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Thread: Crack'd, or How the Love of Seafood Saved Unova

  1. #26
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    oooooh this is really good! i didnt notice any spelling mistakes or anything like that, i did get abit confused on the second chapter but i kinda like that haha.
    The whole shopping thing just made me chuckle, and ive just relised he was on the phone to a cat... hahahaha.
    well done its looking great so far!

  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by jackk View Post
    oooooh this is really good! i didnt notice any spelling mistakes or anything like that, i did get abit confused on the second chapter but i kinda like that haha.
    The whole shopping thing just made me chuckle, and ive just relised he was on the phone to a cat... hahahaha.
    well done its looking great so far!
    Thank you. I'm glad you enjoy it.

    F.A.B.

  3. #28
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    So, I'm sorry I haven't been replying lately, but I've been kind of busy. Real Life had a stranglehold on Internet Life all last week, so I've only just managed to get this finished and posted.

    Chapter Three: By the Pricking of My Thumbs

    I stared at the door. Just like that, I'd run away. Run from the government man, harbouring someone they badly wanted to get their hands on. If I wasn't very much mistaken, I'd probably just become a criminal.

    “Up here!” cried Halley, from atop the fence. “You can climb, right? If not, you're going to learn. Fast.”

    “I can climb,” I replied, slightly nettled; I might not be good at catching stuff, but I was a White Forester, born and bred. Most of my childhood had been spent up trees.

    “Then prove it,” she said shortly, and dropped out of sight.

    I sprinted to the fence, jumped up and easily vaulted the top; a moment later, I touched down lightly on the other side.

    “OK,” said Halley, staring at me, “I thought it was cool when I realised I could do that. But that was f*cking awesome.”

    “It's a White Forest thing,” I replied, looking out down the dirt track that ran along the back of the house. “We spend our childhoods running around in the woods.”

    I felt a little shudder of panic rise in me, but pushed it down. Forget about what might be happening back in the house; those people wanted Halley badly, and that meant they probably also wanted me. I had to focus on getting away.

    “Where do we go?” I asked.

    “I don't know. Just away from here,” said Halley, crossing the track and loping past another house towards the main trail. “How big is this place?”

    “Not very big. About six hundred houses.”

    “Too small to hide in. We have to get out of here, then.” Halley thought for a moment. “Is there a train to other towns or something?”

    “Yeah, but I don't have any money,” I pointed out. “My bag's still at home—”

    “Sh*t. We're f*cked.” Halley slowed and sighed. “Unless we just run blindly into the woods, which is probably a bad idea, we can't—”

    “Wait!” I cried, a good idea suddenly popping into my head and temporarily pushing aside any fear or reluctance. “We can go to Annie. If we explain the situation, she'll help us.”

    “Annie.... that's Anastasia, right?”

    “Yeah,” I nodded, setting off again with renewed confidence. “It's this way to her house—”

    “What, uh... what relation is she to you?” asked Halley tentatively. “Because I think she was Jared's girlfriend, and—”

    “Oh, she's mine too,” I said, slightly disconcerted; Halley's knowledge was definitely beyond what I thought it should be. I hadn't mentioned Anastasia at all yesterday, and yet she knew about her – and if she couldn't participate in the Dream World, maybe she really had slipped between realities yesterday.

    “Oh. Ah, OK,” replied Halley, clearly surprised. “That – I didn't expect that. But I guess it makes sense, since everyone else apart from you seems to be exactly the same as in Jared's world. Cordelia was, and from the sound of it your mum was – so I guess Anastasia is too. Everyone has the same character, the same personality, the same relations... everyone except you.”

    “Do you really think there is another reality?” I asked apprehensively.

    “Uh, yeah? Have you been listening to anything I've been saying at all?” she retorted. “I've been telling you that I've fallen into some weird parallel universe all morning!”

    “It's actually only half past six—”

    “It's a turn of phrase!”

    She stalked along in silence for a while, looking around at the trees and timber houses with mingled wonder and disgust, and I had a chance to think again about what had just happened.

    I had fled the house because it had been invaded by sinister government operatives who wanted to get hold of Halley. There, I'd said it. It was crazy, but that wasn't what bothered me; I was happy to accept pretty much anything that I actually saw as being possible. (The druids at the temple always used to say that only fools and philosophers doubt the evidence of their own eyes.)

    No, what really worried me was what those people might be doing back in the house. Would they hurt anyone, or arrest them even when they couldn't find Halley? I hoped they wouldn't; I didn't even want to think about that. And while I was certain that going with and helping her was the right thing to do – after all, she was going to need a human to speak for her, to avoid drawing attention to herself – it looked like it might be dangerous to be around her. From the sound of it, this Jared, my Dream World self, was the kind of person who could face danger and punch it with equanimity, but I wasn't. I was someone else: sixteen, shy, fairly ignorant about the world beyond the sleepy Unovan countryside... For her sake as much as mine, I wished Halley would slip back across the world of Jared Black. Lauren White wasn't nearly as much of a hero.

    But I'd do my best, I told myself, holding my feelings in check. I'd help Halley as much as I could, no matter what the difficulty. It was the right thing to do and I'd see it through. And if I could help it, I'd try not to think about what the man in black and his acolytes might be up to.

    “I just thought,” said Halley, sounding worried. “If there's a forest here instead of a city – what else is different? Is Unova still wealthy?”

    “Wealthy?” I almost laughed, despite myself. “We only became independent twenty years ago. We haven't had a chance.”

    What?” Halley turned to look at me sharply. “Um... the Unova I know is a global superpower. It's right up there – more important than America. And it's had independence since the Second World War.”

    “Really? This is Jared's world?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Well, that sounds nice,” I said. “But we weren't really sure about whether or not the country would be able to stand on its own, and we kind of liked the British after all that time, so we stayed until 1990 or something like that. Then there was a big traditionalist revival and a return to old-style Unovan culture – except the language, because no one really wants to learn it.”

    I could actually speak Unovan – it was a compulsory subject in all schools – but very few were properly fluent, and even fewer actually spoke it on a regular basis. It consisted of ninety-two syllables expressed in various combinations of twenty-nine runes, and sounded a lot like a Swede speaking English while affecting a mix of Welsh and Romanian accents. Consequently, it sounded very familiar to everyone in Northern Europe while also being totally incomprehensible to them.

    “This is some weird sh*t,” mused Halley. “What about the rest of the world? Is China an emerging superpower? Is the world in recession?”

    “Uh... I don't really know,” I admitted. “It sort of sounds familiar, though.”

    “So some things haven't changed.” She sighed. “I don't know. This is all just too confusing.”

    “I know,” I agreed. “Do you have any idea why that man is after you?”

    “No,” she replied curtly. “It's like I've been cut out of my own memories. I remember everything else, just not anything to do with me.”

    “It must be hard,” I said sympathetically. “If you want to talk about it—”

    “I'm not that sort of girl,” Halley told me frostily. “From what I can work out about me, I'm the bubbly, happy-go-lucky sort who sometimes indulges in a sh*tload of criminal activity and often murder. You know. Like in Jennifer's Body.”

    “What?”

    “You don't get to see many movies here, do you?”

    “No...”

    “F*ck. This is going to be a dull trip.”

    “I'm sorry,” I said, feeling somehow like I'd done something wrong. “I—”

    “Please, for the love of God don't apologise for sh*t like that. It makes you seem so much more pathetic, and believe me, you seem pretty pathetic already.”

    I was about to say sorry and then thought better of it.

    “Uh, turn right here,” I said instead, and rounded Elm Corner. In the distance, I heard the sound of the van starting, shattering the forest calm like a gunshot.

    “Bugger,” muttered Halley. “They sound like they're coming this way.”

    I listened, and had to agree. The van was coming closer, and fast.

    “In the bushes,” I suggested, and turned to see a long grey-and-black tail vanishing into a shrub. “I guess that's a yes,” I said to myself, and joined her.

    A moment later, the van rumbled past like a solid thunderclap, trailing music from the open windows in glistering streamers. I caught a snatch of conversation as it went past – “the hell did she go” – and then it was gone, heading south towards The Cornrow.

    “I cannot live like this,” moaned Halley. “Hiding in bushes. Ducking around trees. I should be driving the cars, not slinking about in the f*cking shrubbery.”

    “You're a wildcat. How do you not like bushes?”

    “Hell-o? Not in spirit. I was turned into a cat, remember? I used to be human. I think I used to live in a city somewhere. This is not the world I live in, and I'd rather not be here.”

    I hadn't really thought about that. It hadn't occurred to me that there might actually be people who didn't like it here; White Forest seemed pretty much perfect to me.

    Halley sighed.

    “Let's just get out of the bushes and over to your girlfriend's house before those guys in the van think of going there.”

    “Oh. Yeah.”

    I got to my feet and back on the trail; Halley followed a moment later, rubbing leaves off her flanks on my jeans.

    “Ugh,” she groaned. “God. The sooner we get out of this place the better.”

    “It's not far to Annie's house,” I assured her. “We're practically there.”

    One last corner and we were on Ash Street; Anastasia lived two doors down from the other end.

    “Is this it?” asked Halley when we stopped.

    “Yeah,” I replied. “You might want to stay out of sight at first. Just so I can explain things.”

    “Right. Good idea. Will she be up, though? It's only... actually, I don't know what time it is, but it's not long after dawn.”

    “It's twenty to seven,” I told her, looking at my watch. “And she'll definitely be up. She doesn't like to waste time.”

    I knocked softly on the door, trying to attract Anastasia's attention without waking her parents; I succeeded, and a moment later she appeared at the door in the swirl of minor chaos that usually attended on her, looking like a cross between an exquisitely beautiful Muscovite noblewoman and a train wreck.

    “Lauren?” she said, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

    “Annie!” I cried, hugging her. “I need help. Badly.”

    “What? OK, uh, come in.”

    “Before I do,” I said, disentangling myself, “I have to tell you something.”

    Anastasia fixed me with a piercing stare that no one else in Unova could replicate; I think it might have been something she inherited from her Russian ancestors.

    “What's happened?” she asked shrewdly. “Lauren, what's wrong?”

    “Um, it's kind of difficult to say,” I began, but at that point Halley lost her patience and slid into view.

    “I'm a talking cat, government agents are chasing me and they're after Lauren too because she's harbouring me. We need money for a train. Give it to us and let's get the hell out of here.”

    Anastasia stared.

    “What?”

    Halley sighed.

    “I can't help but feel I've done all this before,” she remarked. “All right. Let us in and Lauren will explain everything.”

    “Um, this is Halley,” I said, indicating her. “Halley, this is Anastasia.”

    “We established that some f*cking time ago,” she said sourly. “Can we just get inside before someone sees us?”

    Anastasia looked at me with a helpless look in her eyes.

    “Sorry,” I said, feeling bad for interrupting her morning. “But I – we – really need your help.”

    “OK,” she replied, running a hand through her hair distractedly. “OK. I guess you'd better come in.”

    I followed her into the hall and up into her bedroom, which was less of a place for sleeping and more of a haven for gaming; one wall was dominated by an intimidatingly large screen, and below it was a messy row of consoles, all connected by a tangled web of wires and cables. Anastasia wasn't quite as big a fan of the peaceful woodland life as most people in White Forest; she was always complaining about the lack of reliable Internet access, and seemed to acquire a new video game practically every other day. Right now, the vast screen was displaying a pause menu, but behind it I could see something that looked like the box of the Eostre gift I'd got her.

    “I was testing out your present,” Anastasia told me. “Thanks, by the way. I've never been so glad to see a pile of dead animals.”

    As far as I'd been able to work out from the packaging, Bjřrn was a game in which you played a hard-bitten ex-cop panther whose family had been murdered by a Swedish mafia kingpin who also happened to be a bear. Apparently it offered hours of absorbing gameplay, most of which seemed to revolve around shooting a variety of cheerfully insane enemies.

    “This place is awesome,” breathed Halley, looking around. “I so wish I had thumbs so I could play with all this.” She paused. “OK, so apparently I like video games. Not the most useful thing to remember, but it's a start.”

    “OK, Lauren,” said Anastasia, looking down at her, “I think I need some answers now.”

    So I told her the whole story – from finding Halley in the bushes yesterday to the escape from the government agents by way of Halley's conviction that she'd slipped across universes – and waited for a response.

    Anastasia sat on her bed, fiddling with a thumbstick, and stared into space.

    “Let me get this straight,” she said, obviously trying very hard to stay calm. “This girl's turned into a cat, lost her memory and is being chased by the government – and you haven't questioned it so far?”

    “Well, I have a bit,” I replied. “But, you know, only fools and philosophers—”

    “Yeah, yeah, I know.” Anastasia sighed. “It's just that it seems... well, it's pretty crazy.”

    “Uh, living proof sitting right here,” interjected Halley.

    “Well, yeah, but...” She broke off. “I don't know.”

    “I know it's crazy,” I pleaded, “but I really need your help. We have to get some money to get a train out of here, and I can't go back to the house because those guys are probably watching it and—”

    “Calm down,” said Anastasia, putting a hand on my shoulder. “You're babbling.”

    “Sorry.” I paused and tried to collect my thoughts. “It's just... it's been a bit of a shock.”

    “Understatement of the f*cking century,” put in Halley, but we both ignored her.

    Anastasia sat there for a while, sliding her teeth back and forth across one another as she did when deep in thought.

    “I could come with you,” she said, but I shook my head.

    “That's not happening,” I replied firmly. “I'm not getting anyone else involved. Besides, I don't have time to wait for you to get dressed.”

    Despite venturing into society slightly less often than J. D. Salinger, Anastasia was as fussy about her appearance as any high-flying socialite; it rarely took her less than an hour to be ready for anything at all.

    “I...” She struggled for the right words for a moment, gave up and sighed. “Lauren, I can be fast—”

    “That agent and his goons will probably be here soon,” Halley interrupted. “You know, asking if anyone's seen Lauren around. And it sure would be appreciated if you hadn't disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and could give a little false testimony to misdirect the agents. And then, pretending to get text messages from Lauren, keep feeding them false information as to our whereabouts as the search progresses.”

    “I get it.” Anastasia nodded. “OK. But are you sure? I can come—”

    “No.” The stubbornness in my voice surprised me; I'm not usually the strongest-willed person around. But now, for some reason, I was sure: we needed the cover Anastasia could provide if we were ever to get out of this tiny village, and I didn't want to involve any more people in this mad adventure if I possibly could, especially people who didn't actually have some means of defending themselves. If Anastasia had been a Trainer or something, I'd probably have taken her with me – as it was, she'd just be one more ordinary person like me, only without my gymnastic ability. “Think about it. We're going to be running and hiding, and making swift escapes and stuff. It's not exactly your forte.”

    “It is if we're talking Deus Ex,” she muttered. “No, OK. Point taken.”

    “Then hurry up! We don't have time to argue about this—”

    “Yeah, I get it.” She paused, then sighed. “OK, Lauren, I might not be able to help you as I'd want to, but... I trust you. Even when you're acting like your sister. “So...” She reached under her bed for her bag, pulled it out and blew the dust off it – there was nowhere to go in White Forest that really necessitated taking along a handbag – and extracted her wallet from within. “I've got Ł25 here,” she said, examining the contents. “That should be enough for a train to Nacrene City at least.”

    “Thank you!” I cried, hugging her tightly. “Annie, you saved my—”

    “Yeah, OK,” she said, gently prising me off. “But remember what you were saying right now: you don't have time for this. You need to move fast. White Forest is tiny, and it's going to take them about five minutes to find you here.”

    “Ah. Yeah. Right.” I looked at Halley. “I guess we should go, then.”

    “You think?” Until that moment, I hadn't been aware that cats had eyebrows; however, it seemed they did, because Halley raised one. “Come on, Sherlock. We need to get moving.”

    We went downstairs quietly, mindful of Anastasia's sleeping parents; if they woke, there'd be witnesses to prove I was here, and Anastasia wouldn't be able to do anything to throw our sinister pursuers off our trail.

    I paused on the threshold of the door, and turned back to Anastasia.

    “Um – bye,” I said nervously, suddenly realising that I was going to be leaving White Forest – and literally everyone I'd ever known in my entire life – behind.

    Dosvedanya,” replied Anastasia, kissing me. “Come back alive, OK?”

    “I'll do my best.”

    At my feet, Halley rolled her eyes and muttered something about there never having been a story of more woe.

    “Shut up, cat,” said Anastasia sharply. “We're having a moment.”

    “No, she's right – we have to go,” I told her. “The trains only leave once an hour, and I don't want to be stuck waiting on the platform while people are after me.”

    “OK.” Anastasia smiled anxiously at me. “Good luck.”

    She shut the door; both she and I knew that if it remained open, I'd take another fifteen minutes to leave – time that we just didn't have.

    I sighed, and turned to the road. It seemed like all the doors of my life were slamming in my face.

    “No going back now,” I told myself nervously, and set off at a brisk walk for the station, Halley padding along at my heels.

    ---

    Portland Smythe was not a happy man. Not merely because he was called Portland Smythe – an interesting name to be sure, but not one that really suited him – although that did factor into it, as a minor irritation that formed a continual curtain of background anguish in his mind; no, the real cause of his unhappiness was that his quarry, a mysterious young woman known only as Halley, had somehow evaded him.

    Portland knew that she had some sort of connection to the theft of the artefact, and he knew that she had gone to ground somewhere in White Forest; he also knew that she was currently, for reasons unknown, in the shape of an Unovan wildcat, and that she had been asking around the area for help. From a few witnesses, he had gleaned that she had been spotted in the society of one Lauren White, and this morning he had led four of the Green Party's agents on a slightly illegal raid of the property; however, neither White nor Halley had been on the premises.

    This meant, he thought, that they had escaped. And that meant, he knew, that he was going to have to find them – and soon, or he would have to face the consequences.

    Portland sighed, and mused. White and Halley were probably trying to flee the Forest, he thought, which meant he ought to check the train station. There, the trains left hourly, and since it was coming up to seven, he need only wait around for a few minutes to make sure his quarry didn't get aboard.

    “It won't take long to look,” he murmured aloud. “It can't be more than two minutes away, and the place is tiny.”

    He turned the van around and headed back north.

    “Get ready,” he called to the men and women in the back. “We've got a lead to follow up.”

    This done, Portland glanced to the creature sitting in the passenger seat. It was long and tall and lithe, a creature of slim bones and taut muscles tightly bound in purple fur. You might have called it a Liepard – but no Liepard ever had eyes like those, smoking pits of white fire, and no Liepard ever sat so still and so upright, watching the world around it like some menacing totem.

    And no Liepard ever spoke the language of humans before, and certainly not in a voice that reverberated in the air like the prelude to a landslide.

    “She is here,” it said, and its voice came with the rank smell of grave-earth. “I feel her presence.” It sniffed the air deeply. “Yes, she is here,” it confirmed, its head sinking low between its shoulders and its eyes closing to ash-white slits. “And we are getting closer.”

    Portland shivered, and drove on. Sometimes, his Pokémon scared the crap out of him.

    ---

    When we arrived at the station four minutes later, there was a surprise waiting for us: Cordelia, standing by the single wooden platform that connected White Forest with the rest of the world.

    “Dilly?” I asked, staring. “What are you doing here?”

    “I thought you might go to Annie's house, so I got her number from your phone and called her,” she answered. “She told me you were heading to the station, and I realised I'd better bring you a few things before you forgot them. One: mobile.” She handed me my phone – and, because she was Cordelia and never forgot anything, its charger as well (something I would never, ever have remembered myself). “Two: jacket. Your purse is in the pocket.” I was glad of the jacket: it was freezing at this time of year, and I really wanted more than a T-shirt on. As for my purse – well, it had no money in it, but it had a credit card that would give me access to my savings when we needed it. “Three: protection.”

    Candy stuck her head over her shoulder, saw me and squawked with joy, hopping over onto my bare arm and almost slicing open an artery as she went.

    “But I can't – ow! – take her,” I began, but Cordelia cut me off.

    “Candy's main goal in life is to bite as many things as possible,” she said. “Add that to the fact that you're her favourite person and I think she'll be a good asset.”

    “But we're meant to keep her secret – if Ingen find out—”

    “Tell people she's an exotic parrot from South America. They're not going to contradict you.” Cordelia looked at her watch. “I need to get going. Everything's still in chaos back home.”

    “Is everyone OK?”

    “Yeah, just shaken up and worried about you. Don't worry, though – I'll keep an eye on them.” That was reassuring; Cordelia was as efficient and single-minded as Terminator, and when she said she'd do something you could bet your life she'd do it. “I can handle this end of things if you take care of yours, OK?” She gave me a reassuring smile.

    “OK,” I said dutifully, squashing the rising concern within me. “Thanks.”

    “It's nothing. The next train leaves in ten minutes; I bought your ticket already, so just get on board before anyone sees you.” She handed me a scrap of orange and green paper – it looked like we'd be saving Anastasia's money for later.

    “Got it—”

    “Bye.”

    “Goodbye.”

    She didn't hang around. A moment later, Halley, Candy and I were alone on the platform.

    “She's like the SAS of organisation,” whispered Halley, so as not to be overheard by the man in the ticket office. “And you say she's related to you?”

    “I don't know either. She's just... she's always been like that. When she was little, she had a rotation system for cuddling her soft toys. If you gave her the wrong one she set up a pretend court martial and executed it at dawn for treachery with a knife.”

    “Jesus.” Halley clapped a paw over her mouth. “Oops. Too loud. I'm going to shut up now.” She jerked her head in the direction of the ticket office, and I nodded.

    “Good idea.”

    In the distance, I heard the van's engine rumbling.

    “They're coming,” I breathed. “Hide!”

    “Eh?” queried the man in the ticket office, looking out of his booth. “Is someone there?”

    We dashed across the platform and into the bushes; in a moment, we had disappeared from sight. One of the advantages of living in White Forest is that it's incredibly easy to hide; everywhere you look, you see more shrubbery.

    Once installed behind the bushes, I checked my phone's clock. One minute since Cordelia had left; nine to go until the train left. That meant seven and a half until the train arrived for us to board.

    The van pulled up, and I heard the doors opening. Two sets of footsteps crunched across the leaf-strewn trail – a man and some four-legged animal, by the sound of it. Maybe a dog or a Liepard.

    “Hey!” cried a familiar voice – the ticket man. I knew him well; I knew everyone in White Forest well. You have to actively try in order to not know everyone in White Forest well. “Hey, you can't bring that van here. It's a nature reserve.”

    “This is official government business,” said the same man who had knocked on our door earlier that morning. “We would appreciate it if you did not attempt to hinder us.”

    I peeked through the leaves, and saw that the man was tall and exotic-looking; he didn't have pale Unovan skin but the bronzed tropical variety instead, and his hair was long, black and carefully slicked back over his skull. Next to him was the Liepard I'd suspected, and it was a lean bruiser of a beast, the biggest I'd ever seen – and I'd seen quite a few. They were fairly common around here, and had a long-running feud with the wildcats that saw purple and tabby fur scattered over the village streets at least twice a week.

    Beside me, Halley flinched, but I couldn't ask why without giving away our position. Maybe it was an instinctive wildcat response to seeing a Liepard, something that had seeped into her mind when she'd transformed. Candy was spooked too, but I clamped her beak shut in one hand and held her still with the other. The last thing I needed was for her to give us away.

    “Oh, I, uh – I see,” stammered the ticket man. “Is there anything—?”

    “Yes, actually. Have you seen Lauren White?”

    “Lauren? Well, I think I heard her a minute ago – talking to her sister about something—”

    “So they're here,” hissed a third voice, a slow dead voice like the pattering of earth onto a grave. “Yes, I think I detect...”

    My eyes widened – it was the Liepard that had spoken, and though I'd met a talking animal yesterday, I definitely hadn't expected to meet another so soon.

    The Liepard stalked across the platform, head sweeping back and forth across the ground, and I saw the white marbles of its eyes and the ashen smoke that wisped from them. Sweat pricked on my brow and a cold dread rose within me: those were not the eyes that should have rested beneath that brow, not the eyes of any animal that I knew...

    Halley pressed a paw over my mouth, and the shock caught me just in time to stop me crying out in fear.

    “What in the fields of Neorxnawang...?” breathed the ticket man.

    “I don't have to answer your questions,” said the agent. “If I were you, I would ignore everything that is happening right now. You should try and spare yourself the effort of worrying about it; I'd rather not leave a trail of traumatised civilians in my wake.”

    He sounded almost kind, and for the first time I wondered who he was when he wasn't hunting people for the government – a husband? A father? Even the bad guys have families, I thought, and—

    The Liepard's face swung up just inches away from mine, separated by nothing but a few paltry leaves; I froze, breath dying in my throat, as the smoking eyes fixed on mine—

    “They're gone,” said the Liepard in its corpse-mouldy voice. It sounded puzzled. “It's almost as if... No. I don't know.” It turned away from us and loped across to its master – or maybe colleague, since it seemed so intelligent. “They have left. I detect no trace of their presence.”

    “What?” The agent seemed confused. “Well... Maybe they bought the ticket, then retreated, knowing we would come here to look for them. In which case, they must be hiding somewhere until the next train comes.” He stroked his chin. “That gives us an hour to find them,” he mused. “All right. Come on; I have an idea of where to start looking.”

    He turned and walked out of sight, scratching his head; with one last demonic look at the platform, the Liepard followed, padding away silently as if setting out to hunt. The van started up and drove away, and then there was silence.

    For a very long time.

    “OK,” said Halley at length. “What the f*ck was that?”
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 10th October 2012 at 11:35 AM.

  4. #29
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    Kitty Katty attacky!
    So then, i think the liepard is reshiram, likes halley and tinks it's it's friend.
    How will team pasma fit into this.
    or ghetsis, or the fact that none of them are trainers.
    They say if you press cntrl and W you get to see the programming of a website after making a signature with 3 ws and 8qs
    Fanfics I like that are still in production: Author's Run, Pokémon emerald the better version

    This the aquabats song awesome forces:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx4sL0w3SHM
    and here is their song shark fighter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3wchrctxFo

    I NEED A BETA READER!
    Check out my fic.
    http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthr...2#post14945242

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine
    “It's actually only half past seven—”



    “Right. Good idea. Will she be up, though? It's only... actually, I don't know what time it is, but it's not long after dawn.”

    “It's half past six,” I told her, looking at my watch. “And she'll definitely be up. She doesn't like to waste time.”
    Discrepancy here in the time, either they are going backwards in time or they hid for 23 hours.

    Huh, well this is certainly interesting. Maybe laurens sister swapped places with Jareds sister, after all, in Black City you have to be efficient.

    So Candy is still the same, that's good. I wonder what role they will be playing in the future.

    I wonder as to why the Liepard couldn't detect there presence, can it not smell things? If your that close, you should be able to pick up a scent at least.

    Keep up the good work, and hopefully you won't be as delayed next time, thought I didn't mind the wait too much.
    Looking forward to more.


    Credit to Brutaka for the amazing banner and user bar. Yeah, having 2 is redundant, but it shows you guys my favorite pokemon, what story I had planned and my position in the WoJ.

    Time, there's never enough of it but it's always there to waste.
    -Azurus

  6. #31
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    Okay. Since it seems like it'll happen a lot, I'm going to be starting a count for everytime the story so far has been retold in-story, just for fun. It happened a ton in the guide, and given the premise of this story, it's probably going to happen a lot. And I really want to know. I'm not critisizing it or anything, I'm genuinely interested.

    “Easy,” said Halley. “I woke up today in the woods to find I had amnesia and had turned into a cat. I came into the city looking for help, found Jared here and stole his phone so he'd let me into the house and give me a place to stay for the night. As well as,” she added, turning back to me, “a base of operations while I try and discover exactly what happened to me.”
    1

    “Yesterday, this” – she indicated the waving treetops of White Forest – “was a city. F*cking skyscrapers and everything. Yesterday, you were a boy named Jared, who found me on his way to a department store. At some point in the night, the world went batsh*t crazy, and I have to know what happened. Now.”
    2

    “What?” I sat up. “Halley, it's me. Lauren. We met yesterday, remember? I found you in the bushes.”
    3

    So I told her the whole story – from finding Halley in the bushes yesterday to the escape from the government agents by way of Halley's conviction that she'd slipped across universes – and waited for a response.
    4

    Okay, with that out of the way, onto the review. I really like it so far. The characters are memorable so far, which is what you want to see. We have two talking 'cats' already, which is pretty impressive. You're lucky to see one in a story. Have no idea why.

    “I don't know either. She's just... she's always been like that. When she was little, she had a rotation system for cuddling her soft toys. If you gave her the wrong one she set up a pretend court martial and executed it at dawn for treachery with a knife.”
    You see? This is a problem. You make awesome characters, but they aren't around enough.

    Just kidding, though I do hope we see more of Cordelia.

    Finally, the end of the chapter. I have to say, that villian made a bad move. Did he have the train times wrong, or was he expecting them to catch the one after the next one to throw him off? Beyond that, I'm curious to see why Liepard's sensing ability failed. All things considered, this will probably a plot point that we can only understand in later.

    Oh, and I can't wait for Jared to come back on the scene.
    I have officially claimed Castform, The Master of all Weather!


    Monorpale is my favorite Gen 6 Pokemon so far. If you have a problem with it, you can talk to the tassel hand.

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rotomknight View Post
    Kitty Katty attacky!
    So then, i think the liepard is reshiram, likes halley and tinks it's it's friend.
    How will team pasma fit into this.
    or ghetsis, or the fact that none of them are trainers.
    Don't worry, there are still going to be battles. I think. I planned for there to be, but things are always subject to change.

    And Plasma and Ghetsis are both still present. They're just a little more subtle than they are in-game, owing to the fact that my Unova presumably has a police force.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Discrepancy here in the time, either they are going backwards in time or they hid for 23 hours.
    So there is. I'll change that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Huh, well this is certainly interesting. Maybe laurens sister swapped places with Jareds sister, after all, in Black City you have to be efficient.
    They're the same person. It's just that we never got a chance to see Cordelia in action in Jared's world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    So Candy is still the same, that's good. I wonder what role they will be playing in the future.

    I wonder as to why the Liepard couldn't detect there presence, can it not smell things? If your that close, you should be able to pick up a scent at least.
    Yes, it should have been able to smell them. This will be addressed in the next chapter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Keep up the good work, and hopefully you won't be as delayed next time, thought I didn't mind the wait too much.
    Looking forward to more.
    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sound View Post
    Okay. Since it seems like it'll happen a lot, I'm going to be starting a count for everytime the story so far has been retold in-story, just for fun. It happened a ton in the guide, and given the premise of this story, it's probably going to happen a lot. And I really want to know. I'm not critisizing it or anything, I'm genuinely interested.
    Yeah, people my protagonists meet usually have to have everything explained to them. It's an unfortunate consequence of the plot being bizarre and unbelievable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sound View Post
    Okay, with that out of the way, onto the review. I really like it so far. The characters are memorable so far, which is what you want to see. We have two talking 'cats' already, which is pretty impressive. You're lucky to see one in a story. Have no idea why.
    I'm correcting the balance of the universe, one cat at a time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sound View Post
    You see? This is a problem. You make awesome characters, but they aren't around enough.

    Just kidding, though I do hope we see more of Cordelia.
    I hope so. She didn't originally have much of a character, but I usually do end up giving interesting personalities to minor characters anyway. I can't help it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sound View Post
    Finally, the end of the chapter. I have to say, that villian made a bad move. Did he have the train times wrong, or was he expecting them to catch the one after the next one to throw him off? Beyond that, I'm curious to see why Liepard's sensing ability failed. All things considered, this will probably a plot point that we can only understand in later.

    Oh, and I can't wait for Jared to come back on the scene.
    Mm. Portland's not really used to this sort of thing, as will become apparent. And Jared should return shortly - resulting in further chaos.

    F.A.B.

  8. #33
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    It's still wrong, you have half past 7 which is 7:30 then you have twenty to seven which is 6:40, I think you mean half past 6.


    Credit to Brutaka for the amazing banner and user bar. Yeah, having 2 is redundant, but it shows you guys my favorite pokemon, what story I had planned and my position in the WoJ.

    Time, there's never enough of it but it's always there to waste.
    -Azurus

  9. #34
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    Luvvit just like all your stories!!!!



    Can I please be on the PM list?

    Name: Wobby
    Adopt one yourself! @Pokémon Orphanage



    Name: Buzzy
    Adopt one yourself! @Pokémon Orphanage



    Name: Sombrero
    Adopt one yourself!@Pokémon Orphanage




    Name: Houdini
    Adopt one yourself! @Pokémon Orphanage

  10. #35
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    Are the druids cyber druids?
    And when will the Butler of Butlerness apear? (BOND) Or Jorland? Or Pgzie?
    They say if you press cntrl and W you get to see the programming of a website after making a signature with 3 ws and 8qs
    Fanfics I like that are still in production: Author's Run, Pokémon emerald the better version

    This the aquabats song awesome forces:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx4sL0w3SHM
    and here is their song shark fighter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3wchrctxFo

    I NEED A BETA READER!
    Check out my fic.
    http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthr...2#post14945242

  11. #36
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    Yay, other chapters! I guessed correctly on the Black City/White Forest co-location, and I'm forming theories.

    Anyway, so they're going to Nacrene City, and they're bringing Archen. I forsee discussion about said bird.

    Anyway, I don't have much to say; the last chapter didn't have that much. PM list please <3

  12. #37
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    Oh, man. Sorry about taking so long to reply to all these. I'd say I have an excuse, but all I can offer in that regard is art college, a social life and tiredness.

    Quote Originally Posted by greatguy View Post
    Yay, other chapters! I guessed correctly on the Black City/White Forest co-location, and I'm forming theories.

    Anyway, so they're going to Nacrene City, and they're bringing Archen. I forsee discussion about said bird.

    Anyway, I don't have much to say; the last chapter didn't have that much. PM list please <3
    Yeah, it didn't... Just me trying to get them out of White Forest. Next time: action!

    Also, added.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rotomknight View Post
    Are the druids cyber druids?
    And when will the Butler of Butlerness apear? (BOND) Or Jorland? Or Pgzie?
    Unfortunately, there are no cyber-druids. At least, not in the White world...

    As for Bond... I haven't actually worked out whether I need him in this story or not yet. I thought I would, but I'm not entirely sure. Stay tuned; there's a good chance he might turn up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ugliduck99 View Post
    Luvvit just like all your stories!!!!



    Can I please be on the PM list?
    Sure, since you ask so nicely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    It's still wrong, you have half past 7 which is 7:30 then you have twenty to seven which is 6:40, I think you mean half past 6.
    Yes. Yes I do. Apologies; numbers hate me, and I'm not overfond of them either.

    F.A.B.

  13. #38
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    Ugh. So overdue. Forgive me.

    Chapter Four: Greek Prophets with a Dash of Satan

    Trees, endless trees, blurring into one another in an eternal parade of leaf and bark; the railway route south to Nacrene City was scenic, but it did get a little dull after a while. Add to that the fact that the ancient steam train was slow and prone to sudden inexplicable stops – and that it was a four-hour journey to Nacrene even without delays – and you'll understand why I couldn't help but feel that we weren't fleeing fast enough.

    Because the thing in the shape of a Liepard was hunting for us in White Forest, and it was infinitely more terrifying than anything I had ever encountered before. It wasn't an animal, I was sure of that – it was a demon, something from outside the normal world, some foul changeling beast or an ettin in Liepard form. I didn't know why it hadn't noticed us and I had to admit that I didn't care all that much; I was just glad that the government man had trusted its word.

    Halley, on the other hand, sitting on the seat opposite me in the compartment, seemed less affected – as did Candy, who was attempting daring acrobatic manoeuvres on the luggage rack.

    “It was blind,” muttered the wildcat. “I'm sure of it – and obviously didn't have a sense of smell, either, because it should've detected our scents.”

    “Uh huh,” I said, not really listening; in response, she poked me with a claw.

    “Ow!”

    “Listen to me,” she insisted. “This is important. That thing was not a Liepard. I felt it – I don't know – with some animal sense or some sh*t like that. It wore the body of a Liepard, but it was only a shape: the eyes didn't work, the nose, the ears – if they did it would have found us like that.” She tried to snap her fingers, remembered she no longer had any and settled for making an airy gesture instead. “The point is, it didn't have access to any senses. It had some other way of detecting us and it failed. Why?”

    “I don't know,” I replied. “Candy, careful.”

    She squawked at me as if to say that she didn't need to be careful; the train went over a bump and she fell from the luggage rail into my lap.

    “I warned you.”

    Candy got to her feet with a philosophical air and began to climb the curtains. I sighed, picked her up and put my jacket over her; immediately, thinking it was night time, she curled up on my lap and began to sleep.

    “What were you saying?” I asked Halley.

    “This Liepard. I can't believe you're not wondering about it. That thing is clearly the most dangerous f*cking thing in White Forest and we escaped it by about this f*cking much.” She held up two claws close together, to show exactly how much we'd escaped it by.

    “That's another thing,” I said. “Could you please not swear so much? It's kind of annoying, and I am helping you...”

    Halley rolled her eyes.

    “Give me a f*cking break,” she muttered. “The girl's serious. We were just chased by government agents and a monster beyond mortal f*cking comprehension and she's telling me to stop—”

    “Halley!” I snapped. “I'm serious.”

    She stopped mid-sentence, evidently stunned; I don't think she thought I had it in me to actually be forceful.

    “I'm worried too,” I told her earnestly. “And I want to help, especially as it looks like we're both in trouble now. But... I just think it would be easier for me to work with you if you weren't so... sweary.”

    Halley looked at me for a long moment, her pale green eyes expressionless.

    “All right,” she said at length, looking away. “OK. Sorry. We'll do things your way.”

    “And – what? Really?” I broke out into a smile. “Oh, that's great! Thanks so much.”

    Halley's head whipped around and settled into a glare. A hard glare.

    “Yeah, OK,” she growled. “Don't start thanking me for this shi— shipbuilder's manual.” She blinked. “Wait, what? Is that what comes out when I don't swear? Random words? Jesus, this is going to be weird.” She looked up at me. “Blasphemy's OK, right?”

    “I guess. Just keep my gods out of it.”

    “I can live with that.” Halley kneaded the seat with her paws and lay down, curling up. “All right. Let's move on: the Liepard.”

    “That was scary.”

    “Well done. Ten points for perspicacity. Now, can you think of anything that could masquerade as a Liepard like that?”

    “An ettin,” I said immediately. “An evil fairy. A—”

    “Something that actually exists would be nice.”

    “I believe they exist,” I replied simply, trying to hide my irritation. I'm fairly easy-going, or so people tell me, but this was something that was actually important to me. I studied the Treatise twice a week after school; I might not have a perfect record of attendance at all festivals and religious events, but I did believe, and I didn't particularly like Halley attacking that belief without cause.

    “Right.” Halley hesitated, the memory of our recent altercation visible on her face; eventually, she let it slide. “Fine. We'll, uh, agree to disagree there.” She sighed. “But I don't get this. What that thing was... and, for that matter, what the fu— fudgemaker's reunion ball was it doing working for the government?”

    “I don't know.” I thought for a moment. “It doesn't seem like something the government would have anything to do with.”

    “What? Listen, I don't know much about governments, but I'd say shady stuff like this is right up their street.”

    “Not ours. The Free Unova Party is in power.”

    “Free Unova?”

    “The nationalists. They helped free Unova in the Eighties. They're big on Unovan culture and stuff – which means they're strictly religious. Whatever that monster was, they wouldn't even dream of consorting with it. It's... definitely unholy.”

    “Oh yeah, I forgot. This is Lauren White's world, where everything is backwards.” Halley twitched her nose. “Hey, your name's White – and Jared's is Black. That's can't be a coincidence. Anyway, that's not relevant. If the Liepard isn't with the government, then who are these people that are after us?”

    “I don't know.” I thought of the other people who might reasonably claim to be part of the government – mainly the other political parties – but I couldn't really see any reason why any of them would be hunting Halley down with a leopard cat from hell. “But I don't think that man is who he says he is.”

    “He's pretty evasive about who he says he is in the first place,” observed Halley. “I don't like this. We need information – but where the hell are we going to get it?”

    “I don't know!” I cried. “Can we just get to Nacrene and take it from there?”

    “All right, all right,” she sighed. “Fine.”

    We lapsed into silence, and the trees rushed by to nothing but the clacking and hissing of the train for a time.

    “Hey,” said Halley after a while. “Lauren.”

    “What is it?”

    “Do you have an iPod or something I can play with? I'm bored.”

    “I'm not sure we have the same taste in music,” I said hesitantly. My phone held as many songs as its tiny memory could hold – it was old even by Unovan standards, which meant that people outside the country could hardly even recognise it as a phone – and none of them were likely to be to Halley's taste.

    “Why? What do you listen to?”

    “The kind of music that you'd probably call sappy and sickening.”

    “Oh. Folky poppy crap about lovers meeting, or how wonderful life is, or about the lengths to which one nonexistent lover is willing to go for the other?”

    “I guess so,” I admitted. “Is that a bad thing?”

    “Just keep your music to yourself,” Halley advised me.

    The train rattled on, and far behind us, something in the shape of a Liepard turned granite thoughts in our direction.

    ---

    Impossibly, they were waiting for us.

    The first thing I saw when the train cruised to a halt in Nacrene's sleepy station was a man in a dark suit, the sole figure on the platform; the second thing was the lithe purple shadow stalking over to him from the ticket office.

    “They're here,” I hissed, not taking my eyes off them. “Halley! They're here!”

    “How the f*ck did they do that?” she cried. “They were at White Fo—”

    “Halley!”

    “What? Oh, the swearing. OK, sorry. But how did they do that?”

    “I don't know. What do we do?”

    “How about hide?” Halley vanished beneath her seat in a swirl of tail. “I mean,” she continued from out of sight, “that seemed to work pretty well last time.”

    “Should we get off and make a break for it?” I asked. “Nacrene's quite big – we could lose them—”

    “Not once that thing's noticed us,” she replied grimly. “I have a horrible feeling that once it finds you, you stay found. Until it chooses otherwise.”

    “But my ticket only takes me this far – I can't stay on the train!”

    Halley's face reappeared, an isolated image of astonishment.

    “I can't believe you just said that,” she said. “Lauren. There are monsters chasing us. Hide.”

    She had a point, and I crouched beneath the window, carefully arranging myself so I was out of sight from the window; as an afterthought, I grabbed my jacket with the still-sleeping Candy and put it under the seat.

    “Glad you've seen sense,” whispered Halley. “Now shut up and hope they don't actually come on board.”

    As if on cue, the train doors opened with a rattling clunk.

    “Ah, sh— shooting the Duchess of Malfi,” she said gloomily.

    Footsteps down the deserted carriage aisles. Shivers down my spine. Now a voice:

    “The whole damn train is empty.” It was the agent. “It's going to take some searching to find them, if they're here.”

    “They are here,” came the reply, and it as I had feared: the words definitely issued from the dry, desiccated mouth of the Liepard. “No one else will have embarked at White Forest other than they.”

    “It's still a big search... I mean, I don't know how long I can get them to hold the train here, Teiresias.”

    Teiresias. The demon had a name; now I could label my fear, look it up in books of legend. Perhaps someone had encountered it before; I knew that fiends like that rarely died unless killed, and it might just have been recorded in one of the lesser Treatises.

    “Let it continue. We can leave when we are done.”

    There was a horrible disquieting undertone to that – some implication, some hidden threat – that I couldn't work out – and instinctively I retreated underneath the seat, curling up as tightly as I could to try and fit in the tiny space usually reserved for luggage. Unovans tend to be tall, but I'm way shorter than average, and I just about managed to fit.

    “Stay silent,” mouthed Halley at me, completely unnecessarily. Of course I had to be silent; my heart was already beating against my ribs so hard I could feel it in my knees pressed tight against my chest; if I added any more noise to that I was sure I'd be heard miles away.

    The footsteps were coming closer – both the heavy, measured tread of the man and the soft, near-silent tread of Teiresias, undetectable to anyone except a forest native.

    “Actually, this is stupid. You check that way, I'll check this way.”

    “As you wish,” murmured Teiresias, and its soft footsteps faded into the distance.

    “All right,” said the agent to himself. He sounded close to our compartment. “Just check in each of these, yeah?”

    I heard a door sliding open – a whirr terminating with a clunk as the door slid home – and then another, and then another, each one closer than the last. I shot a terrified look at Halley – what would we do? Whatever it was that had fooled Teiresias, I was sure it wouldn't work on a normal man with normal senses. However, she made no reply, huddling deeper into her recess and shading the glow of her luminous eyes.

    Whirrr-clunk. Just a few feet away.

    “This is going to be a long day,” the agent muttered.

    Whirr-clunk.


    That had to be the next door down, it was so close—

    Whirr-clunk.

    OK, it wasn't, but that one had to be—

    Whirr-clunk.

    Our door.

    “Is there anyone in any of the— huh?”

    I froze, lungs and heart suddenly immobilised as if in death; what had got his attention? Had he seen the edge of my jacket, too close to the edge of the seat? Had I left something – my phone, my wallet, my sense – out in plain view on the seat cushion?

    “Cool,” said the agent, bending down to pick up a pound coin on the floor. “That's one bit of luck, at least.”

    With that, he turned his back and retreated, and I heard the sound of sliding doors retreating down the passage.

    Halley looked at me, and I looked at Halley.

    “Is this guy for real?” she whispered. “He's an idiot!”

    “Ssh!”

    The door was still open, and I didn't want any sound that might betray our presence reaching the ears of either of our pursuers. For a long minute, the footsteps continued – and then, abruptly, I heard the sound of a door slamming shut, and realised the man had passed into the next carriage.

    “OK,” I hissed, “what did you want?”

    “The man's a moron!” replied Halley. “He didn't even think to check under the seats.”

    “Maybe this isn't his normal job,” I said charitably. “Maybe he usually works in an office, as a – a clerk or something, and today they ordered him to—”

    “Stop being kind to the enemy,” hissed Halley. “Listen to yoursel—”

    She broke off abruptly as a violet shadow passed the door, swift and silent as a ghost, and continued down the corridor. Evidently Teiresias had finished checking its half of the train, and was hastening to meet its comrade. A moment later, the train started moving again, and I looked at Halley in mild panic: now we were trapped on board – along with those hunting us.

    “What do we do now?” I mouthed.

    “Stay hidden,” was the reply.

    I tried. I really did. And I'm flexible, yeah, but I'm not a cat – and so, just a few minutes later, I felt the first sharp stabbing needles of cramp bite into my leg. For a second, I managed to hold on – but I'm no good with pain, and at last I thrust my leg out into open with an agonised yelp.

    “What are you doing?” cried Halley, but it was too late: the heel of my shoe caught the wall with a resounding thump, and footsteps came running down the train—

    “Get up and run!” howled Halley, shooting out from under the seat. I struggled out after her, still clutching my leg and trying to drag Candy out after me, and got to my feet just in time to see Teiresias and the agent materialise in the doorway.

    “Ah, there you are,” said the man. “Right. Lauren White and Halley... um, Halley, my name is Portland Smythe and I am here to take you into custody on behalf of the Unovan government.”

    “I still cannot detect them,” breathed Teiresias, taking absolutely no notice of him. “I know they are here – I have followed your footsteps – but I see nothing before me...”

    “What?” Smythe looked surprised for a moment, then recovered his cool with a visible effort. “No point worrying about that now. Let's just—”

    I felt Candy stirring in my jacket and without thinking threw her at Teiresias.

    The sudden flash of colour and movement startled Smythe, and he took an instinctive step back; Teiresias, still apparently unable to locate us, stood stock-still, staring blankly ahead as Candy awoke fully in midair and realised that there was something new and threatening in front of her. Predictably enough, she spread her wings, flapped vaguely and managed to guide herself into landing on the fiend's snout, from where she sank her teeth into its throat—

    —and fell away to the floor, a mouthful of yellow fur coming with her and releasing a thin trickle of ashy grey dust.

    “Ah,” said Teiresias slowly, apparently not noticing. “I see you.”

    “Oh sh*t,” muttered Halley in frantic fear. “Oh sh*t oh sh*t oh sh*t oh—”

    “You were clever, but I have found a way around your trick now.” Teiresias sat back on its haunches as Candy rallied for another attack, and the floor around its feet started to blacken and give off a rank smell I'd only encountered once before, when I was eight and the river had burst its banks, and we had found a single bloated white hand among the debris.

    My knees went weak, and I reached for the seat back for support – but I missed, and stumbled against the wall instead. Snakes uncurled from nowhere in my belly, and climbed through my abdomen, pushing their sleek bodies through veins and guts and arteries, to loop themselves around my heart and choke it out of shape...

    Halley's claws stabbed into my calf, and reality returned with a palpable snap like a released bowstring.

    “F*cking run,” she whispered hoarsely, and vanished between Smythe's legs.

    I looked around, and in one moment of stilled time I saw Teiresias rising to its feet, slow, unhurried, and Smythe staring at the mouldering floor with horror in his eyes, and Candy burying her head in drifts of purple and yellow without any perceptible effect – and screaming a prayer to Eostre for help on this her feast-day, I flung myself bodily at Smythe, knocking him off-balance, and fled down the aisle.

    As soon as Teiresias was out of sight, my mind returned halfway to normal. I was scared, yes, but nowhere near as scared as I had been; something told me that that demon's power lay in fear, that if I could see it I would never be able to resist it—

    “Lauren!”

    Halley was waiting for me at the end of the carriage, pawing desperately at the door that connected it to the next.

    “Get this door open!” she shrieked. “I have no bloody thumbs!”

    A wild laugh burst from my lips – apparently some part of my mind wasn't consumed by the idea of escape and the fear of pursuit – and I unlatched the door without thinking, leaping the short gap into the next carriage as soon as I could squeeze through.

    Something hit my back, squawking defiantly; Candy had caught up with us. I didn't think about how she could have done so until a breath of wind hit the back of my neck and almost knocked me down; I stumbled, tripped and fell into an instinctive forward roll to save momentum, jumping up a moment later to keep on rushing down the aisle.

    “Run, run, run,” came the soft dry voice of Teiresias. “You have nowhere to go, and I have more forces than you can name at my disposal.”

    “Jesus f*ck!” wailed Smythe from the distance, somewhat spoiling the moment. “What is this?”

    Teiresias grunted in displeasure; it probably hadn't meant to include Smythe in the awful aura of decay and despair it had cast over the carriage – but I didn't care, it made things easier, Smythe was distracted and where were we running to—?

    Another gale, this one tinged with blood and fungus, and the world around me caved in like a rotten tree, leaving oblivion in its wake.

    ---

    I don't drink, and while I know that that kind of things happen in the cities, I'd never experienced that terrible feeling of waking up and not knowing anything abut why you are where you are before. But when my eyes opened to a red-tinged world, I could think of no reason why I would be in a train carriage, or why my hands were in cuffs, or why my head felt like someone had buried it in a heap of mouldering meat for a week.

    Until, that is, I saw the white-coal eyes of Teiresias, sitting on the seat opposite, and memory returned like the fall of Tiw's sceptre on the heads of the guilty.

    “Frige preserve me,” I mumbled through faintly numb lips.

    “Oh, thank Christ,” said Smythe, suddenly swooping into view. “I thought you two were dead.”

    “No, I think you just beat the sh*t out of us,” rejoined Halley in a dull groan. “Ah. Wait. Sorry, Lauren.”

    I didn't reply. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open for longer than a couple of seconds; the red glow was receding, but there was still a nasty lethargy around my eyelids.

    “Jesus.” Smythe dropped into one of the seats opposite and sighed. “That went so horribly wrong. Teiresias...”

    “What?”

    It was not a 'what' you could reply to: ice-cold and razor-sharp, and tinged with that arid darkness that characterised the hell-beast's voice. Consequently, Smythe chose to say no more about his partner's methods.

    “I'm sorry,” he said at length, taking off his glasses and looking me squarely in the eyes. His irises were violet, I noticed, which struck me as strange; in stories, it was always the beautiful heroine who had violet eyes, not the villain. “I'm not a mercenary. I'm a civil servant, and I'm not used to this.”

    “Don't reveal too much,” Teiresias reminded him quietly.

    “F*ck you,” he mumbled. “I'm not a monster and I don't want people to think I am.”

    Despite everything, a flower of compassion bloomed within me; I had been right – this guy wasn't a bad person or anything, he was just out of his depth. If I hadn't just been knocked out and handcuffed, I probably would have given him a hug.

    The thought cleared my head a little, and I felt up to looking around; Halley, it seemed, was on the seat to my left, in an oversized cat carrier that seemed to have come from nowhere, and Candy was wrapped in my jacket, sleeping soundly. I sighed. I wished I could do that; sleep seemed like it would be a nice, easy way out of this situation.

    “Anyone going to tell me where we are?” asked Halley, breaking the silence. “I get that we're on the train, but what time is it? Where are we going?”

    “And what do you want with Halley?” I added quietly. For some reason, I wasn't scared any more. Teiresias might have sprung from the blackest depths of hell, but Smythe was a good man, I was sure. He wouldn't hurt us.

    “Oh. Yeah.” Halley blinked. “Probably ought to have asked that one first.”

    Smythe frowned.

    “Don't play dumb. You know something about the theft.”

    “Theft?”

    “I told you not to play dumb.” Smythe put his sunglasses on again and leaned back in his seat. “Doesn't matter. I'm sure you'll be more accommodating when we get you back to Party HQ.” He paused. “Anyway, we're still on the train. Waiting for the next stop.”

    “Which is?” I asked.

    “Accumula.”

    Accumula. That was a long way from home, I thought dismally – a long way from the verdant trees of White Forest in spring; a long way from my family; a long way from Anastasia.

    “Annie,” I said aloud, suddenly thinking of something. “Did you speak to my girlfriend? Anastasia?”

    “Hm? Yes, we did,” replied Smythe. “She lied about where you went, if that's what you want to know.”

    “Then how'd you know we were—?” began Halley, only for Teiresias' voice to cut through hers like a mortician's scalpel.

    “I'm... resistant to lies,” it said softly. I noticed with a chill that it seemed completely unaffected by the little wounds around its neck and breast, each pouring streams of dust down its legs each time it moved its head. “And very persuasive.”

    A little star of panic swelled and burst in my breast; had the fiend done something to—?

    “He scared her,” explained Smythe quickly, obviously realising what was going through my head. “Nothing more.”

    “O-OK,” I said, unsure if I was relieved or worried.

    “I don't want to hurt anyone,” Smythe continued earnestly. “I'm just doing what has to be done. For the best.”

    “For whose best?” queried Halley.

    “The world,” replied Smythe quietly, and would say no more.

    The journey continued with nothing notable occurring except that I grew steadily hungrier and thirstier with the waning sun; I'd eaten and drunk nothing since Eostre's Eve and, since it was approaching five o'clock, when the ancient train finally pulled into Accumula's station, I was pretty desperate for food by then. In addition, the cuffs were biting deep into my wrists, and all in all, I was really looking forward to getting off the train, even if I would be exchanging it for the comfort of a prison cell.

    “All right,” said Smythe, rising from his seat, “time to get off. White, grab that... bitey bird thing.”

    “She's a rare parrot from South America.”

    “Whatever. Just keep it away from me, OK?”

    With some difficulty, I picked up the wrapped and sleeping Candy, and held her close against my chest as Smythe picked up the cat carrier with Halley in and motioned for me to leave the compartment. What would happen now, I wondered? Where would we be taken, and what would happen to us when we get there?

    My thoughts continued in this vein for a while – mingled with regret at not being more useful to Halley – and the next thing I knew we were passing through the arch that led out of the station, with people staring at us and murmuring. For the first time, I realised what I must look like today: wild-haired, unkempt and handcuffed, clearly under the guard of an important-looking government agent and a massive, dust-bleeding Liepard. I hate being looked at – I'm almost terminally shy – and right now I wanted nothing more than to vanish into the bowels of the earth.

    Accumula looked pretty, I told myself, trying to take my mind off my mounting embarrassment. Much larger than White Forest and with far fewer trees, it stretched away in a curve of aged stone across the three hills it was built on – and there, to the south, it swooped down into the hollow between them, a dark pocket in the town's heart.

    And the people! So many more than I was familiar with, and I knew Accumula was one of Unova's smallest settlements, with Anville and White Forest beating it to the title by just a few hundred inhabitants. And all – all of those citizens seemed to be staring at me. That young woman with the baby in the pushchair – that boy with the glasses – that blonde girl with the green hat...

    Hang on, I thought as we crossed the car park and emerged onto the street. Those last two really are staring. And they're coming over here.

    “What's going on?” asked the boy, drawing level with us. He looked about my age and very serious, his cold blue eyes unsmiling beneath neat black hair.

    “Nothing that need concern you,” replied Smythe coolly. “I work for the government, I'm making an arrest – that's all you need to know.”

    “Really,” said the boy, his eyes roving slowly up and down, slowly devouring every last detail of Smythe's appearance. He saw something, I knew; no one could look at our group with those eyes and not see that something was wrong. “So you have some proof of that, then?”

    Smythe hesitated. Right on the edge of my vision, I saw Teiresias close its hideous eyes, and the street began to empty, people propelled away from us by some dark compulsion. In the cat carrier, Halley stiffened, catching the edge of the feeling.

    “We are alone,” said Teiresias softly, as the last pedestrian cleared the corner. For one moment, the boy and his friend stared in shock – and then the air around the hell-beast's skull began to darken and thicken, like burning sugar, and with a cry of alarm red light flashed before my eyes—

    Then all at once something lithe and green was winding itself around Teiresias' limbs, a streamer of emerald flame in the weak light – a pinkish blot seemed to have replaced the sun and swooped towards Smythe with a bubbling shriek – and the green-hatted girl grabbed my arm, the contact a brief gust of reality in the chaos of the moment.

    “Run,” she said, and I almost did, but I was thinking of Halley, and I cried out:
    “The cat! The cat!”

    The girl understood, and snatched the carrier from Smythe as the pink blot circled his head, emitting strange gossamer circles of sound that forced him to his knees.

    “Silence it!” roared Teiresias, its voice a gaping tomb, its head flicking this way and that. “It blinds me!”

    But I was no longer listening – no longer even present. I was flying, running down the street with the green hat girl, Halley in her arms and Candy in mine, and before I knew it the conflict was a distant bell-chime and I was being dragged to a halt by the girl in an alley somewhere.

    “Stop!” she panted, hanging onto my arm; why was she out of breath, I wondered; I could keep up this pace for hours— “We got away!”

    I took a deep breath, willed my heart rate to slow and let sense return in giddy waves. The first thing I registered was the girl's appearance: blonde, pale, prettier than me – but not, I reminded myself sharply, prettier than Anastasia. No one had that honour, in my eyes at least...

    “She's no good with fights,” said Halley, watching me struggle to regain my wits. “She scares easily and gets distracted by random thoughts.”

    The girl dropped the cat carrier as if it were a red-hot coal.

    “You can talk!” she cried.

    “I can also hurt,” replied Halley acidly. “As in fact I'm doing right now. Because you dropped me.”

    “Oh! Sorry.” The girl scrambled to pick up the carrier and turned it so she was facing Halley.

    “So you should be,” muttered the wildcat. “I'm Halley. The stupefied one's Lauren.”

    “Er... hi,” said the girl, unable to decide whether to stare helplessly at me or at Halley, and wavering between us both. “I'm – my name is Bianca, and that guy is Cheren.”

  14. #39
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    Well well well, it appears that some entity hollowed out a Liepard, I wonder what creature can do that. It's other abilities are rather amazing as well, Fear, Decay, Mental Perception.

    Ah, Cheren and Bianca, I wonder as to their reasons for showing up there in such a timely manner. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

    As always, I enjoyed this and eagerly await more, regardless of the wait, which I forgive you for. It's simply too well written to be angry waiting for.


    Credit to Brutaka for the amazing banner and user bar. Yeah, having 2 is redundant, but it shows you guys my favorite pokemon, what story I had planned and my position in the WoJ.

    Time, there's never enough of it but it's always there to waste.
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    Finally, Cheren and Bianca show up! Been waiting for them.

    The Liepard is blind and you named him Teiresias ha ha ha. Next thing you know we're going to have a distrusted Pokémon named Cassandra who can see the future as well.

    Archeops is actually one of my favorite Pokémon, I really hope Candy will be able to evolve.

    Your choice of words for censorship are, as noted by even Halley, interesting to say the least.

    Check out the forum World Beyblade Organization! It's a huge forum with over 85,000 members dedicated to the hobby of Beyblading! You can sign up here!

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    How will cheren react to Halley?
    To quote the Big Bang Theory: "Here's your cat, and here's your $20."
    Did you get on the PM list for bobandbill's colosseum retelling, if so u know you had to wait at least two months betwe a updte.
    They say if you press cntrl and W you get to see the programming of a website after making a signature with 3 ws and 8qs
    Fanfics I like that are still in production: Author's Run, Pokémon emerald the better version

    This the aquabats song awesome forces:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx4sL0w3SHM
    and here is their song shark fighter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3wchrctxFo

    I NEED A BETA READER!
    Check out my fic.
    http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthr...2#post14945242

  17. #42
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    White Forest, mysterious government personal, a strange monster, sounds a lot like Half-Life 2. XD

    In all seriousness, a great set of chapters. Now, Teiresias. I kid you not, that was the name I contemplated naming one of the "mysterious" characters in my own story after reading the Odyssey. Good thing I went with another name.

    I agree with you Halley, I like Jared better as well. He can fight off the elderly.

    Also, I believe I recall you saying something about Fabien and Blake reappearing in this story. Will that be soon?

    Well, I'm sorry for the lack of reviews, and my lasp into silent readerdom, but I'm still here and enjoying every new chapter.

    Knightfall signing off...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ga'Hooleone View Post
    Finally, Cheren and Bianca show up! Been waiting for them.
    Yeah, me too. Don't worry; they'll be sticking around for a while. I just needed to get my core group of characters together, like with Kester, Sapphire, Felicity and Puck in Guide, or Pearl, Ashley, Iago and Cynthia in Trip.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ga'Hooleone View Post
    The Liepard is blind and you named him Teiresias ha ha ha. Next thing you know we're going to have a distrusted Pokémon named Cassandra who can see the future as well.
    It's a more appropriate name than you know. Teiresias... has been around a while. But more of that later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ga'Hooleone View Post
    Archeops is actually one of my favorite Pokémon, I really hope Candy will be able to evolve.
    We'll see. I haven't planned out minor details like that yet, only the climax of the story. The rest I shall, as ever, invent as I go along.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ga'Hooleone View Post
    Your choice of words for censorship are, as noted by even Halley, interesting to say the least.
    Yes. She's a bit weird.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Well well well, it appears that some entity hollowed out a Liepard, I wonder what creature can do that. It's other abilities are rather amazing as well, Fear, Decay, Mental Perception.
    Or stashed itself away in a dead Liepard. Could be either; not even I'm entirely sure yet. I have three or four potential explanations for Teiresias; I just need to figure out which one I want to use.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Ah, Cheren and Bianca, I wonder as to their reasons for showing up there in such a timely manner. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.
    Yes, Cheren seems like the kind of guy who'd like to explain events exactly and give a set account of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    As always, I enjoyed this and eagerly await more, regardless of the wait, which I forgive you for. It's simply too well written to be angry waiting for.
    Heh. Well, let's hope the next one doesn't take so long. This one took so long I started to get bored while writing it, which is always a sign that I'm taking far, far too long. My usual style of writing is to work fast, edit each sentence as I type it and only look back if it doesn't feel like I want it to.

    Quote Originally Posted by Knightfall View Post
    White Forest, mysterious government personal, a strange monster, sounds a lot like Half-Life 2. XD
    All my characters need now is Alyx Vance and Dog to brave the strange new Unova and find out what the hell the Overseers are up to.

    Quote Originally Posted by Knightfall View Post
    In all seriousness, a great set of chapters. Now, Teiresias. I kid you not, that was the name I contemplated naming one of the "mysterious" characters in my own story after reading the Odyssey. Good thing I went with another name.
    Ah, my Teiresias has a very solid reason for the name. As eventually we will find out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Knightfall View Post
    I agree with you Halley, I like Jared better as well. He can fight off the elderly.
    Yes, Lauren really isn't a fighter. I suspect that when Jared looks back over this day tomorrow, he'll remember things quite differently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Knightfall View Post
    Also, I believe I recall you saying something about Fabien and Blake reappearing in this story. Will that be soon?
    I don't know. Depends on how the Green Party do in the local by-elections, I guess. I don't think I've ever focused so much on politics before, but then again, politics in Unova seems to centre on Anglo-Saxon gods, embodied demons and mysterious thefts, so it's slightly more action-packed than the normal kind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Knightfall View Post
    Well, I'm sorry for the lack of reviews, and my lasp into silent readerdom, but I'm still here and enjoying every new chapter.
    Doesn't matter. As long as you're enjoying things.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rotomknight View Post
    How will cheren react to Halley?
    To quote the Big Bang Theory: "Here's your cat, and here's your $20."
    Did you get on the PM list for bobandbill's colosseum retelling, if so u know you had to wait at least two months betwe a updte.
    I have an awful confession to make: I never read all of it. I entered the fanfiction world at a time when there was already quite a lot of it, and I suppose the sheer bulk of it, coming as it did at a time when I really didn't have much time to spare reading fanfiction, put me off reading more than a few chapters here and there. The same goes for a lot of other fics that I claim to really like; I've usually not read all of them owing to a complex web of laziness, exhaustion and lack of time.

    F.A.B.
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 14th October 2012 at 11:49 AM.

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    Don't stress over updating; at least you finish your stories. And a social life is way more important.

    Your choice of names never ceases to interest me. They fit their nature so... wonderfully. Teiresias should be interesting. I always considered the real prophet to be one of my favorite characters of Antigone and Oedipus, being always right in the end.

    Good story so far. There were some typos but it was an entertaining chapter!
    Quote Originally Posted by Grei View Post
    Alternatively, the Pokemon fandom is on a whole entirely unable to be pleased, and no matter what Game Freak does, a loud minority will always ***** about how they could have done it better. :P


    Fun with SI prefixes:

    What do you call a 2000 g. mockingbird?

    2 kilo Mockingbird

    That pun was like 1 trillion bulls: terra-bull

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    Quote Originally Posted by ninjanerd View Post
    There were some typos but it was an entertaining chapter!
    If there are typos, it's always a good idea to help someone by pointing them out, in addition some places spell the same word differently and both spellings are correct, just incase you might be mistaken.


    Credit to Brutaka for the amazing banner and user bar. Yeah, having 2 is redundant, but it shows you guys my favorite pokemon, what story I had planned and my position in the WoJ.

    Time, there's never enough of it but it's always there to waste.
    -Azurus

  21. #46
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    While I wasn't the bigest fan of End of Time I am rather enjoying this.

    You have done something that will stick with me for quite a while. You wrote a better first chapter then ay other fction I have read to date. I absolutly love Jared and Halley.

    While I liike the other readers was slightly put off by lauren she is slowly starting to grow on me. I can tell she id one of those fiercly loyal types that puts family and love first. She wil be a key player to watch.

    As a person who has enjoyed the Iron Druid chronichels(a series using celtic/druid lore for a base) I am realy liking the intermingling of the two.

    I wonderwhose really the good guys. Halley and her gang or Smythe? I think you wanted me to question this though.
    FEAR THE WRATH OF THE MIGHTY WALREIN WHO IS MINE!



    Quote Originally Posted by a person View Post
    Again, N believed he would thrash your ass with his dragon, thus winning the ultimate duel of death and crap between truth and ideals. He had no idea that you would pull your own dragon out of the ass he expected to thrash.

  22. #47
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    I don't know; I prefer Jared. Lauren just seems annoying, and too timid. Despite the fact that she ran around all day in her childhood, Jared is still a better fighter. Halley though, she's just obnoxious. Jared seems to be the only...balanced...character :L


    So do you have an obsession with polytheism or something? You seem to enjoy it :P

    I'm already trying to figure out how the legendaries are going to fit in with the story...

  23. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by ninjanerd View Post
    Don't stress over updating; at least you finish your stories. And a social life is way more important.

    Your choice of names never ceases to interest me. They fit their nature so... wonderfully. Teiresias should be interesting. I always considered the real prophet to be one of my favorite characters of Antigone and Oedipus, being always right in the end.

    Good story so far. There were some typos but it was an entertaining chapter!
    Thanks, but would you mind pointing them out to me? I really don't have the time these days to comb over the chapter and find them myself, and even if I did, I'd probably miss them. The eye slides over one's own mistakes like a Seviper over greased glass.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    If there are typos, it's always a good idea to help someone by pointing them out, in addition some places spell the same word differently and both spellings are correct, just incase you might be mistaken.
    Uh, what he said.

    Quote Originally Posted by SwarleyMosby View Post
    While I wasn't the bigest fan of End of Time I am rather enjoying this.

    You have done something that will stick with me for quite a while. You wrote a better first chapter then ay other fction I have read to date. I absolutly love Jared and Halley.

    While I liike the other readers was slightly put off by lauren she is slowly starting to grow on me. I can tell she id one of those fiercly loyal types that puts family and love first. She wil be a key player to watch.

    As a person who has enjoyed the Iron Druid chronichels(a series using celtic/druid lore for a base) I am realy liking the intermingling of the two.

    I wonderwhose really the good guys. Halley and her gang or Smythe? I think you wanted me to question this though.
    Why, thank you; like you, I prefer Lauren to Jared, and can assure you that she's going to be just as useful in their journey as her male counterpart. As for who's good and who's bad... eh. I never claim to have any good guys at all in my stories, or bad guys. There's just a lot of people and a lot of conflicting opinions; the story would be very different written from, say, Damien's point of view.

    Ah. I haven't introduced Damien in any of these chapters yet, have I? Uh... forget I mentioned him. There will totally not be anyone named Damien in the story anytime soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by greatguy View Post
    I don't know; I prefer Jared. Lauren just seems annoying, and too timid. Despite the fact that she ran around all day in her childhood, Jared is still a better fighter. Halley though, she's just obnoxious. Jared seems to be the only...balanced...character :L
    They're all full people - we just haven't seen enough of them yet. They'll all be expanded upon in time. Besides, in his own way, Jared's as flat now as anyone else.

    Although I am biased, given that Lauren is basically me without the jokes and in better physical condition. Actually, thinking about it, Puck and Lauren represent the two warring sides of my psyche; I think Puck used to dominate, but Lauren is more me these days.

    Oops. I'm digressing again. I'll stop now before I bore you all.

    Quote Originally Posted by greatguy View Post
    So do you have an obsession with polytheism or something? You seem to enjoy it :P
    I haven't done that much with polytheism, really. I made Hoenn Buddhist - i.e. atheist - because it made sense for where I placed it geographically and because it was easy for me to write about, being Buddhist myself; I made Sinnoh Christian - i.e. monotheist - because it fitted with its imitation-Western nature, and I made its past polytheistic because statistically speaking that was most likely, and because that was how I figured primitive tribes would interpret incredibly powerful Pokémon like Dialga and Palkia. (I never actually stated that they were gods. All my characters just assumed they were because that's what Ashley called them - as he would, having been brought up in the sixteenth century, when Sinnoh was still mostly forest and mountain.)

    As for Unova, I made it pagan because why on earth not? It was Western Europe, but Christianising it would be dull; I wanted a crazy backdrop. Given that I made it pretty Anglo-Saxon to begin with, I thought I might as well go for broke and give it a religion that would help create Unova's own distinct flavour.

    Quote Originally Posted by greatguy View Post
    I'm already trying to figure out how the legendaries are going to fit in with the story...
    So am I. Well, not really. As always, I know broadly what will happen, but I haven't worked out the details yet.

    Now! I have an important announcement to make: an explanation for the recent lack of updates, and for the likely lack of updates for some time. I've been working on another story recently - which is not in itself unusual for me; I do it all the time. However, this is a special story that I'm giving someone as a gift, and so it needs to be finished on time and to a very high standard by a certain time. After that, I'll have to get it printed and bound properly, as well. So, to summarise: someone I actually know is receiving the gift of my immense genius work by me instead of you readers who I'm not entirely sure aren't computer programs created by a sinister organisation to monitor my creative output. To summarise the summary: right now, real life is taking precedence over Internet life. My apologies, but I thought I ought to warn you that there's going to be quite some delay before you guys get another chapter.

    Thanks for your patience.

    F.A.B.

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    And I'm back! Yeah! An object at rest cannot be stopped!

    Chapter Five: The Thick of It


    Tock.

    “Oh, sh— Short Round's baseball cap. This is doing my head in.”

    I hauled my eyes open with the strenuous effort more often associated with dock labourers loading up a freighter, and stared at the green ovals hovering just above me.

    “Whuh,” I mumbled. “Time?”

    A voice issued from somewhere in the sea of grey around the green.

    “The time isn't the problem, Jared. The problem is the fact that the world seems to have done a f*cking backflip again.”

    Halley. That was the name of the voice – and those ovals were eyes, and those brindled waves were fur...

    I sat up, and felt a lean furred weight fall from my chest.

    “Where am I?” I asked.

    “Pokémon Centre hotel room,” replied Halley. “Not sure how you remember things, but Cheren got you in here claiming you were a Swedish Trainer. Apparently they don't use Trainer Cards in Sweden or something.”

    Cheren... Yeah, I remembered that. He was cold, calculating and utterly calm; no one without his bland, omniscient eyes and quietly insistent logic could have pulled off such a ridiculous lie. In fact, I'm not sure he could have done it if he didn't know for certain that they didn't have Trainer Cards in Sweden; he seemed to draw strength from facts.

    “Oh yeah.” I scratched my head. “Ouch. That fight didn't do me any favours, especially after Regenschein's.”

    “Fight?” Halley frowned. “Did you do some fighting?”

    “Yeah – I almost threw Smythe off the train, remember? While you and Candy were fighting the Liepard... thing.”

    Halley stared.

    “I so wish I could remember that,” she said wistfully. “It must have been glorious.”

    “What?” I blinked. “Did you get amnesia again?”

    She sighed.

    “Don't tell me I have to explain this again.”

    “Explain—?”

    “OK, listen up and don't ask questions,” Halley continued without pausing. “Unova seems to be hosting two parallel universes – one modern, industrialised world in which you're a boy named Jared Black, and one old-fashioned, backwater nowhere in which you're a girl named Lauren White. I think they're connected through dreams or something, but I keep sliding between them – with you one day, with Lauren the next.”

    A memory flashed into my mind with startling clarity – like a single pearl on a bed of rose petals, a lone white seal bounding through slate-grey shallows – and I saw, as if I had suddenly been recalled to sleep, my hand pushing a bangle onto my wrist before a sunlit window. Only it wasn't my hand, it was browner and slimmer, and the nails were painted the green of spring leaves, and I don't wear jewellery...

    “Lauren,” I said slowly. “I never noticed before.”

    Halley's ears pricked up, and she sat up straight on the bedspread.

    “Noticed what?” she asked eagerly.

    “That I wasn't me in my dreams.” I didn't know why, but I felt like the veil covering some great cosmic secret had been whisked aside; I could see something incomprehensible with incredible clarity – but I didn't quite understand what it was. “It always seemed so natural,” I continued. “But I wasn't me – not Jared. I was Lauren White, and...” I frowned; I could remember nothing more.

    “And?”

    “I don't know.” The secrets slid away and the curtains of reality fell back into place. “I just had a strange feeling.”

    “So you believe me? About the two worlds and the dreams?”

    After that experience, I didn't think I had any choice.

    “Yeah,” I said hesitantly. “I do. It's – it's what they call the Dream World, isn't it?”

    “That's what Lauren said,” Halley answered. “Strange, really... I'd have thought she would believe me more easily than you, not the other way around.”

    “Did she... I... whatever, believe you?” I asked.

    “I don't know. She was confused.” Halley yawned. “She seemed bright enough, but weak-willed. I guess she clings to what she knows.”

    “So strange,” I murmured. “I... yeah.” I broke off.

    There was a silence, which after a while Halley broke.

    “So yeah. To answer your question, it's thirteen past nine.” She looked up at me gravely. “Now put some clothes on and have a shower. You stink of teenager.”

    “Is that your heightened feline senses talking?”

    “No. You're just filthy.”

    With that, she turned around and slid under the beside table with the peculiar combination of grace and idiocy that only cats can achieve, curled up and went back to sleep.

    ---

    Twenty minutes later, I was clean, dressed and descending the stairs to the Centre's lobby, a large, whitewashed area that smelled strongly of dog; asking the receptionist the way in a passable imitation of a heavy Swedish accent, I eventually got myself to the canteen, where I saw Bianca talking merrily to a composedly silent Cheren.

    “Hi,” I said, sitting down at their table and letting Candy down off my shoulder. “Sorry. Have you been waiting?”

    Cheren looked at me, and then at Bianca's plate – which, I saw was almost full. His own, needless to say, was scrupulously clean with the knife and fork lined up neatly at the side. I got the feeling he'd been done for about half an hour.

    “Yes,” he replied, “but not for you.”

    Bianca gaped, and Candy stole a strip of bacon from her plate to gnaw dreamily by my hand.

    “Cher-eeeen,” she moaned. “I'm not being slow—!”

    “You've taken about forty minutes so far,” he told her mildly. “In that time, you've told me absolutely everything you know about Jared, a sizeable amount of conjecture about what might conceivably be known about Jared in the future, and your attitude towards your Tepig – again.”

    Bianca made a peculiar noise partway between a squeal and a yelp, and turned to me with a demand for support forming on her face.

    “Jared—”

    “I just got up. I know nothing about this.” I paused. “Actually, I don't even know who you are, except that you're Trainers.”

    We hadn't spoken much last night beyond my explanation of who I was, why I had a talking cat and why we'd both been under arrest. I actually still had the handcuffs dangling from my wrists; Bianca's Tepig (a plump, affable creature that for some reason she'd called Barry) had been able to melt through the chain links, but I hadn't wanted to risk it cooking my wrists in trying to destroy the actual cuffs. Halley had told me that they, with my studded jacket and black jeans, made me look a lot like a moron who couldn't decide whether he wanted to be a punk or a Goth.

    Anyway, Bianca's natural compassion and Cheren's desire to figure out exactly what was going on had combined to form an agreement that they would help Halley and I out, and so they'd got us into the Pokémon Centre. After a quick meal, I'd gone straight to bed, and this was the first I'd seen of them since.

    “Get some food first,” advised Cheren. “If only to stop your Archen from eating Bianca's.”

    I frowned.

    “How did you know she was an Archen?”

    “Toothed beak, long feathered tail, clumsy attempts at flight and clawed wings,” he replied. “Also, I read that there were some recent developments in re-engineering at Ingen's research facility at Nacrene. Which would explain why she's alive – though not why you have her.”

    “She's... kind of illegal,” I said awkwardly. “Hang on. Let me get something to eat.”

    By the time I came back, Candy and Bianca had become Best Friends Forever as only animals and people who like animals can, and Halley was sitting in my chair.

    “I got bored,” she said.

    “Shut up,” I replied conversationally. “You're trying to keep a low profile. Now get out of my seat and sit under the table or something.”

    She sighed contentedly.

    “I want to be pissed-off, but I have to say I've missed this. Lauren would've sat me on her lap and cuddled me, and I would have had no choice but to try and remove her spleen with my teeth.”

    “Right,” I said, shoving her out of the way and sitting down. “What were you saying, Cheren?”

    “Nothing. You, however, were talking about why you have an Archen.”

    “Oh yeah.” I outlined the circumstances that had led to Candy's creation and subsequent exile to my house; as I spoke, the star of the story tried and failed to break the neck of a rather sturdy salt shaker.

    “She doesn't seem very 'feisty', as you put it,” observed Cheren dispassionately.

    “That's because she's fairly tame now,” I replied. “It's harder to make her angry these days. When we first got her she completely filled the garden with her kills.”

    “I see.”

    “Yeah. My uncle said it was fascinating, and the neighbours whose pets she'd killed almost murdered us.”

    “But she's so cute,” said Bianca, watching Candy with wide eyes. “How can she kill anything?”

    “She's trying to kill that salt shaker right now,” Cheren pointed out. “And when she ate your bacon she hit it on the table first to make sure it was dead.”

    “She's not killing, she's playing,” decided Bianca, and I could tell that nothing at all was going to change her mind on that score.

    “OK, whatever,” I said, swallowing a mouthful of egg and deciding never to eat at a Pokémon Centre again if I could help it. “You were going to tell me about yourselves?”

    “Yes.” Cheren pushed up his glasses with his middle finger and sat up straighter, as if he were about to recite some well-learnt lesson. “We're actually fairly new to this; we started Training two weeks ago as part of Professor Juniper's summer journey scheme.”

    “Oh yeah, I remember that.” It had been on the news a few months ago, and heavily advertised since; Unova's leading Pokémon researcher, Aurea Juniper, had been trying to revitalise Unova's lacklustre Training industry, and had somehow got hold of a government grant to send a few hundred sixteen-year-olds out into the wild with Pokémon for a few months. “But I thought that didn't start until this summer?”

    “Not officially, no,” agreed Cheren. “A couple of us are going early, though – test cases. To make sure that there aren't going to be too many casualties.”

    “Right.” I was about to say something about how disheartening that sounded, but at that moment my phone (which Halley had conveniently retrieved for me on our way to the station the day before) rang, and, apologising, I answered it.

    “I'm sorry,” said Anastasia immediately. She sounded like she'd been crying. “Jared, I—”

    “Annie? Hey, it's OK,” I replied, before she could launch into a downward spiral of self-loathing. “It's OK. We got away. Those government people... well, they're still looking for us, but we got away.”

    She was silent for a moment.

    “I'm still sorry,” she said eventually. “I just – Jared, that monster...”

    Her voice cracked, and I felt a sudden aching desire to put my arms around her, to tell her that everything was fine, that I understood and forgave her – but of course, I couldn't. We were separated by hundreds of miles of city and forest, connected only by the imperceptible ripple in the air that carried our voices to each other's ears.

    “It's OK, Annie,” I said softly. “It really is. We're all OK. We fought that Liepard off – and the guy with it.”

    “I know, I know, but...” She couldn't find the words, but I knew exactly what she meant, and said so.

    “It's OK,” I repeated lamely. “Really. The important thing is that you're safe – and you are, right?”

    “Uh – yeah. I guess. Just, um, shaken up.”

    “That's better than nothing,” I said gently. “Come on. Go and shoot some Swedish bears or something.”

    She almost laughed, which under the circumstances was about as good as I was going to get.

    “When are you coming back?” she asked, a note of pleading in her voice.

    “I don't know,” I replied. “When it's safe, I guess.”

    “And when will that be?”

    “I don't know.” I hesitated. “Soon. I hope.”

    “OK.” Her voice was not in agreement with her words. “There's someone asking for me now, Jared. I have to go.”

    “Are you sure? You don't sound like you want to.”

    “Of course I don't,” she said, a note of her old sourness creeping into her voice. “No, I... I have to go.”

    “You can call me any time,” I told her. “OK? Any time.”

    “Yeah.” She swallowed, and I wondered what that bastard Teiresias had done to her – what horrors it had shown her to reduce Anastasia to this. “I know. OK. Um... goodbye.”

    “Bye, Annie. Call me soon.”

    “I will.”

    She hung up, and I returned to my breakfast to find I'd suddenly lost my appetite.

    “How is she?” asked Halley, unusually gently.

    “Bad,” I replied shortly. “I don't want to talk about it.”

    “Fine by me,” she answered. “I'm told I'm not a good listener.”

    “Sorry,” I said to Cheren and Bianca. “My girlfriend. She's not feeling particularly well right now. What were you saying?”

    “That was it, really,” Cheren told me. We've plotted out a route through Unova that'll take us via all the Gyms; I'm not sure we'll be able to take on more than one or two before the summer's out, but we'll do our best.”

    It made sense. I'd never been interested in becoming a Trainer myself, but I knew it wasn't easy. The Gym Leaders were tough; they had vast catalogues of Pokémon at their disposal, and so were always able to pick out a team just that tiny bit too strong for each challenger who faced them. I guess that was why there weren't that many Trainers in Unova any more – for a nation of kids that were used to immediate pleasure, it was too much time and effort.

    “Right.” I thought for a bit. “Won't it take, like, several circuits to actually beat them all?”

    “Yeah, that's what I said!” cried Bianca, as if this were the most amazing coincidence in the world. “But we want to travel too, you know? And see the world!”

    “See Unova,” corrected Cheren dryly. “There is a world beyond this country. Difficult as it may be to believe.”

    Unova was fairly isolated on its little island in the Atlantic; there were only two countries on our landmass, and the northern one, Patzkova, was pretty much the textbook definition of wilderness. The British had tried to conquer it, after they took Unova; however, the terrain, natives and wild animals had all put up one hell of a fight, and, given that there was absolutely nothing of value in Patzkova beyond the fighting spirit of its inhabitants, the armies of the Empire had decided it really wasn't worth the effort. Over a century later, Patzkova was still mostly unchanged: there was something vaguely resembling a modern city in the northeast corner of it, and the rest was a seething mass of hostile forest.

    “Right.” I paused. “OK. So, um... what are we doing today?”

    “Bianca and I were going to head north to Striaton,” replied Cheren. “You're welcome to tag along, if you like. I don't know what use it will be to you, but we'll be walking along the Trainer Trails rather than taking the train, so it would be a good way to get off the radar while you consider what you want to do next.”

    That sounded like an excellent idea. Unlike conventional roads, the trails through the wilderness favoured by Trainers were overgrown and meandering, often led in several different directions at once and had patchy mobile phone coverage. If Halley and I wanted to vanish, we could do a lot worse than travel with Trainers – even if it did mean giving up the comforts of civilisation.

    “I think I'll take you up on that offer,” I told him. “Halley? What do you think?”

    She sighed.

    “All that time I spent getting out of the f*cking woods into the city and we're heading straight back out there again? All right, I see the need to go, but... Christ. I'm not looking forward to it.”

    “That's settled, then,” I said. “We'll go with you. Candy, put that down.”

    She had grabbed the edge of my plate in her toothy beak, and bit down reflexively on hearing the reprimand in my voice; there was a crack, and she stepped away, spitting out a mouthful of porcelain and looking at me guiltily.

    “Thanks a bunch,” I told her, picking her up and looking her in the eye. “Bad dog.”

    “Dog?” asked Bianca.

    “She doesn't understand the concept of birds,” I sighed. “Believe me, we've tried. But everyone we know who has a pet has a dog, so she thinks that 'dog' means 'pet'... Look, it's complicated.”

    “It sounds it.”

    “Yeah. Uh, is it OK if we go now?” I asked. “I really don't want anyone asking about the broken plate. Given that I'm supposed to be from Sweden. And that I'm on the run from some sinister government organisation.”

    “Oh yeah!” cried Bianca, jumping to her feet and overturning her plate. “We should totally go!”

    “How the f*ck did you two become friends?” wondered Halley. I'm pretty sure both Cheren and I were thinking exactly the same thing at that moment, but we didn't have long to ponder it. We'd broken two plates and spilled a considerable quantity of food: now was definitely the time to bail. We got up, retrieved Halley from under the table, and left.

    ---

    Accumula was more or less the worst possible place that their targets could have escaped them, Smythe thought to himself as he trudged down the little town's main street. Given that the Green Party was currently canvassing here for the upcoming general election – and that Harmonia himself was actually going to make a speech here today – it seemed more or less impossible for him to avoid making a report today. It was expected of him; in fact, he was supposed to be meeting up with his superiors today, with Halley and her new accomplice in tow. What exactly he was going to say to them was beyond him.

    Just as irritating was the fact that Teiresias had vanished. Officially, it wasn't supposed to be working with him on this; it had volunteered for it – it had some special interest in Halley, or something – and so its presence on the mission had to be concealed from Harmonia and the rest. Thus, Smythe would be taking the full blame for their failures to date – when in fact the convenient failure of Teiresias' vaunted powers had been responsible for most of it. It just wasn't fair.

    A bell chimed, and Smythe leaped out of the way as a gaggle of kids on brightly-coloured bikes zoomed past, chattering wildly.

    “Shouldn't you be in school?” he asked, far too quietly for anyone to hear, and, shaking his head in dissatisfaction, continued on his way.

    Actually, now that he thought about it, Smythe disliked this whole situation they had with Teiresias' kind. Those... things were lending their support to the Party, and that was all well and good, but he didn't like them hanging around the place, popping up in unexpected places and generally creeping him out. He didn't like the way they'd become so important, that was it. They were changing the whole feel of the Party. Sure, they were doing better in the polls – but Smythe wasn't wholly sure that this was the same party he'd joined any more; it seemed darker now, more... demonic.

    Bugger. There was a fleet of electric cars coming down the road – black, white and blue, for some reason the official colours of the Unovan Green Party. They swept by, overtaking him in an instant, and hummed along in the direction of Neurine Plaza.

    Smythe checked his watch. Yes, it was almost time for the speech. He supposed he'd better get there; afterwards he had his appointment with Harmonia.

    He sighed, girded his loins, and strode off towards the plaza, a lone hero striking out across the grey.

    ---

    “Excuse me. Where did you get those?”

    I blinked, and looked around to see who'd spoken; as it turned out, it was a rather Gothic-looking girl who was wearing far too much eyeshadow for so early in the morning.

    “Get what?” I asked. Behind me, Cheren tapped his foot impatiently; we were all eager to leave the Centre, but I could tell he especially didn't appreciate delays messing up his carefully arranged timetable.

    “Those bracelets.”

    I stared at her. At my feet, Halley suppressed a s******.

    “You mean these?” I asked, holding up my wrists to show her the handcuffs.

    “Yeah, those.” She smiled self-consciously. “They're cool, that's all.”

    “OK. Uh, thanks, I guess. They're, um, home-made.”

    “That is so cool,” she said, staring at them. “I've got to get me some of those.”

    I nodded in vague confusion.

    “Uh... thanks. Anyway, I, er, have to go now...”

    “Oh, yeah! Of course. Sorry. Thanks!”

    She waved and walked off in the direction of the canteen, doubtless going to tell her incredibly alternative friends about the seriously cool new accessory she'd discovered.

    “I cannot believe that anyone would like those,” muttered Halley. “F*cking hipsters.”

    “I don't think she was a hipster,” I said, as we entered the lobby. “I—”

    “Shut up, you're meant to be Swedish,” hissed Cheren, and I fell silent.

    “Still, I can't imagine anyone would like that look,” chattered Bianca blithely. “I mean, all that black and spikes and stuff. It's so aggressive! Not cute at all... I like cute things.”

    I stared at her. Was she not aware that she was describing the very clothes I was wearing? This was fashionable in Black City – the latest thing. I didn't know what they did out in middle-of-nowhere Nuvema, but where I came from, this was just about the last word in cool.

    “Ignore her,” Cheren informed me lightly, without moving his lips. “Some days, that's the only way I can survive.”

    We left the Pokémon Centre, and almost immediately a wave of sound washed over us: a crowd was laughing nearby. A large crowd.

    “What's that?” I wondered.

    “I'm not sure.” Cheren frowned. “It sounds big.”

    “It's coming from over there,” said Bianca, pointing down the street. “I think it's coming from that square we saw yesterday, Cheren.”

    “People are staring at me,” whined Halley.

    “That's because your species is technically classified as vermin,” I said. “Now shut up before someone realises you can talk.” I looked up from her to Cheren. “Shall we investigate, then?”

    “Hm. I think we will. We can afford a short detour.”

    “Oh, lighten up, Cheren,” moaned Bianca, as if she hadn't heard his answer at all. “Let's go! It might be fun!”

    “All right, all right,” he sighed. “Lead on.”

    Bianca bounced off ahead, and Candy launched herself off my shoulder to cling to her back, squawking with joy.

    “So how did you two meet?” I asked Cheren conversationally, as we walked after them.

    “When we were five, I was looking for an illustrated children's encyclopaedia in the school library,” he told me. “As it turned out, Bianca had it. She'd propped it up on building blocks to make a house for some stuffed animal.” He raised his eyebrows. “I'm still not entirely sure how we got from there to here, actually.”

    Somehow, that summed up the pair of them perfectly: Cheren looking for a book, Bianca using it as a toy. I smiled, for a moment forgetting Teiresias, Smythe and the mess they were making of my life, and walked on down the street with an extra spring in my step.

    The crowd noises were dying down now, and I heard a man's voice ringing out above them; I couldn't quite make out the words, but it sounded familiar. Eager to find out what exactly was happening, we rounded the corner and found ourselves at the back of a crowd several hundred people strong, gathered in a plaza and listening attentively to the tall man with the synthetic eye standing on a podium in front of a banner emblazoned with the words 'Green Party 2013'. He had just finished telling some kind of joke, I surmised, because there was a ripple of laughter spreading through the crowd.

    “OK, OK,” he was saying, “enough joking around, or I'm not actually going to get to the end of this speech before the council throw us out the square. Times have changed – and so have we. I think you'll find that we're no longer the butt of every political joke in the country...”

    “Who's that?” I asked Cheren, staring at the man. “He looks familiar...”

    “Ghetsis Harmonia,” he replied. “Leader of the Green Party and, if I remember correctly, the second person to have a HawkEye fitted.”

    That was it – I knew I'd seen him before, and now I knew where. He'd been on the news a while ago; having lost his right eye in some kind of accident, he'd volunteered to be a test subject for Ovotech's new artificial sight system.
    “He's standing for Prime Minister this year,” observed Cheren. “He's doing quite well so far, too. I believe it's a combination of unusual name, the eye, and a winning personality.”

    “I see.”

    “...you all know our stance on climate change, on sustainability, and all that,” Harmonia was saying. “That's not news anymore – and neither are our policies. We've made them entirely clear to you over the last few weeks. No, what I really wanted to do with this meeting was to talk about something new we have planned – something that will be taking place if we make it into power.”

    “Where did Bianca go?” I wondered. I couldn't see her in the crowd.

    “Who cares?” asked Halley. “Isn't the real question here why his hair is green?”

    “That's not that unusual here,” Cheren told her. “It's the world's rarest hair colour – most common in Unova and Patzkova and virtually unheard of anywhere else.”

    “You know, it's really hard to be facetious when this guy knows everything,” sighed Halley.

    “That's not true,” Cheren replied mildly. “I don't know everything, and I suspect you know it.”

    “Pedant.”

    “I refuse to be drawn into a slanging match,” Cheren said with dignity. “Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to hear what Harmonia has to say.”

    “...liberation.” A murmur of confusion ran through the crowd. “Yes, that's correct: liberation. But not any old form of liberation, ladies and gentlemen; there's no ruling elite, no dictatorship to overthrow. There are no humans in our liberation scheme. Just Pokémon.”

    Another babble of bewildered voices; I exchanged glances with Cheren, but he just shrugged.

    “Mr. Harmonia!” yelled a reporter from near the front. “Mr. Harmonia, what exactly do you mean by that?”

    “Come on now,” Harmonia chided gently. “Give me a chance to explain before hitting me with the questions at least.” That earned him a small chuckle, and he waited for it to die down before continuing. “Listen,” he said. “I know this is going to sound strange, but hear me out: I propose we set each and every one of the Pokémon currently in captivity free.”

    The crowd practically exploded in uproar; for a moment, I thought a riot was going to break out, and wished I had my trusty iron pipe with me.

    “Career suicide,” muttered Cheren, as Halley leaped up into my arms to avoid being crushed underfoot. “Why? Why would he say that?”

    “I asked you to hear me out!” boomed Harmonia over the din, the speakers turned up all the way to the max – and abruptly, the turmoil in his audience ceased. “Thank you,” he said, motioning to someone out of sight to turn down the volume again. “I know this sounds strange. I expected that reaction. But I want you to understand what I mean – what thoughts went through my head when I thought of this – before you discount my plan entirely.”

    He leaned forwards on the podium, that gleaming red HawkEye sweeping over the crowd like the single eye of Woden from atop the gallows.

    “Pokémon are inexplicable,” he said simply. “We know the laws of biology – of physics – of the universe – and almost every species breaks at least one. A Charizard should not be able to generate fire from the empty glands in its throat. A Vanilluxe should not even be alive. It has no organs – nothing, just soft-scoop ice cream and teeth. These creatures are not part of the normal order of creation – and what do we do with them?

    “We eat them. We farm them. We harvest their bones and we force them to fight one another. We have done it for thousands of years. And let me ask you – what is the result?”

    Harmonia paused, and the burning red eye swooped over the crowd again. I could almost feel its presence on my forehead, as if it projected some kind of heat beam; irrationally, I found myself wondering if he could see right through us with that thing. Everyone in the audience was frozen in place; the man's presence was electric.

    “We have been playing with forces that we are not capable of even beginning to comprehend,” he said. “In Unova alone, there are fifty-six fatalities and ninety severe crippling injuries among Trainers each year. Add to that the estimated nineteen thousand Pokémon undergoing mental or physical abuse, and the result is a huge pool of suffering in this one nation alone.

    “And Unova is not a major Pokémon-using nation,” Harmonia continued, holding up one hand to forestall interruptions. “Look at Hoenn – people wanted power, drew on Pokémon, and the world was nearly choked in volcanic ash. Look at Sinnoh – they may not state it outright, but the destruction of Spear Pillar had its roots in the same cause.” He shook his head sadly. “Look at Kanto, twenty years ago,” he said. “One Pokémon asked why it had to obey flawed humanity. The authorities have not yet been able to finish counting the deceased.”

    He sighed.

    “I could go on. The Raichu storm in Malaysia. The uprising of the Ghosts in Dresden. The Decoyote attacks in Texas. This is nothing new, people. Every year – every month – some new tragedy occurs. The losses on both sides, human and Pokémon, are incalculable.

    “So what do I propose we do?” he asked. “Simple. Our kinds go their separate ways. The Green Party is concerned with creating a better world for all species, and I have to say that in our considered opinion, this one act of division will save more lives, of more species, than any edict of sustainability or carbon trapping.”

    Harmonia paused, head sinking slightly, as if wearied from his speech.

    “I don't expect you to rally to my cause right away,” he said. “I don't expect you to agree without an argument. In fact, I welcome it: I would be concerned if people didn't challenge me on this. But I want you to think, and I want you to wonder if perhaps your opposition to my proposal stems from truth – or simply from tradition. It is the way things have always been, I'm told – but that's what we used to say about slavery, and human sacrifice.”

    He drew back from the podium and inclined his head in a brief bow.

    “Thank you for listening. I will be available to take questions later this afternoon, at the Bertram Hotel on Wooster Street. Ladies and gentlemen, my gratitude for your time.”

    With that, he disappeared behind the podium, and the crowd dissolved into ranting, animated chaos.

    ---

    “Well,” said Cheren at length. “He's never going to win the election that way.”

    I stared at him.

    “Is that it? He wants to have every Pokémon in captivity released into the wild. That's not just career suicide, that's bloody mental.”

    “I agree,” he said patiently. “And that's why he isn't going to win the election. Come on, let's find Bianc—”

    “Chereeen! Jareeeed!”

    Bianca's voice cut through the chatter of the dispersing crowd like the needling sound of a screaming child; it was also pretty much just as irritating, and Halley, Cheren and I all winced at the noise.

    “OK, found her,” Cheren murmured, as she bounced up to us, Candy clinging determinedly to her hat.

    “Hi,” she said. “Where were you? That was weird, right? Why would anyone want to separate humans and Pokémon?”

    “I'm not sure,” began Cheren, but Halley interrupted.

    “Because he sees the truth,” she snapped. “That Harmonia guy's the first person I've heard in Unova who makes any kind of sense.”

    That took us all aback, and we stared at her as she wriggled free of my grip and dropped lightly to the pavement.

    “What?” I asked. “You're not saying you agree with him?”

    “If I'm not saying that, then what am I saying?” she retorted. “He's right. When humans and Pokémon come together, bad sh*t happens. Like Zero trying to destroy the world last year. Like Rayquaza being shot down over London. Like that Arctic research station defrosting the frozen Jellicent at Christmas.”

    “But Pokémon are people's friends,” protested Bianca, which was probably the last sentiment in the world that might have earned Halley's sympathy.

    “Really?” she asked. “That's what you're saying? Do you not understand how animals work? They stay where they're most comfortable – where there's food, shelter, water and someone to look after them – because it's advantageous to them. Pokémon are no different. Those few that are intelligent don't exactly love us, either.”

    “Us? You're a wildcat,” I pointed out, more to score points than to actually rebut her.

    Temporarily. Anyway, look at the Kadabra and Alakazam. Look at the Ghost-types. Those are as close to the speaking representatives of the Pokémon world as you're going to get, and they all hate us.”

    “The Kadabra were bound to hate us,” Cheren replied. “They lost the war.”

    There were no Kadabra in Unova, which was just as well; most people found them kind of disturbing. They'd lost out to humans long ago in the race to be Earth's dominant species, and mostly kept to themselves in their reservations these days. In theory, the past was behind us; in practice, the Kadabra had never forgotten, and would in all likelihood never forgive.

    “Because we deliberately infected them with Gastly spores,” retorted Halley. “So that their global hive mind was almost f*cking destroyed by the Gengar eating it from within. They never did anything like that to us – and it's taken them over a hundred years to rebuild their collective consciousness. And that resulted in an explosion in the Gengar population, which means that for the last century, there's been a massive rise in the rate of fatal Ghost attacks – on humans and Kadabra – worldwide.”

    “Bravo,” said a soft voice. “And that's just one of so many examples, isn't it?”

    “Yeah!” agreed Halley. “I – wait, who said that?”

    I looked up, and saw that the crowd had all but vanished – all but one person, who was standing alone a short distance away, in the middle of the plaza.

    “That would be me,” he said, stepping forward. “Excuse me. That was an interesting speech, was it not?”

    “Yes, it was,” replied Cheren, swiftly nudging Halley behind him with one foot. “I don't think Harmonia will win after that, though.”

    “We'll see,” said the young man thoughtfully, drawing nearer. “Sorry, I haven't introduced myself.” He held out a hand. “My name is...”

    I didn't need him to tell me. I'd known the moment I set eyes on him; he had triggered something deep inside me, some strange response that came from a more primal place than reason or emotion: I knew nothing about him, but he was as familiar to me as the sound of my own name.

    “N,” I said without realising, staring into his lifeless, ice-coloured eyes. “Your name is N.”

  25. #50
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Between Nod and Terrafirma
    Posts
    392

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    Ah, so Cheren is annoyed with Bianca as well, I never really liked her myself, too, ditzy...

    Anyway, interesting examples as to why pokemon should be seperated, all valid points too, but Ghetsis never mentioned all the good things that come from it, so, yeah.

    Hmm, I wonder how this exchange will go down, "lifeless, ice-coloured eyes" sounds like something is gonna happen.


    Credit to Brutaka for the amazing banner and user bar. Yeah, having 2 is redundant, but it shows you guys my favorite pokemon, what story I had planned and my position in the WoJ.

    Time, there's never enough of it but it's always there to waste.
    -Azurus

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