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Thread: Operation Cloudburst (Rated T)

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    Post Operation Cloudburst (Rated T)

    Rating: T (Teen): Suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes.

    Summary: Home from her travels in Johto, May receives a mysterious unmarked package. Its contents propel her to the desert land of Orre, once again under the threat of Shadow Pokémon. May reluctantly undertakes this perilous new adventure, struggling against herself as much as her foes.

    Disclaimer: Pokémon is copyright its original owners. The authors only own the plot and original characters. Any representation of real persons, dead or alive, is purely coincidental unless it makes a damn good reference.

    Table of Contents - TITLES CONTAIN SPOILERS
        Spoiler:- Links will be added as chapters are posted:

    Author's Notes:
    Right, giving this another shot since my previous attempt has been dead for almost two years now and I'm still working on this thing. I have multiple chapters finished at this point but I'll be posting them one at a time to avoid drawing the mods' ire.

    The first two chapters have a rather different writing style due to me experimenting with an editing program that didn't come to fruition, so I apologize for any awkwardness between those and the later chapters.

    This story is largely based off anime canon, though I do utilize aspects from other canons like Pokemon Special and especially Colosseum/XD, since this story takes place in Orre.

    Original characters play major roles in this story, though not in the aspect of them being original characters... arguably. I have something played along that line but not in a meta sense. It'll be more clear once I get to that point.



    Chapter 1
    "Prelude to a New Journey! A Mystery Gift Has Arrived!"

    She wondered where they had failed before. It wasn't as though the first plan was so complicated. One little mistake couldn't have brought the whole thing crashing down. It was, in fact, the opposite: the plan was too simple. That was why it got foiled by little mistakes. Rather annoying, recurring mistakes. Her boss at the time was so confident that their vision would come to fruition. And yet…

    Well, she thought, it had come to fruition, if you tilted your head to the side and squinted. They had awoken the super-ancient Pokémon, and it had the intended effect. Their first miscalculation had been failing to grasp the scope of that effect. Their second miscalculation had been the interference of some snot-nosed brats and a G-Man. Whatever that was.

    She and other members of their organization managed to flee before facing legal consequences. Their boss's ambition still burned in their hearts. After all, it was an idea that he had drilled into their minds from day one. But they could not expect to stay in their home region to fulfill it. There were many new factors standing in their way. Starting from square one with those factors was not an amusing prospect.

    After some time, they heard whispers of a far-off land. The rumors of events that had transpired there were intriguing. Something about the artificial manufacture of Pokémon, and harnessing their unrestricted, untapped abilities. Inspiration struck. They would go to this land, she decided, and make a fresh attempt at their goal. Some of her workers objected: the citizens would already know what to expect.

    "We'll be doing something different," she had told them. "We can fulfill our dream, our vision. Even if the organizations there met an end, we can assimilate them. Put them under a new name, a new identity." She paused here, thinking again about how her boss had failed. They — she — could do things different, perhaps even better. "With our cause, we can persuade the public. Steer them towards accepting us. Our cause is for the good of all. " She pointed at a map of their destination, projected on the wall behind her. "Here, the citizens will accept it."

    In the end, they agreed. They arrived in secret, and proceeded to delve through the backwaters of this land. They scoured for the relics of the organization that had roamed here before. Fate rewarded their efforts, and they managed to recruit key people into their midst. A greater stroke of luck was finding new faces, ones unrecognizable to the public. This further insured their ability to remain unknown, until the time was right.

    Finally, after all their hard work, everything was in place. She felt confident and assured that things would work in their favor. There would be no mistakes this time. No rash decisions, no unthoughtful actions. There would be layers upon layers, backups for the backups. Her — their — ambition would come to light. If — no, when — successful, they would revel in the glory, the triumph of success. She would be vindicated, free from the inherited failure of their old boss.

    She turned to her aide. He straightened up, ready for whatever order she had for him. "It's time," she announced. "Alert all hands: Operation Cloudburst begins now."



    Norman placed the parcel onto the table, calling up the stairs. "May! Package for you!"

    The Petalburg City Gym Leader looked down at the plain brown box. It appeared nondescript, sporting nothing but an address label and a few stamps. "Although as a father," he murmured, glancing at the box over the top of his coffee mug. "Mail without a return address makes me nervous..."

    A distinctive sound of feet descending the steps announced May's arrival. She was Norman's oldest child, a seasoned Pokémon Coordinator, and had recently returned home. A neat pair of jeans and a t-shirt was her attire of choice for this early morning. Her bright blues eyes fell upon the parcel and her face contorted in confusion. "If it helps, Dad," She said, approaching the table. "I haven't ordered anything lately."

    "I'm still recovering from that last credit card bill, young lady." Norman replied, taking a sip of coffee, as May looked embarrassed. Even a Gym Leader can have the normal issues of raising a teenage daughter.

    "This has no return address," said May, leaning forward to exam the package. It was about ten inches long, five inches high, and five inches wide. She looked up at her father, face apprehensive. "Is it okay if I open it?"

    Norman scratched his head, thinking it over. "Well, I did let you go out into the world at age ten, training creatures with crazy powers. I suppose letting you open one unmarked package wouldn't hurt."

    "I love you, too, Dad. If my bedroom explodes, it's on you." Shaking her head at her father, May took the parcel and carried it upstairs to her bedroom.

    She placed the box down on the floor, closing the door shut behind her with her foot. She grabbed a pair of scissors from her desk. "Okay, mystery gift... let's see what you have for me."

    May cut open the tape and opened the flaps. Inside sat a smaller, metallic box surrounded by sheets of bubble wrap. "Always liked this stuff." She removed the second box and placed it on the floor. This box was about seven inches long, four inches high, and four inches wide. It was also sealed with a small padlock. Yet May found no key amongst the sheets of bubble wrap. "Now that's a little weird..."

    Standing up, May grabbed a red-and-white Ping-Pong ball-sized object from her desk. She pressed the button on the front of the Poké Ball once, and it expanded. A second press and it burst open in a flash of light. A foxlike creature appeared from the Poké Ball onto the floor. Soft cyan fur with dark blue rhombus marks lined its slender body. The Glaceon shook and stretched its body before looking up at its Trainer.

    "Good morning, Glaceon." May stroked her Pokémon, the Ice-type's fur feeling cool to the touch. "I've got a locked box, but no key... could you use Iron Tail to break it open for me, please?"

    Glaceon nodded, so May stood up and moved back a little as her Pokémon arched its back. Its tail gleamed a bright silver and stiffened completely. With a sharp swing and a loud snap, Glaceon sliced the padlock in two. The bottom half clattered to the floor. Glaceon let out a small bark of glee, and May smiled. "Thanks for that." She said, patting its head before turning her attention back to the metal box.

    She lifted open the lid, one hand in front of her face in case anything unsavory jumped out. The only thing inside was some sort of electronic device. It sat within a precise indentation of the box's soft lining. The sheer strangeness of the contraption took May aback. The best comparison she could make was to a tablet computer.

    It was about five inches long, two inches wide, and a quarter-inch thick. Connected to the bottom were fabric straps. May figured they attached it to her arm. (She wondered why she thought of herself wearing it when she didn't even know what it was.) There were also three straps coming from the bottom and both sides on one end. They lead to a small, circular piece with a concave surface. It appeared to match against the surface of a closed Poké Ball exactly.

    May turned to look at Glaceon, who had moved up next to its Trainer in curiosity. "Might as well see what this thing does, right?" There were no physical buttons on the device, so May pressed a fingertip to the screen. It light up immediately and projected a three-dimensional image just above the device's screen.

    As May watched, the image morphed into the form of a slender adult woman in a lab coat and glasses. The entire image displayed in green, making it difficult to determine her features. Her face appeared both stern and sad as she spoke. "If you are hearing this, then it means you have received the Snag Machine Mark Three."

    "What the heck is a Snag Machine?" May asked Glaceon, despite knowing her Pokémon had no more idea than she did. As if having anticipated this question, the hologram spoke again.

    "The Snag Machine is a device created for snagging Pokémon." May's jaw dropped open. What was the woman talking about? "While you may object to this notion, know that it only works on corrupted Pokémon. They are also known as Shadow Pokémon. The region of Orre is being overtaken by people using them."

    The image of the woman then disappeared and replaced with a map of a barren desert land. Small diamond shapes denoted the locations of towns, cities, and other landmarks. The woman's voice continued to speak. "I ask that you travel Orre, snag the Shadow Pokémon, and bring down their users."

    The woman reappeared, her face somber. "I fear that there is more at risk than just the wellbeing of Pokémon. There is a sinister plot afoot that must not continue. I'll be sending you more messages in due time. Good-bye." The hologram disappeared, leaving May staring in disbelief at the screen.

    She turned to Glaceon, who stared back up at her. Both Trainer and Pokémon had similar confused expressions on their faces. "Why did I get this? I'm a Coordinator, not a superhero." May looked back down at the device in her hands. A realization came to her: the fate of an entire region now rested there as well.

    This Snag Machine, she thought, offered tremendous power. The ability to "snag" Pokémon was not something to mishandle or abuse. May knew she would have to handle it with delicate care. It was her responsibility now.

    But was the woman's message true? About the "sinister plot"? If so, refusing this burden would likely have untold consequences for Orre. But what if it was a trap? It seemed too much effort had gone into this package for that to be true. May heaved a heavy sigh. "Looks like May's Expeditions got another season… whether I like it or not."



    Norman was completely understanding of May's news of an unexpected trip. "Those are the best kind." He told her, standing up from his breakfast plate. "Before I forget, though, I have something for you."

    "One mysterious package wasn't enough?" May asked, already annoyed at one surprise that morning. She had changed into light, comfortable clothes fit for travel before coming back downstairs. Her outfit now was white shorts pulled over black bicycle shorts with a red tank top. May had her bandana folded it into a narrow strip before tying it on backwards. The ends of the knot stuck out the top of her head like Buneary ears.

    A yellow fanny pack settled around her waist. Her Pokémon, always a necessity, were safe inside, resting in their Poké Balls. The Snag Machine was also there, inside of a zippered pocket. May wasn't quite sure how the strange device worked, at least not yet. She was planning to experiment with it during the long voyage to Orre.

    Norman, knowing that the question wasn't directed at him, ignored it. Instead, he went over to the hall closet and pulled out a shopping bag from it. "Brendan told me to give you this if you left on another journey." Brendan Birch, son of Professor Birch, was a childhood friend of May's family. He was also, more often than not, a thorn in her side. One of his hobbies, for some reason, was clothing design. Sometimes he would ask May to model his newest travesty, which never ended well for him.

    "Tell him I'll kick his butt when I get home." May wasn't looking forward to whatever was in that bag. But Brendan had a surprising amount of foresight. He usually knew what May needed before she herself even knew she needed it. One way or another, whatever was in the bag would somehow come in handy.

    "No 'thank you'?"

    "Only if this is useful at all." Standing up on tip-toe, May kissed her father on the cheek. "Bye, Dad. I have a boat to catch. Tell Mom and Max I'll try to call when I can." May sighed as she left the house, closing the front door behind her. The thought of whatever trials were waiting in her future was not appealing. With a deep breath, May began her trek towards Slateport City. There, a sea liner was waiting to take her to what would be the most difficult fight of her life.

    To be continued...



    Reviews, comments, critiques, and anything of the sort are greatly appreciated! Don't be surprised if I had the other chapters regularly without any other comments, but perhaps it'll generate interest...
    Last edited by Cap D. Blue; 24th October 2017 at 10:43 PM.

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  2. #2
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    Well, this is an interesting concept! Fusing Orre and its shadow pokémon with a post-defeat Aqua (I assume it's Aqua) is a novel idea with the potential for all sorts of cool things, and I'll be really interested to see where you go with it. I should admit right away that I'm not at all familiar with the anime, but if you had any concerns about readers who were unfamiliar with that specific canon I think I can lay them to rest; it's all perfectly intelligible.

    I quite like your prose style, too; it's spare, but effective. Sometimes, however, it's a little bit clunky; like, we don't always need to be told what we've already been shown. For instance, you tell us that even Gym Leaders have to deal with the usual teenage daughter stuff right after you've demonstrated it with the line about that last credit card bill. Making the subtext text like that makes it much less effective, I think. Have some faith in the ability of your prose to reveal without explicit exposition, because it's definitely up to the task!

    You also sometimes go a little overboard with your description – for instance, of the poké ball; leaving aside the fact that this is Pokémon fic and you can assume certain knowledge on the part of your readership (hell, it's such a classic piece of design that even people mostly unfamiliar with the franchise are very familiar with it), it's far too much description for such a tiny detail. Similarly, I think the description of the metal box came across as weirdly overprecise – and it seems a bit weird too that you say it's about seven inches long, four high, et cetera. Prefacing precise measurements with 'about' gives a bit of a strange effect, as does May's odd “oh, for some reason I think this object whose purpose I can't divine is meant to attach to the arm” moment, which is another instance where you're giving maybe more information than the situation demands – so much so that May ends up with knowledge that she doesn't really have any way of having.

    In terms of the plot, it's early days, so I'll withhold judgement for now – but I will say that May jumps into this whole plot very quickly for someone who just received a mysterious machine and message that she doesn't fully understand in the mail from a total stranger, and Norman goes from being concerned about unmarked parcels to “okay, sure, just go to Orre” strangely quickly.

    And, one final thing:

    “Although as a father,” He murmured
    'He' shouldn't be capitalised here; dialogue attribution doesn't count as the start of a new sentence.

    Hopefully, though, I haven't given the impression that it isn't a good story! It is, and I think it's got a lot of potential to go in really interesting directions, but like, there are a few things that might benefit from a little bit of polish. And, of course, it's always lovely to see Orre getting some love. I'll be waiting with interest to see where you're going to take this story.
    GO HOME
    Some people just won't see reason.

    ARBITRARY EXECUTION
    If the cover-up is real, it isn't a conspiracy theory. It's a conspiracy fact.

    TIME AND TIDE | A LEASH OF FOXES
    IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    Well, this is an interesting concept! Fusing Orre and its shadow pokémon with a post-defeat Aqua (I assume it's Aqua) is a novel idea with the potential for all sorts of cool things, and I'll be really interested to see where you go with it. I should admit right away that I'm not at all familiar with the anime, but if you had any concerns about readers who were unfamiliar with that specific canon I think I can lay them to rest; it's all perfectly intelligible.

    I quite like your prose style, too; it's spare, but effective. Sometimes, however, it's a little bit clunky; like, we don't always need to be told what we've already been shown. For instance, you tell us that even Gym Leaders have to deal with the usual teenage daughter stuff right after you've demonstrated it with the line about that last credit card bill. Making the subtext text like that makes it much less effective, I think. Have some faith in the ability of your prose to reveal without explicit exposition, because it's definitely up to the task!

    You also sometimes go a little overboard with your description – for instance, of the poké ball; leaving aside the fact that this is Pokémon fic and you can assume certain knowledge on the part of your readership (hell, it's such a classic piece of design that even people mostly unfamiliar with the franchise are very familiar with it), it's far too much description for such a tiny detail. Similarly, I think the description of the metal box came across as weirdly overprecise – and it seems a bit weird too that you say it's about seven inches long, four high, et cetera. Prefacing precise measurements with 'about' gives a bit of a strange effect, as does May's odd “oh, for some reason I think this object whose purpose I can't divine is meant to attach to the arm” moment, which is another instance where you're giving maybe more information than the situation demands – so much so that May ends up with knowledge that she doesn't really have any way of having.

    In terms of the plot, it's early days, so I'll withhold judgement for now – but I will say that May jumps into this whole plot very quickly for someone who just received a mysterious machine and message that she doesn't fully understand in the mail from a total stranger, and Norman goes from being concerned about unmarked parcels to “okay, sure, just go to Orre” strangely quickly.

    And, one final thing:



    'He' shouldn't be capitalised here; dialogue attribution doesn't count as the start of a new sentence.

    Hopefully, though, I haven't given the impression that it isn't a good story! It is, and I think it's got a lot of potential to go in really interesting directions, but like, there are a few things that might benefit from a little bit of polish. And, of course, it's always lovely to see Orre getting some love. I'll be waiting with interest to see where you're going to take this story.
    Can I just say that this is very likely the highest quality review I've gotten for this story in the two years I've worked on it? Because it is. So thank you very much for taking the time to post!

    I will admit that I may be overreaching with detail in this story, but my previous works, I felt, had faltered in that area so I've been looking to improve with it. On the other hand, I admit that, when writing for a fandom that's been existing for over two decades now, there's likely a fair amount of assumption you can make about the people who are reading it and what knowledge they have. I do think I can find a balance between detail and reader assumptions, so I've been trying to keep that in mind. Unfortunately, since I've had these chapters already written for a while, you're probably not going to see that balance for a while, so I ask that you bare with me.

    You're also not the first one to bring up the reasoning (or lack thereof) for May agreeing to this, so my answer may seem a little rehearsed: it's basically the idea of "with great power there must also come great responsibility", but there's an actual plot plot about May specifically that'll get brought up later. (Another part of this answer is that I'm a rather unabashed fan of May and this story resulted from a brainstorming session with a friend, but I imagine that's not necessarily entirely justifiable, ha ha.)

    On your last remark, I'll chalk that up to it slipping past me in editing, but I'll fix it. Thank you so much again for the review, it really means a lot! I appreciate the interest, too, so I'll likely post Chapter Two once I get some errands out of the way.

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    Figured I'm okay with getting the next chapter up there. Pretty sure I've said this before, but these chapters are already written so I just need excuses to post 'em here.

    Huge acknowledgement/shout-out to PervyAngel of deviantArt for allowing us to use their artwork for the outfit used in the story, which makes its appearance below.



    Chapter 2
    "Adventure in the Land of Desert! VS Abyss Grunt!"

    These Bird Pokémon only served to mock me. May thought. She was standing on the bow of the S.S. Tidal, watching a flock of Pelipper fly overhead. They were squawking without a care to what troubles may be occurring around them. Mother Nature as a whole seemed oblivious to her stress. The sky was clear blue with a light amount of clouds. A gentle breeze caressed her face, bringing the taste of salt water up from the sea.

    "You alright there, lass?" asked a voice from behind her. Turning around, May saw it was Mr. Briney, the captain. A veteran sailor, he had recognized May from their first meeting a couple of years ago. He was happy to take the Tidal away from its usual Slateport-Lilycove course. Peeko, his companion Wingull, perched on his shoulder.

    "Peachy." May replied. While she trusted Mr. Briney, she didn't want to divulge more information than necessary. But she could at least ask what Orre was like. No doubt the experienced seafarer knew about the different regions of the world.

    "I assume you're familiar with Route 111." Mr. Briney said. May nodded, trying to avoid the glare from the captain's bald head. "Orre's a lot like that: dry and sandy. Oh sure, there are cities and towns, but you'll need a way to go between them. Walking will just get you dehydrated. There are a handful of areas with vegetation, though."

    He scratched his bearded chin before continuing. Peeko stretched his wings out behind his owner's head. "I have heard some unsavory things, though. It's a hive of trouble there. Lots of thugs and criminals. Not too safe."

    "Good thing I know how to protect myself." May said with a small laugh. And good thing there'll be plenty of sources to gather information. "You won't need to worry about leaving me there, Mr. Briney."

    "Aye, lass." Mr. Briney smiled from behind his bushy white moustache. "I've heard a handful of things from your father. Quite proud of you, he is."

    May blinked. This was one of the last things she expected to hear. It was quite a surprise to hear that Norman took pride in her. And from an outside source, at that. "You talk to my dad?"

    "Aye, he and I go way back. He's a good man, Norman. Helped me out once or twice." Mr. Briney looked down at her. "You didn't know?"

    "No." May turned back to face the horizon. A rather strong breeze came by, blowing her hair past her face. "He doesn't tell me that much." She wouldn't think that Norman had any semblance of a life outside of his Gym. He almost never made time for his family. Why would friends be any different?

    Mr. Briney didn't press the issue, and departed back to his cabin. There were only a few sailors working on the deck, but they had no reason to talk to passengers. May continued staring out at the water for a while until she decided to head to her cabin. She wanted to have everything ready once they made land later that afternoon.



    May hadn't looked at Brendan's gift yet. The bag just sat on the bed in her cabin for the time being. She was more interested in figuring out the Snag Machine. She sat on the edge of the bed and touched the screen. The device came to life, but did not play a holographic message this time. Instead, four icons displayed in a square pattern. A Poké Ball labeled "Snag" sat in the top-left corner. A globe labeled "Map" nestled beside it. The other two icons below included an envelope labeled "Comm." and a gear labeled "Settings".

    Er… where would I find the directions for this? I guess in Settings? May tapped the gear icon with her finger, and new options replaced the initial ones. "Display", "Sound", and "Info" were the choices this time. She tapped "Info", and a handful of paragraphs appeared.

    Use the Snag Machine when a Shadow Pokémon is ready to capture. May read. Place a Poké Ball against the Capture Core. The text now disappeared, replaced by an image of the device itself. An arrow pointed to the concave surface with the words "Capture Core" next to it. After placing a Poké Ball, tap "Snag". The Poké Ball will convert into a Snag Ball, which is then thrown at a Shadow Pokémon.

    "Seems easy enough, I guess."

    Only Snag Balls can capture Shadow Pokémon. Any type of Poké Ball can convert to a Snag Ball. The Snag Machine requires time to recharge after preparing a Snag Ball. Please limit use of the Snag Machine to once every three minutes.

    "I agree to the terms and conditions," quipped May, as the main menu appeared back on the screen. "That solves that problem, then. I think I'll get a better feel for it once I have to use it." Just then the ship's PA system blared to life. It took May by surprise and almost made her drop the Snag Machine.

    "Thank you for sailing with us today. We will arrive at Gateon Port in 15 minutes. Please gather your belongings in preparation for landing."

    There was no avoiding it now. May had to open the shopping bag and see whatever Brendan had prepared for her. Otherwise she'd get distracted and miss her chance. She took a moment to brace herself before removing the contents. "… I am going to kill him!"



    The S.S. Tidal eased to a stop next to one of the docks. A sailor lowered the anchor into the water, where it landed with a splash. Sailors on the ground brought over a boarding ladder for the passengers to disembark. Among those passengers was, of course, May. She felt rather warm, and not just because of the sun beating down. She had changed into the clothes that Brendan packed for her, and she was not pleased at all.

    The top resembled a corset with three black-and-gold straps across the stomach. It covered May's chest (which she was thankful for), but left her shoulders exposed. She had exchanged her shorts for a ruffled skirt. One layer each of white and dark red laid sandwiched between two layers of black. White fingerless gloves ran up to the middle of her upper arms. Navy blue stockings protected her legs from the harsh sunlight.

    Instead of sneakers, she had yellow-toed boots. They were dark red as well, with navy scree collars and a stripe running along the front. She even had a new bag. While the same style as her old one, it had different colors. Dark red, navy, and yellow matched it with the rest of her outfit. She kept her bandana on to maintain at least some aspect of her normal wear. As for the Snag Machine, it was now strapped to May's right wrist. The Capture Core sat in the middle of her palm due to the positioning of the straps.

    May descended from the ship, grumbling to herself. "When I get home, I'm gonna find Brendan Birch and make him regret this." She was reluctant to admit it, but she did think the outfit was stylish. Yet she felt that it made her easier to pick out from a crowd when she needed to stay under the radar. Plus, it fit her exactly, meaning Brendan somehow knew her measurements. The idea made her skin crawl in displeasure.

    Having reached solid ground, she moved away from the boarding ladder and looked around. Gateon Port was the only harbor in Orre, but she hadn't expected it to be as small as it was. There were only a handful of buildings, some of which appeared to be houses. A couple were even out in the water, sitting on concrete pillars. A long, narrow platform stretched across the water. It did not seem to connect to those houses, leading May to wonder how people got in or out. At the edge of the bay stood a tall lighthouse. Its sea green paint had faded from so many years in the harsh sun.

    May could see the Pokémon Center on her left, a holographic Poké Ball floating over its entrance. Next to it was the Poké Mart, complete with a theatre-esque sign. The last building, shaped like a Ludicolo, had lights all around it. Green and blue bulbs flashed in the bright daylight. Just to her right was a path leading further inland.

    May was just wondering where to go first when the Snag Machine started to vibrate. She raised her arm to look at the screen. The envelope icon now had a small circled "1" at the bottom-right corner. "Mm? A new message…" She glanced around for onlookers, but there wasn't anyone around.

    She pressed the icon and the hologram of the scientist woman appeared. Nothing was different about her appearance, including her solemn expression. "Welcome to Orre." Said the hologram. "I must direct you to the Poké Mart. I've left an important item for you there. Ask the owner for 'the latest fashion'. Good luck, and once again, good-bye."

    May stared at the Snag Machine as the message finished. Two mystery gifts were bad enough, but a third? Then again, the message did say it was important. Shaking her head at herself, May began walking towards the Poké Mart. She had only taken a few steps when thoughts began flooding her brain.

    First, how did the woman know she had arrived? Well, that's kind of obvious. May told herself. There's the map function on this thing. It was probable to assume that the scientist woman was tracking May's journey and sending her messages based on her current location. I just hope no one else will be able to do that. May still didn't know who the scientist woman was, exactly, but she was the only person to trust for the time being.

    Next, how was she supposed to tell when a Pokémon is a Shadow Pokémon? Were there any differences between the two in the first place? May didn't want to capture a normal Pokémon by accident. The Snag Machine didn't say that it was capable of distinguishing one from the other. Maybe this third Mystery Gift is the answer. She thought, as she approached the Poké Mart.

    The glass doors slid open to allow her inside. It pleased May to see that Poké Marts in Orre weren't much different than the ones back in Hoenn. Fluorescent lighting illuminated shelves of merchandise. Posters on the walls and windows advertised sales and special deals. The only other customer was a man in dark clothing and sunglasses near the back wall.

    May went up to front counter. The clerk, a middle-aged man with an apron, smiled at her. "Afternoon." He said. "What can I do for you?"

    "Do you have anything on the latest fashion?" May asked, reminded of the old spy movies her dad liked to watch. If she had to be honest, it kind of excited her. Using code words and secret activities reminded her of games she used to play as a kid. Of course, back then, it was just that: a game. Now it was actual espionage where losing was more than just a slap on the wrist.

    The clerk nodded at May's question and reached under the counter. He handed her a cardboard box, much like the package she had received that morning. "Anything else you need?" He asked as the dark-clothed man got in line behind May.

    "No, I think that's it. Thank you." She exchanged smiles with the clerk and left the store. There was a small bench right by the doors, so May sat down and placed the box on her lap. It was smaller than either box she had opened this morning. It was not sealed with tape. Instead the flaps sat folded under each other. Pulling open the flaps, she said, "And inside package number three is..."

    A sheet of crumpled tissue paper. Frowning at the anti-climax, May moved it aside. Underneath was the actual prize. Sitting on more crumpled tissue paper was a pair of red aviator goggles.

    "That's it?" May brought the goggles up to her face to examine them better. They were leather, with the lenses protruding out a bit. This would prevent sand and other debris from getting into the wearer's eyes. The strap was thin but wide enough to prevent it from breaking. But other than their color, nothing appeared extraordinary about them.

    May leaned back against the bench, still holding the goggles up. She didn't know if she should feel disappointed or not. She wasn't expecting anything in particular, so she didn't have any standards. Yet these goggles just seemed lackluster, particularly compared to the Snag Machine. (And, she supposed, the outfit.)

    The Poké Mart doors slid open again, and the dark-clothed man came running out. He had a bag gripped tight in one hand, and a black bandana covering his nose, mouth, and chin. The clerk came out as well, looking stricken and worried.

    "Stop! Thief!" The clerk cried. "I got robbed! He took all the money!"

    May shot to her feet, the empty box falling from her lap. Crumpled paper scattered on the ground. Still holding the goggles, she reached into her bag for a Poké Ball. She looked over at the running man, who had turned around at the clerk's voice. He must have seen her Poké Ball, because he was now holding one as well.

    The running man skidded to a stop and heaved his Poké Ball. May tossed hers, and they both landed on the ground and split open. From May's came a massive, teal-colored creature resembling a toad with a wide head. Short, powerful legs supported its body. The most eye-catching thing about this Pokémon was the vegetation on its back. A thick trunk surrounded by fronds supported a large, pink flower. A yellow seed poked out from the center of the flower, showing the Venusaur was female.

    The Pokémon that emerged from the thief's Poké Ball was completely different. Fluffy, white feathers made its body and wings resemble a cloud. Two small feet and five tail feathers poked out from the bottom. A long, elegant neck ended with a round, beaked head. Two ribbons flowed from the top its head. May recognized this Pokémon from when she explored Hoenn: it was an Altaria.

    Without warning, a beeping sound started. May looked around for the source, and found it: the goggles. But why would the goggles be making noise? Looking at them, she could see an image of some sort displayed on the lenses. Guess there's only one thing to do. May slipped the goggles on her head and secured them over her eyes.

    This answered her previous question about distinguishing Shadow Pokémon. Now that she was wearing the goggles, May could see an aura flowing around the Altaria. It drifted around the Humming Pokémon like smoke, albeit dyed a deep purple. "So this is a Shadow Pokémon." She murmured.

    "If you're spacing out with your new accessory, you're going to lose!" The thief was shouting at her, and it shook May out her reprieve. "Let me show you the power of my Pokémon! Altaria! Shadow Rush!" The Pokémon spread its wings, the smoky aura around it intensifying. Then it charged at Venusaur, ramming full-force into the Grass-type.

    Venusaur winced, emitting a low growl. May could see a mark appearing on her Pokémon's forehead. She didn't think the Altaria's attack had hurt that much. Yet Venusaur was reacting as though it got attacked with a Fire-type move. Something's not right. She thought. That Altaria's doing more damage than it should. "Alright Venusaur," May said. "Let's not give that Altaria another chance. Try a Sludge Bomb!"

    Crouching a bit, Venusaur launched a glob of solidified poison from her flower. The toxic projectile arced through the air, small drops splattering onto the ground. It landed on the Altaria before it had a chance to evade, coating it in poison. The Flying-type cried out in pain, even as the attack dissipated. May could see a purple "blush" appearing on the Altaria's face. Venusaur's attack had poisoned it.

    "What the hell are you doing?!" The thief snarled as his Altaria shuddered, the poison coursing through its body. "We're part of Abyss! We're not supposed to lose!"

    Abyss? May's mind began to race. He said it as a name, likely that of a group. If they were using Shadow Pokémon, could they be the people trying to take over Orre? Either way, this thief was her first piece of information. She had to get more out of him once the battle was over. But for now, snagging the Altaria took priority.

    The thief, meanwhile, was not in a good mood. His superiors had entrusted him with a precious Shadow Pokémon. He should be defeating anyone who tried to stop him. Yet here he was, getting shown up by some brat. That would please neither himself nor his supervisors. He had to end this battle now, and he knew just how to do it.

    "Use Shadow Rush." He snapped at Altaria. "And don't even think about stopping." He smiled underneath his bandana as Altaria lunged towards Venusaur. There was nothing like having a completely obedient and ruthless Pokémon on your side.

    May's Venusaur fired off a Razor Leaf as the Altaria approached, but it dodged out of the way. As Altaria soared back around for another assault, May got an idea. She whispered it to Venusaur, who nodded her understanding. The Seed Pokémon braced itself as Altaria rammed her with continuous Shadow Rushes.

    "You're not gonna win like that!" Taunted the thief. May kept quiet. She had to pay attention, waiting for the right moment. Even a large Pokémon Venusaur could only take so much damage. If May missed her chance, this battle wasn't going to end well for her.

    As the Altaria hurled towards Venusaur for a sixth time, it happened. The poison unleashed a fresh surge through its bloodstream, and it froze in midair. This is what May was waiting for. "Now, Venusaur! Grab it with Vine Whip!"

    Thick, dark green vines lashed out from the base of Venusaur's trunk. They wrapped around Altaria, restricting its movements. It tried to struggle, but the vines were too tight. Then Venusaur yanked her vines straight down, slamming Altaria into the ground. This kicked up a huge cloud of dust, obscuring the battlefield for a moment.

    Venusaur retracted her vines as the dust settled, revealing the Altaria. It was lying unconscious in a small crater, worn out from poison and the impact. Its aura was still visible through the goggles. It was time at last for May to try out the Snag Machine.

    She grabbed an empty Poké Ball from her bag and grasped it in her right hand. The Poké Ball was flush up against the concave surface of the Capture Core. May tapped the "Snag" icon on the screen. Both the Capture Core and the Poké Ball glowed gold for a brief moment. Now the screen only displayed one word: "Capture".

    "Here goes nothing!" May tossed the Poké Ball at the unconscious Altaria. The Poké Ball opened on contact. It enveloped the Altaria in light before drawing it inside. It clattered onto the ground, the center button flashing. May held her breath, watching the Poké Ball wiggle back and forth. Once... twice... three times... click.

    May exhaled, relief flooding her body. The Snag Machine worked as promised. She walked forward and picked up the Poké Ball. As May already had a full party of six Pokémon, the center light remained red. Unless she swapped out a Pokémon, she wouldn't be able to use the Shadow Altaria for now.

    She lifted the goggles off her eyes and looked up. The thief just staring at her. If he wasn't wearing the bandana, May would be able to see his mouth hanging open.

    "Did... did you just capture my Pokémon?" He asked in disbelief.

    "... Yeah."

    They stared at each other for a moment. Then the thief turned and start to run. But May wasn't about to let him get away, especially since he was still holding the money bag. "Oh no you don't!" She yelled. "Venusaur!"

    Venusaur lashed out with her vines again, pinning the thief's arms to his sides. He continued swinging his legs even as Venusaur lifted him up into the air. The thief was still swinging his legs, but realizing the futility, desisted. The Pokémon held him in front of her Trainer. He did his best to glare at her until he remembered he was wearing sunglasses.

    "So," said May, hands on her hips, brow furrowed. "You have some explaining to do."

    "I'm not gonna tell you anything." snapped the thief. He gripped the bag of stolen cash tighter in his hand. He may have lost his Shadow Pokémon, but he wasn't about to give up on the money. At least until May yanked the bag out of his hand.

    "I'm taking this back, at least." May tapped her foot, thinking of what she could do to get this guy to talk. She thought it improbable that he was a first-time offender given his attitude. This rendered threats of jail or similar punishments useless.

    "Okay, I'll make this simple." She told the thief. "I'm only gonna ask one question. Give me an answer, and I let you go. Stay quiet, and Venusaur keeps you as a new stuffed toy. Sound good?" The thief nodded, so May posed her question. "Where's the closest Abyss base?"

    The thief pointed left to the path leading out of port. It was difficult to do with his arms trapped against his torso, but he managed. "Out east that way. In Pyrite Town."

    Satisfied, May nodded at Venusaur, who released her grip on the thief. He fell to the ground. He was only about two feet in the air, so he landed with a small "oof!"

    "See?" said May, a light smile across her lips. "That wasn't so bad." She turned away from him, switching the Altaria's Poké Ball for her Venusaur's. As she recalled her Pokémon, she saw the thief running away out of the corner of her eye. May had already retrieved both the stolen money and the Shadow Pokémon. She had no reason to chase him.

    But he wasn't running the way he had pointed. Instead, the thief ran straight towards the Ludicolo-shaped building, off to the right. He had lied to her face and went off in the opposite direction to escape. But by coincidence, Max was keen with pulling that same trick. May knew better than to fall for it by this point. That's why she had asked for an answer instead of the right answer. She figured the thief would lie, and letting him do so revealed the true location.

    "Of course." She mused, staring at the flashing lights draped across the building. "What could be more inconspicuous than an illuminated pineapple duck?"

    To be continued...



    The writing style should feel less clunky after this: as I've said, I had experimented with an editing program but it didn't quite work out to my liking. Hope you enjoy and comment all the same!

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  5. #5
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    Oh, I don't think I've gotten to read an anime-based fic here yet. And one that ties into the Orre games too. I always feel like they deserve more attention but don't trust myself to write a good Orre. The opening is a nice, curt bridge between the end of the Magma/Aqua stuff in the anime and the villainous remnants arriving in Orre. Though, the vague use of "she" to refer to the new leader takes me out of it a bit.

    Moving on, I'd have to echo some of Cutlerine's comments about the narration sometimes feeling redundant or a bit clunky. For example, both May and Norman separately mention the lack of a return address on the package, and one of those isn't necessary. And the box dimensions don't seem necessary. I would imagine the average person would have difficulty visualizing exact inches, and I myself would have preferred something vaguer. Anyway, the way May gets a hold of the Snag Machine feels very, secret agent-y. I know that's not a real word but I'm going for it anyway. Especially the whole "more instructions later," tidbit. But, I will roll with it as I'm interested to see just how crazy this villainous scheme gets.

    I did spot one grammatical mix-up in the first chapter:

    It light up immediately and projected a three-dimensional image just above the device's screen.
    Should be "lit up."

    Also,
    "Thanks for that." She said, patting its head before turning her attention back to the metal box.
    I believe that, if you're going to follow up a quote with a dialogue attribution, as Cutlerine noted, you need to end it with a comma and not a period. I think there were a few instances of this in the first chapter.

    Starting off chapter 2, I'm glad May's quite nervous about this trip. Since she's venturing into the unknown here, after all. That said, a bit of a minor narrative nitpick, but personally I'd have enjoyed seeing May acknowledge Mr. Briney herself, rather than the narration remind us of who the guy is. I think it's more entertaining that way. But that's just me. Likewise, having May say that Norman doesn't tell her much and then have the narration mention him not having much of a life out of the gym seems a bit redundant. Especially since anyone who's familiar with Norman knows he's a workaholic.

    Your layout of Gateon Port seemed succinct to me and didn't drag, though someone could always disagree with me. Doesn't take long for that espionage vibe to kick in again. Giving a password of sorts to a shopkeeper is standard spy fare, as far as I'm concerned. And that gets quickly lampshaded. May's got a sense of humor about her.

    Moving on to the thief battle, it's very faithful to the Orre games' mechanics. The Shadow Altaria emits a similar aura, and has access to your standard shadow-type moves. May is understandably confused by the attack. Your initial descriptions of the moves are very vivid too, and brought the games right to mind. But, you stick more to the anime logic of basically defeating a Pokémon before trying to catch it. Like your opening flunky, the guy doesn't take the loss well and, wow, May's pretty vicious toward the guy. Already channeling her inner Wes, I see. I can buy Max's behavior as her rationale for outwitting the flunky. I would think she'd want to get her bearings first before storming the base. But hey, I can appreciate getting into the action right away.

    Lastly, the dialogue bit I mentioned in chapter 1 is also present here. Some quotes that are followed by attributions end in periods when they should have commas. Alternatively,

    "Stop! Thief!" The clerk cried. "I got robbed! He took all the money!"
    That still counts as an attribution, so "the" should be lower-case.

    Overall, I'm intrigued. There are definitely fics out there that try to incorporate Orre into the anime-verse, but I don't think I've seen any actually going to Orre. So, this should be fun!
    Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light
    Sometimes becoming a Pokémon isn't all fun and games.

    Latest Episode: Striking Midnight (5 of 5 chapters posted)

  6. #6
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    Hey Ambyssin, thanks for taking the time to leave such an in-depth review, I appreciate it! I hope any misgivings in these first couple chapters don't deter you from sticking around (because hopefully the rest of the chapters sound more fluid). I'll look over the grammar mistakes and edit accordingly, so thanks for pointing those out.

    Honestly, from reading what you guys have said so far, I'm kind of embarrassed that I ran them through what program I did: style is subjective and some things sounds better to a human than to an AI. I feel almost as though as shot myself in the foot with this: if the first couple chapters are clunky, then not many people are going to stick around to read the rest of it. Though, granted, the comments I've gotten so far have proved otherwise, which I'm very thankful for.

    I'm going to think over rewriting these first two chapters as I post the rest (chapter three will likely be up tomorrow). Chapter Eight is currently in the works, and I'm hesitant to put it on hold, but I might go about this rewriting after that chapter is up. I'd really like to thank you guys for posting such succinct reviews, they really give me the motivation to continue working on this story. I told myself when I started this that I wanted it to be as polished as possible and to see it through to completion, so I'm glad to hear that my effort is worth the investment. I'll do my best not to disappoint!

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  7. #7
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    Alright, here's chapter three. Ideally the writing's not as bad as the first two, but I'm not the best person to be judging that. We get introduced to our first major original character, so hopefully she goes over well.



    Chapter 3
    "Heads-or-Tails Casino Battle! VS Abyss Admin Galli!"

    The flashing lights, alternating between lime green and aqua blue, made May's eyes water just by looking at them. She blinked to dispel the tears welling up and stared at the building again. Shaped like a Ludicolo with its arms raised, the beak-like mouth formed the doorway, the upper segment acting as an awning. A pink neon sign reading "Lucky Ludicolo" sat just above the double steel doors.

    This is incredibly tacky. May thought, reaching the awning's minimal shade. She grabbed one of the handles and wrenched a door open.

    A torrent of sound almost blew her backwards, and she slipped inside before unnecessary attention could be drawn towards her. The door closed with a snap behind her, and for a moment she wondered how thick they had to be if all the noise couldn't be heard from outside. Taking a few seconds to reorient herself, May stepped up to the railing in front of her and peered around.

    As she should have gleaned from the name, the Lucky Ludicolo turned out to be a casino. Slot machines lined both walls on the lower floor, clinking and chiming as their players deposited coins and yanked levers. Aligned in the middle sat roulette tables, pearly-white marbles spinning around the actual roulettes, the whirring of their motion hardly discernable among the loud talking and cheering.

    Further back, May could see card tables, with sharply-dressed dealers flicking out cards to the people sitting around them. A small curtained stage lay flush up against the far wall. Spotlights hung from rafters directly above. Looking back up the second floor where she was standing, May saw finely polished oak bars, with patrons sipping drinks under dimmed lighting. To her right, a counter with a sign reading "CHANGE" had a line of people waiting to trade in cash for coins.

    It's the Mauville Game Corner all over again. May leaned against the railing with her chin in her palm. But why would that thief (now "Abyss Grunt" since he all but declared his affiliation during the battle) run in here? Glancing down at the sea of people below, May couldn't see anyone matching the description. There were people in dark clothing, but they wore tuxedos and dresses rather than just normal clothing that happened to be dark. She hoped this wasn't another trick and that the Grunt had faked her out. He didn't seem smart enough for that…

    A loud fanfare disrupted May's thoughts and she jolted upright. The spotlights were converging onto the stage, and all the casino patrons stopped and turned to watch (those sitting at the bar either ignored it or glanced over before returning to their drinks). The curtains pulled back, revealing microphone stands, a drum kit, and guitars. For a moment May thought a band was going to play, and it seemed to be true when a girl walked on stage, but the girl walked up to the front-most microphone and no one else appeared behind her.

    "Greetings one and all!" said the girl, spreading her arms out wide in welcome. She was adorned in a rather particular outfit: a gray polo shirt under a long-sleeved pink shirt with a tutu (itself under a red vest), and pink boots. Her hands were gloved and one was clutching a baton. A purple top hat nestled on top of her short, dirty blonde hair. "Welcome to the Lucky Ludicolo!"

    The girl paused here, as the crowd had started cheering and whooping. "My name is Manya, and I'll be your hostess for today. We have a few musical acts and performances lined up for later, so look forward to them! Please enjoy your stay!"

    The crowd applauded as Manya departed the stage, the curtains closing after her. As the crowd returned to its pre-announcement level of chatter, May turned to one of the bars. If the movies she had watched were any indication, bartenders usually saw things most people didn't. Maybe one of them had seen the Grunt running through here earlier.

    "Lotsa people come runnin' through here," said the first bartender she tried, a bored-looking man with a narrow face. "I just serve drinks." He turned away to serve a customer, giving May time to sigh without him noticing.

    The bartender looked back at her, picking up a glass and drying it with a towel. "Look, if you're really tryin' to find someone, go downstairs and ask to see Manya. She's pretty popular, and prob'ly knows somethin'. Tell 'er Jack sent you over."

    This better work, May thought as she made her way down the stairs, leaning against the wall to allow a harassed-looking waiter to pass by. But again, why would that guy run in here? Perhaps he knew the casino would be crowded, and would be able to sneak away from her… but wouldn't his dark clothing make him stand out, even amongst all the suits and fancy clothes? Maybe the Grunt worked here… but then, why rob the Mart? Either way, there was some connection between the Grunt and this casino. May hoped Manya would be willing to answer her questions, but there was only one way to find out.

    May weaved through tables and gamblers until she found herself in front of the stage. The curtains were still down, and there didn't seem to be any doors nearby. Glancing around for any security personnel, May clambered onto the stage, hoping that no one was looking over, and slipped behind the heavy curtains. There was much less lighting back here, so it was difficult to see at first. Gradually her eyesight adjusted, and she could make out the musical equipment.

    Now where could Manya have gone? May moved over the rear stage, hands gliding over the wall, looking for a hidden door or something. When that failed, she moved down to the floor in case there was a trap door. Nothing. Frowning with her hands on her hips, May looked around the stage again. A small flash caught her attention: there was a small divide between the curtains, and light was reflecting off a thin ladder just off to the side.

    Hiding in the attic, are we? May began her ascent, attempting to stay quiet. The last thing she needed was for some large security guard to grab her leg and yank her down. The ladder ended, and May pulled herself up. She was standing in a dimly-lit hallway that seemed to be a hidden section of the second floor. Doors lined the sides, with plaques reading things like "Storage" or "Custodial".

    May set off down the hallway, a dank, musty smell filling her nose. Her footsteps were muffled by the dirty carpeting on the floor, silencing her approach. I hope this isn't the VIP section. She heard herself thinking, as she stole quick looks at each door in turn. Finally, on the last door, was a faded plaque reading "Manya". With a deep, steadying breath, May rapped lightly on the door.

    "Who is it?" asked Manya's voice, muffled by the door.

    "Jack sent me." replied May, turning away to make sure no one was coming up the hallway.

    There was no immediate response, but after a moment a lock clattered. May turned back in time to see Manya's bemused face poking out of the open door.

    "C'mon in," said Manya, standing aside to let her pass. May stepped over the threshold as Manya shut and locked the door.

    The room was very small and cramped. A small vanity with a cracked mirror sat in a corner, a rusty bar stool sitting in front of it. Standing next to the door was a wooden coatrack, Manya's top hat dangling from the top-most peg. The left-most wall was taken up by a wardrobe, and the only lighting was a bare lightbulb in the middle of the ceiling.

    "It's not much," Manya said, noticing May looking around. "I may be the hostess, but the owner doesn't think highly of me." She sat down on the bar stool and crossed her legs, staring up at May. She seemed to be about the same age as May, if not slightly younger. "So what can I do for ya?"

    "I'm looking for someone," said May, the words spilling out of her mouth. She was so urgent to find the Grunt that she didn't consider how best to phrase her request. "And the bartender — Jack, I mean — said you'd know who I'm looking for."

    Manya's thin eyebrows narrowed, her mouth twisted into a slight frown. "I see lots of people," she said, picking up a damp tissue from the vanity and wiping the eye shadow and lipstick off her face. "You'll have to be more specific."

    "Dark clothes, sunglasses, with a bandanna over his mouth." May rattled off the Grunt's description, closely watching Manya's face for signs of recognition. "Came running in here not too long ago."

    Manya slowly lowered the tissue from her face. Her eyes, a light purple, bored into May's, and her frown became even more pronounced. She didn't say anything, and the two girls stared at each other, the only sound coming from the flickering light bulb.

    With a glance towards the door to make sure it was still locked, Manya said, "You're after Abyss, then?"

    "So you know of them?" May's heart quickened, and she forced herself to appear calm and collected.

    "'Course I know them." answered Manya, speaking in a low voice. "They run this place. The owner's one of the Administrators." She turned to face the vanity mirror, pulling a hairbrush out of the drawer. "What business do you have with them?"

    "I don't think I'm in a position to say." May became suddenly aware of the Snag Machine on her wrist and resisted the urge to glance at it. She forced herself to focus on Manya, who was now brushing her hair and watching May through the mirror. "I just have business with them."

    Manya continued brushing her hair, her expression unreadable. She set the brush down and turned to face May again. "What's your name?"

    May hesitated. It just occurred to her that if Manya was part of Abyss, she was giving away her identity to the enemy. If cornered here, her journey would be forced into a very abrupt (and no doubt painful) conclusion. Then she recalled what Manya had said earlier, that she wasn't on good terms with the owner… it might be risky, but she had to know.

    "I need to know that you're not one of them, first." She said instead, crossing her arms so that the Snag Machine was hidden under her left arm.

    Manya scoffed, folding her arms as well, only in disgust. "I'd rather be dead than with them. I told you, didn't I? The owner doesn't like me."

    "Yet you're working here." May blurted out before she could stop herself.

    Manya sighed and buried her face in her hands, her sandy blonde hair falling over her fingers. Sitting up, she looked at May, eyes tearing up. "It's not by choice," She explained, her voice wavering. "It's complicated, but…" Manya turned away, wiping her eyes on her sleeve, and May felt guilt bubbling in her stomach for not having better constraint.

    "I said the owner's an Admin, right?" Manya murmured, gazing at May with a mix of helplessness and rage. "Well… He's also my brother. My older, vindictive, Arceus-given-glory brother. He forced me into this whole thing…"

    Trying to ignore the burning shame now flowing through her, May stepped a little closer, which wasn't difficult in the tiny room. "Er… I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring up —"

    Manya waved a hand, sniffling. She swallowed and her teary eyes now burned with something like determination. "No, it's… don't worry. Look, you said…" She paused, and May knew Manya was prompting for her name again.

    "May. My name's May."

    "May, you said you have business with Abyss. The guy you described, it's the uniform for their foot soldiers. If you're chasing after him, then he's probably telling his boss — my brother — all about that. If they find out you're here… do they?" Manya asked, to which May shook her head and explained what happened after her battle with the Grunt. "Okay, then in that case, at most the base in Pyrite — if there even is one there — will be alerted. Not so much here, but you shouldn't count on it."

    "You sure know a lot," May pointed out. "And you say you're not with them?"

    "I know how my brother operates." Manya wiped her eyes, now burning more fiercely, with her sleeve again. "I've always been good with listening carefully without him knowing, so when he has me doing tasks for him I pick up on what he does." She blinked at May, frowning again. "Are you gonna be going after him now?"

    "It seems like it," May admitted, her stomach twisting itself into a knot at the prospect of battling a powerful Trainer. "If he's the guy in charge, I'll have to. You don't mind, do you?" She added with a light smirk.

    Manya shook her head, hair whipping back and forth. "If anything, I'd want to see you pound him… you're a Trainer, right?"

    "Er…" May felt her stomach tighten, which was a surprise considering she didn't think she could get any more uncomfortable. "I'm a Coordinator. I specialize in Pokémon Contests."

    "Pokémon what?" asked Manya, startled. "Contests? What are those?"

    May's stomach squirmed again, and she hastened to clarify. A chill shot along her body, and she was suddenly aware of how sweaty she had become. "I mean, I can battle. I just… don't focus on it."

    "Okay," said Manya, not sounding entirely convinced. "Well, you're after Abyss one way or another, so you should have some ability, at least…"

    "Right." May wondered off-hand if she had tightened the belts on her corset-like top too much; she didn't like the idea of being this nervous already.

    "I can take you to my brother," said Manya, the bar stool creaking as she stood up. "He has his own room, on this floor. Follow behind me, but not too close." She opened the vanity drawer again, putting the hairbrush back and pulling out a couple of Poké Balls. "I can offer some support, too, if needed."

    "I appreciate that." May smiled with what she hoped was confidence. "Lead the way."

    "By the way," Manya said as they exited out to the hallway, the musty smell rising back to their noses. "What's with the outfit?"

    "I'd rather not explain that…"

    Manya walked through a door opposite her room, which led to another hallway. May followed a few steps behind, so it wouldn't look like the two girls were walking together. Over her shoulder, Manya said in an undertone, "My brother… his name's Galli. Just so you know who he is. Although his inflated head would tip you off anyways…"

    May smiled to herself, reminded of her own sibling rivalry with her younger brother, Max. They looked after each other, of course, because that's what siblings do; but there's always, more often than not, antagonism in that sort of relationship. With the amount of distress Manya displayed back in her room, her connection with Galli seemed to be more than just light-hearted insults and pranks.

    They came up to a set of double doors, much like those of the casino's entrance. Words painted across them read "Casino Manager: Galli". Loud music was playing inside, with heavy bass notes shaking the floor and their eardrums. Manya stayed off to the side, against the wall. May stood nearby, uncertain of how to proceed.

    "I'll go in first," Manya said. May had to put her head close to hers just to hear what she was saying; the music prevented them from being overheard, but it also made it difficult for them to hear each other properly. "I'll tell Galli he has a visitor, and then you come in."

    "That's it?"

    "Trust me, when you see him, you'll understand. He's not the brightest person you'll meet."

    May's insides gave another unpleasant squirm. She wasn't keen on just charging in and demanding a battle; that sort of behavior was reserved for people like Brendan Birch and her old traveling companion Ash Ketchum. On the other hand, she had come this far already and it was a necessary step in completing her mission. Plus, to abandon Manya when she, May, had already declared her intentions, was downright rude. At this point, what choice did she have? "Alright."

    Manya nodded, then turned and strode confidently through the doors. May heard muffled voices, and the music was lowered to a more comfortable level.

    "…someone here to see you." Came Manya's voice.

    "Who?" demanded a slow, male voice that had to be Galli's. It sounded somewhat slurred, yet arrogant and commanding.

    "I'll show you," said Manya, and one of the double doors swung open into the room. May took it as her cue and strolled on through.

    She entered a much larger room than Manya's dressing room. Large, curtained windows lined each side wall. Speakers and subwoofers stood against the walls nearest the doors, and there was a personal bar towards the back. Nestled in the floor space between sat three black leather couches arranged in a "U". The two couches on the side each had a person reclining on them, but the middle couch had May's attention.

    Sitting there, sprawled with legs wide and arms up on the back, was Galli. He was blond, like his sister, but his slicked-back hair was bleached instead of sandy. A loose-fitting suit covered his thin, scrawny frame, and his wide mouth was contorted into a scowl. In one of his hands, held between a ringed finger and thumb, was a cigarette. His eyes, deep purple and bloodshot, narrowed at the sight of May.

    "Who're you?" He asked in the same demanding tone as before. Out of the corner of her eye May saw Manya roll her eyes.

    "Someone who has urgent business with you." May replied, trying to keep your voice even and steady. Galli looked like someone who wasn't to be trifled with, so she wanted to appear as unthreatening as possible (though she knew she didn't appear to be any magnitude of a threat, silly outfit or not).

    "What kind of business?" asked Galli, bringing the cigarette to his lips and inhaling deeply. He exhaled smoke, which dissipated as it drifted up to the ceiling, his eyes roaming over May. "The way you look, I'd think I'd remember you if we've met before…"

    She had only been talking to him for five seconds and she already hated this piece of work. "Pokémon related, if you can believe that."

    "Ah? Do tell, girlie." Galli took another breath of his cigarette, his hazed-over eyes still fixed on May.

    "Well… I was enjoying your casino," May said, thinking quickly and hoping her mouth would be able to keep up with her brain. "A little too much, actually… I lost quite a bit of money, my luck is terrible… but it was on my father's card, and he'd go ballistic if he found out. I saw Manya passing by, so I asked if there was any way to get back what I lost, and she said I had to talk to you." She could see Manya nodding in affirmation.

    Galli said nothing at first, but shifted his gaze slightly to glare at Manya. "Thought you'd take advantage of my generosity, huh?" He spat, before turning back to May, his tone only marginally friendlier. "Normally, I don't do this," he drawled, as if speaking faster would rob him of the imagined power he was enjoying. "But you're a fine-looking lady, and I'd hate to disappoint you."

    He stood up, the couch creaking and groaning. He had to be at least six feet tall, and was more intimidating than when he was lounging. "If you beat me in a one-on-one battle, I'll recoup your losses. Sound good?" He stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray on the bar behind him.

    May nodded, becoming increasingly aware of her sweating. She reached for a Poké Ball when Galli spoke up again.

    "Though, if you lose," He said, his voice dropping to a deep, menacing baritone. "I'll keep your money, and then some. I am running a business here, after all, and in a casino, the house always wins."

    "Were you practicing that?" asked Manya, now leaning against the wall with her arms folded.

    "None of your business," Galli snapped, pulling a Poké Ball from his suit pocket. The men sitting on the side couches snickered. "You keep outta this, sis, you've done your part."

    "Fine, fine." Manya rolled her eyes again.

    "Now then… you ready, girlie?" Without waiting for an answer, Galli tossed his Poké Ball, which clattered on the floor and split open. The Pokémon that emerged from it resembled a large, bipedal lobster. Short, rounded legs supported its weight, aided by tiny claws on its abdomen. Large pincers snapped as the Crawdaunt narrowed its deep-socketed eyes. A star-shaped growth protruded from the top of its head.

    The goggles atop May's head started beeping again. With a flash of panic and hoping that the music was still loud enough to mask the noise, she yanked them down over her eyes. Just like with the Altaria earlier, a smoky black-purple aura floated around the Crawdaunt. Clearly, this was a Shadow Pokémon she had to snag.

    "What's with the goggles?" Galli asked, glaring across the room at her.

    "They help me concentrate." May shot back, throwing out her own Poké Ball. The Pokémon that appeared looked like a small, round-headed, rabbit-eared bear cub wearing a fuzzy dress. With a yawn and a sniff, Munchlax cast a blank look over its shoulder at its Trainer, scratching its head with a small paw. "Munchlax," May said, kneeling down. "I need you to concentrate, okay?"

    Munchlax affirmed with a bark-like "Munch!" and turned to face the Crawdaunt. Standing up, May noticed everyone else in the room casting bemused stares at her Pokémon.

    "What the hell is that?" Galli half-shouted, pointed a finger at Munchlax, his face a mixture of fear and confusion.

    "Er," May stared down at Munchlax, who seemed ignorant of the attention it was gaining. She didn't think it would have been a bad idea to use her Munchlax, but it seemed to be a Pokémon that wasn't found commonly in Orre. "This is Munchlax," she stated lamely, gesturing redundantly with her hand. "It evolves into Snorlax."

    "Snorlax doesn't evolve from anything," declared Galli, his hands balled into fists. "Who the hell d'you think you are? Crawdaunt, smash that thing!"

    I don't have a good answer to that. May thought, ordering Munchlax to move away as the Crawdaunt lunged forward, pincers open. Munchlax slid sideways with uneasy grace, and the Crawdaunt missed its Vice Grip attack. "Alright, now Body Slam it!"

    Munchlax threw all of its weight towards the Rouge Pokémon, which jumped back towards its Trainer. Munchlax thudded to the floor, shaking the room almost as much as the subwoofers still blaring in the background.

    I'm at a disadvantage in speed. May told herself, eyeing the Shadow Crawdaunt as Munchlax heaved itself back up to a standing position. If I try to attack it directly, I'll keep missing… The best thing she could do would be drawing in Crawdaunt towards Munchlax, taking a hit, and striking back. At this, the image of her Venusaur reacting to the Shadow Altaria's attack popped into her head.

    Okay… that happened because it used a move called Shadow Rush… what if that attack is super-effective against any type? As a Shadow Pokémon, the Crawdaunt probably had the same move. If Galli decided to use it, May hoped that Munchlax would be able to withstand the impact.

    "Crawdaunt, grab that thing again!" Galli ordered, and it obeyed, rushing forward with its claws stretched open.

    Munchlax wouldn't be able to evade in time, so May said, "Just give it one arm!" Munchlax threw its right arm back so the Crawdaunt's left claw missed, but the lobster-like Pokémon already had Munchlax's left arm in its grasp.

    "Gotcha now!" Galli shouted, a manic gleam in his eyes. "Shadow Hold!"

    Black light drifted like smoke from inside Crawdaunt's claw. Snaking its way around Munchlax's body, it floated down to the floor and covered its feet. It looked as though Munchlax was standing on a storm cloud.

    "You won't be able to get away from this one, girlie. Crabhammer!"

    Crawdaunt raised its right claw above its head, its beady eyes flushed with aggression. A focused stream of water spiraled around the claw, and it swung straight down towards Munchlax's head—

    "Brick Break!" cried May.

    The arm Munchlax had thrown back suddenly glowed with power, and with a swift, horizontal chop, smashed into Crawdaunt's side with such force that its grip slackened and it flew into the wall, throwing up dust and drywall.

    "You alright, Munchlax?" asked May, as her Pokémon waved its left arm up and down in pain. The Big Eater Pokémon turned its head and smiled, which May returned: she knew it would be able to withstand some punishment.

    A harsh, wet gurgle caught her attention, and May whipped around to see the Shadow Crawdaunt emerging from the wall. The aura around it was becoming fiercer, more violent. The goggles beeped again, and two small words appeared on the lenses: "Reverse Mode".

    But there was no time to wonder what Reverse Mode was: both of Crawdaunt's claws were open, and yellow-orange balls of energy were forming inside, growing larger with every second. May's heart skipped a beat: she recognized what attack Crawdaunt was now charging up.

    Hyper Beam.

    She turned back to Munchlax, her mouth dry. "Munchlax — Metronome! Quickly!" It was a desperate gamble, but Munchlax had no other moves in its repertoire that could defend against a Hyper Beam. May usually had good luck with Metronome in Contests… it was time to see what it could do in a battle.

    Munchlax began to wave its forefingers back and forth. Its large, round eyes now took the shape of plus signs. May glanced at the Crawdaunt: the orbs within its claws were almost to the proper size… Munchlax's fingers weren't glowing yet… the orbs were getting larger every second, yet her Pokémon's finger-wagging appeared to be slowing down…

    With a triumphant "Ha!" from Galli, two bursts of pure energy launched from Crawdaunt's pincers. The men sitting on the couches made their first physical movements, leaping away as the Hyper Beam blasted through the furniture, streaking across the room towards Munchlax. Manya, standing behind Munchlax, screamed and dashed out of the room. May's mouth fell open… she wanted to yell… Munchlax hadn't finished—

    And then it happened. Munchlax's eyes snapped wide open, its forefingers glowing brightly. With a proud cry, it spread its arms wide and a shining, translucent barrier appeared around it. The Hyper Beam collided with the Protect, causing a loud, sharp scraping noise to overtake the music. The attack splintered away, smaller beams firing off at angles, some even going straight up and breaking open a hole in the ceiling.

    Crawdaunt's Hyper Beam faded, and the Shadow Pokémon stumbled. The attack had cost it so much stamina that it now had to rest. Munchlax's Protect disappeared, and seeing her Pokémon bathed in sunlight from the hole above granted May a flash of inspiration. Not bothering to stop the smile spreading across her face, she said, "Start charging up a Solar Beam!"

    Munchlax opened its mouth wide and began taking in sunlight. A miniature sun started to form in the space between its jaws. Sunbeams traveled from the hole in the ceiling towards the expanding sphere in Munchlax's mouth. Then, it stopped expanding, and Munchlax leaned forward and fired.

    The blinding, white-hot discharge of sunlight collided with Crawdaunt dead-on, and the Rouge Pokémon let out another gurgle. The Solar Beam lifted it off the ground, slamming it into the wall again, just above the mark it had left earlier. The attack finished (Munchlax falling forward, having leaned in too much), and Crawdaunt collapsed onto the floor, defeated.

    As Galli let out a strangled noise of disbelief, May prepared a Poké Ball with the Snag Machine. The Poké Ball flashed gold, having finished converting into a Snag Ball, and May heaved it at the Crawdaunt. It enveloped the giant lobster and snapped shut, landing on the floor.

    "What the hell?!" screeched Galli, as the Poké Ball waggled thrice and became still with a click. He rounded on May, his reddened face displaying nothing but mingled fury and rage. "What the hell did you just do?!"

    "Snagged your Crawdaunt," May replied, rushing forward to snatch up the Poké Ball. Unlike the Grunt earlier, May had a feeling Galli wasn't going to run away scared: on the contrary, he looked like he was about to strangle her.

    Indeed, Galli took a step forward, his hands stretched out in front of him. May started to turn away (recalling Munchlax as she moved) when the double steel doors slammed open and Manya came running in, a sun-shaped mass of rock floating beside her. A duffel bag was clutched in a gloved hand and she was wearing her top hat again.

    "Solrock," she said to her Pokémon. "Hold back Galli!"

    Solrock's eyes gleamed blue, and Galli's entire body was outlined with light. He was lifted off the floor, suspended in midair by the Solrock's psychic abilities. He turned his gaze towards his sister, his eyes popping out of his head.

    "WHAT THE HELL?!" He screamed again, his limbs flailing wildly in an attempt to break free. "You traitor! Betraying me like this! Me! An Admin of Abyss —"

    "Betraying you implies I was on your side in the first place," snapped Manya, glaring at her brother with extreme dislike. "You treated me like crap for my entire life, and I'm done with it. I'm leaving, and there's nothing you can do about it."

    Galli started mixing in swears with his screaming, which Manya ignored as she turned towards May. "Let me come with you," she said. "I have a ride out back we can use. We'll have to be quick, once I release him —" She nodded towards Galli, still struggling in vain to regain movement against Solrock's Psychic. "— He'll have security after us."

    While May didn't know Manya that well, she didn't have much of a choice (she was starting to notice this was becoming a recurring theme), so she nodded. "After you," She said, slipping Crawdaunt's Poké Ball into her bag.

    Manya's Solrock released its Psychic, dropping Galli to the ground, and the two girls broke into a run. As they dashed out of the room, they heard Galli shouting orders to his compatriots. Manya took the lead down a flight of stairs opposite the hallway they had come up earlier. Solrock floated over May's head to hover near its Trainer.

    "This way!" Manya said over her shoulder, pointing at another set of double steel doors. Judging from the amount of noise from their left, May guessed they were in an area behind the stage. She followed her new friend through the doors, which led to outside behind the casino. A dumpster sat against the building, flattened cardboard boxes lying in front of it.

    Manya was climbing on what looked to be a wheel-less motorbike with a cargo bed attached behind the seat. She dropped her bag and hat onto the bed, gesturing for May to hop on.

    "What is this?" May asked as she clambered on.

    "My pride and joy," Manya replied, fussing with the ignition. "I build things in my spare time… C'mon, baby…" She urged, glancing over her shoulder back at the double doors. The engine roared to life, exhaust spewing out from the back just as the doors slammed open again and large, muscled bouncers stepped out onto the dirt.

    "Hold on tight!" Manya yelled over the engine's rumbling, and gunned the throttle. The bike sped off, sending May toppling backwards. The bouncers started running after them, but couldn't keep up with the bike's speed and began to shrink, gradually disappearing over the horizon.

    May heaved herself up, feeling weary and drained as the adrenaline began to wear off. It seemed hard to believe that she had left Hoenn only a few hours ago, yet here she was, escaping from a casino with a gearhead magician girl on a custom machine through the desert.

    "We'll have to get acquainted some more once we stop," Manya quipped, speaking loudly to be heard over the churning engine and rushing wind.

    "That we do," May admitted, turning to lay flat on her back. Bending her knees to fit comfortably in the cargo bed, she stared up at the clear blue sky. She lifted the goggles off her eyes, wondering how many more surprises she was going to have to endure until this whole adventure was over.

    To be continued...
    Last edited by Cap D. Blue; 18th October 2017 at 8:43 PM.

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  8. #8
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    So, a casino huh? I know we're not going for realism, but since I follow the headcanon that Orre is roughly the Pokéverse equivalent of Arizona and New Mexico, I appreciate a casino's presence, because I know that gambling sites are very big in the southwest (and Nevada, of course). Also, it brings the Rocket Game Corner to mind; perhaps an unintentional Easter egg. And, of course, what spy film's complete without a casino scene, right? It also seems like, judging by some of the patrons wearing tuxes, Orre is perhaps a bit more gentrified than in Colo/XD.

    And, wow, we get to an Abyss admin fairly quickly. Though I seem to recall the Orre games being like that too. Not having a Pokémon League will do that to you. Interesting that Manya's the admin's sibling. I know Cipher kind of introduced a bit of family dynamics between Greevil, Eldes, and Ardos, but it felt a bit shoehorned in. Your Orre names are pretty on point too! Galli reads like a mobster type. More thuggish than classy, so he's not a total Giovanni clone. May's quite the quick thinker here. I'm tempted to say it's almost deceptively quick given she's rather new to this, but I feel like she'll still end up in hot water somehow. That, and she's technically already faced crazy stuff with Ash, so nothing should really faze her by this point. I like your description of Shadow Hold, but I should point out...

    Munchlax wouldn't be unable to evade in time
    You accidentally used a double negative. Pretty sure this should be "wouldn't be able."

    There's a bit of irony to a battle in a casino coming down to a Metronome and, yeah, it's kind of cheesy that Munchlax gets the last-second Protect to find off a Hyper Beam. But it was entertaining, and the resulting mad dash out reminded me of Colosseum's opening, complete with a motorbike escape. I'm sure this was intentional.

    One thing I do need to question however is Abyss' lack of knowledge about the Snag Machine. Maybe it was just Galli's incompetence, but if Abyss did their homework and researched Orre before starting their operation, there's no way they shouldn't know about what the Snag Machine's capable of. It wasn't exactly a well-kept secret. Perhaps you're planning to address this later, but I still though I'd voice the concern.

    Also, you still have to be careful with some of your descriptions. For example, the second sentence of the chapter reads like a fragment:

    Shaped like a Ludicolo with its arms raised, the beak-like mouth formed the doorway, the upper segment acting as an awning.
    I think you need to make clear what your subject (the building) is at the start here. Like, "The building was shaped like a Ludicolo with its arms raised, where the beak-like mouth formed the doorway and the upper segment acted as an awning." I only bring it to your attention because, again, it's right at the very start, and some folks might stop reading upon encountering something like that in the opening paragraph.

    Lastly, I would advise that you be cautious of overly-parsing scene-setting sentences with a bunch of commas, like you did here:

    Aligned in the middle sat roulette tables, pearly-white marbles spinning around the actual roulettes, the whirring of their motion hardly discernable among the loud talking and cheering.
    Aside from being able to delete "aligned" since it's an unnecessary verb, this reads as three separate sentences that got mashed together and broken up by commas. Personally, as a reader, a super-lengthy sentence with a bunch of breaks in it can slow me down and throw me off. I didn't notice this really with the battle, at all, just some of the paragraphs describing the layouts.
    Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light
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  9. #9
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    Fixed some of the things you pointed out (not really liking how all these errors are making me look, but I never claimed I was infallible...)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin
    There's a bit of irony to a battle in a casino coming down to a Metronome and, yeah, it's kind of cheesy that Munchlax gets the last-second Protect to find off a Hyper Beam. But it was entertaining, and the resulting mad dash out reminded me of Colosseum's opening, complete with a motorbike escape. I'm sure this was intentional.

    One thing I do need to question however is Abyss' lack of knowledge about the Snag Machine. Maybe it was just Galli's incompetence, but if Abyss did their homework and researched Orre before starting their operation, there's no way they shouldn't know about what the Snag Machine's capable of. It wasn't exactly a well-kept secret. Perhaps you're planning to address this later, but I still though I'd voice the concern.
    ... Sure. Totally intentional. :P Well, the Metronome was, the motorbike escape was partly to introduce the transportation because it'd be really stupid to have the characters walking through the desert. I'm not writing Johto, after all. Your second point gets addressed (to an extent) in chapter five, but I might revisit it later, I don't have all the plot details ironed out yet.

    I'm gonna claim writer's privilege on your last two concerns, though not to dismiss them completely. I'm fairly confident that the previous sentence directs the attention towards the building, and the roulette sentence sounds alright to me in a rhythmic sense. Granted, description is still a bit of a weak point for me, so your critiques are justifiable. I'll change 'em if enough people point them out, though. Thanks for the input regardless!

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    Here's Chapter Four. It's both the longest and most exposition-heavy chapter so far. If you've played Colosseum/XD: Gale of Darkness, you'll probably end up skimming the last third or so; if you haven't, then you'll be learning along with the characters. We do delve into Manya's backstory, if that's any consolation.



    Chapter 4
    "The Path to Purification! Research at the Pokémon HQ Lab!"

    I'm lying in my warm, comfortable bed. It's the middle of the night, and everything is quiet. My head is sinking into the pillow, and I pull the blankets tighter around me. It's strange, though, how aware I am of the fact that I'm fast asleep…

    There's a sudden sound: a creaking of the floorboards in the hallway. I sit up in my bed, alert. Everything looks blurry, like I'm seeing things through a photography filter. Who's there? I try to say, but nothing comes out of my open mouth. I hope Dad heard it. He'll come rushing in any moment…

    My bedroom door swings open, slamming against the wall. Just as loudly, my heart bangs up into my throat. I reach for a Poké Ball on my nightstand but nothing's there. I turn back to the doorway, but something blocks my view and I'm suddenly pushed back onto my bed.

    "I know what you're doing," a raspy voice says, right in my ear. I sit up again, frantically trying to get even a glimpse of who's in my room. But I can't see anything that doesn't belong…

    "You need to stop fighting." the voice says again, and I try to say I'm not, I'm not doing anything to you —

    "May?"

    "You are nothing compared to me," says the voice, and my room starts fading from view. Everything's going black, and the voice is getting louder and angrier. "You cannot stop what I've started. You will fail, and you will suffer for interfering."

    I don't — I have no idea what you're talking about. Go away! Someone help, please, I can't —

    "That's right, you can't. You're messing with things beyond your control…"


    "May."

    "We are in control. There's nothing you can do against us. We will prevail, and you… you will die."

    No! Don't, don't kill me, I haven't done anything! Please, I was just sleeping… help! Dad! Mom! Someone—


    "May!"

    May snapped her eyes open, out of breath and drenched with sweat. She was lying in the bed of Manya's customized motorbike, staring up at the underside of a tall, shady oak tree. Manya stared down at her, mouth creased into a concerned frown.

    "Wha… what?" May gasped, eyes darting around and landing upon her new friend's face.

    "You fell asleep." said Manya, as May sat up with a groan. "I let you rest for a while," She continued, speaking in a gentle, soothing voice. "But then you starting moaning and twitching."

    May rubbed her hands over her face. She must have been dreaming, then… yes, that was it. Her childhood home, so long a source of security and comfort, was no longer available to her. The goggles were digging into her scalp; she slipped them off and looked over at her new companion. "Where are we?"

    "Under a tree," said Manya with the slightest hint of a smile. "Seriously though, we're a good distance away from Gateon Port right now. We've been riding for about an hour." She reached into her duffel bag and pulled out a couple of plastic water bottles, one of which she handed over to May. "Figured we could get a little more acquainted, as long as we have the time."

    May twisted the bottle open and chugged it down. It wasn't ice-cold, but at least it would keep her hydrated. She sighed, the images of her nightmare flashing by whenever she closed her eyes. What is wrong with me? It hasn't even been a day, and yet this is happening… Was she really as powerless as the voice said?

    "You hungry?" asked Manya, propped up against the tree's trunk and peering into her bag. "I have a couple of snacks here."

    At this, May's stomach emitted a loud rumble. "Yeah," she affirmed, climbing out of the bike's bed. She stumbled a little as her feet touched the surprisingly grassy ground, and attributed that to a combination of hunger, anxiety, and exhaustion. She ought to be used to this by now…

    "So," Manya said, handing May a protein bar and watching her devour it. "What's your story?"

    "Like why am I here?" I'm still trying to figure that out.

    "Well, more like, who you are. Yeah, I know your name and that you're not a Trainer, but…" Manya tilted her hand as if the rest of the sentence was obvious. "Who is the non-Trainer named May? And what are Contests?"

    May stared at Manya, the blue eyes meeting purple. Who am I? I can't answer that completely right now… But May did explain about her journeys through Hoenn and Johto, what Contests where, and how they worked. It didn't take very long (most of her adventuring involved getting lost, after all), but Manya was enraptured and continually cut in with questions and exclamations.

    "You're a very interesting girl," Manya said, once May was finished. "And wow, Pokémon Contests… I never knew such a thing existed." She stared out to the sandy horizon, eyes alight with fascination. "There's so much outside this place."

    May drank some more water, watching out of the corner of her eye. Manya being awestruck was nothing new to her at this point. May had met some fans of her in Johto, who squealed in glee when they saw her and frequently asked for autographs. Manya, at least, was much more subdued, given her very recent exposure to Contests. Lowering the water bottle from her lips, May asked, "Okay… what about you? What's your story?"

    Manya's eyes dulled as she turned to face her. She turned pale, and even seemed a little nervous. "Oh. Alright… I guess it's only fair, after all." She cleared her throat and dusted off her skirt, staring at the creases and folds before speaking.

    "So, my parents were famous magicians. They traveled all around Orre, doing shows and stuff. They had kids pretty late, towards when they decided to retire. Obviously, Galli came first, and for a while, after he was no longer a newborn, they had him in their shows. Nothing too dangerous, just simple disappearing tricks and whatnot.

    "Everyone loved it. Mom and Dad were very talented and respected, never did anything that would endanger themselves or the audience. Y'know, bad press to kill off their own kid. They finally retired once Galli was around five, and they were still well-renowned. Then I came along, and things were… okay. Sort of."

    Manya paused to scratch her knee, gazing back out at the horizon again. "Mom says she regrets having him when they did, because they didn't have a lot of time to raise a kid when they still had their performances to focus on. Once I was born, though, they could be actual parents and pay more attention to a young daughter.

    "Galli hated that." Manya grumbled. "He was so used to applause and being in the spotlight that he couldn't stand it that I was more 'loved' and 'pampered'."

    "You don't think you were?" May asked, picking up on the emphasis Manya had used on the last few words.

    "I'm of the opinion that my parents never got over their career and liked the fact that they had their child perform with them." Manya blurted out. Embarrassment flashed across her face and she returned to staring at her knee. "So a lot of Galli's behavior got overlooked, at least until he starting physically assaulting me."

    May thought of Max and was inwardly thankful that their relationship was manageable. Norman and Caroline would never tolerate any of their kids hurting the other. Doing anything of that sort would result in a grounding or worse.

    "Anyways, Galli got kicked out when he was sixteen, around the time he stabbed me in the leg during dinner." Manya rolled down her stockings to reveal an inch-long scar on her upper left thigh; May's own leg tingled at the sight. "He got involved in a lot of criminal junk, trying to make a name for himself. I kept my nose clean, at least until my parents moved away from Orre and Galli roped me into this whole Abyss business."

    Manya looked up at May, her eyes watery again. "So, that's my story, since you asked." She gulped down some water and hastily wiped her eyes with her sleeve.

    Without thinking, May said, "I think you could get a movie deal out of it, at least."

    Water sprayed over the ground in front of them as Manya started laughing, her chin dripping wet. "That was actually pretty funny!"

    "I'm glad you have a sense of humor about it," replied May, taken aback at Manya's reaction. She had let slip another comment without giving it a thought, and while relieved it had gone through positively this time, it was best not to expect similar reinforcement in the future. I really need to work on holding my tongue, she thought, sipping her bottle as Manya continued to giggle.

    Manya had another question once her laughter had subsided. "I didn't know you could capture other people's Pokémon. Are you a sorceress or something?"

    May hesitated, then lifted up her arm to show off the Snag Machine. "It's this thing," She said, as Manya leaned in to examine the device more closely. "It lets me capture — er, 'snag' — the Pokémon that Abyss is using."

    "You have to capture all their Pokémon?" wondered Manya, eyes wide at the prospect of such a tedious endeavor.

    "Not all of them," answered May, getting up and retrieving the goggles from the bike bed. "Only the ones that are called Shadow Pokémon. These things," She held up the goggles. "Let me tell which Pokémon are Shadow. They have purple smoke floating around them."

    "That's pretty cool," admitted Manya, taking the goggles and thoroughly inspecting them. "They must alter what light spectra are visible to the human eye, seeing as you can't distinguish Shadow Pokémon from regular ones otherwise."

    Half of what Manya said was completely lost on May, but she decided not to let it bother her. As long as the goggles did their job, she was content. The two girls sat in silence for a while, a dry breeze blowing by. Manya continued investigating the goggles, her lips moving soundlessly. May just sat, sipping her water and trying not to let her nightmare resurface.

    "Do these things have a name?" asked Manya, jarring May out of her reprieve.

    "Huh?"

    "The goggles," the blonde repeated. "Do they have a name, at all?"

    May stared, not quite sure what Manya was expecting. "Er… no, they're just 'the goggles', really." She felt her face growing hot and took another gulp of water to hide her embarrassment.

    "Could I give them a name?"

    "You name things?"

    "Sure," Manya shrugged. She gestured to her bike, parked just a few feet in front of them. "That's 'Miss Birdie'."

    "Favorite animal?" May inquired, curious as to the origin of the interesting name.

    "TV show I used to watch," Manya replied, lips unfurling into a sheepish grin. "The girl protagonist was a gearhead with a motorcycle called 'Mister Birdie'. That was around the time I got into mechanics, so I went with a tribute." May had to wonder what type of show that had to be, but set that thought aside.

    "Anyways," Manya continued. "I thought of a name for these goggles, and if you're alright with that…"

    "I don't mind." May said, hoping whatever Manya was thinking of would be better than 'Miss Birdie'.

    "Say hello the 'Aura Lenses'." Manya declared, beaming. "What d'you think?"

    "Better than just 'the goggles'." May reached out to take the Aura Lenses back, but a sudden clattering noise from her bag caught her attention. Rummaging around inside, she quickly found the source: the Poké Ball containing the Altaria she had snagged this morning.

    "What's going on with you?" she asked to the miniaturized capsule resting in the palm of her hand. The Altaria, visible through the translucent top, was throwing itself against the inner walls, as though it was struggling to escape. May glanced at Manya; the other girl had pulled the Aura Lenses over her eyes, most likely to experience seeing a Shadow Pokémon's smoky aura for herself.

    "So my brother's Crawdaunt looked like this, too?"

    "Yeah. I dunno why this one's acting all upset, though." May held the Poké Ball up to her face, frowning at the Altaria. "Maybe because it's a Shadow Pokémon?" A realization came to her as she asked this question: despite her experience, there were still many things about Pokémon she didn't know yet. I'm definitely not the right person for this job.

    Manya was still staring at the Poké Ball with the Aura Lenses. Eventually she looked up and said, "I think I know where our next stop is gonna be."

    How about an asylum, because all of this is gonna drive me crazy. Instead, May took a (hopefully subtle) deep breath and asked where.

    "About another hour's ride from here," Manya explained, putting her water bottle back into her bag and tossing it into Miss Birdie's bed. She pulled off the Aura Lenses and handed them back to May. "They'll know all about Shadow Pokémon, and what to do with 'em."

    "We're not going to an Abyss base, are we?"

    "Please. We need to stay away from them for a while." Manya scrambled onto her bike's seat, and motioned for May to hop aboard. "We're off to the Pokémon HQ Lab."



    They headed north, the sandy docks of Gateon Port replaced by vast plains of lush grass. As Manya explained (yelling to be heard over the roar of Miss Birdie's engine), a river flowed south into the ocean, providing healthy soil for vegetation to grow.

    "The further west you go, the more plant life there is," she shouted, swerving to avoid a rock (May gripped the edges of the cargo bed for stability). "If you go east, it just gets dustier and hotter."

    "You'll have to give me a tour." May yelled back. She settled back into the bed's middle as Manya readjusted the bike back on course. Due to all the grass, the air was fresh and clean, a drastic change from the stale atmosphere surrounding Gateon Port. With nothing else to do for the time being, May placed her forefingers and thumbs together to make a rectangular window in front of her face. "Today on May's Expeditions, we find ourselves riding through the desert…"

    "Talking to yourself back there?" Manya inquired, suppressing a laugh.

    "It helps me relax," May replied, twisting to capture a passing tree.

    "Got any room for a co-host?"

    "I'll need your references first."

    "We are not going back for my brother."



    They pulled into a forest clearing within the hour, aligned with Manya's estimate. The seedy environment of Gateon Port provided a drastic contrast to the serene landscape of the Pokémon HQ Lab. A well-worn dirt path, framed by a wood fence, led up to a circular pavilion. The best comparison May could find for the white-tiled building's shape was the letter "P" set at an angle.

    Large glass windows took up the entire arch of the "P", giving it in the style of an atrium. Just to the right of the atrium was a set of three small domed fountains. A large ceramic Poké Ball protruded from atop the flat roof, expanding and contracting vertically like an accordion. Manya waited for May to extract herself from Miss Birdie's cargo bed before starting up the stairs to the entrance.

    "So what is this place?" May asked, hoping that the people inside wouldn't think too much about her current attire.

    "Well, it's a laboratory," replied Manya, resisting the urge to smirk. "So there's lot of scientists and complicated machinery."

    "I could've gathered that from the name." May nudged her companion with her elbow. "What do they study?"

    "Shadow Pokémon. They helped stopped the last criminal syndicate looking to take over Orre."

    "This sort of thing happened before?" May lapsed into thought, not acknowledging Manya's affirmative nod. Okay, I didn't know that. You'd think they wouldn't require outside help, then… The mart owner's panicked face flashed in May's head as Manya pulled up the glass doors to the HQ Lab. He, at least, had seemed to prefer getting strangers to help rather than staying inside and calling the police. Really speaks about the effectiveness of law enforcement around here.

    Almost every piece of furniture inside was some shade of white, from the receptionist's desk to the floor tiling. The wallpaper, for what it was worth, was the same shade of green May had seen in hospitals (though she was thankful there wasn't any of the same smell). A handful of people were milling about, some wearing lab coats, others blouses and button-up shirts. As few as they were, their indistinct chatter managed to fill up the room.

    It was warmer inside than outside: the tall windows of the atrium created a sort of greenhouse effect. It was somewhat stifling, and while May could hear cold air being churned out of large vents in the ceiling, the air conditioner's efforts did little to suppress the sunlight's heat.

    "C'mon," muttered Manya, and led the way over to the receptionist's desk, a simple marble table with a desktop computer and a phone. The receptionist, a woman about ten years older than either of them, looked up from her computer screen as they approached.

    "How may I help you?" She asked politely, folding her hands atop one another. Her eyes reflected both professionalism and a willingness to help, as well as a hint of curiosity.

    "Hello," chirped Manya, turning on the charm that she had clearly developed as a hostess. "We'd like to see Lily, and if she's not available, Professor Krane, please."

    The receptionist nodded and picked up her phone. Manya turned back to May, one shoulder resting on the edge of the desk. "If anyone can help us, it'll be them." The blonde explained. "Like I said, they helped smooth over the last fiasco."

    "How do you know them?" May asked. It seemed a little strange to her that Manya, a strange performer who had been coerced into her criminal brother's doings, would be on friendly (or at least familiar) terms with scientists.

    The receptionist set down the receiver with a click and said someone would be along in a moment to see them. Manya motioned May to sit at some of the chairs set up in front of the tall windows.

    "Sometimes I'd come out here when I'd had enough of Galli's ******** and wasn't on shift. Despite appearances — " She gestured out towards the room. " — people can be pretty friendly out here. So I figured it'd do me some good to get all buddy-buddy with some folks in a position of authority."

    An image of Professors Oak and Birch popped into May's head. "I get that."

    "Also, before I forget," Manya lowered her voice and murmured, "Honestly… what's with your outfit? I mean, it's cute and all, but what's the purpose?"

    Ignoring the burning in her cheeks, May looked down at the frilly skirt and corset-esque top. "Er," she said, attempting to piece together an acceptable answer. "I thought it would, uh… be better suited for this kind of environment than my normal choice."

    An imaginary voice sounding uncannily like Brendan Birch spoke up at once: You just actually like something I've made for once.

    Furious that she was unconsciously talking to herself in Brendan's voice, May looked back at Manya, who seemed to take her reasoning without question. With an internal sigh, May leaned back in her chair, resting the back of her head against the window. Too much stress all at once… but who can blame me?

    They sat in relative silence for a while (Manya was tapping her fingers against her leg and appeared to be humming under her breath). In an effort to reduce her heart rate, May observed the scientists going about their normal, non-world-saving lives. She could only imagine what she would be doing had the Snag Machine never appeared on her doorstep. There was that Contest in Hearthome City she had considered… that she could handle.

    May spared a glance at the device strapped to her arm. If anything, it felt more like an Iron Ball than an electronic device: a burdening restraint that forced her to do as she was commanded. But I'm at fault, too. She reminded herself, absent-mindedly running her right hand through her hair. I didn't want to be the person who abandoned this entire region to ruin out of selfishness.

    Well, if Abyss doesn't get me, I'm gonna end up doing myself in. Not the most comforting thought in the world, but at least an inner conflict was something May could control to some degree.

    Manya nudged May's side again, jolting her out of her thought process. "We're about to get some answers." She whispered, pointing back to the reception deck.

    May looked over. A slim woman with light brown hair pulled up into the largest bun May had ever seen was talking to the receptionist. She was dressed professionally enough: a rather form-fitting pink pea coat over a knee-length skirt with stockings and pumps. The woman turned to May and Manya, and after confirmation from the receptionist, walked towards them.

    "Manya, it's nice to see you again," the woman said, smiling. Her emerald eyes gleamed as she shook hands with Manya. "Welcome back."

    "Thanks," replied Manya with a smile of her own. "This is my friend, May."

    The woman reached out a hand, which May shook. Forcing a smile up at her, May thought wistfully of her mother Caroline back home in Petalburg. Damn, I haven't called her yet… I bet she's worried regardless of what Dad's told her.

    "I'm Lily," said the woman, motioning for them to follow her. "I'm one of the administrators here." She set off at a walk back past the reception desk, Manya and May not too far behind. "What can I do for you girls?"

    May took the initiate in answering this question: this was her responsibility, after all. "We'd like to know what you can tell us about Shadow Pokémon."

    Lily paused and turned to face them. Her mouth creased into a frown and her eyebrows furrowed as she looked at May. She glanced at Manya, who nodded humorlessly. Lily sighed and set off walking again, turning down a stairwell.

    "I was hoping my expertise in this area wouldn't be necessary again, but I really shouldn't be surprised." Lily said, as they clambered down the steps to the lower floor. "Orre's not the most urbanized region, so we get more lawless activity than you'd like."

    "I'll bet," muttered May, thinking again of the Abyss Grunt she stopped in Gateon Port. Manya nudged her in the side again, but she ignored it.

    They reached the lower floor, and Lily led them down a corridor lined with windowed doors. May caught glimpses as they passed by: people holding clipboards and folders deep in conversation; a janitor whistling while he mopped the floors; and a break room where a scientist dumped their coffee down the sink with a disgusted look on their face.

    Lily pulled open a door and ushered the two girls inside. Manya flicked a switch on the wall, and the florescent bulbs jittered alight, illuminating the room. A few plastic chairs sat in front of a dusty chalkboard, and Lily motioned for them to sit down as she shut the door. May's chair creaked as she settled in, watching Lily pace about.

    "Shadow Pokémon…" The older woman mused aloud, arms folded across her chest. "Well, I suppose the best place to start would be how they differ from normal Pokémon. Shadow Pokémon are, in essence, Pokémon deprived of emotion."

    "Funny how people forget that Pokémon are living, breathing creatures." Cut in Manya, her voice heavy with contempt.

    "That just happen to be capable of producing fire and other crazy powers." Added May, smirking. She caught Lily's blank stare, felt her face heat up, and turned her attention back to her.

    "At any rate," Lily continued. "Shadow Pokémon are powerful, ruthless fighting machines. They have little to no restraint during battle; they're even known to attack Trainers themselves."

    May's heart jumped up to her throat: she was putting herself into more danger than initially thought. If anyone from Abyss, especially with a Shadow Pokémon, was aware that she was after them, there was no doubt that they'd hesitate to target her directly during a battle. Almost subconsciously, her hand reached into her bag and tightly gripped a Poké Ball. The Pokémon inside, as if sensing her emotions, warmed its Poké Ball to a reassuring degree.

    "Can Shadow Pokémon be turned back to normal?" asked Manya, unnecessarily raising her hand into the air. "Or are they stuck as mindless battling machines forever?"

    "Thankfully, they can." Answered Lily, smiling. "Most commonly, being exposed to loving, caring Trainers gradually reverts Shadow Pokémon back into normal Pokémon."

    I can do that, May thought, the hand in her bag drifting over to the rattling Poké Balls holding Altaria and Crawdaunt. I hope. "Are there other methods to curing Shadow Pokémon?"

    "A few, at least as far as we know." Lily stepped over to the chalkboard and picked up a piece of chalk. "One alternate method is using special Scents to massage a Pokémon." She turned and scribbled massaging Scents on the board, the chalk scratching and screeching as she wrote. "This helps reopen a Shadow Pokémon's heart more than just walking around with it.

    "Another method is something we've devised here at the lab the last time this happened: a device known as the Purify Chamber."

    Before May could imagine what such a machine would look like or how it would function, a man in a lab coat opened the door to the room.

    "Oh, there you are, Lily, I — I'm sorry, am I interrupting?"

    "Actually, Professor Krane," Lily said, indirectly introducing the man to Manya and May. "It'd be good of you to join us."

    "Oh. Alright, then." Professor Krane stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. He was dressed much like the other scientists: a white lab coat over a polo shirt and khakis. His glasses were barely distinguishable from his unruly hair; they were almost precisely the exact same shade of brown. "Ah, hello again, Manya!"

    Krane stepped forward to shake her hand, then turned towards May. "Ah, and you are…" He paused, as if trying to recall if he had possibly met her at all before.

    "I'm May," she said, extending her hand. Krane seemed relieved at not having to remember a name he never learned and shook her hand. His skin was cold and slightly damp to the touch.

    "So, ah… what's the word in here?" Krane asked, turning back to Lily.

    "Shadow Pokémon," replied Lily matter-of-factly, and Krane did a double-take.

    "S-shadow…? Oh, dear… what dreadful news. Well, on the bright side," He noted, straightening up. "At least the Purify Chamber will see the light of day yet again… though I'm not sure if that's good or not."

    "We were just about to discuss that, Professor, if you would like to explain it."

    "Oh, yes, certainly… ahem." He strode over to the chalkboard, taking the piece of chalk offered by Lily. "The Purify Chamber is a project I devised with a colleague of mine... Lily's late husband, actually. We wanted to do something after the first Shadow Pokémon incident, and this is our magnum opus, as it were.

    "How it works may seem rather complicated, but it's rather effective at curing Shadow Pokémon. Basically, we have nine Sets, each of which can hold up to five Pokémon. A Shadow Pokémon is placed in the center of the Set —" He drew a circle on the board with a small caricature of a Pikachu in the middle. "And other, non-Shadow Pokémon are organized around based on type advantage."

    Krane whirled around and pointed the chalk at May. "What's a type weak to Electric?"

    "Water," she answered, surprised that she was able to respond after being put on the spot like that.

    Krane dashed off a small Mudkip underneath the Pikachu. "And what's weak to Water?"

    "Fire," said Manya, and Krane doodled a Cyndaquil in the left side of the circle.

    "Good. Now, Fire is strong against —"

    "Ice," replied Lily.

    A hastily-drawn Glalie sat atop the Pikachu. "Now, what is Ice strong against that, in turn, is best to use against Water-type Pokémon?"

    It took her a moment, but May responded with, "Grass."

    The ugliest Skiploom she had ever seen completed the circle. A beaming Krane turned to face his miniscule audience. "As you can see, this is a completed Set. As each of the Pokémon — starting with Pikachu and continuing clockwise — has a type advantage over their neighbor, this Set has maximum flow. Thus, the Shadow Pikachu in the center can be purified at the quickest possible rate."

    "This works with dual-typed Pokémon, as well." added Lily. "As long as at least one type is weak to the previous Pokémon and strong against the next Pokémon in the Set."

    This is worse than Rustboro's Trainer School. "I think I get it… maybe." May stared at Krane's drawing as she tried to make sense of it. "So, as long as I know how types match up against each other, it'll work out?"

    "Essentially, yes." Krane set down his chalk and dusted off his hands. "If you get some hands-on experience with it, it shouldn't be too difficult to understand. Oh yes, before I forget… because Normal-type Pokémon aren't normally strong against any other type, in the Purify Chamber Normal is strong against itself, like Ghost or Dragon."

    "So if you had all Normal Pokémon in a Set, it would have maximum flow." Said Manya, gesturing to the drawing. "As if you did all Ghost or Dragon."

    "Precisely!" beamed Krane. "And with nine Sets, you can purify nine Shadow Pokémon all at once. It works automatically, so you won't need to continually travel back and forth." He adjusted his glasses and looked out at May and Manya. "Any other questions?"

    May opened her mouth, but Lily cut across her. "I have one, but for you, May."

    "… Okay." Lily's directness reminded her once again of Caroline, so May forced herself to settle into the chair and listen.

    "The fact that you're asking about Shadow Pokémon tells me that you've encountered them before coming here. But Shadow Pokémon aren't distinguishable from normal Pokémon… so how are you able to tell which is which?"

    May could almost feel Lily's gaze skimming over her, and shifted slightly at the fact that she was wearing Brendan's handmade clothing. Doing her best to ignore the persistent uncomfortable squirming in her stomach, she said, "It's these goggles. They beep if I'm battling a Shadow Pokémon."

    Lily and Krane both nodded in understanding. Krane leaned over and murmured something into Lily's ear. May could barely make out what he was saying: "… just like Michael's…"

    "And that, I assume, is your Snag Machine?" asked Lily, pointing to the device on May's wrist.

    "Yeah," replied May, suddenly furious at herself for not concealing it. But the next moment, as Lily and Krane held another whispered discussion, she told herself to calm down and that these people were here to help. There was no reason (she hoped) for her to keep things hidden from them.

    "Quite remarkable," came Krane's voice from her side, and she jumped when she realized that the professor had crouched down to better inspect the Snag Machine. "It's a very streamlined design… much more compact that the model we had designed."

    May looked over at Manya for help, but the blonde merely shrugged at her gaze. Finding her voice again, May said, "You guys didn't send this to me?" She had forgotten to look for anyone resembling the woman that had sent her the Snag Machine here, but as both Krane and Lily shook their heads, understood that no one at the HQ Lab had done so.

    "You have a very talented ally out there somewhere," remarked Krane as he stood up. "I would very much like to meet the creator of this device."

    You and me both. May thought. "I have another question. When I was battling a Shadow Pokémon earlier, the goggles —"

    "Aura Lenses," hissed Manya.

    May shot her friend a look. "The Aura Lenses noted something called 'Reverse Mode'. Does that have something to do with Shadow Pokémon?"

    "Yes." said Lily. "The process by which Shadow Pokémon are created is done artificially, but it has flaws. Reverse Mode is when a Shadow Pokémon's emotions leak through. They may disobey if not instructed to use Shadow moves — special moves known only by Shadow Pokémon — and you won't be able to use items on them. It even lingers when you're not battling."

    "You can interrupt Reverse Mode by calling the Pokémon during battle or using a Scent on it," continued Krane, gesturing to Lily's writing on the chalkboard. "As Lily said, Reverse Mode is a distinct imperfection in creating Shadow Pokémon, which are supposed to be emotionless, impassive. The closer a Shadow Pokémon is to being purified (that is, returned to normal), the more frequently Reverse Mode occurs."

    "How can you tell if a Pokémon is ready to be purified?" May wondered aloud, speaking more to herself than anyone. Almost immediately, the Snag Machine chimed and every head in the room turned to look at it. Flustered at being the spontaneous center of attention, May brought up the device and discovered there was a window displayed on the screen.

    "What's it say?" whispered Manya, leaning over towards her.

    May shot another glare at Manya before turning back to the message. Knowing that Lily and Krane were waiting, she read aloud: "Snag Machine 3.0 has been upgraded to Version 1.1. Status of Shadow Pokémon can now be viewed by placing a Poké Ball against the Capture Core and selecting the Shadow Meter option."

    Silence followed, with Lily, Krane, and Manya all sharing a bemused look. Looking up from the Snag Machine, May said, "That was rather convenient." She knew her location was being tracked by whomever had given her the Snag Machine, but to have that message delivered right when she needed it… There isn't a microphone on this thing, is there?

    Krane cleared his throat. "Ahem… if you have any Shadow Pokémon with you, May… would you mind demonstrating…?"

    Not like I have a choice, do I? May reached into her bag and removed one of the rattling Poké Balls. Stealing a peek at the Pokémon inside, she placed the Poké Ball against the Capture Core and held it tight in her hand: with the Altaria still struggling, the last thing she wanted was for it to get lose and start attacking everyone.

    With her other hand, May found the Shadow Meter icon on the screen (a horizontal bar filled in about two-thirds with white) and tapped it. The display altered to an image of Altaria with a meter divided into quintiles underneath it. Only half of the right-most segment was devoid of purple. Not wanting anyone to lean further into her personal space, May held out her arm. "Here you are."

    Krane stroked his chin as he scrutinized the display. "Yes, I see… you've just snagged this Altaria recently, haven't you?"

    "Just this morning," May replied, watching Lily's eyes move over towards Altaria's Poké Ball. "I guess you can tell by that meter, huh?"

    "Indeed. You still have a while to go before it's fully purified, but at least we can be assured that you're of a good disposition." Krane smiled down benignly at her. "Please do your best to purify whatever Shadow Pokémon you snag."

    "You don't have to always come back here," cut in Lily, before May could object to constantly returning to the HQ Lab. "If you manage to bring that meter down to nothing with the Pokémon on you, you should head to Agate Village. It's out east, across the river."

    "What's at Agate Village?" inquired Manya. She noticed May staring at her and said, "I've never been there myself, having been my brother's lap dog and all, so I don't know a lot about it."

    "There's a forest up north there with a very interesting monument." Lily explained, looking between May and Manya. "It's called a Relic Stone, and according to our research, it has the power to fully open a Shadow Pokémon's heart.

    "A Shadow Pokémon can't revert to normal on its own, even if it loses all its inner Shadow," she continued. "You have to visit the Relic Stone to complete the process. The Purify Chamber completes the process automatically, however, so you're free to use whichever you'd like."

    I won't worry about that just yet, then. May thought, placing Altaria's Poké Ball back into her bag. She regarded Krane and Lily a moment before speaking. "Well… thank you both for all of this. I guess there's just one last question…" She waited for the adults' nod of approval before asking, "Would you happen to know where Shadow Pokémon are being made now?"

    Both Krane and Lily shook their heads, but out of the corner of her eye May could see Manya gaping at her. Turning to her, May said, "I just figure the best way to wrap this up quickly is to cut off their production at the source."

    "I get that," Manya said, standing up from her chair with widening eyes. "But that's far too reckless! I told you, Galli's probably informed all of Abyss about you by now. You'd be walking straight into their hands!" She paused, biting her lower lip. "At least let me come with you."

    May almost flat-out said no, that she was putting herself in enough danger and didn't want to put Manya into more trouble with Abyss… but she didn't. May knew that there was no way she was getting wherever she needed to without Manya's bike. If she had learned one thing from her adventures back in Hoenn, it was how helpful other Trainers can be.

    "Alright," the brunette said, and stuck out her hand. Manya blinked, but gave a weak smile and shook it. "At least we're in this together."

    "If I may…"

    Lily's voice made May jump: she had gotten so absorbed with her conversation with Manya that she had completely forgotten about that Krane and Lily were still in the room.

    "I'm not sure how much this will help, but Cipher — the previous organization in Orre — had a factory that created Shadow Pokémon out to the east, at the base of Mount Battle." She noticed May's blank expression and clarified: "Mount Battle's a large volcanic mountain in Orre, it's not too hard to spot. Anyways, I've heard that factory has been abandoned, but given that you have some Shadow Pokémon already, that might be a place to start."

    "Works for me." May reached out and shook Lily's hand. "Thank you so much again for everything." In the infinitesimal pause in which their gazes met, May could see worry and concern reflected in the woman's deep green eyes. She had no precise idea why, but she harbored a strong feeling that Lily was a mother and wanted nothing but for May to be safe. This lingered in May's head enough to not notice Krane's awkward, stuttering good-bye.

    Manya clapped a hand onto May's shoulder. "Ready to go ruin some mad scientists' days?"

    "Sure." May replied, a sly grin creeping across her lips. "I was never all that good at science, so I'm sure I'll be able to mess up something important."

    To be continued...

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  11. #11
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    Since we're four chapter in, I may as well I like that the chapter titles seem to be mimicking the style of the Japanese episode titles in the the Pokémon anime. Though it does kind of give away what's going to happen in the chapters, which mitigates some of the surprise.

    Starting off with crazy nightmares, I see. I'm curious if this is a Shadow Pokémon reaching out to her, some Abyss boss, or a combination of the two. Meanwhile, May and Manya take some time to get to know each other. I like the idea of Manya being part showgirl and part tomgirlish mechanic. It could play off May's personality well. Like that tidbit on the motor cycle with the nature adventures. I got a kick out of that. Along those lines, I also like the first-person snark in May's inner monologue. I seem to recall that, even though she never reached Misty levels of being a smart aleck, she definitely had her moments. And it helps to break up the exposition that Lily and Krane offer up on Shadow Pokémon.

    And, of course, Michael gets name-dropped. Which leads to me wondering if something's happened to him (or if he'll factor into the story at all). Should be interesting to see.
    Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light
    Sometimes becoming a Pokémon isn't all fun and games.

    Latest Episode: Striking Midnight (5 of 5 chapters posted)

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    Since we're four chapter in, I may as well I like that the chapter titles seem to be mimicking the style of the Japanese episode titles in the the Pokémon anime. Though it does kind of give away what's going to happen in the chapters, which mitigates some of the surprise.
    The chapter titles are more meant to be along the lines of those from One Piece, since I'm a huge fan of that series. They're not quite to that level yet, but I think the later chapters fit it better. I will admit that there is some plot spoilage, but that's the nature of this kind of title anyways and I put them behind spoilers in the first post because I know people don't want to be spoiled until they get to the chapters proper (which, I just realized, is a little redundant, so I might have to think of a different way to do this).

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    Starting off with crazy nightmares, I see. I'm curious if this is a Shadow Pokémon reaching out to her, some Abyss boss, or a combination of the two. Meanwhile, May and Manya take some time to get to know each other. I like the idea of Manya being part showgirl and part tomgirlish mechanic. It could play off May's personality well. Like that tidbit on the motor cycle with the nature adventures. I got a kick out of that. Along those lines, I also like the first-person snark in May's inner monologue. I seem to recall that, even though she never reached Misty levels of being a smart aleck, she definitely had her moments. And it helps to break up the exposition that Lily and Krane offer up on Shadow Pokémon.

    And, of course, Michael gets name-dropped. Which leads to me wondering if something's happened to him (or if he'll factor into the story at all). Should be interesting to see.
    I'm glad to see their dynamic is paying off for you. I'm a rather snarky person so writing characters as such comes somewhat naturally for me, and it helps when May herself is snarky at times (though I may end up enhancing her sarcasm, ha ha). Sorry to say, though, that Michael's name drop was just a name drop to help give a layer of familiarity and such to people who've played XD.

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  13. #13
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    Can I just say that this is very likely the highest quality review I've gotten for this story in the two years I've worked on it? Because it is. So thank you very much for taking the time to post!
    I'm glad you liked it! If I read something, I always like to leave a review, and if I'm leaving a review I always like to try and make it helpful.

    On to the meat of the review, then! My thoughts are a little scattered today, but hopefully they're still intelligible. I like the battles; you divide your attention between the trainer's thoughts and the pokémon's actions in a well-balanced way, I think, and of course you go beyond the simplicity of the attack/attack pattern in the way that fanfiction facilitates really nicely, where you can have pokémon interact with objects in the environment or the other trainer, too.

    I'll try not to repeat what Ambyssin said too much, but I did notice the incorrect dialogue punctuation too, so that might be something you want to bear in mind going forward, or if you do decide to revise the first few chapters – it's not too difficult an issue to fix.

    I feel like the change in outfit is sort of odd; if May doesn't like it, she's got clothes she was already wearing and also presumably money to buy others. The description of it slows things down, too, especially since the level of detail doesn't particularly matter to the story you're trying to tell – something that, I think, goes for the other outfits you describe, as with Manya. I know the impulse to describe what someone's wearing in perfect detail to get that image out of your head and into the reader's, and it's a really difficult one to resist, but when there's a whole paragraph about what someone or other is wearing, most of the time, a reader is going to struggle to picture it much more than they would if you just gave a general impression of what they looked like and let their imagination fill in the blanks.

    Also – and this is very minor – it seems odd that Manya would start taking off her make-up before she's even announced the first act. Like, I feel like she really hasn't fulfilled her job description tonight, and while of course she later rides (almost literally) to May's rescue and quits then and there, it still seems a bit odd at the time.

    "Normally, I don't this," he drawled
    Missing the word 'do' there, I think.

    Okay… that happened because it used a move called Shadow Rush… what if that attack is super-effective against any type?
    Obviously this is the truth, but I feel like it would seem like a more plausible idea if May discovered it after the crawdaunt actually attacked. At this point, she's got no reason to think that there's anything up with shadow moves beyond the fact that they're effective against grass- and/or poison-types – but if one hit a normal-type and it was also effective, that would lead her more naturally to the conclusion that shadow moves belong to a new class of attack.

    I think also that some of the exposition in chapter four comes a bit quickly. Like, Manya would be within her rights to – and honestly, with what we've seen of her so far, I'd expect her to – withhold a lot of that information, given that she's talking to a near total stranger. Part of the strength of a story about relative strangers travelling together around places, going on adventures, is the way they (and the reader) come to learn about each other as time goes by – and I get the sense that you've definitely got a strong enough sense of character to handle something like that. Maybe if there are future character revelations, they could be spaced out a little more evenly, to maximise their impact; it would take the solid foundation you've got here and improve it still further.

    That said, you do take care to break up the exposition with character and reflection; chapter four does still feel like one in which there's a lot of exposition, but it feels lighter and less weighty than it might, and I think you've done well there. It gets a bit ponderous at the end, with the extended question and answer session about the fine detail of how purification works – maybe we don't need all the game mechanics ported over as is; some things (like the Set mechanism) I think could be cut for the sake of narrative economy – but overall, it's relatively well handled.

    And finally, one thing I really like, me being me, is the strong sense of place; Orre is definitely one of the more characterful regions, as opposed to, say, Kanto, which is characterised most often by large amounts of empty space bordered by cliffs or trees, and I always love it when someone takes that sense of heat and light and dust, the unlikeliness of the buildings in this wasteland, and translates that into a fic. It's very nicely observed.
    GO HOME
    Some people just won't see reason.

    ARBITRARY EXECUTION
    If the cover-up is real, it isn't a conspiracy theory. It's a conspiracy fact.

    TIME AND TIDE | A LEASH OF FOXES
    IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    I'm glad you liked it! If I read something, I always like to leave a review, and if I'm leaving a review I always like to try and make it helpful.

    On to the meat of the review, then! My thoughts are a little scattered today, but hopefully they're still intelligible. I like the battles; you divide your attention between the trainer's thoughts and the pokémon's actions in a well-balanced way, I think, and of course you go beyond the simplicity of the attack/attack pattern in the way that fanfiction facilitates really nicely, where you can have pokémon interact with objects in the environment or the other trainer, too.
    Thank you! I've been somewhat on the fence with the battles, because I'm never really sure if they come off as awesome as I imagine them in my head. I'll cite Special as inspiration for the overall experience, because there's some pretty creative stuff in that series (Red and Green's League battle is a good example, as is Ruby's fight against the wild Crawdaunt). I'm glad it's working out, though, there's an upcoming battle that I'm pretty proud of, so I hope it comes off as intended.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    I'll try not to repeat what Ambyssin said too much, but I did notice the incorrect dialogue punctuation too, so that might be something you want to bear in mind going forward, or if you do decide to revise the first few chapters – it's not too difficult an issue to fix.
    The errors aren't a big deal, it's just a matter of editing them on every place I have this story posted, ha ha.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    I feel like the change in outfit is sort of odd; if May doesn't like it, she's got clothes she was already wearing and also presumably money to buy others. The description of it slows things down, too, especially since the level of detail doesn't particularly matter to the story you're trying to tell – something that, I think, goes for the other outfits you describe, as with Manya. I know the impulse to describe what someone's wearing in perfect detail to get that image out of your head and into the reader's, and it's a really difficult one to resist, but when there's a whole paragraph about what someone or other is wearing, most of the time, a reader is going to struggle to picture it much more than they would if you just gave a general impression of what they looked like and let their imagination fill in the blanks.
    This is a fair point, I'm still not entirely comfortable with my descriptive abilities. I'm aware of it, though, so I'll try and tone and it down (or at least make it better). As for the costume itself, it's honestly a mix of shameless indulgence on my end (since the fanart it's based on helped inspire the story in the first place) and I thought it was suited the environment decently enough. Guess my in-verse justifications didn't help too much, but I'm pretty committed with it at this point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    Also – and this is very minor – it seems odd that Manya would start taking off her make-up before she's even announced the first act. Like, I feel like she really hasn't fulfilled her job description tonight, and while of course she later rides (almost literally) to May's rescue and quits then and there, it still seems a bit odd at the time.
    Honest mistake on my end, it was just something I thought would be a reasonable action to occur during that scene. I could try to explain it with her changing up the style between appearances, though...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    Obviously this is the truth, but I feel like it would seem like a more plausible idea if May discovered it after the crawdaunt actually attacked. At this point, she's got no reason to think that there's anything up with shadow moves beyond the fact that they're effective against grass- and/or poison-types – but if one hit a normal-type and it was also effective, that would lead her more naturally to the conclusion that shadow moves belong to a new class of attack.
    I guess I should've included the fact that as the attack was called "Shadow Rush" May could've inferred it was a Dark-type move and was surprised it was super-effective against Venusaur. I think I was thinking more about the audience already drawing from any understanding of Shadow Pokemon and putting in some brief dramatic irony. But yes, your idea works better, I'll have to remember to include that in when I rewrite chapter two.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    I think also that some of the exposition in chapter four comes a bit quickly. Like, Manya would be within her rights to – and honestly, with what we've seen of her so far, I'd expect her to – withhold a lot of that information, given that she's talking to a near total stranger. Part of the strength of a story about relative strangers travelling together around places, going on adventures, is the way they (and the reader) come to learn about each other as time goes by – and I get the sense that you've definitely got a strong enough sense of character to handle something like that. Maybe if there are future character revelations, they could be spaced out a little more evenly, to maximise their impact; it would take the solid foundation you've got here and improve it still further.

    That said, you do take care to break up the exposition with character and reflection; chapter four does still feel like one in which there's a lot of exposition, but it feels lighter and less weighty than it might, and I think you've done well there. It gets a bit ponderous at the end, with the extended question and answer session about the fine detail of how purification works – maybe we don't need all the game mechanics ported over as is; some things (like the Set mechanism) I think could be cut for the sake of narrative economy – but overall, it's relatively well handled.
    I don't think it's that much of a stretch when you consider how open and trusting Character of the Days can be in the anime: "Hey, here's a random group of kids who want to help you with a lifelong dream!" But yes, I am being more considerate of how other characters are going to be interacting, since it gives the audience more time to develop their own theories about how everything's going to turn out. It's not very exciting when everything's revealed up front, is it? On the other hand, I really like Manya as a character (she's based on the Street Performer Trainer Class) and wanted to dispel any notion that she was antagonistic.

    Honestly I wanted to knock out the purification stuff so I wouldn't be getting comments about why May isn't doing anything with the Shadow Pokemon (as well as to inform anyone not familiar with Colo/XD). This way she has the information (to an extent of her understanding) and can utilize it as she sees fit. It also prevents me from breaking up the plot too much with her focusing on purification, because that's not going to be the extreme focus of this adventure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    And finally, one thing I really like, me being me, is the strong sense of place; Orre is definitely one of the more characterful regions, as opposed to, say, Kanto, which is characterised most often by large amounts of empty space bordered by cliffs or trees, and I always love it when someone takes that sense of heat and light and dust, the unlikeliness of the buildings in this wasteland, and translates that into a fic. It's very nicely observed.
    I'm glad I'm doing well on this subject. Orre's definitely a stark contrast to the other regions we've seen, and I think it helps add to May's feeling of displacement: she's used to Hoenn and Johto, which are both fairly urban though with lots of natural zones (National Park, Meteor Falls, Route 119, etc.), and here she is in this barren desert doing god-knows-what against god-knows-who. One of the themes I wanted to develop in this story was going outside comfort zones and getting through something different and rather terrifying (since I've been through that myself lately), and Orre is, I think, a good background for that because it is different and hosts some of the darker themes we've seen in Pokemon.
    Last edited by Cap D. Blue; 18th October 2017 at 8:47 PM.

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    It’s always good to see old fics get picked up again. I never read the old version, so I’ll be coming at this fresh, but we can never have too much Orre fic, I say.

    Rather strange that May of all people got chosen for this mysterious mission. Someone who’s never even been to Orre, and a coordinator no less! I’m sure the powers that be have a pretty good reason for it, but in the meantime, it’s quite strange. What is it about May that makes her the ideal candidate for this important task? I’ll be looking forward to finding out.

    I think the action slowed down a bit too much for my liking at the start of the battle with the thief. I don’t mind describing Pokémon, but I find it’s better to tie the description into something the Pokémon is doing/using mainly verbs to describe, as opposed to listing off a bunch of traits.

    I was pretty surprised May’s taking this all so well! I mean, of course she’s anxious about everything, but it feels a bit like the anxiety one would feel prior to entering a tournament that might be out of one’s league, not facing off against hardened criminals on their own turf. Granted, I shouldn’t forget that I think technically she’s already fought criminals before (Magma/Aqua?) so this isn’t necessarily the first time she’s been in potentially mortal peril. Still, I think taking some time to stop and really address the stakes involved would help make things feel a bit more grounded.

    That said, I liked your description of all the uncomfortable awkwardness while she was talking to Manya. Lots of good physical descriptions made that stress almost tangible. Also the bit with her thinking of the snag machine as an iron ball was a much-needed moment of reflection from her.

    Chapter 4 had a lot of cute interactions between May and Manya, and some nice humor as well ("I think I know where our next stop is gonna be." How about an asylum, because all of this is gonna drive me crazy. <-- That line got me pretty good.) I wasn’t too keen on the exposition dump though. The Shadow Pokémon info was fine, and that’s essential knowledge. But the Purify Chamber stuff is where is started to get bogged down, imo. And some of the explanations felt too… game mechanic-y. Like “you won't be able to use items on them” is pretty obviously a game mechanic, but there are a number of reasons why it might not work in real life, such as their bodies rejecting any foreign substances while in Reverse Mode, or just plain the Pokémon is too unstable to let you get close to it.

    Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. While this feels a little bit like “The Orre Games Featuring May” right now, I am looking forward to seeing what you do with it. There’s a lot of fun potential there, and I think you’ve only scratched the surface so far. Good luck!

    ~Chibi~



    "Everyone wishes they could catch a Legendary, deep down, whether they’ll admit it or not.
    If you knew you could use one to change the world, something you’d been dreaming about for years, are you telling me you wouldn’t take that chance?"

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    September 02 Update: CHAPTER 27: “The Revolt” POSTED!!!
    Chapter 28 progress: 10/13 pages

    «On reviewing hiatus for the rest of the year. See you all in 2018!»

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chibi Pika View Post
    It’s always good to see old fics get picked up again. I never read the old version, so I’ll be coming at this fresh, but we can never have too much Orre fic, I say.

    Rather strange that May of all people got chosen for this mysterious mission. Someone who’s never even been to Orre, and a coordinator no less! I’m sure the powers that be have a pretty good reason for it, but in the meantime, it’s quite strange. What is it about May that makes her the ideal candidate for this important task? I’ll be looking forward to finding out.
    You're not missing much; I posted this story back in 2015 when I started but it never got off the ground so I let it die. At least my second attempt seems to be picking up steam, though!

    Yes, I'll be delving into that much later, but there is an explanation for it (outside of author favoritism, anyways), so I'm hoping I can give the explanation justice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chibi Pika View Post
    I think the action slowed down a bit too much for my liking at the start of the battle with the thief. I don’t mind describing Pokémon, but I find it’s better to tie the description into something the Pokémon is doing/using mainly verbs to describe, as opposed to listing off a bunch of traits.
    As I said, I'm still working on my descriptive skills. It's evidently a long work in progress...

    Quote Originally Posted by Chibi Pika View Post
    I was pretty surprised May’s taking this all so well! I mean, of course she’s anxious about everything, but it feels a bit like the anxiety one would feel prior to entering a tournament that might be out of one’s league, not facing off against hardened criminals on their own turf. Granted, I shouldn’t forget that I think technically she’s already fought criminals before (Magma/Aqua?) so this isn’t necessarily the first time she’s been in potentially mortal peril. Still, I think taking some time to stop and really address the stakes involved would help make things feel a bit more grounded.

    That said, I liked your description of all the uncomfortable awkwardness while she was talking to Manya. Lots of good physical descriptions made that stress almost tangible. Also the bit with her thinking of the snag machine as an iron ball was a much-needed moment of reflection from her.
    There will be focus on May's stress of being put into this situation, that's something I really wanted to make sure I included. I put her at around 15 or so in this story, but despite being five years older than when she started, this is going to be weighing on her a lot: there's an upcoming chapter that shows just how hard May is taking this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chibi Pika View Post
    Chapter 4 had a lot of cute interactions between May and Manya, and some nice humor as well ("I think I know where our next stop is gonna be." How about an asylum, because all of this is gonna drive me crazy. <-- That line got me pretty good.) I wasn’t too keen on the exposition dump though. The Shadow Pokémon info was fine, and that’s essential knowledge. But the Purify Chamber stuff is where is started to get bogged down, imo. And some of the explanations felt too… game mechanic-y. Like “you won't be able to use items on them” is pretty obviously a game mechanic, but there are a number of reasons why it might not work in real life, such as their bodies rejecting any foreign substances while in Reverse Mode, or just plain the Pokémon is too unstable to let you get close to it.

    Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. While this feels a little bit like “The Orre Games Featuring May” right now, I am looking forward to seeing what you do with it. There’s a lot of fun potential there, and I think you’ve only scratched the surface so far. Good luck!

    ~Chibi~
    I have said before (or at least I think I have here) that this story sort of blends different aspects of canon, but apparently I didn't translate things well enough... I'll have to keep that in mind for the future. I'm glad you enjoyed the humor, it's an aspect of the story I hope can be shown off despite all the other, decidedly non-humorous stuff that's going on. There's a lot of cool ideas I have planned for this story, so assuming I'm able to pull them off well, I hope that it'll be more than just "Colo/XD feat. May"... so we'll just have to wait and see. Thank you very much for the review!

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    Tossing the next chapter up because I can. I am gonna have to start working on chapter eight, though, so it'll be ready once I get there...



    Chapter 5
    "Secret Infiltration! Invading the Shadow Pokémon Lab!"

    Although May had alleged that destroying the Shadow Pokémon Lab would reduce Abyss' criminal activity, she had her doubts. The same location had been occupied twice in the past: therefore, Abyss would have likely recognized that they were hiding in plain sight and employ security measures to deter intruders. Secondly, this operation would have to be as stealthy as possible. If either she or Manya were discovered, there was a very real possibility of becoming outnumbered, or worse, outgunned.

    "We are walking straight into the Arcanine's den," Manya mused after May confided her worries. They walked up the hallway, having left their impromptu meeting room at the HQ Lab. "I'd be more concerned if it turns out to be a total cakewalk, to be honest."

    May nodded in agreement as they approached a pair of scientists comparing notes. Once they passed, May asked in an undertone, "D'you think Abyss has spies here? Is it possible they know we're coming?"

    Manya shook her head, blonde hair swinging back and forth in front of her face. "I've never heard anything about it," she admitted. "It's possible, but I don't know for certain. Managing spies probably wasn't one of Galli's responsibilities."

    "Didn't seem like the kind of guy to remember where he placed his lighter, let alone spies." May noted, which got Manya laughing again.

    They were just about to head up the stairs to leave when they heard someone shouting from behind them. "Wait! Wait, please!"

    The girls turned to find Professor Krane coming to a stop in front of them. He doubled-over, gasping for breath, a narrow wooden box tucked under his arm. "Glad I caught up to you…" he wheezed, pushing his glasses back up his sweaty face. "I wanted to give you this before you left." He handed the box out to May, who took it.

    She attempted not to smirk at the irony of opening her third Mystery Gift of the day and opened the box. Sitting in the red-velvet lined interior was a roughly-carved wooden flute. Here and there were small gashes and markings, including what appeared to be a stamp mark burned into the wood resembling a small, pixie-like Pokémon.

    May sensed Manya staring over her shoulder and the two girls exchanged a bemused look. "It's a flute," May remarked finally to Krane, who was now leaning against the wall and inhaling deeply.

    "It's called a Time Flute." the professor said, his face flushed red. "We came across it a while back and had it in storage…"

    "So, what? I'm supposed to play it?"

    "Yes," Krane replied, oblivious to her sarcasm. "A Time Flute can instantly purify a Shadow Pokémon, as long as it still has some Shadow within it."

    "Better make sure we don't lose this," Manya said, watching May close the box and stuff it into her bag. "If Abyss gets their hands on it, they'll certainly smash it to pieces."

    "It's better that you use it, in that case," said Krane with a rueful smile. "Based on our research, that Time Flute is extremely fragile: it'll break if you play it." He wiped his forehead with his lab coat sleeve, sweat glistening on his pale skin. "Oh yes, before I forget… May, how many Pokémon are you carrying with you right now? Including the Shadow Pokémon you've already snagged."

    "With the two Shadow Pokémon I have," May murmured, mentally recounting her current party. "I have eight." Almost all Pokémon Trainers carried six Pokémon at a time. There was no formal rule against carrying more, but it was problematic to devote proper attention and care to more than six Pokémon at one time.

    "Shall we safeguard two Pokémon for you?" offered Krane. "We can even hold one of the Shadow Pokémon, if you'd like."

    "Why not both?" inquired May, reaching into her bag again to find Altaria and Crawdaunt's Poké Balls.

    "It might be best for you to work on purifying a Shadow Pokémon on your own," Krane replied, standing up a little straighter. "So you can understand what methods work best for you."

    May looked down at the two miniaturized capsules resting in her palm. The Altaria appeared to have calmed down: it was resting with its head under its wing, ribbons nestled amongst its cloud-like feathers. Crawdaunt, meanwhile, was glaring up at her out of the corner of its eye, almost as if it was attempting to discern her.

    "Here," May thrust out Crawdaunt's Poké Ball at Krane before grabbing another one off her belt. "Crawdaunt and my Skitty. I'll call if I want to use either of them." Her heart panged at the thought of using a different Pokémon in place of Skitty, but told herself she'd switch the Kitten Pokémon back into her party soon.

    "Of course. We'll take good care of them. Good luck, you two." With that and a smile, Krane turned on his heel and departed back down the hallway.

    "I wonder how the Time Flute works, exactly." Manya mused as the two girls worked their way back out of the HQ Lab's comfortable temperature to the scorching heat outside. "Is its song beautiful enough to remove all essence of Shadow from a Pokémon?"

    "Probably not if I played it," May said. Manya started laughing again, but May withdrew into her thoughts, wondering why she had decided to keep Altaria. Was it due to it possessing a friendlier appearance than Crawdaunt, or seeming to be less difficult to purify? She couldn't be sure, but as she climbed into Miss Birdie's cargo bed, a thought lingered that something about the Altaria was awfully familiar to her.



    The trek eastward was largely uneventful. The most stimulating occurrence was Manya gunning Miss Birdie's throttle to skim across a river. The massive wakes of water churned up by the motorbike was a sight to behold. Though all the water splashed back into the river, May couldn't help but feel guilty at misusing water like that in such a dry region.

    To her credit, Manya attempted to make the journey comfortable. She repeatedly checked to make sure May was staying hydrated and fed (they had "borrowed" some snacks on their way out of the HQ Lab) and could often be heard humming aloud. May spent most of her time either staring at Altaria's Poké Ball or out at the scenery through her fingers.

    The massive figure of Mount Battle loomed over them from the north, columns of steam emitting from its crater. As May focused her "camera" on the forbidding volcano, she asked Manya, "Has this thing ever erupted?"

    "Not to my knowledge," the blonde replied. She tilted her head towards a gigantic bare tree visible off in the distance to their left. "Otherwise people wouldn't have settled in Agate Village."

    The steady hum of Miss Birdie's engine dulled considerably. May peered over the edge of the cargo bed and was surprised to find a lush carpet of thick grass spread over the ground. The meadow seemed to stretch out for a fair distance, out towards the horizon.

    "Shame it all can't be like this," Manya observed wistfully, her voice lowered to a normal volume. "Otherwise we'd be able to sneak up on Abyss pretty well."

    "The grass is always greener," May said, inhaling the fresh air and savoring how it settled in her lungs. She breathed again, and the slight whiff of healthy plant life triggered a miniscule flash of memory. For the briefest instant, May was sitting outside in Petalburg City on a warm summer's evening with her family, watching Volbeat and Illumise dance through the sky. Then she blinked and was dropped back into reality.

    May felt her heart constrict in longing, and fought the temptation to retreat into nostalgia. With a quick glance to make sure Manya wasn't paying attention, she sighed and sat down, pulling her knees up to her chest. Her eyes burned with tears and she clamped them shut. May wasn't going to allow herself to yearn for days past, especially in this situation. Yet in the back of her head, she couldn't stop a little voice from saying, the grass is always greener indeed…



    About ninety minutes later, a flicker of light off the horizon caught Manya's attention. She reviewed her mental map of Orre: while Manya considered herself fairly well-traveled, she rarely ventured out towards Mount Battle and had little knowledge of the landmarks in the area. Coming up with nothing from her recollection, Manya called over her shoulder, "I think we're getting somewhere."

    "You've just been driving aimlessly for the past hour?" May groaned, pulling herself up. She was quickly discovering that lying in the cargo bed was terrible for her back. Shielding her eyes from the sunlight with her hand, May gazed out in front of them.

    "Whaddaya think?" Manya pressed.

    "I think I can't see well enough from here."

    "Hold on, then," Manya gunned the throttle, barely allowing May enough time to brace herself as Miss Birdie barreled forward across the sand. The glimmer steadily grew larger, its source gradually coming into view. Easing Miss Birdie to a stop, the girls turned and stared at what lay before them.

    A derelict compound stood in the middle of a concrete lot, covered in chipped and peeling silver paint. Several elongated vents on the roof glinted in the sun, and empty transport crates rested on the ground nearby, covered in sand. Six devices surrounded the lot's perimeter, apparently generators for a long-deactivated electric barrier.

    May and Manya sized up the compound for a few moments before glancing at each other. Neither girl was entirely sure what to make of it.

    "Doesn't seem like anyone's been here in ages," Manya noted, swinging off Miss Birdie's seat.

    May climbed out of the cargo bed. "You're probably right." She ambled towards the building, hoping the generators didn't spontaneously activate as she passed by. There were a couple of mechanical doors on the building's side, and they didn't budge when May attempted to pry them open.

    Manya followed up behind her. "There's a keypad here," she observed, pointing just to the doors' right. She leaned in to get a closer look. "Looks fairly clean… to me, anyways."

    May glanced down at the concrete. A fair amount of sand had gathered here and there across the compound (no doubt due to wind or dust storms), including directly in front of the door. It wasn't a very large patch, but large enough for May to have left part of a footprint. And right beside it, almost directly in front of the door, was a second, larger footprint fragment.

    "A clean keypad, a footprint leading into a closed door… I think this place is occupied."

    "Doesn't seem like a place a salesman would stop," agreed Manya, brushing some hair out of her eyes. "So…" She faced the building again, hands on her hips, eyebrows furrowed. "How d'we get in?"

    May was just about to suggest having a Pokémon smash in the door when a voice spoke behind them, making both girls jump in shock.

    "I can get you in."

    They whipped around to see a young boy standing behind them, hands in his pockets and eyes shadowed under a dingy bandanna. At first glance he was dressed like any other kid his age (given that he only came up to her stomach, May guessed he couldn't be much older than Max) with a red shirt and green shorts. Instead of shoes, he wore roller skates, complete with knee guards. He only had one elbow guard: his left arm was covered with a purple sleeve.

    "Well?" inquired the boy, eyeing May and Manya in their silence. "You want my help or not?"

    "Who the hell are you?" blurted out Manya, rather unnerved by his sudden appearance.

    "Name's Smidge." said the boy. His voice was blunt and casual, as if he was dragged away from an activity he'd much rather be doing instead. "That do for an intro, blondie?"

    Manya bristled, her face reddening. May quickly jumped in before she attacked him and ruined a possible chance of sneaking into the building. "How do you know how to get in?"

    Smidge looked at her up and down, his mouth contorting into a vague sneer. "I see things, alright? Fer instance, I see what you have going on and I like it."

    "I'm not liking you, shorty, so cut it out before I cut you down." A brief surge of glee coursed through May at putting to use her experience in insulting bratty half-pints. She stared down at Smidge, who was staring right back. His gaze was difficult to discern, partly due to his bandanna covering half of his eyes.

    Manya, also staring at the boy, leaned over to May and whispered into her ear, her breath soft and light. "I'm not getting a good vibe from this brat."

    May was also apprehensive at accepting his offer: her father often said that if something appeared too good to be true, it usually was. To assist in her decision-making, she asked him, "What do you want in return? There's gotta be something, right?"

    Smidge blinked at the question before giving a small smile. "For somethin' like this? Lesse…" He gave them each another once-over. "Hows about Seven Minutes in —"

    "Wrong answer." interrupted Manya, eyebrows furrowed, arms folded across her chest. She started whispering into May's ear again. "I don't trust this twerp farther than I could throw him."

    "I dunno, he's pretty small," May muttered back. "If you got just the right angle —"

    "Not my point," Manya hissed. "He's kinda shifty, if you ask me."

    They glanced over at Smidge, who was still staring at them, looking bored. May turned to face Manya, the blonde's eyes narrowed in skepticism and dislike. She could tell she was really going to play this right to make everyone happy (or at least less upset, in Manya's case).

    "Alright, it's a little suspicious," she admitted, speaking in an undertone. "But the way I see it, we'd have to break that door down and that'd get alarms ringing and everything. If Smidge knows how to get us inside —"

    "If," stressed Manya. "If he's just messing with us, I'm getting Solrock to send him into the stratosphere."

    "Duly noted. Alright, Smidge," May said, addressing their third wheel. "Here's the deal: you get us in, we don't shoot you up into the sky."

    The boy rolled his eyes, arms up in mock celebration. "That's totally fair."

    "Considering your attitude I'd say it's the best you're gonna get." Manya snapped as Smidge skated past her towards the keypad.

    "A'right, look," he glanced at the building before motioning for the girls to lean in closer. "I'll be honest, I know what you are here for. This is about Abyss, right?"

    They nodded, so he continued. "Truth is, I got roped into their whole business… I don't exactly got the best life going on, ya know?" He cleared his throat, an attempt to appear more grown-up that didn't entirely succeed. "Anyways… I let you in, you take me out with ya. Deal?"

    May and Manya exchanged glances. Manya frowned and mouthed "no", but May shook her head. This was their only chance to get inside, and extracting Smidge from their grasp would be helping one more person. Manya glowered for a moment but relented, so May reached out and shook Smidge's hand. "Open, sesame."

    Smidge reached out and tapped a specific sequence on the keypad. It beeped once and the steel doors slid open with a pneumatic whoosh. The three of them stepped into the entryway, the door sealing itself behind them. It was so dimly lit May could just barely make out Manya beside her; Smidge was even more difficult to see despite standing in front of her since he was so short.

    "Where to, ladies?" Smidge asked, his voice tinted with the slightest hint of sarcasm.



    Pivoting away from the grainy security footage displayed on the monitor, the grunt addressed his supervisor. "We have unidentified intruders from the main entrance."

    The supervisor leaned down and peered at the screen, frowning. "That we do." His eyebrows furrowed. "Dunno how they got in, but they're here now."

    "Shall I raise the alarm, sir?"

    "…" The supervisor continued staring at the screen, observing two girls point at and talk to the small boy standing with them. There was no sound as the grunt had a headset plugged into the console. "I think I recognize that girl," he said, jabbing a finger at the brunette. "We got a notice from Gateon Port, she defeated Galli at his casino this morning."

    The grunt said nothing, unsure of how to respond. He merely watched as his supervisor stood up and rubbed his chin.

    "No alarm," he ordered, to the grunt's surprise. "Let's have them think they can get away with this. Inform the admins that we'll be sending the visitors up their way."

    "Yes, sir," affirmed the grunt, knowing better not to argue as he reached for the intercom.



    The triad crept through the corridors, treading lightly to minimize their footsteps. However, as the building appeared to be unoccupied, their steps echoed regardless. May led their miniature parade: Smidge walked behind her, with Manya at the end (to keep an eye on "the little lech", as she put it).

    "Have you ever been inside here?" May whispered to Smidge. She spared a glance over her shoulder to see the boy answer with a one-shoulder shrug. Frowning, she gazed around a corner. There was nothing there, so she continued on, her cohorts in tow.

    "So nice of you to join us, then." Manya snickered. "You realize if we get caught, you're in as much trouble as we are, right?"

    Once again, Smidge just shrugged. He had settled into a lengthy lapse of silence since they began to explore the building, which eased Manya's nerves but only put May more on edge. She recalled the old film maxim: "It's quiet. Too quiet."

    They snuck down another corridor lined with closed doors. May attempted to peek into each of the windows but saw nothing but black. Figures, they're all one-way. So much for going on a limb and hoping to just stumble upon something…

    May placed her right foot down onto the floor and it slipped on a particularly smooth tile. Losing her balance, she stumbled forward and smacked the side of her head against the wall. The dull thud of impact reverberated through-out both the building and May's head. Stars and bright lights twinkled in her eyes as she struggled to pull herself upright.

    "Nice going, twinkle-toes," hissed Smidge, as he and Manya sped up to her. "You just alerted everyone in this section that we're here!"

    "Wasn't my fault," She mumbled, feeling Manya grab her arm and lift her up. "Slipped."

    "That you did," Smidge affirmed, turning to look down the hallway. "C'mon then, let's get a move on." And he started off down another hallway, leaving the two girls to hobble after him.

    "You okay?" asked Manya, eyes wide with concern.

    "Fine," There was ringing in her right ear and a sharp pain creeping up to her forehead, but admitting the truth would slow things down. Instead, May steeled herself, grabbed Manya's hand, and set off after Smidge. She spied him yanking open a door and motioning at them to hurry.

    "Supply closet. Quick!" He ushered them inside, slipped in after them, and closed the door. They squeezed in between mops, brooms, and shelves of sponges and cleaning sprays. The faint ammonia smell was not helping May's headache in the slightest, nor was Smidge's elbow digging into her side.

    They all kept silent, straining their ears for the sounds of alarms and rushing footsteps, but all they could hear were their own gasping breathing. Smidge, the smallest, leaned down to peer through the gap at the bottom of the door.

    "Anything?" whispered Manya, releasing May's hand to wipe her brow.

    Smidge said nothing at first, but eventually stood up (with some difficulty due to the cramped quarters of the closet) and said, "Nah. Doesn't look like anything's going on out there."

    Manya gave a sigh of relief, her breath brushing against the back of May's neck. May, on the other hand, winced as her head throbbed painfully. Smidge turned to face the girls, though given it was almost entirely dark, it didn't matter.

    "What's next, fearless leader?" he snipped.

    "Next is clamping your mouth shut," May shot back, her temper rising as her headache throbbed again. She had no idea what their next step was: they may have avoided getting noticed this time, but it may have been due to sheer luck. She was saved, however, from having to make something up when the closet was suddenly illuminated by the light emanating from the Snag Machine right into Smidge's face.

    The boy threw his hands up to shield his face (Manya laughed quietly at his discomfort) as May twisted her arm (with some difficulty) to gaze at the screen. The display informed her that there was a new message waiting to be read. Before she could do anything, though, the screen shifted and displayed the message immediately. Fearing a loud holograph like earlier, May clapped her left hand over the screen.

    There was a pause as she and Manya stared at the Snag Machine (Smidge was still recovering from having his retinas burned). The supply closet reminded as silent as ever, so May cautiously removed her hand and looked down at the screen. A few lines of text glowed back up at her:

    I know you're in the Lab. Please come meet me in Room 5C.

    Another moment of silence passed, May and Manya both contemplating the message. They looked up at each other in the bluish light, confusion and uncertainty playing across their faces.

    "You have a stalker," Manya said finally in an undertone, glancing back down at the Snag Machine as the light slowly dimmed.

    May gave a noncommittal grunt. "Dunno if I can fully trust this person or not, honestly."

    "Well," Manya carefully measured her words as she spoke, watching Smidge rub his eyes. "Maybe… since we're here and all… now would be the time to find out?" Noticing May's unconvinced expression, she hurried on. "I mean, I've seen you battle, and we'd be there with you. If it went south — "

    "Worst case we'd end up with every Abyss stooge on our butts." cut in Smidge, having finally recovered from the blast of light in his eyes. "I have my skates, but neither of you look like sprinting champs to me."

    May weighed her options as Manya drove her knuckles into Smidge's scalp. If she ignored the request and refused to meet this person, she might end up doubting them as her journey progressed and get herself into even more trouble. If she went to Room 5C, she could ask for some answers and possibly obtain another ally. But would she be willing to drag another person into this mess? Then again, this person was allegedly the one who had sent her the Snag Machine in the first place…

    "I'll go," she decided. "But by myself. I don't want to get you two in deeper if something goes wrong." she added as Manya opened her mouth to respond. "I feel guilty enough that you got dragged this far, Manya."

    Manya looked for a moment as though she was going to argue, but instead held up her hands in mock surrender. "You're the boss." she said, Smidge dropping to their feet. "But you send word if you need me, alright?"

    "Fine," May agreed, smiling slightly in spite of herself. "Now can we open the door and get out of here, please?" Her head pulsed from the ammonia smell and her stomach lurched; if she spent any more time in this enclosed space she felt like she might throw up.

    They squeezed out to the hallway and agreed to meet back up at the supply closet before splitting up: Manya decided that she and Smidge would scout ahead for where the Shadow Pokémon were being made, while May slipped down another hallway in search of Room 5C. Her stomach twisted at being alone again, but Arceus help her if she was going to get innocent people hurt because she got dragged into this thing…

    Treading as quietly as possible past doors, windows, and corridors, May did her best to keep an eye out for a sign, or anything that could point her in the right direction. I need a map, she lamented. As this thought dissipated, she caught a glimpse of the Snag Machine lighting up again. Taking a quick stock of her surroundings as to not be discovered, she read the new message:

    Turn right down the next hallway, then enter the farthest door on the left.

    How about a million dollars while I'm at it? But nonetheless she complied and continued moving at a brisk walk, sneaking down along the next corridor. There was barely any light here so it was difficult to discern the number of doors on either side. Eventually she reached the end of the hall, so she stepped back and looked at the last door on the left side. A rusty sign on the front read 5C. With a slow, steadying breath, May gripped the cold handle and twisted it open.

    The room she entered into was just as dark as the hallway outside. The door closed behind her with a click as she took in her surroundings. Desks lined the entire perimeter, covered with either computers, stacks of paper, books, or some combination of the three. Graphs with complicated words and numbers that made no sense were plastered here and there along the walls. An island table stood stock in the exact center of the floor, microscopes and silver instruments standing upon its surface.

    Something zoomed over from a far corner towards May and she ducked reflexively. Looking up at it, she saw a Pokémon resembling a rubber duck, albeit colored red and blue rather than yellow. It fixed her with an unnerving blank stare, emitting a series of clicks and beeps.

    "Are you going to fight me?" May whispered, a chill coursing through her at the unwanted prospect of making excessive noise. When the Pokémon continued to stare at her, she slowly started to reach for her bag…

    "Stop it, Porygon2." said a quiet voice. May looked over at the far corner it had come from: a tall woman in a lab coat was standing there, hidden in the darkness, her features indiscernible. As the woman stepped forward, however, she was instantly recognizable as the Snag Machine's hologram messenger.

    With long strawberry blonde hair pulled back into an immaculate ponytail and slim, rectangular glasses, the woman radiated an air of professionalism, although it was betrayed by the tired and weary green eyes behind her lenses. Her clean, white lab coat was buttoned closed, snug around her trim frame. The Porygon2 spared another glance at May before floating over to its Trainer.

    "You must be the Trainer with my Snag Machine," said the woman in the same quiet voice. She held out a hand as she advanced. "I'm glad we're getting to meet in person."

    "Likewise," said May, shaking the proffered hand in some trepidation. The woman's skin was soft and warm, even though May's gloves. "I have to admit, I have a lot of questions."

    The woman nodded sagely and gestured to a rolling chair sitting in front of a desk to May's right. "I imagine you might. First, please let me introduce myself: I'm Allyson. As you might have figured out already, I'm one of the many researchers here."

    "What's an Abyss scientist doing sending me a Snag Machine?" May asked, sitting on the chair and giving her legs some much deserved rest. Every bit from her thighs to her heels felt unnecessarily sore. Her head still ached from her earlier collision, but she forced herself to ignore the pain for the time being.

    "I was forcefully conscripted," Allyson answered with a somnolent smile, seating herself as well. "I was about to start working at the HQ Lab, actually, but Abyss kidnapped me and made me assist them instead."

    "Why?"

    "I was making promising headway in research regarding snagging and purification. Abyss obviously didn't want me working against them if they could help it."

    "Yet you sent me the Snag Machine anyways."

    Allyson nodded again, her Porygon2 bobbing to and fro around her head. "Yes. I knew that if Abyss discovered I had completed it, they would either destroy it, or — more likely — use it themselves to create more Shadow Pokémon."

    "Dunno if I was the right choice, really." muttered May, staring somewhat absentmindedly at the device strapped to her wrist. But when she looked up at Allyson, she was surprised to see half a smile forming on the other woman's face.

    "From what I've observed," She said gently. "You've been doing well. I haven't had any doubts about to whom I sent the Snag Machine."

    "So far, anyways." said May without thinking. A second chill flashed over her at the sight of Allyson's frown, so she quickly added, "I mean, wouldn't it have been better to have sent the Snag Machine to someone who's done League Challenges rather than Contest Circuits?"

    Allyson paused to gather her thoughts before answering. "Abyss would be more on their guard, I think, if a famous Trainer came sniffing around. They might be less suspicious of a Coordinator, and unconsciously grant you more headway against them."

    This answer didn't quite satisfy May, but once again felt that she was already too involved to find an excuse to try and squeeze her way out of this responsibility. Instead she simply nodded to reassure Allyson that she understood.

    "I ought to let you know," Allyson continued, folding her hands in her lap. "That Abyss has something larger in store than just simply creating Shadow Pokémon. Though I can't tell you what it is: my supervisors have been very careful about not telling me more than a bare minimum."

    A heavy weight dropped into May's stomach. "There's… there's more to what they're doing?" The words came out with some difficulty, as though she would have choked on them if she didn't speak. "Can it be stopped?"

    Allyson peered at May over the top of her glasses. "I don't know. Yet. For now, snagging the Shadow Pokémon is the best we can do. As you've witnessed, Abyss is also stealing money to fund their research. But I — we — do not have the manpower to guard every valuable in this barren wasteland. If we focus on one thing, Abyss will surely move to another."

    "Why can't you do anything?" May blurted out before she could restrain herself. "I mean, you're right in their territory, can't you… can't you sabotage their work, or something?"

    Allyson frowned, her eyes narrowing. There was a miniscule edge in her voice as she said, "I could. But if Abyss finds out that I did anything — and they would — I'd be removed from my position in an instant. Then I would no longer have the resources to assist you."

    She stood up from her seat (her Porygon2 veering away from her head), her expression shifting into worry and concern. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have reacted so harshly —"

    "No, it's my fault," mumbled May, staring down at her knees. Her stomach and head knotted uncomfortably, and her hands unconsciously squeezed into fists.

    "— But I am glad to have met you in person. I'll do my best to provide you with any help you may need, material or otherwise." Allyson extended her hand again, which May shook as she got up.

    "Let me ask you this," May said. "I came here to stop the production of Shadow Pokémon (since I didn't really know where else to go)… can you at least point me in the right direction to do that?"

    Allyson shook her head, ponytail flying side to side. "I'm afraid I'm not privy to where Shadow Pokémon are created. As I've said, Abyss is careful not to let things slip around me." She cast an apologetic look at May, sadness reflected in her green eyes.

    May felt sympathy well up in her chest: she and Allyson both appeared to be making the best of situations that neither of them had entered into willingly. She wouldn't be surprised if similar expressions had appeared on her face over the past day or so. "Well, thanks anyways."

    "I'll be in touch." affirmed Allyson with another sad smile.

    They shook hands again before May slipped out of the room. She had just rounded the corner when she registered the sound of rolling wheels and hurried footsteps coming towards her. In a panic, she reached into her bag for a Poké Ball — and then a small figure came hurtling down the hallway and crashed into her, falling backwards.

    "Smidge!" May hissed, feeling her heart somewhere in her throat. "What the hell are you doing?!"

    "Lookin' for you," Smidge snapped as he hauled himself upright. Manya came up from behind him, slightly out of breath. "I found somethin' you might wanna see."

    He about-faced and rolled back down the hallway. May caught Manya's eye and raised a questioning eyebrow. Manya shrugged in response, her face tinged with red.

    "I have no idea what he found," she gasped. "I was keeping an eye out for people and he had disappeared for one second…"

    "Well, let's not lose him this time," May said, setting off at a jog after the boy. She heard Manya groan behind her before following.

    They did lose sight of Smidge, at least for a while: the sound of his roller blades still made him relatively easy to follow, though May worried about the noise alerting Abyss to their presence in the laboratory. No grunts or scientists (or anyone else for that matter) even poked their heads out, however, as May and Manya continued down hallways, around corners, and even down a flight of stairs. Finally, they caught sight of Smidge holding open a door.

    "In here!" he said as they drew closer. May caught a glimpse of his face as they moved past him: he looked pale and shaken, with enough sweat to rival Professor Krane.

    Hoping it wasn't another supply closet, May strode through the door with Manya behind her. They had entered into a darkened room, its features not entirely discernable.

    "What's in here, Smidge?" May asked, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the lack of light. "Why did you bring us —"

    She turned back towards Smidge, just in time to see the door swing shut. The sound of the lock clicking appeared to echo throughout the unnervingly silent building. May's heart gave an almighty leap as she grabbed the doorknob; she tried to turn it but it wouldn't budge. "****!"

    "What happened?" breathed Manya, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. She had been too busy catching her breath to notice.

    "He tricked us," growled May. "We're locked in here."

    Before Manya could react, the florescent lights flicked on, blinding the two with their dazzling gleam. May and Manya blinked furiously to recover, and took stock of their surroundings. The room was quite similar to Allyson's with desks and equipment all along the walls, although it was much larger with more floor space.

    And they weren't alone: there were two other people standing directly across from them.

    To be continued...

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  18. #18
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    Not surprised to see May choose to keep the Altaria on her over Crawdaunt. That Pokémon seems more in line with her character, being a coordinator and all. The Shadow Pokémon Lab seems pretty dilapidated to reflect the time skip. And I think May's slipped into the espionage role a little bit too well. Footprints in the sand are obvious enough, but a clean keypad seems like something straight out of a police procedural.

    So you introduce Smidge here. You got the sleezy angle nailed down on him pretty well, I'd say. Kind of made me want to slap the guy upside the head. But I see the girls already made him into a bit of a chew toy for their frustrations. I was kind of hoping he wasn't going to lead the girls into a trap but, no, he totally did. No idea what would drive the girls to trust him. If they were really concerned, they could've tried to ditch him once they'd gotten into the lab. Ah well.

    And then we get Allyson, May's mysterious benefactor. She showed up a lot sooner than I was expecting, if I'm being honest. I'll buy her reasoning for choosing May, even though I feel like Orre's a bit cut off from the rest of the Pokémon world and wouldn't really know of any famous trainers abroad. I don't really have much of an opinion of Allyson at the moment, other than that she seems like your prototypical mole/woman on the inside that some spy movies like employing.

    Looks like we're in for a double battle next chapter. Should be fun! ^^
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    Sometimes becoming a Pokémon isn't all fun and games.

    Latest Episode: Striking Midnight (5 of 5 chapters posted)

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    Not surprised to see May choose to keep the Altaria on her over Crawdaunt. That Pokémon seems more in line with her character, being a coordinator and all. The Shadow Pokémon Lab seems pretty dilapidated to reflect the time skip. And I think May's slipped into the espionage role a little bit too well. Footprints in the sand are obvious enough, but a clean keypad seems like something straight out of a police procedural.
    There's a reason I chose Altaria for the first Shadow Pokemon. I think the clean keypad would stand out enough for a building that was supposedly abandoned, otherwise they would've gone all the way out there for nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    So you introduce Smidge here. You got the sleezy angle nailed down on him pretty well, I'd say. Kind of made me want to slap the guy upside the head. But I see the girls already made him into a bit of a chew toy for their frustrations. I was kind of hoping he wasn't going to lead the girls into a trap but, no, he totally did. No idea what would drive the girls to trust him. If they were really concerned, they could've tried to ditch him once they'd gotten into the lab. Ah well.

    And then we get Allyson, May's mysterious benefactor. She showed up a lot sooner than I was expecting, if I'm being honest. I'll buy her reasoning for choosing May, even though I feel like Orre's a bit cut off from the rest of the Pokémon world and wouldn't really know of any famous trainers abroad. I don't really have much of an opinion of Allyson at the moment, other than that she seems like your prototypical mole/woman on the inside that some spy movies like employing.
    Smidge is a fun character to write, because he won't admit he's in the wrong and definitely gives the girls a chance to vent. He's sort of the Max of this story, albeit not as smart. Allyson's one of my pet characters in this story, honestly, even if we don't see much of her right away. I really want to make sure she gets proper attention in the later chapters.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    Looks like we're in for a double battle next chapter. Should be fun! ^^
    The next chapter is one of my favorites, if only for how the battle plays out. It's a little shorter than the others, though, so just be aware of that once I post it in the next couple of days. I'm really gonna have to finish up chapter eight soon...

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  20. #20
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    I apologize in advance for having you suffer through another round of my bad descriptions... but at least this is one of the shorter chapters...



    Chapter 6
    "Cornered! Surprise Tag Battle VS Abyss Admins!"

    There were two women standing on the other side of the room, both tall and slender. The leftmost one was slightly taller and adorned in a very neat and proper suit, arms folded across her chest. Her hair, on the other hand, was cut very short and jagged.

    The second woman was dressed almost in the exact opposite way, with a long periwinkle-blue-and-white sleeveless top and stockings. Her hair was colored vivid pink and tied into two massive pigtails that almost reached her shoes. Her eyes, bright green like Lily's but with no maternal love behind them, shone with excitement.

    "I think this is going to be so fun," she chirped to the first woman. "Wouldn't you agree?"

    "Only if you could keep silent for it," the first woman shot back, the tiniest bit of irritation leaking through her voice. Her eyes were concealed behind narrow sunglasses, though May was sure behind the lenses they were narrowed in dislike.

    The pink-haired woman ignored the response and turned back towards May and Manya. "Ooh, look here. We have ourselves a couple of cuties, don't we?" She grinned suddenly, and May felt a chill run up her spine. "I'm so looking forward to breaking them in two."

    "If you're going to break anything, couldn't you break this door?" asked May, in an attempt to sound much more courageous than she was feeling at the moment.

    The pink-haired woman started to laugh, though it was too high-pitched and horrific to be considered comforting. "Look, Carna, they think they're so funny. Listen up, kiddies," she continued, "We're both Abyss Admins, so you ought to know what you're in for, right?"

    "I wouldn't misjudge them, Lovrina," sneered Carna. It seemed as though she was trying very hard not to smile, as the corners of her mouth kept twitching. "They defeated Galli, after all."

    "Galli was so trash, though," Lovrina retorted, adjusting the gloves on her hands.

    "Not exactly hard to refute," said Manya, speaking up. "Alright, so you won't let us out… but I bet we'll have to battle you first, huh?" She already had a Poké Ball clutched tightly in her hand which, May realized, she herself ought to have done in the first place.

    Lovrina rolled her eyes and threw up her hands. "Kids today are so impatient… but sure, I was so getting tired of waiting." She looked sideways at Carna, who remained impassive and somewhat unimpressed. "Shall we?"

    Carna only gave a stiff nod, and two Poké Balls burst open with small popping noises. Out of Carna's came a thin, limber dog with dark, black fur. Long curled horns curled from the back of its head, with gray bands around its ankles and neck and ridges along its back. A long, skinny tail ending in a triangular point whipped around as the Houndoom snarled around at them.

    Lovrina's Poké Ball held an entirely different Pokémon: a twenty-foot long sea serpent with deep red eyes, thin eyebrows ascending around its narrow head and long, narrow fins flowing down like hair. Diamond-shaped scales shone in blue and pink on its tail, four scales spread like a fan on the end. The Milotic slithered gracefully and silently up beside Carna's Houndoom, staring over at May and Manya.

    Manya tossed out her Poké Ball: what looked to be a bipedal gecko materialized, colored light green and a burgundy underbelly. Thick, forest green leaves extended from its wrists and backside, with a long, slender leaf sprouting from its head. Grovyle's yellow reptilian eyes darted around the room, evidently taking in everything it could.

    After a brief moment's consideration, May chose her Pokémon. A six-foot-tall humanoid avian appeared in a flash. Supposed by powerful, muscular red-and-yellow legs, her Blaziken shook its head, throwing its beige feather "hair" back and forth. Bright, golden eyes peered down its hooked beak at Manya's Grovyle before turning out towards the Houndoom and Milotic. Its clawed hands flexed in anticipation of the fight about to occur.

    Then all hell broke loose: all four Trainers shouted commands simultaneously, the attack names melding together into an incoherent battle. Nonetheless, the Pokémon reacted: Manya's Grovyle leaping into the air to avoid an Ice Beam from Milotic before swinging its forearm down for a Leaf Blade, only to miss and crack the floor instead, Milotic having swerved away at the last moment.

    Meanwhile, Houndoom spewed a jet of flames from its mouth, which collided in midair into a similar Flamethrower from Blaziken; the two attacks caused a minor explosion, which Grovyle ducked under as it ran back towards its Trainer. As the dust cloud settled, Houndoom leapt through, jaws agape, ready to crush Grovyle in two. But May reacted in time and had Blaziken drive its fist into the Dark Pokémon's head, knocking it back.

    "Thanks for the save," said Manya, staring up at Blaziken in slight awe. "Guess we'll have to be careful, huh?"

    "Maybe a little," admitted May, noticing the familiar rush of adrenaline running through her system. It was almost painful to admit to herself that she wanted to get this over quickly, to smash everything into little pieces and call it a day… maybe she had more of her father in herself than she wanted to admit. She eyed Lovrina shooting a glare at Carna, which was ignored by the taller woman.

    "How d'you want to play this?" May asked.

    "I notice I'm at a distinct disadvantage here, using a Grass-type." Manya gestured over towards the Milotic. "Especially with that thing having an Ice move."

    "It's bad news for Blaziken, too, but I have an idea. Draw its fire, I'll counter the Ice Beam so you can get it with Leaf Blade."

    Manya nodded and looked at her Pokémon. "Let's try it again, Grovyle, Leaf Blade!" The Wood Gecko Pokémon leapt into the air with its powerful legs, the leaves on its forearms expanding and merging into a single, curved edge. Its sights set on Milotic, it dived…

    And as expected, Milotic fired another beam of cryogenic energy, but Blaziken shot off a stream of fire from its wrist, searing through the air, to intercept it…

    Then out of nowhere, Houndoom jumped straight into the Flamethrower, completely unperturbed by the flames dancing across its body. May swore and told Blaziken to punch it again as it landed; Houndoom dashed out of the way instead to avoid the oncoming wave of water making its way across the floor.

    "New plan!" May called over to Manya, catching her Blaziken's eye and gesturing over towards Grovyle. With a swift nod, the Blade Pokémon pushed off the ground with its powerful legs, landing next to its battling partner. Blaziken scooped up Grovyle into its arms, then jumped straight up, latching onto a light fixture to avoid the Milotic's Surf.

    "Aren't you clever," Lovrina sneered, her Milotic glaring up at its opponents. "But we can fix that — Icy Wind!"

    Milotic exhaled a gust of chilled air up towards Blaziken and Grovyle; May countered with Rock Tomb, and small boulders were conjured out of thin air to absorb the attack. They fell to the ground, frozen solid, the cracking sound mirroring the light fixture breaking away from the ceiling.

    Blaziken dropped to the ground, the floor shattering underneath as it landed. Deftly snatching the florescent light in its hands, Blaziken tossed it towards Milotic. Lovrina scoffed and had Milotic freeze it with another Icy Wind, not noticing Groyvle leaping up from behind it until the Wood Gecko smashed a Leaf Blade attack straight down onto Milotic's head.

    Houndoom sprang into the air to smash Grovyle between its jaws, only to have rocks slam into its side, Blaziken having launched them into the air with Blaze Kick. The Dark Pokémon crumbled into a twisted heap, snarling in pain.

    "Impudent children," muttered Carna, speaking for the first time since the battle had started. "Get up, Houndoom, and fry that pesky lizard."

    "Milotic, clean off that overgrown poultry!" added Lovrina.

    Grovyle and Blaziken had ended up near each other after delivering their previous attacks, and both Pokémon dived out of the way of the incoming Fire Blast and Hydro Pump. The two attacks collided and erupted into a massive cloud of steam that filled up the room, fogging up the computer screens and glass test tubes.

    "That was unexpected," said Manya, fanning some vapor out of her face. "But they're certainly tough, huh?"

    "That Houndoom's on its last legs, though." May replied. "If we can take it out, Milotic shouldn't be a problem."

    "And then we can string up Smidge by his bandanna once we're done. So…" Manya looked at May, a steely and determined expression crossing her face. "What's our endgame?"

    May turned back to the steam cloud, as if she could suddenly see through to the other side. Raised voices told her that Carna and Lovrina had gotten into an argument over which of them was responsible for the drastic shift in conditions. "Let's give this a try…"

    "This is pointless," came Carna's voice suddenly, loud and stern. "Houndoom, Sunny Day."

    Heat began to radiate from Houndoom, gradually evaporating the steam away, the room became much more humid and stuffy as a result. But, one way or another, the fight was about to conclude, as each side was sure to attempt to catch their opponents off-guard while there was still cover. It would depend on whoever managed to strike first…

    And sure enough, before the last bit of steam dissipated, Grovyle dashed through with Quick Attack, slamming head-on into Houndoom. Taken by surprise, and having its last bit of health knocked away, Houndoom let out a whimper and collapsed, unconscious. A muscle twitched in Carna's cheek but she said nothing as she recalled it back into its Poké Ball.

    "Dammit!" Lovrina spun around and spotted Blaziken standing directly across from her. "You'll so regret this! Hydro Pump!"

    A massive, high-pressure stream of water burst forth from Milotic's mouth and crashed directly into Blaziken, soaking it completely. The force of the attack also pushed it back across the floor, Blaziken's talons gouging deep, long marks into the floor.

    "Hang in there, Blaziken!" cried May, watching helplessly as her Pokémon endured the attack as best it could. A chill flashed down her spine as the attack finally finished, and saw to her relief that Blaziken, while forced down to a knee and completely soaked, still had the energy to keep fighting.

    Then, abruptly, Blaziken's eyes snapped open, and it pulled itself upright, hands clenched tight and the flames on its wrists flaring up twice their size. A dark red aura erupted around its body, giving the Pokémon the appearance that it just set itself alight.

    Instinctively, May knew what had happened: Blaziken had taken enough damage that its Ability, Blaze, had activated. But could they do anything with this? As indistinct thoughts raced through May's head, she felt sweat slide down the back of her neck. She reached up a hand to wipe it off, and unexpectedly realized just what Houndoom's last attack was.

    Her heart leaping up to her throat, May flashed a wide grin at a bemused Manya before calling out to the room at large, "This is the end! Blaziken… Overheat!"

    For a split-second, Blaziken glowed bright-red, then unleashed an intense, full-power explosion of orange-red fire straight at Milotic. The attack was delivered so quickly that the Tender Pokémon had no choice but to experience it in full. It writhed and squirmed as the flames covered its entire length, emanating a harsh, mournful cry that echoed through-out the room. Once the last flickering ember disappeared, Milotic fainted, each and every one of its rainbow-colored scales slightly charred and blackened.

    Lovrina gaped at the sight of her knocked out Pokémon. "You are so going to pay for this." She threatened, her voice lowered to a venomous whisper, her Milotic disappearing back into its Ball with a flash.

    "C'mon," Carna said, turning away to a previously unseen door behind her. She disappeared through it, with Lovrina following after, though not before she shot an extremely nasty look at May and Manya.

    Now left alone in the quiet, muggy room, the two girls exchanged a look. It seemed pretty strange for two Admins to just walk away after having defeated, especially after having sent out one Pokémon each. Regardless, they had won, so May asked Blaziken to knock down the door before letting it rest.

    "Alright, let's find that double-crossing brat and knock him into orbit," Manya declared as they stepped back out into the hallway. "I knew he would pull something like this."

    May opened her mouth to respond, but before she could speak, a piercing, klaxon-like sound split through the air. Lights flashed in tune to the alarm, dying everything a deep blood-red.

    "We didn't do that, did we?" Manya sputtered, eyes wide in shock.

    "I did," said a familiar voice coming from their elbows. To their surprise, there stood Smidge, peering up at them with an unamused stare.

    "Of course you did!" Manya shouted over the alarm's continued wailing. "You lured us into one trap and now you dropped us straight into another!"

    "Half-right," Smidge answered, turning to walk away. "I'm gettin' you two outta here, a'right?"

    Immediately Manya blurted out, "I don't trust you," and returned Smidge's inquiring gaze with an expression of loathing.

    With a sigh, Smidge turned to May, who had watched the entire exchange in trepidation. "Okay, look… yeah, I locked you in that room. But I'm making up for it now, so let's get our butts in gear."

    "We have no other choice," May told Manya. When the blonde started to protest, May continued, "I know it sucks, but I can hear people coming and we're in enough trouble as it is."

    "We need to stop being out of options," Manya groaned, relenting and following Smidge's lead down the corridor. May quietly agreed, though felt as though admitting it aloud was not going to be a wise move.

    "You said you set off the alarm," May gasped as they ran, the alarm ringing in their ears. "What did you do?"

    With some difficulty, Smidge reached into his pocket and presented a piece of machinery. "I broke one of their important-lookin' machines. Guess it was connected to their alarm system, 'cuz it started going off when I snapped it off."

    "You have a lot of explaining to do, short stuff."

    "Less talk, more running!" called Manya as she overtook them towards the doors leading outside. A quick glance over their shoulders revealed Abyss grunts heading after them, so they sped up, bracing for the dry, dusty air outside.



    "Tell me how it went," their boss said, addressing Lovrina and Carna from behind a smooth, polished desk.

    "We so lost," snapped Lovrina, her voice thick with the attitude of obviousness. Indignation burned in her chest: they really shouldn't have lost, but at least she could take pride in her Milotic surviving longer than Carna's Houndoom. She folded her arms and added, "But you so knew we would, huh?"

    "You did what you were ordered to," came the reply. "And I commend both of you for that."

    "We'll break them next time," murmured Carna, her arms quivering in anticipation. "Right in two, yes ma'am."

    She really has no impulse control at all. Lovrina noted, as their boss stood up. Silence swept across the room, even overtaking the man standing off against the wall who hadn't spoken a word.

    "May I have your professional opinion, Lovrina?" The question was delivered firm and steady, yet there was an unmistakable hint of expectancy and eagerness. "Will the plan work?"

    Calculations and figures ran through Lovrina's head as she mulled over the question. Personally she wasn't entirely sold on the plan, but the numbers — the numbers she worked on and reapplied each and every morning and night — were solid. There was nothing she could do about it. "I believe so, ma'am."

    If their boss was pleased to hear this, she didn't express it much: her face only softened slightly. "Thank you. You're dismissed."

    Without sparing a glance at Carna, Lovrina turned on her heel and strutted away. Behind her, she heard their boss address the man against the wall.

    "You have your orders. I expect a full report when it's complete."

    "Yes ma'am," came his unctuous and flattering voice, and shortly trailed Lovrina and Carna out of the room.

    She eased herself back into the chair, her office doors closing shut with a muffled click. Granting no attention towards her quickening pulse, she gazed at the framed, battered photograph sitting on the corner of her desk. Two children, a boy and a girl, posing with a small, white-and-gold Pokémon stared back, their faded colors and smiles sending ripples through her heart.

    "We're so close," Shelly whispered, her voice carrying through-out the room to absent ears. "Just a little longer…"

    To be continued...
    Last edited by Cap D. Blue; 22nd October 2017 at 11:48 PM.

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  21. #21
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    Right, so I read this on mobile and took notes on a little piece of paper. So, apologies if my thoughts are a bit scattered. Right off the bat, I have to point out that you start the chapter off with, "There were two woman..." which should be changed to "women." Moving right along though, hi Lovrina! I see you haven't learned a thing since XD. I can't say I was expecting her appearance, since of all the Cipher personnel only Ardos showed any desire to continue on with Shadow Pokémon stuff. She's just as obnoxiously perky as she was in XD, though I see her, like, valley girl accent didn't really make it in.

    For the actual battle itself, I do like some of the impromptu teamwork that May and Manya manage to pull off. And the mental image I had of a Blaziken bridal-carrying a Grovyle while jumping onto a light fixture is pretty gosh-darn funny. I am, however, a bit surprised at the total lack of teamwork on the part of the Abyss admins. I get that they don't really like each other, but you'd think they'd put aside their "differences" for the sake of carrying out business. Seriously, Carna, using Sunny Day when your teammate's using a water-type? Not the best move you could've come up with, there. I'm also not sure why they'd each only have one Pokémon, though the end scene seems to indicate they were just stalling for time to some degree. It's still a little unusual, since part of what made admins so threatening in Colo/XD was that they were usually packing large teams. I guess that's for later, though. As for Smidge's reappearance, I expect another double-cross and have no idea why the girls didn't just knock him out or force him to help by threatening to sic their Pokémon on him.

    The ending bit is interesting though. I certainly wouldn't have thought that minor tidbit from the Aqua Hideout in ORAS would end up factoring into this whole thing. Maybe Shelly's trying to get (who I assume is) Archie back using Jirachi? It's also hilarious, since a renegade Magma scientist went after Jirachi in the anime movies, and Archie himself went after Jirachi in the Emerald chapter of PokéSpecial after the Kyogre summoning fell through. I'm sure that's just a funny coincidence, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. ^^;
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    Moving right along though, hi Lovrina! I see you haven't learned a thing since XD. I can't say I was expecting her appearance, since of all the Cipher personnel only Ardos showed any desire to continue on with Shadow Pokémon stuff. She's just as obnoxiously perky as she was in XD, though I see her, like, valley girl accent didn't really make it in.
    Lovrina's Verbal Tic is more on the usage of "so", which distinguishes her from, say, Misty's sisters. Now that I think about it, she's the only returning antagonist from XD: I was planning on using more, but she's the only one who made it though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    For the actual battle itself, I do like some of the impromptu teamwork that May and Manya manage to pull off. And the mental image I had of a Blaziken bridal-carrying a Grovyle while jumping onto a light fixture is pretty gosh-darn funny. I am, however, a bit surprised at the total lack of teamwork on the part of the Abyss admins. I get that they don't really like each other, but you'd think they'd put aside their "differences" for the sake of carrying out business. Seriously, Carna, using Sunny Day when your teammate's using a water-type? Not the best move you could've come up with, there. I'm also not sure why they'd each only have one Pokémon, though the end scene seems to indicate they were just stalling for time to some degree. It's still a little unusual, since part of what made admins so threatening in Colo/XD was that they were usually packing large teams. I guess that's for later, though. As for Smidge's reappearance, I expect another double-cross and have no idea why the girls didn't just knock him out or force him to help by threatening to sic their Pokémon on him.
    There's more to this battle than I let on, but that's for a later chapter. The lack of teamwork was supposed to be a hint towards Lovrina and Carna not getting along too well, but it is their first appearance so there's not really too much to be said on that so far. We'll explore Smidge's character some more as the story progresses, I just need to work out where's the best place to put it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    The ending bit is interesting though. I certainly wouldn't have thought that minor tidbit from the Aqua Hideout in ORAS would end up factoring into this whole thing. Maybe Shelly's trying to get (who I assume is) Archie back using Jirachi? It's also hilarious, since a renegade Magma scientist went after Jirachi in the anime movies, and Archie himself went after Jirachi in the Emerald chapter of PokéSpecial after the Kyogre summoning fell through. I'm sure that's just a funny coincidence, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. ^^;
    A lot of my old plot ideas involved Team Aqua in some aspect, I liked them more than Magma as a kid (it may have been because I played Ruby). Anyways, yes, we have a reveal for our Big Bad! Again, she's got a mix of canon here: she'll be using her anime design but I add aspects from Special and ORAS into her character. And now that I think about, the mention of Jirachi unintentionally ties in with the Colosseum bonus disk that gave players access to it... honestly, that's a pretty funny coincidence, ha ha.

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    Posting chapter seven now, which means this story is caught up with all the other places I've posted it. Chapter eight is roughly 75% done, and as it's going to be a while before it's ready, I ask for your patience.

    In the meantime, enjoy chapter seven, which you'll either hate me or love me for (betting on the former, tbh).


    Chapter 7
    "An Unlikely Ally? International Police Agent Looker!"

    "Why are we running?!" Smidge yelled over the din of the engine. He, May, and Manya had escaped from the Shadow Pokémon Lab in a rush and were now making their getaway in Miss Birdie. But Smidge apparently objected to this idea.

    "We should go back 'n clean that place up!" he protested, eyes wide in disbelief at May shaking her head.

    "We hardly have the manpower for that right now," she countered. "And sit down." She pushed down on Smidge's shoulders to prevent him from flying out of the cargo bed. "But you're welcome to go back if you want."

    Smidge stared out towards the Lab, vanishing over the horizon behind him. His shadowed eyes glared at May before turning away from her, arms crossed.

    Rolling her eyes, May addressed Manya, "Where are we headed?"

    "To a hideout of our own," she replied rather mysteriously, and would not elaborate when pressed. "Just keep an eye out, I'm heading straight for it."

    "Oh good," said Smidge, his voice filled with irony. "Then Abyss'll know right where to find us."

    At that, Manya jostled the bike, just enough to almost toss Smidge out onto the ground. She smirked at May over her shoulder before returning her attention back up front.

    They traveled east for roughly a quarter-hour before something appeared on the horizon ahead. It wasn't immediately discernable, but it certainly appeared ominous at first glance. May couldn't help but imagine that whatever they were heading towards almost certainly didn't belong in a desert at all.

    As they rode towards the structure and it came more clearly into view, May could see what it was: a massive streamliner ship, partly submerged in an ocean of sand. It had clearly been here for years, as evidenced by peeling, faded paint and massive patches of rust here and there.

    "How did this end up here?" May asked, staring up at the wreck as they all climbed off Miss Birdy.

    "Would you believe it?" Manya smirked. "A giant Pokémon picked it up and dropped it here."

    "You're kidding."

    Manya shrugged, manually guiding her motorbike towards a gaping, jagged hole in the ship's hull. "It's what people say, anyways."

    May glanced back at Smidge. The boy was clearly attempting to appear unimpressed, but his face reflected something like fearful reverence. He might be too young to have heard the story, regardless of its historical accuracy.

    They followed Manya into the crevice. Scavengers had gradually cleared out whatever was inside, leaving little behind except sand and broken containers. It was much cooler here due to all the shade, but the air was still dry with a lingering stale smell.

    Manya noticed May wrinkling her nose and smiled. "Yeah, I know it stinks, but it's better than constantly having Abyss on our asses."

    "I'll manage," shrugged May, sitting on a long-buried steel crate. It was preferable to have a place to hide out in, to plan and regroup without the stress and panic of doing it on the run. She wondered what her dad would say about this situation. Knowing his training methods, he'd probably say something about it "building character".

    Smidge set himself down onto the sandy ground. Manya had rolled out a tarp with some tools to tinker with her motorbike. Understandable, May thought. Can't have our transportation breaking on us.

    They sat in relative silence for a while, the only sounds being the metallic clinking of Manya's work and the wind howling outside. It was rather peaceful… at least until May's acknowledgement of it being such triggered an unexpected boost of adrenaline.

    Then she found herself having difficulty drawing breath. Combined with her heart rate increasing and stomach tightening, it felt as though her entire torso had collapsed in on itself. Feeling light-headed and unreasonably terrified, she stood up and started running, stumbling as her feet hit sand.

    Manya called out after her, but May didn't hear it. She was acting automatically, out of impulsive fear and self-preservation. She didn't stop until she found herself in the long-abandoned control room. Thoughts flashed into her head, disappearing as quickly as they came. They burst open like fireworks: I can't do this, I can't. I'm leading everyone into trouble. I have no idea what I'm doing, they're going to kill us…

    May curled up on the floor, knees up to her chest. Tears welled up in her eyes and she squeezed them shut, half-wishing the burning sensation would envelope her entirely and leave nothing behind. "What was I thinking…?!"

    A metallic creak shot through the room, and May glanced up to see Manya walking in. May said nothing in acknowledgement, choosing instead to wipe her face on her sleeve. She could tell without looking that her friend was standing over, perhaps carefully measuring what to say.

    Manya lowered herself onto the floor, sitting with her legs crossed. Gazing at May's scrunched-up form, she asked, "D'you want to talk about it?"

    May lifted her head up, blinking her red and irritated eyes in confusion. "What?" she croaked, a side effect of her throat drying out. "No reprimand for not keeping myself together?"

    "I hardly think that's what you need right now."

    They stared at each other for a moment. Even in her current emotional state, May had a rush of gratitude and respect for Manya maintaining a calm and level attitude. Shudders racked her body, and without any further restraint May burst into frustrated tears. Her thoughts tumbled out of her mouth: how she was frustrated with the expectations placed on her shoulders, afraid of making a mistake and endangering people when she was supposed to save them.

    She paused, taking rasping breaths, when she felt herself being pulled into Manya's arms. The unexpected embrace slightly jolted May out of her breakdown, at least enough to rub the tears out of her eyes. Brief waves of distress crashed against her heart, but a miniscule voice in the back of May's head was telling her, Manya's right here, you're going to get through this. She forced herself to take a slow, deep breath, focusing on the sensation of the dry, dusty air filling her lungs before exhaling.

    The two girls remained there for a while, Manya's arms wrapped securely around May's torso. May tried her best to focus on breathing, acutely aware that her heart rate wasn't decreasing. Manya hadn't spoken since May's outburst, though May simply wanted her mood to stabilize first before attempting a conversation.

    "Bet that feels better, huh?" whispered Manya.

    May responded with a small nod and a sniff. What she wouldn't give to stay here forever and not have to worry about anything anymore… And yet she knew that, after all her previous adventuring, she wasn't the kind of person to just call things quits when it got tough… She would get through this.

    Manya released her grip and May rubbed her eyes dry one last time. "Thanks, Manya," she said, gazing into her friend's face. "I'm sorry you had to see that."

    "Don't worry about it," Manya said, waving away her concerns. "I'm glad you're doing better." She stood up, dusting the sand off her skirt. "You're not a superhero, y'know… there's gonna be things even you can't do alone."

    May wanted to respond that Manya wasn't the one wearing a Snag Machine on her wrist but thought better of it. She nodded instead and pulled herself upright, her legs screaming in protest as they stretched out. Her head still felt swollen after her emotional release, with the arid desert air doing no additional favors.

    "That said," May said, as they made their way back to the ground level (given that she was in the middle of an anxiety attack the last time she came through here, everything looked so alien to her). "I wouldn't say no to a little extra help."

    "Hmm…" Manya gazed out at nothing in particular, pondering that statement. "Well, I don't think it'd be a good idea to have too many people in on what we're doing… but maybe…"

    "Maybe what?"

    Manya wasn't able to answer: the moment their feet touched the sandy ground, Smidge came running up to them, his face a mixture of confusion and anger. "The heck did you go?" he snapped.

    "None of your business," Manya shot back. May inwardly thanked her for not divulging her breakdown before addressing their miniscule companion.

    "What's going on, Smidge?"

    The boy pointed out towards the crevice in the ship's hull. "I think there's someone skulkin' around out there. I keep hearin' footsteps and coughing."

    They all stared out past the hole, watching a giant dust cloud swirl around in the breeze. May strained her ears and, as Smidge had said, could detect faint sounds of movement. Her heart skipped a beat: could they have been followed from the Shadow Pokémon Lab? She had tried to keep an eye out as best she could during their escape, but hadn't noticed anything…

    "What d'ya think?" she asked Manya, lowering her voice to a whisper.

    "I doubt anyone with Abyss would be clumsy enough to let us hear them," Manya murmured back, her eyes still focused on the billowing sand. "But who'd be stupid enough to come out here?"

    "Us," Smidge grumbled, but his remark went unheard as the girls' attention became fully focused on a dark shape that had appeared in the midst of the dust cloud. It had to be a person —it became more identifiable as it advanced towards them — but were they a friendly? Or someone less desirable?

    Three hands grasped three Poké Balls as May, Manya, and Smidge all waited with bated breath. The shadow was steadily growing larger and more defined, and each step it took was echoed with a heartbeat in their chests.

    Then a tall man strode out of the dust, stepping with purpose and intent. He appeared very professional, with a well-worn but cared for trench coat over a deep brown suit. Wide brown eyes gazed out at the trio, a deep frown and arched eyebrow creasing his long face. It was quite an impressive entrance… at least until he doubled over, coughing violently.

    "Cough! Hack! … Ergh. That was quite unpleasant." The man straightened up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "My apologies for having you witness that," he added, addressing the three Trainers staring bemusedly. "But it seems that, despite being the very picture of health, I had inhaled a large amount of sand."

    "Who the heck's this guy?" wondered aloud Smidge to no one in particular, looking torn between outright confusion and breaking into laughter.

    "Curious about my identity, are we?" asked the man, not even bothering to conceal a satisfied smile. "Then I shall indulge you… My name is —" He shook his head and raised a hand in forgiveness. "No, my codename! It is Looker, and I ask that you refer to me as such."

    "Codename?" repeated Manya, eyebrows raised. "Is Abyss handing out codenames now?"

    "You think me as being with Abyss?" Looker shook his head and reached a hand into his coat. "My dear lady, I have come to stop Abyss." He withdrew his hand, revealing a gold badge that glinted in the sunlight. "As you can clearly see, I, Looker, am a member of the International Police. I hope you all will review my credentials, and that they are satisfactory to you."

    May put away her Poké Ball and took the badge that Looker had offered. She had never heard of the International Police before, so she was rather skeptical of this Looker character (such a word certainly fit him). But the more she scrutinized his credentials, the more genuine they seemed. She handed the badge to Smidge (who passed it off to Manya without a glance) and turned her attention back to Looker.

    "Okay, I have like a billion questions for you… first of all, how did the International Police know we're here?"

    Looker nodded, as if satisfied with May's inquiry. "We have spies and informants all across the world, so that we may always be prepared to investigate what nefarious goings-on require investigating."

    "I have to admit," said Manya, returning Looker's badge to him. "That's pretty impressive for how remote Orre is."

    "We do our best to live up to the name 'international'." the agent affirmed.

    That answers my next question about how they discovered Abyss, May thought, so she moved on: "So now that you're here, are you gonna send us all home to be the adult policeman who solves everything?"

    Taken aback, Looker shook his head. "No, not at all. You see, as I have been abroad on multiple occasions, I have been privileged to witnessing such feats what young Trainers such as yourselves are capable of. And thus, I, Looker, have come before you to assist your endeavors in endangering the evil empire of Abyss."

    May could feel Manya and Smidge's eyes on her, waiting to see what her decision would be. She was, at least, certain that Looker was truthful in his occupation. Maybe this was who they needed: an experienced adult with the authority to give weight to their actions against Abyss. Having Looker around might lessen her anxiety, too…

    "We're glad to have your help, Mr. Looker," she told him, hoping her smile came off as sincere.

    "I am pleased to hear of your acceptance," Looker replied with a nod. "But, please, there is no need to call me 'mister', as my codename is simply Looker." He paused in thought. "Pardon me, for I have seemed not to be privy to your names."

    They all introduced themselves briefly, Looker nodding as they each gave their names. "Now then," he continued, looking around at the three of them. "What, may I ask, is our next move?"

    May and Manya exchanged glances. They had not yet breached that topic, with their most recent concerns having been escaping and passing an anxiety attack. "We, uh… we haven't discussed that yet." May explained.

    "This shrimp might help," said Manya, sneering down at Smidge with her arms crossed. "I have the feeling he knows more than he's letting on, what with that little stunt he pulled before."

    "I don't know squat, blondie." Smidge huffed, and he flashed a rude hand gesture at Manya. "I jus' thought it'd be funny —"

    "Be honest, Smidge," interrupted May, becoming more thankful by the minute that her brother was nothing like him. "At the very least you knew enough to have two Admins come after us."

    The boy didn't answer, choosing instead to glower at her from under his bandanna. May crouched down to match his eye level. "Smidge," she said, her voice level. "Please tell us what you know. You helped us get away, so I think you don't want to be as involved with Abyss as we think you are."

    Smidge kicked the ground, the wheels of his skates spiraling from the motion. His eyes, flashing with indecision, darted from Manya to Looker before landing back onto May. Then, with a relenting sigh, he spoke. "Okay… I honestly know nothin' 'bout what Abyss is doin'… only thing I really do know is that they've settled in a lot of the same places Cipher did."

    "Cipher…" Lily had mentioned them earlier, only noting that they used to be active in Orre. May looked up at Manya, one hand tapping the screen of the Snag Machine. "D'you know where Cipher used to be?"

    Manya stepped closer as the Snag Machine projected a map of Orre, much like when Allyson had sent a message before. Small icons of each landmark appeared to hover in place, suspended above their location. One icon, a simplified head and torso, seemed to be the marker for May's position.

    Smidge and Looker stood off to the side, wearing similar bemused expressions as Manya gazed around at the map, tapping two fingers against her lips. "Well," She said finally, hands on her hips. "I will admit that I haven't heard a lot about Cipher, but I think I know enough…" She pointed to an icon south of Mt. Battle, directly west of their current resting place. "That's the lab we came from before, and Cipher used to be there… And this one here —" She jabbed a finger at a pyramid-shaped icon. "— was another of Cipher's laboratories."

    "Pardon for the interruption," interjected Looker. "But I caught up on briefings during my daring journey out here. It seems that Cipher's laboratories were never examined by any law enforcement agency after they were defeated years ago. Thus, I would deduce that Abyss has taken advantage of such a fact and has taken up residence there."

    "Probably made it easy for them," May said. "And if Cipher created Shadow Pokémon, all their research could have been there, too. Abyss wouldn't have to work so hard to continue what Cipher started."

    She turned her attention back to the map again and noticed another icon not too far from they were situated. "What's this?"

    Manya stared at the icon, brow furrowed in thought. "We're right near Eclo Canyon," she murmured. "I think… I think that used to be a hideout for some thugs that were also running around Orre."

    "Team Snagem," blurt out Smidge, and everyone turned towards him. He frowned around at them all before clarifying: "They were th' ones who'd snag Pokémon for Cipher to experiment on… I overheard some scientists talking about it when I was at the lab wit' ya."

    "Do you know if Snagem's working with Abyss?" Manya asked.

    Smidge shook his head. "Nah… I think at one point Snagem stopped workin' with Cipher… at least from what I heard."

    Manya and May both gazed up at the icon of Snagem's Hideout. Would it be worth checking out if Snagem would ally with us…? Even as she finished this thought, an all-too-familiar image of two costumed idiots and a talking Meowth flashed through her mind. That'd be a miracle of the century.

    May tapped the Snag Machine screen again and the holographic display disappeared. "Let's try and rest," she announced. "We should stock up on supplies later. I… I need to do some thinking, so let's not make any rash decisions."

    And before anyone could respond, May was already making her way back up to the control room, unconsciously rolling around Altaria's Poké Ball in her hand, the pounding of her heart starting up again.



    May stared down at the translucent top of her Poké Ball through the Aura Lenses. The Altaria was curled up inside, its head tucked under a fluffy wing. Inky, violet smoke drifted around the Pokémon, a foreboding reminder of May's responsibility. The thought of it triggered a jolt of discomfort in her stomach, and with a heavy sigh she leaned back along the shattered control console.

    The sun had begun dipping towards the horizon, and was currently at just the right position to illuminate the entire cabin. Holding the Poké Ball above her face, it almost seemed like May was holding the miniaturized Altaria in her hand without the manufactured capsule. How long had it been, she wondered, since the Altaria had experienced the sensation of a warm, gentle hand?

    "It's not really fair, is it?" May said aloud. "People telling you what they expect you to do, without any consideration for your feelings…" Memories of her neighbors back in Petalburg raced past her mind's eye: We're looking forward to seeing what kind of Trainer you'll be…

    She shook her head, as though the motion would dislodge the uncomfortable statements. Focusing back on the Altaria, May once again experienced the briefest flash of familiarity. She recognized the Pokémon as a species, of course, having seen one used by the Hoenn Gym Leader Winona, and in Johto by Lance… but there was something she couldn't place about this particular Altaria…

    On a whim she tossed the Poké Ball into the air, and it popped open, depositing the Pokémon onto the floor in front of her. Awoken from its slumber, Altaria raised its long, slender neck, blinking its beady eyes. It fixed May with a stare as she pulled off the Aura Lenses and crouched down to meet its gaze.

    Her heart started pounding again. Lily's voice echoed in her head: they're even known to attack Trainers themselves… yet somehow, she didn't mind taking this risk. She had to know why she almost felt as if she had met this Altaria before… the Pokémon itself even appeared to be thinking along the same lines, tilting its head slightly, as though discerning the human in front of it…

    Moments passed in silence, each hammering thud of May's heart a reminder that she was still alive for another second… she strained her memory, struggling to think of Altaria's evolutionary chain… it evolved from another Pokémon, didn't it? … But what was that Pokémon?

    Then, in a sudden bolt of recognition, May realized. Altaria evolved from a Pokémon called Swablu… she had seen plenty of them in her travels, and had even… but that was impossible. It was just too much of a coincidence for it to be true…

    "No way," May whispered, slowly reaching out a shaking hand up to Altaria's face. "There's… just no way…" Bracing herself for a sudden attack, she placed her hand against the Pokémon's cheek…

    To her great surprise, Altaria closed its eyes in contentment, and hummed a single, brief note. Blinking its small, black eyes, it looked up at May, who struggled to speak.

    "You… you're not…" She swallowed and blinked the fresh wave of tears threatening to fall down her face. "Do you… recognize me…?"

    Altaria gave the briefest of nods, its skin brushing against the fabric of May's gloves. A chill surged down May's spine, and she drowned in a wave of bittersweet amazement. It couldn't be… she couldn't believe that this was actually true… ignoring all further restraint, her face broke into a teary, disbelieving smile. This Pokémon, the Shadow Altaria… had to be the very same Swablu she had nursed back to health in Hoenn just over a year ago.

    To be continued...

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  24. #24
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    Ignoring the dead giveaway title, I was a bit caught off guard by the opening here. But I think it's good that May kind of broke down a bit as the gravity of the situation weighed on her. I mean, she kind of faced down Groudon and Kyogre so I would think she shouldn't be phased. But I guess this is a different type of threat. Am I to interpret the "adrenaline spike" as a panic attack? Because I've never heard adrenaline spikes used in that context. Usually it's the opposite (an adrenaline crash). And I'm not entirely sure I buy May taking all this relief in someone she's known for about a day or two. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess?

    I like your Looker. You capture his quirky, sometimes overblown and repetitive style of speaking. Though I'm a bit surprised he offered to help as opposed to trying to take the leadership role and "recruit" the others. That seems more like something he might try.

    As for the ending scene there... well, I'm not entirely sure how that Swablu ended up all the way in Orre. I'm certainly curious to find out. I thought it seemed a little fishy that her first snagged Pokémon was an Altaria. I'm sure that's going to be an interesting dynamic to see.
    Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    Ignoring the dead giveaway title, I was a bit caught off guard by the opening here. But I think it's good that May kind of broke down a bit as the gravity of the situation weighed on her. I mean, she kind of faced down Groudon and Kyogre so I would think she shouldn't be phased. But I guess this is a different type of threat. Am I to interpret the "adrenaline spike" as a panic attack? Because I've never heard adrenaline spikes used in that context. Usually it's the opposite (an adrenaline crash). And I'm not entirely sure I buy May taking all this relief in someone she's known for about a day or two. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess?
    I've been struggling with some pretty bad anxiety for the past couple years, and I can tell you from experience that it can trigger a fight or flight response. Imagine you're playing a video game and you suddenly hear boss fight music, and no matter where you look there's nothing, but you're put on edge regardless. Having May experience anxiety is something that I really wanted to delve into, for two reasons: it add gravitas and realism to her situation, and it helps me, in a way, manage my own anxieties by describing the feeling of "Oh god something's going to happen but I don't know what so I have to be on the lookout or I'll end up in a bad place."

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    I like your Looker. You capture his quirky, sometimes overblown and repetitive style of speaking. Though I'm a bit surprised he offered to help as opposed to trying to take the leadership role and "recruit" the others. That seems more like something he might try.
    Honestly Looker's been one of my favorite characters to write so far. His particular syntax lets me be a little more loose, which might, I think, inject a little humor into the situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ambyssin View Post
    As for the ending scene there... well, I'm not entirely sure how that Swablu ended up all the way in Orre. I'm certainly curious to find out. I thought it seemed a little fishy that her first snagged Pokémon was an Altaria. I'm sure that's going to be an interesting dynamic to see.
    I'll admit, this is another fanboyism: I loved True Blue Swablu as an episode but hated that May didn't get to keep said Swablu because they built a wonderful emotional rapport and the Pokemon as a whole suits her. It is, admittedly, a bit of a Contrived Coincidence but I'm claiming writer's privilege because this was an idea I developed from the beginning. I'll do my best to give it justice, though!

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