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  1. #1
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    Default Anima Ex Machina: REBOOT

    Last Update: September 23

    Warnings: This fanfiction may contain violence, character death, and psychological shenanigans. It most definitely contains body horror. If you're squicked by physical fun, please make friends with the back button.

    Author's Note:
    Well, ladies and gents, after about a year's absence on the first version (okay, technically second version) of the fic, I've come back with ... a completely shiny and new version. While the old one is still around (and may be updated over yonder), this fic is supposed to be a get-back-to-the-point effort, where I go back and actually write the fic I intended on writing from the get-go. There will be new interpretations of characters and new events, but the basic plot and good ol' Bill will still probably be the same. Still, I hope you enjoy this ride as much as you might have enjoyed the last one. Moreover, this entire fic is being rewritten and cleaned up for digital download. As in, there will eventually be a downloadable ebook that will update concurrently with this fic. Because I'm crazy.

    Please note that this story is meant to read like a campy sci-fi movie and, in fact, takes more than a few cues from my questionable tastes in all sorts of media. So if you can sort of see a reference here or there, that's most likely intentional. Also, please say something so we can squee over terrible movies.

    Without further ado, let's begin!


    Chapter List
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    Zero

    June 30, 1908. In the dim hours of that morning, a meteorite exploded over Siberian Russia. Modern scientists estimate that the energy had been equal to that of a thermonuclear bomb. Witnesses described it as a flash of blue light almost as brilliant as the sun. The shockwaves alone were enough to flatten over seven hundred square miles of forest. And the object itself? The size of two school buses end to end. Scientists called this the Tunguska event.

    In order to picture what a meteor the size of one school bus could do, the logical action would be to divide everything by half. Take three hundred square miles of forest out of the Tunguska event. Dim the brilliant, blue light of the meteorite until it becomes a star half as bright as the sun. Imagine that the resulting air burst releases the energy equivalent to five hundred nuclear bombs instead of one thousand.

    On September 27, 2000, almost one hundred years after the Tunguska event, that was exactly how scientists described the bus-sized meteor heading directly towards Earth.

    The meteor in question was dubbed 2000 SE, and it came without warning. That in itself would have been unusual. There was astronomical equipment all over the world, and not one of them spotted an object of that size until it was almost as close as the moon. But that wasn’t what grabbed the media’s attention. What did was the fact that it was heading directly towards Earth, and with its speed, researchers estimated that it would reach the planet in four days. More specifically, it was heading to a point just outside of Fortree City.

    Hoenn’s regional government had never staged a full-scale evacuation of an entire city. Despite monsoons and the activity of two weather-altering legendaries, the region was never threatened significantly enough to warrant an evacuation of that magnitude. But it had to be done. Certainly, Fortree had survived far more earthquakes, storms, and general natural disasters than it should have, what with it being a city built entirely in the treetops, but the Japanese parliament wasn’t going to assume that it would survive a meteor strike that close to its borders. So over the course of three days—the three days before 2000 SE would pass through the Earth’s atmosphere—the entire city of Fortree took what it could and left.

    On the fourth night, it turned out that the government was correct in their decision. Fortree was doomed.

    It rained fire the night 2000 SE exploded, and the blasts emanating from its shattering masked the cracking of the forest that held the city aloft. Had anyone been in the city, they would never hear the screaming of the wood supports splintering. They would never hear the boom of their homes falling. They would never hear the crashing of glass or the screeching of bending metal. Not while the air resonated with the blast of the meteorite, anyway. Only when the resonance of the explosion died down, and only when the skies fell silent, did the last shrieks of the falling city echo through the night air.

    And then, there was silence.

    Outside of the city, beyond the red-hot craters that the meteorites carved out for themselves, there were two listeners. The first was an absol who stood guard at the Ancient Tomb with his red eyes to the sky. His pack had already been gone for days. Many of them had been part of the pokémon exodus that started almost a week ago, long before the humans knew 2000 SE existed. Others stayed and tried to warn the humans, and this party departed after Fortree was finally evacuated. All that was left was the single absol, who had, up until the explosion, kept his red eyes to the sky and his teeth bared in a constant, low growl.

    It was because he knew something else was going to happen. He could feel the cold, familiar weight of his premonitions in his bones, but for the life of him, he couldn’t see what he was meant to warn the humans about. And then, when the star exploded and sent a shockwave of trembling earth and hot wind across the route, the absol braced himself against the tomb’s rocky walls and gritted his teeth. The feeling in his bones grew heavier with each passing second until it reached a peak the moment the hot winds died down. His paws scrambled over the loose earth, and he raced down the hillside towards the craters. In his mind, his visions began to resolve, and all he could see was red.

    The ground grew hotter as he drew closer to one of the impact craters, but he couldn’t stop. His entire body was focused completely on that cold, heavy feeling deep inside him—the feeling of his supernatural senses vibrating with his last vision. Any moment now, he would know. He would know exactly what message he needed to deliver.

    Suddenly, the ground almost ended beneath him, giving way to the red edge of a crater. He stopped, staring deep into the pit at the rock that sat at its heart. His muzzle snapped in frantic barks, and he paced along the rim. All the while, he steadied his eyes on the glowing, red surface of the meteorite. Every pit in its face, every imperfection in the stone made the feeling deep inside the absol grow until it filled his entire being. Something wasn’t right. Something was about to happen. Something terrible was about to be born.

    Then, he saw what he came to see. His paws froze, and his mouth shut.

    A crack laced up the side of the meteor. At first, it was only an inch wide by a foot long, but then, it grew until it resembled a gaping smile turned sideways. The longer the absol stared at it, the more he realized that the glow was not coming from the surface of the rock but rather from within it, pulsing with every passing second like a heartbeat. This, the absol knew, was exactly what he was supposed to foresee. His lips puckered, and in that pause, he emitted a short, high-pitched whine.

    That was when the meteorite cracked completely open and released the sea of red light. It rushed up the side of the crater before the absol could discern what it was, and within seconds, it washed over him.

    Miles away, the absol’s pained howling echoed through the air, and the second listener raised her head.

    Her name was Phoebe, and she had just completed two weeks of training atop Mt. Pyre. Now, she was descending the mountain for supplies. She had no idea that the absol’s howl was a warning.

    That night, a war erupted because of her.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 23rd September 2014 at 6:27 AM.

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

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    One

    D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 5
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: TRANSCRIPT
    DESCRIPTION: TRANSCRIPTION OF RADIO MESSAGE INTERCEPTED BY D.E.V.A. TEAM DELTA. LAST KNOWN TRANSMISSION SENT BY PROFESSOR MARSHALL BIRCH FROM RESEARCH POINT ZERO, COORDINATES 31°59′40″N 130°57′6″E.
    DATE-TIME: 16/12/00, 04:37

    BIRCH
    Hello? Hello? Can anyone hear me? I repeat! Can anyone hear me? If you can hear this, this is Professor Marshall Birch of the Hoenn Pokémon Symposium. I’m here with nine other people and sixteen pokémon. We need help! Do you copy?

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS A POOCHYENA USING ROAR OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]

    BIRCH
    Please! Please, we’re at the ruins of Fortree City. Coordinates are—

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS HUMAN SCREAMS OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]

    BIRCH
    Oh gods, they’re getting closer. I don’t have much time! Those things, the pokémon that appeared in this area two months ago. They’re—

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS GUNSHOTS OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]

    BIRCH
    Oh gods. Oh gods, they’re here! Can anyone hear me? Is anyone out there?

    [UNIDENTIFIED NOISE. BIRCH SCREAMS BUT IS ABRUPTLY CUT OFF BY STATIC. TRANSMISSION ENDS.]



    Polaris Institute. At one time, it was at the forefront of pokémon medical technology, a beacon of light for the future. For the past forty years, it had been responsible for everything from the full restore to the healing system used by every Nurse Joy from Kanto to Kalos. Young graduates of the top universities in Kanto and Johto dreamed of one day entering the fortress-like complex and joining the ranks of the most elite medical researchers across the world.

    And then, the Fortree Meteor fell from the sky.

    Two months after the meteor strike, reports of strange creatures emerged from the heart of Hoenn. Seas of red lights. Humanoid beings with powerful abilities. Some stories said that almost all of Fortree’s survivors were devoured by the creatures. Others said strange things happened to them, that they became zombies or alien monsters. The government, with assistance from the Pokémon Symposium, the foremost international organization of pokémon researchers on the planet, sent out a team of officials and scientists led by Professor Birch to uncover the truth to these reports, but after several days, Japanese intelligence and the Symposium simply lost contact with them. They weren’t the only ones to disappear, either. All along the routes between Mauville and Lilycove, trainers vanished one by one, and communications to the Safari Zone and Mt. Mortar ceased.

    Finally, after half a month of disappearances and rumors, Hoenn descended into a full-blown panic. The government began evacuations as the military attempted to enter the mysterious black hole at the center of the region that they began to call Point Zero. Yet again, everyone who entered the dead area around Fortree came back gibbering stories about red seas and humanoid creatures—if they came back at all.

    Meanwhile, the people of Hoenn couldn’t leave quicker. Over the course of those next few weeks, dozens of ferries packed with refugees cut through the Hoennian seas to the outlying islands and mainland Japan. But it only took one incident to end the rush. The S.S. Lucia, a small ferry traveling between Rustboro and Dewford, came to a standstill between mainland Hoenn and Dewford Island one bright, sunny morning. Over the course of three days, the passengers and crew were consumed with panic, and messages from the ship’s radio streamed to the naval ships surrounding the Lucia. All of the reports contained details of red seas and humanoid creatures.

    And then, on the third day, the ship sank, and the military retrieved the trainer’s backpack that started it all. Inside, they found the parasite the Symposium eventually called the ixodida. That was when the quarantine on Hoenn fell. No one could move into or out of the region without proper clearance, which meant that hundreds of civilians were trapped within the regional borders.

    Ten months after that, Polaris Institute was still a research institute, but it wasn’t just dedicated to researching full restores or medical equipment. It, alongside other institutions in each neighboring region, had been commandeered by the Japanese government for Project Stardust, a top-secret government operation dedicated to the research of the ixodida parasite. At the helm of Polaris, the government had placed one of the finest researchers they could persuade.

    Presently—twelve months after the meteor fell and ten after the beginning of Project Stardust—this scientist sat in his office with his hands around his coffee cup. It had been a long ten months for him, and had his hair not already been completely snow-white, it surely would have been then from the stress. As it stood, he could feel the creases in his face deepen with each passing day, and his bones felt heavier and weaker. He thought he could do it; he thought he could handle the weight of what the government asked of him. But it had been twelve months since the meteor fell and ten since the parasite was brought into Polaris’s fortress-like complex, and all he had to show for it was that he had no idea what happened to the majority of Hoenn.

    His name was Professor Samuel Oak. And he was tired.

    On the other side of his desk, a woman sat with a file in her thin hands. She flicked her hazel eyes from line to line on the first page, but otherwise, she sat in cold, expressionless silence. After a long while, she finally spoke, breaking the cold hush of the office.

    “Is this an error?”

    Oak resisted his urge to react, either in a sigh or a grin. He knew she was going to ask about that—about one particular piece of information on the first page. The subject of the file was an unusual individual, to say the least, and not all of the Symposium scientists were open-minded.

    “No, Professor Nettle,” he said. “Everything you see there is accurate.”

    She looked up from the folder, peering at Oak over the top rim of her oval glasses. “According to this, he would be … nineteen?”

    He nodded. “Yes. Made quite a commotion in the media when he was inducted into the Symposium.”

    Straightening, she rested the folder on her lap and gave Oak a discerning glare. “Remember, Professor, that I have spent these past few years in the Baffin Region. We don’t get much news that far north. I’d heard of this young man, but I never bothered with trivial details such as his age. Nonetheless, seeing as he would be our new arrival, I have to ask a question in light of this information. Is he qualified?”

    “Of course. I wouldn’t recommend him if I didn’t think he was.”

    Professor Nettle peered down at the data on the first page of the file again. “Forgive me. Normally, I wouldn’t be so rude as to question your judgment, Professor, but I have my doubts about this candidate.” She lifted the file and adjusted her glasses. “His official credentials are quite impressive, I will say that. Degrees from Kanto and Johto’s elite universities. A doctorate in pokémon ethology by the age of fourteen. Employment with the Pokémon Cutting-Edge Technology Research Center and Celadon University. Never mind tutelage and a recommendation letter from you.” She pulled her glasses down the bridge of her nose and peered over the rim at Professor Oak. “However, you of all people know that degrees do not always serve as an adequate indicator for a researcher’s overall ability, and it takes years—perhaps even decades—for one to cultivate the level of experience needed to be a truly great scientist. What could he possibly bring to the team?”

    Although Oak couldn’t argue with her reasoning, he also didn’t flinch from it, either. Instead, he shrugged and responded, “A new perspective.”

    Nettle gave her superior another curious glance. “Professor Oak, forgive me, but how? My team consists of some of the top names in pokémon ethology and comparative psychology. All of my researchers have years of experience handling and understanding pokémon. Many of them were regional professors before your student was even born. What perspective could he possibly lend that seasoned researchers cannot achieve?”

    He grinned. “Don’t be fooled by his age, Professor Nettle. It’s true that having credentials from top-notch institutions isn’t everything in our profession, but that’s exactly why you shouldn’t judge him so quickly. Even if he’s young, he’s capable of coming up with solutions to problems no one else would even dream of trying.”

    “Even with as little information as we have to go on?”

    “He’s worked with less. Take his theories on amaura herding behaviors.”

    “Oh yes,” she said in an almost deadpan manner. “I’ve read that paper.”

    Oak raised his eyebrows. “You have?”

    “Of course.” Nettle frowned slightly. “You forget that ice-types are my specialty. As an expert in the matter, I found his paper to be questionable speculation. At best.”

    “Ah, but he was right, wasn’t he? You’ve heard about the amaura footprints discovered in Utah, haven’t you?”

    Nettle exhaled sharply through her nose and turned her head away. “Lucky speculation. The point is, Professor, that it has been ten months since we gathered here, and in those ten months, the topmost scientists in the region have made very little progress in understanding what the ixodida are, what they want, or what happened to Hoenn. In response, you’ve brought into this facility a nineteen-year-old who has, by comparison with anyone else at this facility, only recently become a researcher, and you’re telling me that I should rely on his speculations, many of which are the products of pure imagination?”

    Oak’s smile faded slightly. “He’s observant, Professor Nettle. He has a knack for spotting things no one else would notice, and he’s here to spot whatever it is the rest of us, myself included, failed to pick up on.”

    “And you believe he can actually do it?”

    He shrugged. “Of course. I have a feeling we’re close to a breakthrough as it is. We just need someone to push us the rest of the way.”

    At that, Nettle furrowed her eyebrows and shifted in her seat. “Are you saying that no one else but a nineteen-year-old can do that?”

    Despite her apparent discomfort, Oak maintained his composure. He folded his hands in front of his coffee cup and stared steadily at his colleague. “No. I’m saying that no one but him can do that. If it was any other circumstance, I’m sure we could rely on another researcher, but I know it’s his specific skill set that we need right now. So regardless of how old he is, we need him, Professor Nettle. It would be wise to judge him for what he can do, not what he is.”

    The cold silence returned. For that brief moment, Oak regretted what he had said. It wasn’t like him to be so serious, and even he felt uncomfortable with how he phrased things. It was the job, though. The job got to him so very easily—or at least the thought of an entire region desperately relying on him.

    Still, he didn’t care for the thought of defusing an argument. Professor Nettle wasn’t the most stubborn person he had ever worked with, but she certainly wasn’t the easiest.

    That was why he was so surprised when he saw her sigh and relax.

    “Very well, then,” she finally replied. “If you’re that convinced, then I’ll trust your judgment. I just hope he won’t interfere.”

    Relief over how easily she took his comment washed over Oak, and he too relaxed at her words. “Oh, don’t worry. He won’t be a burden at all to you, I can tell you that. He takes his job very seriously.”

    She smiled wryly. “I have no doubt. Shall I go prepare for his arrival, then?”

    A broad smile crossed Oak’s face once more as he replied, “Yes! And let him know I’m sorry for not meeting him at the gate. In fact, be sure to welcome him to Polaris on my behalf!”

    Standing, Nettle bowed her head and held the folder to her chest. As she turned to leave, she answered, “I’ll give him the most appropriate welcome Polaris Institute can offer, Professor.”


    Less than an hour later, in the corridor of the innermost ring of Polaris Institute, a young man inhaled deeply, suppressing the urge to cough out the cold, sterile air of the hallway. His muscles tensed as the security officers on both sides of him stepped back. He felt exposed, standing in front of the singularly most intimidating woman he had ever met. Professor Nettle’s lips puckered slightly as she stared from the file in her hands to her subordinate. At once, he shivered but swallowed as much of his nervousness as he could in an attempt to force himself to look confident.

    “Professor William Henry McKenzie,” she read. Then, peering over the rim of her glasses, she stared him down and coldly added, “Welcome to Polaris Institute.”

    “You must be Professor Nettle,” he said, his voice lilting in a light, Johtonian accent. “It’s an honor to meet you.”

    He extended his hand for her to shake, but this only prompted her to glare at it in length. Sensing that he might have made the wrong move for his first impression, the young man swung his hand back. It snaked around to his back, where he clasped it nervously in his other hand. All the while, his mouth shut without another word.

    It felt to him like an eternity before Professor Nettle turned and began walking down the corridor. Her heels clacked like the legs of a crawdaunt across the smooth vinyl floor.

    “You’ll do. Come with me,” she replied.

    Seeing no other choice, her companion scrambled forward and fell into step beside Nettle.

    “Have you been briefed?” she asked.

    “Yes.”

    “Tell me what you know.”

    “I’m sorry?”

    She glared at him from the corner of her eye. “I need to know that you understand what we’re studying. Tell me what you know.”

    He exhaled. “Pokémon 2000KH, known tentatively as ixodida. Its origin is technically unknown, but the current prevailing theory is that it’s connected to the meteor shower that occurred over Fortree City a year ago due to the timing and location of the ixodida sightings. Very little else is known about it except that it’s exclusively carnivorous and a highly aggressive predator at that. Reports of it have only been able to come from a handful of survivors and media outlets prior to the Hoenn quarantine. No one is even sure what it looks like because its aggression and speed practically guarantee that anyone who sees it has very little chance of surviving.”

    As soon as he finished, there was a brief pause in their conversation.

    “Is that it?” Nettle said after a few seconds.

    “Yes, it is, I’m afraid.”

    Nettle arched an eyebrow at his file again. “Dramatically delivered but nearly correct. It shows that you’ve read up on the ixodida, but it also shows how terribly in the dark you had been before your recruitment.” She opened the file once again. “According to your file, you work with the Pokémon Cutting-Edge Technology Research Center. Are you a corporate technological researcher, then?”

    “Actually, I consider myself unaffiliated. You’ll notice that my more relevant work was sponsored by Celadon University.”

    “But your reputation stems from your pokémon storage and retrieval system, yes?”

    “I suppose it would.”

    “Which was funded corporately.”

    “I accept funding from whatever source I can find. It’s really the research that I focus on, not who my investors are.”

    Nettle narrowed her eyes. “I see.”

    The other researcher stopped in the hallway and waited for Nettle to turn to him.

    “If I may,” he said. “I’d like to say I’m looking forward to working on your team, Professor Nettle. I’ve read your papers on jynx communication, and I thought your theory of the Rosetta String was particularly enlightening. I’ve found your method of decoding a pokemon’s call more than useful in my own work.”

    She eyed him skeptically. What she said to Professor Oak was true. The Canadian media didn’t care much about a Japanese researcher, but even then, she had seen his picture and read his work. And frankly, he was more or less a surprise to her if only because, reading his papers, she imagined that he would be far older. Even looking at him right then, he seemed slightly older than the age given in his file, what with the determined glint in his dark eyes, the proud smile crossing his heart-shaped face, and the way he stood with his back straight and his broad hands shoved casually into his lab coat pockets. There was something about him, something about the way he carried himself that made him seem full of enthusiasm and energy. Or, more accurately, something about the way he carried himself that, to Professor Nettle, made him seem full of the cockiness of an overly ambitious graduate student.

    Nettle couldn’t help but think it was entirely because he hadn’t become bitter and cynical thanks to the research community yet. He probably never had to fight for months for a scrap of funding, and given his reputation and how much Professor Oak praised him, she knew he probably never would. In that sense, she almost admired him.

    Still, there was something about his last statement that didn’t sit well with her.

    “I published that paper in 1979,” she said dryly.

    “Yes,” he replied. “Celadon University has a copy on file. I read it for my senior thesis.”

    “Your senior thesis? Would you have written that in 1993, then?”

    “Yes.”

    “You were born two years after I published that paper, and you read it for your senior thesis when you were twelve.”

    “Eleven. I turned twelve later that year.”

    Nettle turned and continued walking. The last thing she needed was to feel as old as he made her feel, but she didn’t dare voice that. They were professionals, after all, regardless of her own vanity and his … flamboyant nature. Instead, she focused on leading him directly to a single nondescript door along the hallway.

    “This,” she said as she gripped the knob, “is laboratory D. Consider it our base of operations. While we will be using larger facilities to observe the ixodida, this is where we analyze our data and compile our findings.”

    As Nettle swiped her ID badge on the lock next to the door, her companion reeled back and allowed his eyes to widen slightly.

    “Observe the ixodida?” he asked. “Do you mean to say we actually have a specimen?”

    “Yes.”

    “But no one has been able to approach an ixodida and make it back alive!”

    Nettle smirked. “As far as the public is concerned, yes. There is a lot about the situation in Hoenn no one has told you, Professor McKenzie. Welcome to government work.” She opened the door roughly. “By the way. I found your father’s paper on pokémon genetics in relation to special abilities particularly enlightening. I read it the year it was published. I was fourteen at the time.”

    As she walked through the door, she didn’t bother to look back. If she had, she might have enjoyed the uncomfortable look on her companion’s face.


    Elsewhere in the complex, a young blonde woman inhaled deeply and scrunched her dainty nose. She crossed her long legs as she sat on a desk next to a laptop computer. On the latter’s screen, a window was open, and within that window was the shot of a figure sitting in shadow. At the blonde’s feet, meanwhile, knelt three tall men in the same red scrubs she was wearing—scrubs that identified all of them as research assistants according to the institute’s hierarchy of staff.

    “Polaris Institute. I hate this place. It reminds me of your laboratories,” the blonde grumbled.

    “You’re not there to enjoy yourself,” the figure responded curtly. “Have you contacted our chief agent?”

    The blonde narrowed her purple eyes and rested her pointed chin on a hand. Her other hand reached out as one of the three men produced a manila envelope.

    “I did. She says she’s selected a suitable target for us,” she told the figure. “She didn’t tell me much else besides that.”

    “Then you have your orders.”

    The assistant opened the envelope and slid its contents into her hand. She stared at the stack of papers carefully as her look of boredom dissolved into a cold glare.

    “He’ll do,” she said. “We’ll have him gift-wrapped for you in less than five hours.”

    “The process will take up to two weeks. You’re to watch over him and transport him only after it has completed.”

    His subordinate started. “Wouldn’t it be easier to transport him immediately and let the process happen in one of our own laboratories?”

    “It could be a liability to us,” the man replied. “Besides, perhaps the process will coax more information from our friends on the Committee.”

    “So you’re willing to risk our lives to blackmail a government body and capture one monster,” the agent said.

    The figure grinned. “I have no doubt you’ll hold your own against him, 009. Send your next report after the completion of phase two. Understood?”

    At his response, the blonde sighed. Part of her wanted to say something about the implication that she was dispensable, but she knew the response already. Instead, her hands gripped the edge of the desk, and she silently reminded herself why she had to be so obedient this time. Failing again wasn’t an option.

    “Understood, sir,” she finally replied.

    Her finger tapped a key to end the call. As the window vanished, she transferred her gaze back to the papers in her lap. Her eyes narrowed once again as she stared hard at the name and photo her contact had given her.

    “Anderson,” she muttered. Then, she flashed the photo at her grunts. “Listen up. Our target is an assistant, J. Anderson. Tallish. Dark green hair. Dark eyes. You’ll find him with the behaviorists in Laboratory D at this hour. Got it?”

    “Yes, ma’am!” all three of them barked in unison.

    “Good.”

    She uncrossed her legs and recrossed them again. Slowly. Sensually. Rubbing the calf of one against the thigh of the other in just the way she hoped would get them wrapped around her finger for more reasons than because they knew she could kill them using one of thirty-six different methods.

    “Now go fetch,” she drawled.

    They were out the door in seconds.


    Laboratory D, as it turned out, was more or less a closet of computers. Cubicles lined one side of the room while a bank of machinery lined the other, leading straight back to a blank, white wall. At each station was a scientist and an assistant, poring over print-outs or watching flickering computer screens. The buzz of their whispered conversations came at intermittent bursts over the hum of their equipment before dying down into cold, long silences.

    It wasn’t exactly what Professor McKenzie considered an ideal work environment, in other words.

    However, this was the place that he was supposed to call home for the foreseeable future according to Professor Nettle. That was shortly before she introduced him to an awkward-looking assistant with slicked-back, dark-green hair. The assistant in question fidgeted and clenched his square jaw as he approached, and there was a sheen on his pale skin from sweat as he stood in front of the two researchers. His large, dark eyes stared at Professor McKenzie from behind a pair of oversized glasses, and the expression in them was one of awe—the kind of awe that looked to McKenzie as if the young man had seen a shiny rapidash. Given how nervous he looked, McKenzie almost felt sorry for him.

    “McKenzie,” Nettle drawled, emphasizing the lack of a title, “meet Joel Anderson, your assistant.”

    “It’s such an honor to meet you, Professor McKenzie!” Joel exclaimed as he eagerly extended a hand.

    “Bill. It’s … it’s just Bill.” He reached out and let Joel shake his hand vigorously as he sent an uneasy look towards Nettle. “I wasn’t expecting an assistant.”

    “You’re working on a team, not solo,” she answered blandly. “If you’d like, think of him as a shared resource. So if you don’t require Mr. Anderson’s help, you are perfectly welcome to allow your teammates to use him instead.”

    Bill raised his eyebrows and pulled his hand away from a content Joel who smiled tightly at Nettle’s comment. Although Bill had plenty of opinions about that kind of arrangement, he still held his tongue, opting instead to shift his glance from a content Joel to the expressionless Nettle.

    “If you have no further questions, then as team leader, I am required to report to the director after every successful arrival and briefing.” Nettle nodded to both the scientist and his new assistant. “If you’ll excuse me.”

    “The director?” Bill’s uneasy glance softened into a grin. “Professor Oak, right? I received a personal invitation from him. Tell him I said thank y—”

    “Professor Oak is an incredibly busy figure here at Polaris,” Nettle interrupted. “I’ll mention that you’ve arrived safely.”

    On the last syllable, she turned on her heel and stalked off, straight through the lab door and out of sight. As soon as she was gone, Bill sighed and moved towards the cubicles.

    “She’s not always like that, is she?” he asked.

    “Like what?” Joel cheerily responded.

    Bill cast a brief look his way before sitting down at an unused computer. Raising his chin slightly, Joel darted forward and wrung his hands.

    “Uh, is there anything I can do for you right now, Professor?”

    Shifting in his seat, Bill let his fingers drift to the mouse. The screen flashed to life, displaying a plain black login screen with Polaris’s four-pointed star logo floating above standard username and password input boxes. Bill ignored both of these and quickly tapped a few keys on the keyboard. In an instant, the login screen vanished, replaced by a full-screen command prompt. Both of Bill’s hands found the keyboard this time, and in a flash, he keyed in line after line of commands, his eyes darting from one result to another.

    “Er, Professor?” Joel murmured.

    “Bill. Not ‘Professor.’”

    “Right, uh. Professor Nettle should have given you login information.”

    Bill shrugged. “It must have slipped her mind. Besides, I find that the backdoor always provides a little more information. Professor Nettle said that there was an ixodida specimen on the premises. Is that true?”

    “Absolutely, sir!”

    “You realize you can be casual with me, yes?”

    “As casual as you want me to be, Professor.”

    Once again, Bill shot his assistant a look. “I … never mind.” He turned back to the computer and resumed typing. “Where in Polaris is the specimen located?”

    “They’re located in Laboratory F, sir. Just five minutes’ walk from here.”

    “They?” Bill furrowed his eyebrows. “There are more than one of them?”

    “Yes. We accidentally bred them a few months ago. You’ll find the footage in our media library under video file ET650F, which you should have access to if—”

    Bill keyed in a few more commands, and as soon as he was finished, a barren desktop flashed onto the screen. In the center of it was a single video window flashing a loading status bar.

    “—if you were logged in under a scientist-class account,” Joel finished in a mumble.

    Ignoring him, Bill watched as the status bar vanished. In its place was a grainy, black-and-white image of a large, concrete room with only two objects inside it: a pair of Plexiglas boxes. Inside one, a rattata darted in tight circles, occasionally pawing at the walls of her cage. The other, meanwhile, contained what looked like a speck of light in the furthest corner away from the rattata. Leaning in, Bill fiddled with the sound as he sat transfixed, waiting for something—anything—to happen, but for the first thirty seconds, everything was still.

    Then, a light flashed offscreen, and one side on both of the boxes slid upwards. The rattata stopped and sat on her haunches as her stubby whiskers twitched. Slowly, she dropped to all fours and crawled out of the box, her whiskers twitching wildly with each step. As soon as she emerged fully from her cage, she stopped where she was, and her fur stood on end. Her body swept low, paws spread and whiskers pointed straight back. The camera was pointed away from her, straight at her back, but Bill knew that if her face had been visible, he would see her teeth bared in a menacing growl.

    For a long while, the image stayed like that, with the rattata poised in front of her box and the small dot of light pulsing in the corner of its own. Then, in a split second, the light vanished and reappeared on the face of the rattata. There was no sound, but Bill could practically hear the mouse’s screams as she jerked back and stumbled into her box. Through the Plexiglas, Bill could see the rattata’s skin split—neatly, as if a zipper that had been hidden in her nose was now being pulled back slowly across her skull, her neck, and her back. He could see the glistening of her spine, the dull gray of her muscles, the stark white of her skull. Yet he saw no blood. Not yet.

    The split stopped just beyond her shoulders, and the flash of light disappeared under her skin. She convulsed, slamming her sides and her head into the smooth surfaces of the box.

    Until, that is, Bill’s entire view was obscured by the wet blackness that suddenly burst from the tiny, writhing body within the box. The tape ran for a few more seconds until the rattata’s tail fell limply just beyond the box’s opening. From within its curl, the speck of light emerged and darted across the floor back to its own box, leaving behind a thin, black trail across the cement.

    At that point, the video ended, and the window blanked. Bill sat back, his hand on the mouse and his head tilted slightly. He was acutely aware of Joel next to him, hunched over the desk and breathing heavily. Exhaling, Bill closed his eyes.

    “Are you all right?” he asked.

    “Huh? Oh, me?” Joel forced a grin. “Y-yeah! It’s just …”

    Bill opened one eye. “Your first time watching one pokémon hunt another, I take it.”

    Joel shot up, his arms stiffly held at his sides. “What?! N-no! Of course not! I mean, I didn’t become a research assistant not knowing how pokémon hunt, if that’s what you’re implying, but—”

    “It’s quite all right. Everyone is shocked when they see it for the first time.” Bill struck a few more keys to summon the black command prompt again. “We’re so used to pokémon battles, and those aren’t meant to be lethal. It’s easy to forget that some pokémon are actually born hunters.”

    At those words, Joel’s shaking calmed a little, and he leaned over his superior a little. “Did you ... ?”

    “Raticate. That was my first. They eat smaller pokémon when they’re desperate for food. Some might even eat stray snubbull if the snubbull is small enough.”

    “Oh.” Joel crossed his arms. “Uh … Professor McKenzie?”

    “Bill.”

    “Uh, right. Can I ask you a question?”

    “Certainly.”

    “Are you always, uh, this okay with this kind of thing?”

    “Are the others?”

    Joel shrugged. “Some were shocked, I guess. Others were surprised that it was so fast and clean. You know. Up to the part where it exploded.”

    “She. Female rattata have shorter whiskers.” Bill rubbed his forehead. “To answer your question, I’m not very fond of watching it, no. This will be quite a challenge.” He removed his hand and paused. “You said there were more ixodida?”

    “Yeah. After the first one killed that rattata, it laid eggs in its—her, sorry—body. We got them to hatch, and they’re all located in Laboratory F.”

    Bill continued to type. “Is that so? The ixodida fertilized its own eggs? Interesting.”

    Joel nodded. “Ixodida are hermaphroditic. Professors Fig and Apple have determined that if it’s pressed enough, it’ll lay eggs and fertilize them itself, but it prefers finding a mate.”

    “I see.”

    With one last command, the screen blanked completely before fading back into the login screen. Bill pushed his chair back, standing up gingerly as he stared at Polaris’s logo.

    “Joel, allow me to answer a question you asked a few minutes ago,” he said. “Yes, you can do something for me. I need you to show me to Laboratory F.”

    “Laboratory F?!” Joel exclaimed. “Why do you want to go there?!”

    “To see the ixodida of course. I’d like to meet this pokémon before I study it.”

    “You’d like to meet it?!”

    Bill flashed him a smile. “Yes. Sometimes, I can get along without meeting a pokémon before I study it, but I think in this case, I’ll need to see it for myself first.”

    Joel fidgeted. “I … I’m not sure I can help you with that. You need to have special temporary access to get into Laboratory F. And that’s only granted by a team leader. Professor Nettle, in other words.”

    “That’s one way to get permission,” Bill responded as he held up his ID badge. “The other, of course, is to give yourself access.”

    “Is that what you were doing just now?!” Joel exclaimed.

    Bill flinched and quickly covered Joel’s mouth with a hand. He stood on tiptoe to peer over the walls of the cubicle, only to find that his fellow researchers and assistants were hard at work and completely oblivious to Joel’s outburst. Relaxing, Bill let his hand drop to his side as he lowered himself down.

    “Careful now. You don’t want to draw unwanted attention to us,” he said.

    “Yeah, but … you hacked Polaris’s system?” Joel hissed. “Why would you do that instead of asking Professor Nettle?”

    “I must admit, I would have waited for her permission, but I have a distinct feeling that would have been unattainable. Well, that and security confiscated my remote login utility at the first checkpoint,” Bill replied calmly before walking out of the cubicle. “Anyway, shall we? All I need is a peek to get started.”

    Joel followed, although he continued to fidget and remained several steps behind Bill. As he cast a glance around at the other scientists and assistants, he muttered, “Are you sure that’s a good idea? Shouldn’t we tell someone first?”

    Grasping the door handle, Bill flashed one last grin at Joel.

    “Come now,” he said. “Polaris Institute is a fortress, its security systems are state-of-the-art, and I would be dreadfully surprised if it didn’t have an exceptionally built storage facility for the ixodida. What’s the worst that could happen?”

    With those words, Bill led Joel into the hallway, and once the assistant pointed his superior in the right direction, the two began the trek towards Laboratory F.

    They got no further than Laboratory E before three massive assistants approached them from behind and grabbed them.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 14th December 2013 at 4:59 AM. Reason: Second edit.

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

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  3. #3
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    You can rebuild this story. You have the technology. Better, stronger, faster...

    I haven't ever actually commented on Anima Ex Machina before, partly out of laziness, partly out of busyness, and partly because I wasn't sure what else I would do other than ooze a thick smear of compliments over the screen like a delirious hagfish, but a reboot seems to me to be a perfect opportunity to rectify that. I love the story - have always loved it - and all its silliness; I love its madness and its campiness; I love the way it has on it the stamp of someone who knows what they're doing and is enjoying their use of the medium and the genre; I love the ixodida, and Bill, and— well, I'll stop with the hagfish oozings now.

    Let's put it more simply: it's long been far and away my favourite fic on these forums. In fact, it's probably my favourite out of all that I've read anywhere on the Internet, beating even the inimitable You Awake on Razor Hill. Anima is one of those stories - like Pale Fire, like The Witches - that, when I first read it, made me think: Man, why am I even trying? I'm never going to match this. And then, when I read it again, an older and a better writer, made me think: Nope. Still not any closer.

    Let's put it more simply still: there's a reason I chose it for use in Stranger Than Fiction.

    OK. I've got that out of my system. Now. What else was I going to say? Oh yes. I'm not sure if it's caused by the editing process, but I noticed a few odd sentences that seem to be typos.

    its aggression and speed almost nearly guarantee that anyone who sees it has very little chance of surviving.
    Bolded: a bizarre little tautology.

    I’ve used your method of decoding one minute of a pokemon’s call more than useful in my own work.
    'Useful' seems to be appearing here in the guise of an adverb.

    In addition, you're missing a line break here:

    In that sense, she almost admired him, perhaps even thought his lack of experience was adorable.
    Still, she also couldn’t help but think his last statement carried a bit more of a blow than he thought it did.
    And, since I want to offer something more constructive, even if it means I have to put my liking for the story to one side, I'll point out that in places the prose gets kind of rough. Some clauses have too much in them at once; some ideas are expressed in one sentence where they'd be more fluidly expressed in two. I think the part that best describes what I'm talking about is this sentence:

    As she walked through the door, she didn’t bother to look back and see her companion staring after her uncomfortably.
    It's kind of clumsy, almost as if someone took the two sentences 'As she walked through the door, she didn't bother to look back' and 'If she had, she would have seen her companion staring after her uncomfortably' and smashed them together in some kind of Literary Hadron Collider to form a composite. It jars the eye a bit when you read it, and it's made more obvious by being placed at the end of a section.

    I'm aware that I have something of an obsession with elegant, fluid prose, but in this case I don't think I'm overreacting; it's just a rough facet on an otherwise polished gemstone. (Or maybe I am overreacting. If I am, address your complaints to Nabokov; he spoiled me for other prose styles.)

    Whew. That's the 'constructive criticism' bit over; I don't really have much else to offer. I know roughly where the story's going, after all, and have no complaints there. It's all good. Really good. Good with a capital G. I probably don't need to go over all the reasons why I like it so much again, but I will repeat that I do love it. I suppose I could point out more that I liked, but I fear I might degenerate into more hagfish oozings. I mean, I could go on about the classic sci-fi opening - terrible, horrible things happening! Rapid cutaway to scenes of the oblivious protagonist, blithely going about his day! - a sneak preview of the villain! - or about Bill himself, but I'm not sure what it would be worth. I get the feeling that if I don't have anything helpful to say, I probably shouldn't say it, or it'll end up coming out as just more of the second paragraph.

    Anyway. My regular online schedule stopped me needing it before, but since I'm on a sort-of hiatus now, I'd like to be on the PM list for this, if it has one. I'd love the chance to reread this properly, as it's updated, in its new and improved state.

    Good luck with the reboot. I'll be watching eagerly.
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 27th July 2013 at 8:20 PM. Reason: I thought of more stuff to say, debated whether or not I should say it, and said something else. Story of my life.

  4. #4
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    Well, finally decided now was the opportunity to read your story now that there's a reboot. I figure I might as well start fresh with the reboot, so you can get untainted responses from a new reader. It'd be more enjoyable that way :P.

    For starters, I guess I kinda expected to see what I read on the screen, but it wasn't a chore to read (I didn't go "Oh nooooo, not this scenario agaaaaain"), and it was visually appealing. The prologue does indeed reek of sci-fi B movies, though I can't tell if it's “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “The Thing”, or not since... well, I'm not a big sci-fi fan. I can't for the life of me even name the last sci-fi movie I saw unless one counts Pacific Rim, but for the more classic of sci-fis, I don't know. But either way, that doesn't take away from the prologue's atmosphere, which is its strongest point. I feel we'll get to meet Phoebe within the next few chapters, so I'm looking forward to seeing her. Though my mind's still struggling over what “She was the unlucky one person in the wrong place at the time of impact” means.

    Chapter one's introduction is pretty neat, not often you get introduced with a transmission document. It reminds me of something that was from a rather recent watch of a show, but damn it all, knowing me I'm most likely just stretching too far. (Though I don't know why, but I'm getting vibes of Serial Experiments Lain despite the anime having an entirely different plot and feel from this story, and I doubt you've watched a lot of anime to begin with, soooo...) But I guess it's safe to say the next time we see Professor Birch, if at all, it's not going to be a pretty sight.

    Bill is a character I really have little to no interest in at all in general, so I find it a refreshing new experience to get into a story with him as the main character. Thus far, he looks to be a curious, jubilant young man who's excited to start his first day on the job even though it's going to be obvious it'll be hell for him. A bit stupidly optimistic, I might add, but that's a quirky addition to his character I like. Yeah, he hasn't yet done much outside of showing he can hack and doesn't like being called “professor” (by the way, Joel looks like he's going to be fun), but I like how calm he is underneath all of that excitement. He really didn't flinch at the footage, which made me tense up a bit, so I wonder what his reaction to a live ixodida will be.

    So yeah. The core of the chapter was to introduce us to Bill and that he's going to be lively and optimistic. A nice way to get us settled down with the character, especially to those who are unfamiliar with him.

    (Speaking of ixodida, it's either a completely new species you made up based off the Thing, I guesssss..., or it's Deoxys. I don't knoooooow...)

    And then we get mid-way into chapter one and IS THAT DOMINO I SEE 8D? Oh my gosh, this is going to be awesooooome. It's been a long time since I last saw Domino in a story! It was basically confirmed to me once “009” was uttered (so yeah, that makes the man with the Persian totally Giovanni, and I just can't wait for Team Rocket's interference). You sure made her character a bit more mature than I expected. Nice.

    So as you probably have gathered from this... rather jumbled review due to not really knowing what to say at this particular point in time, I'm interested. I don't know how it is I never bothered to read the story to begin with when this is what I missed within the first two chapters. At least I made up for it by grabbing onto this opportunity, so... yay.

    I would appreciate it greatly if you slap me on that list, Jax. I have no excuse for not reading this sooner, and I feel I have to make it up to you by reading this reboot. Because everyone loves fresh meat.

    ...wait, what ._.? What have I gotten myself into to write that?

    Oh well. Happy-fun-times are ahead. Might as well go with the flooooow.
    Winner of Best Pokémon/Pokémon Fic of 2013 in the Shipping Oscars
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  5. #5
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    I'm always game for some 'physical fun'!

    Here's something I'd written in the old review:

    I'm irked in principle by POV one-night-stands, where some character gets described that you know is going to die or get irrelevant in ~1000 words. In particular, why sympathize with the poor bugger, describe its feelings, or hint vaguely at its backstory? I agree that those three things are good in principle, but I also think the writer should do them out of compassion, whereas you have more important characters to be compassionate about -- the Absol is basically the victim in the pre-title scene of a horror movie, and in the movie they never bother with the victim's inner life.
    This time the POV is more involved, shows more things that look like sapient thought processes, puts you in his head. That actually made me feel tolerant, for some reason. It works to have one perspective right at ground zero in these apocalypse situations, since it makes the reader feel a more visceral horror: whereas a burning city can be mistaken for a (morbid) fireworks display, an animal in pain is always an animal in pain.

    However, in a few places, in my opinion, the tone's degenerated:

    Very few things in this universe die as spectacularly as a shooting star. Some of the most poetic works of literature available might describe it as a streak of light, but it’s more than that. It is an event of light and sound. It is a firework at close-range, a bomb of noise that can drown out the commotion of a city. When a shooting star explodes, it shatters glass miles away and flattens entire forests before the rocky fragments of its body touches the ground. It is, should one be in the wrong place at the time of impact, a dramatic death.
    (Missed a subject-verb agreement.) What I mean by tone is superlatives and exaggerations like, "Very few things die as spectacularly", "Every fibre of his being tensed", "the most intimidating woman he had ever met". The last two come from One and I'll just derail to briefly point them out:

    A young man inhaled deeply, suppressing the urge to cough out the cold, sterile air of the hallway. Every fiber of his being tensed at once as the security officers on both sides of him stepped back. He felt almost too exposed, standing there in front of the singularly most intimidating woman he had ever met.
    Isn't this scene basically a lighter character-interaction comic thing, like in the original? Your fic never goes very light, but still. We've had two very serious scenes of sci-fi horror and now when we see a superlative, we're still thinking in slightly PTSD terms;     Spoiler:
    I'll come back to this part. My mind is shot and it's just hopping moronically from idea to idea.

    Right, back to the paragraph in Zero. Considering our knowledge of dead stars -- SUPERNOVA! NEUTRON STAR! BLACK HOLE! -- and of colliding galaxies, etc, is it justified to say a meteorite has one of the most spectacular deaths in the universe? I might be wrong there though, maybe it genuinely comes a close second after stars. But the thing with your superlatives is I feel like they're being thrown out there with -- little factual regard, well who cares about facts -- but also a very vague, not very logically formed sense of drama. Some of the most poetic works of literature? Might describe? Are you thinking of any actual one that used the term "streak of light"? Why mention the literature in the first place? And isn't the argument of this paragraph slightly lopsided because, 'streaks of light' are a different thing from what this prologue is about, they're the pretty dissipations of minor rocks that never reach the surface, hundreds every night.

    Hey, maybe this is exactly what a corny scifi b-movie sounds like.

    Well, One now gets done with all its events in a continuous action. Nice work! (Or I guess one scene interrupted by a TR sub scene.) The exposition dump, the multiple starts and stops, all gone. I'd actually thought the chapters were pretty brisk and businesslike even in the previous version, but now it's genuinely tightened up even more. (Oh yeah, and the breeding footage is now KILLER.) What I particularly like is the new direction Bill's character has taken, it has a strong voice and it's consistent through all the happenings, actually drives some of them. From this perspective I get how the scene with Nettle had to be low-keyed a little, since Bill is no longer getting grilled for punctuality and Oak no longer has to save him. Indeed I'm thinking the stuff I said earlier about it really is whiny. When's Oak coming, by the way? I thought his appearance at this point nicely grounded their friendship later on, when he gets him through the... imminent ****.

    I like the assistants literally kneeling at 009's feet -- her own personal rotating corps of hound dogs. Powered by long legs. I like evil, femme fatale 009 a little better than (canon) evil, little-girl 009 with pretty blue eyes. Her power is a little more deliberate and assumed.

    Of course, I've got no sense of what Bill's new direction actually means -- had the impression canon Bill was a lot more like the previous version's, but also that he was only your personal butt monkey, so ??? Those are the question marks of my total ignorance. I've never seen Bill in the anime, I think.

    By the way, this fic is set in 2001... and (probably) features pokemon indexes updated to V gen, and beyond... do you have a nice system/working theory for dealing with all the new pokemon that are discovered each generation, or is that too much of a muddle when you've already got a hugefic like AEM to deal with? In particular, that the ixodida's scientific name has to be updated every few years, and when you are dead and gone, and Pokemon still lives, AEM will finally fall behind the wave?

    Of course, I want to be on the list too. Assuming there is a list...
    Last edited by Praxiteles; 18th September 2013 at 4:47 PM. Reason: comic italics that are actually funny?

  6. #6
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    Sorry for how long this response took, folks. x_x

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    You can rebuild this story. You have the technology. Better, stronger, faster...

    I haven't ever actually commented on Anima Ex Machina before, partly out of laziness, partly out of busyness, and partly because I wasn't sure what else I would do other than ooze a thick smear of compliments over the screen like a delirious hagfish, but a reboot seems to me to be a perfect opportunity to rectify that. I love the story - have always loved it - and all its silliness; I love its madness and its campiness; I love the way it has on it the stamp of someone who knows what they're doing and is enjoying their use of the medium and the genre; I love the ixodida, and Bill, and— well, I'll stop with the hagfish oozings now.
    Welp. I’m just going to go over here and curl up into a tiny ball of squee.

    But seriously, Cutlerine, thanks kindly for that. I’ve always tried my hardest with this fic because it’s just plain fun to write in all its hilarious campiness and favorite character torture.

    Let's put it more simply: it's long been far and away my favourite fic on these forums. In fact, it's probably my favourite out of all that I've read anywhere on the Internet, beating even the inimitable You Awake on Razor Hill. Anima is one of those stories - like Pale Fire, like The Witches - that, when I first read it, made me think: Man, why am I even trying? I'm never going to match this. And then, when I read it again, an older and a better writer, made me think: Nope. Still not any closer.
    Oh haha, m’dear, please. The Thinking Man’s Guide to Destroying the World had its own charm, and that was your first work. (Why do you think I’m attempting to make a better ebook out of it when I’m not being slaughtered consistently by real life?) Not to mention your short stories are really where your talent comes out—like “Snow.” You have a knack for creating these really entertaining images but somehow at the same time making the reader take them seriously, which is a terrible way of putting things but is, putting it another way, a pretty difficult thing to achieve.

    Point is, you’re awesome too.

    Bolded: a bizarre little tautology.

    'Useful' seems to be appearing here in the guise of an adverb.

    In addition, you're missing a line break here:
    Ladies and gentlemen, the reason why you should never do the last proofreading round/posting prep drunk.

    (No, seriously. That’s my excuse. That is also a terrible excuse, but it’s also a terrible thing to do. And I hope none of you take after me in that respect at all.)

    It's kind of clumsy, almost as if someone took the two sentences 'As she walked through the door, she didn't bother to look back' and 'If she had, she would have seen her companion staring after her uncomfortably' and smashed them together in some kind of Literary Hadron Collider to form a composite. It jars the eye a bit when you read it, and it's made more obvious by being placed at the end of a section.
    Hmm. This is actually something I’ve been told in the past (by my old beta, I do believe, although I’m sure someone’s mentioned it in a review too), and it’s a problem I was hoping I’ve gotten over by now. My guess here is that I’ve let myself get a bit rusty. It’s been a pretty long time since I’ve written anything except for silly, overly wordy (intentionally, anyway) things on Tumblr, so I’m actually not surprised that this old habit cropped back up. Hell, you can probably tell that I get a bit wordy with parentheticals here.

    Point is, I definitely see what you mean. I think reading this back over aloud will help me plop down a few periods where necessary. I’ll give it a shot the next moment I’ve got.

    Whew. That's the 'constructive criticism' bit over; I don't really have much else to offer. I know roughly where the story's going, after all, and have no complaints there. It's all good. Really good. Good with a capital G. I probably don't need to go over all the reasons why I like it so much again, but I will repeat that I do love it. I suppose I could point out more that I liked, but I fear I might degenerate into more hagfish oozings. I mean, I could go on about the classic sci-fi opening - terrible, horrible things happening! Rapid cutaway to scenes of the oblivious protagonist, blithely going about his day! - a sneak preview of the villain! - or about Bill himself, but I'm not sure what it would be worth. I get the feeling that if I don't have anything helpful to say, I probably shouldn't say it, or it'll end up coming out as just more of the second paragraph.
    Aww, thank you. I’m definitely glad that you liked it, especially so early in. Here’s to hoping that the other chapters and the revisions I’m making to the plot and whatnot still entertain.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kutie Pie View Post
    Well, finally decided now was the opportunity to read your story now that there's a reboot. I figure I might as well start fresh with the reboot, so you can get untainted responses from a new reader. It'd be more enjoyable that way :P.
    *high fives and no thirteen-year-old-mentality-ish comments about the word “untained”*

    For starters, I guess I kinda expected to see what I read on the screen, but it wasn't a chore to read (I didn't go "Oh nooooo, not this scenario agaaaaain"), and it was visually appealing. The prologue does indeed reek of sci-fi B movies, though I can't tell if it's “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “The Thing”, or not since... well, I'm not a big sci-fi fan. I can't for the life of me even name the last sci-fi movie I saw unless one counts Pacific Rim, but for the more classic of sci-fis, I don't know. But either way, that doesn't take away from the prologue's atmosphere, which is its strongest point. I feel we'll get to meet Phoebe within the next few chapters, so I'm looking forward to seeing her. Though my mind's still struggling over what “She was the unlucky one person in the wrong place at the time of impact” means.
    Oh, you’ll meet her soon. *finger tents* Just not the way you’d expect.

    Chapter one's introduction is pretty neat, not often you get introduced with a transmission document.
    Thanks! I’m thinking about starting the next few chapters (until the end of the Polaris arc, anyway) with documents, so I’m hoping I won’t overdo the feel you got from it. But hey, that’s what the reviews for the next chapter are going to tell me, right?

    It reminds me of something that was from a rather recent watch of a show, but damn it all, knowing me I'm most likely just stretching too far. (Though I don't know why, but I'm getting vibes of Serial Experiments Lain despite the anime having an entirely different plot and feel from this story, and I doubt you've watched a lot of anime to begin with, soooo...)
    (Maaaan, I used to love Serial Experiments Lain. And I still admire the way it told its story, so thank you! )

    But I guess it's safe to say the next time we see Professor Birch, if at all, it's not going to be a pretty sight.
    Haha, you are certainly right here~!

    Bill is a character I really have little to no interest in at all in general, so I find it a refreshing new experience to get into a story with him as the main character.
    Thank you! This is legitimately why I started writing AEM: because as much as I love Bill, there’s a serious lack of fanfiction about him (that doesn’t just ship him with Daisy). So this is really one massive attempt to do it.

    Thus far, he looks to be a curious, jubilant young man who's excited to start his first day on the job even though it's going to be obvious it'll be hell for him. A bit stupidly optimistic, I might add, but that's a quirky addition to his character I like. Yeah, he hasn't yet done much outside of showing he can hack and doesn't like being called “professor” (by the way, Joel looks like he's going to be fun), but I like how calm he is underneath all of that excitement. He really didn't flinch at the footage, which made me tense up a bit, so I wonder what his reaction to a live ixodida will be.
    He’s going to make friends with it.

    Close friends. *tents fingers*

        Spoiler:- Also! About Joel...:


    So yeah. The core of the chapter was to introduce us to Bill and that he's going to be lively and optimistic. A nice way to get us settled down with the character, especially to those who are unfamiliar with him.
    Awesome. Which is a good thing because everyone is going to get very close to him.

    (He’s naked for the next several chapters.)

    (Speaking of ixodida, it's either a completely new species you made up based off the Thing, I guesssss..., or it's Deoxys. I don't knoooooow...)
    Half-right! It’s a completely new species that I made up based on things found in nature. The name ixodida even comes from a real scientific name, and the design is based on this particular *******. (Tl;dr: You can probably find parasites like these in real life. Sweet dreams, everyone!)

    And then we get mid-way into chapter one and IS THAT DOMINO I SEE 8D? Oh my gosh, this is going to be awesooooome. It's been a long time since I last saw Domino in a story! It was basically confirmed to me once “009” was uttered (so yeah, that makes the man with the Persian totally Giovanni, and I just can't wait for Team Rocket's interference). You sure made her character a bit more mature than I expected. Nice.
    INDEED YOU DO.

    And yes. It’s sort of part of my headcanon that Domino will adapt her personality to fit pretty much every situation. For example, she can totally be the bubbly childish blonde in the Mewtwo movie … but she can also be a lolita femme fatale if she thinks sex will get her way. My headcanon is that she also managed to get Giovanni wrapped around her finger by doing this.

    This all becomes relevant a lot, naturally.

    So as you probably have gathered from this... rather jumbled review due to not really knowing what to say at this particular point in time, I'm interested. I don't know how it is I never bothered to read the story to begin with when this is what I missed within the first two chapters. At least I made up for it by grabbing onto this opportunity, so... yay.
    *high fives!*

    I would appreciate it greatly if you slap me on that list, Jax. I have no excuse for not reading this sooner, and I feel I have to make it up to you by reading this reboot. Because everyone loves fresh meat.

    ...wait, what ._.? What have I gotten myself into to write that?
    *cackles evilly*

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    I'm always game for some 'physical fun'!
    Oh baby. ;D

    This time the POV is more involved, shows more things that look like sapient thought processes, puts you in his head. That actually made me feel tolerant, for some reason. It works to have one perspective right at ground zero in these apocalypse situations, since it makes the reader feel a more visceral horror: whereas a burning city can be mistaken for a (morbid) fireworks display, an animal in pain is always an animal in pain.
    Haha, and you’ve pinpointed one of the two problems I had with the original prologue. (The other was that it was straight-up too pretentious.) I agree; it felt way too detached from the rest of the story—or itself, for that matter. As a result, it felt super-out-of-place, especially considering the fact that the first chapter used to start off with that massive infodump.

    Isn't this scene basically a lighter character-interaction comic thing, like in the original? Your fic never goes very light, but still. We've had two very serious scenes of sci-fi horror and now when we see a superlative, we're still thinking in slightly PTSD terms; I at least had the brief idea that you'd skipped on to a much more threatening scene, the Team Rocket abduction.
    With the other parts, I agree that the tone should probably be, no pun intended, toned down, although to be fair, I wasn’t thinking of the average meteor strike but something along the lines of the Tungusta event. Probably need to clarify that part, and even then, it’s very subjective, yeah.

    But to talk about this part, it was actually a conscious decision to aim for a tone like this in order to drum up the incongruous feeling. As in, the effect I meant to evoke was to make it seem overdramatic to highlight how ridiculously nervous Bill is. He’s meant to feel like he’s about to die because for him, this entire experience is a pretty big thing, and he’s already being judged heavily by his superior.

    The reason why I say this is because I’m pretty sure that’s not the effect I wound up getting, so I’m pretty much fishing for suggestions on how to tweak things to make that come out a bit more. Would it help if the other tone issues (particularly in Zero) were resolved so that this scene stands out more and so that it’s made really obvious that this isn’t the normal tone of the story? Should I ditch the effect altogether?

    Well, One now gets done with all its events in a continuous action. Nice work! (Or I guess one scene interrupted by a TR sub scene.) The exposition dump, the multiple starts and stops, all gone. I'd actually thought the chapters were pretty brisk and businesslike even in the previous version, but now it's genuinely tightened up even more.
    Thank you! I’m especially happy about getting rid of the infodumps, really. I mean, it was nice to talk about the world I was building, but they were just so tedious, y’know?

    Besides, that’s what side notes are for.

    What I particularly like is the new direction Bill's character has taken, it has a strong voice and it's consistent through all the happenings, actually drives some of them. From this perspective I get how the scene with Nettle had to be low-keyed a little, since Bill is no longer getting grilled for punctuality and Oak no longer has to save him. Indeed I'm thinking the stuff I said earlier about it really is whiny.
    Haha, not whiny at all! You’re right that it’s a bit overdramatic for what I’m going for, so I’ll look into fixing them up.

    Anyway! I’m glad you like the new direction Bill’s taking. I really wanted to reinvent my interpretation of that character for this one, especially since everyone and their mothers write about the lolsofrantic PokéSpec Bill or the questionably ethical furry Bill that seems to be floating around thanks to Nuzlockes. So I figured this would be more fun.

    ‘Course, you’ll still see a lot of the hilariously frantic Bill. Just not the brooding, dramatic, somewhat selfish Bill of the old version. Hopefully.

    When's Oak coming, by the way? I thought his appearance at this point nicely grounded their friendship later on, when he gets him through the... imminent ****.
    Chapter three. I regret having to give up his appearance in the first chapter, but I really do hope that I can recapture exactly what you’re describing here.

    I like the assistants literally kneeling at 009's feet -- her own personal rotating corps of hound dogs. Powered by long legs. I like evil, femme fatale 009 a little better than (canon) evil, little-girl 009 with pretty blue eyes. Her power is a little more deliberate and assumed.
    You can tell I had fun with 009 in that scene … and will have plenty of fun with her later. ;D

    She becomes a main character.

    Of course, I've got no sense of what Bill's new direction actually means -- had the impression canon Bill was a lot more like the previous version's, but also that he was only your personal butt monkey, so ??? Those are the question marks of my total ignorance. I've never seen Bill in the anime, I think.
    Haha, no worries! All you need to know is that Bill’s character is canonically extremely fractured. The last version of AEM was actually closer to Special’s take on him, but this one actually tries to capture a lot of the anime and Electric Tale. You’ll still get to see some of his frazzled bits later on like you did in the first version because I just have a habit of writing him that way, but I also know that Bill’s a lot calmer than I made him last time around. Not quite as impulsive (ignoring Card’s canon), but I’m hand-waving that as a direct result of his dangerous combination of confidence in his intelligence and hilarious levels of oblivion to what’s going on around him.

    Tl;dr, you’re right about the last version’s Bill being close to a form of canon, and you’re also right that he was basically my personal whipping boy last time around. I’m hoping, though, that this version will get to do more of his own thing while at the same time going back to his other canon selves.

    By the way, this fic is set in 2001... and (probably) features pokemon indexes updated to V gen, and beyond... do you have a nice system/working theory for dealing with all the new pokemon that are discovered each generation, or is that too much of a muddle when you've already got a hugefic like AEM to deal with? In particular, that the ixodida's scientific name has to be updated every few years, and when you are dead and gone, and Pokemon still lives, AEM will finally fall behind the wave?
    (Admittedly 2002. There was a time skip that’ll hopefully be clearer in other documents.)

    Oh, the scientific name. It’s even needing an update thanks to Gen VI, which is basically why I’m avoiding calling it XP-### this time around. Which I like a bit more, honestly, because the random name-change mid-fic was a bit tacky, I admit.

    ANYWAY, TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION! Funnily enough, Ememew asked me the same thing this week via Tumblr, so to distill it down into a few short points compared to the actual posts:

    1. I normally ignore that because I see it as an inconsistency that can only be explained on a meta level. I’ve never really come up with an explanation for my personal headcanon that covers all of the bases behind this question without contradicting some other part of canon. As in, I have been a fan of Bill since 2000, and I still can’t ****ing figure out how someone from Johto straight-up fails to mention that there are actually over 250 Pokémon when he’s specifically asked by Professor Oak to give a ten-year-old a crash course in the subject. That’s kinda basic. Like, there is literally no way he could not have known that Johto Pokémon existed, and there’s really no reason why he wouldn’t bother talking about them, considering the fact that post-Gen-I Pokémon actually exist in Kanto anyway.

    2. If I do end up answering this question, my response is generally that the Pokédex is a pretty new invention and that researchers aren’t exactly discovering new species as they are indexing/doing a headcount of Pokémon species they already know about. Moreover, trainers help researchers unlock information that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible to them, and that includes data mined from trainers in other regions. So that’s why you have a national dex and a regional dex. The regional dex is the fruit of the efforts between you and your regional professor on the ongoing quest of doing a headcount on all of the species in the region, but the national dex is given to you by a professor from outside your region and consists of data collected by that professor. In return for getting the data of every other region, you give them your own data, which in turn fills in the blank spots of the national dex, if that makes sense.

    3. But there are Pokémon that get discovered sometimes. For example, there are Pokémon that are created by humans. There are Pokémon with weirdly specific evolution requirements. There are even Pokémon that require very specific hold items in order to breed something other than themselves. In any case, Pokémon do still get discovered—but not as frequently as people think.

    4. Which is relevant to AEM because that’s what the people of Polaris Institute are doing right now: studying a newly discovered Pokémon. Outside of Polaris, #2 and #3 are very much true: everyone knows about the Pokémon in Unova and beyond; it’s just that there’s ongoing projects into counting them (and collecting trainer-unlocked info, such as battling potential and behavior when tamed). So to make the timeline clearer, Ash is currently in Unova and doing a fantastically terrible job of collecting data. He’s just reporting to Professor Juniper for his results, not to Professor Oak at this point in time.

    Hopefully that makes sense!


    Aaaanyway, thanks to all of you for awesome words! There most certainly is a PM list for this baby, and you can be sure all of you are on it.

    I’m actually on vacation for the weekend, so although the next chapter is finished, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to post it. I’m hoping sometime during the week, but if I’m lucky, maybe it’ll be tomorrow or Sunday. We’ll see!

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

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    So I'm working on a complete rewrite of the prologue that I hope will sound less ~poetic~ and more lol science. Those of you on the PM list, please let me know if you dgaf and would not like to be PMed when it comes out.

    Anyway, welcome to chapter two!


    Two

    D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 6
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: TRANSCRIPT
    DESIGNATION: THE PANDORA TAPES, FILE 02
    DESCRIPTION: TRANSCRIPTION OF VIDEO OBTAINED FROM VALENCIA RESEARCH INSTITUTE ON VALENCIA ISLAND, ORANGE ARCHIPELAGO. TAPE FEATURES INTERVIEW BETWEEN PROFESSOR PHILENA IVY AND SPECIMEN 2000LH-B/01, CODENAME PANDORA.
    DATE-TIME: 04/09/01, 16:54

    [PANDORA LIES ON A COT IN V.R.I.’S STANDARD OBSERVATION ROOM. PRESENT STATUS OF SPECIMEN IS IDENTIFIED AS BEING “STAGE II.” SKIN HAS TURNED PALE, HAIR LOSS IS BEGINNING TO OCCUR, AND CRYSTALLINE STRUCTURES HAVE GROWN ON SUBJECT’S SHOULDERS AND ARMS. OTHER FEATURES APPARENTLY COMMON TO XP-650B HAVE YET TO OCCUR.]

    IVY
    [REDACTED], I know it’s hard for you right now, but I need to ask you a few questions that will help us figure out what’s going on. Do you think you can answer them for me?

    [PANDORA NODS.]

    IVY
    Good. How are you feeling?

    PANDORA [NEARLY INAUDIBLE]
    I’m so cold, Professor. It’s so cold.

    IVY
    It’s your skin. You’re starting to develop the traits of an ice-type.

    PANDORA
    An ice-type? [PAUSE—PANDORA BEGINS TO CRY] Is it going to stop?

    IVY
    We-we don’t know yet. Can you feel anything other than cold? How is the bite?

    PANDORA
    It hurts too, Professor.

    IVY
    I’m sorry, [REDACTED]. We’re going to try to fix this. I promise.

    PANDORA
    Professor … she spoke to me last night.

    IVY
    What?

    PANDORA
    That … that thing spoke to me last night. On my ankle.

    IVY [ALARMED]
    What do you mean ‘spoke to you’? What did it say?

    [PANDORA SCREAMS AND CONVULSES ON THE COT. IVY REACHES TO GRASP HER ARM.]

    IVY
    [REDACTED]? [REDACTED]! It’s okay! I’m here! [LOOKS OVER HER SHOULDER] Get the med-kit! Now!

    PANDORA
    Professor!

    [IVY TURNS BACK TO PANDORA AND LEANS OVER HER.]

    IVY
    Yes. Yes, I’m here. It’s going to be okay.

    PANDORA [PANTING]
    Professor. Professor, she said … she said …

    IVY
    Yes? What did she say?

    [PANDORA CALMS. SUBJECT LOOKS DIRECTLY AT THE CAMERA.]

    PANDORA
    Let us be.

    [PANDORA CLAWS IVY’S FACE. IVY SCREAMS, TWISTS IN HER CHAIR, AND ATTEMPTS TO STAND. FIVE ASSISTANTS RUN INTO THE SHOT AND OBSCURE PANDORA AND IVY EXCEPT FOR IVY’S FACE. IVY’S HANDS COVER HER EYES, AND BLOOD RUNS ALONG THE LEFT SIDE OF HER JAWLINE. TWO ASSISTANTS GRASP IVY’S ELBOWS AND LEAD HER AWAY, AND THE REMAINING THREE ASSISTANTS STAND BESIDE PANDORA’S COT. TWO HOLD HER DOWN WHILE THE THIRD WORKS A NEEDLE INTO HER LEFT ARM. PANDORA SCREAMS. AN UNIDENTIFIABLE APPENDAGE RISES FROM HER LEFT SIDE AND SLASHES AT THE NECK OF THE LAST MENTIONED ASSISTANT.

    VIDEO RECORDING CEASES. END FILE 02.]



    In the ensuing minutes, Bill took careful inventory of the situation.

    One, he and a young man he had known for less than a half an hour—an assistant he was apparently responsible for—were being nearly literally dragged through the otherwise empty hallway of Polaris Institute by three strangers.

    Two, the strangers in question were built unlike any lab assistant Bill had ever encountered. The shortest was, according to Bill’s rough estimate, six feet tall with a shoulder span of three or four feet. Normally, Bill wasn’t the kind of person to analyze a person’s measurements, but that was the one clamping a large, beefy hand over his mouth. He couldn’t help but notice that the man was a bit larger than the average lab assistant as a result.

    Which led to the third point: that all three assistants had frames that massive because most of their bodies seemed to consist of pure muscle. He didn’t actually come to that conclusion by looking at his captors; it actually came to him by the feeling of the short one’s palm against his face. Each finger tensed around his jaw and held his chin up, and his neck throbbed with an ache at its back. Judging by the grip, Bill knew that it was a threat. One wrong move from him, and the man would most likely twist his head clean off his shoulders in one easy gesture.

    Because of that, Bill remained silent. Joel, much to Bill’s dismay, wasn’t quite as cautious, opting instead to thrash and scream against the hands of the other two strangers. Every so often, Bill glanced at him from the corner of his eye as he struggled to come up with a plan, but no matter how much he knew he needed to get Joel out of this, nothing came to mind. Any plan that nearly surfaced in his brain ultimately ended with the both of them beaten on the floor at best. After all, while Bill couldn’t speak for Joel, he could tell by the assistant’s panicking nature and shaking limbs that Joel was by no means a fighter. Bill himself wasn’t much of one either; he never really considered the possibility of training himself past a few self-defense lessons in college and the occasional kung fu movie. Besides that, he had no weapons or pokémon on him. Even if he had brought his own, they would have been confiscated by security at the first checkpoint according to the institute’s safety policies.

    In short, they were screwed, and Bill knew it.

    The seconds felt like hours to Bill as he let himself be led along the hallway. Besides Joel’s screaming, the group was silent—almost eerily so to Bill. He breathed deeply, closing his eyes now and then as he went over his mental inventory over and over again. His brain struggled to grasp a possible weak moment, a possible opening that either of them could take advantage of. Someone was depending on him, after all. Joel needed him to come up with something. Anything.

    Instead, what he got was an abrupt stop. Opening his eyes, he realized that his captors stood them in front of a metal door with a nondescript black box attached to the wall beside it. The door looked just like every other in the complex, but this one was painted with a single letter in bright, fresh white—a single letter that made Bill’s heart freeze.

    F.

    They were at the door of the ixodida holding cell.

    “Oh-nine gave us clearance, right?” the largest of the men asked gruffly.

    Bill could hear the rustle of fabric just behind him. Then, his captor’s free hand lifted a plastic ID badge to the black box.

    “Of course she did, moron,” the captor’s gruff voice responded.

    The man tapped the card to the box, and it beeped in response. He pulled Bill aside, keeping his hand clamped tightly on the researcher’s mouth as he leaned towards the device on the wall. It slid open in the meantime, revealing the glint of a lens just under its thick, plastic lid. The assistant positioned his face in front of the lens and stared deep into the blinking, red light beyond it. The device flashed a beam down the man’s eye before slowly drawing its plastic lid back into place.

    In the next second, the door clicked, and when his captor threw it open, Bill knew he and Joel were completely and utterly screwed. Before he could move, his captor and one of the other men snatched both of his arms and threw him into the room. Literally.

    He crashed down on hard vinyl, and pain jarred his body. Groaning, he pushed himself to his hands and knees, only to flinch when he heard the door shut and lock. But just as he braced himself for the attack he was predicting, Bill realized his captors had instead opted to stand just behind him, leaving him untouched on the floor. When he lifted his head to take a look at who else was in the laboratory with them, he suddenly knew why.

    There were ten people besides the three captors occupying the room. All of them were lab assistants, from the looks of their blue scrubs, and all of them had their eyes fixed steadily on Bill. But there was one at the front, a petite, blonde assistant with sharp, purple eyes, who glared the hardest at him.

    “You’re late.” She paused, and her purple eyes narrowed. “And those are two.”

    Behind Bill, Joel squeaked.

    “S-sorry, 009,” Bill’s former captor stammered. “We couldn’t decide which one was Anderson.”

    Anderson. They were specifically looking for Joel. Bill looked over his shoulder with his mouth slightly open. Joel stood trembling, his eyes flitting desperately from Bill to 009 and back. These people were specifically looking for Joel, and Bill led him right to them.

    Abruptly, a set of long fingers ensnared Bill’s hair, and sharp nails dug into his scalp. He bit back yet another shout as the hand yanked his head until he stared deep into narrow purple eyes.

    “This is a professor,” she hissed. Shoving Bill’s head away from her, 009 put her hands on her hips and glared once more at her subordinates. “You were ordered to capture an assistant. How did you manage to mistake him for one?”

    “Well,” the shortest of the captors replied, “I-I mean, we just sort of grabbed ‘em both as soon as we saw ‘em, so we really didn’t look—”

    “Who is he?”

    “We, uh, hadn’t searched him yet, but—”

    “I don’t care. Give me his ID.”

    Bill felt a hand snatch his arm. He didn’t look at the grunt who grabbed him. Instead, he tried to yank his arm away while keeping his eyes on Joel. Bill knew this was a desperate situation, and even he had to admit he wasn’t the bravest person in existence. Yet he also knew he would be responsible for whatever they did to Joel, so he needed to do something. Anything.

    So for the first time he could remember, he silenced the tiny voice in his head that insisted he was about to do something stupid. He yanked his arm out of the stranger’s reach, turned his head back to the blonde, and gave her a steady, confident glance.

    “Let me save you time,” he said quietly. “Bill McKenzie. I’ve been assigned to the ethology team.”

    “Clearly, considering Anderson is with—” 009 stopped and tilted her head. “Hold on. Bill McKenzie? Don’t tell me you’re the creator of the storage system.”

    It took effort on Bill’s part not to smirk at the possible opening.

    “Co-creator with Lanette Chastain, yes,” he answered.

    009 sighed and pressed a hand to her forehead. “Giovanni is going to love this.”

    At that, Bill smiled. It was definitely an opening. “I’m sure we can negotiate something here. I don’t know what it is you want, but if you let Mr. Anderson go, I can arrange something.”

    And then, 009 smiled, and Bill felt his skin crawl. The problem was that 009’s smile made her look young, like a girl no older than fourteen. But there was something in the way her lips curled, in the way she squinted her purple eyes, in the way she showed just a little too much of her teeth that made Bill think of arbok slowly circling a rattata. There was venom in that expression, but it came slathered with sugar.

    “Oh no,” she answered sweetly. “We can’t touch you. Strict orders from years and years ago. Like, longer than even I’ve been around!”

    They couldn’t touch him. Bill couldn’t use anything he had as leverage to get either of them out of trouble. His smile faded, and so did what little confidence he had when he started into his plan.

    “And who is ‘we’?” he asked, this time nearly inaudible.

    “Team Rocket, of course!” 009 exclaimed.

    Bill felt as if the floor dropped out beneath him. He had heard of Team Rocket—briefly, largely through police reports. Who in Kanto hadn’t? But he never imagined kneeling there, right in front of an entire group of them.

    And these, he realized, were people who wanted Joel specifically.

    Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two of the burly agents who brought him to that room pull Joel to the side. One of them finally removed his hand from Joel’s mouth, prompting the assistant to scream and thrash again.

    “Let me go!” he shouted. “Let me go! Professor McKenzie, help!”

    Bill flashed another glance towards him before turning his eyes back to 009. With some effort, he struggled to stand, only to have two Rocket agents dart forward and grab his arms.

    “What … what are you going to do with him?” he asked. “What do you want from him?!”

    009 flicked her wrist, and a black tulip slid free from her sleeve. Turning her head slightly, she hid her smile behind the blossom and shifted her eyes to her side. Two more agents to her left nodded and turned to the wall behind them, to the expansive window that took up one side of the room. Bill’s eyes rose to look at the glass, at the red window with soft, red lights fading into and out of view. Halfway between the floor and the ceiling was a metal square with a circular latch on its face. One of the agents twisted the latch, sending bubbles up the tank. The agent twisted the latch one more time and pulled it free, drawing a long Plexiglas tube into the open. Inside its clear walls was a single red light darting around a sea of red.

    “Bill,” 009 said. “Do you mind if I call you Bill?”

    He didn’t answer. After a few seconds, 009 strode forward to stand in front of him, turning to watch her subordinates force Joel to the ground and carry the tube to him.

    “So you know what happens to humans when an ixodida bites them, right?” she asked.

    Bill shook his head. He watched helplessly as agents yanked Joel’s shirt up to his shoulders and pressed one end of the tube against his bare chest. Joel’s screams rose to an incoherent screech.

    “Really? That’s funny. Wouldn’t they have told you during your briefing?” 009 snickered. “Oh wait. That’s us. Because we stole information from people higher than you. Weird what they think you should and shouldn’t know, right? I mean, this is a pretty important point.”

    “What is?” Bill murmured, although he only half-wanted to know.

    She didn’t respond this time. Not verbally. Physically, she stepped back and motioned with her free hand—as if she was a stage performer motioning to the next act—at Joel. She didn’t need to, however. Bill’s eyes were already fixed on his assistant as the agent holding the tube twisted the handle once more. Red liquid poured from the bottom of the tube, ran over Joel’s skin, and pooled beneath his body while the blinking light drifted down the emptying cylinder. Eventually, it vanished, and Joel’s screams died down to a panting whimper for the next few seconds.

    And then, he screamed once more. Horribly.

    Bill flinched before watching the agents shift to holding Joel’s arms and legs to the ground. Lifting his chin, Bill eyed Joel before stopping dead where he was. On the assistant’s chest, a glittering, red bead flashed with a steady pulse. It was half-buried in Joel’s skin, but Bill could tell exactly what it was just with that glance. One of the ixodida specimens.

    With a violent twist, Bill tried to wrench his arms away from the agents, but they held tighter with each move he made. Eventually, they twisted his arms enough to force him to stay still, gasping for breath in their grip as his eyes fell on Joel again.

    That was when he noticed that the creature hadn’t moved from its spot. It wasn’t lacerating Joel. It wasn’t cutting him open or burrowing into his body. All he could see were sinewy, vein-like lumps slithering beneath his skin from where the ixodida sat. Joel shuddered and spasmed through each moment that the pokémon laced its net across his body.

    Right then, it finally dawned on Bill what 009 meant.

    “Blazes,” Bill breathed. “It’s a parasite!”

    009 turned her smile on him again. “Wow, they weren’t kidding about how smart you are!” Then, her voice dropped its sickeningly sweet quality. “To humans, yes. It’s a parasite. It’s a nasty one too. I’d show you what it does by letting you watch Anderson, but I don’t think you work that way, do you?”

    One of the agents by Joel rose and took the cylinder back to the wall. The clammy feeling of dread that sat in Bill’s stomach grew just a little more as he watched her replace the device and turn the latch once.

    “What-what are you talking about?” he asked.

    “Oh, you know,” 009 responded in a sing-song voice. “You wear costumes to understand pokémon, don’t you?”

    The agent at the wall turned the latch twice. Bill shifted his feet backwards but knew he couldn’t break free to run.

    “Everyone knows about that technique. The Symposium can’t stop talking about it. They think it’s funny.” 009 tapped the tulip to her chin. “But me? I don’t know. I think it’s a really neat idea!”

    Slowly, the agent at the wall drew the cylinder free from its holder. Another flashing light floated inside, but this one, Bill swore, looked more aggressive. More eager to escape. It darted to the bottom of the cylinder, almost as if it was waiting.

    “See, the problem is we can’t guarantee that you won’t talk,” 009 explained in mock sadness. “You’re really close to Professor Oak, and you’re the kind of person with a strong moral fiber. Or so they say, anyway.”

    The hands holding him forced him to the ground, and the remaining agents swarmed him to pin his limbs down. He thrashed once beneath their grip, but they held him steady while 009 stepped over him. She sat on his stomach, toying with the tulip until her fingertips held its stem like a pen. For the first time, Bill noticed that the end was sharpened and metallic like a scalpel. It felt like a scalpel too when 009 slashed it down his shirt to cut off every button with the deftness of a surgeon. A hand clamped over his mouth as he lifted his head and watched her part the fabric to reveal his pale skin beneath it. Almost seductively, she ran her fingers along the shallow cut down his front that the tulip’s stem left behind.

    “Shame we have to do this to you,” 009 said as she reached up for the tube. “You would’ve been a useful asset to Team Rocket. But who knows? Maybe you’ll survive with your sanity intact, and we’ll be able to use you afterwards. You just won’t be as cute, but that’s okay. I prefer my men to be older and more assertive anyway.”

    She pressed the end of the tube against his chest. His breaths came in short, panicked gasps now, and he struggled to maintain enough composure to lift his head and speak.

    “Wait!”

    The girl stopped and gave him a bored glare.

    “What … what about the orders?” Bill stammered. “Your orders not to touch me.”

    “Oh, those?” She shrugged. “Guess we’ll have to make this look like an accident.”

    “No! Wait!”

    Ignoring him, 009 twisted the handle on the tube. Bill shivered at the sting of the ice-cold fluid gushing out around the opening of the tube. He stiffened, bracing himself as if he could will his skin into becoming a steel barrier to block the parasite. But his nerves prickled as he felt the itch of the creature’s tiny legs crawling across his flesh. Finally, it stopped right over his heart.

    “No,” he whispered. “No. No, please! Please don’t! Please don’t—”

    And then all he felt was hot, blinding pain.

    It was as if someone took a thousand red-hot needles and stabbed him in the chest all at once. He was sure he screamed because he felt his throat strain and scratch as if his muscles were tearing. He couldn’t see anything. He couldn’t hear anything. Nothing in his brain registered except pure pain.

    But at the last second, just before he slipped into darkness, the pain receded, creeping back to the throbbing ache over his heart. He relaxed, falling back to the floor. The hands slipped away from him and left him to breathe shallowly as he lay on his back. His world swam, with the Team Rocket agents bustling around him in hazy blurs and red lights fading in and out above him. He was dimly aware of 009 turning back to him, her mouth moving while her voice resonated, as if it wasn’t from her at all but instead from a million miles away from them, in a saccharine coo.

    “Don’t worry. The rest won’t hurt. To you.”

    The fingers of one of her hands ran along the vein-like net radiating from the parasite while her other hand brushed the petals of her tulip against Bill’s nose. She squeezed the stem, and a blue powder flooded Bill’s vision.

    And then, he slipped into a deep, painless sleep.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 3rd September 2013 at 9:21 AM.

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

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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Author's Note:
    While the old one is still around (and may be updated over yonder), this fic is supposed to be a get-back-to-the-point effort, where I go back and actually write the fic I intended on writing from the get-go.
    Good to know I'm not the only one who tries to write one way and somehow the story goes somewhere different. Still not quite sure why that happens.

    Anyway... While the basic events seem fairly similar, I can see a big difference in Bill already. He seems a lot more active as a character this time around. Last time, stuff happened to Bill a lot whereas here, he accidentally gets himself involved. I guess we'll see how this continues as you write more chapters.

    Guess I'll start into the details then. I'll do a brief look at the prologue, but feel free to ignore anything that'll be taken care of in the re-write you mentioned!


    Zero

    Outside of the city, beyond the red-hot craters that the meteors carved out for themselves, there were two listeners. The first was an absol who stood guard at the Ancient Tomb with his red eyes to the sky.
    All that was left was the single absol, who had, up until the explosion, kept his red eyes to the sky and his teeth bared in a constant, low growl.
    I'm not sure that mentioning that absol's eyes are red twice in the same paragraph is needed.

    His pack had already gone and had been gone for days. Many of them had been part of the pokémon exodus that started almost a week ago, long before the humans knew 2001 TE existed. Others stayed and tried to warn the humans, tried to empty the entire city of its population, but that party eventually gave up and left with the few people who listened to them the afternoon the star exploded.
    More of an observation than anything, but would the humans have noticed something was up from the sudden mass migration of pokémon? Or did they know hat some nebulous “something” was wrong but didn't evacuate until later because they didn't know what yet?

    Suddenly, the ground almost ended beneath him, giving way to the red edge of a crater. He stopped, staring deep into the pit at the rock that sat at its heart. His muzzle snapped in frantic barks as he paced along the edge of the crater and eyed its glowing, red surface. Every pit in its face, every imperfection in the stone made the feeling deep inside the absol grow until it filled every fiber of his being. Something wasn’t right. Something was about to happen. Something terrible was about to be born.
    I like this paragraph – the wording is just really gripping. I hope the re-write keeps this at least.

    Her name was Phoebe, and she had just completed two weeks of training atop Mt. Pyre when she descended the mountain for supplies.

    She was the unlucky one person in the wrong place at the time of impact.
    At Mt. Pyre huh? *suspicions related to previous version of the fic*

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    One

    D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 5
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: TRANSCRIPT
    DESCRIPTION: TRANSCRIPTION OF RADIO MESSAGE INTERCEPTED BY D.E.V.A. TEAM DELTA. LAST KNOWN TRANSMISSION SENT BY PROFESSOR MARSHALL BIRCH FROM RESEARCH POINT ZERO, COORDINATES 31°59′40″N 130°57′6″E.
    DATE-TIME: 16/12/01, 04:37

    BIRCH
    Hello? Hello? Can anyone hear me? I repeat! Can anyone hear me? If you can hear this, this is Professor Marshall Birch of the Hoenn Pokémon Symposium. I’m here with nine other people and sixteen pokémon. We need help! Do you copy?

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS A POOCHYENA USING ROAR OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]

    BIRCH
    Please! Please, we’re at the ruins of Fortree City. Coordinates are—

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS HUMAN SCREAMS OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]

    BIRCH
    Oh gods, they’re getting closer. I don’t have much time! Those things, the pokémon that appeared in this area two months ago. They’re—

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS GUNSHOTS OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]

    BIRCH
    Oh gods. Oh gods, they’re here! Can anyone hear me? Is anyone out there?

    [UNIDENTIFIED NOISE. TRANSMISSION ENDS.]
    I'm reminded of The Leaf Green Incident here. Are these record kept by the same group, perhaps? Or was that story in a different poké-verse than this one?

    It felt to him like an eternity before Professor Nettle turned on her heel and began walking down the corridor, her heels clacking like the legs of a crawdaunt across the smooth vinyl floor.

    “You’ll do. Come with me,” she replied.
    Poor Bill. I like the crawdaunt comparison, though I can't place my finger on why it works so well.

    That said, “turned on her heel” followed so closely by “her heels clacking” is a little repetitive. Maybe just “she turned” or “she abruptly turned” for the first one?

    He exhaled. “Pokémon XP-650, known tentatively as ixodida.
    The ixodida get their name quicker in this version. I think that might also be good for familiarizing readers with the name by calling it that early instead of changing from a number to a name later. That said, you might be able to avoid the number having to change with each new generation of games by saying XP/under-researched pokémon use a different numbering system than that of the established species and not have to update it with each new national dex end. After being studied enough they go from XP XXX to National Dex number YYY, for example, with their placeholder number not directly related to their final dex number? (I don't know, I'm rambling.)

    Nettle couldn’t help but think it was entirely because he hasn’t become bitter and cynical by the research community yet. He probably never had to fight for months for a scrap of funding, and given his reputation, she knew he probably never would. In that sense, she almost admired him, perhaps even thought his lack of experience was adorable.
    Should that be hasn't or hadn't? (I honestly don't know, so if it isn't a problem, ignore this.)

    “It could be a liability to us,” the man replied. “Besides, perhaps the process will coax more information from our friends, the Committee.”

    “So you’re willing to risk our lives to blackmail a government body and capture one monster,” the agent growled.
    Ya' know, just your typical shady evil team shenanigans.

    The figure grinned. “I have no doubt you’ll hold your own against him, 009. Send your next report after the completion of phase two. Understood?”

    At his response, the blonde gripped the edge of the desk until her knuckles turned white. Her teeth clenched, and she sent one last venomous glance at the laptop.

    “Understood, sir,” she finally spat.
    It's so hard for evil minions to find a nice boss that asks for reasonable evil deeds these days...

    “Bill. It’s … it’s just Bill.” He reached out and let Joel shake his hand vigorously as he sent an uneasy look towards Nettle. “I wasn’t expecting an assistant.”

    “You’re working on a team, not solo,” she answered blandly. “If you’d like, think of him as a shared resource. All researchers are paired with assistants here for convenience’s sake, but we also work as a unit. Therefore, it’s understood that if any member of the team requires the help of more than one set of hands, the other members may offer that help if necessary. So if you don’t require Mr. Anderson’s help, you are perfectly welcome to allow your teammates to use him instead.”
    He's right there listening, you guys!

    Shifting in his seat, Bill let his fingers drift to the mouse. The screen flashed to life, displaying a plain black login screen with Polaris’s four-pointed star logo floating above standard username and password input boxes. Bill ignored both of these and quickly tapped a few keys on the keyboard. In an instant, the login screen vanished, replaced by a full-screen command prompt. Both of Bill’s hands found the keyboard this time, and in a flash, he keyed in line after line of commands, his eyes darting from one result to another.

    “Er, professor?” Joel murmured.

    “Bill. Not professor.”

    “Right, uh. Professor Nettle should have given you login information.”

    Bill shrugged. “It must have slipped her mind. Besides, I find that the backdoor always provides a little more information. Professor Nettle said that there was an ixodida specimen on the premises. Is that true?”
    Yep, Bill's definitely more active in this version.

    “Absolutely, sir!”

    “You realize you can be casual with me, yes?”

    “As casual as you want me to be, professor.”
    I laughed a little at this.

    For a long while, the image stayed like that, with the rattata poised in front of her box and the small dot of light pulsing in the corner of its own. Then, in a split second, the light vanished and reappeared on the face of the rattata. There was no sound, but Bill could practically hear the mouse’s screams as she jerked back and stumbled into her box. Through the Plexiglas, Bill could see the rattata’s skin split—neatly, as if a zipper that had been hidden in her nose was now being pulled back slowly across her skull, her neck, and her back. He could see the glistening of her spine, the dull gray of her muscles, the stark white of her skull. Yet he saw no blood. Not yet.
    Well, that was... gruesome. Poor rattata...

    “It’s quite all right. Everyone is shocked when they see it for the first time.” Bill struck a few more keys to summon the black command prompt again. “We’re so used to pokémon battles, and those aren’t meant to be lethal. It’s easy to forget that some pokémon are actually born hunters.”
    Can I just take a moment to appreciate that you can both portray pokémon as dangerous animals and keep pokémon battles the friendly thing the games and anime portray in the same breath?

    “She. Female rattata have shorter whiskers.” Bill rubbed his forehead. “To answer your question, I’m not very fond of watching it, no. This will be quite a challenge.” He removed his hand and paused. “You said there were more ixodida?”

    “Yeah. After the first one killed that rattata, it laid eggs in its—her, sorry—body. We got them to hatch, and they’re all located in Laboratory F.”
    I like that giving the rattata a gender instead of “it” makes the events so much more disturbing... and Bill doesn't shy away from it. It sort of leaves an overall unsettling feeling about the ixodida (and the lab) and makes Bill seem more, I don't know, respectful? of the pokémon involved. At the very least it shows how observant he is.

    Bill continued to type. “Is that so? The ixodida fertilized its own eggs? Interesting.”

    Joel nodded. “Ixodida are hermaphroditic. Professors Fig and Apple have determined that if it’s pressed enough, it’ll lay eggs and fertilize them itself, but it prefers finding a mate.”
    Interesting indeed – one lone ixodida might not be alone for long! I didn't think much the first time I read this line, but on a second glance, wow. They're already really deadly but now we know that even an isolated one that breaks away has the means of starting a larger group wherever it ends up. The lack of genetic diversity might be a problem for the ixodida, but whoever the “lone” ixodida is around will have more immediate things to worry about.

    “Joel, allow me to answer a question you asked a few minutes ago,” he said. “Yes, you can do something for me. I need you to show me to Laboratory F.”

    “Laboratory F?!” Joel exclaimed. “Why do you want to go there?!”

    “To see the ixodida of course. I’d like to meet this pokémon before I study it.”

    “You’d like to meet it?!”

    Bill flashed him a smile. “Yes. Sometimes, I can get along without meeting a pokémon before I study it, but I think in this case, I’ll need to see it for myself first.”
    Active Bill strikes again! Huh, I actually think he's a little more interesting to read about when he's accidentally getting himself into danger than when danger finds him while he's trying to mind his own business. *takes notes for own writing*

    Grasping the door handle, Bill flashed one last grin at Joel.

    “Come now,” he said. “Polaris Institute is a fortress, its security systems are state-of-the-art, and I would be dreadfully surprised if it didn’t have an exceptionally built storage facility for the ixodida. What’s the worst that could happen?”

    With those words, Bill led Joel into the hallway, and once the assistant pointed his superior in the right direction, the two began the trek towards Laboratory F.
    Tempting fate, I see. Campy scifi indeed.

    They got no further than Laboratory E before three massive assistants approached them from behind and grabbed them.
    Fate responds pretty quickly!

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Two
    Huh. In the previous version, I had been suspecting that Pandora was Ivy, but I guess not (maybe she explicitly wasn't last time as well and I just overlooked it).

    Because of that, Bill remained silent. Joel, much to Bill’s dismay, wasn’t quite as cautious, opting instead to thrash and scream against the hands of the other two strangers. Every so often, Bill glanced at him from the corner of his eye as he struggled to come up with a plan, but no matter how much he knew he needed to get Joel out of this, nothing came to mind. Any plan that nearly surfaced in his brain ultimately ended with the both of them beaten on the floor at best. After all, while Bill couldn’t speak for Joel, he could tell by the assistant’s panicking nature and shaking limbs that Joel was by no means a fighter. Bill himself wasn’t much of one either; he never really considered the possibility of training himself past a few self-defense lessons in college and the occasional kung fu movie. Besides that, he had no weapons or pokémon on him. Even if he had brought his own, they would have been confiscated by security at the first checkpoint according to the institute’s safety policies.

    In short, they were screwed, and Bill knew it.
    Huh. Just wondering how far they'd gotten from the door to Laboratory E before this happened and how soundproof the labs are (if E's even occupied at this time). E's implied to be either soundproof or empty, considering no one has reacted to Joel's screams, but it seems a little weird without a bit of clarification.

    F.

    They were at the door of the ixodida holding cell.
    Kidnapped and taken to where they were headed in the first place! (Why am I imagining an alternate version of this scene where Bill and Joel walk blissfully into the room just after Domino's hung up from her conversation with Giovanni, resulting in an awkward stare-off until the grunts grab them? Ah, well. That's probably not as in “tone” as what you have here.)

    There were ten people besides the three captors occupying the room. All of them were lab assistants, from the looks of their blue scrubs, and all of them had their eyes fixed steadily on Bill. But there was one at the front, a petite, blonde assistant with sharp, purple eyes, who glared the hardest at him.

    “You’re late.” She paused, and her purple eyes narrowed. “And those are two.”
    Another instance of mentioning eye color in quick succession (I've noticed that I have this issue too).

    Behind Bill, Joel squeaked.
    Poor Joel's just realized that her statement means one of them is expendable.

    Bill felt a hand snatch his arm. He didn’t look at the grunt who grabbed him. Instead, he tried to yank his arm away while keeping his eyes on Joel. Bill knew this was a desperate situation, and even he had to admit he wasn’t the bravest person in existence. Yet he also knew he would be responsible for whatever they did to Joel, so he needed to do something. Anything.

    So for the first time he could remember, he silenced the tiny voice in his head that insisted he was about to do something stupid.
    Meaning he didn't think it was stupid to try to talk down a giant pokémon enraged by Team Rocket (assuming anime-verse)?

    009 sighed and pressed a hand to her forehead. “Giovanni is going to love this.”

    At that, Bill smiled. It was definitely an opening. “I’m sure we can negotiate something here. I don’t know what it is you want, but if you let Mr. Anderson go, I can arrange something.”
    Here's a point where the new version with two captives helps. I remember last time they grabbed Bill because he was alone and she berated them for getting the one guy they weren't supposed to capture, here he's mistaken for a person with a similar appearance and captured alongside him. It makes more sense to me that he was brought along for the ride with another green-haired guy than if Team Rocket could have just circulated a picture saying “Not this one” but neglected to take the precaution and grabbed the wrong person.

    “Oh no,” she answered sweetly. “We can’t touch you. Strict orders from years and years ago. Like, longer than even I’ve been around!”

    They couldn’t touch him. Bill couldn’t use anything he had as leverage to get either of them out of trouble. His smile faded, and so did what little confidence he had when he started into his plan.
    I'm not sure that finding out he's on a special do-not-hurt list would make him feel like he has less leverage. I mean, he can't offer himself up instead, but knowing he's special to them could make him more inclined to take risks, given he apparently has some sort of protection. Maybe this bit could be clearer?

    “Bill,” 009 said. “Do you mind if I call you Bill?”
    Sort of an odd throwback to him insisting Joel call him “Bill” a chapter ago.

    He didn’t answer. After a few seconds, 009 strode forward to stand in front of him, turning to watch her subordinates force Joel to the ground and carry the tube to him.

    “So you know what happens to humans when an ixodida bites them, right?” she asked.

    Bill shook his head. He watched helplessly as agents yanked Joel’s shirt up to his shoulders and pressed one end of the tube against his bare chest. Joel’s screams rose to an incoherent screech.

    “Really? That’s funny. Wouldn’t they have told you during your briefing?” 009 snickered. “Oh wait. That’s us. Because we stole information from people higher than you. Weird what they think you should and shouldn’t know, right? I mean, this is a pretty important point.”

    “What is?” Bill murmured, although he only half-wanted to know.

    She didn’t respond this time. Not verbally. Physically, she stepped back and motioned with her free hand—as if she was a stage performer motioning to the next act—at Joel. She didn’t need to, however. Bill’s eyes were already fixed on his assistant as the agent holding the tube twisted the handle once more. Red liquid poured from the bottom of the tube, ran over Joel’s skin, and pooled beneath his body while the blinking light drifted down the emptying cylinder. Eventually, it vanished, and Joel’s screams died down to a panting whimper for the next few seconds.

    And then, he screamed once more. Horribly.
    Good description – this scene is so creepy. 009 really seems to have evil mocking down to an art as well.

    Ignoring him, 009 twisted the handle on the tube. Bill shivered at the sting of the ice-cold fluid gushing out around the opening of the tube. He stiffened, bracing himself as if he could will his skin into becoming a steel barrier to block the parasite. But his nerves prickled as he felt the itch of the creature’s tiny legs crawling across his flesh. Finally, it stopped right over his heart.
        Spoiler:- last version of the fic stuff:


    “Don’t worry. The rest won’t hurt. To you.”
    The wording here's a little confusing. I can't tell if she means it'll hurt, but he'll be unconscious through it, or that she's only knocking him out but not doing the same to Anderson, or if she's referring to Giovanni being likely to punish her/the grunts for getting Bill involved.

    It'll be interesting to see where a more active Bill takes the rest of the story. I'm enjoying the re-write so far.
    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.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ememew View Post
    Good to know I'm not the only one who tries to write one way and somehow the story goes somewhere different. Still not quite sure why that happens.
    *high five!*

    I think it’s just that the longer you go between the time you write something and the time you go back to it, the more ideas pop up in your head for fixing it. I know that for me, I keep derailing the plot because in order to fix plot holes, I’d have to do things completely differently. (Bringing Joel along for the ride instead of introducing him after Bill was infected, for example.) That and this time around, I know exactly where the story is going to go from beginning to end because the second version (read: last version) helped me figure that out, so a lot of the story is now focused on heading towards that goal I have in mind for this.

    ‘Course, I’m also not everyone, so it could just be the “oops I thought of a better way of doing this AND IT TOTALLY DERAILS THE PLOT” thing might be more relevant. XD

    Anyway... While the basic events seem fairly similar, I can see a big difference in Bill already. He seems a lot more active as a character this time around. Last time, stuff happened to Bill a lot whereas here, he accidentally gets himself involved. I guess we'll see how this continues as you write more chapters.
    Haha, put it this way: he’s not going to learn from this. 8D

    I'm not sure that mentioning that absol's eyes are red twice in the same paragraph is needed.
    Oh, repetition. My own worst enemy. *nod*

    More of an observation than anything, but would the humans have noticed something was up from the sudden mass migration of pokémon? Or did they know hat some nebulous “something” was wrong but didn't evacuate until later because they didn't know what yet?
    Definitely something I’m working out of the rewrite, but yeah, I agree that it’s difficult for humans not to notice something the size of a bus hurtling directly at a populated area.

    I like this paragraph – the wording is just really gripping. I hope the re-write keeps this at least.
    Will do~! o>

    At Mt. Pyre huh? *suspicions related to previous version of the fic*
    *whistles innocently*

    I'm reminded of The Leaf Green Incident here. Are these record kept by the same group, perhaps? Or was that story in a different poké-verse than this one?
    Interesting question! The answer is that, yes, D.E.V.A. was the organization in The Leaf Green Incident, but this takes place in a separate universe. Slightly, anyway. They’ve definitely “contained” the Mewtwo of this universe insofar as to say, “Okay, so we’ll give you a place to hang out so long as you promise not to snap and go on a rampage or anything. Deal?” And alarmingly enough, that worked.

    Buuuut I also like to think that there’s a multiverse where all of my fanfics are connected through a thin dimensional wall, so … I just have weird thoughts on fanfics.

    (Although that is a separate plot bunny.)

    Poor Bill. I like the crawdaunt comparison, though I can't place my finger on why it works so well.
    Probably because Bill’s one wrong quip away from getting his head Crabhammered off. 8D

    That said, “turned on her heel” followed so closely by “her heels clacking” is a little repetitive. Maybe just “she turned” or “she abruptly turned” for the first one?
    Ooh. I like the idea of keeping it super-simple with “she turned.” Thanks!

    The ixodida get their name quicker in this version. I think that might also be good for familiarizing readers with the name by calling it that early instead of changing from a number to a name later. That said, you might be able to avoid the number having to change with each new generation of games by saying XP/under-researched pokémon use a different numbering system than that of the established species and not have to update it with each new national dex end. After being studied enough they go from XP XXX to National Dex number YYY, for example, with their placeholder number not directly related to their final dex number? (I don't know, I'm rambling.)
    Actually, that makes a lot of sense, and it’s in tune with my thoughts on how the Pokédex was created! I wonder if I can work in a word about it in this version. If not, I might start a series of side materials to cover that. Or save it for the headcanon posts on le Tumblr.

    Should that be hasn't or hadn't? (I honestly don't know, so if it isn't a problem, ignore this.)
    Actually, you’re right that it should be hadn’t. Thanks for the catch!

    Ya' know, just your typical shady evil team shenanigans.
    Eeeeeveryone wears a red shirt in Giovanni’s eyes!

    It's so hard for evil minions to find a nice boss that asks for reasonable evil deeds these days...
    But at least he offers decent benefits and bonuses for holidays!

    (Only one of those is canon.)

    He's right there listening, you guys!
    It’s okay! Assistants don’t care what you call them so long as you say it in a calm, neutral tone of voice.

    … Or was that puppies?

    Yep, Bill's definitely more active in this version.
    It was definitely a lot of fun having him look at a computer and instantly go, “I’m in an ultra-secure, government-run facility, AND I CAN HACK THAT.”

    Can I just take a moment to appreciate that you can both portray pokémon as dangerous animals and keep pokémon battles the friendly thing the games and anime portray in the same breath?
    Thank you!

    Gotta say, I liked tackling that idea. I see a lot of people write dark and gritty fics by going “lol Pokémon can kill each other in sanctioned battles now,” but it’s like, you really don’t have to go over-the-top to address death in the Pokémon universe. You can have your friendly and cute and safe battles and address the wild, animalistic nature of Pokémon at the same time. You just need to think about when is and isn’t a good time to put up either side, if that makes sense. And you certainly don’t need to create an all-or-nothing (either super violent or not violent) world. These are animals, basically. Kinda like dolphins or octopi in terms of intelligence and sapience. But the animal world can be brutal in certain circumstances, just as it can be cute and fuzzy in others.

    Idk. Now I’m going on. XD

    I like that giving the rattata a gender instead of “it” makes the events so much more disturbing... and Bill doesn't shy away from it. It sort of leaves an overall unsettling feeling about the ixodida (and the lab) and makes Bill seem more, I don't know, respectful? of the pokémon involved. At the very least it shows how observant he is.
    I’m really glad you caught this. Like, seriously.

    One of the biggest things I’d like to get across is that Bill is respectful towards Pokémon. He is towards people too (or, um, people he likes), but he is most definitely in awe of Pokémon. And that’s probably one of the things that’s going to drive his character, just as it had in the older versions of this fic.

    That and I really wanted to get across that he’s kind of sensitive in a way. As in, while he’d watch a video of a Rattata getting torn apart if he had to (like he does right at this scene), he doesn’t enjoy watching people or Pokémon get hurt because it just isn’t right to him.

    Which, of course, is still going to be a hilarious part of his character down the line, considering this is a Pokémon fic. A Pokémon fic that takes cues from Parasyte, Alien, and Elfen Lied.

    Interesting indeed – one lone ixodida might not be alone for long! I didn't think much the first time I read this line, but on a second glance, wow. They're already really deadly but now we know that even an isolated one that breaks away has the means of starting a larger group wherever it ends up. The lack of genetic diversity might be a problem for the ixodida, but whoever the “lone” ixodida is around will have more immediate things to worry about.
    Oh yes. *tents fingers*

        Spoiler:- Also!:


    Active Bill strikes again! Huh, I actually think he's a little more interesting to read about when he's accidentally getting himself into danger than when danger finds him while he's trying to mind his own business. *takes notes for own writing*
    He’s certainly a lot more fun to write! Now I feel a little less like I have to shove him to do something interesting. All I have to do is sit down and say, “Okay, this time around, Bill is a genius who’s excited about Pokémon, but he lacks all common sense.” And then the rest of the story just goes from there.

    Fate responds pretty quickly!
    Bill has Fate on speed dial … as well as a terrible habit of leaving his phone unlocked in his pocket.

    Huh. In the previous version, I had been suspecting that Pandora was Ivy, but I guess not (maybe she explicitly wasn't last time as well and I just overlooked it).
    I don’t think I mentioned it last time around, so you’re good!

    Huh. Just wondering how far they'd gotten from the door to Laboratory E before this happened and how soundproof the labs are (if E's even occupied at this time). E's implied to be either soundproof or empty, considering no one has reacted to Joel's screams, but it seems a little weird without a bit of clarification.
    Ooh, that is something I dropped from one version to the next for some reason, but I can definitely edit it back in. (In the last version, Domino mentions that the laboratories are soundproof, which is why no one heard Bill screaming then. I’m not sure why I dropped that line because that actually helped establish how bubbly her facade can get too.)

    Kidnapped and taken to where they were headed in the first place! (Why am I imagining an alternate version of this scene where Bill and Joel walk blissfully into the room just after Domino's hung up from her conversation with Giovanni, resulting in an awkward stare-off until the grunts grab them? Ah, well. That's probably not as in “tone” as what you have here.)
    Well, now I’m tempted to write a side chapter of exactly this. XD

    Another instance of mentioning eye color in quick succession (I've noticed that I have this issue too).
    Ooh! Thanks for the catch!

    Poor Joel's just realized that her statement means one of them is expendable.
    At this point, I’m legit wondering if going back and changing the assistants’ scrubs from blue-green to red would be overdoing it. XD

    Technically, he is named after another face in a red jumpsuit, but …!

    Meaning he didn't think it was stupid to try to talk down a giant pokémon enraged by Team Rocket (assuming anime-verse)?
    Bill’s definition of stupid ideas is a very different than the one most people adhere to, yes. XD He’s even called out on it by the narrator in the next chapter.

    But seriously, I think Bill’s definition of stupid idea follows this dichotomy: “Will it directly result in my death? (Y/N)
    • (If yes) STUPID IDEA. DO NOT DO.
    • (If no) Okay, go for it.
    • (If a rare Pokémon is involved) DON’T CARE. DO IT ANYWAY.”



    Here's a point where the new version with two captives helps. I remember last time they grabbed Bill because he was alone and she berated them for getting the one guy they weren't supposed to capture, here he's mistaken for a person with a similar appearance and captured alongside him. It makes more sense to me that he was brought along for the ride with another green-haired guy than if Team Rocket could have just circulated a picture saying “Not this one” but neglected to take the precaution and grabbed the wrong person.
    And you just described the exact reason why this change was made. \o/ I thought it was weird too, honestly, because it just felt too convenient. That and I thought it made the transformation timeline make more sense, plus it added a bit more dramatic tension if Bill knew someone was relying on him this hard. In general, it just plain made more sense to me to add Joel in, but the reason you’ve described really was the biggest one.

    Also, I have a bad habit of picking up characters from previous versions of fics and going, “You are my baby now.” *motions to Thom and then to Joel*

    I'm not sure that finding out he's on a special do-not-hurt list would make him feel like he has less leverage. I mean, he can't offer himself up instead, but knowing he's special to them could make him more inclined to take risks, given he apparently has some sort of protection. Maybe this bit could be clearer?
    Ooh, that’s a good point. I’ll have to think about this a bit more. I meant to say that he thought Domino would refuse anything he’d offer because Team Rocket is supposed to be five hundred feet from him at all times, but even then, it’d make more sense for him to try something as soon as he realized they couldn’t even really beat him up.

    But on the other hand, that means it wouldn’t make sense for Team Rocket to infect him, so I think I’d have to add a bit more to that scene, period.

    Sort of an odd throwback to him insisting Joel call him “Bill” a chapter ago.
    The first time anyone honors Bill’s request to be spoken to casually … and it’s by the woman who’s about to spear him in the chest with an alien Pokémon.

    Yep. Bill’s luck really is like that.

    Good description – this scene is so creepy. 009 really seems to have evil mocking down to an art as well.
    Thank you! I always love writing the creepy parts. *fingertents*

    Also, I’m going to have a lot of fun writing 009. A lot of fun. >8D

        Spoiler:- last version of the fic stuff:
        Spoiler:- Spoilers!:


    The wording here's a little confusing. I can't tell if she means it'll hurt, but he'll be unconscious through it, or that she's only knocking him out but not doing the same to Anderson, or if she's referring to Giovanni being likely to punish her/the grunts for getting Bill involved.
    Should be an easy fix. Thanks!

    (Although for le record, I totally meant the first one.)

    It'll be interesting to see where a more active Bill takes the rest of the story. I'm enjoying the re-write so far.
    Thank you~!

    And I’m excited about this new take too. It’s going to be a lot of fun putting things in Bill’s way and figuring out which ones he runs headlong into. *fingertents again* >8D
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 24th August 2013 at 5:32 AM.

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

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  10. #10
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    Well, I suppose I might as well give it a go since I followed the old one. I'm going to approach this as an entirely new fic as much as possible instead of a remake, if that's okay.

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Warnings: This fanfiction may contain violence, character death, and psychological torture. It most definitely contains body horror. If you're squicked by physical fun, please make friends with the back button.
    But then it wouldn't be as fun without those things! But I digress.

    Zero

    Very few things in this universe die as spectacularly as a shooting star. Some of the most poetic works of literature available might describe it as a streak of light, but it’s more than that. It is an event of light and sound. It is a firework at close-range, a bomb of noise that can drown out the commotion of a city. When a shooting star explodes, it shatters glass miles away and flattens entire forests before the rocky fragments of its body touches the ground. It is, should one be in the wrong place at the time of impact, a dramatic death.
    Very lovely imagery to start out; it's certainly got my attention.

    One thing I might point out is that the use of "it's" in the second sentence feels a little odd. Like, the entire passage is written very formally (which works for the material) and the sudden contraction there just feels off. I think it can safely be returned to "it is" without issue, especially because all of the other instances where it could be used are "it is."

    And the meteor 2001 TE—a body of ice and metal that had, as eloquently put by scientists, simply materialized just beyond the moon—exploded spectacularly above Fortree City at the end of its journey. Unfortunately, although it was a marvel of human engineering, Fortree City was by no means well-equipped to withstand the equivalent of an atomic explosive detonating three miles outside its borders. Trees, no matter how wide, are no substitute for a cement foundation, and three days are not enough time to evacuate an entire city population.
    Is there a significance to the designation of the meteor? I suspect one but I can't identify it.

    Do you have a number in mind for the population of Fortree, out of curiosity? I'm wondering just how many of the people could feasibly have been evacuated.

    It rained fire the night 2001 TE exploded, and the blasts emanating from its shattering masked the cracking of the forest that held the city aloft. No one, not even the victims themselves, could hear the screaming. All they could feel was falling and heat and then nothing at all. Only when the resonance of the explosion died down, only when the skies fell silent, did the last shrieks of the falling city echo through the night air.

    And then, there was silence.
    "It rained fire"... I love that expression, especially here. Excellent use of dramatic imagery, and I could picture it perfectly.

    Outside of the city, beyond the red-hot craters that the meteors carved out for themselves, there were two listeners. The first was an absol who stood guard at the Ancient Tomb with his red eyes to the sky. His pack had already gone and had been gone for days. Many of them had been part of the pokémon exodus that started almost a week ago, long before the humans knew 2001 TE existed. Others stayed and tried to warn the humans, tried to empty the entire city of its population, but that party eventually gave up and left with the few people who listened to them the afternoon the star exploded. All that was left was the single absol, who had, up until the explosion, kept his red eyes to the sky and his teeth bared in a constant, low growl.
    Good use of a game location; even if I would like to see the Scorched Slab elaborated on more, having Absol guarding the place where Registeel is makes sense.

    "His pack had already gone and had been gone for days" feels repetitive; you could probably trim that to just "His pack had already been gone for days."

    Ah, there's what looks like a vital piece of information regarding the evacuation (or lack thereof). Now, this confuses me a little. The idea of humans trying to be willfully ignorant of the threat an impending disaster poses is logical; it happens in real life all the time. What confuses me is why the citizens had no other warning. Hoenn has a space center that is not all that far from Fortree City (relatively speaking), and not only that, just a few paragraphs earlier, it is implied that the meteor was indeed detected in advance ("a body of ice and metal that had, as eloquently put by scientists, simply materialized just beyond the moon," "three days are not enough time to evacuate an entire city population.") I feel like some additional information should be provided here to reconcile this, for example, perhaps the citizens did not believe they were in danger because the meteor was initially predicted to explode over the ocean, and its track changed too late to do anything.

    It was because he knew something else was going to happen. The sound of the city falling was only the beginning. He could feel the cold, familiar weight of his premonitions in his bones, but for the life of him, he couldn’t see what he was meant to warn the humans about.

    And then, when the star landed and sent a shockwave of trembling earth and hot wind across the land, the absol braced himself against the tomb’s rocky walls and gritted his teeth. The feeling in his bones grew heavier with each passing second until it reached a peak as soon as the hot winds died down. He jumped, his paws scrambling over the earth as he raced down the hillside towards the craters. In his mind, his visions began to resolve, and all he could see was red.

    The ground grew hotter as he drew closer and closer to the impact crater, but he couldn’t stop. His entire body was focused completely on that cold, heavy feeling deep inside him—the feeling of his supernatural senses vibrating with his last vision. Any moment now, he would know. He would know exactly what message he needed to deliver.
    Perhaps I'm splitting hairs here, but if the meteor exploded, shouldn't there be multiple impact sites? You kind of touch on it by saying that Absol raced "down the hillside towards the craters, but in the very next paragraph, that's contradicted by "impact crater."

    Suddenly, the ground almost ended beneath him, giving way to the red edge of a crater. He stopped, staring deep into the pit at the rock that sat at its heart. His muzzle snapped in frantic barks as he paced along the edge of the crater and eyed its glowing, red surface. Every pit in its face, every imperfection in the stone made the feeling deep inside the absol grow until it filled every fiber of his being. Something wasn’t right. Something was about to happen. Something terrible was about to be born.

    Then, he saw it and stopped. His paws froze, and his mouth shut.

    A crack laced up the side of the meteor. At first, it was only an inch wide by a foot long, but then, it expanded and grew until it spread up the meteorite like a gaping smile turned sideways. The longer the absol stared at it, the more he realized that the glow was not coming from the surface of the rock but rather from within it, pulsing with every passing second like a heartbeat. This, the absol knew, was exactly what he was supposed to foresee. His lips puckered, and in that pause, he emitted a short, high-pitched whine.
    A crater suggests again that there are multiple impact sites, which would make more sense if the 'explosion' was a literal one and not figurative.

    That detail actually comes to weigh in one important way on the storyline - is the lifeform in only the piece of the meteor that hit this site, or do all the sites have them and Absol only found one of them?

    All nitpicking aside, this is definitely capturing the atmosphere you wanted. I can picture this perfectly in my head, and it fits in the theme of campy science fiction.

    That was when the meteorite cracked completely open and released the sea of red light. It rushed up the side of the crater before the absol could discern what it was, and within seconds, it washed over him.

    Miles away, the absol’s pained howling echoed through the air, and the second listener raised her head.

    Her name was Phoebe, and she had just completed two weeks of training atop Mt. Pyre when she descended the mountain for supplies.

    She was the unlucky one person in the wrong place at the time of impact.
    Oh dear, I'm sure Phoebe's fate isn't going to be a pretty one. You're going to see to that.

    The prologue was very enjoyable. I think the strongest part of it was the description, because everything literally from beginning to end was painted in such vivid terms that there was not one point where I couldn't visualize what was going on. Obviously there's not much characterization to comment on, since all of the characters in this prologue are either dead or doomed, which leads me into my next point - this would fit perfectly within the context of a campy science fiction movie as its prologue. Literally. All it's missing is a title card with some ominous music after it finishes.

    Aside from the confusion over how many impact sites there are - and I suspect that's just because something wasn't quite clear, not an actual inconsistency - I have nothing to complain about.

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  11. #11
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    Is double posting this okay? Because I don't think the chapter reviews could fit in the same post with the prologue.

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    One

    D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 5
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: TRANSCRIPT
    DESCRIPTION: TRANSCRIPTION OF RADIO MESSAGE INTERCEPTED BY D.E.V.A. TEAM DELTA. LAST KNOWN TRANSMISSION SENT BY PROFESSOR MARSHALL BIRCH FROM RESEARCH POINT ZERO, COORDINATES 31°59′40″N 130°57′6″E.
    DATE-TIME: 16/12/01, 04:37


    It's good to start out with this. I want to emphasize that for the fact you pointed out this is a transcript of a radio message - I seem to recall The Leaf Green Incident having a bit of confusion at times about what forms of media its storytelling was taking, and you've clearly learned from that. Pointing out that it's a transcript right away makes the rest of it much easier to grasp.

    BIRCH
    Hello? Hello? Can anyone hear me? I repeat! Can anyone hear me? If you can hear this, this is Professor Marshall Birch of the Hoenn Pokémon Symposium. I’m here with nine other people and sixteen pokémon. We need help! Do you copy?

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS A POOCHYENA USING ROAR OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]

    BIRCH
    Please! Please, we’re at the ruins of Fortree City. Coordinates are—

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS HUMAN SCREAMS OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]
    Well then, that sure got serious fast. But then again, should I expect anything different from you, Jax?

    I'm assuming that the coordinates were added later, since Birch didn't have time to state them.

    BIRCH
    Oh gods, they’re getting closer. I don’t have much time! Those things, the pokémon that appeared in this area two months ago. They’re—

    [NOISE IDENTIFIED AS GUNSHOTS OCCURS IN THE BACKGROUND.]
    Two things here:

    One, two months? I assume that means the area has either been overrun for some time and Birch's expedition is a last-ditch trip to try and find something, or the creatures had a bit of a slow start once they were born?

    And two, the presence of guns makes me wonder a little, but then taking into account what probably remains from the previous version of the story, they're most likely useless. Is that correct?

    BIRCH
    Oh gods. Oh gods, they’re here! Can anyone hear me? Is anyone out there?

    [UNIDENTIFIED NOISE. TRANSMISSION ENDS.]
    You should have had Birch scream right before it cut off... because nobody could hear him scream.

    “Professor William Henry McKenzie.”

    A young man inhaled deeply, suppressing the urge to cough out the cold, sterile air of the hallway. Every fiber of his being tensed at once as the security officers on both sides of him stepped back. He felt almost too exposed, standing there in front of the singularly most intimidating woman he had ever met. Her lips puckered slightly as her hazel eyes stared at the file in her long, spindly hands before she peered at him from over her bifocal glasses. At once, he shivered but swallowed as much of his nervousness as he could in an attempt to force himself to look confident.
    You're in a good place with description, right on the line where it's elaborate but not purple.

    I think it should start with "The young man" and not "A young man" though. "A young man" feels like it doesn't match with the rest of the paragraph.

    “You must be Professor Nettle,” he said, his voice lilting in a light, Johtonian accent. “It’s an honor to meet you.”
    Oh yes, this one. Let's see if a reboot universe changes her fortunes any.

        Spoiler:- spoiler:


    He extended his hand for her to shake, but this only prompted her to glare at it in length. Sensing that he might have made the wrong move for his first impression, the young man swung his hand back. It snaked around to his back, where he clasped it nervously in his other hand while his mouth, for once, shut without another word.

    It felt to him like an eternity before Professor Nettle turned on her heel and began walking down the corridor, her heels clacking like the legs of a crawdaunt across the smooth vinyl floor.

    “You’ll do. Come with me,” she replied.
    I see one of my favorite characters from last time hasn't changed, which is a good thing of course.

    Why do I picture her holding a clipboard right now?

    Seeing no other choice, her companion scrambled forward and fell into step beside Nettle.

    “Have you been briefed?” she asked.

    “Yes.”

    “Tell me what you know.”

    “I’m sorry?”

    She glared at him from the corner of her eye. “I need to know that you understand what we’re studying. Tell me what you know.”

    He exhaled. “Pokémon XP-650, known tentatively as ixodida. Its origin is technically unknown, but the current prevailing theory is that it’s connected to the meteor shower that occurred over Fortree City ten months ago due to the timing and location of the ixodida sightings. Very little else is known about it except that it’s exclusively carnivorous and a highly aggressive predator at that. Reports of it have only been able to come from a handful of survivors and media outlets prior to the Hoenn quarantine. No one is even sure what it looks like because its aggression and speed almost nearly guarantee that anyone who sees it has very little chance of surviving.”
    I think I like this approach to telling the story. We could have spent a significant amount of time in just technobabble explaining the Ixodida, but this time, we just get a basic overview and a name, then jump right into the next part of the story. Any more exposition on the species can be given once we start actually seeing them.

    Good move.

    As soon as he finished, there was a brief pause in their conversation.

    “Is that it?” Nettle said after a few seconds.

    “Yes, it is, I’m afraid.”

    Nettle arched an eyebrow at his file again. “Dramatically delivered but nearly correct. It shows that you’ve read up on the ixodida, but it also shows how terribly in the dark you had been before your recruitment.” She opened the file once again. “According to your file, you work with the Pokémon Cutting-Edge Technology Research Center. Are you a corporate technological researcher, then?”

    “Actually, I consider myself unaffiliated. You’ll notice that my more relevant work was sponsored by Celadon University.”

    “But your reputation stems from your pokémon storage and retrieval system, yes?”

    “I suppose it would.”

    “Which was funded corporately.”
    Silph Co., right? There's some interesting implications if so, especially if you go with the theory that Team Rocket has at least a presence within Silph Co. all the time.

    “I accept funding from whatever source I can find. It’s really the research that I focus on, not who my investors are.”

    Nettle narrowed her eyes. “I see.”

    The other researcher stopped in the hallway and waited for Nettle to turn to him.

    “If I may,” he said. “I’d like to say I’m looking forward to working on your team, Professor Nettle. I’ve read your papers on jynx communication, and I found your proposal of the Rosetta String particularly enlightening. I’ve used your method of decoding one minute of a pokemon’s call more than useful in my own work.”
    Somehow I get the feeling Bill's kissing up to Nettle isn't going to help him much... but mostly because nothing will help Bill much.

    Jynx communication? Rosetta String? I'm intrigued...

    She eyed him skeptically. The truth was she already knew a lot about this young man. Half the world did. He was, after all, one of the youngest inductees into the Pokémon Symposium, the foremost organization dedicated to pokémon research, and the media adored him because of it. Still, in person, he looked younger than what the media said he was, what with the determined glint in his dark eyes, the proud smile crossing his heart-shaped face, the way he stood with his back straight and his broad hands shoved casually into his lab coat pockets as he looked down at his world-weary superior. There was something about him, something about the way he carried himself that made him seem full of enthusiasm and energy.

    Nettle couldn’t help but think it was entirely because he hasn’t become bitter and cynical by the research community yet. He probably never had to fight for months for a scrap of funding, and given his reputation, she knew he probably never would. In that sense, she almost admired him, perhaps even thought his lack of experience was adorable.
    Still, she also couldn’t help but think his last statement carried a bit more of a blow than he thought it did.
    First off, I want to compliment how you handled describing Bill. Choosing to wait and describe him through Nettle's eyes instead of dumping the description right away was a good idea.

    I'm actually somewhat interested in the fact that Bill is taller than Nettle. It doesn't mean anything significant, but something I notice is that height often reflects age and/or status, but you broke that and went with an arguably more realistic depiction. I don't know, I just found it interesting.

    And of course, he's full of enthusiasm and energy and hasn't become bitter and cynical yet because we haven't broken him yet. Just give it time. Nettle will make sure of that.

    One correction: 'he hasn't' is incorrect in terms of tense. I think it should be 'he hadn't.'

    “I published that paper in 1979,” she said dryly.

    “Yes,” he replied. “Celadon University has a copy on file. I read it for my senior thesis.”

    “When were you born?”

    “1982.”

    “You’re nineteen then.”

    “Yes.”

    “And you wrote your senior thesis in …?”

    “1994.”

    “You were born three years after I published that paper, and you read it for your senior thesis when you were twelve.”
    Somehow I get the feeling that Nettle is not exactly flattered by this. It's my perception that she seems almost as if she feels upstaged by him.

    “Yes. Why?”

    Nettle turned and continued walking. The last thing she needed was to feel as old as he made her feel, but she didn’t dare voice that. They were professionals, after all, regardless of her own vanity and his … flamboyant nature. Instead, she focused on leading him directly to a single nondescript door along the hallway.
    A shout out to Bill's flamboyance from the anime, is it?

    Oh, I'm sure Nettle can manage to deal with him for a few minutes. It won't last...

    “This,” she said as she gripped the knob, “is laboratory D. Consider it our base of operations. While we will be using larger facilities to observe the ixodida, this is where we analyze our data and compile our findings.”

    As Nettle swiped her ID badge on the lock next to the door, her companion reeled back and allowed his eyes to widen slightly.

    “Observe the ixodida?” he asked. “Do you mean to say we actually have a specimen?”

    “Yes.”

    “But no one has been able to approach an ixodida and make it back alive!”

    Nettle smirked. “As far as the public is concerned, yes. There is a lot about the situation in Hoenn no one has told you, Professor McKenzie. Welcome to government work.” She opened the door roughly. “By the way. I found your father’s paper on pokémon genetics in relation to special abilities particularly enlightening. I was fourteen when he published it.”

    As she walked through the door, she didn’t bother to look back and see her companion staring after her uncomfortably.
    I don't blame him for being uncomfortable. This is the point where I would hope he's beginning to catch on to the fact that he's being used.

    I like how Nettle seems to be almost happy about what she's about to do, in a really understated way.

    Elsewhere in the complex, a young blonde woman inhaled deeply and scrunched her dainty nose. She crossed her long legs as she sat on a desk next to a laptop computer. On its screen, a window was open to a feed of a figure sitting in shadow with a persian at his feet. At the blonde’s feet, meanwhile, knelt three tall men in the same blue scrubs she was wearing—scrubs that identified all three as research assistants according to the institute’s hierarchy of staff.
    Oh ****, it actually took me a minute to register who this is, but boy am I glad to see her. I'm already in love with her depiction here. It's pretty different from how she was in canon, but by reading ahead I've seen that you do have a good explanation for the change in her character.

    “Polaris Institute. I hate this place. It reminds me of your laboratories,” the blonde sneered.

    “You’re not there to enjoy yourself,” the figure responded curtly. “Have you contacted our chief agent?”

    The blonde narrowed her purple eyes and rested her pointed chin on a hand. Her other hand reached out as one of the three men produced a manila envelope.

    “I did. She says she’s selected a suitable target for us,” she told the figure. “She didn’t tell me much else besides that.”
    Chief agent? Nettle? Or is it someone else?

    I'm not sure I care for "rested her pointed chin on a hand." I think I would rather see "on her hand."

    “Then you have your orders.”

    The assistant opened the envelope and slid its contents into her hand. She stared at the stack of papers carefully as her look of boredom dissolved into a cold glare.

    “He’ll do,” she said. “We’ll have him gift-wrapped for you in less than five hours.”

    “The process will take up to two weeks. You’re to watch over him and transport him only after it has completed.”

    His subordinate started. “Wouldn’t it be easier to transport him immediately and let the process happen in one of our own laboratories?”

    “It could be a liability to us,” the man replied. “Besides, perhaps the process will coax more information from our friends, the Committee.”

    “So you’re willing to risk our lives to blackmail a government body and capture one monster,” the agent growled.

    The figure grinned. “I have no doubt you’ll hold your own against him, 009. Send your next report after the completion of phase two. Understood?”
    Can I just say how much I love the machinations here? I almost can hear Gendo Ikari's voice saying Giovanni's lines (even though I know he's more like someone else) to a blonde, female Fuyutsuki.

    At his response, the blonde gripped the edge of the desk until her knuckles turned white. Her teeth clenched, and she sent one last venomous glance at the laptop.

    “Understood, sir,” she finally spat.
    Hmm... I'm not sure how I feel about this part of this Domino's personality. Her deadly serious, not-girlish demeanor makes sense with the supplied explanation, but I find it a little harder to swallow the seemingly real hostility she appears to have for Giovanni here.

    Her finger jabbed a key to end the call. As the window vanished, she transferred her gaze back to the papers in her lap. Her eyes narrowed once again as she stared hard at the name and photo her contact had given her.

    “Anderson,” she muttered. Then, she flashed the photo at her grunts. “Listen up. Our target is an assistant, J. Anderson. Tallish. Dark green hair. Dark eyes. Works for Professor Yvonne Nettle. You’ll find him with the behaviorists in Laboratory D at this hour. Got it?”
    Okay, so the agent wasn't Nettle. I wonder who it was, then?

    “Yes, ma’am!” all three of them barked in unison.

    “Good.”

    She uncrossed her legs and recrossed them again. Slowly. Sensually. Rubbing the calf of one against the thigh of the other in just the way she hoped would get them wrapped around her finger for more reasons than because they knew she could kill them using one of thirty-six different methods.

    “Now go fetch,” she drawled.

    They were out the door in seconds.
    Can you say 'major establishing character moment?,' because I sure can. That's literally what this is - a perfect summation of just about everything this Domino is about in less than ten lines.

    Laboratory D, as it turned out, was more or less a closet of computers. Cubicles lined one side of the room while a bank of machinery lined the other, leading straight back to a blank, white wall. At each station was a scientist and an assistant, poring over print-outs or watching flickering computer screens. The buzz of their whispered conversations came at intermittent bursts over the hum of their equipment before dying down into cold, long silences.
    So it's the typical sci-fi B-movie computer office?

    It wasn’t exactly what Professor McKenzie considered an ideal work environment, in other words.

    However, it was here that Professor Nettle nearly unceremoniously deposited him before disappearing that day. Nearly unceremoniously, in this case, because she at least had the courtesy of introducing him to an awkward-looking assistant who looked no older than twenty-three with a set, square jaw, slicked-back dark green hair, and wide, dark eyes behind oversized glasses. He hunched over as he walked and fidgeted with a pair of large hands, and there was a sheen on his pale skin from sweat as he stood in front of the two researchers. Given how nervous the man looked, the younger of the two scientists almost felt sorry for him.
    Some of the wording here feels off. Something about adding "that day" to the first sentence makes it feel like it slightly changes narrative styles for a minute... I'm not really sure how to word that. Also, the description feels a little bit too much like an info dump, so it would probably benefit from being spread out like your description of Bill was.

    “McKenzie,” Nettle drawled, emphasizing the lack of a title, “meet Joel Anderson, your assistant.”

    “It’s such an honor to meet you, Professor McKenzie!” Joel exclaimed as he eagerly extended a hand.

    “Bill. It’s … it’s just Bill.” He reached out and let Joel shake his hand vigorously as he sent an uneasy look towards Nettle. “I wasn’t expecting an assistant.”

    “You’re working on a team, not solo,” she answered blandly. “If you’d like, think of him as a shared resource. All researchers are paired with assistants here for convenience’s sake, but we also work as a unit. Therefore, it’s understood that if any member of the team requires the help of more than one set of hands, the other members may offer that help if necessary. So if you don’t require Mr. Anderson’s help, you are perfectly welcome to allow your teammates to use him instead.”
    This is part of why the "it was here that Professor Nettle nearly unceremoniously deposited him before disappearing that day" confused me. Did she mean to leave him there and then change her mind, or was the 'nearly' in relation to her manner being 'nearly' unceremonious?

    Joel should have been wearing a red shirt, because his fate is pretty clear already.

    Bill raised his eyebrows and pulled his hand away from a Joel who smiled tightly at Nettle’s comment. Although Bill had plenty of opinions about that kind of arrangement, he still held his tongue, opting instead to shift his glance from a content Joel to the expressionless Nettle.
    There's an extraneous 'a' there between 'from' and 'Joel.' I think you might be able to change 'a content Joel' to 'the content Joel' also, but that's really either or.

    I think this line tells quite a bit about Bill's character, to be honest. He probably could be well served by being a bit more assertive, though it's probably already too late for him...

    “If you have no further questions, then as team leader, I am required to report to the director after every successful arrival and briefing.” Nettle nodded to both the scientist and his new assistant. “If you’ll excuse me.”

    “The director?” Bill’s uneasy glance softened into a grin. “Professor Oak, right? I received a personal invitation from him. Tell him I said thank y—”

    “Professor Oak is an incredibly busy figure here at Polaris,” Nettle interrupted. “I’ll mention that you’ve arrived safely.”
    I can't imagine that Professor Oak is in full knowledge of what's going on at this institute; I must be forgetting something from the early parts of the last version.

    On the last syllable, she turned on her heel and stalked off, straight through the lab door and out of sight. As soon as she was gone, Bill sighed and stalked towards the cubicles.

    “She’s not always like that, is she?” he asked.

    “Like what?” Joel cheerily responded.
    I... get the feeling Joel isn't the most socially aware person, is he?

    Bill cast a brief look his way before sitting down at an unused computer. Raising his chin slightly, Joel darted forward and wrung his hands.

    “Uh, is there anything I can do for you right now, professor?”

    Shifting in his seat, Bill let his fingers drift to the mouse. The screen flashed to life, displaying a plain black login screen with Polaris’s four-pointed star logo floating above standard username and password input boxes. Bill ignored both of these and quickly tapped a few keys on the keyboard. In an instant, the login screen vanished, replaced by a full-screen command prompt. Both of Bill’s hands found the keyboard this time, and in a flash, he keyed in line after line of commands, his eyes darting from one result to another.
    ...did he just hack their mainframe? With literally no effort whatsoever?

    That put such a smile on my face, you wouldn't believe.

    “Er, professor?” Joel murmured.

    “Bill. Not professor.”

    “Right, uh. Professor Nettle should have given you login information.”

    Bill shrugged. “It must have slipped her mind. Besides, I find that the backdoor always provides a little more information. Professor Nettle said that there was an ixodida specimen on the premises. Is that true?”
    He did... I love it.

    Bill, your nosing about in things you don't understand is about to cause you a lot of pain. A lot. If you only knew...

    “Absolutely, sir!”

    “You realize you can be casual with me, yes?”

    “As casual as you want me to be, professor.”
    Ah, a good little bit of comic relief. I think getting this laugh now was probably for the best.

    I have to say, Joel has a surprising amount of personality for a character who plainly isn't going to last long.

    Once again, Bill shot his assistant a look. “I … never mind.” He turned back to the computer and resumed typing. “Where in Polaris is the specimen located?”

    “They’re located in Laboratory F, sir. Just five minutes’ walk from here.”

    “They?” Bill furrowed his eyebrows. “There are more than one of them?”

    “Yes. We accidentally bred them a few months ago. You’ll find the footage in our media library under video file ET650F, which you should have access to if—”

    Bill keyed in a few more commands, and as soon as he was finished, a barren desktop flashed onto the screen. In the center of it was a single video window flashing a loading status bar.

    “—if you were logged in under a scientist-class account,” Joel finished in a mumble.
    Joel really should have figured out by now that Bill has exactly as much access as he wants. He's like Kaworu Nagisa.

    Can I say that I love the techno-babble? A lot of people hate such things but I really like it.

    Ignoring him, Bill watched as the status bar vanished. In its place was a grainy, black-and-white image of a large, concrete room with only two objects inside it: a pair of Plexiglas boxes. Inside one, a rattata darted in tight circles, occasionally pawing at the walls of her cage. The other, meanwhile, contained what looked like a speck of light in the furthest corner away from the rattata. Leaning in, Bill fiddled with the sound as he sat transfixed, waiting for something—anything—to happen, but for the first thirty seconds, everything was still.

    Then, a light flashed offscreen, and one side on both of the boxes slid upwards. The rattata stopped and sat on her haunches as her stubby whiskers twitched. Slowly, she dropped to all fours and crawled out of the box, her whiskers twitching wildly with each step. As soon as she emerged fully from her cage, she stopped where she was, and her fur stood on end. Her body swept low, paws spread and whiskers pointed straight back. The camera was pointed away from her, straight at her back, but Bill knew that if her face had been visible, he would see her teeth bared in a menacing growl.

    For a long while, the image stayed like that, with the rattata poised in front of her box and the small dot of light pulsing in the corner of its own. Then, in a split second, the light vanished and reappeared on the face of the rattata. There was no sound, but Bill could practically hear the mouse’s screams as she jerked back and stumbled into her box. Through the Plexiglas, Bill could see the rattata’s skin split—neatly, as if a zipper that had been hidden in her nose was now being pulled back slowly across her skull, her neck, and her back. He could see the glistening of her spine, the dull gray of her muscles, the stark white of her skull. Yet he saw no blood. Not yet.
    I feel like mentioning how horrifying this is would be kind of repetitive, because such a well-written scene about this kind of material should be horrifying, that goes without saying. So I'll be a bit anal for a minute and ask about something that kind of struck me as odd: why wouldn't any blood come out if the body was mutilated that much?

    The split stopped just beyond her shoulders, and the flash of light disappeared under her skin. She convulsed, slamming her sides and her head into the smooth surfaces of the box.

    Until, that is, Bill’s entire view was obscured by the wet blackness that suddenly burst from the tiny, writhing body within the box. The tape ran for a few more seconds until the rattata’s tail fell limply just beyond the box’s opening. From within its curl, the speck of light emerged and darted across the floor back to its own box, leaving behind a thin, black trail across the cement.

    At that point, the video ended, and the window blanked. Bill sat back, his hand on the mouse and his head tilted slightly. He was acutely aware of Joel next to him, hunched over the desk and breathing heavily. Exhaling, Bill closed his eyes.
    Don't the other scientists in the room notice what Bill's doing? I can't imagine this was exactly a quiet video.

    “Are you all right?” he asked.

    “Huh? Oh, me?” Joel forced a grin. “Y-yeah! It’s just …”

    Bill opened one eye. “Your first time watching one pokémon hunt another, I take it.”

    Joel shot up, his arms stiffly held at his sides. “What?! N-no! Of course not! I mean, I didn’t become a research assistant not knowing how pokémon hunt, if that’s what you’re implying, but—”

    “It’s quite all right. Everyone is shocked when they see it for the first time.” Bill struck a few more keys to summon the black command prompt again. “We’re so used to pokémon battles, and those aren’t meant to be lethal. It’s easy to forget that some pokémon are actually born hunters.”

    At those words, Joel’s shaking calmed a little, and he leaned over his superior a little. “Did you ... ?”

    “Raticate. That was my first. They eat smaller pokémon when they’re desperate for food. Some might even eat stray snubbull if the snubbull is small enough.”
    That was enlightening, and a nice display of both Joel's desire to be taken seriously as a researcher and Bill's willingness to help those less experienced than himself.

    It could also be foreshadowing, knowing where this story is going...

    “Oh.” Joel crossed his arms. “Uh … Professor McKenzie?”

    “Bill.”

    “Uh, right. Can I ask you a question?”

    “Certainly.”

    “Are you always, uh, this okay with this kind of thing?”

    “Are the others?”
    Something about this exchange made me laugh. I don't know why, it just did.

    Joel shrugged. “Some were shocked, I guess. Others were surprised that it was so fast and clean. You know. Up to the part where it exploded.”

    “She. Female rattata have shorter whiskers.” Bill rubbed his forehead. “To answer your question, I’m not very fond of watching it, no. This will be quite a challenge.” He removed his hand and paused. “You said there were more ixodida?”

    “Yeah. After the first one killed that rattata, it laid eggs in its—her, sorry—body. We got them to hatch, and they’re all located in Laboratory F.”

    Bill continued to type. “Is that so? The ixodida fertilized its own eggs? Interesting.”

    Joel nodded. “Ixodida are hermaphroditic. Professors Fig and Apple have determined that if it’s pressed enough, it’ll lay eggs and fertilize them itself, but it prefers finding a mate.”
    Interesting... I wonder how that will end up being used later on, because there are definitely a few ways it could go.

    “I see.”

    With one last command, the screen blanked completely before fading back into the login screen. Bill pushed his chair back, standing up gingerly as he stared at Polaris’s logo.

    “Joel, allow me to answer a question you asked a few minutes ago,” he said. “Yes, you can do something for me. I need you to show me to Laboratory F.”
    Laboratory F - for how much Bill just effed up his life with this one decision.

    “Laboratory F?!” Joel exclaimed. “Why do you want to go there?!”

    “To see the ixodida of course. I’d like to meet this pokémon before I study it.”

    “You’d like to meet it?!”

    Bill flashed him a smile. “Yes. Sometimes, I can get along without meeting a pokémon before I study it, but I think in this case, I’ll need to see it for myself first.”

    Joel fidgeted. “I … I’m not sure I can help you with that. You need to have special temporary access to get into Laboratory F. And that’s only granted by a team leader. Professor Nettle, in other words.”

    “That’s one way to get permission,” Bill responded as he held up his ID badge. “The other, of course, is to give yourself access.”

    “Is that what you were doing just now?!” Joel exclaimed.

    Bill flinched and quickly covered Joel’s mouth with a hand. He stood on tiptoe to peer over the walls of the cubicle, only to find that his fellow researchers and assistants were hard at work and completely oblivious to Joel’s outburst. Relaxing, Bill let his hand drop to his side as he lowered himself down.
    Well I suppose that addresses the concern I raised earlier about the other scientists.

    “Careful now. You don’t want to draw unwanted attention to us,” he said.

    “Yeah, but … you hacked Polaris’s system?” Joel hissed. “Why would you do that instead of asking Professor Nettle?”

    “I must admit, I would have waited for her permission, but I have a distinct feeling that would have been unattainable. Well, that and security confiscated my remote login utility at the first checkpoint,” Bill replied calmly before walking out of the cubicle. “Anyway, shall we? All I need is a peek to get started.”

    Joel followed, although he continued to fidget and remained several steps behind Bill. As he cast a glance around at the other scientists and assistants, he muttered, “Are you sure that’s a good idea? Shouldn’t we tell someone first?”

    Grasping the door handle, Bill flashed one last grin at Joel.

    “Come now,” he said. “Polaris Institute is a fortress, its security systems are state-of-the-art, and I would be dreadfully surprised if it didn’t have an exceptionally built storage facility for the ixodida. What’s the worst that could happen?”

    With those words, Bill led Joel into the hallway, and once the assistant pointed his superior in the right direction, the two began the trek towards Laboratory F.

    They got no further than Laboratory E before three massive assistants approached them from behind and grabbed them.
    And, as it so often happens in just about every movie of every genre, saying "what's the worst that could happen?" ensures the worst does happen.

    Well, I certainly enjoyed it, that's for sure. It feels more organized than the last incarnation, which I believe is something you mentioned you were aiming for. The only criticisms I have are fairly minor, so I think that overall you accomplished what you set out to do so far.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 29th August 2013 at 10:53 AM.

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Well, I suppose I might as well give it a go since I followed the old one. I'm going to approach this as an entirely new fic as much as possible instead of a remake, if that's okay.
    Totally cool. It’s practically a new fic anyway, so that’s a good way to go at it.

    But then it wouldn't be as fun without those things! But I digress.
    This is true. XD

    Very lovely imagery to start out; it's certainly got my attention.
    Haha, between this and all the other comments about the poetic parts of this prologue, I’m a little undecided about how the rewrite should go now. At the very least, I’m definitely going to weed out all the bits Luphinid pointed out, but I might keep the vivid imagery like this as well.

    One thing I might point out is that the use of "it's" in the second sentence feels a little odd. Like, the entire passage is written very formally (which works for the material) and the sudden contraction there just feels off. I think it can safely be returned to "it is" without issue, especially because all of the other instances where it could be used are "it is."
    I totally get what you’re saying there. Thanks for pointing that out! If I keep that part, I will definitely fix that bit up.

    Is there a significance to the designation of the meteor? I suspect one but I can't identify it.
    Believe it or not, there is! It actually reveals the rough date of the prologue. The name of the meteor follows actual naming conventions for asteroids (because it lacks a cometary tail). In summary, the convention goes along this pattern:

    1. Year of discovery
    2. Letter indicating the half-month of discovery
    3. Letter indicating which discovery in that half-month the object is

    So in summary, 2001 TE actually means that the meteor was the fifth discovery (E) from October 1 to October 16 (T) in the year 2001.

    It’s also got a meta significance because the first version of the fic was posted to most sites on October 1, 2009.

    (I’m sort of tempted to roll it back by a half month, though, and switch out the date from 2001 to 2000. Because apparently, doing math is hard, and if we go with 2001, this means that according to my fan universe, Bill was fourteen when he met Ash. Which only makes a difference insofar as to say, “Really? ****ing really, self?” Also because the first version of the fic was posted to FFNet in late September, and there’s a very egotistical significance to the date range September 16 to 30. And it would mean that having the meteor be the fifth/whateverth discovery make a little more sense. And it would allow the story proper to be set in 2001, which was the year it was set in originally. Tl;dr, lots of reasons to roll back the date here.)

    Also, according to this, then, Birch’s transmission was made two months after the meteor strike.

    Do you have a number in mind for the population of Fortree, out of curiosity? I'm wondering just how many of the people could feasibly have been evacuated.
    Somewhere in the vicinity of forty thousand. My headcanon is that each location is basically a slightly less populated version of its real-world counterpart, which has a population of roughly 47k.

    "It rained fire"... I love that expression, especially here. Excellent use of dramatic imagery, and I could picture it perfectly.
    Thank you!

    And that’s staying in the rewrite! XD

    Good use of a game location; even if I would like to see the Scorched Slab elaborated on more, having Absol guarding the place where Registeel is makes sense.
    I vaguely remember you mentioning that the last time around too. Or someone did, anyway. I’m tempted to add something in about the Scorched Slab, but honestly, I haven’t really figured out what my headcanon for that place is. (I mean, I’m just a shade pissed off about how pointless that place is too. Like, all that fanfare over the place where you find a TM? Really? It’s totally got to be the former resting place for Groudon or something.) At most, it might help to point people to where this prologue is taking place, but that’s about all I can think of for what to do with it. ._.

    "His pack had already gone and had been gone for days" feels repetitive; you could probably trim that to just "His pack had already been gone for days."
    Ooh, good point there!

    Ah, there's what looks like a vital piece of information regarding the evacuation (or lack thereof). Now, this confuses me a little. The idea of humans trying to be willfully ignorant of the threat an impending disaster poses is logical; it happens in real life all the time. What confuses me is why the citizens had no other warning. Hoenn has a space center that is not all that far from Fortree City (relatively speaking), and not only that, just a few paragraphs earlier, it is implied that the meteor was indeed detected in advance ("a body of ice and metal that had, as eloquently put by scientists, simply materialized just beyond the moon," "three days are not enough time to evacuate an entire city population.") I feel like some additional information should be provided here to reconcile this, for example, perhaps the citizens did not believe they were in danger because the meteor was initially predicted to explode over the ocean, and its track changed too late to do anything.
    Y’know, I actually agree wholeheartedly, and I can’t really come up with a decent explanation as to why people didn’t evacuate besides the willfully ignorant possibility. I can certainly see the Pokémon evacuating first, what with their instincts and all (not to mention the number of them that are literally psychic or in-tune with disasters), but beyond that, humans really should have evacuated.

    Luckily, I’m definitely putting that in the rewrite~!

    Perhaps I'm splitting hairs here, but if the meteor exploded, shouldn't there be multiple impact sites? You kind of touch on it by saying that Absol raced "down the hillside towards the craters, but in the very next paragraph, that's contradicted by "impact crater."

    A crater suggests again that there are multiple impact sites, which would make more sense if the 'explosion' was a literal one and not figurative.
    You’re absolutely right there. There should be multiple impact sites, but luckily, all of this sounds like pretty easy fixes. Thanks!

    That detail actually comes to weigh in one important way on the storyline - is the lifeform in only the piece of the meteor that hit this site, or do all the sites have them and Absol only found one of them?
    Yep to the latter; all of the sites have them. I’m hoping that’ll help explain why there are Ixodida all over the region—because different groups of parasites went in different directions. Also explains why you have clumps of certain types of Ixodida (because they all came from the same original groups).

    All nitpicking aside, this is definitely capturing the atmosphere you wanted. I can picture this perfectly in my head, and it fits in the theme of campy science fiction.
    Awesome! I’m hoping I can still keep that in the prologue rewrite.

    Oh dear, I'm sure Phoebe's fate isn't going to be a pretty one. You're going to see to that.
    *cackles and tents fingers*

    The prologue was very enjoyable. I think the strongest part of it was the description, because everything literally from beginning to end was painted in such vivid terms that there was not one point where I couldn't visualize what was going on. Obviously there's not much characterization to comment on, since all of the characters in this prologue are either dead or doomed, which leads me into my next point - this would fit perfectly within the context of a campy science fiction movie as its prologue. Literally. All it's missing is a title card with some ominous music after it finishes.

    Aside from the confusion over how many impact sites there are - and I suspect that's just because something wasn't quite clear, not an actual inconsistency - I have nothing to complain about.
    Thank you! Including for pointing out the fix-ups. I just hope that I can still get that balance of vividness that you liked and the scientific tone that Luphinid suggested in the rewrite, but other than that, I’m glad that it’s better than the old prologue either way.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Is double posting this okay? Because I don't think the chapter reviews could fit in the same post with the prologue.
    Don’t worry. I’ll bribe the mods. You run. ;D

    It's good to start out with this. I want to emphasize that for the fact you pointed out this is a transcript of a radio message - I seem to recall The Leaf Green Incident having a bit of confusion at times about what forms of media its storytelling was taking, and you've clearly learned from that. Pointing out that it's a transcript right away makes the rest of it much easier to grasp.
    Thanks! I really do think the main problem with The Leaf Green Incident’s recording segments was that I was trying to convey that it was actually an audio recording with an accompanying transcript, rather than a straight-up transcript. The D.E.V.A. Files in AEM will always be written documents, however, either in the form of a transcript or correspondence. So I feel like I’m more likely to be very specific about the entry descriptions just because I’m trying to imagine how these files are being described in the organization for agents’ benefits.

    Either way, I’m glad this is a lot clearer than in TLGI. XD;

    Well then, that sure got serious fast. But then again, should I expect anything different from you, Jax?
    *le bow*

    I'm assuming that the coordinates were added later, since Birch didn't have time to state them.
    Yep. A lot of these transcripts are supposed to have been added after the fact. I haven’t exactly worked out when, but imagine D.E.V.A. having this poor soul archiving everything and filling out forms for each one.

    Two things here:

    One, two months? I assume that means the area has either been overrun for some time and Birch's expedition is a last-ditch trip to try and find something, or the creatures had a bit of a slow start once they were born?
    Two months. *nod* What took the Ixodida so long is mostly a lack of hosts. Many of the Fortree residents (as of this version of the prologue) actually died, so the Ixodida are harvesting wandering trainers for rides. Then there’s the fact that the actual transformation takes roughly two weeks, not to mention the fact that the Ixodida had to group and establish order. And there’s some plot-relevant bits too.

    So yep. Slow start.

    And two, the presence of guns makes me wonder a little, but then taking into account what probably remains from the previous version of the story, they're most likely useless. Is that correct?
    Oh-ho. Oh yes, they are so very useless. *finger tents and grins evilly*

    You should have had Birch scream right before it cut off... because nobody could hear him scream.
    Omfg that’s beautiful. Totally adding that in the edit!

    You're in a good place with description, right on the line where it's elaborate but not purple.

    I think it should start with "The young man" and not "A young man" though. "A young man" feels like it doesn't match with the rest of the paragraph.
    Sweet! Thank you!

    I also really like that suggestion. It definitely relaxes the sentence a bit more, I think. My main worry, though, is that we’re not really introduced to any characters right before this, so I wonder if this would add in confusion. On the other hand, it might be safe to assume that the subject refers to the name directly before this paragraph, so maybe I could get away with switching that out. I’ll change it and see what happens with future readers. b)’’)b

    Oh yes, this one. Let's see if a reboot universe changes her fortunes any.

        Spoiler:- spoiler:
        Spoiler:- Mwahahahaha...:


    I see one of my favorite characters from last time hasn't changed, which is a good thing of course.
    Hasn’t changed much, anyway! He just has this new tendency to run headlong into trouble, rather than wait for it to pounce on him like a lion on an antelope in the Serengeti.

    Why do I picture her holding a clipboard right now?
    Haha, she totally is. And Bill’s file is pinned on top of it. With any incriminating details highlighted.

    I think I like this approach to telling the story. We could have spent a significant amount of time in just technobabble explaining the Ixodida, but this time, we just get a basic overview and a name, then jump right into the next part of the story. Any more exposition on the species can be given once we start actually seeing them.

    Good move.
    Thank you! The infodumps were something from the old version that I definitely wanted to try cutting out. Honestly, while they were useful blocks of information, they just felt dry and monotonous to get through, even while I was writing them. So you’ll probably see more information chunks like this one, where you’re given a brief glimpse of what you need to know (through the eyes of a character) before the story moves on. Helps rein things in and create that B-movie feel too. (Oh, all those scientists who go on about the way monsters work, amirite?)

    Silph Co., right? There's some interesting implications if so, especially if you go with the theory that Team Rocket has at least a presence within Silph Co. all the time.
    Ooh. Tempting! It was actually a reference to another branch of canon, in which Bill actually works for an organization called the Pokémon Cutting-Edge Technology Research Center. Which I guess is actually implied to be academic in nature, but they basically function as a Silph Co. for that particular universe. That and it’s not a university, so.

    Somehow I get the feeling Bill's kissing up to Nettle isn't going to help him much... but mostly because nothing will help Bill much.
    Yeeep. That’s about as effective as attempting to put out an oil-based fire with water.

    Jynx communication? Rosetta String? I'm intrigued...
    True story! It’s a holdover from the last version, which went a bit more into the backgrounds of various characters. I’m a little tempted to see if I can wedge it in somewhere here, but to put it in short, here’s what this means:

    Professor Yvonne Nettle is more or less an extremely bitter Jane Goodall. But then again, it’s difficult to blame her for being an extremely bitter Jane Goodall. She did spend several decades forsaking humanity in the northernmost points of the Canadian arctic. Of course, at first, Nettle was extremely enthusiastic because she felt that Jynx were fascinating creatures, and she’s well-known for having connected with them and unlocked a lot of their secrets.

    The Rosetta String, for example, is actually a string of humanlike Jynx cries that helped her map out the Jynx “language,” and that in turn established to the Pokémology community as a whole that Pokémon actually have far more complex modes of communication than previously thought. (Most people believed before then that Pokémon were more animalistic in nature and were incapable of forming their own languages as humans knew them. The Rosetta String proved folks wrong.) That in itself helped advance the field of Pokémon ethology by leaps and bounds, and researchers after Nettle (Bill included, hence the total sucking up) used her exact techniques to uncover similar language patterns in other Pokémon species.

    Unfortunately, because of Nettle’s decreasing rate at producing results combined with declining interest in Jynx as a whole (and maybe one or two personal controversies in Nettle’s life to boot), Professor Nettle found it increasingly difficult to obtain funding for her own projects and was forced back into the world of academia—and the world of man, for that matter—until she could find whatever small amounts of funding she could get to go back to the arctic and spend more time with the Jynx.

    This is also why she’s bitter towards Bill, who never really had a problem securing funds for his project. And it’s also why she works for Team Rocket, who promised her a permanent flow of funding in exchange for being a key player in Operation North Star.

    First off, I want to compliment how you handled describing Bill. Choosing to wait and describe him through Nettle's eyes instead of dumping the description right away was a good idea.
    Thank you!

    I'm actually somewhat interested in the fact that Bill is taller than Nettle. It doesn't mean anything significant, but something I notice is that height often reflects age and/or status, but you broke that and went with an arguably more realistic depiction. I don't know, I just found it interesting.
    *high five* Agreed about the height-is-age/status trope. And beyond that, I kinda like the idea that Bill is taller than a lot of people. (It’s somewhat canon if you squint at some frames of the anime.) It sort of capitalizes on the “awkward and gangly” stereotype for geeks instead of the “tiny and meek” one, so it’s an angle I have to admit I haven’t seen in a long while but enjoy very much for personal reasons.

    That and Bill is a half-European in Japan, so I figured it’d be hilariously appropriate.

    And of course, he's full of enthusiasm and energy and hasn't become bitter and cynical yet because we haven't broken him yet. Just give it time. Nettle will make sure of that.
    PRETTY MUCH.

    One correction: 'he hasn't' is incorrect in terms of tense. I think it should be 'he hadn't.'
    Ooh, thanks for the catch! A quick and easy fix, I think. ;D

    Somehow I get the feeling that Nettle is not exactly flattered by this. It's my perception that she seems almost as if she feels upstaged by him.
    Oooooh she most certainly does feel that way. XD

    Sucks to spend all your life working in the Canadian arctic, only to be deemed less important than a nineteen-year-old.

    A shout out to Bill's flamboyance from the anime, is it?
    Haha, yep! He is totally dressed in steampunk/Victoriana clothing under that lab coat, by the by. (Which is to say, he basically looks like a time-displaced scientist from the 1890s. Probably should’ve mentioned a vest in chapter two, but hey.)

    Oh, I'm sure Nettle can manage to deal with him for a few minutes. It won't last...
    Yes. Yes, it won’t. *tents fingers*

    I don't blame him for being uncomfortable. This is the point where I would hope he's beginning to catch on to the fact that he's being used.
    Haha, nope. Give him another few moments, and maybe he’ll catch on to that. For right now, he’s just thinking, “Wow. She’s a little mean, isn’t she?”

    I like how Nettle seems to be almost happy about what she's about to do, in a really understated way.
    Subtlety isn’t her strong suit, nope.

    Oh ****, it actually took me a minute to register who this is, but boy am I glad to see her. I'm already in love with her depiction here. It's pretty different from how she was in canon, but by reading ahead I've seen that you do have a good explanation for the change in her character.
    Thank you! I have to admit that I’m mostly going on memory at this point, but I tried my best to explain away a lot of her character anyway, just to cover all my bases in case I was misremembering her. (I definitely need to sit down and watch the movie again.)

    Chief agent? Nettle? Or is it someone else?
        Spoiler:- Well!:


    I'm not sure I care for "rested her pointed chin on a hand." I think I would rather see "on her hand."
    Fair ‘nough there! Seems like an easy fix to do.

    Can I just say how much I love the machinations here? I almost can hear Gendo Ikari's voice saying Giovanni's lines (even though I know he's more like someone else) to a blonde, female Fuyutsuki.
    MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, THEN. 8D

    Hmm... I'm not sure how I feel about this part of this Domino's personality. Her deadly serious, not-girlish demeanor makes sense with the supplied explanation, but I find it a little harder to swallow the seemingly real hostility she appears to have for Giovanni here.
    Hmm. I definitely see what you mean, and reading back over it, I’m uncomfortable with that much hostility too. I’d like to imply that Domino and Giovanni’s relationship had become pretty tense since Mewtwo Returns, but I think I can do a much better job of that later on in the fic, after a certain incident I have in mind for her.

    Luckily, I think this can be fixed up with a slight tweak in wording, so it shouldn’t be a problem to reshape it into something more akin to tense professionalism.

    Can you say 'major establishing character moment?,' because I sure can. That's literally what this is - a perfect summation of just about everything this Domino is about in less than ten lines.
    *le bow!*

    So it's the typical sci-fi B-movie computer office?
    PRETTY MUCH. XD

    Some of the wording here feels off. Something about adding "that day" to the first sentence makes it feel like it slightly changes narrative styles for a minute... I'm not really sure how to word that. Also, the description feels a little bit too much like an info dump, so it would probably benefit from being spread out like your description of Bill was.
    Good catch. I definitely meant to rephrase some of that in the clean-up, but like I said. Drunk proofreading is not a good way to go, kids.

    In any case, I’ll definitely see what I can do there to tie it into an action or few, and I think the “that day” bit can be fixed quickly just by dropping it. *nod*

    This is part of why the "it was here that Professor Nettle nearly unceremoniously deposited him before disappearing that day" confused me. Did she mean to leave him there and then change her mind, or was the 'nearly' in relation to her manner being 'nearly' unceremonious?
    The latter. Whenever you’ve got adverbs strung together, unless there’s a comma between them, it’s usually read that the first adverb modifies the second and so on. Buuuuut I can definitely see how that could get confusing, so I can fix that up no problem.

    Joel should have been wearing a red shirt, because his fate is pretty clear already.
    FUNNY STORY ABOUT THIS ONE. I am totally changing the color of the shirt in the quick edit blitz I’m doing this/in the upcoming week. Because reasons.

    (And also because the character Joel was named after/based on wears red, not blue/teal.)

    [quote]There's an extraneous 'a' there between 'from' and 'Joel.' I think you might be able to change 'a content Joel' to 'the content Joel' also, but that's really either or.

    Y’know, the first a was originally intentional, but now that I’m looking at the fact that I used a similar structure in the next sentence, I can definitely see how it’s off. Thanks for the catch!

    I think this line tells quite a bit about Bill's character, to be honest. He probably could be well served by being a bit more assertive, though it's probably already too late for him...
    Haha, yeeeep. Bill can be assertive when he wants to be.

    Unfortunately, when he wants to be is usually the worst possible moments he can be.

    I can't imagine that Professor Oak is in full knowledge of what's going on at this institute; I must be forgetting something from the early parts of the last version.
    *le nod* He really isn’t. It’s how he managed to be completely oblivious to Team Rocket’s activities in Polaris.

        Spoiler:- By the way!:


    I... get the feeling Joel isn't the most socially aware person, is he?
    Haha, yeah, he’s about as socially aware as a Slowpoke.

    ...did he just hack their mainframe? With literally no effort whatsoever?
    YEP.

    He took a few lessons from Tony Stark between versions.

    Bill, your nosing about in things you don't understand is about to cause you a lot of pain. A lot. If you only knew...
    He’s like the entirety of the Scooby gang, only his meddling results in encounters with actual monsters. And also, he ends up being Scooby Doo.

    Ah, a good little bit of comic relief. I think getting this laugh now was probably for the best.
    *bows* It’s like that nice pause at the very top of the first hill of a roller-coaster. Y’know. Before plummeting into a straight dive of speed and life-decision questionings.

    I have to say, Joel has a surprising amount of personality for a character who plainly isn't going to last long.
    I am totally attempting to make him as cute and puppy-like as possible before I do horrendous things to him.

    Joel really should have figured out by now that Bill has exactly as much access as he wants. He's like Kaworu Nagisa.
    Eeeexactly. Or Tony Stark, only with fewer alcoholism issues. But just as many daddy issues. (That’s finally a plot point this time around.)

    Can I say that I love the techno-babble? A lot of people hate such things but I really like it.
    Thank you! I was hoping it’d add a touch of realism to this sciencey scene, and I’m glad it did the job.

    I feel like mentioning how horrifying this is would be kind of repetitive, because such a well-written scene about this kind of material should be horrifying, that goes without saying. So I'll be a bit anal for a minute and ask about something that kind of struck me as odd: why wouldn't any blood come out if the body was mutilated that much?
        Spoiler:- Not for the squeamish.:


    Don't the other scientists in the room notice what Bill's doing? I can't imagine this was exactly a quiet video.
    Actually, it is! It’s a soundless video, hence why Bill couldn’t hear the Rattata’s screams but could imagine that she was screaming.

    That was enlightening, and a nice display of both Joel's desire to be taken seriously as a researcher and Bill's willingness to help those less experienced than himself.

    It could also be foreshadowing, knowing where this story is going...
    Thank you!

    And it is so definitely foreshadowing. Soooo definitely foreshadowing. >8D

    Something about this exchange made me laugh. I don't know why, it just did.
    Haha, probably because Bill’s so casual about the whole thing. Like, Joel’s asking him if he’s frazzled by Pokémon death, and all he has to say is, “Uh, no, actually, and all researchers are kinda crazy like that.”

    Interesting... I wonder how that will end up being used later on, because there are definitely a few ways it could go.
    Ways that end with Hoenn being more screwed. *fingertents*

    Laboratory F - for how much Bill just effed up his life with this one decision.
    Eeeexactly. ;D

    Well I suppose that addresses the concern I raised earlier about the other scientists.
    Yep. SCIENCE >>>>> personal surroundings.

    And, as it so often happens in just about every movie of every genre, saying "what's the worst that could happen?" ensures the worst does happen.
    Yeeeeah, Bill really needs to learn that tempting fate is a terrible side hobby.

    Well, I certainly enjoyed it, that's for sure. It feels more organized than the last incarnation, which I believe is something you mentioned you were aiming for. The only criticisms I have are fairly minor, so I think that overall you accomplished what you set out to do so far.
    Awesome! I was a bit worried about that because this is legit the second time I’ve restarted the fic, but given the fact that I’ve figured out a lot about the plot thanks to the last version, I definitely feel like this is going to be the final version basically. It really does help that I now have an outline in mind for all of this.


    That said, I’ve finished the prologue rewrite as well as the third chapter, both of which should be up either tomorrow night or Monday (because I am le traveling). Edits to the first chapter will be made roughly about that time too!

    I am on a roll with this, guys~!
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 31st August 2013 at 8:07 PM.

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

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  13. #13
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    Quick update! The prologue rewrite (which was more like "I rewrote the beginning and tweaked a few things afterwards") is now up. I've also edited the timeframes for the D.E.V.A. files, but I have not edited the first or second chapter yet. That'll come shortly.

    In the meantime, how's about a new chapter?


    Three

    D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 6
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: TRANSCRIPT
    DESIGNATION: THE PANDORA TAPES, FILE 02
    DESCRIPTION: TRANSCRIPTION OF VIDEO OBTAINED FROM VALENCIA RESEARCH INSTITUTE ON VALENCIA ISLAND, ORANGE ARCHIPELAGO. TAPE FEATURES INTERVIEW BETWEEN PROFESSOR PHILENA IVY AND SPECIMEN 2000LH-B/01, CODENAME PANDORA.
    DATE-TIME: 23/09/01, 13:21

    [PANDORA LIES ON A COT IN V.R.I.’S STANDARD OBSERVATION ROOM. PRESENT STATUS OF SPECIMEN IS IDENTIFIED AS BEING “STAGE VI.” SUBJECT NO LONGER IDENTIFIABLE AS HUMAN.]

    IVY
    Hello, [REDACTED]. How are you feeling today?

    PANDORA [MONOTONE]
    Cold.

    IVY
    I see. [LOOKS AT HER CLIPBOARD] Pandora, I’d like to ask you the standard questions. Are you feeling well enough to answer them?

    PANDORA
    Yes.

    IVY
    Very good. First question. Are you in pain?

    PANDORA
    No.

    IVY
    Good. Good. Now, you mentioned in one of our last sessions that the parasite spoke to you. Did it speak to you again?

    [SILENCE.]

    IVY
    Pandora?

    PANDORA
    [INAUDIBLE]

    IVY
    What was that?

    PANDORA
    Come closer.

    [IVY HESITATES BUT THEN LEANS TOWARDS PANDORA.]

    PANDORA
    [UNIDENTIFIABLE LANGUAGE]

    [PANDORA OPENS HER MOUTH AND EXHALES A GUST OF WIND. IVY SCREAMS AND REELS BACK. ICE FORMS ON HER SKIN. SIGNS OF FROSTBITE DEVELOP ON HER HANDS. SHE FALLS TO THE FLOOR AND REMAINS THERE; HER SCREAM CUTS OFF SHORTLY BEFORE IMPACT. THREE ASSISTANTS RUN INTO THE SHOT AND ATTEMPT TO RESTRAIN AND SEDATE PANDORA. HER BODY EMITS A FLASH OF LIGHT, OBSCURING THE CAMERA FOR THE NEXT SIXTEEN (16) SECONDS.

    AT MARK 4:32, THE LIGHT FADES, AND PANDORA IS SEEN STANDING VERY CLOSE TO THE CAMERA. ONE OF THE ASSISTANTS CAN BE SEEN OVER HER SHOULDER. HE IS FROZEN IN WHAT IS APPARENTLY A FULL-BODY BLOCK OF ICE.]

    PANDORA
    Hello.

    [PANDORA EMITS A SECOND FLASH OF LIGHT. AUDIO AND VISUAL ARE LOST AT THIS POINT.

    END FILE 06.]



    Professor Samuel Oak was not having a good day.

    Or, rather, he had not been having a good week in general. Not since one of his most reliable research assistants and the researcher he had vouched for so heavily were found in Laboratory F with ixodida parasites attached to them. Now, after days of paperwork and phone calls to the organization overseeing the project, he sat watching the videos they sent to him in response.

    At the very least, he no longer had any questions as to what happened to Professor Ivy or the research institute that had seemingly disappeared off the network less than a month ago. Unfortunately, that came with a whole host of other questions that surfaced in his mind and refused to dissipate. But the email that contained the six video files offered no other information from his superiors, the mysterious panel he knew as the Committee. They had nothing to say other than the statement that, as the recently appointed director of Polaris Institute, he was responsible for anything that occurred within its complex. However, they strongly advised him to prepare.

    Heaving a sigh, he leaned back and folded his hands over his stomach. Prepare for what, exactly? There was no other file after the sixth one. He had no idea what Pandora did or what the parasite was capable of.

    Besides, he just couldn’t imagine either of the Polaris victims doing what Pandora did. Reports about Joel described him as well-meaning, soft-hearted, and eager to learn. Joel was the kind of person who had witnessed an ixodida disemboweling lab rattata no fewer than four times and who had, according to descriptions from the behaviorist team, nearly fainted every time it happened. Some researchers even described him as “only remotely dangerous in that he’s clumsy.”

    And Bill? Oak knew Bill. He was Bill’s mentor, his friend, someone who had practically watched him grow up. Oak knew what Bill was capable of, and what he saw in the video files was most definitely not in that category.

    But more than that, there was something else nagging at Oak’s train of thought. Something missing in the story that he was given by the researchers who found Bill and Joel in Laboratory F.

    Before he could dwell on it any further, there was a knock on his door. In response, he glanced across his sparsely furnished office.

    “Come in!” he called.

    At that moment, Professor Nettle opened the door and strode inside. Her thin hands clutched a tablet computer, and she fixed her gaze straight ahead on Professor Oak. The older researcher smiled and turned in his seat to face her. One of his large hands motioned towards a chair in front of his desk as an invitation to sit down, but Nettle glanced at it indifferently and moved to stand behind it. This hardly fazed Oak as he launched into a greeting.

    “Ah! Professor Nettle! How are you?”

    She lifted her chin slightly and responded, “Not well, Professor. I’ve come to give my full report.”

    “Of course! Why don’t you take a seat?”

    “No, thank you.” Her eyes moved to her tablet as her thin fingers brushed its glassy surface. “Professor, there have been no signs of sapience from either Codename Adam or Codename Abel. Violent tendencies persist, especially in Abel. Crews have successfully confined both specimens to medical pods, but we lost three assistants and Professor Fig to electrocution in the process.”

    Oak’s face darkened. Abel. The assistant. The well-meaning, soft-hearted assistant who nearly fainted at the sight of a rattata being mutilated. And that was the person who just electrocuted four people to death. Professor Oak clenched his fists on his desk and exhaled.

    “I see,” he said.

    “Adam, meanwhile, was easier to contain due to its primarily physical abilities, but it was no less dangerous,” Nettle continued. “Crews handling Adam received treatment for lacerations, impalements, and one severed hand. All six will be released in a few days.”

    Oak winced. Adam. His student. The professor’s mind continued to struggle with the thought of it, but he just couldn’t see either of them, either of the victims, as monsters. Yet there were four deaths and a number of injuries just from those two.

    But ... he knew Bill since he was a child, and he trusted the reports about Joel. It just didn’t make sense.

    “He,” Oak said, his voice graver than usual. “Let’s refer to Adam or Abel as he, not it.”

    “I apologize, Professor.”

    Oak leaned back in his chair and spread a hand on the desk. “It’s all right. Did you find anything else?”

    “Two notes,” she responded. “First, neither victim matches the description of Pandora. I have contacted the biology team, and they estimate that Adam and Abel are actually sixty percent through the process. We should see a complete transformation in three days.”

    “Ah.”

    “Second.” Nettle folded her hands in front of her, holding the tablet to her waist. “Security and IT have finished running through the records. There was a breach in the system roughly twenty-six minutes prior to the discovery of Adam and Abel.”

    “Hmm. Do you know who it was?”

    “We have reason to believe it was Adam. The intruder accessed administrative-level operations without logging into the system, and the only information that was changed was the level of permissions given to Adam.”

    Oak scratched his cheek as his expression broke into a sheepish glance. “I should’ve warned you about that. Bill sometimes gets a bit too eager for his own good.”

    Nettle raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that putting it lightly, sir?”

    Normally, Oak would have offered a hearty laugh, but it didn’t come this time. He was too tired, too pressed to do it. Instead, he grinned and kneaded a temple with three of his thick fingers.

    “Ah yes. But enthusiasm can be a good quality in a good researcher.”

    Nettle huffed. “Perhaps. However, the fact of the matter is that Adam broke into the system and caused a containment breach.”

    Oak’s expression grew stern, and he relaxed the hand that was still on his desk. He wanted to disagree. He wanted to say something, but what could he say? There were pieces missing in this puzzle. Until he received word from Polaris’s officers concerning the security footage in Laboratory F, he was blocked from asking Nettle direct questions about what he thought happened. Instead, he had to settle for a deep breath and mental chess with all of his employees. And that meant agreeing with Professor Nettle, even if he knew without a doubt that, somehow, this wasn’t Bill’s fault.

    “Yes,” he said. “Our computer experts are working on upgrading the security measures around Laboratory F. New locks, new transfer system, and everything in between.”

    “And will that be enough to prevent another incident?”

    Oak grinned. “Well, it’ll be enough to prevent curiosity from killing the meowth.”

    Nettle arched an eyebrow. “Sir, with all due respect, is this the right time to be cracking jokes?”

    “You know what they say, Professor Nettle! Laughter is the best potion!”

    Nettle lowered her head and sighed again. Then, she stood.

    “Yes. Well. I will take that into consideration, sir,” she said. “Permission to be dismissed?”

    “Yes, of course,” Oak replied. “But keep your head up, Professor Nettle. Bill and Mr. Anderson are still alive, so there’s hope for them yet.”

    Nettle nodded and turned to leave. As she did, Oak laced his fingers together and propped his elbows on his desk in thought. When Nettle was halfway to the door, Oak cleared his throat.

    “Professor Nettle, don’t you think it’s strange?”

    She stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Strange?”

    Oak nodded. “Yes. The transfer system right now only carries one specimen at a time. There were two involved in the incident, and both of them were positioned right over Adam and Abel’s hearts. What do you make of that?”

    Nettle shook her head and closed the distance between herself and the door. “That Adam wasn’t overly enthusiastic, sir.”

    She opened the door and slipped out without another word. Once the door clicked shut behind her, Oak frowned.

    “Funny. It tells me Bill’s been framed.”


    Professor Yvonne Nettle was not having a good day.

    It took all of her reserve not to slam Professor Oak’s door behind her as she stalked out of the office and into the hallway. As soon as she was a good distance from the door, however, her lips pursed, and her gait quickened. Her feet stomped into the vinyl flooring hard, as if her heels could jackhammer the rage out of her body into and into the ground. She was certainly not in the mood to deal with anyone at that point, especially not the young woman who appeared seemingly out of nowhere and fell into step beside her.

    “Our benefactor is livid,” Nettle hissed.

    “Our benefactor is livid?” the blonde snorted. “Looks to me like the only one who’s livid is—”

    “Before you let that famous mouth of yours run,” Nettle snapped, “I would like to say that your actions have compromised our entire operation. Professor Oak knows that something is amiss, and frankly, a child can easily see why. You barely even tried to cover yourself with that flimsy accident story of yours. And why on Earth did you choose their chests as infection sites? Anyone would have been able to figure out that Anderson and McKenzie could never have accidentally released parasites that would just happen to bite them in the exact same areas.”

    “We made do with what we could,” 009 replied as she crossed her arms. “It’s not like we had all the time in the world to fix what those stupid field agents did.”

    Nettle stopped and whirled around. Her companion jolted to a halt right beside her.

    “That would be another thing,” Nettle continued, her voice low and rumbling. “Our benefactor is far from happy that you had chosen to infect McKenzie. Do you have any idea how much danger you have put our entire organization in with that brilliant oversight of yours? We had direct orders not to touch him. Direct orders from people who can dismantle our organization in fantastically creative ways but had the mercy of leaving us alone so long as we agreed that we would never touch McKenzie.”

    “It was either that or eliminate him!” 009 whined. “He knew too much! I was as clear as I could be in my instructions. If those three idiots hadn’t grabbed him when they snatched Anderson, then—”

    “Agent 009, might I remind you that you volunteered to be the captain of Operation North Star?” Nettle growled. “As captain, you hold responsibility over your team’s actions, including their errors.”

    She cringed. “W-wait. So do you! You’re the project director, aren’t you? Doesn’t that mean that you’re just as responsible as I am?”

    “I fully realize that. That is why I find your incompetence completely unacceptable. Our benefactor agrees.”

    009 took a half step backwards to brace herself for the oncoming blow. Her hands balled into fists, and she gritted her teeth as she glared steadily at her superior.

    Nettle peered over the top of her half-frame glasses. “But. Our benefactor is also generous. He wishes to give you one more chance, on the condition that I monitor your every move to ensure that you don’t fail us again.”

    At that, 009 relaxed. She straightened, her hands smoothing her scrubs as she took a step forward.

    “Trust me. I won’t.”

    Nettle narrowed her eyes. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a plastic card. Tossing it at 009, she waited until the girl deftly snatched it out of the air before speaking.

    “Good,” she said. “Your instructions are simple. That is an upgraded pass to Laboratory Q. Go there and oversee the programming of the tracking collars that will be fitted on Anderson and McKenzie. We have a few programmers who will ensure that Polaris won’t be the only ones tracking their movements.”

    009 nodded. Then, after a pause, she glanced up. “And?”

    “That’s all.”

    With that, 009 furrowed her eyebrows. “What? That’s all? You just want me to sit around and watch some hackers make dog collars? Please tell me you’ll at least have me put them on our targets.”

    “Our benefactor doesn’t even trust you to do that,” Nettle replied. “I will personally handle the fitting. All you need to do is ensure that the programmers have fully tested the data transfer system before that happens.”

    The agent clenched her teeth and crossed her arms again. “Fine. And the relocation? Will I at least get a part in that?”

    “Perhaps.”

    Nettle turned and began walking down the hallway. After she took a few steps, she glanced back over her shoulder for one last note.

    “Now get to work.”


    Bill was most certainly not having a good day. For one, he was pretty sure he just died.

    The entire ordeal wasn’t going his way from the time he slipped out of consciousness on the floor of Laboratory F. From then onward, he faded in and out of blackness. But the moments that weren’t black felt strange to him, as if he was watching his body from the outside. He watched as he ripped off his own skin and found blood-slicked silver plates underneath. His fingers fell off, and in their places were sharp, silver claws. Every so often, his body convulsed and spat out teeth or shed hair in sickly green clumps. At one point, he saw himself thrashing in the hands of assistants, and although he couldn’t see through the crowds of people, he watched the color red splashing across his line of sight. And the screaming. He could remember the screams and how they grew painfully louder with each second. And then there would be silence, followed by flashing glimpses of a white ceiling or a face he recognized. Sometimes, that face was Professor Oak, looking down in concern. Other times, there would be Professor Nettle, usually flanked by an assistant or two. At one point, he could remember her face and two others, but he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak to them. Instead, all he could do was let them lift him as they fixed something around his neck.

    But then, after awhile, he began to see himself from the inside. He remembered darkness, but he could feel parts of himself shift. The vertebrae of his spine stretched apart at one point. His stomach twisted in knots at others. Bones snapped and melted together in new configurations. Glands sprouted like tumors on his brainstem.

    The strange thing was he couldn’t feel pain. It was exactly like the blonde had told him: it wasn’t painful to him. It wasn’t him screaming when he saw himself from the outside, and it wasn’t him convulsing when his bones melted and his stomach twisted. It was something else. He was stuck in the darkness, stuck behind his eyes and left to watch.

    And then he died.

    Death wasn’t what he expected it to be. Granted, he didn’t think about death that much besides how to avoid it, but he didn’t realize that he would feel—actually feel—his body shut down. His heart shuddered to a stop. His throat choked on air. An electric pulse ran through his nerves, and he felt as if all of the muscles of his body throbbed all at once.

    Then there was nothing. Nothing, that is, until he opened his eyes. After that, there was the blue moon.

    Bill lay on the ground for a long while. His fingers curled around soft, cold dirt and waxy-leaved grass until a realization hit him: he could move. Jolting into a sitting position, he looked up, into the black canopy of a forest. Beyond the dark, broad leaves of the trees above him was the blue moon: a huge, round, swirling mass of azure set against a red sky. Bill squinted at it as he shakily rose to his feet and absentmindedly dusted himself off. It was, for lack of a better term in his mind, absolutely beautiful. A soft, cobalt aura ebbed from its edges, and the swirling, cyan storms pooled across its smooth surface. It almost looked like a star, like Jupiter cut and polished from aquamarine.

    He would have stood there for years, staring up at the blue moon, but instead, he heard music. At first, it was soft and quiet, nearly indistinguishable from the wind of the forest, but the more he strained to hear it, the more it resolved into something coherent. He tilted his head in its direction and listened carefully to the tinny notes of a music box. The melody was familiar to him, like something his mother used to sing, but he couldn’t quite put a name to the tune.

    The fantastic thing about being dead is that ideas that might have sounded stupid when one was alive would sound perfectly reasonable in the afterlife. Not that Bill’s sense of when an idea was and wasn’t dangerous was all that reliable in the first place. After all, he thought that a hallway in a security-heavy facility wasn’t dangerous, but then less than two minutes later, his brain was screaming at him over and over again on the subject how dangerous attempting to break free from Team Rocket agents would be. It was all situational, but had he been alive, he would have insisted that the music box melody of a childhood song wafting through an alien forest he didn’t remember traveling to would lead directly to a trap. But there he was, walking towards it, his legs brushing against flat-leaved weeds and waxy grass.

    Still, he couldn’t help but think of the same phrase over and over again. Curiosity killed the meowth.

    “That’s morbidly true,” he murmured to himself.

    He paused and rested his hand on a tree, his fingertips brushing against bark. But it didn’t feel right. It felt smooth and warm, like steel heated under his palm. Glancing at it, he could see it looked like any other trunk with rough, cracked, brown-green bark. He pushed away from it, turning away from the music as he shuffled backwards in confusion.

    “What is this?” He stared at his hands—still human, still fleshy hands. “Wait. Maybe perception distorts when you don’t have a physical body. Oh gods, I’m dead!

    He clasped his hands over his eyes and stumbled. For the first time since he entered the forest, the full weight of that single revelation crashed down on him. He was dead. He would never see his family again. He would never write another paper. And if this was Hell, he would never even see another pokémon. Everything was gone.

    His feet continued to shuffle backwards until his back hit something smooth and warm. It yielded easily under his weight, and before he could catch himself, he fell through it and tumbled back first into a pile of softness. Instinctively, he winced and then slowly opened his eyes once more.

    Above him, he saw the canopy of a large tent. Bright purple and red cloth hung overhead to form walls and a ceiling, and he had apparently fallen through a bright red panel serving as a door. Tiny golden stars ran up each panel and led to golden ropes that hung from the tent’s ceiling. Some of the ropes ended in tassels, but others ended in brightly colored paper lamps that emitted soft lights or in heavy-looking golden incense burners from which purple, sweet-smelling smoke puffed. Bill rubbed his eyes and sat up. What broke his fall, as he found out, was a pile of cushions—purple and red cushions trimmed with twisting, gold rope.

    The cushions, in fact, formed an uneven floor across a massive space lined with wooden doors of every color. Uncertain of his footing, Bill stayed near the entrance of the tent, but he cast his eyes around the room at each door, studying their faces and the intricate etchings on each one. Some of them were decorated with simple drawings of pokémon. Others were labeled with actual words, occasionally in languages he didn’t recognize.

    “Where do those go?” he muttered. “Different afterlives?”

    “No. Simply different parts of your mind.”

    Bill whirled around to face the center of the room. Somehow, in the seconds his eyes were off it, a set of stairs grew out of the floor. The stairs were made of chests of drawers, with some drawers open and spilling out books, papers, pens and inkwells, and other small items Bill couldn’t readily identify from a distance. But at the top of the stairs was a platform covered in a pile of cushions next to a hookah with a green glass base. Reclining on top of these cushions, with the hookah’s mouthpiece in one slender hand, was a willowy creature made of pure light. The creature wasn’t emitting a blinding light, but no matter how hard Bill stared at it, its features refused to resolve. It was as if Bill was staring at a photograph of a person in which the person in question was painted over with pure white. It was, in one word, a blank.

    Yet there it was, speaking to Bill with his voice as it sucked on the end of a hookah hose with a mouth that didn’t exist.

    “You are not dead, by the way. Your heart was temporarily stopped to avoid further damage to itself. But do not worry. I let you borrow mine.”

    Keeping his eyes on the creature, Bill reached down and began to dig a path through the pillows. Inch by inch, he crept closer to the figure. But he didn’t say a word. While it was a relief to know that he wasn’t dead, he had a feeling he knew exactly what this visitor was.

    “Names bear fantastic power to your people,” the creature continued. “To you, names hold an object’s true meaning. It is not a sword until you call it a sword. I find it curious. Other species in this universe do not hold the individual in such high regard. We do not give names to each other. We find it redundant. It divides our unity and splits our identity. But you. No, I should be fair. Humans are not unique to that concept. There are others who consider names to hold great power, but I find you fascinating nonetheless.”

    About halfway to the platform, Bill stopped. He studied the visitor for a few moments before he finally found his voice again.

    “Who are you?” he asked.

    “Who am I?” the figure repeated. “That is quite a question. Perhaps it would be best to begin with asking who are you? Your name. Shall we divine your purpose from it? It is an old name, and that is important to know. Old names hold greater power than new ones. They come from your old tongues, the ones that believed in ancient gods that are long dead now. And the people who spoke the language that birthed your name were warriors, believers in frozen giants and soldier gods and great world-rending beasts. But your name is not one that attacks. No, rather, it defends. William. Will, meaning willpower and determination. Helm, meaning helmet and protection. From this, you are William, whose purpose is to be the determined protector. Yet you are not William, are you? You corrupt the name and therefore corrupt and shorten its meaning.”

    The being bit the end of the hookah’s mouthpiece. Although it had no eyes, Bill could feel its stare bore into him as he pulled himself up onto the platform. He knelt there, beside the bubbling, green hookah base until the creature pulled the hose from its unseen mouth. It exhaled a cloud of purple-green smoke that swirled around its companion’s face. Burning, dense, incense-scented smoke filled Bill’s throat, and he coughed and flinched away from the creature.

    When he looked back, however, he paused. The creature now had a face, one that stared back at him with an expression he couldn’t quite define. But the features he recognized right away. The dark eyes. The heart shape. The way its iridescent hair curled around its white skin. Bill would recognize the shape of those features anywhere. It was his face.

    “Therefore, I ask you,” the creature continued. “Who are you?”

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

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  14. #14
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    Hi there. I'm kinda new to the Serebii forums. Granted, I'm kinda new to forums in general, seeing as this is my first post. Ever. However, I've been a closet reader of yours and your other works for a very long time now. You could say I've finally gathered the courage to say how much I really like your work. I should probably stop fan-boying, though, and get into the fic itself.

    I'm a big sci-fi fan, and when I first read Anima (the previous version, this was about a year ago), I was hooked immediately. Not only did it use many elements of the Pokémon universe that I have either glossed over or just not caught when I first saw them (I didn't remember that Bill got stuck in a Kabuto suit), but your expertise with wordplay and consistency with grammar was better than some actual books I've read. I didn't get all the b-list sci-fi references, but but what I did understand just added so much to the story. And the ixodida species was one of the most cleverly made parasitic alien organisms I had EVER read about or seen in fiction. Needless to say, I was very excited whenever a new chapter was posted, and was intrigued when you posted that an entirely new version was being made.

    And this one is even better than the first. I love how in this version, every character, even the lowly assistant Anderson/Abel, is fleshed out even more than before. I especially love the changes you've made to 009 and Bill, what with 009 gaining this almost misguided femme fatale attitude and Bill's more active role in moving the plot along instead of being a passive plot device.

    The only thing that confuses me, though, is the physical appearance of the parasitic form of the ixodida.

    The other [cage], meanwhile, contained what looked like a speck of light in the furthest corner away from the rattata.
    On the assistant’s chest, a glittering, red bead flashed with a steady pulse.
    Are the ixodida in this version supposed to be more light-based beings rather than their previous, more arachnid-esque incarnation? I don't know, I might have missed something, and if I did, that's my fault.

    Anyway, I really look forward to the next chapter. This fic has been one of my favorites since its inception, and I really can't wait for more. If it means anything to you, this fic is slowly inspiring me to write a fic of my own, which would have seemed crazy years ago. At least, until I started reading Anima.

    Finally, if you're making a PM list, can you add me to it? (And explain what that entails? Bear in mind, I'm really new to this.)

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Two

    [i]D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 6
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: TRANSCRIPT
    DESIGNATION: THE PANDORA TAPES, FILE 02
    DESCRIPTION: TRANSCRIPTION OF VIDEO OBTAINED FROM VALENCIA RESEARCH INSTITUTE ON VALENCIA ISLAND, ORANGE ARCHIPELAGO. TAPE FEATURES INTERVIEW BETWEEN PROFESSOR PHILENA IVY AND SPECIMEN 2000LH-B/01, CODENAME PANDORA.
    DATE-TIME: 04/09/01, 16:54
    Like the choice of a codename. When it comes to the specimen number and timestamp on the file, is there a reference of some kind in there?

    Glad to see Ivy around too... just too bad she won't be lasting long.

    [PANDORA LIES ON A COT IN V.R.I.’S STANDARD OBSERVATION ROOM. PRESENT STATUS OF SPECIMEN IS IDENTIFIED AS BEING “STAGE II.” SKIN HAS TURNED PALE, HAIR LOSS IS BEGINNING TO OCCUR, AND CRYSTALLINE STRUCTURES HAVE GROWN ON SUBJECT’S SHOULDERS AND ARMS. OTHER FEATURES APPARENTLY COMMON TO XP-650B HAVE YET TO OCCUR.]
    I know this isn't really technically a script, but the use of direction and description is effective in the same way it should be in a script.

    IVY
    [REDACTED], I know it’s hard for you right now, but I need to ask you a few questions that will help us figure out what’s going on. Do you think you can answer them for me?

    [PANDORA NODS.]

    IVY
    Good. How are you feeling?

    PANDORA [NEARLY INAUDIBLE]
    I’m so cold, Professor. It’s so cold.
    That line from Pandora is just... wow, it's really creepy. I don't think I could think of many better lines to fit someone in Pandora's situation.

    Curious, is Pandora's voice distorted or mutated at all? I'm trying to determine just what kind of voice to read (her?) lines in.

    IVY
    It’s your skin. You’re starting to develop the traits of an ice-type.
    Wow, that was... chilling. /runs

    In all seriousness, though, that's a great line to drive home the utter horror of the transformations. It's like a bow on the package of mutations mentioned in the data at the beginning of the file, because it just wraps up everything that was already introduced about the subject.

    PANDORA
    An ice-type? [PAUSE—PANDORA BEGINS TO CRY] Is it going to stop?

    IVY
    We-we don’t know yet. Can you feel anything other than cold? How is the bite?

    PANDORA
    It hurts too, Professor.

    IVY
    I’m sorry, [REDACTED]. We’re going to try to fix this. I promise.
    I know this genre's tricks. That promise ain't getting kept.

    PANDORA
    Professor … she spoke to me last night.

    IVY
    What?

    PANDORA
    That … that thing spoke to me last night. On my ankle.

    IVY [ALARMED]
    What do you mean ‘spoke to you’? What did it say?

    [PANDORA SCREAMS AND CONVULSES ON THE COT. IVY REACHES TO GRASP HER ARM.]
    Somehow I get the feeling Ivy's not terribly genre savvy here, otherwise she'd know that getting that close to someone who's infected by a parasite generally does not end well for anyone involved.

    IVY
    [REDACTED]? [REDACTED]! It’s okay! I’m here! [LOOKS OVER HER SHOULDER] Get the med-kit! Now!

    PANDORA
    Professor!

    [IVY TURNS BACK TO PANDORA AND LEANS OVER HER.]

    IVY
    Yes. Yes, I’m here. It’s going to be okay.

    PANDORA [PANTING]
    Professor. Professor, she said … she said …

    IVY
    Yes? What did she say?

    [PANDORA CALMS. SUBJECT LOOKS DIRECTLY AT THE CAMERA.]

    PANDORA
    Let us be.
    Well, that's not completely horrifying at all!

    The sudden calming was a great touch.

    [PANDORA CLAWS IVY’S FACE. IVY SCREAMS, TWISTS IN HER CHAIR, AND ATTEMPTS TO STAND. FIVE ASSISTANTS RUN INTO THE SHOT AND OBSCURE PANDORA AND IVY EXCEPT FOR IVY’S FACE. IVY’S HANDS COVER HER EYES, AND BLOOD RUNS ALONG THE LEFT SIDE OF HER JAWLINE. TWO ASSISTANTS GRASP IVY’S ELBOWS AND LEAD HER AWAY, AND THE REMAINING THREE ASSISTANTS STAND BESIDE PANDORA’S COT. TWO HOLD HER DOWN WHILE THE THIRD WORKS A NEEDLE INTO HER LEFT ARM. PANDORA SCREAMS. AN UNIDENTIFIABLE APPENDAGE RISES FROM HER LEFT SIDE AND SLASHES AT THE NECK OF THE LAST MENTIONED ASSISTANT.
    And there's why I said getting too close was a mistake.

    In the ensuing minutes, Bill took careful inventory of the situation.
    I suspect this will be something we see quite often. To varying degrees of effectiveness.

    One, he and a young man he had known for less than a half an hour—an assistant he was apparently responsible for—were being nearly literally dragged through the otherwise empty hallway of Polaris Institute by three strangers.

    Two, the strangers in question were built unlike any lab assistant Bill had ever encountered. The shortest was, according to Bill’s rough estimate, six feet tall with a shoulder span of three or four feet. Normally, Bill wasn’t the kind of person to analyze a person’s measurements, but that was the one clamping a large, beefy hand over his mouth. He couldn’t help but notice that the man was a bit larger than the average lab assistant as a result.

    Which led to the third point: that all three assistants had frames that massive because most of their bodies seemed to consist of pure muscle. He didn’t actually come to that conclusion by looking at his captors; it actually came to him by the feeling of the short one’s palm against his face. Each finger tensed around his jaw and held his chin up, and his neck throbbed with an ache at its back. Judging by the grip, Bill knew that it was a threat. One wrong move from him, and the man would most likely twist his head clean off his shoulders in one easy gesture.

    Because of that, Bill remained silent. Joel, much to Bill’s dismay, wasn’t quite as cautious, opting instead to thrash and scream against the hands of the other two strangers. Every so often, Bill glanced at him from the corner of his eye as he struggled to come up with a plan, but no matter how much he knew he needed to get Joel out of this, nothing came to mind. Any plan that nearly surfaced in his brain ultimately ended with the both of them beaten on the floor at best. After all, while Bill couldn’t speak for Joel, he could tell by the assistant’s panicking nature and shaking limbs that Joel was by no means a fighter. Bill himself wasn’t much of one either; he never really considered the possibility of training himself past a few self-defense lessons in college and the occasional kung fu movie. Besides that, he had no weapons or pokémon on him. Even if he had brought his own, they would have been confiscated by security at the first checkpoint according to the institute’s safety policies.

    In short, they were screwed, and Bill knew it.
    I like the contrast in personalities here; Bill is cautious, measured and analytical in his actions, while Joel is more erratic and less restrained. I like how Bill's mind is more on preserving Joel's safety than his own (even though we both know it's equally useless.)

    Would have liked to see some of those kung-fu movie lessons. XD;

    Somehow I think fighting back in any form, even if it was possible, would have just made it worse, in all seriousness.

    The seconds felt like hours to Bill as he let himself be led along the hallway. Besides Joel’s screaming, the group was silent—almost eerily so to Bill. He breathed deeply, closing his eyes now and then as he went over his mental inventory over and over again. His brain struggled to grasp a possible weak moment, a possible opening that either of them could take advantage of. Someone was depending on him, after all. Joel needed him to come up with something. Anything.
    But again, these guys are obviously overly competent guards. Even if they did make a mistake and give an opening, taking it would only hurt Bill and Joel more in the end.

    Instead, what he got was an abrupt stop. Opening his eyes, he realized that his captors stood them in front of a metal door with a nondescript black box attached to the wall beside it. The door looked just like every other in the complex, but this one was painted with a single letter in bright, fresh white—a single letter that made Bill’s heart freeze.

    F.

    They were at the door of the ixodida holding cell.
    For some reason, this is made even more unnerving by the F being thrown on the door in white paint, possibly in a not-so-neat manner if the way I'm picturing it is accurate.

    “Oh-nine gave us clearance, right?” the largest of the men asked gruffly.

    Bill could hear the rustle of fabric just behind him. Then, his captor’s free hand lifted a plastic ID badge to the black box.

    “Of course she did, moron,” the captor’s gruff voice responded.
    These guys... don't strike me as the brightest. Somehow I get the feeling "moron" isn't something any of them should be throwing around.

    The man tapped the card to the box, and it beeped in response. He pulled Bill aside, keeping his hand clamped tightly on the researcher’s mouth as he leaned towards the device on the wall. It slid open in the meantime, revealing the glint of a lens just under its thick, plastic lid. The assistant positioned his face in front of the lens and stared deep into the blinking, red light beyond it. The device flashed a beam down the man’s eye before slowly drawing its plastic lid back into place.

    In the next second, the door clicked, and when his captor threw it open, Bill knew he and Joel were completely and utterly screwed. Before he could move, his captor and one of the other men snatched both of his arms and threw him into the room. Literally.
    I think I would change the very end of this portion to "literally threw him into the room." Breaking it into two like this feels a little bit too casual in tone, at least to me.

    He crashed down on hard vinyl, and pain jarred his body. Groaning, he pushed himself to his hands and knees, only to flinch when he heard the door shut and lock. But just as he braced himself for the attack he was predicting, Bill realized his captors had instead opted to stand just behind him, leaving him untouched on the floor. When he lifted his head to take a look at who else was in the laboratory with them, he suddenly knew why.

    There were ten people besides the three captors occupying the room. All of them were lab assistants, from the looks of their blue scrubs, and all of them had their eyes fixed steadily on Bill. But there was one at the front, a petite, blonde assistant with sharp, purple eyes, who glared the hardest at him.
    I'm probably being pedantic here, and if I am, feel free to pay this no mind. It feels like "assistant" is being used too often. It's used twice in this quote, and again right before.

    Perhaps something like "overseer" or something along those lines could be used? Domino is the one in charge of them, so perhaps a word that reflects such could be used for her.

    “You’re late.” She paused, and her purple eyes narrowed. “And those are two.”

    Behind Bill, Joel squeaked.

    “S-sorry, 009,” Bill’s former captor stammered. “We couldn’t decide which one was Anderson.”

    Anderson. They were specifically looking for Joel. Bill looked over his shoulder with his mouth slightly open. Joel stood trembling, his eyes flitting desperately from Bill to 009 and back. These people were specifically looking for Joel, and Bill led him right to them.
    Not only that, when you think about what's about to happen to them... Bill's life is pretty much shot to hell and back just because these guys couldn't tell who he was. An accident. That really makes you realize how bad what he's about to get is.

    Abruptly, a set of long fingers ensnared Bill’s hair, and sharp nails dug into his scalp. He bit back yet another shout as the hand yanked his head until he stared deep into narrow purple eyes.

    “This is a professor,” she hissed. Shoving Bill’s head away from her, 009 put her hands on her hips and glared once more at her subordinates. “You were ordered to capture an assistant. How did you manage to mistake him for one?”

    “Well,” the shortest of the captors replied, “I-I mean, we just sort of grabbed ‘em both as soon as we saw ‘em, so we really didn’t look—”

    “Who is he?”

    “We, uh, hadn’t searched him yet, but—”

    “I don’t care. Give me his ID.”
    Oh man, Bill really got a raw deal, just thinking about how many chances they had for this to not happen.

    Bill felt a hand snatch his arm. He didn’t look at the grunt who grabbed him. Instead, he tried to yank his arm away while keeping his eyes on Joel. Bill knew this was a desperate situation, and even he had to admit he wasn’t the bravest person in existence. Yet he also knew he would be responsible for whatever they did to Joel, so he needed to do something. Anything.

    So for the first time he could remember, he silenced the tiny voice in his head that insisted he was about to do something stupid. He yanked his arm out of the stranger’s reach, turned his head back to the blonde, and gave her a steady, confident glance.

    “Let me save you time,” he said quietly. “Bill McKenzie. I’ve been assigned to the ethology team.”
    Wow, I'm surprised he was even able to pull his arm out of Domino's grasp. I think I've been consistently underestimating him.

    “Clearly, considering Anderson is with—” 009 stopped and tilted her head. “Hold on. Bill McKenzie? Don’t tell me you’re the creator of the storage system.”

    It took effort on Bill’s part not to smirk at the possible opening.
    I smiled. Thanks for putting in a little wit, it's a welcome relief from the dread of the pending events.

    “Co-creator with Lanette Chastain, yes,” he answered.

    009 sighed and pressed a hand to her forehead. “Giovanni is going to love this.”

    At that, Bill smiled. It was definitely an opening. “I’m sure we can negotiate something here. I don’t know what it is you want, but if you let Mr. Anderson go, I can arrange something.”
    Hang on, is Bill aware that they're Team Rocket? I ask because I would imagine that if this was the first time he learned of the connection - by way of Domino namedropping Giovanni, no less - I would think his first reaction would be surprise and perhaps some dread before he goes into trying to negotiate.

    Despite that, seeing that Bill is clearly willing to use himself as a bargaining chip to ensure Joel's safety is pretty nice.

    And then, 009 smiled, and Bill felt his skin crawl. The problem was that 009’s smile made her look young, like a girl no older than fourteen. But there was something in the way her lips curled, in the way she squinted her purple eyes, in the way she showed just a little too much of her teeth that made Bill think of arbok slowly circling a rattata. There was venom in that expression, but it came slathered with sugar.
    Boy, Rattata is really screwed in this too, isn't it?

    And wow, did that description ever sum up why Domino can be terrifying. Especially that last line - it captures her perfectly.

    “Oh no,” she answered sweetly. “We can’t touch you. Strict orders from years and years ago. Like, longer than even I’ve been around!”

    They couldn’t touch him. Bill couldn’t use anything he had as leverage to get either of them out of trouble. His smile faded, and so did what little confidence he had when he started into his plan.

    “And who is ‘we’?” he asked, this time nearly inaudible.

    “Team Rocket, of course!” 009 exclaimed.

    Bill felt as if the floor dropped out beneath him. He had heard of Team Rocket—briefly, largely through police reports. Who in Kanto hadn’t? But he never imagined kneeling there, right in front of an entire group of them.
    Wait, I don't get this. She mentioned Giovanni right in front of him, so shouldn't he have recognized what was going on as soon as he heard that name?

    And these, he realized, were people who wanted Joel specifically.

    Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two of the burly agents who brought him to that room pull Joel to the side. One of them finally removed his hand from Joel’s mouth, prompting the assistant to scream and thrash again.

    “Let me go!” he shouted. “Let me go! Professor McKenzie, help!”
    I really feel sorry for Joel here...

    Bill flashed another glance towards him before turning his eyes back to 009. With some effort, he struggled to stand, only to have two Rocket agents dart forward and grab his arms.

    “What … what are you going to do with him?” he asked. “What do you want from him?!”

    009 flicked her wrist, and a black tulip slid free from her sleeve. Turning her head slightly, she hid her smile behind the blossom and shifted her eyes to her side. Two more agents to her left nodded and turned to the wall behind them, to the expansive window that took up one side of the room. Bill’s eyes rose to look at the glass, at the red window with soft, red lights fading into and out of view. Halfway between the floor and the ceiling was a metal square with a circular latch on its face. One of the agents twisted the latch, sending bubbles up the tank. The agent twisted the latch one more time and pulled it free, drawing a long Plexiglas tube into the open. Inside its clear walls was a single red light darting around a sea of red.

    “Bill,” 009 said. “Do you mind if I call you Bill?”
    There's an inherent menace in such a seemingly polite statement that really, really works.

    He didn’t answer. After a few seconds, 009 strode forward to stand in front of him, turning to watch her subordinates force Joel to the ground and carry the tube to him.

    “So you know what happens to humans when an ixodida bites them, right?” she asked.

    Bill shook his head. He watched helplessly as agents yanked Joel’s shirt up to his shoulders and pressed one end of the tube against his bare chest. Joel’s screams rose to an incoherent screech.

    “Really? That’s funny. Wouldn’t they have told you during your briefing?” 009 snickered. “Oh wait. That’s us. Because we stole information from people higher than you. Weird what they think you should and shouldn’t know, right? I mean, this is a pretty important point.”

    “What is?” Bill murmured, although he only half-wanted to know.
    I don't think I would even want to know at all.

    She didn’t respond this time. Not verbally. Physically, she stepped back and motioned with her free hand—as if she was a stage performer motioning to the next act—at Joel. She didn’t need to, however. Bill’s eyes were already fixed on his assistant as the agent holding the tube twisted the handle once more. Red liquid poured from the bottom of the tube, ran over Joel’s skin, and pooled beneath his body while the blinking light drifted down the emptying cylinder. Eventually, it vanished, and Joel’s screams died down to a panting whimper for the next few seconds.

    And then, he screamed once more. Horribly.

    Bill flinched before watching the agents shift to holding Joel’s arms and legs to the ground. Lifting his chin, Bill eyed Joel before stopping dead where he was. On the assistant’s chest, a glittering, red bead flashed with a steady pulse. It was half-buried in Joel’s skin, but Bill could tell exactly what it was just with that glance. One of the ixodida specimens.

    With a violent twist, Bill tried to wrench his arms away from the agents, but they held tighter with each move he made. Eventually, they twisted his arms enough to force him to stay still, gasping for breath in their grip as his eyes fell on Joel again.

    That was when he noticed that the creature hadn’t moved from its spot. It wasn’t lacerating Joel. It wasn’t cutting him open or burrowing into his body. All he could see were sinewy, vein-like lumps slithering beneath his skin from where the ixodida sat. Joel shuddered and spasmed through each moment that the pokémon laced its net across his body.

    Right then, it finally dawned on Bill what 009 meant.
    I wanted to comment earlier in the portion, but this was so utterly horrifying that I couldn't. I think you did a great job really getting that feeling of horror across here. The veins going under Joel's skin are a really good touch that I don't believe were present previously.

    “Blazes,” Bill breathed. “It’s a parasite!”

    009 turned her smile on him again. “Wow, they weren’t kidding about how smart you are!” Then, her voice dropped its sickeningly sweet quality. “To humans, yes. It’s a parasite. It’s a nasty one too. I’d show you what it does by letting you watch Anderson, but I don’t think you work that way, do you?”

    One of the agents by Joel rose and took the cylinder back to the wall. The clammy feeling of dread that sat in Bill’s stomach grew just a little more as he watched her replace the device and turn the latch once.

    “What-what are you talking about?” he asked.

    “Oh, you know,” 009 responded in a sing-song voice. “You wear costumes to understand pokémon, don’t you?”
    I was going to joke about this at first... but then what she really meant sank in, and I actually recoiled a little. You're good at really getting subtext in there.

    The agent at the wall turned the latch twice. Bill shifted his feet backwards but knew he couldn’t break free to run.

    “Everyone knows about that technique. The Symposium can’t stop talking about it. They think it’s funny.” 009 tapped the tulip to her chin. “But me? I don’t know. I think it’s a really neat idea!”

    Slowly, the agent at the wall drew the cylinder free from its holder. Another flashing light floated inside, but this one, Bill swore, looked more aggressive. More eager to escape. It darted to the bottom of the cylinder, almost as if it was waiting.
    Adam gets his trademark distinctive characterization, and this time it's even before he's much of an entity the readers can interact with! I like it a lot, though the meaning might be lost on someone who doesn't remember anything of the previous version.

    “See, the problem is we can’t guarantee that you won’t talk,” 009 explained in mock sadness. “You’re really close to Professor Oak, and you’re the kind of person with a strong moral fiber. Or so they say, anyway.”

    The hands holding him forced him to the ground, and the remaining agents swarmed him to pin his limbs down. He thrashed once beneath their grip, but they held him steady while 009 stepped over him. She sat on his stomach, toying with the tulip until her fingertips held its stem like a pen. For the first time, Bill noticed that the end was sharpened and metallic like a scalpel. It felt like a scalpel too when 009 slashed it down his shirt to cut off every button with the deftness of a surgeon. A hand clamped over his mouth as he lifted his head and watched her part the fabric to reveal his pale skin beneath it. Almost seductively, she ran her fingers along the shallow cut down his front that the tulip’s stem left behind.
    Somehow I get the feeling that this isn't the first time this Domino has used a technique like this.

    “Shame we have to do this to you,” 009 said as she reached up for the tube. “You would’ve been a useful asset to Team Rocket. But who knows? Maybe you’ll survive with your sanity intact, and we’ll be able to use you afterwards. You just won’t be as cute, but that’s okay. I prefer my men to be older and more assertive anyway.”
    Whoa there, Domino, let's keep trying not to mix business and pleasure.

    She pressed the end of the tube against his chest. His breaths came in short, panicked gasps now, and he struggled to maintain enough composure to lift his head and speak.

    “Wait!”

    The girl stopped and gave him a bored glare.

    “What … what about the orders?” Bill stammered. “Your orders not to touch me.”

    “Oh, those?” She shrugged. “Guess we’ll have to make this look like an accident.”
    Rules? Who needs rules?

    “No! Wait!”

    Ignoring him, 009 twisted the handle on the tube. Bill shivered at the sting of the ice-cold fluid gushing out around the opening of the tube. He stiffened, bracing himself as if he could will his skin into becoming a steel barrier to block the parasite. But his nerves prickled as he felt the itch of the creature’s tiny legs crawling across his flesh. Finally, it stopped right over his heart.
    I scrolled down to your reply to PhalanxSigil for this detail, but yeah, I get the image of a tiny arachnid creature from this. Where does the light come from, though?

    “No,” he whispered. “No. No, please! Please don’t! Please don’t—”

    And then all he felt was hot, blinding pain.

    It was as if someone took a thousand red-hot needles and stabbed him in the chest all at once. He was sure he screamed because he felt his throat strain and scratch as if his muscles were tearing. He couldn’t see anything. He couldn’t hear anything. Nothing in his brain registered except pure pain.

    But at the last second, just before he slipped into darkness, the pain receded, creeping back to the throbbing ache over his heart. He relaxed, falling back to the floor. The hands slipped away from him and left him to breathe shallowly as he lay on his back. His world swam, with the Team Rocket agents bustling around him in hazy blurs and red lights fading in and out above him. He was dimly aware of 009 turning back to him, her mouth moving while her voice resonated, as if it wasn’t from her at all but instead from a million miles away from them, in a saccharine coo.

    “Don’t worry. The rest won’t hurt. To you.”

    The fingers of one of her hands ran along the vein-like net radiating from the parasite while her other hand brushed the petals of her tulip against Bill’s nose. She squeezed the stem, and a blue powder flooded Bill’s vision.

    And then, he slipped into a deep, painless sleep.
    I get a real feeling that this Domino is into some sadistic stuff... let's put it that way and leave it at that. The fact she actually touched the parasite and its offshoots alternatively horrifies me and fascinates me with how fearless she really is.

    Well then, I'm not sure I have a terribly large number of general comments to make, but I give the chapter thumbs up overall. I think the main comment I have to make that doesn't pertain to anything I've already covered regards the chapter length. The chapters are noticeably shorter now than they used to be, which, while it may be due to the fact that the real action hasn't quite started yet, is a bit of a relief. Not to say that the chapters were bad in the previous version - they weren't - but sometimes they could become a bit overwhelming, and having the story presented in easier-to-swallow chunks is making it much easier to focus on the story without fatigue.

    Looking forward to getting to chapter 3!
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 8th September 2013 at 9:22 AM.

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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhalanxSigil View Post
    Hi there. I'm kinda new to the Serebii forums. Granted, I'm kinda new to forums in general, seeing as this is my first post. Ever. However, I've been a closet reader of yours and your other works for a very long time now. You could say I've finally gathered the courage to say how much I really like your work. I should probably stop fan-boying, though, and get into the fic itself.
    Hey there! Welcome to the forums!

    Also, thanks very much for the compliment. I'm really glad to see people enjoy my hilarious shenanigans. Hilarious shenanigans that are often horrifying for some reason.

    And of course, I'm really glad that you're enjoying AEM. I've always put as much as I could into this fic, so I'm glad a lot of the elements are working.

    More importantly, though ...

    And this one is even better than the first.
    ... I am really glad to hear this part. I have to admit, this isn't the second version of the story but rather the third, and I got a lot of flack about restarting this beast on FFNet (which is why I'm sort of holding off on crossposting it there until I can overwrite the old version). And to be honest, part of me feels a bit bad because I'm sort of terrible at finishing fics to the point where the last version of AEM was actually the longest fic I'd ever written.

    Still, there were problems with that last version. And not only did people notice those problems, but also, I didn't feel like it was quite right. You and the others have definitely hit the nail on the head with Bill in that the last version's was a much more passive character—even a plot device in some respects. And that just didn't work, not only because I focused so much on doing things to him that I lost track of what I wanted to do with the story but also because part of the main point of AEM is to write a fic in which he's the main character. He just wouldn't be much of one if I didn't give him a chance to make actual decisions and feel the consequences of the choices he made. So while the last version's Bill grew in character, he didn't exactly learn anything besides what happens if he refuses to act. In this version, I'm hoping to have him learn all kinds of fun things, the least of which being, "And this is why you don't assume you're always right like a *******. "

    That and I'm having a lot of fun with characters in general. I think that now that I've stopped focusing on doing things to Bill, I can now spend time on the characters around him. I can't guarantee that everyone will have decent screen time (or even appear in this version), but I can at least promise you that this version's cast isn't just going to be the supporting one to a handful of characters.

    (But man, I love Joel now. I need to figure out how to keep him in the story.)

    The only thing that confuses me, though, is the physical appearance of the parasitic form of the ixodida.

    Are the ixodida in this version supposed to be more light-based beings rather than their previous, more arachnid-esque incarnation? I don't know, I might have missed something, and if I did, that's my fault.
    That's actually a good question because I'm realizing now that I sort of made it vague (by failing to describe them in full). They're actually still arachnid; it's just that they're smaller than they were in the previous version, so they're harder to see in at least the recording. (Yet at the same time, the parasites will still be the size of a baseball when attached to a host, so I'll probably need to fix up the details a bit.)

    Anyway, I really look forward to the next chapter. This fic has been one of my favorites since its inception, and I really can't wait for more. If it means anything to you, this fic is slowly inspiring me to write a fic of my own, which would have seemed crazy years ago. At least, until I started reading Anima.
    Good luck on your own story! I'd love to check it out when you're ready to post it. Keep me updated?

    Finally, if you're making a PM list, can you add me to it? (And explain what that entails? Bear in mind, I'm really new to this.)
    Sure! A PM list, by the by, is sort of like a mailing list. Every time an author posts a new chapter, they go around and send a quick message to let you know that a fic updated. It's especially handy if you've enabled email alerts for PMs.


    Also, Butler, I want to say I'm totally not ignoring you, but I don't want to rush you or anything by replying to what you've got so far. Take your time with it! b)'')b

    I will say, though ...

    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler
    Well, that's not completely horrifying at all!
    *cackles*

    And also, I can't help but be reminded of this. Which is also an accurate description of some of these files.

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

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  17. #17
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    The reason why I say this is because I’m pretty sure that’s not the effect I wound up getting, so I’m pretty much fishing for suggestions on how to tweak things to make that come out a bit more. Would it help if the other tone issues (particularly in Zero) were resolved so that this scene stands out more and so that it’s made really obvious that this isn’t the normal tone of the story? Should I ditch the effect altogether?
    No, don't ditch it! After I reviewed I started finding the whole tone situation really cool: there's this sci-fi apocalypse schtick, the story is all swollen and ominous, but from tone, not just from the fact there's an apocalypse: the tone is swollen and rhetorically winded beyond reason, a campy horror movie that's having trouble handling itself. I don't think my sense of humor was switched on at all the first time I read this rewrite. Just because something's too subtle for me doesn't mean it's not worth keeping!

    Rather than making this scene stand out, I feel like the continuity of this tone between the intro and the beginning of this scene is probably important to achieving what you want -- when I look at it again the continuity seems obvious and I wonder how the hell I didn't see it -- but anyway, I had an idea for what could be written. One thing I notice is that the reader has no clue what Bill's situation is at the very start of the scene, because it's his first appearance, so how can they understand why he's being so tense? -- So maybe start it with one small paragraph giving some really brief bearings? -- which would of course break your beautiful in-medias-res for that scene, but it would also allow you to establish continuity some more by harking back to the tone in the intro: maybe describing the Polaris Institute in more high-flying language.

    Um, um! Now you posted the rewritten prologue. It has my thumbs up. It has lost the ineffectual bombast (which, again, now I like) but kept the 'lol science', so that evens out. I am now totally convinced by its rhetoric. It doesn't feel overblown at all. My suggestion about the harking back in Chapter One could still fit. Of course in practice I imagine you'll think of a third thing that neither of us has brainstormed yet.

    Anyway, on to chapter two.

    One, he and a young man he had known for less than a half an hour—an assistant he was apparently responsible for—were being nearly literally dragged through the otherwise empty hallway of Polaris Institute by three strangers.
    Adverb/-jective pileup! There are a bunch of details here, but the sentence is trying to be a little pithy. You could make it less pithy and split it into more sentences, or cut out some details.

    (Maybe subjective; I feel like two adverb-adjective pairs should never be that close together in a sentence, but tastes may differ.)

    One of the agents twisted the latch, sending bubbles up the tank. The agent twisted the latch one more time and pulled it free,
    Is that how twisting something works in language? Feels a little awkward. He twisted it once, stopped, bubbles came up, then twisted it again and pulled it free? Okay, but when he's only done it two times, 'one more time' doesn't feel appropriate.

    Cool, though I can't think of a lot to say this chapter. In the beginning I nearly thought Bill might give himself up in place of Joel. How come they specifically want him? You specifically said he was a red shirt. What then makes him important enough they'd hunt him down by name?

    I can't remember if you ever specifically said what the red plasm is that the ixodida float around in; for coolness I always assume blood. However, for verisimilitude I bet you'll probably say "a ferrous organic colloid not unlike blood".

    This is the scene where the gruesome things don't happen offscreen; and Bill too, he stays awake for the penetration, endures things, and then gets the sleep he needs. Like before the rewrite too, I guess. Maybe with this chapter the fic is telling the reader, these things won't be redacted like in the movies, we'll get through this and a lot more craziness, and now is the time not to stand at the edges of horrible sci-fi situations but to play with them, yea, verily to take a campy, trope-conscious eye to all sci-fi and make something insane. I have no idea what I'm saying.

    Another brilliant observation: Your fic offers so much reward for fan observation -- I barely started getting into it until I read other reviewers' commentary -- it hardly feels like reading it alone is adequate; I ought to get three or four people to gather around and, I dunno, MST3k the thing, except obviously without the mocking. I'm sure there's some kind of activity like that for stories that are deliberately camp. The more you prod at it, the more it opens up. It's like one of those games that don't proceed past the title until you switch on multiplayer mode (inadvertently making the lonely child feel bad).

    Chapter 3! I was trying not to miss an update. I was actually there like an hour before you posted the new one, but couldn't get to it that fast. Not nearly that fast.

    All the same when Pandora says Hello I will not lie, I had an attack. Is this meant to refer to one of those     Spoiler:


    Oak grinned. “Well, it’ll be enough to prevent curiosity from killing the meowth.”

    Nettle arched an eyebrow. “Sir, with all due respect, is this the right time to be cracking jokes?”

    “You know what they say, Professor Nettle! Laughter is the best potion!”
    There's his anime side coming out.

    Her feet stomped into the vinyl flooring hard, as if her heels could jackhammer the rage out of her body into and into the ground.
    I would ease out this sentence thus, by removing 'vinyl', which may or may not be serving a purpose (we know what the flooring is from last chapter), and by moving 'hard' to right after 'stomped'. But it's very inconsequential.

    Damn, there are a few past perfect errors here; I'm always a little apprehensive to point them out because the suggestions I think of all sound really convoluted. It seems to me like you only gloss over past perfects when it'll make the sentence flow better. Why should I question that kind of writer's instinct?

    He had no idea what Pandora did or what the parasite was capable of.
    What Pandora had done (except now there are two 'had's close together); "what Pandora did" suggests to me that she's still doing it as Oak speaks. I'm sure you meant what Pandora had done to collapse the whole institute. Again in the paragraph after it, I guess.

    And that was the person who just electrocuted four people to death.
    Who had; I'm pretty confident about this one.

    Bill was most certainly not having a good day. For one, he was pretty sure he just died.
    He had just died. Ditto.

    The entire ordeal wasn’t going his way from the time he slipped out of consciousness on the floor of Laboratory F.
    Again, I would lean towards "hadn't been going his way from the time he'd slipped", but I understand you've made this whole paragraph uniformly simple present, and feel like it's out of a sense of practicality; this description doesn't need the finicking of simple pasts and referred-to-pasts and whatnot. At the same time, the paragraph isn't quite consistent about its idea of time; you suggest that rather than all these things happening in the present of the story (simple past), Bill is remembering them (past perfect):

    And the screaming. He could remember the screams and how they grew painfully louder with each second. And then there would be silence,
    But after all, why shouldn't Bill be confused about the past, present or future of these things. He's in a fever. By the way the two 'And's close together dilute the effect of "And the screaming"; it could probably stand up without the second 'And'.

    And if this was Hell, he would never even see another pokémon.
    D'awwwwww!

    Fantastic addition the last scene, by the way. Whatever was happening didn't look like anything I recognized, which is a good thing.     Spoiler:
    Last edited by Praxiteles; 18th September 2013 at 4:49 PM.

  18. #18
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    Reboot? I wonder how many different languages have a word for awesome? PM list for me, obviously

    0

    The meteor in question was dubbed 2000 SE, and it came without warning.
    So if it was only as close to us as the moon before it was spotted, they bothered to give it a classification before it impacted. Seems a bit odd to me in the scheme of things. Unless you're saying that it was named after it crashed down, which would make more sense. I guess what I'm getting at is assiging it a name and classification would lend a bit more mystery to the situation. I mean, you described the effects of the impact perfectly, but when you give an object like that a name, it automatically sends out associations with said object that may lead it further away from what I like to call the undisturbed picture of the object. Wow that sounds weird, I hope I made sense lol

    It rained fire the night 2000 SE exploded, and the blasts emanating from its shattering masked the cracking of the forest that held the city aloft. Had anyone been in the city, they would never hear the screaming of the wood supports splintering. They would never hear the boom of their homes falling. They would never hear the crashing of glass or the screeching of bending metal. Not while the air resonated with the blast of the meteorite, anyway. Only when the resonance of the explosion died down, and only when the skies fell silent, did the last shrieks of the falling city echo through the night air.
    Beautiful description there. Painted a wonderfully vivid picture for me. Kudos!

    That night, a war erupted because of her.
    Nice creepy foreshadowing there. Though, I don't seem to remember her from the previous version. Am I just being thick? Or is she someone new?

    1

    [UNIDENTIFIED NOISE. TRANSMISSION ENDS.]
    That sent a chill down my spine lol. I want to compliment you again regarding your skill with transcripts. Not only do you make them seem lively and thoroughly entertaining, but you're one of the only people I've seen on this site doing it the correct way. Too often are authors too convinced with making it in your face, or just doing a **** job at it, that the message is easily lost. You however do a great job in letting it flow naturally. I like it

    She glared at him from the corner of her eye. “I need to know that you understand what we’re studying. Tell me what you know.”
    You really made it seem like if Bill coughed too loudly, she would rip his fingernails out. Loved it

    The buzz of their whispered conversations came at intermittent bursts over the hum of their equipment before dying down into cold, long silences.
    Once again, wonderful description there. I'm not used to someone conjuring up images in my head so easily. Damn I missed your writing

    “You’re working on a team, not solo,” she answered blandly. “If you’d like, think of him as a shared resource. All researchers are paired with assistants here for convenience’s sake, but we also work as a unit. Therefore, it’s understood that if any member of the team requires the help of more than one set of hands, the other members may offer that help if necessary. So if you don’t require Mr. Anderson’s help, you are perfectly welcome to allow your teammates to use him instead.”
    I feel like that explanation was a little longer than needed. You could have had her state simply the bolded portion and it would have accomplished the same thing.

    “Professor Oak is an incredibly busy figure here at Polaris,” Nettle interrupted. “I’ll mention that you’ve arrived safely.”
    *****

    “She. Female rattata have shorter whiskers.” Bill rubbed his forehead.
    I love it when he does that. He's so matter of fact with stuff like that. It just comes out of him so naturally that I'm not even sure he's aware he's said it. He doesn't do it in a way that makes him snide or knowitall, it just something he knows that slides out. Good job

    2

    [PAUSE—PANDORA BEGINS TO CRY]
    Might be able to add a bit more power to this portion by doing something like, [PAUSE - BARELY AUDIBLE SOBS COME FROM PANDORA]

    Which led to the third point: that all three assistants had frames that massive because most of their bodies seemed to consist of pure muscle. He didn’t actually come to that conclusion by looking at his captors; it actually came to him by the feeling of the short one’s palm against his face. Each finger tensed around his jaw and held his chin up, and his neck throbbed with an ache at its back. Judging by the grip, Bill knew that it was a threat. One wrong move from him, and the man would most likely twist his head clean off his shoulders in one easy gesture.
    Probably the most elegant and distinctive explanation of hulking security personnel ever haha. Nicely done on that. You could have just gone with 'Their arms were corded with thick ropes of muscle.' but you went another way. It's little bits like that is why I dig your stuff so much.

    “What is?” Bill murmured, although he only half-wanted to know.
    I have a small problem with that thought. Bill's thirst for knowledge is legendary in almost all circles. Obviously you're doing something different with your incarnation, but as horrid as the thought of infecting a human may be, I don't think he'd only half want to know. I think he'd want to see it right now, which he will lol, but still. I know he wouldn't be okay with sacrificing a person to see it, so with that in mind I hope you know what I mean

    For the first time, Bill noticed that the end was sharpened and metallic like a scalpel. It felt like a scalpel too when 009 slashed it down his shirt to cut off every button with the deftness of a surgeon
    I know I talked about this in the last version, but I love the inventiveness with 009 and her tulip of DOOM

    Almost seductively, she ran her fingers along the shallow cut down his front that the tulip’s stem left behind.
    Hell, I'd leave 'almost' out. I feel like it works better and speaks more to her character if it seems like she may be getting some deviant sexual thrill from cutting him

    And then, he slipped into a deep, painless sleep.
    Ahhh, can't wait to read about you again, Adam

    3

    PANDORA
    Hello.
    Hello chills down my spine! nice to meet you!

    There was a breach in the system roughly twenty-six minutes prior to the discovery of Adam and Abel.”
    Shouldn't have Oak known about that already? If all this has happened; abel and adam being confined, people treated for injuries, a full report being written, it seems like he would know about the breach already. If you wouldn't mind clarifying, how long has it been since Bill's infection until this moment that I quoted

    Professor Yvonne Nettle was not having a good day.
    You did the same thing with Oak for his introduction at the beginning of the chapter. Was that intentional? I like it

    One thing I didn't quote was the dialogue between Nettle and 009, mostly because everything I wanted to quote would make too long of a post lol. I could go into it more, but the core of what I want to say about it is that it was wonderful. The slight trembles that I imagined from 009's voice, the fury in Nettle's. You just did a wonderful job with their back and forth and I wanted to make sure that you thought so

    Bill was most certainly not having a good day.
    Got it. Answered my own question lol

    Beyond the dark, broad leaves of the trees above him was the blue moon: a huge, round, swirling mass of azure set against a red sky. Bill squinted at it as he shakily rose to his feet and absentmindedly dusted himself off. It was, for lack of a better term in his mind, absolutely beautiful. A soft, cobalt aura ebbed from its edges, and the swirling, cyan storms pooled across its smooth surface. It almost looked like a star, like Jupiter cut and polished from aquamarine.
    Blue, aquamarine, cyan, azure...That's a lot of blues. It felt like just a few more than was required. I felt like after the second description of the color, I could make an accurate supposition about what you were getting at. I know you're trying to impress upon us how vivid the color is (at least, I think that's what you're doing), but it was just a thought I had

    Reclining on top of these cushions, with the hookah’s mouthpiece in one slender hand, was a willowy creature made of pure light. The creature wasn’t emitting a blinding light, but no matter how hard Bill stared at it, its features refused to resolve. It was as if Bill was staring at a photograph of a person in which the person in question was painted over with pure white. It was, in one word, a blank
    God that was beautiful. Superbly done with the description. I'm not sure whether that description was there with the last version I read, but I don't think it was because this really stands out to me. Loved it. Sorry this 'review' has turned out to be such a giant gushfest about how much I love your story haha

    Great job. Excited for the next installment

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  19. #19
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    Hey so let's keep going, how about that?

    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Three

    [i]D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 6
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: TRANSCRIPT
    DESIGNATION: THE PANDORA TAPES, FILE 02
    DESCRIPTION: TRANSCRIPTION OF VIDEO OBTAINED FROM VALENCIA RESEARCH INSTITUTE ON VALENCIA ISLAND, ORANGE ARCHIPELAGO. TAPE FEATURES INTERVIEW BETWEEN PROFESSOR PHILENA IVY AND SPECIMEN 2000LH-B/01, CODENAME PANDORA.
    DATE-TIME: 23/09/01, 13:21

    [PANDORA LIES ON A COT IN V.R.I.’S STANDARD OBSERVATION ROOM. PRESENT STATUS OF SPECIMEN IS IDENTIFIED AS BEING “STAGE VI.” SUBJECT NO LONGER IDENTIFIABLE AS HUMAN.]
    That "no longer identifiable as human" thing is effectively spooky, and it's well served by not providing many specific details about why she is in that state. And of course, ominous terms like "Stage VI" are always welcome.

    IVY
    Hello, [REDACTED]. How are you feeling today?

    PANDORA [MONOTONE]
    Cold.
    I'm suspecting the Pandora side of this subject is pretty much in control, and whoever the redacted name was has pretty much faded away. That monotone strikes me as sort of passive-aggressive, in a way.

    IVY
    I see. [LOOKS AT HER CLIPBOARD] Pandora, I’d like to ask you the standard questions. Are you feeling well enough to answer them?

    PANDORA
    Yes.

    IVY
    Very good. First question. Are you in pain?

    PANDORA
    No.
    I bet that answer is very telling. If she feels no pain anymore, that reconfirms the full physical transformation, and with the physical transformation, the mental one can't be far behind.

    IVY
    Good. Good. Now, you mentioned in one of our last sessions that the parasite spoke to you. Did it speak to you again?

    [SILENCE.]
    That silence is probably a warning flag that things are about to get really, really bad.

    IVY
    Pandora?

    PANDORA
    [INAUDIBLE]

    IVY
    What was that?

    PANDORA
    Come closer.

    [IVY HESITATES BUT THEN LEANS TOWARDS PANDORA.]
    That was a likely fatal mistake, Philena.

    PANDORA
    [UNIDENTIFIABLE LANGUAGE]
    That actually legitimately scared me a little. Well done.

    [PANDORA OPENS HER MOUTH AND EXHALES A GUST OF WIND. IVY SCREAMS AND REELS BACK. ICE FORMS ON HER SKIN. SIGNS OF FROSTBITE DEVELOP ON HER HANDS. SHE FALLS TO THE FLOOR AND REMAINS THERE; HER SCREAM CUTS OFF SHORTLY BEFORE IMPACT. THREE ASSISTANTS RUN INTO THE SHOT AND ATTEMPT TO RESTRAIN AND SEDATE PANDORA. HER BODY EMITS A FLASH OF LIGHT, OBSCURING THE CAMERA FOR THE NEXT SIXTEEN (16) SECONDS.

    AT MARK 4:32, THE LIGHT FADES, AND PANDORA IS SEEN STANDING VERY CLOSE TO THE CAMERA. ONE OF THE ASSISTANTS CAN BE SEEN OVER HER SHOULDER. HE IS FROZEN IN WHAT IS APPARENTLY A FULL-BODY BLOCK OF ICE.]

    PANDORA
    Hello.
    I'm probably horrible for saying this, but that "hello" (besides scaring the **** out of me) made me think of GLaDoS for some reason.

    Professor Samuel Oak was not having a good day.
    Talk about an understatement.

    Or, rather, he had not been having a good week in general. Not since one of his most reliable research assistants and the researcher he had vouched for so heavily were found in Laboratory F with ixodida parasites attached to them. Now, after days of paperwork and phone calls to the organization overseeing the project, he sat watching the videos they sent to him in response.
    "Found?" No, I'd say that that's exactly how Domino and Team Rocket wanted it.

    I wonder what the worst thing Oak's seen in those videos is.

    At the very least, he no longer had any questions as to what happened to Professor Ivy or the research institute that had seemingly disappeared off the network less than a month ago. Unfortunately, that came with a whole host of other questions that surfaced in his mind and refused to dissipate. But the email that contained the six video files offered no other information from his superiors, the mysterious panel he knew as the Committee. They had nothing to say other than the statement that, as the recently appointed director of Polaris Institute, he was responsible for anything that occurred within its complex. However, they strongly advised him to prepare.

    Heaving a sigh, he leaned back and folded his hands over his stomach. Prepare for what, exactly? There was no other file after the sixth one. He had no idea what Pandora did or what the parasite was capable of.
    Prepare for the Human Instrumentality Project

    But seriously, I'm not even sure I would be able to sit and watch those files. And even if their content didn't bother him, I'm sure Oak doesn't care for having the responsibility for this dropped in his lap.

    Besides, he just couldn’t imagine either of the Polaris victims doing what Pandora did. Reports about Joel described him as well-meaning, soft-hearted, and eager to learn. Joel was the kind of person who had witnessed an ixodida disemboweling lab rattata no fewer than four times and who had, according to descriptions from the behaviorist team, nearly fainted every time it happened. Some researchers even described him as “only remotely dangerous in that he’s clumsy.”

    And Bill? Oak knew Bill. He was Bill’s mentor, his friend, someone who had practically watched him grow up. Oak knew what Bill was capable of, and what he saw in the video files was most definitely not in that category.
    I guess Oak doesn't know that much about the Ixodida behavior; how many specimens with a parasite infecting a host have been studied by this point? It can't be many if any at all.

    But more than that, there was something else nagging at Oak’s train of thought. Something missing in the story that he was given by the researchers who found Bill and Joel in Laboratory F.
    Is it correct to say that he was given a deliberately falsified story? Because that's the impression I get from that.

    Before he could dwell on it any further, there was a knock on his door. In response, he glanced across his sparsely furnished office.

    “Come in!” he called.

    At that moment, Professor Nettle opened the door and strode inside. Her thin hands clutched a tablet computer, and she fixed her gaze straight ahead on Professor Oak. The older researcher smiled and turned in his seat to face her. One of his large hands motioned towards a chair in front of his desk as an invitation to sit down, but Nettle glanced at it indifferently and moved to stand behind it. This hardly fazed Oak as he launched into a greeting.
    Good use of body language. Nettle refusing to sit and instead choosing to step behind the chair is a subtle way of showing how she doesn't let her guard down.

    “Ah! Professor Nettle! How are you?”

    She lifted her chin slightly and responded, “Not well, Professor. I’ve come to give my full report.”

    “Of course! Why don’t you take a seat?”
    I can read Oak's lines in his voice, so thumbs-up there.

    “No, thank you.” Her eyes moved to her tablet as her thin fingers brushed its glassy surface. “Professor, there have been no signs of sapience from either Codename Adam or Codename Abel. Violent tendencies persist, especially in Abel. Crews have successfully confined both specimens to medical pods, but we lost three assistants and Professor Fig to electrocution in the process.”

    Oak’s face darkened. Abel. The assistant. The well-meaning, soft-hearted assistant who nearly fainted at the sight of a rattata being mutilated. And that was the person who just electrocuted four people to death. Professor Oak clenched his fists on his desk and exhaled.
    Joel being the more violent of the two is perhaps an expected turn, though his codename is quite clever. It almost feels ironic that the more violent between Bill and Joel would be named after the first murder victim.

    I feel like the description here stretches just a little bit. Nettle does mention that Joel is the more violent one and that the deaths were due to electrocution, but Oak immediately connecting the two feels like it's a little bit of a reach. I think Nettle should connect them more explicitly, such as by saying "we lost three assistants and Professor Fig to Abel's electricity."

    “I see,” he said.

    “Adam, meanwhile, was easier to contain due to its primarily physical abilities, but it was no less dangerous,” Nettle continued. “Crews handling Adam received treatment for lacerations, impalements, and one severed hand. All six will be released in a few days.”
    I just thought, how extensive was the transformation each of them had undergone during these attacks? Both Bill and Joel must have transformed quite dramatically quite quickly for them to have been able to use specific techniques.

    Oak winced. Adam. His student. The professor’s mind continued to struggle with the thought of it, but he just couldn’t see either of them, either of the victims, as monsters. Yet there were four deaths and a number of injuries just from those two.
    I notice some repetition between the paragraphs where Oak muses about Bill and Joel ("Oak's face darkened. Abel." and "Oak winced. Adam.") Is this deliberate? I could see a reason why you might go that way.

    But ... he knew Bill since he was a child, and he trusted the reports about Joel. It just didn’t make sense.

    “He,” Oak said, his voice graver than usual. “Let’s refer to Adam or Abel as he, not it.”

    “I apologize, Professor.”
    I think Nettle is probably biting her tongue here to avoid saying what she thinks of Oak's concepts of decency.

    Oak leaned back in his chair and spread a hand on the desk. “It’s all right. Did you find anything else?”

    “Two notes,” she responded. “First, neither victim matches the description of Pandora. I have contacted the biology team, and they estimate that Adam and Abel are actually sixty percent through the process. We should see a complete transformation in three days.”
    "Matches the description" I presume means in terms of type, which makes it sound as if they have only just discovered that different specimens are different types. That makes sense given what we know of their work so far.

    Sixty percent through the transformation? I must ask, at what point did their elemental abilities manifest?

    “Ah.”

    “Second.” Nettle folded her hands in front of her, holding the tablet to her waist. “Security and IT have finished running through the records. There was a breach in the system roughly twenty-six minutes prior to the discovery of Adam and Abel.”

    “Hmm. Do you know who it was?”

    “We have reason to believe it was Adam. The intruder accessed administrative-level operations without logging into the system, and the only information that was changed was the level of permissions given to Adam.”
    Nettle's insistence on calling him Adam while describing events prior to his transformation is quite telling.

    Oak scratched his cheek as his expression broke into a sheepish glance. “I should’ve warned you about that. Bill sometimes gets a bit too eager for his own good.”

    Nettle raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that putting it lightly, sir?”

    Normally, Oak would have offered a hearty laugh, but it didn’t come this time. He was too tired, too pressed to do it. Instead, he grinned and kneaded a temple with three of his thick fingers.

    “Ah yes. But enthusiasm can be a good quality in a good researcher.”

    Nettle huffed. “Perhaps. However, the fact of the matter is that Adam broke into the system and caused a containment breach.”
    If he only changed his level of security access, is "containment breach" really the right term to use? I would think that would apply if he caused an Ixodida to be released. "Security breach" would probably be a better term.

    Oak’s expression grew stern, and he relaxed the hand that was still on his desk. He wanted to disagree. He wanted to say something, but what could he say? There were pieces missing in this puzzle. Until he received word from Polaris’s officers concerning the security footage in Laboratory F, he was blocked from asking Nettle direct questions about what he thought happened. Instead, he had to settle for a deep breath and mental chess with all of his employees. And that meant agreeing with Professor Nettle, even if he knew without a doubt that, somehow, this wasn’t Bill’s fault.

    “Yes,” he said. “Our computer experts are working on upgrading the security measures around Laboratory F. New locks, new transfer system, and everything in between.”

    “And will that be enough to prevent another incident?”
    That's all she's concerned about, isn't it? Good to see she's as cold as ever.

    Oak grinned. “Well, it’ll be enough to prevent curiosity from killing the meowth.”

    Nettle arched an eyebrow. “Sir, with all due respect, is this the right time to be cracking jokes?”

    “You know what they say, Professor Nettle! Laughter is the best potion!”
    It's clear, at least to me, that Oak is doing this to hide his true emotions about the matter.

    Nettle lowered her head and sighed again. Then, she stood.

    “Yes. Well. I will take that into consideration, sir,” she said. “Permission to be dismissed?”

    “Yes, of course,” Oak replied. “But keep your head up, Professor Nettle. Bill and Mr. Anderson are still alive, so there’s hope for them yet.”
    I bet they won't stay that way for long

    Nettle nodded and turned to leave. As she did, Oak laced his fingers together and propped his elbows on his desk in thought. When Nettle was halfway to the door, Oak cleared his throat.
    Oh, subtle, Oak. Don't think I didn't catch you doing that pose.

    “Professor Nettle, don’t you think it’s strange?”

    She stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Strange?”

    Oak nodded. “Yes. The transfer system right now only carries one specimen at a time. There were two involved in the incident, and both of them were positioned right over Adam and Abel’s hearts. What do you make of that?”

    Nettle shook her head and closed the distance between herself and the door. “That Adam wasn’t overly enthusiastic, sir.”
    Nettle's defense strikes me as rather feeble, and I think she is aware of it.

    Professor Yvonne Nettle was not having a good day.
    Now this is definite use of repetition to draw parallels between Nettle and Oak, and it works. I really like it.

    It took all of her reserve not to slam Professor Oak’s door behind her as she stalked out of the office and into the hallway. As soon as she was a good distance from the door, however, her lips pursed, and her gait quickened. Her feet stomped into the vinyl flooring hard, as if her heels could jackhammer the rage out of her body into and into the ground. She was certainly not in the mood to deal with anyone at that point, especially not the young woman who appeared seemingly out of nowhere and fell into step beside her.

    “Our benefactor is livid,” Nettle hissed.

    “Our benefactor is livid?” the blonde snorted. “Looks to me like the only one who’s livid is—”
    It took me a moment to realize that the benefactor was Team Rocket, not the Polaris Institute.

    Domino's entrance was suitable. I can imagine she was probably propped up on the ceiling, even.

    “Before you let that famous mouth of yours run,” Nettle snapped, “I would like to say that your actions have compromised our entire operation. Professor Oak knows that something is amiss, and frankly, a child can easily see why. You barely even tried to cover yourself with that flimsy accident story of yours. And why on Earth did you choose their chests as infection sites? Anyone would have been able to figure out that Anderson and McKenzie could never have accidentally released parasites that would just happen to bite them in the exact same areas.”
    Nettle must be a lot more important than I'd initially thought if she can backtalk Domino like this. But she is right - Domino's story was very weak.

    “We made do with what we could,” 009 replied as she crossed her arms. “It’s not like we had all the time in the world to fix what those stupid field agents did.”
    That's so much like her, blaming the field agents.

    Nettle stopped and whirled around. Her companion jolted to a halt right beside her.

    “That would be another thing,” Nettle continued, her voice low and rumbling. “Our benefactor is far from happy that you had chosen to infect McKenzie. Do you have any idea how much danger you have put our entire organization in with that brilliant oversight of yours? We had direct orders not to touch him. Direct orders from people who can dismantle our organization in fantastically creative ways but had the mercy of leaving us alone so long as we agreed that we would never touch McKenzie.”
    I bet this won't be the only time we hear about things being 'dismantled in fantastically creative ways.'

    “It was either that or eliminate him!” 009 whined. “He knew too much! I was as clear as I could be in my instructions. If those three idiots hadn’t grabbed him when they snatched Anderson, then—”

    “Agent 009, might I remind you that you volunteered to be the captain of Operation North Star?” Nettle growled. “As captain, you hold responsibility over your team’s actions, including their errors.”

    She cringed. “W-wait. So do you! You’re the project director, aren’t you? Doesn’t that mean that you’re just as responsible as I am?”
    Wait, Nettle actually outranks Domino? That was thoroughly unexpected.

    What isn't unexpected is how Domino is trying to evade being the one at fault, but even then it's still quite funny.

    “I fully realize that. That is why I find your incompetence completely unacceptable. Our benefactor agrees.”

    009 took a half step backwards to brace herself for the oncoming blow. Her hands balled into fists, and she gritted her teeth as she glared steadily at her superior.

    Nettle peered over the top of her half-frame glasses. “But. Our benefactor is also generous. He wishes to give you one more chance, on the condition that I monitor your every move to ensure that you don’t fail us again.”
    And to think this isn't even the worst thing that's going to happen to Domino...

    At that, 009 relaxed. She straightened, her hands smoothing her scrubs as she took a step forward.

    “Trust me. I won’t.”

    Nettle narrowed her eyes. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a plastic card. Tossing it at 009, she waited until the girl deftly snatched it out of the air before speaking.

    “Good,” she said. “Your instructions are simple. That is an upgraded pass to Laboratory Q. Go there and oversee the programming of the tracking collars that will be fitted on Anderson and McKenzie. We have a few programmers who will ensure that Polaris won’t be the only ones tracking their movements.”
    I know we already talked about what "Laboratory Q" and the tracking collars are reference to, but I still can't help smiling at it.

    I just noticed Nettle stopped calling them Adam and Abel. Was that an act for Oak?

    009 nodded. Then, after a pause, she glanced up. “And?”

    “That’s all.”

    With that, 009 furrowed her eyebrows. “What? That’s all? You just want me to sit around and watch some hackers make dog collars? Please tell me you’ll at least have me put them on our targets.”
    Oh God, I love how you're depicting Domino so much.

    “Our benefactor doesn’t even trust you to do that,” Nettle replied. “I will personally handle the fitting. All you need to do is ensure that the programmers have fully tested the data transfer system before that happens.”
    That's really telling that Giovanni doesn't even trust Domino for such a mundane task.

    Bill was most certainly not having a good day. For one, he was pretty sure he just died.
    More great use of repetition. It really draws a connection between the three characters it was used for.

    The entire ordeal wasn’t going his way from the time he slipped out of consciousness on the floor of Laboratory F. From then onward, he faded in and out of blackness. But the moments that weren’t black felt strange to him, as if he was watching his body from the outside. He watched as he ripped off his own skin and found blood-slicked silver plates underneath. His fingers fell off, and in their places were sharp, silver claws. Every so often, his body convulsed and spat out teeth or shed hair in sickly green clumps. At one point, he saw himself thrashing in the hands of assistants, and although he couldn’t see through the crowds of people, he watched the color red splashing across his line of sight. And the screaming. He could remember the screams and how they grew painfully louder with each second. And then there would be silence, followed by flashing glimpses of a white ceiling or a face he recognized. Sometimes, that face was Professor Oak, looking down in concern. Other times, there would be Professor Nettle, usually flanked by an assistant or two. At one point, he could remember her face and two others, but he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak to them. Instead, all he could do was let them lift him as they fixed something around his neck.

    But then, after awhile, he began to see himself from the inside. He remembered darkness, but he could feel parts of himself shift. The vertebrae of his spine stretched apart at one point. His stomach twisted in knots at others. Bones snapped and melted together in new configurations. Glands sprouted like tumors on his brainstem.
    I don't even know how to react to this. This is at once horrifying, disgusting and unsettling... and yet it was a delight to read because of how well it was written.

    The strange thing was he couldn’t feel pain. It was exactly like the blonde had told him: it wasn’t painful to him. It wasn’t him screaming when he saw himself from the outside, and it wasn’t him convulsing when his bones melted and his stomach twisted. It was something else. He was stuck in the darkness, stuck behind his eyes and left to watch.
    I can't imagine how he didn't feel any of these things. Is the transformation shutting down his nerves?

    And then he died.

    Death wasn’t what he expected it to be. Granted, he didn’t think about death that much besides how to avoid it, but he didn’t realize that he would feel—actually feel—his body shut down. His heart shuddered to a stop. His throat choked on air. An electric pulse ran through his nerves, and he felt as if all of the muscles of his body throbbed all at once.

    Then there was nothing. Nothing, that is, until he opened his eyes. After that, there was the blue moon.

    Bill lay on the ground for a long while. His fingers curled around soft, cold dirt and waxy-leaved grass until a realization hit him: he could move. Jolting into a sitting position, he looked up, into the black canopy of a forest. Beyond the dark, broad leaves of the trees above him was the blue moon: a huge, round, swirling mass of azure set against a red sky. Bill squinted at it as he shakily rose to his feet and absentmindedly dusted himself off. It was, for lack of a better term in his mind, absolutely beautiful. A soft, cobalt aura ebbed from its edges, and the swirling, cyan storms pooled across its smooth surface. It almost looked like a star, like Jupiter cut and polished from aquamarine.
    Well, this is... unusual. The description at the end feels a little too excessive, I think, though I can see what you're going for.

    He would have stood there for years, staring up at the blue moon, but instead, he heard music. At first, it was soft and quiet, nearly indistinguishable from the wind of the forest, but the more he strained to hear it, the more it resolved into something coherent. He tilted his head in its direction and listened carefully to the tinny notes of a music box. The melody was familiar to him, like something his mother used to sing, but he couldn’t quite put a name to the tune.

    The fantastic thing about being dead is that ideas that might have sounded stupid when one was alive would sound perfectly reasonable in the afterlife. Not that Bill’s sense of when an idea was and wasn’t dangerous was all that reliable in the first place. After all, he thought that a hallway in a security-heavy facility wasn’t dangerous, but then less than two minutes later, his brain was screaming at him over and over again on the subject how dangerous attempting to break free from Team Rocket agents would be. It was all situational, but had he been alive, he would have insisted that the music box melody of a childhood song wafting through an alien forest he didn’t remember traveling to would lead directly to a trap. But there he was, walking towards it, his legs brushing against flat-leaved weeds and waxy grass.
    "The fantastic thing about being dead is..." Is this correct tense? It seems like everything else is past tense but this is present.

    I have to be honest, outside of the curious part with the music, I'm having a little bit of a hard time connecting with Bill's segment. I think it's because it's just so different from the other two segments.

    Still, he couldn’t help but think of the same phrase over and over again. Curiosity killed the meowth.
    Ooh, more repetition and parallels. I like it.

    “That’s morbidly true,” he murmured to himself.

    He paused and rested his hand on a tree, his fingertips brushing against bark. But it didn’t feel right. It felt smooth and warm, like steel heated under his palm. Glancing at it, he could see it looked like any other trunk with rough, cracked, brown-green bark. He pushed away from it, turning away from the music as he shuffled backwards in confusion.

    “What is this?” He stared at his hands—still human, still fleshy hands. “Wait. Maybe perception distorts when you don’t have a physical body. Oh gods, I’m dead!
    ...Bill's not the swiftest one sometimes, is he? I'd be wondering if I was dead pretty quickly after seeing such bizarre sights.

    He clasped his hands over his eyes and stumbled. For the first time since he entered the forest, the full weight of that single revelation crashed down on him. He was dead. He would never see his family again. He would never write another paper. And if this was Hell, he would never even see another pokémon. Everything was gone.
    Somehow I bet Pokemon might have a place in hell's torments. I mean, Bill's about to meet one right at home there.

    His feet continued to shuffle backwards until his back hit something smooth and warm. It yielded easily under his weight, and before he could catch himself, he fell through it and tumbled back first into a pile of softness. Instinctively, he winced and then slowly opened his eyes once more.

    Above him, he saw the canopy of a large tent. Bright purple and red cloth hung overhead to form walls and a ceiling, and he had apparently fallen through a bright red panel serving as a door. Tiny golden stars ran up each panel and led to golden ropes that hung from the tent’s ceiling. Some of the ropes ended in tassels, but others ended in brightly colored paper lamps that emitted soft lights or in heavy-looking golden incense burners from which purple, sweet-smelling smoke puffed. Bill rubbed his eyes and sat up. What broke his fall, as he found out, was a pile of cushions—purple and red cushions trimmed with twisting, gold rope.

    The cushions, in fact, formed an uneven floor across a massive space lined with wooden doors of every color. Uncertain of his footing, Bill stayed near the entrance of the tent, but he cast his eyes around the room at each door, studying their faces and the intricate etchings on each one. Some of them were decorated with simple drawings of pokémon. Others were labeled with actual words, occasionally in languages he didn’t recognize.

    “Where do those go?” he muttered. “Different afterlives?”

    “No. Simply different parts of your mind.”
    So it is his mind. I was beginning to theorize that, due to all the etchings of Pokemon. I wonder, though, if some of the other things he's seeing are from his own mind or are parts of the Ixodida's consciousness taking him over and merging with his mind.

    Bill whirled around to face the center of the room. Somehow, in the seconds his eyes were off it, a set of stairs grew out of the floor. The stairs were made of chests of drawers, with some drawers open and spilling out books, papers, pens and inkwells, and other small items Bill couldn’t readily identify from a distance. But at the top of the stairs was a platform covered in a pile of cushions next to a hookah with a green glass base. Reclining on top of these cushions, with the hookah’s mouthpiece in one slender hand, was a willowy creature made of pure light. The creature wasn’t emitting a blinding light, but no matter how hard Bill stared at it, its features refused to resolve. It was as if Bill was staring at a photograph of a person in which the person in question was painted over with pure white. It was, in one word, a blank.

    Yet there it was, speaking to Bill with his voice as it sucked on the end of a hookah hose with a mouth that didn’t exist.

    “You are not dead, by the way. Your heart was temporarily stopped to avoid further damage to itself. But do not worry. I let you borrow mine.”
    This feels quite different from the Adam I remember. It almost feels more like a feminine type of character, like a sinister woman of high society or royalty. Given some elements of Adam's story given in the previous version of the fic, I've got some theories about what this is.

    Keeping his eyes on the creature, Bill reached down and began to dig a path through the pillows. Inch by inch, he crept closer to the figure. But he didn’t say a word. While it was a relief to know that he wasn’t dead, he had a feeling he knew exactly what this visitor was.

    “Names bear fantastic power to your people,” the creature continued. “To you, names hold an object’s true meaning. It is not a sword until you call it a sword. I find it curious. Other species in this universe do not hold the individual in such high regard. We do not give names to each other. We find it redundant. It divides our unity and splits our identity. But you. No, I should be fair. Humans are not unique to that concept. There are others who consider names to hold great power, but I find you fascinating nonetheless.”
    Ah yes, another great science fiction B-movie trope - the infinitely wise alien race that discarded the individual for the collective good - used well.

    The presentation of Adam/this vision is quite curious when I try to reconcile it with the old one.

    About halfway to the platform, Bill stopped. He studied the visitor for a few moments before he finally found his voice again.

    “Who are you?” he asked.

    “Who am I?” the figure repeated. “That is quite a question. Perhaps it would be best to begin with asking who are you? Your name. Shall we divine your purpose from it? It is an old name, and that is important to know. Old names hold greater power than new ones. They come from your old tongues, the ones that believed in ancient gods that are long dead now. And the people who spoke the language that birthed your name were warriors, believers in frozen giants and soldier gods and great world-rending beasts. But your name is not one that attacks. No, rather, it defends. William. Will, meaning willpower and determination. Helm, meaning helmet and protection. From this, you are William, whose purpose is to be the determined protector. Yet you are not William, are you? You corrupt the name and therefore corrupt and shorten its meaning.”
    Are the things it says about Bill's name origin and the people who originated it based on real life? I sense a real opportunity to learn something.

    I really like the part about Bill corrupting his name, which is something I sense great symbolism in.

    The being bit the end of the hookah’s mouthpiece. Although it had no eyes, Bill could feel its stare bore into him as he pulled himself up onto the platform. He knelt there, beside the bubbling, green hookah base until the creature pulled the hose from its unseen mouth. It exhaled a cloud of purple-green smoke that swirled around its companion’s face. Burning, dense, incense-scented smoke filled Bill’s throat, and he coughed and flinched away from the creature.

    When he looked back, however, he paused. The creature now had a face, one that stared back at him with an expression he couldn’t quite define. But the features he recognized right away. The dark eyes. The heart shape. The way its iridescent hair curled around its white skin. Bill would recognize the shape of those features anywhere. It was his face.

    “Therefore, I ask you,” the creature continued. “Who are you?”
    And a suitably unsettling ending. That's a great scene and line to end on.

    This chapter is satisfying, but overall, I think I liked the first two chapters a little more. Bill's portion of the chapter, while enjoyable, feels rather disconnected from the rest and as a result the transition is a bit jarring. That said, though, Bill's portion is written nearly as well as the rest (with just the overly-flourished descriptions holding it back), so it's not a drag on the rest of the chapter.

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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Like the choice of a codename. When it comes to the specimen number and timestamp on the file, is there a reference of some kind in there?
    Yep. It follows pretty much the same kinds of conventions as the meteor’s designation (because I’m totally not creative with scientific numbering systems). The short of it is that although Pokémon do get names pretty early on, the number is their temporary dex designation—a number they receive before they’re properly indexed in a regional/the national dex.

    For temporary dex numbers, it basically goes year of discovery, letter indicating the month (while skipping I), letter indicating the region. So in this case, the number refers to the fact that this Pokémon was discovered in the year 2000, in the month of October (technically should be K—will fix later), in the region of Hoenn (H).

    After that, alternate formes are indicated with letters designating the order of their discovery. For example, the parasite forme of ixodida is considered A, whereas the host-parasite forme is B, hence the -B at the end of the base designation.

    Finally, the slash and number indicate specimen. In this case, Pandora is the first host-parasite ixodida on record, so she’s considered 01. Bill and Joel are 02 and 03 (officially respectively, even if Joel was the first one infected).

    Glad to see Ivy around too... just too bad she won't be lasting long.
    Haha, yep. She’s totally alien bait.

    I know this isn't really technically a script, but the use of direction and description is effective in the same way it should be in a script.
    Thank you! It’s really helping me gear up for a possible other fic in the same universe as The Leaf Green Incident.

    That line from Pandora is just... wow, it's really creepy. I don't think I could think of many better lines to fit someone in Pandora's situation.
    Besides incoherent screaming, amirite?

    Curious, is Pandora's voice distorted or mutated at all? I'm trying to determine just what kind of voice to read (her?) lines in.
    Good question! It’s actually flat. Most Ixodida don’t express emotion the way people do, and that includes vocally. So when most Ixodida speak, it’s either robotic and emotionless or airy and detached. Pandora is of the robotic and emotionless variety. Lilith, meanwhile, is of the airy and detached variety, by the by. So when you hear her speak, imagine that she’s constantly distracted.

    Otherwise, Ixodida sound pretty much like humans. It’s all in the emotion—or lack thereof—really.

    Wow, that was... chilling. /runs
    Niiiiiiiice. *also runs!*

    In all seriousness, though, that's a great line to drive home the utter horror of the transformations. It's like a bow on the package of mutations mentioned in the data at the beginning of the file, because it just wraps up everything that was already introduced about the subject.
    And it all goes downhill from here! 8D

    I know this genre's tricks. That promise ain't getting kept.
    Welp, to be fair, she did say try. ;D

    Somehow I get the feeling Ivy's not terribly genre savvy here, otherwise she'd know that getting that close to someone who's infected by a parasite generally does not end well for anyone involved.
    Yeah, Ivy didn’t care that much for Ridley Scott. *nods*

    Well, that's not completely horrifying at all!
    AND THEN IT ESCALATES QUICKLY?

    I suspect this will be something we see quite often. To varying degrees of effectiveness.
    Yep. And sometimes even with hilarious results! (He tries so hard to be Sherlock Holmes. He really does.)

    I like the contrast in personalities here; Bill is cautious, measured and analytical in his actions, while Joel is more erratic and less restrained. I like how Bill's mind is more on preserving Joel's safety than his own (even though we both know it's equally useless.)
    Thank you!

    I really hope I can work out a few more plot threads with Joel than what I’ve planned for him so far because I didn’t expect to like him that much. That and Bill’s about to get reamed thanks to the fact that he actually gives a damn about someone other than Lanette this time around.

    Would have liked to see some of those kung-fu movie lessons. XD;
    Don’t worry. There will be future scenes in which Bill shows off the learning he gleaned from kung-fu movies.

    And then it will be revealed that he’s mostly just watched the ones starring Jackie Chan.

    Somehow I think fighting back in any form, even if it was possible, would have just made it worse, in all seriousness.
    Oh yes. Bill would not have survived that with any of his limbs intact.

    For some reason, this is made even more unnerving by the F being thrown on the door in white paint, possibly in a not-so-neat manner if the way I'm picturing it is accurate.
    Would it be any creepier if I told you it was extremely stark, clean, and perfectly drawn with all the vibes of a medical facility in a zombie movie? 8D

    These guys... don't strike me as the brightest. Somehow I get the feeling "moron" isn't something any of them should be throwing around.
    Yeeeeah, that was totally a case of the pot and the kettle having a chat.

    I think I would change the very end of this portion to "literally threw him into the room." Breaking it into two like this feels a little bit too casual in tone, at least to me.
    Ooh, I like it better merged together like that too. Thanks!

    I'm probably being pedantic here, and if I am, feel free to pay this no mind. It feels like "assistant" is being used too often. It's used twice in this quote, and again right before.
    Actually, you’re right. It’s partly because I couldn’t think of anything else to call them, which is a terrible excuse, I know. But I like your suggestion of giving a few different nouns to Domino to help smooth that out, so I’ll give it a shot!

    Not only that, when you think about what's about to happen to them... Bill's life is pretty much shot to hell and back just because these guys couldn't tell who he was. An accident. That really makes you realize how bad what he's about to get is.
    Yep. Bill should never, ever play the lottery. It will somehow result in the Sea Cottage burning to the ground, given his luck.

    Oh man, Bill really got a raw deal, just thinking about how many chances they had for this to not happen.
    Exactly. ;D

    Wow, I'm surprised he was even able to pull his arm out of Domino's grasp. I think I've been consistently underestimating him.
    *le nod* I’ve always felt that Bill is a lot stronger than he looks; he just has a fantastic lack of technique. Example? He knows the moves and knows every Pokémon’s strengths and weaknesses, but he absolutely sucks as a trainer because he just can’t make the connection between his knowledge and his actions sometimes. And he can stand up to danger if he wants, and he can punch pretty hard. He just doesn’t because he sucks at thinking like a fighter most of the time.

    I smiled. Thanks for putting in a little wit, it's a welcome relief from the dread of the pending events.
    *le bow* And Bill needed the tiniest bone thrown his way. Even if that bone is subsequently used to smack him over the head.

    Hang on, is Bill aware that they're Team Rocket?
    Another good question, but nope! He hasn’t the faintest idea who these people are besides the fact that they’re assholes evil. He’s really only aware of what Team Rocket is from the media, but he doesn’t actually know how they operate or who’s in it. Keep in mind that in the anime canon, Giovanni has a front, and it’s implied that he’s known more as a business man and Viridian’s gym leader than a crime lord. For example, he’s able to run completely legitimate businesses, like Pokémon Land in “Island of the Giant Pokémon,” without anyone raising an eyebrow. So except for people who have actually seen Giovanni directly involved in Team Rocket’s activities (so we’re talking about Ash and his friends here), it’s not really common knowledge—in this universe, anyway—that he’s the leader of Team Rocket.

    As an added bonus, Giovanni isn’t exactly an uncommon name in certain cultures, and which the cross-cultural exchange that the Pokémon world has gone through prior to the events of this fic, there are probably multiple people named Giovanni in Japan alone. So even though Domino namedropped Giovanni, Bill really has no way to tell which Giovanni she’s talking about.

    Granted, Bill knows who Giovanni is—from a civilian’s perspective. After all, my headcanon bit about how Bill was curbstomped by the leader of Viridian Gym and about how this convinced him that he was a terrible trainer is still true, so they’ve even actually met. Moreover, I wouldn’t doubt that Giovanni’s “comparatively innocent businessman” facade involved a lot of donations being made to technological institutions like the one Bill works for, so it’s very likely that the image Bill has of Giovanni is the complete opposite of a crime lord. And even then, Giovanni is probably the dimmest blip on Bill’s radar because besides the gym battle and probable occasional donation to the Pokémon Cutting-Edge Technology Research Center, the two have had exactly zero reasons to cross paths, and Bill has a bad habit of having a hilariously narrow worldview sometimes. Especially when it comes to businesspeople.

    And Giovanni, meanwhile, had been actively avoiding Bill because of that “do not touch this person” order, so in a way, he’s gone out of his way to make sure Bill had the vaguest idea who he was and what connection he had to Team Rocket. So to Bill, the particular Giovanni he knows is a gym leader and occasional philanthropist, so he just didn’t make a connection between that person and anyone connected to his kidnappers, much less Team Rocket.

    Besides that, while there have been some news involving Team Rocket doing something bigger than Pokémon poaching, that’s still primarily what they’re known for among the general population besides Ash and friends. (Even Ash and company usually describe them as people who steal Pokémon and not much more, right?) So to someone outside of that circle, Team Rocket really doesn’t have much business kidnapping scientists because all that other stuff they’ve done just isn’t public knowledge. As a result, Bill (who’s part of this circle and really only knows them as a bunch of thieves at the very least and the equivalent of the yakuza at the very most) really didn’t make the connection between Team Rocket and these people, and right now, he’s just aware that he’s been kidnapped by some random band of rebellious assistants.

        Spoiler:- Of course ...:


    Despite that, seeing that Bill is clearly willing to use himself as a bargaining chip to ensure Joel's safety is pretty nice.
    Thank you!

    It’s filed under Details That Will Bite Bill in the *** Later. 8D

    Boy, Rattata is really screwed in this too, isn't it?
    YOUNGSTER JOEY HAD IT COMING.

    I mean, what?

    And wow, did that description ever sum up why Domino can be terrifying. Especially that last line - it captures her perfectly.
    Thank you~! 8D

    I still need to rewatch Mewtwo Returns, but I’m really having fun with Domino just like this. Or in general. 8)

    There's an inherent menace in such a seemingly polite statement that really, really works.
    BILL CERTAINLY THINKS SO. *flee!*

    I wanted to comment earlier in the portion, but this was so utterly horrifying that I couldn't. I think you did a great job really getting that feeling of horror across here. The veins going under Joel's skin are a really good touch that I don't believe were present previously.
    *le bow* And they really weren’t, yeah. It’s because the transformation was only told from Bill’s perspective as he was experiencing it, which was fine and dandy for the last version, but it really didn’t give readers a chance to see how bad it can actually get. I feel a lot freer by stepping back from Bill a little because it gives me a chance to not only express how much pain the transformation involves but also how ugly it is.

    I was going to joke about this at first... but then what she really meant sank in, and I actually recoiled a little. You're good at really getting subtext in there.
    *cackles and tents fingers*

    By the by, you’ll definitely want to remember this part. It’s going to be important.

    Adam gets his trademark distinctive characterization, and this time it's even before he's much of an entity the readers can interact with! I like it a lot, though the meaning might be lost on someone who doesn't remember anything of the previous version.
    And to those of you who don’t remember anything of the previous version … *raises glass* Enjoy the foreshadowing, you sweet, summer children.

    Somehow I get the feeling that this isn't the first time this Domino has used a technique like this.
    Haha, I like to think that she was the best at getting the information Team Rocket needed at any given time. (I don’t think she had a lot of sex, paradoxically enough. I just think she made people want it. Or terrified people. Whichever worked.)

    Whoa there, Domino, let's keep trying not to mix business and pleasure.
    So I just had two different responses pop up, and I can’t decide which is less more appropriate:

    1. “She’s into the kinky stuffs.”
    2. “That is business for her. You should see her pleasure.
    2a. “She is very into the kinky stuffs.”

    I scrolled down to your reply to PhalanxSigil for this detail, but yeah, I get the image of a tiny arachnid creature from this. Where does the light come from, though?
    The parasites flash light in some of the scenes to show that they’re agitated. In general, they use it for communication.

    This may or may not be a shaky excuse to make a glow-in-the-dark Bill later.

    I get a real feeling that this Domino is into some sadistic stuff... let's put it that way and leave it at that.
    PRETTY MUCH.

    I have so many beautiful things planned for her because of how ballsy she’s shaping up to be. 8)

    Well then, I'm not sure I have a terribly large number of general comments to make, but I give the chapter thumbs up overall.
    Thank you!

    The chapters are noticeably shorter now than they used to be, which, while it may be due to the fact that the real action hasn't quite started yet, is a bit of a relief. Not to say that the chapters were bad in the previous version - they weren't - but sometimes they could become a bit overwhelming, and having the story presented in easier-to-swallow chunks is making it much easier to focus on the story without fatigue.
    Glad you noticed! This is actually going to be more of a thing, in part because the D.E.V.A. Files will also always be a thing, and I feel that those limit the number of scenes I can do in one chapter. (You’ll probably notice that Three felt a little shaky as it was because there were so many scene breaks. Or at least it did to me, anyway.) That and I’ve found that it’s easier to pump out shorter chapters than it is lengthy ones, so I can fire off chapters every couple of weeks instead of make people wait around for one update a month. And it helps me focus a bit more, so I feel more compelled to get to the point of the story, rather than pad things out with drama and filler.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luphinid Silnaek View Post
    No, don't ditch it!
    OKAY THEN. XD

    Rather than making this scene stand out, I feel like the continuity of this tone between the intro and the beginning of this scene is probably important to achieving what you want -- when I look at it again the continuity seems obvious and I wonder how the hell I didn't see it -- but anyway, I had an idea for what could be written. One thing I notice is that the reader has no clue what Bill's situation is at the very start of the scene, because it's his first appearance, so how can they understand why he's being so tense? -- So maybe start it with one small paragraph giving some really brief bearings? -- which would of course break your beautiful in-medias-res for that scene, but it would also allow you to establish continuity some more by harking back to the tone in the intro: maybe describing the Polaris Institute in more high-flying language.
    Hmm. You have a good point, and that sounds like something that’d be fun to try. I’d just need some time to hammer out what should be said in that introduction.

    Previous versions actually had something like this, where you got a chunk of heady language expositing about what Polaris was. On the one hand, I do miss being able to talk about what the institution did (because yay world building), but on the other hand, I don’t quite miss the infodump style that the previous versions used. Then again, I’m sure I can avoid that and still start off with a bit of exposition now that I’m older and wiser, so I’ll see what I can come up with. It’s about time I started on the first-chapter rewrite (for crossposting all over the place) anyway.

    Um, um! Now you posted the rewritten prologue. It has my thumbs up. It has lost the ineffectual bombast (which, again, now I like) but kept the 'lol science', so that evens out. I am now totally convinced by its rhetoric. It doesn't feel overblown at all. My suggestion about the harking back in Chapter One could still fit. Of course in practice I imagine you'll think of a third thing that neither of us has brainstormed yet.
    I should totally throw everyone for a loop with an extra scene in which Professors Oak and Nettle go on about what happened in the year between the Ixodida invasion and the present of the—

    Oh.

    Oh holy Jesus.

    (This may call for a slight tweaking of the third chapter, but holy eff, that’s it.)

    Adverb/-jective pileup! There are a bunch of details here, but the sentence is trying to be a little pithy. You could make it less pithy and split it into more sentences, or cut out some details.

    (Maybe subjective; I feel like two adverb-adjective pairs should never be that close together in a sentence, but tastes may differ.)
    Haha, I see what you mean. This is what happens when I try to create a slightly sarcastic narrator (as I am wont to do sometimes because I’m me). I really should stop using the term “nearly literally” anyway because it’s a terrible habit to get into. No really. Don’t do it, kids.

    Is that how twisting something works in language? Feels a little awkward. He twisted it once, stopped, bubbles came up, then twisted it again and pulled it free? Okay, but when he's only done it two times, 'one more time' doesn't feel appropriate.
    Hmm. It does sound a bit repetitive. Thanks for pointing that out!

    Cool, though I can't think of a lot to say this chapter. In the beginning I nearly thought Bill might give himself up in place of Joel. How come they specifically want him? You specifically said he was a red shirt. What then makes him important enough they'd hunt him down by name?
    Oh, he’s a red-shirt on a meta level. On an in-universe level, they want him because he fits the exact specifications they need for a host. He’s durable physically but can potentially be overpowered, and despite the fact that he’s a research assistant, he’s not exactly the brightest of the bright. Remember how he seemed completely oblivious to the fact that both Bill and Nettle were technically insulting him right in front of his face? That was definitely an important trait; it shows that he’s puppy-dog-loyal to whoever asserts themselves over him. In short, he won’t die from the transformation, but he can be controlled pretty easily. Really, most assistants at Polaris fit the same description, but if there was a competition for people who resemble lapdogs, Joel would win first prize.

    Naturally, this will be brought up later in the fic, but unfortunately for the poor bastard, it’s not much of a spoiler … and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to the other characters.

    (You can tell that I love Joel.)

    I can't remember if you ever specifically said what the red plasm is that the ixodida float around in; for coolness I always assume blood. However, for verisimilitude I bet you'll probably say "a ferrous organic colloid not unlike blood".
    Omfg, I’m adding that in.

    But yep. It’s blood.

    This is the scene where the gruesome things don't happen offscreen; and Bill too, he stays awake for the penetration, endures things, and then gets the sleep he needs. Like before the rewrite too, I guess. Maybe with this chapter the fic is telling the reader, these things won't be redacted like in the movies, we'll get through this and a lot more craziness, and now is the time not to stand at the edges of horrible sci-fi situations but to play with them, yea, verily to take a campy, trope-conscious eye to all sci-fi and make something insane. I have no idea what I'm saying.
    Haha, no worries; I totally understood. And eeeeeexactly to all of this.

    Another brilliant observation: Your fic offers so much reward for fan observation -- I barely started getting into it until I read other reviewers' commentary -- it hardly feels like reading it alone is adequate; I ought to get three or four people to gather around and, I dunno, MST3k the thing, except obviously without the mocking.
    Thank you! \o/ That’s exactly the vibe that I was going for, actually—one that encourages people band together to pick up details. And it’s because with a group of people is the best way to enjoy campy sci-fi (or sci-fi in general, good or bad) flicks, in my opinion. Or second-best, anyway. The actual best would be with a group of people while all of you are getting progressively inebriated. By the way, if you ever watch any of the Terminator films, do it while you and your friends are completely drunk. Don’t ask why. Just do it.

    But anyway, the best way to enjoy sci-fi movies sober is in a group, probably because when you have a sci-fi film made by people who were by no means actual science experts, you end up with either a lot of hilarious science fail or entertaining shiny things. And either way, if you’re with an intimate group of people, watching the film becomes a kind of social experience, where the audience’s comments add another layer of depth to the movie. (I can’t help but mention an example. I’d seen Ghostbusters maybe hundreds of times on DVD, but a couple months ago, I finally got the chance to see it in a theatre with a room full of people. And it was a completely different experience, not only because of how much better the sound and video are on the big screen but also because listening to what people reacted to made me realize that there were jokes and cultural references that I’d missed for years.)

    When it comes to AEM, that’s pretty much what I was going for: presenting a fic that also encourages people to come up with their own thoughts and swap ideas or point out the things they noticed that someone else might not have. And it really is because the communication part of it adds that homey layer of depth that older and/or campier sci-fi movies tend to have. That and I’m entertained by what people come up with, and the more they’re encouraged to do that, the more likely I’ll be entertained.

    So yes! By all means, MST3K the crap out of it! And if you don’t have anyone to do it with in real time, the internet is a glorious place~!

    Chapter 3! I was trying not to miss an update. I was actually there like an hour before you posted the new one, but couldn't get to it that fast. Not nearly that fast.
    I have magical timing skills.

    All the same when Pandora says Hello I will not lie, I had an attack. Is this meant to refer to one of those     Spoiler:- spoiler:
    Well! Adam is involved with something awesome. But in actuality,     Spoiler:- spoiler:


    There's his anime side coming out.
    Legit relieved about this. See, I was worried that by removing his interaction with Bill, I wouldn’t be able to capture his character properly, but he really is important to AEM’s story. At the same time, I kept thinking about a bit of crit I got way back in the Pokécommunity version of the fic (as in, the super-original version, posted even before the first one I did for Serebii): that Oak was too serious. So I’m doing my best to include some of the warmth I know he has along with his jokey nature, but the story’s definitely not making it easy.

    Tl;dr, I’m so glad that he’s recognizable. Seriously.

    I would ease out this sentence thus, by removing 'vinyl', which may or may not be serving a purpose (we know what the flooring is from last chapter), and by moving 'hard' to right after 'stomped'. But it's very inconsequential.
    Actually, that sounds like it’d be a lot smoother than what I’ve currently got. Thanks!

    Damn, there are a few past perfect errors here; I'm always a little apprehensive to point them out because the suggestions I think of all sound really convoluted. It seems to me like you only gloss over past perfects when it'll make the sentence flow better. Why should I question that kind of writer's instinct?
    Y’know, I always have difficulty with pluperfect, and I think you’ve just explained why. Just subconscious hilarity, really! (As in, I compose a sentence, think it looks A-OK, and go on my merry way.)

    But I really do need to get into the habit of using pluperfect correctly, so I’ll go back over this again and see if I can find non-convoluted ways to rephrase, like, half of this.

    Aaaand for the corrections you offered, thanks! I’ll edit them in.

    The only exception is ...

    Again, I would lean towards "hadn't been going his way from the time he'd slipped", but I understand you've made this whole paragraph uniformly simple present, and feel like it's out of a sense of practicality; this description doesn't need the finicking of simple pasts and referred-to-pasts and whatnot. At the same time, the paragraph isn't quite consistent about its idea of time; you suggest that rather than all these things happening in the present of the story (simple past), Bill is remembering them (past perfect):

    But after all, why shouldn't Bill be confused about the past, present or future of these things. He's in a fever.
    This part because that was actually intentional for the reason you’ve mentioned: he has no sense of time. What this part was meant to feel like wasn’t so much observing events from the past of the past as it was observing events in fast forward, in the order they were occurring. Except Bill’s perception of history is also spotted and confused, so he’s perceiving this mess of time in which he’s simultaneously viewing himself from the inside and the outside and also dead and not dead.

    As in, yep, that is meant to be the Schrodinger’s Cat of storytelling.

    It hasn’t even been four chapters yet, and I’ve already described Bill as a cat, a dog, and a rat. I’m on a roll.

    By the way the two 'And's close together dilute the effect of "And the screaming"; it could probably stand up without the second 'And'.
    But I do like this!

    D'awwwwww!
    Bill has fantastic priorities. *nod*

    So weird that Adam's vision should be arabian, of all things. I'm assuming the images this dream's made of are neither from his psyche nor from Adam's but a hybrid/compromise between them. Wait though now I kind of recognize, isn't the alien's home planet always arabian and exotic in that very old-fashioned way, in sci-fi movies? Maybe the tent is kind of like the egyptian palace ships of the Goa'uld or something.
    Yep. Or they’re ancient Greek/Roman with pretty lights everywhere. Because for whatever reason, humanity has decided that there’s nothing more alien than our own ancient cultures.

        Spoiler:- More detailed explanation.:


    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder View Post
    Reboot? I wonder how many different languages have a word for awesome? PM list for me, obviously
    Absolutely!

    So if it was only as close to us as the moon before it was spotted, they bothered to give it a classification before it impacted. Seems a bit odd to me in the scheme of things. Unless you're saying that it was named after it crashed down, which would make more sense. I guess what I'm getting at is assiging it a name and classification would lend a bit more mystery to the situation. I mean, you described the effects of the impact perfectly, but when you give an object like that a name, it automatically sends out associations with said object that may lead it further away from what I like to call the undisturbed picture of the object. Wow that sounds weird, I hope I made sense lol
    I think you did! Honestly, I never really thought about when exactly the meteor was named, and I have to admit, I didn’t realize that naming it when it was going to impact Earth anyway was rather silly—which it is, actually! It also implies that the scientists had more time to study it than they did, so I’m willing to say that the people of Hoenn didn’t really have time to study it, but people outside of Hoenn did—and, in fact, were because the meteor literally popped up right out of nowhere in an area of space that’s pretty blinking visible. *nods*

    Beautiful description there. Painted a wonderfully vivid picture for me. Kudos!
    Thank you!

    Nice creepy foreshadowing there. Though, I don't seem to remember her from the previous version. Am I just being thick? Or is she someone new?
        Spoiler:- spoiler:


    That sent a chill down my spine lol. I want to compliment you again regarding your skill with transcripts. Not only do you make them seem lively and thoroughly entertaining, but you're one of the only people I've seen on this site doing it the correct way. Too often are authors too convinced with making it in your face, or just doing a **** job at it, that the message is easily lost. You however do a great job in letting it flow naturally. I like it
    Thank you~! You can say I’ve had a lot of practice.

    Namely by reading a shitton of creepypasta over the course of a couple years.

    You really made it seem like if Bill coughed too loudly, she would rip his fingernails out. Loved it
    Haha, THAT SHE WOULD.

    Once again, wonderful description there. I'm not used to someone conjuring up images in my head so easily. Damn I missed your writing
    And I missed you, bby. Seriously, though, thank you!

    I feel like that explanation was a little longer than needed. You could have had her state simply the bolded portion and it would have accomplished the same thing.
    Hmm. I think I see what you mean there, and yeah, it would work better shortened. Thanks!

    *****
    Ikr? XD

    I love it when he does that. He's so matter of fact with stuff like that. It just comes out of him so naturally that I'm not even sure he's aware he's said it. He doesn't do it in a way that makes him snide or knowitall, it just something he knows that slides out. Good job
    Thank you! That is legit one of my favorite lines of his so far, just because I think that might be the closest I’ve gotten to his personality. And he totally wasn’t even aware he said it. 8D

    Might be able to add a bit more power to this portion by doing something like, [PAUSE - BARELY AUDIBLE SOBS COME FROM PANDORA]
    Y’know, I was having a lot of trouble with that line. It just didn’t sound natural/like something that would be put in a transcript, but I couldn’t figure out what to put there instead. That suggestion sounds like exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

    Probably the most elegant and distinctive explanation of hulking security personnel ever haha. Nicely done on that. You could have just gone with 'Their arms were corded with thick ropes of muscle.' but you went another way. It's little bits like that is why I dig your stuff so much.
    Thank you~!

    I have a small problem with that thought. Bill's thirst for knowledge is legendary in almost all circles. Obviously you're doing something different with your incarnation, but as horrid as the thought of infecting a human may be, I don't think he'd only half want to know. I think he'd want to see it right now, which he will lol, but still. I know he wouldn't be okay with sacrificing a person to see it, so with that in mind I hope you know what I mean
    I do, and I agree. (The term “half wanted to know” seems a bit awkward anyway.) The downside is I actually did want to convey that point of contradiction you also brought up: that Bill, contrary to popular belief, actually does have morals that keep him from being an utter dick in the name of science. Like, there are definitely lines he wouldn’t cross, and that’s just because he is, plain and simple, actually lawful good-aligned. (Or lawful neutral, anyway. Or neutral good. Definitely on the more positive end of the spectrum, is what I’m saying.) So when it comes to completely canon!Bill, it’s hard to say whether or not he would let someone get hurt for the sake of SCIENCE. Anime and games? Maybe. Special has very strict, very clear morals, and the other manga emphasize how much he values life.

    On the other hand, he does have a fantastic thirst for knowledge, and when he has his sights set on something, it usually takes acts of God to get him to give up. And it’s really that conflict between his morals and his role as a scientist that’s going to be pretty important later on. So I’d like to figure out a way to bring that into this scene a little more and illustrate that mental divide for this version of him. It’ll just take time to plan out.

    I know I talked about this in the last version, but I love the inventiveness with 009 and her tulip of DOOM
    There is plenty more where that came from. 8)

    Hell, I'd leave 'almost' out. I feel like it works better and speaks more to her character if it seems like she may be getting some deviant sexual thrill from cutting him
    Ooh, I like your thinking!

    Ahhh, can't wait to read about you again, Adam
    Oh, I’ve got fantastic things planned for that one. *tents fingers*

        Spoiler:- spoiler:


    Hello chills down my spine! nice to meet you!
    “LET’S BE FRIENDS.”

    Shouldn't have Oak known about that already? If all this has happened; abel and adam being confined, people treated for injuries, a full report being written, it seems like he would know about the breach already. If you wouldn't mind clarifying, how long has it been since Bill's infection until this moment that I quoted
    Several days. See, what Nettle just told Oak was that they figured out how Bill got into Laboratory F—something that, yeah, Oak figured out on his own because Bill is, well, Bill. It just didn’t occur to the security team to find that part out because they were still sifting through the giant mess that was the containment breach. And the fact that a key piece of evidence was missing. Which I’ll get to in just a moment.

    That said, the main thing to keep in mind about this conversation is that it’s not exactly just a report of things that happened. It is on one level, sure; after all, Nettle is assuming Oak didn’t know any of this (because the security team struggled to figure out how Bill got into Laboratory F—not to mention there’s no record of him swiping his ID anyway, which is even more confusing to them). But it’s actually more along the lines of a trial. That’s why Oak is so frustrated about not being able to say anything. Bill is actually being accused of breaking into Laboratory F and releasing two parasites, and there are some factions (namely Nettle) that believe he did it for less-than-honorable reasons. (I won’t say that anyone actually thought Bill was being malicious in his actions. Just extremely reckless.) Except Oak is demanding a lot of evidence because he realizes there’s a discrepancy between what people are saying Bill did and what he would actually do.

    Of course, all of this would seem like a moot point to anyone but Oak because Bill can’t be punished any further than he already is thanks to the infection. However, Oak firmly believes that someone else was involved in the incident, which not only means a lot towards Bill’s good name but also means a lot towards the facility’s security. Unfortunately, without evidence to back up his theory that Bill wasn’t actually responsible for the incident, the most Oak can do is agree with Nettle that this was Bill’s fault and order steps to be taken to reinforce general security.

    Incidentally, the information he’s waiting for from the security team? Missing security footage. Because, given the fact that Laboratory F contained a highly dangerous Pokémon, it strikes Oak as unusual that there is no security footage for the time period when Bill and Joel were infected.

    I know a lot of this was vague, by the by, and for that, I’m sorry. I could definitely try to see if there’s a way to add in details about this into the scene, but a lot of it is building up to the end of the scene, where Oak drops the question that informs Nettle that he knows (or has a theory to) exactly what actually happened. And the missing footage part is meant to feed into a later plot point,     Spoiler:- spoiler:
    Still, I can definitely see how a reader could view this as more exposition than a discussion of who was and wasn’t responsible, so I’ll see what I can do to clarify in-story.

    One thing I didn't quote was the dialogue between Nettle and 009, mostly because everything I wanted to quote would make too long of a post lol. I could go into it more, but the core of what I want to say about it is that it was wonderful. The slight trembles that I imagined from 009's voice, the fury in Nettle's. You just did a wonderful job with their back and forth and I wanted to make sure that you thought so
    Thank you! That was a particularly fun part because I always thought their chemistry was awesome to work with. And now that Nettle isn’t borderline insane, she’s a lot more interesting to control in interactions with the characters around her. I really do think that the move towards making her an actual ice queen (but, y’know, not a literal one) gave me a lot more freedom.

    Blue, aquamarine, cyan, azure...That's a lot of blues. It felt like just a few more than was required. I felt like after the second description of the color, I could make an accurate supposition about what you were getting at. I know you're trying to impress upon us how vivid the color is (at least, I think that's what you're doing), but it was just a thought I had
    Y’know, you’ve got a good point there. It does get over-the-top in terms of descriptions in this scene in general, so I’ll do what I can to scale it back. o>

    God that was beautiful. Superbly done with the description. I'm not sure whether that description was there with the last version I read, but I don't think it was because this really stands out to me. Loved it. Sorry this 'review' has turned out to be such a giant gushfest about how much I love your story haha
    Haha, I’M COMPLETELY OKAY WITH THAT.

    But seriously, it actually wasn’t, believe it or not! This is a complete redesign of the Gray Forest scenes in the original version, not to mention a redesign of Adam. In the last version of this fic (and actually the version before that as well), we got a full view of Adam after Bill was infected—and even then, only in a nondescript forest. So Adam wasn’t a white being smoking a hookah but rather Bill’s Ixodida self romping around a forest for no discernible reason.

    That’s not the only thing I changed about Adam or its mental landscape. Here’s to hoping the changes are good, though.


    GUYS, I SERIOUSLY HIT THE CHARACTER LIMIT WITH THIS REVIEW RESPONSE. STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO.

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

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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Great Butler View Post
    Hey so let's keep going, how about that?
    OKAY!

    That "no longer identifiable as human" thing is effectively spooky, and it's well served by not providing many specific details about why she is in that state. And of course, ominous terms like "Stage VI" are always welcome.
    Thank you!

    I credit the SCP Foundation for the inspiration on how stuff like this should actually work. 8D

    I'm suspecting the Pandora side of this subject is pretty much in control, and whoever the redacted name was has pretty much faded away. That monotone strikes me as sort of passive-aggressive, in a way.
    Yes to all of this. 8D

    I bet that answer is very telling. If she feels no pain anymore, that reconfirms the full physical transformation, and with the physical transformation, the mental one can't be far behind.
    Pretty much. Girl’s about to say goodbye to everyone. *nod*

    That actually legitimately scared me a little. Well done.
    Thank you! Mission accomplished! >8D

    I'm probably horrible for saying this, but that "hello" (besides scaring the **** out of me) made me think of GLaDoS for some reason.
    AS IT SHOULD. 8D Oh, the things I get inspiration from.

    One of them may even turn into a potato. (A PLANT, GUYS. I HAVE FIGURED OUT A WAY TO COMPARE BILL TO A PLANT. PLEASE TAKE THE INTERNET AWAY FROM ME.)

    Talk about an understatement.
    IT’S ONLY SLIGHTLY A BAD DAY. NO ONE’S DEAD YET. :V

    "Found?" No, I'd say that that's exactly how Domino and Team Rocket wanted it.

    I wonder what the worst thing Oak's seen in those videos is.
    Well, someone did insert hardcore porn in there.

    Actual answer? The transformation. Oh man, the Committee recorded everything this time around.

    Prepare for the Human Instrumentality Project
    MMM, DELICIOUS HUMAN-FLAVORED TANG.

    But seriously, I'm not even sure I would be able to sit and watch those files. And even if their content didn't bother him, I'm sure Oak doesn't care for having the responsibility for this dropped in his lap.
    Yep, he definitely doesn’t. I mean, right now, he’s dealing with the fact that his student and an innocent bystander are being transformed into freakish alien hybrids, but he’s also well-aware that the Pandora videos are implying that they will be dangers to everyone within arm’s reach. And he’s hoping to God that the medical pods Nettle was describing would be enough to hold them. Otherwise, he’s terrified there would be a killing spree very, very soon.

    I guess Oak doesn't know that much about the Ixodida behavior; how many specimens with a parasite infecting a host have been studied by this point? It can't be many if any at all.
    Wellllll, besides Bill and Joel, literally just Pandora. And Pandora apparently destroyed an entire facility, so there’s not that much data on her. Her infection had the misfortune of being only two weeks before Bill and Joel’s, and no one thought to use human guinea pigs yet. Except Team Rocket, who gleaned information from the Committee/their agents at Valencia before it could be sent to the other facilities.

    Is it correct to say that he was given a deliberately falsified story? Because that's the impression I get from that.
    Oh yes. That story wasn’t even remotely true. *nods*

    Good use of body language. Nettle refusing to sit and instead choosing to step behind the chair is a subtle way of showing how she doesn't let her guard down.
    Not to mention it shows how much she respects authority, amirite? 8D Thank you~!

    I can read Oak's lines in his voice, so thumbs-up there.
    I am so relieved that people like the way I’m tackling Oak. Seriously, that crit from the original version has been in my mind forever. ;_;

    Joel being the more violent of the two is perhaps an expected turn, though his codename is quite clever. It almost feels ironic that the more violent between Bill and Joel would be named after the first murder victim.
    Thank you! Fantastic that you brought this up, though. I’m playing with the idea that there might be a Cain somewhere down the line who’s fantastically mild and pleasant albeit still probably murderous as hell. Maybe an addition to the Prometheus/Pandora apparently-a-general dynamic that was in the last version?

    Idk, I just want to play with Abel more. And make him Bill’s bloodthirsty puppy.

    I feel like the description here stretches just a little bit. Nettle does mention that Joel is the more violent one and that the deaths were due to electrocution, but Oak immediately connecting the two feels like it's a little bit of a reach. I think Nettle should connect them more explicitly, such as by saying "we lost three assistants and Professor Fig to Abel's electricity."
    Hmm. Good point there. It really isn’t clear which one electrocuted the crew, and I think up until this point, Oak isn’t completely aware of how advanced their transformations are. So yeah, I’ll totally clarify. Thanks for the suggestion!

    I just thought, how extensive was the transformation each of them had undergone during these attacks? Both Bill and Joel must have transformed quite dramatically quite quickly for them to have been able to use specific techniques.
    Pretty extensive. Basically, remember how there was a stage in the original in which icy spikes burst out of Pandora’s skin? They’re at the equivalent of that point. Joel has spikes on some parts of his body, Bill is starting to develop his plates, and the both of them have tails and claws.

    I notice some repetition between the paragraphs where Oak muses about Bill and Joel ("Oak's face darkened. Abel." and "Oak winced. Adam.") Is this deliberate? I could see a reason why you might go that way.
    Yep, it’s intentional.

    I think Nettle is probably biting her tongue here to avoid saying what she thinks of Oak's concepts of decency.
    Haha, oh yes, she totally is. XD

    "Matches the description" I presume means in terms of type, which makes it sound as if they have only just discovered that different specimens are different types.
    *le nod* Exactly. They were pretty much expecting all Ice-types, all the time.

    Sixty percent through the transformation? I must ask, at what point did their elemental abilities manifest?
    Shortly before this point. Bill’s definitely manifested first because most of his attacks are based on using parts of his body to cut, so as long as he has a tail or claws to attack (which he did somewhere between 25% and 50%), he can. Joel needed a bit more time to develop a resistance to his own powers as well as the internal structures needed to generate that much electricity, so his abilities are actually extremely recent to the point where those deaths Nettle reported were the result of his first attacks.

    If he only changed his level of security access, is "containment breach" really the right term to use? I would think that would apply if he caused an Ixodida to be released. "Security breach" would probably be a better term.
    Yep. They actually believe Bill had something to do with the parasites breaking out, so he really is being accused of a containment breach, not just a security breach.

    As I’ve mentioned to Sidewinder, I can definitely clarify this bit.

    That's all she's concerned about, isn't it?
    Pretty much! 8D

    It's clear, at least to me, that Oak is doing this to hide his true emotions about the matter.
    Oh yes. I mean, seriously, if he was Rowan, he would rip Nettle a new one for a whole list of reasons and then demand answers, but unfortunately, he has to be the grandfatherly type.

    I bet they won't stay that way for long
    *tents fingers again* >8)

    Oh, subtle, Oak. Don't think I didn't catch you doing that pose.
    IF HE HAD GLASSES, THEY WOULD BE ORANGE-TINTED.

    AND GLARING RIGHT ABOUT NOW.

    Nettle's defense strikes me as rather feeble, and I think she is aware of it.
    Oh yes. And she’s just about to take out that frustration over her embarrassment on someone else. 8D

    Now this is definite use of repetition to draw parallels between Nettle and Oak, and it works. I really like it.
    Thank you!

    Domino's entrance was suitable. I can imagine she was probably propped up on the ceiling, even.
    She totally was. There are totally marks on that ceiling now.

    That's so much like her, blaming the field agents.
    Maybe I remember Domino’s character better than I thought I did! \o/

    I bet this won't be the only time we hear about things being 'dismantled in fantastically creative ways.'
    Oh yes. Especially when D.E.V.A. gets more involved too.

    Wait, Nettle actually outranks Domino? That was thoroughly unexpected.
    *le nod* She is basically the Professor Zager to Domino’s Jessie, James, and Meowth.

    (Poor girl got slammed so hard somewhere between Mewtwo Returns and now. Not necessarily because of Mewtwo Returns, mind you, what with the fact that no one in Team Rocket remembers that, but I’m going to go ahead and say there’s a headcanon-related reason why we haven’t heard from Domino since. I swear, though, that this will be brought up and expanded on later in the fic because it’s also going to be a serious plot point.)

    And to think this isn't even the worst thing that's going to happen to Domino...
    Not by a long shot, even. I have plans for her now. >8)

    I know we already talked about what "Laboratory Q" and the tracking collars are reference to, but I still can't help smiling at it.
    *le bow* XD

    I just noticed Nettle stopped calling them Adam and Abel. Was that an act for Oak?
    Pretty much. When she’s in scientist mode, she refers to them by their codenames to sound official. When she’s in Rocket mode, she refers to them by their last names to emphasize how badly Domino ****ed up. Nettle is a queen *****, is what I’m saying.

    Oh God, I love how you're depicting Domino so much.
    Thank you~!

    That's really telling that Giovanni doesn't even trust Domino for such a mundane task.
    Aaaaaand MAJOR HINT AS TO WHY DOMINO RANKS LOWER THAN NETTLE. 8D

    More great use of repetition. It really draws a connection between the three characters it was used for.
    Thank you! That is the exact feeling I was going for.

    I don't even know how to react to this. This is at once horrifying, disgusting and unsettling... and yet it was a delight to read because of how well it was written.
    *le bow* I aim to horrify people and give them nightmares. 8D

    I can't imagine how he didn't feel any of these things. Is the transformation shutting down his nerves?
    Yep. Or separating his consciousness from his means of perception. That and he was totally drugged out of his gourd.

    Well, this is... unusual. The description at the end feels a little too excessive, I think, though I can see what you're going for.
    Thanks so much for this point too. With your feedback and Sidewinder’s, I think I’ve got some ideas on how to tone down the purple shading here. This part kinda even makes me cringe a little, reading through it again after you two pointed out how excessive it is. XD Sorry about that.

    "The fantastic thing about being dead is..." Is this correct tense? It seems like everything else is past tense but this is present.
    Pretty sure it is. I was going for making a general statement that’s still true, rather than something that was only true in the past. It might work in the past tense if I emphasize that this is Bill’s opinion specifically, though.

    I have to be honest, outside of the curious part with the music, I'm having a little bit of a hard time connecting with Bill's segment. I think it's because it's just so different from the other two segments.
    Totally understandable. This segment was actually intentionally meant to be a break from the other parts because it’s fantasy, not sci-fi. It’s meant to paint Adam and Bill’s shared mental landscape (the equivalent of last version’s Gray Forest, in other words) as being something incredibly otherworldly and surrealistic.

        Spoiler:- spoiler:


    ...Bill's not the swiftest one sometimes, is he?
    When it comes to his own well-being? Not at all!

    Somehow I bet Pokemon might have a place in hell's torments. I mean, Bill's about to meet one right at home there.
    IF THERE WERE DEMONIC POKEMON WHO ENACTED EVERYONE’S ETERNAL TORMENT IN THIS UNIVERSE, BILL WOULD BE OKAY WITH STUDYING THEM. YOU KNOW. BEFORE THEY TOOK OUT HIS EYES OR SOMETHING. :V

    (Capslock totally necessary for that statement.)

    So it is his mind. I was beginning to theorize that, due to all the etchings of Pokemon. I wonder, though, if some of the other things he's seeing are from his own mind or are parts of the Ixodida's consciousness taking him over and merging with his mind.
    Totally parts, especially the blue moon and the alien flora. Even the tent itself is half things Bill is familiar with and half things Adam remembers.

        Spoiler:- Although is this really a spoiler?:


    This feels quite different from the Adam I remember. It almost feels more like a feminine type of character, like a sinister woman of high society or royalty. Given some elements of Adam's story given in the previous version of the fic, I've got some theories about what this is.
    I look forward to hearing these theories, if you’re willing to share. 8D

        Spoiler:- Commentary!:


    Ah yes, another great science fiction B-movie trope - the infinitely wise alien race that discarded the individual for the collective good - used well.
    Thank you!

    The presentation of Adam/this vision is quite curious when I try to reconcile it with the old one.
    Haha, just wait until Adam gets about ten minutes to talk. ;D

    Are the things it says about Bill's name origin and the people who originated it based on real life? I sense a real opportunity to learn something.
    Yes indeedy! To be more accurate, the exact etymology of the name William is wil (one L, not two) + helm, but the meaning and origin is still completely the same. It’s still Old Germanic, and separately, both words do actually mean what they look like they mean. Wil just means “will” or “desire.” Helm literally means “helmet,” but Old Norse functions a lot on metaphor. So when they say something like “shield” or “helmet,” what they actually mean is protection. Tl;dr, together, the words wil and helm mean willful, determined, or tenacious protection (take your pick), and applied to a person, that would then change the meaning slightly to one who is a willful, determined, or tenacious protector. (Interestingly enough, Wikipedia also goes on to state it means “protector of the kingdom or realm,” which has fantastic implications in this story, so go ahead and roll with that like the boulder of Sisyphus.)

    And as for the people who worshipped old gods and all that? Technically true. The furthest back William can be traced is to the Norman people, who imported it to England via William the Conqueror and the Norman conquest (which would be an awesome name for a band, by the way). The Normans themselves were vikings, who worshipped a specific breed of Germanic polytheism we know today as Norse mythology. For those of you who don’t know what Norse mythology is, Marvel lies.

    That said, Norse mythology has a crapload of stories about war and glory. Of course, that isn’t all it was about, but they were the ones who had an entire section of the afterlife dedicated to people who died in battle. And the warrior-gods Adam was talking about? Actual gods, including Freyja (who makes Athena look like a pansy, by the by) and Thor (who will someday jump into the literal final battle of Earth known as Ragnarök and massacre an entire army before finally being put down by a giant serpent). Actually, most of the pantheon is supposed to show up for Ragnarök to duke it out with some form of terrifying hell beast, which is really why Adam just called the lot of them warriors. ‘Cause they pretty much are, and oh my God, no pun intended, are they badass.

    So is the mythological bestiary, actually. Those world-rending beasts are who the gods are fighting in Ragnarök. That includes everyone from Níđhöggr (a great dragon who lives beneath the world tree Yggdrasil and who will one day rise up and kill the **** out several major players in Nordic pantheon) to Jörmungandr (a giant serpent encircling the earth who will, during Ragnarök, literally poison the goddamn sky).

    Lastly, you have the frozen giants that Adam was referring to—the jötnar of Jötunheimr. Y’know. The people that Marvel says Loki is from (and in certain texts, that’s true). They’re the folks who terrorized humanity and the gods of the Aesir (Norse pantheon) … which sort of makes sense, considering Odin and his brothers (i.e., all gods) decided Ymir (father of all jötnar) was evil one day and pulled the ultimate dick move of killing him and turning his body geographical features.

    Tl;dr, Norse mythology, man. Metal as ****.

    Also, if you were actually asking if Bill’s name was based in real-world stuff as in “did the Vikings exist and all,” then the answer is yes. (They just don’t live in Minnesota, but don’t tell Ash this.)

    I really like the part about Bill corrupting his name, which is something I sense great symbolism in.
    For the general story, yep.

    Of course, Bill has a hilariously anticlimactic explanation for why he goes by a nickname. (That’s going to be revealed in the next chapter.)

    And a suitably unsettling ending. That's a great scene and line to end on.
    Woo! Thank you!

    This chapter is satisfying, but overall, I think I liked the first two chapters a little more. Bill's portion of the chapter, while enjoyable, feels rather disconnected from the rest and as a result the transition is a bit jarring. That said, though, Bill's portion is written nearly as well as the rest (with just the overly-flourished descriptions holding it back), so it's not a drag on the rest of the chapter.
    Totally understandable. Admittedly, though, the disconnection was intentional, so I’m not completely certain on how to write it out, sad to say. The next chapter will be a continuation in this side fantasy world, but we’ll be back to the bucket o’ insanity that is the heavily sci-fi world of Polaris in chapter five.

    Speaking of which, the fourth chapter is almost finished (i.e., in the proofreading stages), so hopefully, it’ll be up either today or tomorrow! In the meantime, thanks to everyone who submitted reviews or otherwise is reading. I’m really glad the reboot has been successful so far. I mean, there were times when I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing by restarting it, but I’m really, sincerely happy to hear that people are even reading it. Thanks also to everyone who offered up suggestions for the first few chapters! Edits will be made, and I deeply appreciate that you’re taking the time to help me out. Feel free to go at the future ones, guys!

    (THIS REVIEW RESPONSE IS LITERALLY TWENTY-THREE PAGES LONG, OMG.)

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

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  22. #22
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    Four

    D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 10
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: MEMORANDUM
    DESIGNATION: THE ADAM INCIDENT, FILE 01
    DESCRIPTION: ARCHIVE OF INTERNAL DIGITAL MEMORANDA FROM PROFESSOR SAMUEL OAK, DIRECTOR OF POLARIS INSTITUTE, TO COMMITTEE MEMBER 02. AT THIS POINT, COMMITTEE INVOLVEMENT WITH D.E.V.A. IS STILL NOT PUBLICLY KNOWN.
    DATE-TIME: 06/10/02, 16:54

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: We have processed your full report of the containment breach. Your next instructions are as follows. You must keep Codenames Adam and Abel under secure lockdown until further notice. We are sending to you a specialist who will assist you in handling these specimens. Until then, you are to monitor Adam and Abel for any further developments and launch a thorough investigation into the cause of the containment breach. Any questions concerning these instructions or any new information may be forwarded to C-02.

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: [CODENAME ADAM] hasn’t been showing the same violent behaviors as [CODENAME ABEL] or Codename Pandora for a few days now. Members of the behavioral team are saying this is a sign that maybe we can get through to him. We’d like to try to wake him up and see if he’s lucid.

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Do not proceed. Do not engage with Codename Adam.

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: I hope I’m not out of line when I say this, but this is [CODENAME ADAM]. Surely it won’t hurt to at least try.

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Do not engage with Codename Adam. Violation of this order may result in termination from your position as director of Polaris Institute. Repeat: do not engage.

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: Understood. May I make a request?

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: So long as the request does not violate your previous orders, the Committee is willing to consider it. What is your request?

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: [CODENAME ADAM]’s father, Professor [REDACTED], works for the New Bark Institute branch. I’d like to at least let him know about his son’s condition.

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Request acknowledged and deemed acceptable.

    [END CORRESPONDENCE.]



    Bill coughed in the haze of smoke, but he stood his ground. “I beg your pardon?”

    The creature—the thing that looked just like him the longer he stared at it—turned its head away from him and sucked on the hookah’s mouthpiece again.

    “Who,” it responded, exhaling a snake of purple-green smoke, “are you?”

    “If you’re trying to send me on an existential journey, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you,” Bill rasped. He covered his mouth and nose and glared at the being. “I already went on one nine years ago. I know exactly who I am. I just don’t care for being formal. Who are you, and why are you in my head?

    The figure looked at him, and for the first time, Bill noticed something strange about its face besides the fact that it was his. Even though Bill could tell that this being was expressing emotion, it wasn’t through the face. At every question, all the creature did was stare at its surroundings evenly, even blankly, as if its face was actually a mask. In truth, Bill couldn’t put into words how he knew what emotion the being was expressing. He only knew. It was like the feeling one got if someone stared at them long enough—a creeping, hot sensation on the back of one’s neck.

    And as soon as he realized this, Bill felt incredibly, intensely uneasy.

    “You assume I am asking you existential questions, but you misunderstand,” the creature continued. “I am simply stalling until you can put together what it is I am for yourself.”

    Bill swallowed hard. “I already know what you are. You’re the parasite. I don’t know how you managed to break into my subconscious, but—”

    “We are symbionts of one another. Your body is mine now.”

    “But my head isn’t.”

    “Do we not share a nervous system?”

    “That makes absolutely no sense!” Bill sighed and looked away. He had to control his emotions, regardless of how much his instincts were screaming at him to run. This wasn’t the time to lose himself. “Are you a psychic-type?”

    The creature stared at Bill briefly as it drew in another hit from the hookah’s hose. Its face was still expressionless, but that didn’t stop the cold, clammy, uneasy knot in the pit of Bill’s stomach from growing.

    “Ah, the scientist,” it said. “Always asking questions. It is a shame you are human. All of your questions are the wrong ones, but that is to be expected of your species.”

    Bill sighed again, this time in exasperation. “All I want to know is how you’re in my head.”

    His companion drew the hookah pipe into its mouth again. Its lips shaped its next words around the hard tip.

    “Is that really what you want to know?”

    In those precious seconds, Bill hesitated. His eyes shifted back to the figure, and he stood there in thought. He wanted to say yes, but his mouth couldn’t shape the word. It would have been a lie anyway. There were so many other questions he needed to ask. Were the visions real? Was he really dead? If he was dead, why was he seeing the parasite? What was he supposed to do now? What was the parasite exactly? Where did it come from? Why was it there?

    But the longer he stood, the more a single question wormed its way to the front of his mind. As his brain wrapped itself around it, he felt himself relax, his body slacken, and his eyelids grow heavy. It was the incense, he thought, but the dreamscape itself somehow made him tired. He watched as the creature exhaled, as the sweet-smelling smoke swept through the air. The wisp curled around him and distorted, and he could swear that the end of it formed the long, jagged snout and claws of a dragon.

    It was then that his question spilled out of his mouth, almost by its own volition.

    “What do you want from me?”

    The creature eyed him and put aside the pipe. “You may be smarter than you look.”

    “So I’ve been told,” Bill whispered vaguely. “Please answer my question.”

    His companion did not smile, but Bill could swear that there was a shifting shadow in its eyes, a shadow that somehow made the mask look like it was laughing. Bill felt like he was being stared at in the same way that an adult might look at a child who said something stupid. Something about that mask put Bill on edge, but he stood where he was, feet rooted to the platform. At the same time, the creature swept its legs over the edge of its throne and stood. White fabric swirled around the being’s figure and formed a robe that obscured its body except for its human face and its long, thin hands. The being brought the pipe to its mouth again as it stared directly into Bill’s eyes.

    With each word it spoke, a stream of smoke curled from its mouth. “Form a contract with me.”

    “What?”

    The creature cupped Bill’s chin in a hand—a hand that, he realized, was actually tipped with sharp, metallic claws. “A contract. You want to live, do you not?”

    “Of course I do,” Bill replied hoarsely.

    “I can make that happen,” it told him. “Currently, my heart is beating for our body, and my nerves are connected to our nerves. All it will take is a shock to force our heart to begin beating, and you will be able to live again.” It leaned closer. “Of course, you will get so much more than that. My kind normally steps aside and allows our hosts to die from the transformation, but we can also shield them and shape their bodies around them, as you have noticed already. I have already done part of that for you, but it is the aftermath that may break an ordinary, independent host. Not many of those who bear us can control our abilities, but I can help you adapt and learn. I can assist your mind in molding to the body I will give you, and I can teach you how to wield our gifts without destroying yourself. In short, I offer you the ability to live. Perhaps not as a human, but you will live.”

    Bill wanted to back away. He wanted to move. The voice in his head, the one that told him to run from something dangerous, was now back and louder than ever. But he stood still, staring deep into a reflection of his own eyes and feeling metal nails scratch his chin.

    “A-and you?” he stammered. “Contracts go two ways. What do you get in exchange for my cooperation?”

    The being tilted its head. “Astute. What do I want in return? That is simple. I only used the word ‘our’ in reference to the thing that had been your body, did I not?”

    Bill tried to pull away at that point, but the creature tightened its grip on his face.

    “Oh,” he breathed. “Of course.”

    It nodded. “Of course. It is in your name. I am a symbiont, and you are my host. My kind underestimate how valuable you humans are, but I know. Protect me, and I will protect you. Do we have a deal?”

    “I don’t trust you,” he responded bluntly.

    The creature pulled its hand away at last but kept its head tilted. Its eyes bore into Bill, and he felt it study him carefully.

    “A wise move,” it said. “But you do not have much of a choice, do you? I am already inside you. I have already changed your body. You cannot simply go back to the world you knew. I told you that the contract would give you life. Do you realize, then, what you would receive if you were to decline my offer?”

    It didn’t have to finish, and Bill didn’t have to be a genius to know what the alternative was. Yet he nodded and shrugged at the thought anyway.

    “I want to propose my own clause for you,” he said.

    The creature stepped back and drew the pipe to its mouth once more. “Go on.”

    “I’ll agree to your terms only if you swear that I can trust you.”

    Another pause. Once again, the creature looked Bill over carefully and drew another hit through the hookah’s mouthpiece.

    “You must be brave, giving me an order. You do realize, do you not, that I hold control over our physical form? If I choose to kill you, I can easily release your mind into your body, wait for you to die, and reanimate your corpse to fit my needs.”

    Bill smirked. “Exactly why I need you to agree to that clause. I’m not brave, but I know that I have nothing to lose by negotiating. If I disagree to your terms, then I die. If you disagree to my addition, then I would reject your contract and still die. I’d only really lose if I agree to a contract that has loopholes you can abuse. If I’m to survive, I’ll need a guarantee that you won’t hurt me.”

    “This contract seems more and more as if it is tailored to suit your needs,” the creature replied. “If you must negotiate, do it properly. What do I get in return for agreeing to your addition?”

    “What can I offer you?” Bill asked. “I don’t know anything about you or your species.”

    “Do you not?” The parasite inhaled once more, and then, in a perfect imitation of Bill’s voice, it recited, “Pokémon 2000LH, known tentatively as ixodida. Its origin is technically unknown, but the current prevailing theory is that it’s connected to the meteor shower that occurred over Fortree City ten months ago due to the timing and location of the ixodida sightings. Very little else is known about it except that it’s exclusively carnivorous and a highly aggressive predator at that. Reports of it have only been able to come from a handful of survivors and media outlets prior to the Hoenn quarantine. No one is even sure what it looks like because its aggression and speed practically guarantee that anyone who sees it has very little chance of surviving.”

    Bill blanched. His voice wavered as he replied, “How … how did you do that?”

    “I am connected to you, remember?” It turned its head away from him. “Your thoughts. Your memories. They are all coded into your brain. At any time, I can reach into your mind and draw forth what I want. And that is what is preventing me from killing you. I am not a scientist, and I know nothing of your planet. But you? You have a wealth of knowledge on both Earth’s technology and the lifeforms that inhabit it, and because of that, you have the ability to interpret any new information we receive. Why would I waste that resource?” It hesitated briefly, and its hand curled in the air before drawing the hookah pipe back to its lips. “You see, Bill, what I want most from you is your brain. I need you to tell me more about your world.”

    “Why?”

    The parasite eyed him. “Why?”

    Bill nodded, his expression hardening into as grave a look as he could muster. “Yes. Why would you need to know?”

    Raising its chin, the creature took one more hit from the hookah. “Because my kind is elsewhere in this world.”

    “And you need to find them? And then what?”

    “I do not need to find them. I need to survive them.” The being shut one eye. “You see, Bill, you and I are a lot alike. Our respective people consider us to be … anomalies. On my home world, I was an outcast of sorts. People treated me differently because of what I was.”

    Bill raised his eyebrows. “Differently? Did they …?”

    It peered at him from over the mouthpiece. “I worry that on this planet, that same behavior will continue. I can sense that my people are congregating on an island far from here—the island where I first arrived on your planet, in fact. Once they do, I fear what that may mean for your kind.”

    At that, Bill started. “What? Do you … do you mean to say that we could be facing an invasion?”

    His companion shrugged and sat down. “Perhaps. It is a very real possibility.”

    Bill stepped forward, planting his foot on the first of the cushions. “What about a war?”

    “Perhaps,” the creature repeated. It cast half-lidded eyes on Bill. “My species is militaristic once we acquire host bodies. It is our nature to gather and establish footholds on the planets we inhabit. We will do anything to prevent the existing dominant species from interfering with the growth of our new world. There is no guarantee that my kind will want peace from yours.”

    “No,” Bill whispered. His eyes tore away from his companion, and his gaze darted across the floor. “No. No, that can’t happen!” His glance drifted back towards the parasite. “Listen. There are countless lives on this planet, and every single one of them has a meaning. If there’s a war, then ...”

    “Then those countless lives have no guaranteed future,” it finished. “I know that, but I cannot say that the rest of my kind does.”

    Bill bent over just enough to lock eyes with the parasite. “Then what do we do?”

    Putting aside the hookah’s hose, it offered him a slender hand.

    “We form a contract,” it said. “You asked me what I wanted from the deal. I want your knowledge and your cooperation. Therefore, allow me to restate the terms of the contract. I will give you the freedom to live. I will assist you in adapting to our body, and I will teach you how to use our gifts. All I require from you is your knowledge and your cooperation. When I ask you to act, you will act exactly as I tell you to do so. In all other cases, our body will be yours to command. Understood?”

    “Yes,” Bill replied firmly. “And the trust clause?”

    “Bill, I am a symbiont. Anything I do will be in your best interests. I cannot gain anything from you if you are dead.”

    “Promise anyway. I need the assurance that I can trust you.”

    “Very well. As part of my end of our bargain, I will neither utter a single lie to you nor act in a way that will be a detriment our body. You have my word that I will do everything I can to ensure our survival.” It pushed its hand closer to Bill. “Now. Do we have a deal or not?”

    Bill examined the hand and then exhaled. “I really hope I’m not making a mistake here.”

    He grasped the being’s hand, and instantly, his world turned hot and white. It felt like a jolt of lightning ran through him all at once, and for the briefest second, he couldn’t feel a thing. It was as if his entire body went numb, like the first seconds of deep sleep, between full consciousness and a dream. Then, he felt himself dropping as hazy, pastel colors swirled around him. His fall abruptly stopped after a second, and all at once, his vision cleared until the being’s pale face hovered over him. It took Bill a moment to realize that his partner was holding him up, and it took another for the parasite to lay him carefully on the cushioned throne. Once he felt the softness of his support against his back, Bill began to notice that his body felt hot and heavy, as if his limbs were chained to iron weights. Even breathing took some effort as he forced his head to turn to the creature.

    It, meanwhile, busied itself by stepping down the stairs of the platform gingerly. One of its clawed hands gently scratched the surface of the drawers set into each step. The longer Bill watched it move, the more a voice in his head squeaked that something wasn’t right.

    “What … what did you do to me?” he rasped.

    “Signed the contract and took the first step in upholding our deal,” his companion replied. “I have given you back our body and restarted your heart. That weight you feel is partly you readjusting to having a physical form and partly the fact that our physical form is heavier than the body you owned as a human. I took the liberty of molding it into something durable enough to suit our purposes. There you are.”

    At the last three words, the parasite leaned into one of the steps. It pulled open a drawer and peered into the soft, red light emanating from inside. Carefully, it reached in and drew out a wooden cigar box inlaid with intricate swirls and spots. Its hand ran over the carvings on the top as it walked back up the steps. With its free hand, it grabbed one of Bill’s shoulders and pulled him into a sitting position before wrapping an arm around him for support.

    “Here,” it said as it placed the box in Bill’s lap.

    Glancing down, Bill stared at the lid. He ran his fingers across the swirling wood carvings until his fingertips caressed the triple spiral etched on the top.

    “What is this?” he murmured weakly.

    “A gift,” the creature explained. “It is part of the second clause to our bargain, in which I promised to teach you how to adapt to our form. Inside this box, you will find knowledge, Bill. This will not be the only method I will use to teach you, but it is a quick way to give you a basic understanding.”

    “Of what?”

    The creature leaned in and lifted the lid of the box slowly.

    “Of our body, of course,” it told him.

    It threw the lid open completely, and for the second time, Bill was blinded by a white light. This time, instead of the pastel colors, the light resolved into darkness. But it didn’t just resolve into darkness, no. It resolved into a hum. A dull, full-body pain. The sharp, bitter smell of sanitizers. And a cold so deep Bill could feel it in his bones.

    And then he opened his eyes.
    Last edited by JX Valentine; 16th September 2013 at 3:06 PM.

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

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  23. #23
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    All right, new chapter! Let's see what we've got in store for us today!

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: [CODENAME ADAM] hasn’t been showing the same violent behaviors as [CODENAME ABEL] or Codename Pandora for a few days now. Members of the behavioral team are saying this is a sign that maybe we can get through to him. We’d like to try to wake him up and see if he’s lucid.

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Do not proceed. Do not engage with Codename Adam.

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: I hope I’m not out of line when I say this, but this is [CODENAME ADAM]. Surely it won’t hurt to at least try.

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Do not engage with Codename Adam. Violation of this order may result in termination from your position as director of Polaris Institute. Repeat: do not engage.
    This is a very intriguing section of the intro. Your new version of the Committee seems just as mysterious as before, and seem to air on the side of caution when it comes to the ixodida, which is understandable. However, I absolutely LOVE Oak's insistence to see if Bill, albeit transformed, is still human inside. We're really getting more detail on Professor Oak's relationship with other characters, and I hope that he stays relevant to the plot just so we can explore more of his side of the story. (I get the feeling, though, that all the characters you keep in the loop for a while meet grisly fates, so I'm also a little worried about him.)

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: [CODENAME ADAM]’s father, Professor [REDACTED], works for the New Bark Institute branch. I’d like to at least let him know about his son’s condition.
    And now the introduction of Bill's father later in the fic seems less sudden. That was one thing that irked me in the previous version, and I'm glad that the introduction of characters seem less abrupt this time around, especially McKenzie, Sr.

    “If you’re trying to send me on an existential journey, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you,” Bill rasped. He covered his mouth and nose and glared at the being. “I already went on one nine years ago.
    That line made me laugh. A lot. It also made me a little curious about Bill's past. What "existential journey" is Bill referencing? Does it have to do with your head-canon or the anime? I don't know, I hope we find out.

    “We are symbionts of one another. Your body is mine now.”
    It's funny how Adam doesn't view himself as a parasite, but refers to Bill's body as "his." A little hypocritical, much?

    “Ah, the scientist,” it said. “Always asking questions. It is a shame you are human. All of your questions are the wrong ones, but that is to be expected of your species.”
    Classic.

    “Form a contract with me.”
    Whoa. This is very different than the previous version. That sentence is almost jarring. In the last version, Bill had no choice but to accept his shared mind, so for Bill to actually have power over the situation is a little mind-boggling. In a good way, of course.

    “I can make that happen,” it told him. “Currently, my heart is beating for our body, and my nerves are connected to our nerves. All it will take is a shock to force our heart to begin beating, and you will be able to live again.” It leaned closer. “Of course, you will get so much more than that. My kind normally steps aside and allows our hosts to die from the transformation, but we can also shield them and shape their bodies around them, as you have noticed already. I have already done part of that for you, but it is the aftermath that may break an ordinary, independent host. Not many of those who bear us can control our abilities, but I can help you adapt and learn. I can assist your mind in molding to the body I will give you, and I can teach you how to wield our gifts without destroying yourself. In short, I offer you the ability to live. Perhaps not as a human, but you will live.”
    It almost seems as if Adam WANTS to help Bill, which is so vastly different than the previous version, where Adam's assistance almost appears grudging. You were right, Adam is very different than he was before. I'm seriously excited to see how the Adam/Bill relationship plays out.

    “A-and you?” he stammered. “Contracts go two ways. What do you get in exchange for my cooperation?”
    Did I tell you how much I love this version of Bill? He is actually trying to piece together the situation, not just let events unfold before him. I love it!

    My kind underestimate how valuable you humans are, but I know. Protect me, and I will protect you. Do we have a deal?
    Wow. This Adam seems to value, and almost respect, the host creature. Again, so different than the other version, and I can't stress how much good this is doing for the story as a whole. The way this relationship is starting to play out, Adam and Bill won't be fighting with each other. They'll be learning from each other.

    “You see, Bill, what I want most from you is your brain. I need you to tell me more about your world.”

    “Why?”

    The parasite eyed him. “Why?”

    Bill nodded, his expression hardening into as grave a look as he could muster. “Yes. Why would you need to know?”

    Raising its chin, the creature took one more hit from the hookah. “Because my kind is elsewhere in this world.”

    “And you need to find them? And then what?”

    “I do not need to find them. I need to survive them.” The being shut one eye. “You see, Bill, you and I are a lot alike. Our respective people consider us to be … anomalies. On my home world, I was an outcast of sorts. People treated me differently because of what I was.”

    Bill raised his eyebrows. “Differently? Did they …?”

    It peered at him from over the mouthpiece. “I worry that on this planet, that same behavior will continue. I can sense that my people are congregating on an island far from here—the island where I first arrived on your planet, in fact. Once they do, I fear what that may mean for your kind.”

    At that, Bill started. “What? Do you … do you mean to say that we could be facing an invasion?”

    His companion shrugged and sat down. “Perhaps. It is a very real possibility.”

    Bill stepped forward, planting his foot on the first of the cushions. “What about a war?”

    “Perhaps,” the creature repeated. It cast half-lidded eyes on Bill. “My species is militaristic once we acquire host bodies. It is our nature to gather and establish footholds on the planets we inhabit. We will do anything to prevent the existing dominant species from interfering with the growth of our new world. There is no guarantee that my kind will want peace from yours.”
    Oh boy. Adam's holding nothing back about the situation, is he? Unlike the last version (sorry I keep mentioning the other version, but I like to compare the two in my head, it keeps the review coherent), Adam is keeping no secrets from Bill. And the picture he is painting is rather grim. Is the actual ixododa invasion going to happen in this version of the story? Has it already happened, or is what Hoenn experiencing just a scouting party? And if this IS just a scouting party... *shudders

    “You asked me what I wanted from the deal. I want your knowledge and your cooperation. Therefore, allow me to restate the terms of the contract. I will give you the freedom to live. I will assist you in adapting to our body, and I will teach you how to use our gifts. All I require from you is your knowledge and your cooperation. When I ask you to act, you will act exactly as I tell you to do so. In all other cases, our body will be yours to command. Understood?”

    “Yes,” Bill replied firmly. “And the trust clause?”

    “Bill, I am a symbiont. Anything I do will be in your best interests. I cannot gain anything from you if you are dead.”

    “Promise anyway. I need the assurance that I can trust you.”

    “Very well. As part of my end of our bargain, I will neither utter a single lie to you nor act in a way that will be a detriment our body. You have my word that I will do everything I can to ensure our survival.” It pushed its hand closer to Bill. “Now. Do we have a deal or not?”
    I love this segment. Two headstrong, highly intelligent beings that share a body making a "contract" that will quite possibly determine the fates of both, with neither being seeming to trust the other fully. I especially like how you make the characters very blunt with each other, as if neither character wants the other to change their mind at the last second.

    “Here,” it said as it placed the box in Bill’s lap.

    Glancing down, Bill stared at the lid. He ran his fingers across the swirling wood carvings until his fingertips caressed the triple spiral etched on the top.

    “What is this?” he murmured weakly.

    “A gift,” the creature explained. “It is part of the second clause to our bargain, in which I promised to teach you how to adapt to our form. Inside this box, you will find knowledge, Bill. This will not be the only method I will use to teach you, but it is a quick way to give you a basic understanding.”

    “Of what?”

    The creature leaned in and lifted the lid of the box slowly.

    “Of our body, of course,” it told him.
    Oh wait, I forgot, this is ADAM we're talking about. He never tells Bill exactly what he's going to do, he just hints at what Bill needs to know.

    Classic.

    This time, instead of the pastel colors, the light resolved into darkness. But it didn’t just resolve into darkness, no. It resolved into a hum. A dull, full-body pain. The sharp, bitter smell of sanitizers. And a cold so deep Bill could feel it in his bones.

    And then he opened his eyes.
    Love the description. I can almost feel the awful sensation of waking up from a coma from the words.

    And, at the risk of being REALLY cheesy: dun-dun-DUUUUUHH!

    Anyway, I absolutely loved the chapter, and can't wait for the next one. Hopefully, the action will start to heat up soon. Looking forward to reading more!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by JX Valentine View Post
    Four

    [i]D.E.V.A. CLEARANCE LEVEL 10
    CLEARANCE ACCEPTED.
    DOCUMENT TYPE: MEMORANDUM
    DESIGNATION: THE ADAM INCIDENT, FILE 01
    DESCRIPTION: ARCHIVE OF INTERNAL DIGITAL MEMORANDA BETWEEN PROFESSOR SAMUEL OAK, DIRECTOR OF POLARIS INSTITUTE, TO COMMITTEE MEMBER 02. AT THIS POINT, COMMITTEE INVOLVEMENT WITH D.E.V.A. IS STILL NOT PUBLICLY KNOWN.
    DATE-TIME: 06/10/02, 16:54
    I guess it's safe to assume that at this point a file will be the opening of every chapter? It's a welcome addition; having the files provides information without going over into infodump territory.

    One thing I'm intrigued by immediately: are these files from after the events of the story, and thus framing it as a story being told after it finished?

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: We have processed your full report of the containment breach. Your next instructions are as follows. You must keep Codenames Adam and Abel under secure lockdown until further notice. We are sending to you a specialist who will assist you in handling these specimens. Until then, you are to monitor Adam and Abel for any further developments and launch a thorough investigation into the cause of the containment breach. Any questions concerning these instructions or any new information may be forwarded to C-02.
    A specialist? I wonder who it is?

    Also, am I a horrible person for immediately deciding I want to see a video conference between Oak and one of the Committee that is [SOUND ONLY selected] on their part?

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: [CODENAME ADAM] hasn’t been showing the same violent behaviors as [CODENAME ABEL] or Codename Pandora for a few days now. Members of the behavioral team are saying this is a sign that maybe we can get through to him. We’d like to try to wake him up and see if he’s lucid.

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Do not proceed. Do not engage with Codename Adam.
    Fitting that you'd be continuing the whole thing with Joel being the more violent one. It would also seem that Oak is not aware of Pandora's true identity, given that "Bill" and "Joel" are redacted but "Codename Pandora" is written normally, is this correct?

    Oak's faith in Bill is surprisingly overwhelming given what he saw Ivy's faith in Pandora brought her.

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: I hope I’m not out of line when I say this, but this is [CODENAME ADAM]. Surely it won’t hurt to at least try.

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Do not engage with Codename Adam. Violation of this order may result in termination from your position as director of Polaris Institute. Repeat: do not engage.
    I have to be a little critical here. I get that the Committee members are supposed to be mysterious, but this sounds almost robotic. I think the Committee members should be distinguishable in some ways with their own personalities and traits, unless speaking in a robotic manner just happens to be 02's trait.

    It can be a challenge to make unseen characters such as the Committee stand out, but it's a worthwhile challenge to take on.

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: Understood. May I make a request?

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: So long as the request does not violate your previous orders, the Committee is willing to consider it. What is your request?

    FROM: OAK, SAMUEL
    TO: C-02
    MESSAGE: [CODENAME ADAM]’s father, Professor [REDACTED], works for the New Bark Institute branch. I’d like to at least let him know about his son’s condition.

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Request acknowledged and deemed acceptable.
    Interesting. I'm sure that the Committee doesn't do anything they don't benefit from, so I wonder exactly how they plan to play Bill's father.

    Bill coughed in the haze of smoke, but he stood his ground. “I beg your pardon?”

    The creature—the thing that looked just like him the longer he stared at it—turned its head away from him and sucked on the hookah’s mouthpiece again.

    “Who,” it responded, exhaling a snake of purple-green smoke, “are you?”

    “If you’re trying to send me on an existential journey, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you,” Bill rasped. He covered his mouth and nose and glared at the being. “I already went on one nine years ago. I know exactly who I am. I just don’t care for being formal. Who are you, and why are you in my head?
    Somehow I get the feeling that that last existential crisis probably involved a teleportation pod or costume malfunction.

    I like that he's basically telling off a superior consciousness that has invaded his mind.

    The figure looked at him, and for the first time, Bill noticed something strange about its face besides the fact that it was his. Even though Bill could tell that this being was expressing emotion, it wasn’t through the face. At every question, all the creature did was stare at its surroundings evenly, even blankly, as if its face was actually a mask. In truth, Bill couldn’t put into words how he knew what emotion the being was expressing. He only knew. It was like the feeling one got if someone stared at them long enough—a creeping, hot sensation on the back of one’s neck.
    Well of course he just knows, it's his mind.

    And as soon as he realized this, Bill felt incredibly, intensely uneasy.

    “You assume I am asking you existential questions, but you misunderstand,” the creature continued. “I am simply stalling until you can put together what it is I am for yourself.”

    Bill swallowed hard. “I already know what you are. You’re the parasite. I don’t know how you managed to break into my subconscious, but—”

    “We are symbionts of one another. Your body is mine now.”
    That actually kind of surprised me. I wasn't expecting him to have it figured out so easily and decisively.

    One quick question, is "symbionts" the correct plural? My browser is tagging it as wrong, but I trust you more. Just wanted to ask to make it clear.

    “But my head isn’t.”

    “Do we not share a nervous system?”

    “That makes absolutely no sense!” Bill sighed and looked away. He had to control his emotions, regardless of how much his instincts were screaming at him to run. This wasn’t the time to lose himself. “Are you a psychic-type?”
    Okay, this is more what I expected, Bill being unable to make sense of it.

    The creature stared at Bill briefly as it drew in another hit from the hookah’s hose. Its face was still expressionless, but that didn’t stop the cold, clammy, uneasy knot in the pit of Bill’s stomach from growing.

    “Ah, the scientist,” it said. “Always asking questions. It is a shame you are human. All of your questions are the wrong ones, but that is to be expected of your species.”
    I see Adam's kept some of his sarcastic attitude from before. That's good.

    Bill sighed again, this time in exasperation. “All I want to know is how you’re in my head.”

    His companion drew the hookah pipe into its mouth again. Its lips shaped its next words around the hard tip.

    “Is that really what you want to know?”

    In those precious seconds, Bill hesitated. His eyes shifted back to the figure, and he stood there in thought. He wanted to say yes, but his mouth couldn’t shape the word. It would have been a lie anyway. There were so many other questions he needed to ask. Were the visions real? Was he really dead? If he was dead, why was he seeing the parasite? What was he supposed to do now? What was the parasite exactly? Where did it come from? Why was it there?
    Bill should hesitate here, I think. I also think all his other questions will be answered fairly quickly too.

    But the longer he stood, the more a single question wormed its way to the front of his mind. As his brain wrapped itself around it, he felt himself relax, his body slacken, and his eyelids grow heavy. It was the incense, he thought, but the dreamscape itself somehow made him tired. He watched as the creature exhaled, as the sweet-smelling smoke swept through the air. The wisp curled around him and distorted, and he could swear that the end of it formed the long, jagged snout and claws of a dragon.

    It was then that his question spilled out of his mouth, almost by its own volition.

    “What do you want from me?”
    Bill, you're probably going to be sorry you asked that.

    The creature eyed him and put aside the pipe. “You may be smarter than you look.”

    “So I’ve been told,” Bill whispered vaguely. “Please answer my question.”

    His companion did not smile, but Bill could swear that there was a shifting shadow in its eyes, a shadow that somehow made the mask look like it was laughing. Bill felt like he was being stared at in the same way that an adult might look at a child who said something stupid. Something about that mask put Bill on edge, but he stood where he was, feet rooted to the platform. At the same time, the creature swept its legs over the edge of its throne and stood. White fabric swirled around the being’s figure and formed a robe that obscured its body except for its human face and its long, thin hands. The being brought the pipe to its mouth again as it stared directly into Bill’s eyes.

    With each word it spoke, a stream of smoke curled from its mouth. “Form a contract with me.”
    OH DID YOU REALLY GO THERE

    I love you for this.

    “What?”

    The creature cupped Bill’s chin in a hand—a hand that, he realized, was actually tipped with sharp, metallic claws. “A contract. You want to live, do you not?”

    “Of course I do,” Bill replied hoarsely.

    “I can make that happen,” it told him. “Currently, my heart is beating for our body, and my nerves are connected to our nerves. All it will take is a shock to force our heart to begin beating, and you will be able to live again.” It leaned closer. “Of course, you will get so much more than that. My kind normally steps aside and allows our hosts to die from the transformation, but we can also shield them and shape their bodies around them, as you have noticed already. I have already done part of that for you, but it is the aftermath that may break an ordinary, independent host. Not many of those who bear us can control our abilities, but I can help you adapt and learn. I can assist your mind in molding to the body I will give you, and I can teach you how to wield our gifts without destroying yourself. In short, I offer you the ability to live. Perhaps not as a human, but you will live.”
    Should "my nerves are connected to our nerves" be "my nerves are connected to your nerves?" I'm not quite sure it reads smoothly like this.

    Bill wanted to back away. He wanted to move. The voice in his head, the one that told him to run from something dangerous, was now back and louder than ever. But he stood still, staring deep into a reflection of his own eyes and feeling metal nails scratch his chin.

    “A-and you?” he stammered. “Contracts go two ways. What do you get in exchange for my cooperation?”

    The being tilted its head. “Astute. What do I want in return? That is simple. I only used the word ‘our’ in reference to the thing that had been your body, did I not?”

    Bill tried to pull away at that point, but the creature tightened its grip on his face.

    “Oh,” he breathed. “Of course.”

    It nodded. “Of course. It is in your name. I am a symbiont, and you are my host. My kind underestimate how valuable you humans are, but I know. Protect me, and I will protect you. Do we have a deal?”
    I think I can infer from that comment about Adam's kind "underestimating how valuable humans are" that at least some of his wanting to rebel against the other Ixodida has been kept for this version.

    “I don’t trust you,” he responded bluntly.
    Wise move, Bill.

    The creature pulled its hand away at last but kept its head tilted. Its eyes bore into Bill, and he felt it study him carefully.

    “A wise move,” it said. “But you do not have much of a choice, do you? I am already inside you. I have already changed your body. You cannot simply go back to the world you knew. I told you that the contract would give you life. Do you realize, then, what you would receive if you were to decline my offer?”
    I see Adam still has no qualms about making sure Bill has no choice but to accept his deal. Even Kyubey didn't drive this hard a bargain.

    It didn’t have to finish, and Bill didn’t have to be a genius to know what the alternative was. Yet he nodded and shrugged at the thought anyway.

    “I want to propose my own clause for you,” he said.

    The creature stepped back and drew the pipe to its mouth once more. “Go on.”

    “I’ll agree to your terms only if you swear that I can trust you.”

    Another pause. Once again, the creature looked Bill over carefully and drew another hit through the hookah’s mouthpiece.

    “You must be brave, giving me an order. You do realize, do you not, that I hold control over our physical form? If I choose to kill you, I can easily release your mind into your body, wait for you to die, and reanimate your corpse to fit my needs.”
    Wait, reanimate his corpse? Did I miss something? I thought they simply took over the consciousness of the host. I guess that counts as reanimating the corpse in a way, though?

    Bill smirked. “Exactly why I need you to agree to that clause. I’m not brave, but I know that I have nothing to lose by negotiating. If I disagree to your terms, then I die. If you disagree to my addition, then I would reject your contract and still die. I’d only really lose if I agree to a contract that has loopholes you can abuse. If I’m to survive, I’ll need a guarantee that you won’t hurt me.”

    “This contract seems more and more as if it is tailored to suit your needs,” the creature replied. “If you must negotiate, do it properly. What do I get in return for agreeing to your addition?”

    “What can I offer you?” Bill asked. “I don’t know anything about you or your species.”

    “Do you not?” The parasite inhaled once more, and then, in a perfect imitation of Bill’s voice, it recited, “Pokémon 2000LH, known tentatively as ixodida. Its origin is technically unknown, but the current prevailing theory is that it’s connected to the meteor shower that occurred over Fortree City ten months ago due to the timing and location of the ixodida sightings. Very little else is known about it except that it’s exclusively carnivorous and a highly aggressive predator at that. Reports of it have only been able to come from a handful of survivors and media outlets prior to the Hoenn quarantine. No one is even sure what it looks like because its aggression and speed practically guarantee that anyone who sees it has very little chance of surviving.”
    How much of that gives Bill something he can offer in exchange, though?

    Bill blanched. His voice wavered as he replied, “How … how did you do that?”

    “I am connected to you, remember?” It turned its head away from him. “Your thoughts. Your memories. They are all coded into your brain. At any time, I can reach into your mind and draw forth what I want. And that is what is preventing me from killing you. I am not a scientist, and I know nothing of your planet. But you? You have a wealth of knowledge on both Earth’s technology and the lifeforms that inhabit it, and because of that, you have the ability to interpret any new information we receive. Why would I waste that resource?” It hesitated briefly, and its hand curled in the air before drawing the hookah pipe back to its lips. “You see, Bill, what I want most from you is your brain. I need you to tell me more about your world.”

    “Why?”
    Bill, you really should know why an invading alien species wants to know about your world.

    The parasite eyed him. “Why?”

    Bill nodded, his expression hardening into as grave a look as he could muster. “Yes. Why would you need to know?”

    Raising its chin, the creature took one more hit from the hookah. “Because my kind is elsewhere in this world.”

    “And you need to find them? And then what?”

    “I do not need to find them. I need to survive them.” The being shut one eye. “You see, Bill, you and I are a lot alike. Our respective people consider us to be … anomalies. On my home world, I was an outcast of sorts. People treated me differently because of what I was.”
    Now see, I'm familiar with this because I remember it from the original, but for those who didn't read the original, I'm hoping this is elaborated on more later.

    Bill raised his eyebrows. “Differently? Did they …?”

    It peered at him from over the mouthpiece. “I worry that on this planet, that same behavior will continue. I can sense that my people are congregating on an island far from here—the island where I first arrived on your planet, in fact. Once they do, I fear what that may mean for your kind.”
    Hoenn? I guess the impression I had been operating under - that the research facility was in Hoenn - was wrong, unless I'm forgetting something.

    How did Adam travel such a far distance from where he arrived? Was it because he was captured by researchers?

    At that, Bill started. “What? Do you … do you mean to say that we could be facing an invasion?”

    His companion shrugged and sat down. “Perhaps. It is a very real possibility.”

    Bill stepped forward, planting his foot on the first of the cushions. “What about a war?”
    Hmm, an invasion would have been one of the first things I'd guess. I'm actually a little surprised it took him this long to get to it.

    “Perhaps,” the creature repeated. It cast half-lidded eyes on Bill. “My species is militaristic once we acquire host bodies. It is our nature to gather and establish footholds on the planets we inhabit. We will do anything to prevent the existing dominant species from interfering with the growth of our new world. There is no guarantee that my kind will want peace from yours.”
    I'd say what he just said pretty much invalidates any possibility of his race wanting peace with the humans. Failing that, what's taken place to this point in the world at large has pretty much disproven any chance of it, too.

    “No,” Bill whispered. His eyes tore away from his companion, and his gaze darted across the floor. “No. No, that can’t happen!” His glance drifted back towards the parasite. “Listen. There are countless lives on this planet, and every single one of them has a meaning. If there’s a war, then ...”

    “Then those countless lives have no guaranteed future,” it finished. “I know that, but I cannot say that the rest of my kind does.”

    Bill bent over just enough to lock eyes with the parasite. “Then what do we do?”

    Putting aside the hookah’s hose, it offered him a slender hand.

    “We form a contract,” it said. “You asked me what I wanted from the deal. I want your knowledge and your cooperation. Therefore, allow me to restate the terms of the contract. I will give you the freedom to live. I will assist you in adapting to our body, and I will teach you how to use our gifts. All I require from you is your knowledge and your cooperation. When I ask you to act, you will act exactly as I tell you to do so. In all other cases, our body will be yours to command. Understood?”

    “Yes,” Bill replied firmly. “And the trust clause?”

    “Bill, I am a symbiont. Anything I do will be in your best interests. I cannot gain anything from you if you are dead.”
    I have to point out that I find Adam's claim that he 'cannot gain anything from you [Bill] if you are dead' to be unnecessary here. He just mentioned a few proverbial minutes ago that he could reanimate Bill's corpse if he died, therefore, unless I'm missing the point Adam can still gain something from Bill even if he dies.

    “Promise anyway. I need the assurance that I can trust you.”

    “Very well. As part of my end of our bargain, I will neither utter a single lie to you nor act in a way that will be a detriment our body. You have my word that I will do everything I can to ensure our survival.” It pushed its hand closer to Bill. “Now. Do we have a deal or not?”

    Bill examined the hand and then exhaled. “I really hope I’m not making a mistake here.”
    Oh, Bill. Oh, poor naive Bill.

    He grasped the being’s hand, and instantly, his world turned hot and white. It felt like a jolt of lightning ran through him all at once, and for the briefest second, he couldn’t feel a thing. It was as if his entire body went numb, like the first seconds of deep sleep, between full consciousness and a dream. Then, he felt himself dropping as hazy, pastel colors swirled around him. His fall abruptly stopped after a second, and all at once, his vision cleared until the being’s pale face hovered over him. It took Bill a moment to realize that his partner was holding him up, and it took another for the parasite to lay him carefully on the cushioned throne. Once he felt the softness of his support against his back, Bill began to notice that his body felt hot and heavy, as if his limbs were chained to iron weights. Even breathing took some effort as he forced his head to turn to the creature.

    It, meanwhile, busied itself by stepping down the stairs of the platform gingerly. One of its clawed hands gently scratched the surface of the drawers set into each step. The longer Bill watched it move, the more a voice in his head squeaked that something wasn’t right.

    “What … what did you do to me?” he rasped.

    “Signed the contract and took the first step in upholding our deal,” his companion replied. “I have given you back our body and restarted your heart. That weight you feel is partly you readjusting to having a physical form and partly the fact that our physical form is heavier than the body you owned as a human. I took the liberty of molding it into something durable enough to suit our purposes. There you are.”
    A thought just popped into my head saying that the Ixodida, if they have such powers to manipulate life itself, could really use it for far more than just holding a subject on the brink of full-on death. Could, say, transferring consciousness between bodies be far out of their reach? More than two minds in the same body?

    I'd think the researchers would have Bill restrained, so perhaps some of the weight is from that too?

    At the last three words, the parasite leaned into one of the steps. It pulled open a drawer and peered into the soft, red light emanating from inside. Carefully, it reached in and drew out a wooden cigar box inlaid with intricate swirls and spots. Its hand ran over the carvings on the top as it walked back up the steps. With its free hand, it grabbed one of Bill’s shoulders and pulled him into a sitting position before wrapping an arm around him for support.
    Interesting and nicely detailed imagery here.

    “Here,” it said as it placed the box in Bill’s lap.

    Glancing down, Bill stared at the lid. He ran his fingers across the swirling wood carvings until his fingertips caressed the triple spiral etched on the top.

    “What is this?” he murmured weakly.

    “A gift,” the creature explained. “It is part of the second clause to our bargain, in which I promised to teach you how to adapt to our form. Inside this box, you will find knowledge, Bill. This will not be the only method I will use to teach you, but it is a quick way to give you a basic understanding.”
    Pandora's Box.

    Granted, he isn't Pandora, but still, this one's really clever.

    “Of what?”

    The creature leaned in and lifted the lid of the box slowly.

    “Of our body, of course,” it told him.

    It threw the lid open completely, and for the second time, Bill was blinded by a white light. This time, instead of the pastel colors, the light resolved into darkness. But it didn’t just resolve into darkness, no. It resolved into a hum. A dull, full-body pain. The sharp, bitter smell of sanitizers. And a cold so deep Bill could feel it in his bones.

    And then he opened his eyes.
    There was a good deal of repetition at the end, but it worked out considering that it was used to emphasize the dramatic value of that precise scene. One thing I might point out is that if Bill is a Steel-type, it might have been interesting to leave out the part about the cold, given the natural strength of the Steel-type against the Ice-type.

    Overall, I really want to comment on the pacing. The shorter chapters are definitely a plus for the overall quality, but I feel like the faster pacing might be throwing off my sense of how and when things happen. I'm sure you're going to cover Adam being a rogue and Bill learning about his capabilities in much more detail, but if I had to sum up what I'm thinking right now... I guess I kind of feel like a little too much happened too fast. I think one thing that could have been avoided is having to introduce the 'Adam is a rogue' plot point so soon, which could have been done by retaining a bit more of Adam's old personality and having him simply tell Bill that he's different and wants to help the humans. But then again, I might be interpreting it poorly because I still remember that part of the original version.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 17th September 2013 at 8:51 AM.

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  25. #25
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    Four

    FROM: C-02
    TO: OAK, SAMUEL
    MESSAGE: Request acknowledged and deemed acceptable.

    [END CORRESPONDENCE.]
    Does the 'C' stand for the commitee? and if so, is Oak corresponding with one of the members, or an intermediary like a secretary?

    “Who,” it responded, exhaling a snake of purple-green smoke, “are you?
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but is that an 'Alice in Wonderland' reference? so awesome lol. love it

    stared at in the same way that an adult might look at a child who said something stupid
    I see that as a kind of light hearted contempt. I quoted that portion because I think you really nailed the exchange between the two

    “A wise move,” it said. “But you do not have much of a choice, do you? I am already inside you. I have already changed your body. You cannot simply go back to the world you knew. I told you that the contract would give you life. Do you realize, then, what you would receive if you were to decline my offer?
    Death obviously, right? I feel like this is a real point for Bill. He didn't seem to have a maximum amount of control over his life before this happened, and it just feels a little weird to me that after this quoted portion he seems to take the prospect of his death and flip it to where he tried to make a demand. Just seemed very slightly out of character to me. Does that make sense?

    “You must be brave, giving me an order.
    Well, nevermind the last point I made in that case, lol

    “I am connected to you, remember?” It turned its head away from him. “Your thoughts. Your memories. They are all coded into your brain. At any time, I can reach into your mind and draw forth what I want. And that is what is preventing me from killing you. I am not a scientist, and I know nothing of your planet. But you? You have a wealth of knowledge on both Earth’s technology and the lifeforms that inhabit it, and because of that, you have the ability to interpret any new information we receive. Why would I waste that resource?
    That right there was some damn good writing. It showed me some real depth from Adam, as well as how precise and eerily convincing he can be when he wants. I really have to tell you I missed this character so much. Hell, I reread your other version twice over the course of last year just because I wanted to hang out with him more. Now only is Adam in fine form, but I'm noticing little differences that streamlined him even more. Nicely done

    the creature took one more hit from the hookah.
    The word 'hit' seems a bit out of place to me, a bit too slangy. I think substituting the word hit with 'Drag', or 'Pull', would make it flow a bit better

    And a cold so deep Bill could feel it in his bones
    I'm not sure if you meant it this way, but that statement felt both physical and mental to me. I liked it. Fitting

    Other than my few little nitpicks, I greatly enjoyed the chapter. In the old version, my favorite parts were there back and forths, and I like seeing it again. Thanks for PMing me and I eagerly look forward to the next installment

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