed at it before grasping its base.

    "Steven and Wallace are gone," she finally stated as she unscrewed the bottle's cap. "They've been gone for too long."

    Veronica opened her own bottle and took a swig. Once the water was down, she quirked an eyebrow. "Worried?"

    "Perhaps."

    The officer cracked a grin. "They're champions, you know. They'll be fine. Or are you worried about us? If that's the case, then c'mon. We can handle 'em."

    "I don't doubt our ability to handle the ixodida, one way or another," Lanette replied.

    "Really? Then you are worried about the champions!" Veronica elbowed Lanette in the ribs. "C'mon! Spill it! Oh gods, tell me you're into one of them!"

    "Don't be absurd," Lanette responded, a little too quickly.

    "You do! Oh my gods, this is beautiful! C'mon! You can tell me! Which one is it? Wallace? No, far too flamboyant for you. It's Steven, isn't it? The strong stoic type? I can see the two of—"

    "Why is it any of your concern?" Lanette asked.

    That only caused Veronica's grin to grow. "Oh my gods. I knew it!" She leaned against the truck, and her expression immediately dissolved into something serious. "You know, ever since they came, I've had a good feeling we'd be able to make this run. They're champions, you know. They know what they're doing. They even tamed a rogue of their own to use. But don't get me wrong. I don't think we should let our guard down by any means. If anything, we should work harder to keep up with them. Don't you agree?"

    "I agree," Lanette answered coldly, "but what does this have to do with anything?"

    Veronica frowned. "Everything. I'm saying don't get distracted by anyone, regardless of who they are." She tilted her head downward but locked her eyes on Lanette's. "But also, give yourself something to fight for. It'll keep you going."

    "I have something to fight for."

    "Yeah. You do now."

    Lanette narrowed her eyes slightly as she quickly analyzed the expression on the officer's face. "And you?"

    "Do I have someone to fight for?" Veronica took another swig of her water as she let her gaze trail towards the van. "Yeah. You'd better believe it."

    "And these feelings for …?"

    Veronica glanced back at Lanette. "Can't fool a researcher, can I? Let me tell you something. Before the quarantine, there was only one person who believed in me as a cop, and after the quarantine was put in place, she was the one person who kept me from doing something stupid. She was the one person who reminded me that I have a duty to protect the people of Mauville. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here right now. Just thinking about what we'll do after we escape to some other region is enough to keep me from shooting myself in the head."

    "And Thom?"

    "He's an idiot who follows us everywhere. What about him?"

    Lanette gave the officer a look. The corners of her mouth twitched, and she nearly expressed something other than her usual cold façade. Then, before she could say anything, a chorus of piercing screams rose into the air. She jerked her head up as her hand flew to the handle of her crowbar, dropping her bottle of water in the process. Veronica followed her gaze, capping her own bottle as she stood still.

    "Ixodida," Veronica muttered.

    Lanette nodded, and under her breath, she muttered, "Hopefully, you're right about Steven."

    ---

    "Meteor Mash!"

    Bill's glowing fist connected perfectly with Metagross's side, and the sound of the strike rung out across the bank like a bell. The behemoth stared at him through the corner of its eye as he stood there, panting and astonished. It was his fourth attempt. His fourth attempt, and he got it.

    "How did I…?"

    "You doubt yourself too much. Like I told you, you have potential; the problem is that you don't know how to train properly to meet it," Steven said. "But do me a favor. Stop announcing your moves."

    Bill turned away from Metagross. "That helps me focus on the ones I'm not used to using."

    "The risks for announcing your moves outweigh the benefits. The moment you shout your attack's name, the opponent knows what you're about to do and begins to counter it. This isn't a League-sanctioned battle. The ixodida aren't going to wait for you to finish before they strike. Practice without naming your attacks, and you won't be tempted to do it on the field. Understand?"

    In response, the ixodida looked at the ground. "Not really. How would you and the other trainers overcome that disadvantage if it exists?"

    "It exists, and don't worry about us. We have our own ways. You focus on taking advantage of the fact that you're not reliant on a trainer's orders to move." Steven took a few more steps back, placing a large amount of distance between himself and the two pokémon. "Now. Your second move: Metal Burst. It should be simple to learn if we combine what you know about Iron Defense with—"

    Suddenly, a chorus of screams – the same one that Lanette and Veronica had heard elsewhere – cut Steven off. It lasted for only a few seconds, but the silence that lingered between the champion and the researcher afterwards stretched for almost twice as long. The both of them and Metagross stood, eyes to the sky and positions frozen, as if waiting for the first strike. When nothing happened, Steven shook his head and glanced back at his companion.

    "Don't pay attention to it, Bill," he said sharply.

    "They're getting closer," the ixodida responded. "Steven, we should really—"

    "It doesn't matter if they're getting closer. We need to focus now, or you'll be facing them unprepared."

    Exhaling, Bill lowered his gaze and balled his hands into fists again. "Right. Fine. I-I can do this. Tell me about the next move."

    The champion nodded. "Good. Metal Burst is a combination of defense and offense. In order to use it, you'll need to know how to channel the same energies you use in Metal Claw and Meteor Mash and combine them with the same barrier-like properties of Protect and Iron Defense. Understand?"

    "No."

    "You will." Steven swept a hand out in front of him. "Metagross, Shadow Ball!"

    ---

    When the screams died down, Domino lifted her head. Her gloved hand clutched Professor Nettle's PDA tightly, and for a long time, the only sound she heard was the quiet beeping of its tracking program. Taking a deep breath, she continued down the path and fixed her eyes on the screen of the device once more.

    "It'll take more than that to startle me," she muttered to herself. "I'm the Black Tulip. Team Rocket. Special Ops. Field commander. I've seen worse. I've done worse than they can ever do to me. I've been trained to handle any situation and any pokémon. There is nothing out here that can scare m—"

    Something dropped onto her head, and instantly, she shrieked and threw her hat and the object at a nearby tree. The bundle struck the trunk with a thump and a loud "kec" before dropping to the ground. As soon as it landed, the objects twitched and wriggled until it started for Domino. She shivered and took a step back, and her wrist flicked to release one of the tulips hidden in her glove. However, when the creature approached, it stopped a foot from her and stood on its hind paws. Drawing her hat back and off its own head, the pokémon tilted its head and blinked at her.

    "A kecleon," she whispered.

    Then, with a scoff, she sheathed her tulip again and reached down her hat. As soon as she bent down, Kecleon opened its mouth and lashed out its tongue. In a flash, the tongue wrapped around the PDA in Domino's hand, tore it from her grasp, and reeled the device into its mouth. Then, just as rapidly, the lizard snapped shut its jaws, turned, and scampered out from under Domino's hat and into the forest's underbrush. It took a few seconds for Domino to register what had happened, and when it did, she blanched.

    "Hey!" she yelled. "Get back here!"

    Without a second thought, she launched into a run after the stray lizard.

    ---

    As the fifth Metal Burst exploded in his hands, Bill started to realize that the move was just as difficult as he expected. The explosion flung him through the air once again, and in an attempt to avoid injuring himself, he twisted his body in mid-flight and crashed on his side at just the right angle to propel him into a tumble. In seconds, he was back on his feet but crouching low as clouds of sand curled around him. Panting, he squinted through the cover to see Metagross stomping its massive legs into the bank while crawling like a spider towards him.

    "Metagross," Steven said calmly as he stood a good distance behind the tank, "Shadow Ball again."

    The iron-leg pokémon growled as its eyes flashed with a purple light. In front of the crossbars covering its face, a ball of pure, deep darkness formed. Violet electricity crackled off its surface as it quickly grew to the size of a basketball. For the first few seconds, Bill could only watch, his entire body frozen in fear. Then, he whipped his hands in front of him and gritted his teeth as he focused all his energy into countering the move. A ball of white light formed in front of his palms, illuminating the battlefield just as Metagross fired its Shadow Ball. The two attacks met, black twisting into white until the light completely engulfed the darkness.

    "Good! Now fire it away from you!" Steven shouted.

    Planting his feet firmly into the sandy bank, Bill pulled his arms back and shoved forward as hard as he could in an attempt to push the ball forward. As soon as he did, the ball abruptly expanded. At once, Bill felt a chill rush through his body.

    "Oh no," he whispered. "Oh no! Please don't—!"

    Metal Burst exploded in his face for a sixth time.

    As soon as the dust from the last explosion cleared, Steven saw Bill struggle to push himself to his hands and knees but no further. The corners of the champion's mouth tugged downward as he watched, and his hands sank into his pockets.

    "Don't tell me you've had enough," he said. "The ixodida are coming, and you've only learned one move out of four."

    Bill shook his head and kept his eyes to the ground. "Steven, this isn't working. I just don't think I'm ready for that move."

    Steven sighed. "Fine. Metagross, kill him."

    That got Bill's attention, and right away, he snapped his head towards the champion. "What?!"

    Obediently, the metal behemoth rushed at the ixodida and swung one of its massive forelegs at him. Bill tried to dive out of the way, but Metagross's leg met his side with a loud clang, sending him flying into the bank. As soon as he skidded to a stop, he winced and wrapped an arm around his torso. Even though his skin was tough enough to absorb a lot of the blow, the strike was strong enough to send waves of pain rushing through his side.

    Before he could contemplate whether or not he had broken anything, he heard Metagross's grinding growl once more, and he looked up to see the tank barreling towards him again. Gasping, he leaned back and threw both of his hands out in front of him to erect a Protect. The iron-leg pokémon smashed itself into the side of the green barrier, but it didn't stop there. Rising up on its hind legs, it hammered one of its forelegs into the barrier over and over again. Bill watched with increasing panic as cracks quickly spread across his barrier. Metagross's voice rose in one last screech as it reared back and readied itself to smash through Bill's barrier, but in that single moment, the green wall vanished, replaced by a glowing, white ball Bill held in front of his face. The behemoth fell forwards, sinking one of its legs directly into the ball as the other smashed into the sand by the ixodida's head. Right then, a wave of energy distorted the air around Bill and swirled up to the ball as he pushed the ball away from his body with a sharp scream. That was all it took. With that last push, the ball of light grew in size to engulf Metagross and launch it into the air before it could so much as twitch to defend itself. Steven quickly took a few steps to the side, closer to the river as he watched his pokémon crash into the bank with a boom. As the sand from the resulting clouds subsided, Bill sat up shakily and stared dumbfounded at Metagross, and Steven rushed to his pokémon's side. Metagross groaned and opened its eyes, to which its master grinned in relief.

    "That's… that's not possible," Bill said, unconsciously a little louder than he meant.

    "What, that you're learning so quickly? That you defeated my strongest pokémon using only a few moves its type normally resists? I told you," Steven replied as he patted and recalled his pokémon. "You doubt yourself too much."

    Slowly, Bill stood. "It can't be just that. Is this… does this have something to do with the fact that you're a champion?"

    Steven shrugged. "My expertise in training steel-types only extends to knowing how the moves work and how to teach them to pokémon, but the pokémon needs to have the potential to learn too. It just so happens you're a fast learner; you just needed the right teacher." He tilted his head. "But it does strike me as curious that you tried to learn your moves in the wrong order. I would've thought that you of all people would understand how a pokémon trainer teaches a pokémon to learn new moves."

    "I'm afraid I normally study wild and ancient pokémon, Steven. I never studied training methods, and I wasn't much of a trainer myself."

    "Even though your father wrote the book on move tutoring?"

    Bill gave him a sideways glance. "How do you know about that?"

    "Lanette told me. She told me we have him to thank for TMs and HMs too. That's why I'm surprised you claim you don't know much about how to teach a pokémon new moves. It's strange that you didn't pick these things up from your father."

    For a long while, Bill was quiet, opting instead to dust off his clothing. Steven watched him in curiosity. In the champion's head, he quickly noted the researcher's every reaction in search for the ammunition he needed for the last two moves. He just didn't expect Bill to all but gift-wrap everything he needed to know right then and there.

    "I never thought it was relevant," Bill finally said. "Shall we perfect Metal Burst?"

    Steven shook his head. "You know it. It's time to move on to the next move."

    "What? I succeeded only once, and that was because I was afraid Metagross would crush me! Are you certain I'm ready for the next one?"

    "Absolutely." Steven pulled another poké ball from his pocket. "We need to keep moving if we're going to be ready. Your next move is Magnet Bomb."

    "Magnet Bomb?"

    Steven nodded. "We're crossing over from physical to special moves now, and that technique will be your bridge. You'll need to use what you know about Metal Burst to form the attack, but you're going to magnetically charge it the way you charge your body when you use Magnet Rise."

    "That sounds simple enough."

    "Glad you think so because your next opponent is going to make things a lot more complicated." Steven tossed the ball into the air and looked towards the sky. "Skarmory! You're up!"

    ---

    One man in a black suit wove himself through the tent city of Fortree to the base of the black aircraft. Right next to it was the largest tent of the compound, into and out of which steady lines of black suits filed. The man pushed himself through the crowds, jostling his fellow agents as he pulled a portable radio out of his pocket. Once inside, he strode past tables where others in black suits pored over documents and spoke in urgent tones to one another. At the end of the aisle of tables straight down the middle of the tent stood Nikki Stark with her hands on her hips and her stern eye on one of her female subordinates. The man approached her quickly and bowed when he was within earshot.

    "Director Stark, urgent message from the field," he announced.

    She looked at him briefly before nodding to the agent she had been speaking to earlier.

    "Five minutes," she said.

    "Yes, sir," the agent replied before turning and hurrying away from the pair.

    At that point, Stark shifted her attention back to the man. She didn't say a word, and she didn't have to. The man straightened and spoke firmly on her silent cue.

    "Director Stark, there's activity to the southwest. Grass-types. A lot of them. They're migrating somewhere and ignoring all of our field agents. It looks like they're after something," he reported.

    "Ignoring all of our men?" Stark eyed him. "Got a bead on where they're heading?"

    "Reconnaissance calculates they're heading towards a point along the eastern bank of the Milotic River."

    Stark nodded. "Send out an order. I want every man, woman, and pokémon on Route 119 to find out what the hell is going on. If they're staging a strike, I had better see those plasma cannons from all the way up here. Got it?"

    "Yes, sir." He raised the radio to his mouth. "Director, there's one other thing."

    "What could possibly make this better?"

    "There's a camp of human survivors on Route 119, not far from the calculated point of congregation."

    "A camp of how many?"

    "Eight or nine. They've been traveling our way for days now. Probably heading to Lilycove. There's a kid with them too. A young one."

    Stark gave him one other hard look. Then, without warning, she snatched the radio from his hand and switched it on.

    "All right, listen up!" she shouted. "I want as many of you as possible on the east banks of the Milotic. Prepare for a counterstrike. And I want a team of at least ten of you to comb Route 119. We've got uninfected roaming the streets. Repeat. Uninfected roaming the streets."

    She released the button and listened to the choirs of confirmation over the radio.

    ---

    As stars rained down on the sandy bank, Bill made a half-hearted attempt at diving, even though he knew that no matter where he went, the stars would follow him. Sure enough, he felt them pelt his spine, explode across his back, and send the sensation of fire throughout his body. He screamed and tumbled into the bank before righting himself and pulling his hands back. Between them, a ball of silver light formed between his palms. Lifting his head, he scanned the sky for sight of his opponent, only to see the bird glide overhead far above the trees. Exhaling slowly, he threw his arms upward, launching the ball towards Skarmory. It cut through the air but stopped only a third of the way towards its target, popping and fizzling out before it could touch the bird's talons.

    "Focus, Bill!" Steven instructed. "You need to channel as much power as you've got into the attack. You're not going to hit Skarmory if you don't put energy into it."

    "Easier said than done," Bill muttered.

    Steven lowered his head slightly and gave his companion a low glance. He didn't say another word as he lifted a hand and motioned to his bird. Seconds later, he watched a volley of stars pelt the riverbank again. Sand obscured his view for a moment, but through it, he could see the silver glow of another Magnet Bomb. This one whizzed out of the cloud, rising higher this time until it fizzled out at almost the exact same height as the one before it. Sighing, Steven reached up to rub the bridge of his nose.

    Catching this gesture, Bill narrowed his eyes at the champion. "I'm sorry, Steven, but that is all I've got!"

    "No, it's not," Steven replied. Then, he lowered his hand again. "You're holding back."

    Glancing upwards, Bill eyed Skarmory's position as he stood. "Look, Steven, we don't have much time. I've learned two moves already, and I can sense that the ixodida are almost here. We need to come up with a strategy."

    "We?" Steven chuckled. "I'm fine on my own, thank you. I have five good pokémon left. I've defeated trainers far more competent than you with exactly that number."

    Instantly, the expression on Bill's face shifted. He turned his head away from Steven slightly and gave the champion a sideways glance. "Steven, I just don't think this is the right time—"

    "Right time? This is the perfect time." Steven dropped his hands to his sides and took a step forward. "If the ixodida attack us, I'll be the one fighting. You, meanwhile, will be the one hiding behind me, or you'll let your parasite take over for you. I understand you now. All this time, you've been hiding behind someone else, wanting someone else to fight for you."

    "Steven. Don't do this."

    "But what about you? You run. You hide. You don't bother to face your problems." He stopped just a few feet from the ixodida. "How long has that been going on? Is that why you're not a trainer? Because you couldn't handle losing, and you didn't know how to train? Maybe that's why you didn't bother learning a thing from your father. Because—"

    "How dare you!" Bill hissed. "You don't know a thing about me or my family."

    "You're right. I don't. All I know is you've left your sister, and you won't listen to your father."

    Acting almost unconsciously, Bill curled his fingers into claws and bared his teeth as a low growl rumbled from his throat. "I suggest… you stop now."

    "You can't even bother to control yourself. Isn't that why you're out here? Well, look at you. Growling at me like a poochyena."

    Bill froze as his lips relaxed and covered his fangs again. Without moving his head, he glanced down at one of his hands and realized exactly what he was doing. The growl ceased, but he did his best to look back at Steven as if nothing had happened.

    "Why don't you listen to your father?" Steven asked. "Is it because you never got his approval? Oh, that makes sense, then. That must explain why you became a researcher. Come to think of it, it also explains your reputation. I've heard a few interesting things about you. Who knew that it might all be because you have issues with your—"

    Abruptly, Bill whipped one of his arms upwards. As he moved, a silver ball of light flashed into existence in his hand, and at the peak of his turn, he pitched the orb, sending it flying into the sky. This time, it didn't fizzle out when it was a third of a way to its target; in fact, it struck the bird's underside with a bang. Skarmory screeched and wavered in his flight pattern before righting himself and continuing to circle overhead. Steven grinned proudly as he turned away from the bird and looked at Bill, who was now standing straight with his side to the champion. Glaring at Steven, Bill lifted one claw and held it close to the human's face.

    "Let's make a few things clear. First, I don't care about my reputation because half of it is ridiculous. Second, I became a researcher because I love pokémon and science. Given that, it was either research or breeding, and only one of those options lets me have my own laboratory. Third, I gave up training because I don't like watching anyone get hurt, least of all the pokémon I raise as if they're my children. And speaking of which, fourth, I do not have issues with my father. The man is a deadbeat and a con-artist, and asking literally anyone in the entirety of Goldenrod City will only confirm that that's objective fact. If you imply otherwise, I'd like to inform you that I've mastered a number of attacks, I've already calculated exactly how quickly Skarmory can dive, and I really don't foresee you and I getting on at this point."

    To Bill's surprise, Steven's response to the threat came quick, and his smile didn't fade. Patting Bill's shoulder, he said, "See? I told you that you had potential."

    With that, the champion turned around and walked away. Behind him, Bill cast a glance to the side and realized right then and there exactly how much of Steven's verbal and physical abuse was actually a part of his genuine character.

    "My gods. I'm an idiot," he mumbled.

    Well, yes, but you may take comfort in the fact that you have yet to embarrass us completely.

    "I was wondering why you were so quiet," Bill muttered under his breath. "Entertained?"

    Very.

    "Why didn't you speak up sooner?"

    You needed the training. It seems this human has found the perfect way to teach you. I could only wish I had thought of it sooner.

    Bill was almost too thankful that Steven had taken his place on the field and turned back towards him again. The ixodida took a breath and tried his best to block out Adam's voice.

    No need to force me from your mind, Bill. But I must warn you, the ixodida are already here.

    At that statement, Bill's concentration faltered, and his guard dropped. That was when he heard a bang, followed by a short screech. Both he and Steven looked straight up, just in time for Skarmory to plummet and crash into the bank neatly between them. Together, they stared in stunned silence at the block of ice containing the metal crane. A crackling rose in the air nearby, and cautiously, Steven and Bill turned their heads just in time to see the surface of the entire river freeze in a sheet of thick ice.

    "Steven." Bill paused to swallow. "I think maybe we should wait to teach me that last move."

    "For once, we agree," the champion responded.

    ---

    By that point, Veronica had her handgun out and Growlithe by her side. The dog emitted a quiet, constant growl, which did nothing to relieve his owner's nerves. Flanking her were Lanette and Vito. Lanette had her crowbar in her hands and Altaria on her left, and Vito stood unarmed next to Alakazam, who crouched in wait. Behind the three of them knelt Thom, who rested a hand on Manectric. The air between them was tense and heavy, and not one of them felt willing to break the silence.

    Suddenly, the bushes in front of them rustled. Each of the four humans and their pokémon shifted in their own way. Thom straightened in his seat and squinted as Manectric crouched. Veronica held her gun level and rested a finger on the trigger while Growlithe pulled his lips back in a snarl. Vito clenched his hands at his sides, and Alakazam tightened his grip on his spoons. Altaria ruffled her cloudlike wings, and Lanette shifted her crowbar, holding it like a baseball bat. All of their eyes fixed on the bushes, waiting for anything to appear from them.

    And then, just as suddenly, a kecleon sprang from the bushes. Inadvertently, Veronica squeezed the trigger of her gun, causing it to fire with a bang. Luckily, Kecleon was quick enough to dart out of the way as it bounded straight at Lanette, up her leg, and onto her shoulder.

    "What the hell?!" Veronica shouted. "Fucking wild pokémon! I swear I nearly had a heart attack!"

    "Calm down, officer," Lanette said as she lowered her crowbar and used one of her hands to pet the lizard.

    Kecleon leaned into her touch and trilled happily. In the process, it opened its mouth, its tongue unfurling until it released the PDA. The device dropped at her feet, and Vito moved to pick it up.

    "What's this?" he asked as he examined it.

    Before he could get an answer, the bushes rustled for a second time. Veronica raised her gun and aimed, but in this instance, she didn't have enough time to rest her finger on the trigger. At that moment, a young blonde stumbled out of the brush and into the campgrounds. As soon as she was clear of the brush, Domino lifted her purple eyes to catch sight of the Jenny with a gun pointed right at her, and all at once, she froze and threw her hands in the air.

    "Don't shoot!" she cried. "I'm not infected!"

    Veronica exhaled and threw her hands in the air. "Not even going to bother. Clearly, we're not actually going to get attacked tonight."

    "Calm down," Lanette repeated. Then, she turned to Domino. "I remember you. You were the one I had to chase down outside of Mauville City."

    Domino chuckled and took a step back. "Oh! Right! Small world, isn't it? You're not going to do anything to harmless little me, right? I'm just here because that little cutie pie on your shoulder took something of mine."

    "I wouldn't call you harmless, but no, I'm not going to do anything," Lanette responded coolly. "We have more important things to worry about right now."

    "Oh good!" Domino started forward. "In that case, I'll just take back my PDA and be on my—"

    Lanette swung her arm out to point the sharp end of her crowbar directly at Domino's chest. The Rocket officer stopped immediately, her violet eyes staring at the weapon.

    "If you know what's good for you, you'll stay right here with us," Lanette told her.

    Domino pointed at the crowbar. "I don't know about you, but people don't usually like it when you threaten them."

    "Listen to me," Lanette snapped. "There are ixodida out there. A lot of them. I don't know how you managed to reach us without being killed, but regardless, I can't let you go back out there. It would be suicide, and frankly, we could use all the help we can get. There was a loud noise not too long ago. Did you hear it? That was them, and they're after blood. We have no reason to believe we're safe tonight. So, I propose a truce. We protect you and forget that you ever tried to steal from us in exchange for you working with us to survive one more night. Do we have a deal?"

    "Wait, wait, wait." Domino dropped her hands. "What are you talking about?"

    "The ixodida."

    "The what?"

    As if to respond to her question, a chatter rose all around them. All of the humans lifted their heads and eyed the treetops surrounding the camp. Manectric and Growlithe sprang forward, jaws snapping with loud barks. Altaria ruffled her feathers and began squawking. Alakazam crouched low, preparing for an attack.

    And all around them, hundreds of glowing eyes appeared in the trees.

    Right away, Domino eyed the creatures and nodded.

    "Miss?" she said quietly. "I think we have a deal."

    ---

    The trees were staring at them. Bill tried not to think about it – tried not to turn around and look for fear that one glance would confirm that, in fact, the trees had glowing eyes that were staring at him. It was surprisingly easy, actually, especially considering the fact that a mountain of ice had quickly grown out of the river and the fact that a pale-colored creature landed atop it and crouched at its peak.

    Pandora, meanwhile, gazed down at the human and the ixodida. Her tail twisted in the air below her in amusement as she dug her claws into her mountain.

    "Are you the rogue of the Iron Clan?" she asked.

    "Bill," Steven said as he kept his eyes on Pandora, "do you think it's a good idea to tell her the truth?"

    "There's absolutely no way around it at this point, I think. It's a bit difficult to lie about being a rogue when I haven't killed you yet," Bill replied. Then, to Pandora, he called out, "Yes. I am."

    Pandora continued, "Then you already know why I am here. What is your answer?"

    Bill opened his mouth, but without warning, Adam interrupted him.

    Something about her seems familiar. Ask her if she is the advisor to the empress.

    Although he had no idea where Adam was going with this, Bill knew he had nothing to lose if he followed. After all, either way, he knew that he would be fighting this ixodida and potentially the army she had amassed behind him. The question was when. Straightening his back as much as he could, he took a deep breath and spoke.

    "Are you the advisor to the empress?"

    Pandora lifted her head. "I am and always will be. My loyalty to Her Majesty is limitless, and it is my pleasure to serve her through my wisdom and abilities."

    Long-winded as ever. I know this creature. Bill, you must tell her to deliver a message to her empress.

    "What?" Bill whispered.

    Just trust me.

    "I really hope this doesn't end badly."

    It will end favorably for us, no matter what happens.

    Bill exhaled. A strange feeling of dread crept into him, but knowing how large of an army was behind him and how powerful the ixodida were, he once again realized it wouldn't exactly hurt him to follow Adam's lead. At least Adam seemed to have a good idea of how to navigate the situation.

    "Then I have a message for Her Majesty," he said.

    Holding her tail still, Pandora tilted her head. "Oh? Then send it, rogue. She will be entertained by what you have to say."

    I do not doubt that, Adam responded. Bill, repeat after me. Ready?

    He nodded slowly. "I am."

    To the empress, I give you a warning.

    Lifting his chin, Bill announced, "To the empress, I give you a warning."

    For it is true that my partner was a member of the Gray Rebellion.

    "For it is true that my partner was a member of the Gray Rebellion."

    And against the Violet Throne…

    "And against the Violet Throne…"

    Presided over by the daughter of the dual suns…

    "Presided over by the daughter of the dual suns…"

    Just as we have on our home moon…

    "Just as we have on our home moon…"

    We do indeed declare war.

    "We do indeed declare war." He paused for a beat to think about what he had just said. When it finally sank in, he snapped a glance to the side. "Wait, what?!"

    Steven swiveled his head towards his companion. "Bill, what are you doing?!"

    "I don't know!" Bill hissed in response.

    Before he had a chance to explain himself, his enemy pulled her feet under her and stood atop the ice mountain. Her eyes darkened, but otherwise, her expression was just as blank as ever.

    "Is that your answer to Her Majesty, little one?" she drawled. "If that is the case, then my response on behalf of the empire is this."

    She lifted a hand, made a swirling pattern in the air, and extended a long claw directly at Bill and Steven.

    "Stop them by any means necessary," she stated.

    Dark shapes lifted off the trees as one giant flock. The sky was practically obscured by them as far as Bill and Steven could see. At that point, the champion kept his blue-gray eyes to the sky as he addressed the researcher.

    "Well, Bill. Ready?"

    "Not really."

    Steven shook his head and drew four poké balls – two for each hand – out of his pockets. "Neither am I."

    Bill glanced at his companion. "Looks like we don't have a choice. Shall we, then?"

    "Let's."

    As the flock dove at them, Bill and Steven sprang in opposite directions, directly into the fight.

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

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    I think I'll review this running commentary style instead of “try and remember what I want to talk about” style.

    So without further ado...

    Really Jax? Really? You made an Eye of the Tiger reference for the chapter title? :|

    Well, I suppose it counts as 80's cheese in this B Movie fic.

    Startled by Steven's tone
    *snort * Steven's tone. Steven Stone.

    Bill gritted his teeth. "You're joshing me."
    My first thought, no word of a lie, was the episode of MLP with Gilda in it. At the end, after she rages at everyone, Dash admits that all of the pranks were planned by her and Gilda says “You're joshin' me!”

    It's probably the only line of hers I can't find on youtube at the moment, so you'll have to do with text description.

    "Lanette is a fascinating young woman," Steven continued. "I knew about her already, of course, what with her being responsible for our storage system, but I never knew how strong or incredible she can be until she felt comfortable to confide in me." He stopped briefly. "Oh. And Tate has been eavesdropping on your sister's thoughts since he met her. I hope you realize that."
    Oh snap. Is Steven goading Bill into battle by showing an interest in Lanette? Clever guy xD

    Oh... I suppose the sister thing might have helped as well...

    Veronica frowned. "Everything. I'm saying don't get distracted by anyone, regardless of who they are." She tilted her head downward but locked her eyes on Lanette's. "But also, give yourself something to fight for. It'll keep you going."

    "I have something to fight for."

    "Yeah. You do now."
    Oh hey, we've not seen Veronica in a while. Good to see she's still being awesome.

    "Well, Bill. Ready?"

    "Not really."

    Steven shook his head and drew four poké balls – two for each hand – out of his pockets. "Neither am I."

    Bill glanced at his companion. "Looks like we don't have a choice. Shall we, then?"

    "Let's."

    As the flock dove at them, Bill and Steven sprang in opposite directions, directly into the fight.
    Whoo! I got chills, man.

    And I now just realised that that could be misinterpreted as a crappy pun! I totally didn't mean that!

    Anyway, I liked the tension in this chapter. The way that the training session was played against the oncoming Ixodida armada and Steven's tactics in training Bill, it was all rather fun to read. Of course, Pandora's appearance was enough to appease me for the entire chapter, but the rest of it stood up on its own merits regardless of whether Pandora was in it or not... (still need to draw her)

    I was also kinda surprised to see Domino reappear, I'd kinda forgotten what had happened to her last time she was around. I'm a sucker for “baddies helping goodies conditionally” situations though, so again, I liked it =D
    Skogsrĺ

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

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  21. #296
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Anima Ex Machina: Thirty-One
    Rise to the challenge of your rival.


    Unlike most decisions Bill had made in his life, this one didn't take long at all. He fixed a determined glance on the Hoenn champion as every thought in his mind settled on that single decision.

    "Steven," he said, "go back to the Caravan and convince them to get moving. I'll try to hold the ixodida off to give you more time."

    To his surprise, Steven's response to the situation as a whole came just as quickly as his did.

    "No."

    Bill raised his eyebrows. "No?! What do you mean 'no'?!"

    "No, I'm staying here to train you," Steven told him firmly. "Every moment we put it off is another moment closer to the empress. We're entering territory filled with stronger ixodida. You need to be trained right now."
    Somehow it's not surprising that Bill would try to sacrifice himself for the safety of the Caravan, nor is it surprising that Steven would stop him.

    His companion frowned in frustration. "We don't have time for that! There are ixodida headed this way! If you don't get back to the Caravan, they won't know to run!"

    "The Caravan would stay where they are, even if they had warning. I have a hunch Lanette isn't someone who would just run away from danger."

    Startled by Steven's tone, Bill turned his head back towards the direction he thought the ixodida were coming from. "That's crazy," he replied quietly.

    "Maybe so, but it's no crazier than what you were planning," Steven chided. "You can barely hold your own against Tate. How do you expect to last in a battle against multiple ixodida – ones who have no plans to hold back?"

    "Regardless, we don't have time to train," Bill responded, his voice growing stronger again. "I can feel them. They're moving slowly, but they're growing in power. I think they're trying to gather every ixodida in the area." He gave Steven another glance, this time with his eyebrows furrowed in worry. "I know it's me they want. Do you remember that fire-type you and Wallace chased away just before we formally met? He told me the empress wants to see me. I can lead them away from the Caravan so that you can warn—"
    Is it just me, or is Bill growing a bit more of a spine lately? He seems a lot more assertive in this scene than he generally was before.

    Either way, though, whatever is conspiring with the Ixodida gathering as a group is very ominous, and it's certainly something I don't trust.

    "And then what, considering you can't fight them?" Steven crossed his arms. "Tell me, why are they after you?"

    "I…" Bill stopped, dropping his gaze to the ground. His expression of worry shifted to one of confusion as he realized that Steven had a very good point.

    "You don't know, do you?" Steven asked. "So if you faced the ixodida alone at this point, they would be guaranteed a victory in whatever it is they're planning. If the empress herself is so keen on finding you, then that could mean one of two things. First, it could mean that you're strategically vital to the ixodida, and if that's the case, then your capture would mean that losing you would put humanity in jeopardy. Second, it could mean that you're a threat to the ixodida, and if that's the case, then your death would mean humanity would lose a powerful weapon."
    This scene really is a perfect example of how much Bill's life sucks right now. Think about it - if he's useful, his failure could mean the extinction of humanity, but if he's strong enough to be considered a threat, he's really little more than a living weapon. Either way, you realize just how miserable his situation is.

    Bill balled his hands into fists as his tail switched back and forth in agitation. "Is that so?"

    "It's so, which means it would be in your best interests to get started. Allow me to teach you what you need to know. Your chances of survival would at least be marginally better."

    However, Bill had other plans. He muttered "Magnet Rise" under his breath and surrounded himself with a golden aura. Once the words left his mouth, he crouched low and sprang into the air, rising several feet with the magnetism-boosted jump. At the climax of his leap, he felt something snatch him out of the air and throw him into the sand. Rolling onto his stomach, he hissed and looked up, into the eyes of a faintly glowing Metagross. Steven kept his hand on the steel behemoth's side as he glared at the researcher.

    "Just what were you planning on doing?" he inquired.

    "Flying back to the Caravan," Bill spat. "I can at least warn them myself before leading the ixodida away."

    He tried to magnetize himself again, but the metagross refused to allow him. A grating growl rumbled from somewhere inside it as its glow intensified. At the same time, Bill could feel invisible hands pulling him into the air and holding him there. Only his fingers and mouth could move; the rest of him was held in place by the unseen force.
    Bill really should have figured this out immediately, that Steven had ways to keep him from leaving.

    "Steven!" he yelled. "Let me go!"

    "Not until you're willing to train right here, right now," Steven replied.

    Bill gritted his teeth. "You're joshing me."

    "No. I'm not."

    Closing his eyes, Bill took a few deep breaths, just enough to think things through. "Fine. Let me go. I'll train."

    Nodding, Steven raised a hand and snapped his fingers. Metagross relaxed and allowed the glow within its body to fade, and at the same time, Bill dropped to the ground. Quickly, he twisted in the air to land on his hands and feet, and in the next instant, he sprang back up and started running away from Steven and Metagross.

    "Hey!" Steven snapped.

    Without looking back, Bill responded, "Sorry, but I never said I'd train now!"
    Even knowing that Steven is going to stop him from doing this, I have to say that Bill really showed some quick thinking by trying this trick, even if it was so obvious that I figured it out when he first started trying it. Was worth a good laugh too, and humor always helps in serious stories here and there.

    Keeping his gaze steady, the champion narrowed his eyes at the researcher's back and drummed his fingers on his arms.

    "Is that how it's going to be?" Steven muttered. "Fine. Metagross! Bullet Punch and follow through with Hammer Arm!"

    Another screeching growl tore out of the behemoth as it turned on its side. Its arms began to glow a bright, angry red while the rest of it spun like a wheel towards its target. The distance between the two closed rapidly, far too quickly for Bill to realize the creature was heading straight for him, and in no time at all, it slammed into his back and tore him off his feet. Then, before Bill could hit the ground, his attacker stopped spinning, and the red glow of one of its arms turned white. Within seconds, the arm connected hard into Bill's side, sending him splashing into the cold river. All around him, the world spun while he felt water rush to envelope him completely. His limbs flailed in a desperate attempt to keep from drowning again, but luckily, an unseen force ripped him out of the water yet again and sent him crashing into the riverbank. Groaning from the onslaught of three attacks – one of which he wasn't even forewarned about – he lifted his head and squinted at the behemoth that stood above him.
    Bill should probably be glad right about now that he's a Steel-type. I doubt anyone or anything without that kind of natural protection would have survived such a vicious pair of blows like that.

    Maybe being a hideous alien mutant isn't so bad sometimes?

    "Meteor Mash," Steven began as he walked towards the two, "is not a simple move to master, but I have reason to believe it will be easier for you than most pokémon."

    "What makes you think I'll be able to learn it before the ixodida attack?" Bill panted. "I can't even figure out how to use moves I already have."

    "Perhaps it's because you're trying too hard to use moves that don't connect with the ones you're used to using." Steven stooped down to grab one of Bill's arms and help him up. "You're having trouble with Mirror Shot, right? That's a beam move. You're used to relying on moves that channel energy around your body; you don't know how to release it away from your body. So the answer is simple. We need to get you to build up to that skill, not force you to do something you haven't taught yourself yet."
    This actually makes sense. I have to say, Steven's logic is well thought-out.

    Bill pulled his arm out of Steven's grip and stood on his own, albeit shakily. "Even so, you're asking me to learn four moves in one night. Pokémon who were born as such can't even do that!"
    Question, does the whole four-move limit thing apply here?

    "You're making this harder than it has to be," Steven said. "It's no wonder Lanette's gotten frustrated."

    At the sound of her name, Bill dropped his guard ever so slightly. His expression faltered, and his eyes shifted away from his opponents and back to them in seconds.

    "Lanette is a fascinating young woman," Steven continued. "I knew about her already, of course, what with her being responsible for our storage system, but I never knew how strong or incredible she can be until she felt comfortable to confide in me." He stopped briefly. "Oh. And Tate has been eavesdropping on your sister's thoughts since he met her. I hope you realize that."
    Um... I get why Steven is doing this, but it still feels almost unnecessarily cruel that Bill has to suffer this in order to get stronger. Granted, I know it sounds silly that this is cruel after everything that's happened to him, but the fact that all the other horrors have happened is actually precisely why this is so cruel - it would be nice for him to be able to hold on to one shred of hope in something, so Steven messing with him by crushing that hope is why this whole thing feels cruel.

    Abruptly, Steven heard a drawn-out battle scream from his companion. Shifting his gaze, he saw the steel-type ixodida dive at him with a fist raised and glowing gold. Metagross quickly lifted an arm, clipping Bill neatly in the stomach before he could so much as graze the champion's face. Steven continued to stand perfectly still as he watched the ixodida get winded from the clip and end up on his back on the sand. Bill kept his fist raised above him for a few seconds as the golden light that enveloped his arm fizzled away in tiny sparks and stars. Then, it dropped to his side as he curled up and gasped for breath like a fish.

    "Apparently," Steven said as he quirked an eyebrow, "you're the kind of person who learns best when he lets his emotions become a factor. But congratulations on learning Meteor Mash. Now all we need to do is teach you how to use it when you're not experiencing overwhelming rage, and we can move on to the next one."

    Bill grumbled into the sandy bank in response.
    Again, I hope that Bill learning some moves will help him develop past the stage where he needs to be robbed of his shreds of hope in order to accomplish anything.

    Veronica jolted in her seat and shook her head vigorously. She normally wasn't one to nod off on the job, but on the other hand, she also realized that she had been standing watch for what felt like a long time – too long, in fact. Squinting upwards, she tried to discern what time it was until she gave up and stood. Yawning, she started around the van to wake up Thom and force him to take over. She stopped, however, when she realized that someone was already awake at the campsite. Cautiously, she crossed the patch of dirt between the vehicles and approached Lanette.

    "Take a rest, Officer Jenny," Lanette said without turning away from the forest beyond the edge of the camp. "I'll take over from here."

    Although part of her felt immense relief at the offer, Veronica crossed her arms and leaned against the truck. "Can't sleep?"
    Somehow I get the feeling Lanette doesn't sleep all that often and definitely not all that well.

    At first, Lanette didn't answer. Taking this as an invitation, Veronica turned and pulled herself up until she could reach over the bed of the truck. Somehow, she managed to dig a pair of water bottles out from under Thom's head without waking the youth before she dropped back to the ground and extended one of the bottles to Lanette. The red-head gazed at it before grasping its base.

    "Steven and Wallace are gone," she finally stated as she unscrewed the bottle's cap. "They've been gone for too long."

    Veronica opened her own bottle and took a swig. Once the water was down, she quirked an eyebrow. "Worried?"

    "Perhaps."
    Always an enigma, eh, Lanette?

    The officer cracked a grin. "They're champions, you know. They'll be fine. Or are you worried about us? If that's the case, then c'mon. We can handle 'em."

    "I don't doubt our ability to handle the ixodida, one way or another," Lanette replied.

    "Really? Then you are worried about the champions!" Veronica elbowed Lanette in the ribs. "C'mon! Spill it! Oh gods, tell me you're into one of them!"

    "Don't be absurd," Lanette responded, a little too quickly.

    "You do! Oh my gods, this is beautiful! C'mon! You can tell me! Which one is it? Wallace? No, far too flamboyant for you. It's Steven, isn't it? The strong stoic type? I can see the two of—"

    "Why is it any of your concern?" Lanette asked.
    Oh ****, I think Lanette picked just the wrong words to dispel any idea that she has interest in Steven.

    EDIT:

    That only caused Veronica's grin to grow. "Oh my gods. I knew it!" She leaned against the truck, and her expression immediately dissolved into something serious. "You know, ever since they came, I've had a good feeling we'd be able to make this run. They're champions, you know. They know what they're doing. They even tamed a rogue of their own to use. But don't get me wrong. I don't think we should let our guard down by any means. If anything, we should work harder to keep up with them. Don't you agree?"
    I'm amused by Veronica here, though it feels a bit like she's going from teasing Lanette to talking seriously about their mission rather quickly. I'm not sure how natural the segue between the two feels.

    "I agree," Lanette answered coldly, "but what does this have to do with anything?"

    Veronica frowned. "Everything. I'm saying don't get distracted by anyone, regardless of who they are." She tilted her head downward but locked her eyes on Lanette's. "But also, give yourself something to fight for. It'll keep you going."

    "I have something to fight for."

    "Yeah. You do now."
    Wait, I'm a little confused. What, precisely, is this referring to? I can think of more than one possible thing she might be fighting for.

    Lanette narrowed her eyes slightly as she quickly analyzed the expression on the officer's face. "And you?"

    "Do I have someone to fight for?" Veronica took another swig of her water as she let her gaze trail towards the van. "Yeah. You'd better believe it."

    "And these feelings for …?"

    Veronica glanced back at Lanette. "Can't fool a researcher, can I? Let me tell you something. Before the quarantine, there was only one person who believed in me as a cop, and after the quarantine was put in place, she was the one person who kept me from doing something stupid. She was the one person who reminded me that I have a duty to protect the people of Mauville. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here right now. Just thinking about what we'll do after we escape to some other region is enough to keep me from shooting myself in the head."
    Okay, I want to stop here for a minute. Not to be preachy, but I have to give you a lot of credit for handling the subject matter of a relationship between two women correctly. It's relevant, but it's not fetishized into some huge big deal with no context or sense. It's just a part of the bigger whole here, and for that, you deserve to be credited.

    "And Thom?"

    "He's an idiot who follows us everywhere. What about him?"
    That gave me a chuckle.

    Of course, when AEM gives me a chuckle, people are usually about to die.

    Lanette gave the officer a look. The corners of her mouth twitched, and she nearly expressed something other than her usual cold façade. Then, before she could say anything, a chorus of piercing screams rose into the air. She jerked her head up as her hand flew to the handle of her crowbar, dropping her bottle of water in the process. Veronica followed her gaze, capping her own bottle as she stood still.
    YUP.

    "Meteor Mash!"

    Bill's glowing fist connected perfectly with Metagross's side, and the sound of the strike rung out across the bank like a bell. The behemoth stared at him through the corner of its eye as he stood there, panting and astonished. It was his fourth attempt. His fourth attempt, and he got it.
    I like that one touch about the strike sounding like a bell.

    "How did I…?"

    "You doubt yourself too much. Like I told you, you have potential; the problem is that you don't know how to train properly to meet it," Steven said. "But do me a favor. Stop announcing your moves."

    Bill turned away from Metagross. "That helps me focus on the ones I'm not used to using."
    It also helps the writer and reader, I'd say. I'm serious - ever tried writing a battle where orders aren't being given? It's trickier than one would think.

    "The risks for announcing your moves outweigh the benefits. The moment you shout your attack's name, the opponent knows what you're about to do and begins to counter it. This isn't a League-sanctioned battle. The ixodida aren't going to wait for you to finish before they strike. Practice without naming your attacks, and you won't be tempted to do it on the field. Understand?"
    You know, I actually didn't even realize that that was why he was announcing the names of his attacks. Is it because he still sees it as a trainer commanding moves?

    In response, the ixodida looked at the ground. "Not really. How would you and the other trainers overcome that disadvantage if it exists?"

    "It exists, and don't worry about us. We have our own ways. You focus on taking advantage of the fact that you're not reliant on a trainer's orders to move." Steven took a few more steps back, placing a large amount of distance between himself and the two pokémon. "Now. Your second move: Metal Burst. It should be simple to learn if we combine what you know about Iron Defense with—"

    Suddenly, a chorus of screams – the same one that Lanette and Veronica had heard elsewhere – cut Steven off. It lasted for only a few seconds, but the silence that lingered between the champion and the researcher afterwards stretched for almost twice as long. The both of them and Metagross stood, eyes to the sky and positions frozen, as if waiting for the first strike. When nothing happened, Steven shook his head and glanced back at his companion.

    "Don't pay attention to it, Bill," he said sharply.

    "They're getting closer," the ixodida responded. "Steven, we should really—"
    Steven's actions really are almost over the line from confidence into foolishness. I get that training is important, but you can't wait forever, either.

    "It doesn't matter if they're getting closer. We need to focus now, or you'll be facing them unprepared."

    Exhaling, Bill lowered his gaze and balled his hands into fists again. "Right. Fine. I-I can do this. Tell me about the next move."

    The champion nodded. "Good. Metal Burst is a combination of defense and offense. In order to use it, you'll need to know how to channel the same energies you use in Metal Claw and Meteor Mash and combine them with the same barrier-like properties of Protect and Iron Defense. Understand?"

    "No."

    "You will." Steven swept a hand out in front of him. "Metagross, Shadow Ball!"
    There are a lot of things Bill will come to understand, I'm sure...

    When the screams died down, Domino lifted her head. Her gloved hand clutched Professor Nettle's PDA tightly, and for a long time, the only sound she heard was the quiet beeping of its tracking program. Taking a deep breath, she continued down the path and fixed her eyes on the screen of the device once more.
    Oh boy, here's a face I've not thought of in a long time. In fact, Team Rocket as a whole hasn't been terribly prominent lately, so it should be interesting to see them come out again, if that's what's going on here.

    "It'll take more than that to startle me," she muttered to herself. "I'm the Black Tulip. Team Rocket. Special Ops. Field commander. I've seen worse. I've done worse than they can ever do to me. I've been trained to handle any situation and any pokémon. There is nothing out here that can scare m—"

    Something dropped onto her head, and instantly, she shrieked and threw her hat and the object at a nearby tree. The bundle struck the trunk with a thump and a loud "kec" before dropping to the ground. As soon as it landed, the objects twitched and wriggled until it started for Domino. She shivered and took a step back, and her wrist flicked to release one of the tulips hidden in her glove. However, when the creature approached, it stopped a foot from her and stood on its hind paws. Drawing her hat back and off its own head, the pokémon tilted its head and blinked at her.

    "A kecleon," she whispered.
    Oh God, this thing again. I love Kecleon, let me say it without remorse right now. Not just this Kecleon, but the entire species. Isn't it so underrated?

    I had to dawwww at it tilting its head.

    Then, with a scoff, she sheathed her tulip again and reached down her hat. As soon as she bent down, Kecleon opened its mouth and lashed out its tongue. In a flash, the tongue wrapped around the PDA in Domino's hand, tore it from her grasp, and reeled the device into its mouth. Then, just as rapidly, the lizard snapped shut its jaws, turned, and scampered out from under Domino's hat and into the forest's underbrush. It took a few seconds for Domino to register what had happened, and when it did, she blanched.

    "Hey!" she yelled. "Get back here!"

    Without a second thought, she launched into a run after the stray lizard.
    Hahaha, oh, wow. I see Steven having better things to do than play with his Devon Scope hasn't changed the Kecleon of Hoenn at all.

    As the fifth Metal Burst exploded in his hands, Bill started to realize that the move was just as difficult as he expected. The explosion flung him through the air once again, and in an attempt to avoid injuring himself, he twisted his body in mid-flight and crashed on his side at just the right angle to propel him into a tumble. In seconds, he was back on his feet but crouching low as clouds of sand curled around him. Panting, he squinted through the cover to see Metagross stomping its massive legs into the bank while crawling like a spider towards him.

    "Metagross," Steven said calmly as he stood a good distance behind the tank, "Shadow Ball again."

    The iron-leg pokémon growled as its eyes flashed with a purple light. In front of the crossbars covering its face, a ball of pure, deep darkness formed. Violet electricity crackled off its surface as it quickly grew to the size of a basketball. For the first few seconds, Bill could only watch, his entire body frozen in fear. Then, he whipped his hands in front of him and gritted his teeth as he focused all his energy into countering the move. A ball of white light formed in front of his palms, illuminating the battlefield just as Metagross fired its Shadow Ball. The two attacks met, black twisting into white until the light completely engulfed the darkness.

    "Good! Now fire it away from you!" Steven shouted.

    Planting his feet firmly into the sandy bank, Bill pulled his arms back and shoved forward as hard as he could in an attempt to push the ball forward. As soon as he did, the ball abruptly expanded. At once, Bill felt a chill rush through his body.

    "Oh no," he whispered. "Oh no! Please don't—!"

    Metal Burst exploded in his face for a sixth time.
    Come on, Bill, humanity isn't going to save itself.

    As soon as the dust from the last explosion cleared, Steven saw Bill struggle to push himself to his hands and knees but no further. The corners of the champion's mouth tugged downward as he watched, and his hands sank into his pockets.

    "Don't tell me you've had enough," he said. "The ixodida are coming, and you've only learned one move out of four."

    Bill shook his head and kept his eyes to the ground. "Steven, this isn't working. I just don't think I'm ready for that move."

    Steven sighed. "Fine. Metagross, kill him."

    That got Bill's attention, and right away, he snapped his head towards the champion. "What?!"
    I'll tell you what, Bill - Steven doesn't mess around when it comes to training. You should probably try to learn that very quickly.

    Obediently, the metal behemoth rushed at the ixodida and swung one of its massive forelegs at him. Bill tried to dive out of the way, but Metagross's leg met his side with a loud clang, sending him flying into the bank. As soon as he skidded to a stop, he winced and wrapped an arm around his torso. Even though his skin was tough enough to absorb a lot of the blow, the strike was strong enough to send waves of pain rushing through his side.

    Before he could contemplate whether or not he had broken anything, he heard Metagross's grinding growl once more, and he looked up to see the tank barreling towards him again. Gasping, he leaned back and threw both of his hands out in front of him to erect a Protect. The iron-leg pokémon smashed itself into the side of the green barrier, but it didn't stop there. Rising up on its hind legs, it hammered one of its forelegs into the barrier over and over again. Bill watched with increasing panic as cracks quickly spread across his barrier. Metagross's voice rose in one last screech as it reared back and readied itself to smash through Bill's barrier, but in that single moment, the green wall vanished, replaced by a glowing, white ball Bill held in front of his face. The behemoth fell forwards, sinking one of its legs directly into the ball as the other smashed into the sand by the ixodida's head. Right then, a wave of energy distorted the air around Bill and swirled up to the ball as he pushed the ball away from his body with a sharp scream. That was all it took. With that last push, the ball of light grew in size to engulf Metagross and launch it into the air before it could so much as twitch to defend itself. Steven quickly took a few steps to the side, closer to the river as he watched his pokémon crash into the bank with a boom. As the sand from the resulting clouds subsided, Bill sat up shakily and stared dumbfounded at Metagross, and Steven rushed to his pokémon's side. Metagross groaned and opened its eyes, to which its master grinned in relief.

    "That's… that's not possible," Bill said, unconsciously a little louder than he meant.

    "What, that you're learning so quickly? That you defeated my strongest pokémon using only a few moves its type normally resists? I told you," Steven replied as he patted and recalled his pokémon. "You doubt yourself too much."
    I don't want to sound critical here, but I don't believe Metal Burst actually looks at type despite being Steel-type. It returns 1.5 times the damage the user received.


    "I'm afraid I normally study wild and ancient pokémon, Steven. I never studied training methods, and I wasn't much of a trainer myself."

    "Even though your father wrote the book on move tutoring?"

    Bill gave him a sideways glance. "How do you know about that?"

    "Lanette told me. She told me we have him to thank for TMs and HMs too. That's why I'm surprised you claim you don't know much about how to teach a pokémon new moves. It's strange that you didn't pick these things up from your father."
    I'm not sure if this has been brought up before, but it's a neat little detail nevertheless.

    For a long while, Bill was quiet, opting instead to dust off his clothing. Steven watched him in curiosity. In the champion's head, he quickly noted the researcher's every reaction in search for the ammunition he needed for the last two moves. He just didn't expect Bill to all but gift-wrap everything he needed to know right then and there.

    "I never thought it was relevant," Bill finally said. "Shall we perfect Metal Burst?"

    Steven shook his head. "You know it. It's time to move on to the next move."

    "What? I succeeded only once, and that was because I was afraid Metagross would crush me! Are you certain I'm ready for the next one?"

    "Absolutely." Steven pulled another poké ball from his pocket. "We need to keep moving if we're going to be ready. Your next move is Magnet Bomb."

    "Magnet Bomb?"

    Steven nodded. "We're crossing over from physical to special moves now, and that technique will be your bridge. You'll need to use what you know about Metal Burst to form the attack, but you're going to magnetically charge it the way you charge your body when you use Magnet Rise."

    "That sounds simple enough."

    "Glad you think so because your next opponent is going to make things a lot more complicated." Steven tossed the ball into the air and looked towards the sky. "Skarmory! You're up!"
    Well then, Bill's in trouble. I know Skarmory tends to frustrate me more than Metagross when I'm battling, that's for sure.

    One man in a black suit wove himself through the tent city of Fortree to the base of the black aircraft. Right next to it was the largest tent of the compound, into and out of which steady lines of black suits filed. The man pushed himself through the crowds, jostling his fellow agents as he pulled a portable radio out of his pocket. Once inside, he strode past tables where others in black suits pored over documents and spoke in urgent tones to one another. At the end of the aisle of tables straight down the middle of the tent stood Nikki Stark with her hands on her hips and her stern eye on one of her female subordinates. The man approached her quickly and bowed when he was within earshot.

    "Director Stark, urgent message from the field," he announced.

    She looked at him briefly before nodding to the agent she had been speaking to earlier.

    "Five minutes," she said.

    "Yes, sir," the agent replied before turning and hurrying away from the pair.

    At that point, Stark shifted her attention back to the man. She didn't say a word, and she didn't have to. The man straightened and spoke firmly on her silent cue.
    Now this is why I like her so much already. This is someone who commands attention and respect. You know you're dealing with a real badass when she's around.

    "Director Stark, there's activity to the southwest. Grass-types. A lot of them. They're migrating somewhere and ignoring all of our field agents. It looks like they're after something," he reported.

    "Ignoring all of our men?" Stark eyed him. "Got a bead on where they're heading?"

    "Reconnaissance calculates they're heading towards a point along the eastern bank of the Milotic River."
    Oh, I know why the river is named that. Do I ever know why the river is named that.

    Clever, Jax.

    Stark nodded. "Send out an order. I want every man, woman, and pokémon on Route 119 to find out what the hell is going on. If they're staging a strike, I had better see those plasma cannons from all the way up here. Got it?"

    "Yes, sir." He raised the radio to his mouth. "Director, there's one other thing."

    "What could possibly make this better?"

    "There's a camp of human survivors on Route 119, not far from the calculated point of congregation."

    "A camp of how many?"

    "Eight or nine. They've been traveling our way for days now. Probably heading to Lilycove. There's a kid with them too. A young one."
    Could you just remind me who is in the Caravan right now? It would be helpful to have it all in one place.

    As stars rained down on the sandy bank, Bill made a half-hearted attempt at diving, even though he knew that no matter where he went, the stars would follow him. Sure enough, he felt them pelt his spine, explode across his back, and send the sensation of fire throughout his body. He screamed and tumbled into the bank before righting himself and pulling his hands back. Between them, a ball of silver light formed between his palms. Lifting his head, he scanned the sky for sight of his opponent, only to see the bird glide overhead far above the trees. Exhaling slowly, he threw his arms upward, launching the ball towards Skarmory. It cut through the air but stopped only a third of the way towards its target, popping and fizzling out before it could touch the bird's talons.
    I wonder how strong Bill's Steel-type armor is if he's being affected so much by a Swift attack. Unless, is Skarmory hitting a weak spot?

    "Focus, Bill!" Steven instructed. "You need to channel as much power as you've got into the attack. You're not going to hit Skarmory if you don't put energy into it."

    "Easier said than done," Bill muttered.

    Steven lowered his head slightly and gave his companion a low glance. He didn't say another word as he lifted a hand and motioned to his bird. Seconds later, he watched a volley of stars pelt the riverbank again. Sand obscured his view for a moment, but through it, he could see the silver glow of another Magnet Bomb. This one whizzed out of the cloud, rising higher this time until it fizzled out at almost the exact same height as the one before it. Sighing, Steven reached up to rub the bridge of his nose.

    Catching this gesture, Bill narrowed his eyes at the champion. "I'm sorry, Steven, but that is all I've got!"

    "No, it's not," Steven replied. Then, he lowered his hand again. "You're holding back."

    Glancing upwards, Bill eyed Skarmory's position as he stood. "Look, Steven, we don't have much time. I've learned two moves already, and I can sense that the ixodida are almost here. We need to come up with a strategy."

    "We?" Steven chuckled. "I'm fine on my own, thank you. I have five good pokémon left. I've defeated trainers far more competent than you with exactly that number."
    Yeah, I'm beginning to think that Steven might be getting just a little arrogant about this. He may be a Champion and he may have five Pokemon left, but we've seen just what these monsters are capable of. I hope he's fully aware of what they're actually up against, for his sake.

    Instantly, the expression on Bill's face shifted. He turned his head away from Steven slightly and gave the champion a sideways glance. "Steven, I just don't think this is the right time—"

    "Right time? This is the perfect time." Steven dropped his hands to his sides and took a step forward. "If the ixodida attack us, I'll be the one fighting. You, meanwhile, will be the one hiding behind me, or you'll let your parasite take over for you. I understand you now. All this time, you've been hiding behind someone else, wanting someone else to fight for you."

    "Steven. Don't do this."
    Bill's got a point. This act is starting to get a little tiring.

    "But what about you? You run. You hide. You don't bother to face your problems." He stopped just a few feet from the ixodida. "How long has that been going on? Is that why you're not a trainer? Because you couldn't handle losing, and you didn't know how to train? Maybe that's why you didn't bother learning a thing from your father. Because—"

    "How dare you!" Bill hissed. "You don't know a thing about me or my family."

    "You're right. I don't. All I know is you've left your sister, and you won't listen to your father."

    Acting almost unconsciously, Bill curled his fingers into claws and bared his teeth as a low growl rumbled from his throat. "I suggest… you stop now."

    "You can't even bother to control yourself. Isn't that why you're out here? Well, look at you. Growling at me like a poochyena."

    Bill froze as his lips relaxed and covered his fangs again. Without moving his head, he glanced down at one of his hands and realized exactly what he was doing. The growl ceased, but he did his best to look back at Steven as if nothing had happened.

    "Why don't you listen to your father?" Steven asked. "Is it because you never got his approval? Oh, that makes sense, then. That must explain why you became a researcher. Come to think of it, it also explains your reputation. I've heard a few interesting things about you. Who knew that it might all be because you have issues with your—"

    Abruptly, Bill whipped one of his arms upwards. As he moved, a silver ball of light flashed into existence in his hand, and at the peak of his turn, he pitched the orb, sending it flying into the sky. This time, it didn't fizzle out when it was a third of a way to its target; in fact, it struck the bird's underside with a bang. Skarmory screeched and wavered in his flight pattern before righting himself and continuing to circle overhead. Steven grinned proudly as he turned away from the bird and looked at Bill, who was now standing straight with his side to the champion. Glaring at Steven, Bill lifted one claw and held it close to the human's face.
    One thing that strikes me right away is a wonder about the situation with Steven's father, because he has a famous father too and for all we know, he could be acting completely hypocritically. Remember, Steven's the one who was out digging in caves instead of working in his father's business. There might not be anything there, but it's worth knowing, I think.

    On the other hand, Bill flipping out was badass, as it usually is.

    "My gods. I'm an idiot," he mumbled.

    Well, yes, but you may take comfort in the fact that you have yet to embarrass us completely.

    "I was wondering why you were so quiet," Bill muttered under his breath. "Entertained?"

    Very.

    "Why didn't you speak up sooner?"

    You needed the training. It seems this human has found the perfect way to teach you. I could only wish I had thought of it sooner.

    Bill was almost too thankful that Steven had taken his place on the field and turned back towards him again. The ixodida took a breath and tried his best to block out Adam's voice.

    No need to force me from your mind, Bill. But I must warn you, the ixodida are already here.
    I'm not really sure how I feel about this. At first Adam is his usual sarcastic self, but something about his warning at the end just left me cold. I can't put my finger on just what it is.

    At that statement, Bill's concentration faltered, and his guard dropped. That was when he heard a bang, followed by a short screech. Both he and Steven looked straight up, just in time for Skarmory to plummet and crash into the bank neatly between them. Together, they stared in stunned silence at the block of ice containing the metal crane. A crackling rose in the air nearby, and cautiously, Steven and Bill turned their heads just in time to see the surface of the entire river freeze in a sheet of thick ice.
    OH BOY HERE WE GO I WONDER WHAT THIS COULD MEAN?

    By that point, Veronica had her handgun out and Growlithe by her side. The dog emitted a quiet, constant growl, which did nothing to relieve his owner's nerves. Flanking her were Lanette and Vito. Lanette had her crowbar in her hands and Altaria on her left, and Vito stood unarmed next to Alakazam, who crouched in wait. Behind the three of them knelt Thom, who rested a hand on Manectric. The air between them was tense and heavy, and not one of them felt willing to break the silence.

    Suddenly, the bushes in front of them rustled. Each of the four humans and their pokémon shifted in their own way. Thom straightened in his seat and squinted as Manectric crouched. Veronica held her gun level and rested a finger on the trigger while Growlithe pulled his lips back in a snarl. Vito clenched his hands at his sides, and Alakazam tightened his grip on his spoons. Altaria ruffled her cloudlike wings, and Lanette shifted her crowbar, holding it like a baseball bat. All of their eyes fixed on the bushes, waiting for anything to appear from them.

    And then, just as suddenly, a kecleon sprang from the bushes. Inadvertently, Veronica squeezed the trigger of her gun, causing it to fire with a bang. Luckily, Kecleon was quick enough to dart out of the way as it bounded straight at Lanette, up her leg, and onto her shoulder.

    "What the hell?!" Veronica shouted. "Fucking wild pokémon! I swear I nearly had a heart attack!"
    So when do we get a spinoff chapter about Kecleon trolling? /runs

    "Calm down, officer," Lanette said as she lowered her crowbar and used one of her hands to pet the lizard.

    Kecleon leaned into her touch and trilled happily. In the process, it opened its mouth, its tongue unfurling until it released the PDA. The device dropped at her feet, and Vito moved to pick it up.

    "What's this?" he asked as he examined it.

    Before he could get an answer, the bushes rustled for a second time. Veronica raised her gun and aimed, but in this instance, she didn't have enough time to rest her finger on the trigger. At that moment, a young blonde stumbled out of the brush and into the campgrounds. As soon as she was clear of the brush, Domino lifted her purple eyes to catch sight of the Jenny with a gun pointed right at her, and all at once, she froze and threw her hands in the air.

    "Don't shoot!" she cried. "I'm not infected!"
    That's a rather feeble defense considering they could shoot her just for being in Team Rocket instead.

    Veronica exhaled and threw her hands in the air. "Not even going to bother. Clearly, we're not actually going to get attacked tonight."
    This line's a little vague. Could you clear it up a little? Who is not going to attack them and why is Veronica saying this?

    "Calm down," Lanette repeated. Then, she turned to Domino. "I remember you. You were the one I had to chase down outside of Mauville City."

    Domino chuckled and took a step back. "Oh! Right! Small world, isn't it? You're not going to do anything to harmless little me, right? I'm just here because that little cutie pie on your shoulder took something of mine."

    "I wouldn't call you harmless, but no, I'm not going to do anything," Lanette responded coolly. "We have more important things to worry about right now."

    "Oh good!" Domino started forward. "In that case, I'll just take back my PDA and be on my—"

    Lanette swung her arm out to point the sharp end of her crowbar directly at Domino's chest. The Rocket officer stopped immediately, her violet eyes staring at the weapon.

    "If you know what's good for you, you'll stay right here with us," Lanette told her.
    Yeah, I hope Domino didn't seriously think she was going to get away.

    Domino pointed at the crowbar. "I don't know about you, but people don't usually like it when you threaten them."
    Oh, you have no ground, Domino.

    "Listen to me," Lanette snapped. "There are ixodida out there. A lot of them. I don't know how you managed to reach us without being killed, but regardless, I can't let you go back out there. It would be suicide, and frankly, we could use all the help we can get. There was a loud noise not too long ago. Did you hear it? That was them, and they're after blood. We have no reason to believe we're safe tonight. So, I propose a truce. We protect you and forget that you ever tried to steal from us in exchange for you working with us to survive one more night. Do we have a deal?"

    "Wait, wait, wait." Domino dropped her hands. "What are you talking about?"

    "The ixodida."

    "The what?"

    As if to respond to her question, a chatter rose all around them. All of the humans lifted their heads and eyed the treetops surrounding the camp. Manectric and Growlithe sprang forward, jaws snapping with loud barks. Altaria ruffled her feathers and began squawking. Alakazam crouched low, preparing for an attack.

    And all around them, hundreds of glowing eyes appeared in the trees.
    Yep, here we go. And it looks like it's gonna be big.

    The trees were staring at them. Bill tried not to think about it – tried not to turn around and look for fear that one glance would confirm that, in fact, the trees had glowing eyes that were staring at him. It was surprisingly easy, actually, especially considering the fact that a mountain of ice had quickly grown out of the river and the fact that a pale-colored creature landed atop it and crouched at its peak.
    I like that imagery. "The trees were staring at them"... chilling.

    Bill opened his mouth, but without warning, Adam interrupted him.

    Something about her seems familiar. Ask her if she is the advisor to the empress.

    Although he had no idea where Adam was going with this, Bill knew he had nothing to lose if he followed. After all, either way, he knew that he would be fighting this ixodida and potentially the army she had amassed behind him. The question was when. Straightening his back as much as he could, he took a deep breath and spoke.
    I'm more wondering exactly why Adam finds her familiar.

    "Are you the advisor to the empress?"

    Pandora lifted her head. "I am and always will be. My loyalty to Her Majesty is limitless, and it is my pleasure to serve her through my wisdom and abilities."

    Long-winded as ever. I know this creature. Bill, you must tell her to deliver a message to her empress.

    "What?" Bill whispered.

    Just trust me.

    "I really hope this doesn't end badly."

    It will end favorably for us, no matter what happens.
    I. Do. Not. Trust. Adam. At. All. But that should be clear at this point.

    Bill exhaled. A strange feeling of dread crept into him, but knowing how large of an army was behind him and how powerful the ixodida were, he once again realized it wouldn't exactly hurt him to follow Adam's lead. At least Adam seemed to have a good idea of how to navigate the situation.

    "Then I have a message for Her Majesty," he said.

    Holding her tail still, Pandora tilted her head. "Oh? Then send it, rogue. She will be entertained by what you have to say."

    I do not doubt that, Adam responded. Bill, repeat after me. Ready?

    He nodded slowly. "I am."

    To the empress, I give you a warning.

    Lifting his chin, Bill announced, "To the empress, I give you a warning."

    For it is true that my partner was a member of the Gray Rebellion.

    "For it is true that my partner was a member of the Gray Rebellion."

    And against the Violet Throne…

    "And against the Violet Throne…"

    Presided over by the daughter of the dual suns…

    "Presided over by the daughter of the dual suns…"

    Just as we have on our home moon…

    "Just as we have on our home moon…"

    We do indeed declare war.

    "We do indeed declare war." He paused for a beat to think about what he had just said. When it finally sank in, he snapped a glance to the side. "Wait, what?!"

    Steven swiveled his head towards his companion. "Bill, what are you doing?!"

    "I don't know!" Bill hissed in response.
    OH NICE.

    Good going Bill, you probably just doomed most of humanity to a horrific end.

    Steven shook his head and drew four poké balls – two for each hand – out of his pockets. "Neither am I."
    Okay that image really captures Steven's level of badass well, I think.

    Well, I won't say that this was a bad chapter, because it certainly wasn't. I just think that there are parts that were a bit weaker than they could have been. Steven's training of Bill was a good example of this, as because the structure of each move's training was roughly the same, the scenes began to become repetitive. The content of the chapter is good, but I think it could benefit from some restructuring, maybe condensing some of the training and adding some more scenes with Domino to flesh out the sideplot of the chapter.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 9th August 2012 at 11:03 AM.

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  22. #297
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddy View Post
    Really Jax? Really? You made an Eye of the Tiger reference for the chapter title? :|
    ABSOLUTELY.

    *snort * Steven's tone. Steven Stone.
    I totally didn't think of that, but I'm going to pretend I did.

    My first thought, no word of a lie, was the episode of MLP with Gilda in it. At the end, after she rages at everyone, Dash admits that all of the pranks were planned by her and Gilda says “You're joshin' me!”

    It's probably the only line of hers I can't find on youtube at the moment, so you'll have to do with text description.
    Haha, I remember that line! Unfortunately, I didn't remember it at the time of writing this chapter. XD; Instead, this is a reference to the games. Because you can never have too many to see how many people pay attention to NPCs.

    Oh snap. Is Steven goading Bill into battle by showing an interest in Lanette? Clever guy xD
    Inorite? The UST all over this fic is off the charts.

    Oh hey, we've not seen Veronica in a while. Good to see she's still being awesome.
    Of course she is. ;D While drunk, no less. (Why did the Caravan take alcohol with them? Because Veronica has a gun. That's why.)

    Whoo! I got chills, man.

    And I now just realised that that could be misinterpreted as a crappy pun! I totally didn't mean that!
    *brofists for the epic pun*

    Anyway, I liked the tension in this chapter. The way that the training session was played against the oncoming Ixodida armada and Steven's tactics in training Bill, it was all rather fun to read. Of course, Pandora's appearance was enough to appease me for the entire chapter, but the rest of it stood up on its own merits regardless of whether Pandora was in it or not... (still need to draw her)
    Thank you all over! \o/ I have to admit I was a little worried about the tension because I actually wrote this chapter in the span of a handful of days (because lol real life otherwise), but it's good to know it works!

    Also, I would love to see what your interpretation of her is. Just saying.

    I was also kinda surprised to see Domino reappear, I'd kinda forgotten what had happened to her last time she was around. I'm a sucker for “baddies helping goodies conditionally” situations though, so again, I liked it =D
    And now the Christmas special makes sense. ;D

    But yes, I totally didn't forget Domino is in this fic until I randomly decided that the whole "have her meet up with the Caravan" stuff should happen now. What are you talking about?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Somehow it's not surprising that Bill would try to sacrifice himself for the safety of the Caravan, nor is it surprising that Steven would stop him.
    Because this defines about 50% of the interactions Bill has with the other characters, amirite?

    Is it just me, or is Bill growing a bit more of a spine lately? He seems a lot more assertive in this scene than he generally was before.
    Definitely not you. After countless beatings, Bill is finally starting to realize he should probably grow a set if he wants to not be beaten anymore. ;D

    Either way, though, whatever is conspiring with the Ixodida gathering as a group is very ominous, and it's certainly something I don't trust.
    Aaaas you shouldn't (trust, I mean).

    Probably, anyway.

    This scene really is a perfect example of how much Bill's life sucks right now. Think about it - if he's useful, his failure could mean the extinction of humanity, but if he's strong enough to be considered a threat, he's really little more than a living weapon. Either way, you realize just how miserable his situation is.
    Pretty much. *nods* And he is most definitely not okay with that.

    Bill really should have figured this out immediately, that Steven had ways to keep him from leaving.
    Inorite? Of course, Bill and common sense aren't exactly the best of friends.

    Even knowing that Steven is going to stop him from doing this, I have to say that Bill really showed some quick thinking by trying this trick, even if it was so obvious that I figured it out when he first started trying it. Was worth a good laugh too, and humor always helps in serious stories here and there.
    Thank you! Once again, I had fun writing Bill as a creative but WTF-worthy kind of character. As in, I love it when he's creative, but it's so much fun to have him come up with plans that make even me go, "Really, Bill? Common sense and you hate each other, don't you?"

    Bill should probably be glad right about now that he's a Steel-type. I doubt anyone or anything without that kind of natural protection would have survived such a vicious pair of blows like that.
    Pretty much. Bill just survived the equivalent of getting hit with a semi, I'd say. I mean, Metagross weigh literally a ton, so.

    This actually makes sense. I have to say, Steven's logic is well thought-out.
    Thanks! I'll have to say that in my headcanon, the good trainers recognize this and train their Pokémon accordingly. Of course, not everyone's a good trainer, and you'll have quite a few of them fail at training a team that can cut through the gym leader circuit and wonder why. (Not everyone's a protagonist, after all, right?) Or you have people like Ash, who don't know about this concept but are somehow freakishly good anyway. (Ash, in my headcanon, is actually a battling prodigy – or at least has the potential to be extremely good without much effort. Problem is that the universe hates him too. Because it hates all its prodigies to balance out the fact that they're prodigies. And yes, that word is in the plural. 'Course, Ash also tends to flip the universe the bird without even knowing it. *motions to the movies*)

    BUT ASH ISN'T IN THIS FIC, SO WHO CARES ABOUT HIM?

    (Well, you will in the next book, but that's beside the point.)

    Question, does the whole four-move limit thing apply here?
    Nope! I know it probably should for the sake of dampeners and whatnot, but I've gone with anime canon's word on it for years. (As in, Pokémon can learn as many moves as they damn well please.) I can't really figure out a way to explain the four-move limit in a fic and have it make sense anyway, especially considering the fact that it's basically unlearning something that's been ingrained in you. I'd imagine that if a Pokémon doesn't use a move for a long time, it gets a bit rusty to them, but if you use four moves equally often, I can't really find a way to explain why you'd forget one just because a fifth comes along.

    Tl;dr, no, the limit doesn't apply, and yes, Bill's moveset is pretty big. Or sort of, anyway. So far, it's pretty much this:

    - Scratch
    - Slash
    - Iron Tail
    - Metal Claw
    - Protect
    - Iron Defense
    - Magnet Rise
    - Meteor Mash
    - Magnet Bomb
    - Mirror Shot
    - Metal Burst
    - Metal Sound
    - Attract

    Considering the fact that I never mentioned whether these would be level-up moves or something more akin to move tutor/TM/HM moves, I guess that's actually not that big of a list compared to most other Pokémon. And really, from here, Bill's only going to learn a few other moves, most of which are still steel-typed. (To preempt guesses, no, he can't learn Iron Head. Although that would be hilarious. And by "hilarious," I mean "something that would give him a concussion.")

    Or in short, Bill's movepool… actually sort of sucks if you think about it. Whoops.

    Um... I get why Steven is doing this, but it still feels almost unnecessarily cruel that Bill has to suffer this in order to get stronger. Granted, I know it sounds silly that this is cruel after everything that's happened to him, but the fact that all the other horrors have happened is actually precisely why this is so cruel - it would be nice for him to be able to hold on to one shred of hope in something, so Steven messing with him by crushing that hope is why this whole thing feels cruel.
    Oh, don't worry about him. Bill's weirdly stubborn most of the time, and he's not really one to lose hope. Losing dignity is a completely different story, though, and he's very familiar with that one. (Even before he was infected, no less. Let's just say the rumors flying around Cerulean are less than savory, and he's quite annoyed that he can't stop a lot of the juicier ones. Becoming a Pokémon probably won't help him in that regard.)

    Somehow I get the feeling Lanette doesn't sleep all that often and definitely not all that well.
    Nope. Poor girl.

    Oh ****, I think Lanette picked just the wrong words to dispel any idea that she has interest in Steven.
    XD Yeeeeah, Lanette is most definitely not the master of subtlety.

    I'm amused by Veronica here, though it feels a bit like she's going from teasing Lanette to talking seriously about their mission rather quickly. I'm not sure how natural the segue between the two feels.
    Y'know, you have a good point, and I'm not entirely satisfied with that line myself. I meant to have it be like Veronica was attempting to find something to make the situation feel a little bit lighter because she knows she's in Hell, so she's rambling on about fifty different tangents just because besides Ellen, Lanette is the only one who will talk to her who she doesn't want to punch in the face. I might rework that part, though, to bring that feeling out a bit more, especially given the fact that we don't really get too many glimpses of how hellish this world is for the humans.

    Wait, I'm a little confused. What, precisely, is this referring to?
    Steven.

    She thinks Lanette and Steven are A Thing, mostly thanks to the conversation up until that point. She doesn't think that Bill and Lanette are one, probably because she still has trouble thinking of Bill as anything other than an object.

    Okay, I want to stop here for a minute. Not to be preachy, but I have to give you a lot of credit for handling the subject matter of a relationship between two women correctly. It's relevant, but it's not fetishized into some huge big deal with no context or sense. It's just a part of the bigger whole here, and for that, you deserve to be credited.
    Thank you! \o/ And inorite to the subject in general. If your fic is about the complications of a same-sex relationship, by all means, go ahead and talk about the fact that you have queer characters. But to make a big deal about it where it's not necessary is exactly the same as making a big deal about a heterosexual relationship. Or in other words, gay relationships in real life are about more than the gay part, so there's no need to make fics with gay couples in it be all about the fact that they're gay. Unless you're trying to make a point (in which case, carry on).

    /preaching

    That gave me a chuckle.

    Of course, when AEM gives me a chuckle, people are usually about to die.
    Yep. *sips coffee*

    I like that one touch about the strike sounding like a bell.
    Thank you! I really need to bring that into the fic more often. I have a character made out of metal, and we don't get any good sound imagery happening all that often. For shame, Jax. For shame.

    It also helps the writer and reader, I'd say. I'm serious - ever tried writing a battle where orders aren't being given? It's trickier than one would think.
    It is, but it takes a lot of practice to do. I used to do a lot of ASB reffing (not here but instead on a completely different system where we were required to describe in intricate detail moves for exactly this reason), so I'm actually pretty used to relying as much as possible on move details to get across what's going on. Granted, I usually try to sneak in the name of the move somewhere along the line, but for the most part, yeah.

    You might see examples in the next chapter, considering there will probably be so much going on Bill won't be able to observe and name the attacks for us (the way he did with his and Tate's "battle" against Kecleon).

    You know, I actually didn't even realize that that was why he was announcing the names of his attacks. Is it because he still sees it as a trainer commanding moves?
    Consciously, no. (Unconsciously, he'll still obey the orders of whoever holds his Master Ball – no innuendo intended, I swear to God – but that's not something he thinks about when he calls out attacks himself.) He actually explained it in full to Steven: it helps him concentrate.

    Think of it like this. You know how people who meditate are supposed to say "om" every few seconds? And you know how people who practice martial arts yell when they use certain techniques? The reason is pretty much the same: doing so hones your concentration (just in different ways). In the case of meditation, saying "om" causes your body to vibrate, so you end up focusing on that instead of on a thousand different thoughts at once. You can also replace the word "om" with whatever you want so long as you repeat it out loud. And okay, there's spiritual reasons behind it too, but that explanation just assumes you're not Hindu.

    Meanwhile, the same could be said for martial arts. You're supposed to yell when you're trying to build up power. For example, if there's a particularly forceful kick or punch in a technique or set, you yell to push your body into putting more energy into that strike. Likewise, if you're going to do the stereotypical breaking boards, yelling as you do it helps you build up the power to succeed. It's pretty much all about focusing on your yell and hyping yourself up for the attack.

    The reason why Bill calls out his attacks is a combination of both. He'll only do it with moves that he's unfamiliar with (any of his new ones) or that are actually pretty draining and difficult to pull off for him (Magnet Rise). Yelling out the name allows him to clear his mind and focus on his task (the way someone meditating would) while at the same time hyping himself up and pushing himself to put as much energy into the move as possible (the way someone performing martial arts would). But as Steven said, it's a bad habit that he needs to break because… yeah.

    There are a lot of things Bill will come to understand, I'm sure...
    Yep. So many things. *nods suspiciously*

    Oh boy, here's a face I've not thought of in a long time. In fact, Team Rocket as a whole hasn't been terribly prominent lately, so it should be interesting to see them come out again, if that's what's going on here.
    Oh, absolutely. And the part where Bill meets up with her again will be a lot of fun to write.

    Oh God, this thing again. I love Kecleon, let me say it without remorse right now. Not just this Kecleon, but the entire species. Isn't it so underrated?
    It is~! Honestly, I love this fic for making me adore so many underloved Pokémon I didn't even think about until I was like, "Why the hell not?" And now I sort of miss writing about them, but you'll see the likes of Spinda, Chansey, and so forth soon.

    Hahaha, oh, wow. I see Steven having better things to do than play with his Devon Scope hasn't changed the Kecleon of Hoenn at all.
    Nope!

    'Course, this is also a lax-natured Kecleon, so…

    Come on, Bill, humanity isn't going to save itself.
    *nod* And no matter how much you try, Bill, you won't be getting out of it yourself.

    I'll tell you what, Bill - Steven doesn't mess around when it comes to training. You should probably try to learn that very quickly.
    Haha EXACTLY.

    I don't want to sound critical here, but I don't believe Metal Burst actually looks at type despite being Steel-type. It returns 1.5 times the damage the user received.
    Admittedly that's true, although Steven was talking about the numbers of times Bill attempted to use Meteor Mash on Metagross too. I should clarify that, though.

    I'm not sure if this has been brought up before, but it's a neat little detail nevertheless.
    It wasn't, and thanks! I'm really liking building John's backstory, especially because it's meant to be full of "sweet holy mother, a lecherous drunk is everyone's kung-fu master?"

    Well then, Bill's in trouble. I know Skarmory tends to frustrate me more than Metagross when I'm battling, that's for sure.
    Agreed wholeheartedly. X_x

    Now this is why I like her so much already. This is someone who commands attention and respect. You know you're dealing with a real badass when she's around.
    Just wait 'til you see her battling. ;D You know that scene in The Avengers where Nick Fury calmly walks out and bazookas the crap out of a jet? That's Nikki Stark when she's battling.

    Still have yet to figure out what her Pokémon are, though. I'm tempted to say she's at least got a Braviary, but that's sort of obvious.

    Although hosnap, I should give her a team based on the Avengers themselves. Braviary for Captain America, Ariados for Black Widow, Tyranitar for Hulk, and so forth. There is literally no way this could go wrong.

    Oh, I know why the river is named that. Do I ever know why the river is named that.

    Clever, Jax.
    ;D

    Could you just remind me who is in the Caravan right now? It would be helpful to have it all in one place.
    Sure!

    1. Lanette
    2. Vito
    3. Steven
    4. Wallace
    5. Ellen
    6. Thom
    7. Veronica
    8. Hope
    9. Bill, keeping in mind that from a distance, thanks to the fact that he wears human clothing, he can be mistaken for a human at first glance. Alternatively…
    9b. Tate, who has the ability to surround himself with a psychic field that convinces anyone who sees him within a given radius that he's completely human – or in Hope's case, a mass of pink light.

    In this case, the agent is most likely going with a current headcount, which would exclude Bill because he's away; when he's present, then reports are also coming from agents who are too far from Tate for the aforementioned psychic field to affect them.

    I wonder how strong Bill's Steel-type armor is if he's being affected so much by a Swift attack. Unless, is Skarmory hitting a weak spot?
    Keep in mind too that he's sustaining a lot of damage from multiple attacks on and off-screen. It started with getting hit with the force of a semi, but he's also taken multiple Shadow Balls, multiple Swifts, getting smacked around with Metagross's arms in ways that aren't moves, and damage from his own moves exploding on him. It's just really adding up by this point, especially if we also factor in the fact that Bill is exerting a lot of energy to use new moves.

    So to answer your question… probably pretty strong, but the training session from hell isn't helping him in the slightest.

    Yeah, I'm beginning to think that Steven might be getting just a little arrogant about this. He may be a Champion and he may have five Pokemon left, but we've seen just what these monsters are capable of. I hope he's fully aware of what they're actually up against, for his sake.
    Oh, he does. He just wants to piss Bill off enough to coax him into attacking. ;D

    That's the thing that Bill later figures out, although I probably didn't get it across enough. He realizes that the way Steven is acting right now isn't actually his true personality. All of it is just a ruse to push Bill's buttons and get him to learn moves faster, but in reality, Steven probably isn't as arrogant or stuck-up as he sounds.

    Of course, knowing this still doesn't stop Bill from thinking Steven's a dick.

    One thing that strikes me right away is a wonder about the situation with Steven's father, because he has a famous father too and for all we know, he could be acting completely hypocritically. Remember, Steven's the one who was out digging in caves instead of working in his father's business.
    And being the champion, of course. *nods*

    But seriously, that's a legit interesting way to think of it. Honestly, I think that if Steven wasn't acting, he would've thought the father comment was uncomfortable too for that reason (that he shouldn't be one to talk), but it is safe to say that Steven's relationship with his father is probably somewhat better than Bill's with his. At least, anyway, Steven doesn't simply write his father off as a headache (canonically, even).

    On the other hand, Bill flipping out was badass, as it usually is.
    Thank you! It's always fun to write about when he flips.

    I'm not really sure how I feel about this. At first Adam is his usual sarcastic self, but something about his warning at the end just left me cold. I can't put my finger on just what it is.
    I take it my job (making people feel uncomfortable without knowing why) is done. o>

    So when do we get a spinoff chapter about Kecleon trolling? /runs
    Christmas. ;D

    …Seriously, even.

    That's a rather feeble defense considering they could shoot her just for being in Team Rocket instead.
    Inorite?

    This line's a little vague. Could you clear it up a little? Who is not going to attack them and why is Veronica saying this?
    To the first part of that question: the Ixodida. The second, meanwhile, is just that after both a Kecleon and a random girl jumped out of the bushes, she's just going to assume there's no reason to shoot because things that she's supposed to be shooting are just not popping out of those damn bushes. *fistshake*

    But seriously, Kecleon and Domino nearly gave her two separate heart attacks, so now she's frustrated.

    Oh, you have no ground, Domino.
    Oh, those people deserved to be electrocuted via tulip. *nods*

    I like that imagery. "The trees were staring at them"... chilling.
    Thank you!

    I'm more wondering exactly why Adam finds her familiar.
    You'll find out soon enough. ;D

    I. Do. Not. Trust. Adam. At. All. But that should be clear at this point.
    As you probably shouldn't. But probably not for the reasons you'd think.

    OH NICE.

    Good going Bill, you probably just doomed most of humanity to a horrific end.
    Bwahahahahaaaa more than you know. *finger-tents*

    Okay that image really captures Steven's level of badass well, I think.
    Going into it with guns akimbo. 8D

    Well, I won't say that this was a bad chapter, because it certainly wasn't. I just think that there are parts that were a bit weaker than they could have been. Steven's training of Bill was a good example of this, as because the structure of each move's training was roughly the same, the scenes began to become repetitive.
    Looking over the chapter, I can see what you mean. Steven uses a lot of the same tactics over and over again, so it's a wonder that Bill keeps falling for them. On the other hand, I'm not quite sure how to rewrite this yet, considering the last part (about his father) just introduced a minor plot point, and I really like the part where he nearly gets killed (which is a phrase I actually never thought I'd write). The first part probably could be the one that could be rewritten for variation's sake, but that may cost one of the jokes of the chapter. Which actually might not be that much of a loss.

    Meantimes…

    The content of the chapter is good, but I think it could benefit from some restructuring, maybe condensing some of the training and adding some more scenes with Domino to flesh out the sideplot of the chapter.
    I have to admit I wasn't planning on much with Domino this chapter, since a lot of it is gearing up for multiple battles against Pandora and her Grass-type army. (Hence why a lot of it was about Bill's training – not only because characters have been swearing to train him for chapters but also because he's going to be using all of those moves in the upcoming battle. The mindgames he endured in the process will come up again later for the most part, except that first bit I mentioned with the info Steven used to get Bill to learn Meteor Mash.) I really just wanted Domino to meet up with the Caravan in order to pull her back into the story and link her more to them more so than Bill for reasons I swear I'll explain once Bill realizes that, oh hey, someone who keeps trying to catch me is right now in the group I'm traveling with. Hence probably the deus ex kecleon in the middle of the chapter. We'll get more Domino-centered scenes later on in the story as we build up her reasons for siding with the Caravan (because the specials are totally not spoiler-riffic), but yeah. She was actually meant to be on equal footing as Stark or Lanette's UST in terms of plot. Sorry about that.

    But I'll think about it a bit more and see if I can add a few bits to her scenes if that'll help at all. Especially where she "introduces" herself to the Caravan.

    In any case, thanks for the review!

    Aaaaand also, we're only a few more posts to reply #300. That surprise is just around the corner, guys!

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

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  23. #298
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    I enjoyed the training scenes between Steven and Bill there. My favorite has to be Bill beating Metagross with Metal Burst, lol. I admit to being like "oh no" when Steven kept verbally abusing Bill, but yeah pretty much he's only doing that as he's practically an Olympics coach. XD Good that Bill is able to get through three moves, here's hoping he'll be able to put them to good use in this battle.

    Yay for Domino this chapter! Yes Domino, you made a wise choice in accepting Lanette's deal. :P

    Looking forward to the battle! I'm still it'll be great.


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  24. #299
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    Posting this real quick so that Jax can have the 300th post :-D COMMAND THE SPARTANS, JAX.

    But for now:

    AKDEFHE JAX! When you said you looked forward to Steven's boot camp and how it was going to be better than an 80's montage, you weren't kidding.

    Also:
    "Calm down, officer," Lanette said as she lowered her crowbar and used one of her hands to pet the lizard.
    NO LANETTE. STAY AWAY FROM IT, YOU'LL CATCH IT'S EVIL LIZARDNESS.
    Last edited by AbsolXWolf; 13th August 2012 at 1:32 AM.
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  25. #300
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bay View Post
    I enjoyed the training scenes between Steven and Bill there.
    It gets even better if you get drunk and play "Eye of the Tiger" while reading it.

    True story.

    I admit to being like "oh no" when Steven kept verbally abusing Bill, but yeah pretty much he's only doing that as he's practically an Olympics coach. XD
    Pretty much! And this is why rookie trainers should never, ever train with the flipping regional champion. Unless they're masochists. Like Cheren.

    Good that Bill is able to get through three moves, here's hoping he'll be able to put them to good use in this battle.
    Oh absolutely. ;D

    Yay for Domino this chapter! Yes Domino, you made a wise choice in accepting Lanette's deal. :P
    Inorite? Especially given the fact that one of her allies has a gun, another has a Pokémon that can kill her with his brain, a third has a Pokémon that can electrocute her, and she herself can bludgeon the remains to extra-death.

    Looking forward to the battle! I'm still it'll be great.
    Awesome! \o/ Working on it as quickly as I can, although I unfortunately doubt I'll have it done before I head off for a week.

    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolXWolf View Post
    Posting this real quick so that Jax can have the 300th post :-D COMMAND THE SPARTANS, JAX.
    RAAAAAAAAR.

    AKDEFHE JAX! When you said you looked forward to Steven's boot camp and how it was going to be better than an 80's montage, you weren't kidding.
    ;D

    Just imagine Bill running up some library steps now, and you're good to go.

    NO LANETTE. STAY AWAY FROM IT, YOU'LL CATCH IT'S EVIL LIZARDNESS.
    RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

    Also! Yes, folks!

    THIS THREAD IS NOW 300 POSTS LONG.

    Technically, it's not 300 replies, but I'll award the person who snags that milestone with something awesome too. In the meeeantime, expect the surprise to be coming along either tonight or tomorrow~! Watch this thread for deets!

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

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