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

  1. #51
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    YOU READ THE ENDER'S GAME SERIES!
    Piggies, buggers, jane, i could go on and on!
    Halley is Anthea or Concordia, don't deny it. I have a skill for plot discovery without getting very far, when the first clue is out I evauluate and decipher it better than Zero could scheme a plan and have it barely miss the mark.
    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

  2. #52
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    You know, in this universe I find myself agreeing with Ghetsis. In the games though, people seem...Different. There aren't as many evil people, and people seem to be nicer in general.

    I'm more interested now that I've realized Jared/Lauren will be the second Hero, and will have to find an argument against N.

  3. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    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.
    Yeah. Mentioning them would be kind of counter-productive - but don't worry. We at the Unovan Broadcasing Company will be bringing you live coverage of the election race, as and when it happens. Over the next few weeks, we'll be covering the bizarre new policy brought out by previously promising newcomer Ghetsis Harmonia, and making sure that this year's unmissable election really is unmissable.

    And yes. Something's going to happen. Though you can probably get the gist of it by simply thinking back to what happened when you were in Accumula town in-game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rotomknight View Post
    YOU READ THE ENDER'S GAME SERIES!
    Piggies, buggers, jane, i could go on and on!
    Halley is Anthea or Concordia, don't deny it. I have a skill for plot discovery without getting very far, when the first clue is out I evauluate and decipher it better than Zero could scheme a plan and have it barely miss the mark.
    I... haven't. And, in fact, have no idea what that series is about.

    As for Halley... there is still much to discuss concerning her. That's all I'll say for now.

    Quote Originally Posted by greatguy View Post
    You know, in this universe I find myself agreeing with Ghetsis. In the games though, people seem...Different. There aren't as many evil people, and people seem to be nicer in general.

    I'm more interested now that I've realized Jared/Lauren will be the second Hero, and will have to find an argument against N.
    In the games, most people have the moral compass of a rather righteous ten-year-old. Since my interpretation brings the games a little closer to reality in terms of the people involved, there's bound to be more conflict; I actually think my previous stories stand as a pretty good body of evidence for Harmonia's line of thought. (Speaking of that, what's with the name 'Ghetsis'? Are they trying to make him sound like a villain or what? He sounds like he ought to be seven foot tall, wearing bone armour and wielding an oversized butcher's knife.)

    In the game, he only makes one point in his speech that I could really expand upon: that Pokémon contain unknown potential. I just grabbed that and ran with it to try and make something slightly more convincing than 'we should all release Pokémon because I say it's bad not to'.

    As for the Hero... I thought it would be obvious that he/she was. I mean, I do always write about the main character of each game... kind of. I suppose it wouldn't surprise me if I decided to write a story about someone who's ultimately only a minor foil for the protagonist.

    Anyway. Thanks for reading! Cutlerine - away!

    F.A.B.

  4. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    And yes. Something's going to happen. Though you can probably get the gist of it by simply thinking back to what happened when you were in Accumula town in-game.
    F.A.B.
    Thanks for the semi-spoilers, geez, put it in tags xD.

    In all seriousness, it is obvious, but then again, you have been known to somewhat stray from the formula.


    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

  5. #55
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    Ender's game is a sci-fi series on book that has war, how we would react to aliens, philosphy, bug aliens.

    Halley is Concordia's real name, she was also hired to steal something.
    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

  6. #56
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    I've just finished reading the first chapter and I thought it was absolutely awesome! Please add me to the PM list.

  7. #57
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    Heya, first-time reader of your work, and I must say you’ve caught me hook, line and sinker.

    Definitely an interesting concept even from the get-go. The opening scene intrigued me, though I must say this story wouldn’t have captivated me so if it were solely about some guy named Jared and a talking cat (while the shopping scene wad fun, it did start feeling a bit too long). I’m completely fascinated with your entire concept, and I haven’t had that feeling while reading a fic in…awhile. I really want to know what the deal is with these two very different worlds, where our protagonist fits in, and what’s the deal with Halley as well as Teiresias.

    It took me a moment to recognize Cheren and Bianca, but I was looking forward to seeing how they would fit in. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed to see the “Ghetsis makes a speech” scene we’ve seen in trainer fics since B/W’s release (though it’s so nice to see that you’re not calling them “Team __” and that they are instead a political party with Plasma’s colour scheme), and I really hope it doesn’t follow the game plot too closely. But you seem to have quite a bit hidden up your sleeve, so I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one.

    I’m especially intrigued by your world-building. This idea of the Black world and White world existing kind of simultaneously is interesting, and I love the differences between them. You address things I don’t see getting addressed a lot, like economy, religion, or where a region fits within a world. I’m especially enthralled by the religion of the White world – you don’t tend to see religions in Pokemon fanfiction that don’t directly revolve around Pokemon, especially not polytheistic ones. I do hope some of the lore ends up being true. (And considering Teiresias, I’m leaning more towards it being such.) After noticing your mention of Decoyote I wonder if you'll be using many Fakemon. I’m also interested by the fact that both Pokemon and animals seem to exist in this world, which hasn't really been addressed. I actually assumed Halley was a Purrlion for awhile, until it became clear that there was a reason you weren't referring to her as being one.

    Also, thinking about it now, I also rather like that Jared and Lauren are both either representatives or products of their own worlds (I’d bet on the former). Does one relate to truth and the other ideals, perhaps? Hm.

    On that note, I also have to say I don’t at all find Jared a better or more interesting character than Lauren. I get that readers like characters who are strong and kick butt, and I unfortunately think that’s the main cause of them preferring him – well, along with Halley’s own blatant preference. Admittedly, I’m a bit disappointed that you chose to make the “cool” character male and the “weak” one female (much like the dynamic between Cheren and Bianca). I suppose there’s at least Halley, but her being a cat kind of diminishes it.


    Now for nitpicking grammar! (Only from the last two chapters.)

    Ellipses are only ever three periods.

    “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.”
    the "as" should be "was."

    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.
    you don’t really need the "by then."

    “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.”
    Missing an opening quotation mark after "Cheren told me."

    “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.
    This is a bit clunky in that he shouldn’t be “pretty sure” he was thinking the same thing Halley just said. Maybe “…wondered Halley. I, and I’m pretty sure Cheren too, were thinking exactly the same thing.”

    “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.
    Asked how? Considering his bad mood, I would have phrased it more like "he demanded" or "he growled."

    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.
    This is a telling VS showing problem; if he’s not thinking about them, don’t mention it. it's kind of harder to do, but you can always stick with something like "I smiled, for a moment forgetting everything else" or something like that.

    “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.
    I'm fairly sure "OK" should be spelled out as "okay," and "throw" should be "throws."

    I also have to say that this didn’t feel like a real political speech. truthfully, I don’t listen to very many political speeches, but sentences like “Listen, I know this is going to sound strange, but hear me out” just seem too casual. Also, this seems like a strange place to make this kind of announcement, rather than, say, a press room. Maybe establish that there are quite a few reporters there (instead of just one or two), such as by having him say "Welcome to the members of the press" or something along those lines.

    In Unova alone, there are fifty-six fatalities and ninety severe crippling injuries among Trainers each year.
    I dunno, that doesn’t sound like a very severe number. I'm sure there's a higher chance of getting hit by a car than getting attacked by a Pokemon. Maybe if he phrased it as a percentage instead? (Since we don't know if this is a large number of the trainers who are out and about each year.)



    That's about it. I really like your style, and the plot has captivated me entirely. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it unfold and finding out out how all of this came to be. Plus I'd like to see how the title fits in.
    Great job, keep at it, and good luck!

    ~Psychic
    Last edited by Psychic; 26th November 2012 at 10:33 AM.

  8. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDarkKnightFalls View Post
    I've just finished reading the first chapter and I thought it was absolutely awesome! Please add me to the PM list.
    Sure, no problem. I'm glad you

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Heya, first-time reader of your work, and I must say you’ve caught me hook, line and sinker.
    ...

    Psychic...?

    ...

    Wow. Seems I'm moving up in the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Definitely an interesting concept even from the get-go. The opening scene intrigued me, though I must say this story wouldn’t have captivated me so if it were solely about some guy named Jared and a talking cat (while the shopping scene wad fun, it did start feeling a bit too long). I’m completely fascinated with your entire concept, and I haven’t had that feeling while reading a fic in…awhile. I really want to know what the deal is with these two very different worlds, where our protagonist fits in, and what’s the deal with Halley as well as Teiresias.
    Yes, I got a bit carried away at the start there, didn't I? Ah, well. I'm glad it served its purpose, anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    It took me a moment to recognize Cheren and Bianca, but I was looking forward to seeing how they would fit in. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed to see the “Ghetsis makes a speech” scene we’ve seen in trainer fics since B/W’s release (though it’s so nice to see that you’re not calling them “Team __” and that they are instead a political party with Plasma’s colour scheme), and I really hope it doesn’t follow the game plot too closely. But you seem to have quite a bit hidden up your sleeve, so I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one.
    Has that scene been used a lot? I really haven't read many B/W fics, I'm afraid. It seemed like a fairly important point to me, so I included it.

    As for the Green Party, well. That just seemed like a fun idea, like most of the things I put in my stories.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    I’m especially intrigued by your world-building. This idea of the Black world and White world existing kind of simultaneously is interesting, and I love the differences between them. You address things I don’t see getting addressed a lot, like economy, religion, or where a region fits within a world. I’m especially enthralled by the religion of the White world – you don’t tend to see religions in Pokemon fanfiction that don’t directly revolve around Pokemon, especially not polytheistic ones. I do hope some of the lore ends up being true. (And considering Teiresias, I’m leaning more towards it being such.) After noticing your mention of Decoyote I wonder if you'll be using many Fakemon. I’m also interested by the fact that both Pokemon and animals seem to exist in this world, which hasn't really been addressed. I actually assumed Halley was a Purrlion for awhile, until it became clear that there was a reason you weren't referring to her as being one.
    Well, as I see it, the vaguely-described regions represented in the games are to a fanfiction author like pure white Carrara marble to a Renaissance sculptor. They're a perfect canvas: everyone knows the boring stuff about them, which leaves you free to go off on wild tangents and build the interesting bits of the world.

    As I see it, there have to be Fakemon and animals in the world for two reasons. One is that the six hundred-odd official species of Pokémon (some very odd) are barely enough to create a believable ecosystem in a single country as it is, and the other is that humans are definitely not Pokémon, which begs the question of where they came from if there are no animals.

    Thinking about the lore, I'm pretty sure that there's at least a little truth in it, given that Odin turned up running a hotel in Pastoria City in my last story.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Also, thinking about it now, I also rather like that Jared and Lauren are both either representatives or products of their own worlds (I’d bet on the former). Does one relate to truth and the other ideals, perhaps? Hm.

    On that note, I also have to say I don’t at all find Jared a better or more interesting character than Lauren. I get that readers like characters who are strong and kick butt, and I unfortunately think that’s the main cause of them preferring him – well, along with Halley’s own blatant preference. Admittedly, I’m a bit disappointed that you chose to make the “cool” character male and the “weak” one female (much like the dynamic between Cheren and Bianca). I suppose there’s at least Halley, but her being a cat kind of diminishes it.
    It wasn't intentional. You see, I always start from canon, and in this case my starting point was that the male character is Black and the female one is White. So Jared had to be male, and Lauren had to be female; there was no choice there. Their characters developed purely as a result of the world they live in; I forge stories like chainmail, with one link following on from the next, rather than based on any pre-existing stereotypes.

    I did think it might conflict with Cheren and Bianca's dynamic, but I thought I might enjoy flicking between different perspectives on their situation, so I didn't bother to change it.

    Halley... is different. She has no counterpart within the games and is therefore a pure and unalloyed product of my diseased wit - but more of her anon.


    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Now for nitpicking grammar! (Only from the last two chapters.)
    This is my punishment for touch-typing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Ellipses are only ever three periods.
    Yes, I know - but where's the wrong one? You've not quoted it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    the "as" should be "was."


    you don’t really need the "by then."


    Missing an opening quotation mark after "Cheren told me."


    This is a bit clunky in that he shouldn’t be “pretty sure” he was thinking the same thing Halley just said. Maybe “…wondered Halley. I, and I’m pretty sure Cheren too, were thinking exactly the same thing.”


    Asked how? Considering his bad mood, I would have phrased it more like "he demanded" or "he growled."


    This is a telling VS showing problem; if he’s not thinking about them, don’t mention it. it's kind of harder to do, but you can always stick with something like "I smiled, for a moment forgetting everything else" or something like that.
    All valid points, and noted.


    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    I'm fairly sure "OK" should be spelled out as "okay," and "throw" should be "throws."
    Not where I live. Here, 'OK' is 'OK'. The 'throw' thing is right, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    I also have to say that this didn’t feel like a real political speech. truthfully, I don’t listen to very many political speeches, but sentences like “Listen, I know this is going to sound strange, but hear me out” just seem too casual. Also, this seems like a strange place to make this kind of announcement, rather than, say, a press room. Maybe establish that there are quite a few reporters there (instead of just one or two), such as by having him say "Welcome to the members of the press" or something along those lines.
    No, it doesn't, but that's kind of the point: Harmonia trades on not being a proper politician - on not acting as others of his station do, on possessing the ability to not take himself or his campaign seriously (or to appear that way, at least). Evidently I didn't make that point clearly enough; I'll take another look at this, and probably expand on it in further chapters.

    And it is a strange place to make an announcement. Very strange indeed. I wonder what Game Freak were thinking, placing the speech scene there so Cutlerine can avoid the blame for a misplaced event.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    I dunno, that doesn’t sound like a very severe number. I'm sure there's a higher chance of getting hit by a car than getting attacked by a Pokemon. Maybe if he phrased it as a percentage instead? (Since we don't know if this is a large number of the trainers who are out and about each year.)
    I thought it was a small number, but I'd kind of already limited the figure, since I said Unova's Training industry was lacklustre earlier on. Eh, I could probably bump it up a bit higher and not seem like I'm contradicting myself, I guess.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    That's about it. I really like your style, and the plot has captivated me entirely. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it unfold and finding out out how all of this came to be. Plus I'd like to see how the title fits in.
    Great job, keep at it, and good luck!

    ~Psychic
    Thank you. It means a lot to have a proper review, with both positive and negative parts to it, and when it comes from one of the more prominent members of the community, that really does sweeten the deal.

    F.A.B.

  9. #59
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    Chapter Six: If You Go Down to the Woods Today

    Nacrene was most famous for its artistic quarter, on the east side – for the studios, the cheap bars and the alternative music that seemed to pervade the entire district like a dense fog – but that wasn't the whole story; Cantonbury, the northernmost borough, was as much a haven for the sciences as Dotten was for the arts. Here, one could wander through the rambling halls of the Museum of Unovan Antiquity; peruse a book in the Travison Memorial Library, the largest of its kind in Europe; or, if one had the appropriate security clearance, could walk into International Genetics' research and development facility, and observe the fleshy and repellent Dr. Herman Spitelle approaching Dr. Gregory Black.

    Dr. Spitelle, it will be noted, had the charm and verve of the average horned lizard – that curious creature that sprays blood from its eyes to deter predators – and the fat content of the average manatee; like the beasts he created, he was best described by the various animals that had lent him each facet of his appearance.

    From this description, it may also be deduced that Dr. Spitelle was neither a popular man nor an ethical scientist.

    “Gregory!” he said, and at the sound of his stentorian voice Gregory Black visibly shuddered.

    “What is it?” he asked, busying himself with some papers on his desk and trying to look as if he hadn't the time to talk to him.

    “An unexpected signal has appeared on our radar,” Spitelle said, which Black thought was somewhat cryptic.

    “What?”

    “Did you watch Harmonia's speech earlier?”

    Black gave him the most severe look he was capable of, which, given that he was a man of forty-three who still harboured a secret love of soft toys, was not all that effective.

    “I,” he said coldly, “was working.”

    “I was on my break,” continued Spitelle without listening, “and, following the election as I am, I naturally was watching. Harmonia made a great many interesting points, but it was not the speech that held my attention.”

    “Will you get to the point, Herman?” snapped Black.

    “It was rather the brightly-coloured – and somewhat toothy – bird I perceived clinging to the shoulder of a young woman in the crowd.”

    Black froze.

    “Of course, this intrigued me,” Spitelle went on mildly, a cruel grin spreading across the broad flabby slab of his face. “I paused – the Internet, Gregory, is a marvellous thing – and had a closer look. And it seemed to me that this brightly-coloured, somewhat toothy bird was beginning to look a little familiar.”

    Black's eyes flicked left and right, searching for some heavy object with which he might bludgeon Spitelle into bloody unconsciousness before making good his escape, but none came to hand.

    “Out of curiosity, I looked at the GPS tracker,” said Spitelle. “And lo and behold” (Black loathed people who used the phrase 'lo and behold' without irony) “I saw a little blip in Nacrene City that I hadn't seen for two years. A blip that should have stopped when a certain dangerous re-engineered bird was destroyed two years ago. By you.”

    “Miraculous,” said Black, wholly unconvincingly. “Evidently Archen have an unparalleled resistance to lethal injection—”

    “Or perhaps the Archen was never given the lethal injection,” suggested Spitelle. “Perhaps someone, rather than killing it, released it into the wild.”

    It wasn't quite the truth, but it was near enough to drain the remaining colour from Black's face.

    “Perhaps,” he said hesitantly. “Perhaps... not.”

    Spitelle raised one pudgy eyebrow. Black had never figured out how one ate enough fat to bulk up one's brow of all places, but he refused to let this question distract him at this time.

    “Is that the best you can come up with?” he asked.

    Black considered.

    “Yes,” he admitted.

    “I think that, given the circumstances, someone ought to contact Harper,” said Spitelle thoughtfully. “Unless, of course, someone else could provide that someone with a certain something...?”

    Black stared at him, trepidation overridden by puzzlement.

    “What?”

    “I'm blackmailing you,” said Spitelle, dropping all pretence. “I would like five hundred pounds by the end of the week or I let everyone know that you released AR-0834 into the wild.”

    “Five hundred pounds?” cried Black. “That's – that's – I won't pay it!”

    “Very well, then,” replied Spitelle, with a faint sigh of disappointment. “Enjoy the inquiry.”

    With that, he turned on his heel and rolled out of the office like a solid boulder of flesh, leaving Black to think sadly to himself that he might have just reacted a mite too fast back then.

    ---

    The young man looked at me, completely unsurprised.

    “Yes, that's right,” he said. “And you're... Jared, is it?”

    I nodded. I didn't need to ask how he knew.

    “So do you two know each other, or...?”

    Trust Bianca to break the spell. I wasn't angry, though. I didn't know what had just happened, and I wasn't sure I wanted to: it was something strange and frightening, and not an experience I particularly wanted to repeat.

    “No,” replied N. “At least, I don't think so. We've never met, anyway.”

    His eyes darted to mine, looking for help explaining it; I shook my head.

    “I have no idea,” I told him.

    “I see,” he replied. “All right.”

    By now, it was becoming very obvious to the others that something had passed between us that they didn't know about, and the situation was beginning to be uncomfortable; as if to break it up, and return to normal, N looked pointedly away from me and towards Cheren.

    “Where was I?” he said. “Ah yes. Pokémon liberation. There's an example right here of interference causing suffering, for instance.”

    I sighed with relief. It was over – whatever strange friction had occurred when our minds met, it was over, and we could move on.

    “Is there now?” asked Cheren, unconvinced. “Go on, then.”

    “Your Archen,” said N, turning to Bianca. “I'm sorry, I don't know your name...?”

    “Bianca,” she replied. “But it's not my Archen, it's Jared's, and—”

    “Jared. Of course.” He glanced at me with some unease. “Well... listen to her. Her species comes from a time when there was around 130% more oxygen in the air than today, and when the global temperature was three degrees higher. Here, in cold Unova, she's freezing – and wheezing terribly. Her body can't cope.”

    I stared at him.

    “How on earth do you—?”

    N said something too fast and too quietly for me to hear, and Candy hopped from Bianca's shoulder to his hand; he held her close to his ear, and listened.

    “As I suspected,” he said. “Her diet is no good for her, either. She has an abnormally high heart rate, even for a bird. Thanks to the changing atmosphere, she's also asthmatic – verging on bronchitic, in fact. I would keep her out of cities if I were you.”

    “Candy, come here. Now.”

    I held out my arm, and Candy looked up at N.

    “Go on,” he said. “Go back to him.”

    She refused to move, and N repeated what he'd said earlier – or something similar to it – and finally, with great reluctance, she climbed up my arm to my shoulder.

    “OK, apart from the fact that everyone knows that she's an Archen,” I said with annoyance, “what the hell is going on here? Who are you? How did you... control her like that?”

    N raised his eyebrows.

    “Control? No. Never.” He sounded hurt – physically, as if I'd punched him. “I don't control anything, especially not Pokémon. I'm not a Trainer.” He pronounced the word with unusual venom; I was beginning to get the idea that he was probably a pretty damn fervent supporter of Harmonia for Prime Minister. “Excuse me,” he said politely, recovering himself. “I... suppose I'm a friend to Pokémon, rather than a master. We have a mutual understanding.”

    He coughed, suddenly uncomfortable.

    “Ah, anyway, I'd better go. It was... enlightening... to talk to you.”

    Abruptly, he turned and began to walk away, without even waiting for anyone else to say goodbye.

    “Can you talk to them?” asked Bianca suddenly, and N stopped.

    “And what if I can?” he asked, without turning around.

    “Um... nothing, I guess,” she replied, looking helplessly at Cheren and I for direction. “I, um – I was just wondering, since you looked like you were talking to Candy...”

    N looked back at us.

    “I think we'll meet again,” he said, eyes on me. “Things may have become clearer then... at the moment, I have a few concerns that I need to work through.”

    He was talking about me – I just knew it.

    “Yeah, me too,” I replied. “I'll see you sometime... N.”

    “Jared.”

    We maintained eye contact for longer than could reasonably be considered normal, each searching the other for something – anything – that might explain this; then, as if by mutual agreement, we broke our stares at the same moment, and N walked briskly away across the plaza and down the street.

    Cheren, Bianca and Halley stared at me.

    “It always seems to fall to me to be the one to say this,” said Halley, “but what the f*ck was all that about, man?”

    ---

    Twenty minutes and one hopelessly inadequate explanation later, we were walking through the maze of tiny lanes that formed Accumula's outskirts, following the signs for the Trainer Trail north towards Striaton. I'd tried my best to articulate the strange connection between N and me – but given that I didn't understand it myself, there wasn't much I could do to explain it, and what I'd come up with hadn't even been clear enough to satisfy me, let alone any of the others.

    We were about ten minutes into a bewildered silence when my phone rang again. It seemed I was popular this morning.
    “Hello?”

    “Jared, status report,” said the voice at the other end without preamble. “I've managed to stop Mum and Dad from calling you so far, but I'm not sure how much longer I can hold them off. I'm finding it difficult to tell whether they're angry or worried at the moment; either way, you can expect to have to explain yourself to them sometime soon.”

    “Uh... OK,” I said, slightly taken aback, as people so often are, by Cordelia's manner. “What – what exactly am I meant to say to them?”

    “That's kind of your problem, not mine,” she said. “I'm doing all I can to keep things going here. Where are you, by the way?”
    “Accumula, but—”

    “Accumula? What on earth for? Actually, never mind. Have you found out any more about why these people are after you and who they are?”

    “No, not really, but I did—”

    “Good thing I have, then. From his I.D. card, the man who came to question us earlier today belonged to the Green Party, which means that for whatever reason, they're the ones who want Halley.”

    “The Green Party? With... with Harmonia?”

    “There isn't any other Green Party,” Cordelia said patiently. “I also went through his briefcase when he wasn't looking—”

    “You what?”

    “It's called being proactive, Jared. So, I went through his briefcase and found out that apparently they want you because you're connected to Halley and they want Halley because she's connected to someone who stole something from them.”

    “A thief... sounds like the sort of friend Halley would have,” I murmured. “OK, Cords, thanks for that. I'll look into it.”

    “All right. I haven't uncovered anything else, and I'm not sure I'm going to. I don't think the people are coming back here again.” Cordelia paused. “Stay safe,” she said at length, and hung up.

    I stared at the phone for a moment.

    “You are the weirdest kid on the planet,” I muttered, putting it back in my pocket. “OK, Halley? Do you know any thieves?”

    “Probably,” she replied cheerfully. “Don't remember them, though.”

    “OK. Well, Cordelia's found out that it's the Green Party that are after you, and they're doing it because you've got some kind of connection to someone who stole something important from them.”

    Cheren raised an eyebrow.

    “Why am I not surprised?” he murmured, to no one in particular.

    “The Green Party? Oh, I bet it's Harmonia,” said Bianca, frowning deeply. “He seemed like a bad guy.”

    “He seemed very reasonable, if misguided,” corrected Cheren.

    “He said humans and Pokémon needed to be separated—!”

    “He made valid points,” interrupted Halley. “Aw, man! I hope it isn't him after me... If I were Unovan, he'd have my vote. There are only, like, five people in the whole world I agree with; I don't want to end up mortal enemies with one of them.”

    “I don't know. It might not go all the way up to Harmonia, I guess... but we can't be certain. Turn right here,” he added, stepping off the pavement and onto a footpath without hesitation.

    I blinked, startled by the abrupt change in direction, and followed. The path disappeared between two little cottages, and within a few metres seemed to end up a million miles away from civilisation; trees rose either side of the trail and bent over them in a kind of leafy arch, and the distant sound of traffic faded seamlessly into the twitter of birdsong.

    Halley and I shivered, and exchanged a look.

    “You too?” she asked.

    “Yeah,” I replied, knowing exactly what she meant. “Me too.”

    Bianca looked at us quizzically.

    “What?”

    “We're city kids,” I explained. “This... is kind of unsettling.”

    “Aren't there Liepard in these woods?” asked Halley, keeping close to my legs.

    “I believe so,” answered Cheren without concern. “I hope we meet some – they'll be good training, and I think I might like to catch one.”

    “Jesus. You Trainers are f*cking crazy,” muttered Halley, and for once I had to agree with her. The only Liepard I'd ever seen was a corpse possessed by some kind of fear-oozing demon; I couldn't for the life of me understand the mindset that would make anyone want to go out and find any more of them.

    “I don't like Liepard,” said Bianca. “Or Purrloin. They're vicious. My cousin had a Purrloin that killed rats and hung the bodies on the rose bushes in the garden. It looked like it was snowing corpses.” She shivered.

    “Oh, Christ. I disgust myself, but that sounds delicious,” muttered Halley. “This cat body is getting in my head.”

    “I really didn't need to know that,” I told her.

    “Yes, I think we can all agree on that,” said Cheren with such an air of finality that the conversation withered and died upon the spot, and we walked on in silence, the only noise the occasional squawk from Candy.

    Half an hour later, Halley spoke again – and predictably enough, it was in a whine.

    “I don't like this,” she complained. “My legs are shorter than yours and I'm tired. Carry me.”

    “Not if you ask like that,” I told her.

    “I don't want you to carry me, anyway,” she replied. “You've got that psycho dinosaur hawk on your shoulder. But...” A sly grin spread across her face, and she wound herself between Bianca's legs, mewing piteously. Naturally, she reacted by burbling something about cuteness and snatching Halley from the ground to hug to her chest.

    “Mission accomplished,” purred Halley quietly, her self-satisfied grin visible over Bianca's shoulder. I ignored her, despite wishing that there was some way someone could carry me, and followed Cheren on down the trail.

    ---

    In the dark, somewhere near the crossroads of then and now, Teiresias dragged its body through the void. The battles aboard the train and in the street had not been kind to it; the bird and the wildcat had between them damaged it to the point where Teiresias was considering abandoning it for another. It was, after all, mere ballast, there only to keep it anchored to the mortal realm – and it was difficult to drag it through the dark paths, where spirit flowed freely and flesh dragged like stone.

    The journey was easier than it had been earlier, though; when Teiresias had taken the dark path from White Forest to Nacrene, it had had to take Smythe with it, and hauling that quantity of physical matter through the spirit realms was no mean feat. Now, with just a light, half-destroyed Liepard corpse weighing it down, Teiresias almost flew down the path, its lifeless paws barely touching what passed for the ground.

    “She will be hiding now,” it mused, voice almost as dead as the air in which it hung. “They are making allies... I must not let that Munna interfere again.”

    Ahead of it, a flickering white presence appeared, and Teiresias slowed for a moment, wary – but it moved away again and vanished into the distance in a few seconds, leaving Teiresias alone once more.

    “Few of us are abroad today,” it observed, casting its psychic eye about the area and detecting no other travellers. “I wonder... I suspect most of us are with Plasma now.”

    Those of Teiresias' kind in Unova that had not sided with Plasma were either weakling irrelevancies, or crazed creatures with whom there was no reasoning; neither warranted investigation. The weak ones were prey for the desperate, and the crazed ones... Well. No one crossed their paths if they could avoid it. They were dangerous, even to those of Teiresias' rank – and that was saying something. Teiresias had been in existence (it did not call it life) for eleven thousand years, and though it was no longer the shadowy god that had ravaged Jericho and scourged Uruk, it was still a force to be reckoned with. But those mad beings that wandered the dark paths, flitting over the surface of the earth with only hunger and pain on their minds... They were something else altogether.

    Teiresias pulled its thoughts back to the task at hand, aware that to let one's mind wander in this place was to run the risk of drifting permanently into limbo, and ran on down the path, searching for the crack in reality that would show it the way back into reality. The tail fell off its body, and with a twitch of annoyance it shed the entire corpse, letting it stream away behind it in a long line of dust and fur; now free to expand to full size, Teiresias flexed its vast body and sprung forward with renewed vigour, racing on towards the crack – and towards its prey, skulking in the forested trails around Route 2.

    ---

    “So let me get this straight,” said Harmonia, frowning lopsidedly. “You captured them both, got them secured – and they both escaped?”

    “In my defence, that boy is a lot younger and stronger than I am,” replied Smythe faintly desperately.

    They were sitting in the parlour of the Bertram Hotel, before a lively fire that effectively banished the spring chill from the room; Harmonia had ordered a half-hour break in the barrage of journalists who had come to ask him about his new Liberation policy in order to make time for Smythe's appointment, and now the two of them were alone together. This, quite frankly, terrified Smythe, partly because Harmonia was his boss and partly because he was drumming his fingers on a large book on ancient torture techniques of the Fertile Crescent.

    “Now, Smythe,” said Harmonia, removing his hand from the book and leaning forwards, “I understand that this isn't your usual work. But I don't for a moment believe that he could have overpowered you while handcuffed if you didn't want him to. Don't you remember why I picked you for this?”

    Smythe did. He might be a minor civil servant at the moment, but that was only the latest chapter in what had been something of a chequered past. It wasn't something he liked to advertise, but for various reasons – mostly bad luck and paranormal mishap – he was persona non grata in thirteen countries, despite his best efforts to convince authorities that 'this isn't what it looks like'. Smythe understood better than most the bitter truth of the aphorism that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    He had thought that, with his quiet government job in Unova, things might have settled down; unfortunately for him, Harmonia had somehow learned of his past activities, with the result that he of all people was deemed most suitable for this illegal hunt for Halley and Black.

    “Well, yes,” Smythe replied. “But sir... I don't really think this is something I'm particularly good at.”

    Harmonia raised his one remaining eyebrow.

    “You'll excuse me if I don't believe that, given your past exploits.” He sighed. “No, Smythe, this won't do. You'll have to try harder – more so now that they have people helping them. You said they were Trainers?” Smythe nodded. “Trainers have an irritating habit of visiting Gyms,” Harmonia went on. “Gyms contain Gym Leaders, and Gym Leaders are part of the Pokémon League. Do you see where I'm going with this?”

    Smythe nodded. The League had today become the Party's greatest opponent, with the revelation of the Liberation policy. It was the oldest part of the government that still had power, and its age leant it authority; if its members got wind of any of the Party's more questionable activities, they would gleefully take the chance to cripple Harmonia's election chances.

    “Of course, if we can recover the artefact, we can overcome any opposition,” Harmonia continued, “but as we haven't yet done so, I think we need to be cautious. Find them, Smythe. They're becoming a larger and larger problem with every hour they remain out of our control.” His HawkEye narrowed to a threatening red pinprick, a steel iris closing down on the lens. “I don't think I need to remind you what happens to those who fail the Party. You've faced that penalty many times before, but this time you won't be wriggling free. You can trust me on that.”

    Smythe believed him. He'd received more than his fair share of death threats in his time – so many that he was a little blasé about them – but they packed a serious punch when they came from Harmonia. Anyone who allied themselves so readily with such horrific forces was definitely someone to fear.

    “I'll – I'll get right on it, sir,” he said, getting to his feet too quickly and accidentally kicking over a footstool. “Oh! Uh, sorry, sir—”
    “If you need backup, take one of our noble friends along with you,” Harmonia added, ignoring him. “Perhaps that charming Teiresias fellow. It seemed interested in Halley at the meeting.”

    “All – all right, sir,” stuttered Smythe, wondering distantly what sort of man could call Teiresias charming. “I'll – I'll be on my way, then – you probably have things to do—”

    “Just get on with it,” said Harmonia, evidently amused by his discomfort. “Go on. And tell Rood to let the reporters back in on your way out.”

    Smythe left without another word. Once again, life had left him up the creek without a paddle – and this time, the water seemed too rough for him to swim for it.

    ---

    I'll freely admit that I'm not used to extended periods of walking, or indeed any physical activity; shopping has made me pretty useful in a fistfight, but that's about the extent of my ability. I'll also admit that I'm not used to staying out in the cold all day; if it isn't a nice day and I don't have to leave the house, then I won't.

    But I challenge any reasonable person to walk all day like I did then and not feel pretty miserable by the end of it. At around four o'clock, Cheren decided (apparently he was in charge; it wasn't an official appointment, but he seemed the appropriate person to ask for guidance) we would stop for a short rest, and by then I was seriously envious of Halley, who was not only still being carried by Bianca but had fluffed out her fur and looked suspiciously warm.

    “This forest life isn't so bad,” she said, jumping from Bianca's arms to land among the leaves. “Maybe I could get used to this.”

    I shot her a dirty look, and she responded with the most evil grin ever to grace a feline snout; defeated, I shook my head and sat down with the others on a log bench placed thoughtfully at the roadside by the Trail's constructors.

    “Is this what it's like being a Trainer?” I asked. “Endless walking and nothing to do?”

    “Only when you're near towns,” replied Cheren. “That's why we're resting now. We're about far enough from Accumula that we'll probably start to see the occasional wild Pokémon; I've selected the road less travelled, as it were, in order to maximise our chances of finding something.”

    “Ooh! Maybe I can find a friend for Munny and Smokey!” cried Bianca excitedly. “Like, a cute little—”

    “I think two Pokémon is probably enough for you to train right now,” Cheren informed her. “I have enough to handle with just Lelouch, although I'm tempted by a Purrloin... We'll see. I don't really want to catch anything unless it's a new species. If we find one of them, I'll catch it for the Pokémon Index Project.”

    “The what?” I asked.

    “The Pokémon Index Project,” repeated Cheren. “Or Pokédex, for short. It's a global database of Pokémon information, started by Professor Oak in Kanto in 1992 and adopted by almost every developed nation since. Formerly, there was only access to it in Pokémon Centres and suchlike – but last year, Lanette Burstein released a smartphone app that lets you take a photograph of a Pokémon with your phone and automatically find its Pokédex entry.”

    “OK, I didn't really need that much detail, but thanks anyway.”

    Cheren blinked.

    “It always pays to learn your subjects to a certain degree of depth,” he said with dignity, and fell silent.

    “I'm going to let out Smoky,” Bianca informed us, totally oblivious to the tension, and released her Tepig in a burst of red light; he looked around at the forest, caught sight of his own tail, stared at it as if it had suddenly turned into the Mona Lisa and promptly fell asleep.

    “Uh... I don't think he wants to come out,” I said.

    Oh,” sighed Bianca crossly. “He always does that.”

    “He didn't last night.”

    “Well, not always. But, like, most of the time.” She stared at the sleeping pig and stuck out her lower lip like a petulant child. “I think he's just lazy.”

    Candy crept down my arm, eyes fixed on Smoky and saliva dripping from her beak; I sighed, pinched her jaws together and turned her head to look at me.

    “No,” I said firmly. “I get the feeling that at some point soon you're going to get a chance to attack stuff, but these Pokémon are out of bounds, OK?”

    She looked at me innocently, but I wasn't fooled.

    “Don't give me that,” I warned her. “No biting. Got it?”

    Reluctantly, she climbed back up to my shoulder, and I knew I'd got through to her at last.

    “Right,” said Bianca. “Smoky! Up!”

    The Tepig opened one eye, regarded her with porcine placidity for a moment, and went back to sleep. Pouting, Bianca recalled him and sent out the floating pink thing that had attacked Teiresias last night instead.

    “Munny will follow us, won't you?” she asked it; in response, it drifted over to her head and nuzzled her cheek.

    “Are its eyes painted on?” I asked with a kind of horrified fascination.

    “No, Munna are just strange,” Cheren informed me. “Bianca's is no exception.”

    “Oh, of course. I should've guessed.” I shook my head. “This is all normal for you two, isn't it?”

    “Yes, it is,” admitted Cheren. “This situation is very much the norm for me. Well, except for the talking cat.”

    “People keep calling me 'the talking cat',” complained Halley. “Can't you call me 'the girl who turned into a cat' or something? I feel so dehumanised.”

    “You have been dehumanised. Literally.”

    “Shut up, pedant.”

    “Are we going now?” asked Bianca, bouncing to her feet. “Come on! Munny and I are ready!”

    Munny rotated slowly in midair, blinking and gaping, and I had to wonder how she knew it was ever ready for anything.

    “All right, all right,” replied Cheren, getting to his feet. “I suppose I'll let out Lelouch, too.”

    His Snivy appeared before him, swiftly checked the area for hostiles, decided we were safe and settled into a watchful, faintly supercilious position at his heels. The difference between him and Smoky couldn't have been more marked.

    I sighed, and gingerly lowered myself back onto my aching feet, hoping that we wouldn't be walking much longer today. Unfortunately for me and my blistered right heel, that hope was horribly misguided, and I was to end up suffering for quite a few hours more. It wasn't until eight that we finally stopped for the night, and so exhausted was I by this time that I barely registered we weren't moving before I was asleep.

    ---

    Halley sat by the fire – the only useful thing Smoky had done for them since breaking Jared's cuffs – and waited. The others were asleep, the boys in Cheren's tent and Bianca in hers; the little campsite was Halley's alone. So deep in the forest were they that the trail was almost nonexistent, and sitting upright in her fluffed fur, forepaws lined up neatly against her belly, she felt like she was the only person in the world.

    Time passed. The fire burned lower; Halley added what wood she could manage to it and poked it with a stick, bringing it back to the blazing prime of its life. Idly, she wondered if perhaps there was a way for her to do that, to cancel out her age when it got too high and set it back to some more pleasing number – and then she realised that she had no idea how old she was, and decided she must be pretty young anyway.

    All at once, the breeze stopped dead. The trees around them froze, branches caught mid-wave by sudden paralysis; before Halley's eyes, each individual flame of the fire stood still, locked into a single moment.

    Tick.

    Then, within a second, everything started again. Halley pressed one paw against Jared's iPhone (carefully purloined from his pocket earlier), and saw that its clock read 00:00.

    “I thought so,” she murmured. “Midnight, huh?”

    “What are you doing?”

    Halley started, and turned to see Cheren sitting behind her. He didn't look like he'd just woken up, either; he had been waiting for this, she could tell.

    “Conducting an experiment,” she replied. “About this Dream World thing.”

    Cheren's expression didn't change.

    “You don't fool me,” he said, and Halley knew he wasn't talking about the experiment.

    “I'm impressed,” she replied, stretching lazily and curling up. “Then again, I guess not much gets past you.”

    “It pays to watch people.” Cheren's finger played over the button of Lelouch's Poké Ball. “And I don't like what I see.”

    “And what is it exactly that you see?”

    Cheren paused.

    “I don't know,” he answered at length. “But I don't trust you.”

    “Good,” said Halley, with sudden force. “I'm not trustworthy. Never have been, never will be.”

    “What do you want?”

    “What do you think? Protection, f*ckwit.” Halley snorted. “I'm hiding from the Green Party or whoever else it is that's after me.”

    Cheren's gaze didn't waver; Halley had to wonder whether he even needed to blink.

    “Who are you, really?”

    “Yeah, ask the amnesiac who she is.” Halley laughed. “I don't know, Cheren. The only thing I'm sure of is that I'm not a very nice person.”

    “You didn't need to tell me that.”

    “I'm sure I didn't.” Halley yawned, and the firelight danced on her pale fangs. “Go to sleep, Cheren. I expect tomorrow's going to be a long day.”

    “This conversation isn't over,” Cheren warned her, and retreated to his tent. Halley watched him for a minute – watched the tent flap fall shut and the zip fasten; watched until there were no more sounds but the breathing of the teenagers and the crackle of the flames – and turned back to the fire.

    “It isn't over, is it?” she muttered, hunching into a tight ball and tasting thunderstorms on her tongue. “We'll see, Cheren. We'll see.”

  10. #60
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    How does the dream world thing work?
    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. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rotomknight View Post
    How does the dream world thing work?
    Don't worry. It'll become clearer with time... possibly.

    Thank you for reading!

    F.A.B.

  12. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    ...

    Psychic...?

    ...

    Wow. Seems I'm moving up in the world.
    Oh nono, if anything you should consider your winning so many fic awards a sign of that. I’m just your friendly neighbourhood reviewer. :>

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    Has that scene been used a lot? I really haven't read many B/W fics, I'm afraid. It seemed like a fairly important point to me, so I included it.

    As for the Green Party, well. That just seemed like a fun idea, like most of the things I put in my stories.
    With every new Pokemon game comes the bandwagon of fics based off it. So I saw a fair number of newbie fics that had this scene during passing glances.

    Good reason. I’m certainly curious to see where you take it and how they’ll differ from in-game Plasma. Though I did just realize that Teiresias referred to them as their evil team name, so I suppose that hasn’t disappeared altogether.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    Well, as I see it, the vaguely-described regions represented in the games are to a fanfiction author like pure white Carrara marble to a Renaissance sculptor. They're a perfect canvas: everyone knows the boring stuff about them, which leaves you free to go off on wild tangents and build the interesting bits of the world.
    Even your posts are all flowery! Do you treat all your reviewers this way? *fans self*

    But a good point, and certainly something I think you did well and that I wish more writers would take advantage of.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    As I see it, there have to be Fakemon and animals in the world for two reasons. One is that the six hundred-odd official species of Pokémon (some very odd) are barely enough to create a believable ecosystem in a single country as it is, and the other is that humans are definitely not Pokémon, which begs the question of where they came from if there are no animals.

    Thinking about the lore, I'm pretty sure that there's at least a little truth in it, given that Odin turned up running a hotel in Pastoria City in my last story.
    An excellent point that rarely gets brought up, and one I certainly haven’t given much thought to. Especially since you rarely see Fakemon being mentioned but not shown – I’m glad they’re not a big focal point here.

    That is a very amusing thought. I wonder if we’ll see any more of that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    It wasn't intentional. You see, I always start from canon, and in this case my starting point was that the male character is Black and the female one is White. So Jared had to be male, and Lauren had to be female; there was no choice there. Their characters developed purely as a result of the world they live in; I forge stories like chainmail, with one link following on from the next, rather than based on any pre-existing stereotypes.

    I did think it might conflict with Cheren and Bianca's dynamic, but I thought I might enjoy flicking between different perspectives on their situation, so I didn't bother to change it.

    Halley... is different. She has no counterpart within the games and is therefore a pure and unalloyed product of my diseased wit - but more of her anon.
    More flowery language~ But all right, I see what you mean, and I can’t fault you for it. I did bet they were products of their worlds, after all, and I appreciated that aspect of it.

    I’m certainly interested in seeing how Lauren gets along with Cheren and Bianca, though I imagine a chunk of it will be Cheren being slightly annoyed with her as he is with Bianca. I’m quite curious on that one. That certainly is true about Halley – a diseased wit is rather fun, after all. I was referring more specifically to how she fits (or rather doesn’t fit) into the general gender dynamic going on, but either way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    Yes, I know - but where's the wrong one? You've not quoted it.

    All valid points, and noted.

    Not where I live. Here, 'OK' is 'OK'. The 'throw' thing is right, though.
    Ah, sorry about that. I just Ctrl+F’d it, and it was in Chapter Four, here:
    “Annie.... that's Anastasia, right?”
    Huh, interesting, I haven’t heard of not spelling out “okay,” but I’ll take your word on that one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    No, it doesn't, but that's kind of the point: Harmonia trades on not being a proper politician - on not acting as others of his station do, on possessing the ability to not take himself or his campaign seriously (or to appear that way, at least). Evidently I didn't make that point clearly enough; I'll take another look at this, and probably expand on it in further chapters.

    And it is a strange place to make an announcement. Very strange indeed. I wonder what Game Freak were thinking, placing the speech scene there so Cutlerine can avoid the blame for a misplaced event.
    Hm, an interesting idea, though that isn’t quite the idea I was getting. I think part of it is that there is a difference between being serious vs professional.

    To make it look like it was done on purpose amend that, I would frame it as partly being a press conference in itself in a way. Perhaps a statement was issued stating that he was be making an important announcement in X city on X date, and that “hey media people, you should probably be there to cover it, we’ll even reserve you some seats.”

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    I thought it was a small number, but I'd kind of already limited the figure, since I said Unova's Training industry was lacklustre earlier on. Eh, I could probably bump it up a bit higher and not seem like I'm contradicting myself, I guess.
    I wouldn’t necessarily bump it up if there is indeed such a low number of trainers, but presenting the data as a percentage could better help showcase it. Like “twenty percent of trainers are attacked by their own Pokemon” or what have you. The number has a lot more meaning that way, even without the reader knowing how many trainers there are and how many attacks there are precisely, while still having an idea of the ratio.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cutlerine View Post
    Thank you. It means a lot to have a proper review, with both positive and negative parts to it, and when it comes from one of the more prominent members of the community, that really does sweeten the deal.

    F.A.B.
    I’m happy to have helped, and I intend to continue doing so! It’s not often I’m this captivated by a story, and it’s been a pleasure hearing back from you as well.


    On to Chapter Six!

    Again, I like the atmosphere of the city you set up here at the beginning. It’s not often you hear of the bars or specific boroughs of established cities in the Pokeworld, and it sets a nice tone. Your take on the first meeting with N was also interesting – instead of merely speaking to the Pokemon, he actually assesses its physical condition. Interesting.

    I love the Pokedex (“Pokemon Index,” never thought of that!) project, especially with it now being a phone app! Really love that touch. Again, it incorporates the idea/potential for of Fakemon nice and smoothly without placing too much emphasis on it. Though I wasn’t sure why you put it to 1992 – at first I assumed that that was when the first games were released, but that was 1996. The only result I got from “Pokemon 1992” on Google was this urban dictionary reference, which is also wrong. Is there a reference here I’m not getting?

    Seeing Teiresias’s travel and musings has sparked more questions, but it was certainly fascinating. I also really liked the last scene. Gave some interesting insight into the dynamic between these characters, and it was a juicy interaction.

    Now nitpicking again~

    It was, after all, mere ballast, there only to keep it anchored to the mortal realm – and it was difficult to drag it through the dark paths, where spirit flowed freely and flesh dragged like stone.
    Not sure if it should be “a mere ballast” on this one – if you did it for the style it works.

    ran on down the path, searching for the crack in reality that would show it the way back into reality.
    Repetition of “reality” – I’d say either replace/remove the first one, or perhaps for the latter one say “into that reality” or “into said reality.”

    “In my defence, that boy is a lot younger and stronger than I am,” replied Smythe faintly desperately.
    The two adverbs seem a little odd together here. Maybe change “desperately” to “with desperation in his voice.”

    He might be a minor civil servant at the moment, but that was only the latest chapter in what had been something of a chequered past.
    Should be “might have been” since the story is written in past tense.

    defeated, I shook my head and sat down with the others on a log bench placed thoughtfully at the roadside by the Trail's constructors.
    Wouldn’t capitalize “trails” – even if “Route 2” is capitalized, it’s because it’s a proper noun, being the name of the road, while “trail” isn’t the proper name of anything.


    Sorry I didn't have quite as much to say this time around, but I really enjoyed this chapter. I've been very eager to see what happens next, so I was excited to see an update so quickly. Your writing is on the higher end of what I've seen on this forum, and it's been wonderful getting to just sit back, relax and enjoy without feeling like it needs a ton of improvement. And the story is one I've been thinking about and trying to piece together in my spare time, so you know you have my attention. ;]

    ~Psychic

  13. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Oh nono, if anything you should consider your winning so many fic awards a sign of that. I’m just your friendly neighbourhood reviewer. :>
    Your name doesn't have three syllables, so unfortunately I can't put into the Spiderman theme. 'Reviewer' does, though, so perhaps something can be done with that... Hm. A puzzle to be solved another time.


    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    With every new Pokemon game comes the bandwagon of fics based off it. So I saw a fair number of newbie fics that had this scene during passing glances.
    Yes, I suppose that must be true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Good reason. I’m certainly curious to see where you take it and how they’ll differ from in-game Plasma. Though I did just realize that Teiresias referred to them as their evil team name, so I suppose that hasn’t disappeared altogether.
    No, not quite. Plasma is still there, just... not as it once was.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Even your posts are all flowery! Do you treat all your reviewers this way? *fans self*
    Yes, I do. I have a tendency to sprout analogies whenever I set pen to paper (or indeed finger to keyboard), so that sort of thing happens fairly frequently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    An excellent point that rarely gets brought up, and one I certainly haven’t given much thought to. Especially since you rarely see Fakemon being mentioned but not shown – I’m glad they’re not a big focal point here.

    That is a very amusing thought. I wonder if we’ll see any more of that.
    Nope. I don't think I've ever actually devoted any real space to Fakemon, just referred to them as existing offscreen, as it were. I tend to interpret the official species quite creatively anyway, which means that I don't have much need for Fakemon other than as background scenery. Pokémon are no more clearly defined than the regions they come from - and many of their Pokédex entries are just begging for some creative analysis. Like Dusknoir, for instance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    More flowery language~ But all right, I see what you mean, and I can’t fault you for it. I did bet they were products of their worlds, after all, and I appreciated that aspect of it.
    I can't help the language. I had a mental image of a dwarf hammering away at something in an underground forge while I was typing that, and weirdness ensued.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    I’m certainly interested in seeing how Lauren gets along with Cheren and Bianca, though I imagine a chunk of it will be Cheren being slightly annoyed with her as he is with Bianca. I’m quite curious on that one. That certainly is true about Halley – a diseased wit is rather fun, after all. I was referring more specifically to how she fits (or rather doesn’t fit) into the general gender dynamic going on, but either way.
    Yes, I know. I just couldn't think of a suitably long-winded reply, that was all, and responding to a review without the requisite number of long-winded replies would be simply criminal.


    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Ah, sorry about that. I just Ctrl+F’d it, and it was in Chapter Four, here:
    Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Huh, interesting, I haven’t heard of not spelling out “okay,” but I’ll take your word on that one.
    Really? That surprises me, but I'm not sure why. All right, then.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Hm, an interesting idea, though that isn’t quite the idea I was getting. I think part of it is that there is a difference between being serious vs professional.

    To make it look like it was done on purpose amend that, I would frame it as partly being a press conference in itself in a way. Perhaps a statement was issued stating that he was be making an important announcement in X city on X date, and that “hey media people, you should probably be there to cover it, we’ll even reserve you some seats.”
    Yes, that would work. Again, I can't think of a suitably long-winded answer, so please enjoy instead this rudimentary haiku about the militaristic inclinations of a lobster:

    A mighty lobster
    Marches onwards to battle
    Like a war goddess.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    I wouldn’t necessarily bump it up if there is indeed such a low number of trainers, but presenting the data as a percentage could better help showcase it. Like “twenty percent of trainers are attacked by their own Pokemon” or what have you. The number has a lot more meaning that way, even without the reader knowing how many trainers there are and how many attacks there are precisely, while still having an idea of the ratio.
    Yes... That's a much better idea. Thanks.


    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    I’m happy to have helped, and I intend to continue doing so! It’s not often I’m this captivated by a story, and it’s been a pleasure hearing back from you as well.
    The pleasure's all mine, I'm sure. I'm more than happy to have a chance to write slightly odd replies to reviewers; it's almost as fun as actually writing the story.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    On to Chapter Six!
    Huzzah!

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Again, I like the atmosphere of the city you set up here at the beginning. It’s not often you hear of the bars or specific boroughs of established cities in the Pokeworld, and it sets a nice tone. Your take on the first meeting with N was also interesting – instead of merely speaking to the Pokemon, he actually assesses its physical condition. Interesting.
    Well, if they're to be scaled up to the size of normal cities, they have to have subdivisions. Otherwise no one would ever find their way around, and governing them would be a nightmare, what with the lack of administrative divisions. I suppose the cities would eventually collapse into seething pits of crime, splitting into multiple warring factions, and... That's an idea for another story, I think. Watch this space.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    I love the Pokedex (“Pokemon Index,” never thought of that!) project, especially with it now being a phone app! Really love that touch. Again, it incorporates the idea/potential for of Fakemon nice and smoothly without placing too much emphasis on it. Though I wasn’t sure why you put it to 1992 – at first I assumed that that was when the first games were released, but that was 1996. The only result I got from “Pokemon 1992” on Google was this urban dictionary reference, which is also wrong. Is there a reference here I’m not getting?
    No. It's just that I think I've established Professor Oak's age and the date he started his research in a previous story set in the same world as this one, and I went with it here for the sake of continuity. I also believe that he had to have begun the Pokédex project before 1996, because there was already information about 151 Pokémon in the Pokédex when Red and Blue came out, which meant that someone had to have written their Pokédex entries beforehand. Because having a machine that automatically finds out interesting facts about monsters by photographing them is just ridiculous.

    Have you never thought of Pokémon Index? I always assumed that that was what Pokédex was a contraction of. And, well, I thought that the physical Pokédex was kind of out of date. I mean, it's large, clunky and presumably less powerful than the processor in even the average modern mobile phone, given its age. It could easily be updated and made into an app for any phone with a camera.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Seeing Teiresias’s travel and musings has sparked more questions, but it was certainly fascinating. I also really liked the last scene. Gave some interesting insight into the dynamic between these characters, and it was a juicy interaction.
    Mm. I can't think of a response, so please enjoy another hastily-constructed haiku. This one is about the god of preserves.

    A Marmalade God
    Sits weeping in the desert -
    There is no more jam.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Now nitpicking again~
    Glorious.


    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Not sure if it should be “a mere ballast” on this one – if you did it for the style it works.
    It could be either. 'Ballast' can be used either as a mass noun or a single object, and in this case I thought it worked better as the former.


    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Repetition of “reality” – I’d say either replace/remove the first one, or perhaps for the latter one say “into that reality” or “into said reality.”
    *head onto desk* I hate when I miss those repetitions. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    The two adverbs seem a little odd together here. Maybe change “desperately” to “with desperation in his voice.”

    Should be “might have been” since the story is written in past tense.
    Yes and yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Wouldn’t capitalize “trails” – even if “Route 2” is capitalized, it’s because it’s a proper noun, being the name of the road, while “trail” isn’t the proper name of anything.
    Actually, it is. The Trainer Trails were referred to as such in the last chapter; they're the winding network of paths that aren't part of the Route system. I consider the Routes to be part of the road network, and the paths that Trainers travel by to be a system of trails through the wilderness designed to expose them to Pokémon. In one of my previous stories, these were called 'Trainer Paths'; in Unova, however, it seems they're called 'Trainer Trails', presumably out of a love of assonance and alliteration.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychic View Post
    Sorry I didn't have quite as much to say this time around, but I really enjoyed this chapter. I've been very eager to see what happens next, so I was excited to see an update so quickly. Your writing is on the higher end of what I've seen on this forum, and it's been wonderful getting to just sit back, relax and enjoy without feeling like it needs a ton of improvement. And the story is one I've been thinking about and trying to piece together in my spare time, so you know you have my attention. ;]

    ~Psychic
    It's fine. I didn't expect you to have that much to say, honestly - you don't have as many chapters to look through this time.

    If you thought that was a quick update, you ought to have been around before I got so busy. I remember at my peak, I was posting new chapters every two days... Ah, to have the time to do that again. Each chapter only takes a total of six or seven hours to write; it's just that recently that time has been kind of scattered across weeks and weeks, as this next haiku (I'm enjoying them now) demonstrates:

    A demon named Life
    Punched Cutlerine in the face
    And stole her laptop.

    I'm beginning to get slightly concerned about the frequency with which these are popping into my head, so I'm going to click 'Post Reply' and bring this to an end before my fingertips start oozing more bad poetry onto the screen. Thank you for your reviews and the suggestions contained therein - which will be implemented, I promise, once I actually have a few solid hours to sit down and work through them - and for your continued interest in the story. If you're intrigued and amused by it, then I'm doing my job right.

    F.A.B.
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 27th November 2014 at 1:36 AM.

  14. #64
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    Saw this 10+ days ago, didn't have any time to respond before, let alone read.

    I wonder if what N said about Candy was true or not, simply because the things he described have yet to be of relevance and seem to be there for the sake of being there. I dunno, maybe I missed a scene with a shivering, wheezing Archen.

    Well so much for the test of friendship via battle, at least the dialogue was similar.


    I wonder as to what the demon is going to possess next, as another Liepard would be what the Main characters party would be expecting to see if he shows up again.


    Ah, midnight, I was kind of expecting something similiar to the Dark Hour in Persona 3 where time stands still for most and ungodly things roam the area. I wonder if other people notice the stutter-in-time.

    Keep up the good work and look forward to another chapter.


    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

  15. #65
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    Oh, man. Where do I begin? First, I'd better say I'm very, very sorry that I disappeared for so long without giving any warning at all. Life has sprung a fair few surprises on me this month - in fact, I'd go so far as to say that this December has been the best of times and the worst of times, the age of wisdom and the epoch of foolishess - and I have found myself without any time to even check these forums and respond to what I've found here. In addition, sorting out my life and attempting to resolve issues in someone else's has actually killed any desire I have to write, which is extraordinary for me. Now that things are looking up (or looking up as much as I can expect them to) I suspect I'll start putting finger to keyboard again, and if we're lucky there may be a new chapter up in a couple of days.

    Now. On to my customary respond-to-what-everyone-said-point-by-point thingamabob, because I, like Gandalf, never mind having to explain my own cleverness.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Saw this 10+ days ago, didn't have any time to respond before, let alone read.
    That's all right. By the looks of things, I'm responding to it nearly 20 days late, so I reckon that puts me more in the wrong than you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    I wonder if what N said about Candy was true or not, simply because the things he described have yet to be of relevance and seem to be there for the sake of being there. I dunno, maybe I missed a scene with a shivering, wheezing Archen.
    You must remember that Candy is the only Archen in the world. Lauren/Jared couldn't have been expected to notice that something was wrong with her without any point of reference. Having said that... We'll see more as it comes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Well so much for the test of friendship via battle, at least the dialogue was similar.
    Oh, come on. You must have known I wouldn't give let the truth slip that easily. Besides, like he said, N is not exactly a Trainer. That's not to say he won't battle, but... well, you'll see more about his methods when the time comes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    I wonder as to what the demon is going to possess next, as another Liepard would be what the Main characters party would be expecting to see if he shows up again.
    Ah, Teiresias. Along with Halley's, I expect his story is the most surprising. Well, we'll wait and see.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Ah, midnight, I was kind of expecting something similiar to the Dark Hour in Persona 3 where time stands still for most and ungodly things roam the area. I wonder if other people notice the stutter-in-time.
    Probably not. It holds Unova tightly; only those from outside would notice it, and only then if they were looking. Or maybe not. I refuse to commit myself, so that if I want to I can go back on my word later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Keep up the good work and look forward to another chapter.
    So am I, to be honest. I really hope I haven't lost my touch... ah, well. I'm sure it's just a question of getting back into it. *cracks fingers* Come on, Unova. I'm ready for you.

    F.A.B.

  16. #66
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    Sorry for the delay, everybody - it was unavoidable - and sorry that this isn't my best work, either. It will have to do, though. Owing to circumstances mostly outside my control, I can't bring myself to revisit this chapter ever.

    Chapter Seven: Happy Trails

    There are myriad pleasant ways to wake up, and Portland Smythe had experienced a great many of them during the course of his life. From the extravagance waking in a vine-wrapped bower in the beating heart of a verdant rainforest to the simple joy of opening one's eyes to the sight of one's lover, he had lived through the lot and, in fact, had ranked his top three favourites during one dull night spent hiding from Czech mercenaries in the Balkans.

    This method of waking, however, was not to be found among the top three. It did not even make his top ten. In fact, had Smythe ever thought to compile a list of his least favourite ways to wake up, this one would have gone straight to the top without a second's consideration.

    And that was because he was woken from a peaceful dream about cucumbers by a voice that ground upon his consciousness like skeletal feet across the floor of a crypt.

    “Wake up.”

    To say Smythe was alarmed would be an understatement. With a sudden involuntary contraction of his legs, he bent his body into a perfect arc and flung himself clear off the mattress, coming to rest a moment later in an undignified heap on the floor.

    “Sumvahwassit!” he yelled, which could have been either an incoherent cry of panic or a florid curse in Hoennian, and looked around wildly for the source of the voice. At first, he saw nothing – and then his eyes came to rest on the Purrloin on the bedside cabinet.

    “I found them,” it said, in the unmistakeable voice of Teiresias. “Ready yourself. I will take you there.”

    Smythe stared at it. Within his mind, a brief battle raged between fear and confusion; neither won a clear victory, and in the end they settled for a coalition.

    “What?” he said at length, which was, if anything, more coherent than could be expected of a man in his position.

    “Has the change of shape confused you? I could not find another Liepard,” Teiresias said impatiently. “Now get ready. We must return to the dark paths at once.”

    Smythe closed his eyes, counted to three and opened them again. The Purrloin had not disappeared.

    Sh*t, he thought dismally, and got slowly to his feet.

    “All right,” he sighed, trudging listlessly to the bathroom. “I'm going.”

    Never, thought the hotel receptionist as Smythe paid her, had anyone ever looked so dismayed to be checking out.

    ---

    “You're quiet this morning,” noted Cheren.

    I blinked.

    “What?”

    “Something's bothering you.”

    It took a moment for my mind to wrap itself around his words; it had been drifting pretty far away.

    “Oh. Yeah.” I poked the dying fire with a stick, and watched as a flame streaked out of the cinders and vanished in the crisp dawn air. “I guess... I guess it's that N guy.”

    “I see. That was quite odd.” He speared a sausage – neither he nor Bianca were any good at cooking, especially not over an open fire, and my skills had been much appreciated this morning and last night – and chewed it thoughtfully. “What exactly is it that's bothering you?”

    “What he said about Candy.” The little Archen looked up at the sound of her name, and I reached out to press my palm against her breast. Her heart hummed with the rapid pulse of a bird – and her chest rose and fell almost as fast. Alarmingly fast. “I never noticed before... She does have trouble breathing. It's just that you can't hear it.”

    “She's survived this long,” Cheren said pragmatically. “I suspect she's tougher than N thinks.” He frowned. “What kind of name is N, anyway? I'd like to have seen the look on the midwife's face when his parents came out with that.”

    “Uh... yeah, I guess.” My mind was still on Candy; I'd always taken her quick breaths and feverishly hot skin to be something typical of all Archen, but what N said made sense. I had looked it up last night on Cheren's phone: there'd been thirty percent more oxygen in the atmosphere back then, and it had been warmer right across the world. I knew from the disaster three years ago at Castelia Zoo that animals from Africa had a hard time surviving Unova's winters as it was; how could I expect a creature dislocated not only in space but time as well to fare any better? “I should have realised,” I mumbled.

    Cheren looked at me.

    “I really wouldn't worry,” he said, more gently than before. “By the number of lizards she's rounded up and slain already this morning, I'm fairly certain there's plenty of life left in her.”

    I looked at Candy's little heap of corpses, piled neatly on the other side of the fire, and sighed.

    “I guess so,” I said, not wholly convinced.

    Cheren sighed.

    “Sorry,” he said, and though there was no hint of emotion in his voice I could tell he meant it. “I can't help you other than with logic.”

    “I know. Don't worry. I'll be fine.” I looked back at Bianca's tent, which remained as silent now as it had been when the sun first rose. “Does she always sleep late?”

    He gave me a look.

    “What do you think?”

    “OK, OK... Why do you get up early, then?”

    “Because Cheren likes to watch the world go by, don't you?”

    Halley seemed to slink from nowhere, appearing from between the edges of a gap in the air; she was really getting into the business of being a cat, I thought. The next thing I knew she'd be playing with string and chasing butterflies.

    “Oh. Hi, Halley,” I said. “Where have you been?”

    “I've been to London to visit the Queen,” she replied sardonically.

    “What?”

    “It's a joke, 'cause – never mind. You must have different nursery rhymes in Unova.” She grimaced. “I actually went hunting. Can you imagine that? I pounced on a jay and suffocated it by biting down on its throat. I almost felt bad when it screamed, but by that point I could already taste its lymphatic fluid so I kind of forgot about how brutal the whole thing was.” She sat down next to Candy and yawned. “Seriously, I don't know why I haven't done that before. Think of how much bigger prey I could tackle if I were still human.”

    “Oh.” A sick feeling rose in my throat, and I found myself wondering how human Halley actually was; had she always been like this? Surely she couldn't have been so... bestial before her transformation?

    “I seem to have lost my appetite,” murmured Cheren, and flicked his sausage over to Lelouch, who regarded it quietly for a second before picking it up delicately between its tiny claws and nibbling at it like a squirrel with a nut.

    “Don't Snivy get their energy from sunlight?” I asked.

    “They get as much as they can,” Cheren replied. “Unfortunately, that isn't enough to sustain extended periods of activity, so they supplement it with berries, fruit and small quantities of meat.”

    “Plants playing at an animal's game,” said Halley scornfully. “Photosynthesis ain't shi— shining snail eggs compared to heterotrophic nutrition.” She blinked. “Shining snail eggs? I hope you're pleased with yourself, Lauren. Look what you've reduced me to.”

    “I'm just happy you aren't swearing,” I told her truthfully; I could have added that I didn't understand half the words she'd just used, but didn't want to complicate things and attract more needling criticism. I got it anyway.

    “Huh. Of course you are. You would be.”

    Candy cawed at her, apparently aware that her owner was being harangued by this wildcat; Halley, unlike last time, reacted with no more than a withering glare that shocked the little Archen into submission.

    “Yeah, you shut up, you little b*tch,” she muttered moodily, and fell to staring at the flames in silence.
    I looked at Cheren, and Cheren looked at me.

    “What,” I began, but got no further before Cheren held up a hand for silence.

    “I think it's best we don't ask,” he replied. “Something has evidently happened to Halley to make her sourer than normal, and frankly that is a prospect I'd rather avoid.”

    “OK,” I said, relieved to have avoided a line of questioning that, while rooted in compassion, would probably have resulted in a scratch from Halley. “Um... should we wake Bianca? It's nearly seven.”

    “She'll wake up soon enough,” Cheren told me. “Well... Perhaps not. Give her another half hour; she's not used to this much walking, and it really tires her out.”

    As a White Forest resident, I'd been out on extended hiking trips more than most in Unova, and was pretty good at it – better than Cheren and Bianca anyway, it seemed, although Cheren's self-discipline and encyclopedic general knowledge meant he was catching up fast. He only needed a bit more experience and a couple of cookery lessons and he'd have overtaken me; I hoped I could teach him a little, to go some way to showing my gratitude for letting me come with them.

    “Are you, then?” I asked.

    “No,” he answered. “But it's a case of mind over matter. My goal is to become the Champion eventually, and it won't happen if I don't value the objective over my immediate comfort.”

    I stared at him, amazed. I didn't think that kind of resolve really existed; it was like something out of the old stories, the kind that dated from the days of the first Treatise. Cheren seemed different to me now, like a lordless knight wandering the hills of mediaeval Europe, determined to seek out glory at whatever cost...

    Silly, I thought to myself. He's just like you.

    And yet... There was a spectacular steel in his mind. He laid out the facts so calmly and clearly that I had no doubt that nothing whatsoever would cause him to waver from his path.

    “I... I see,” I said. “OK. That makes sense.”

    Thankfully, I was saved from having to come up with anything else to say by the sudden and noisy emergence of Bianca from her tent.

    “Oh, so early,” she groaned, blinking in the sunlight. “Frige, it's so cold.”

    “Not that cold,” said Cheren patiently. “Good morning, Bianca.”

    “Morning!” She disappeared for a moment, then reappeared with Smoky in her arms. The little Tepig was, as ever, asleep, and I wondered if maybe that was why she had the Munna as well. Smoky didn't seem to me to be the battling type. “Is that breakfast? It smells good.”

    “Courtesy of Lauren,” Cheren informed her. “She has cooking over an open fire down to a fine art.”

    I smiled.

    “Thanks. Here you go, Bianca.”

    “Thanks.”

    Smoky opened one eye as the sausages passed above his head, shifted just enough to snag one with his lips and draw it into his mouth, and fell asleep again before he'd even swallowed it.

    “Isn't that kind of cannibalism?” I asked dubiously.

    “I don't think he cares,” replied Cheren. “It's mainly humans that find cannibalism revolting. Many other animals will cheerfully eat their own if it seems like a good idea.”

    “Oh. I see. That's... um... unpleasant.”

    Cheren raised his eyebrows.

    “I told you. Human.”

    “Ignore Cheren,” said Bianca confidingly, as if he couldn't hear her. “He's just being silly again.”

    I couldn't be sure, but I thought the ghost of a smile crossed Cheren's face then, and suddenly it seemed a lot clearer to me why he and Bianca remained friends. I smiled, and pulled the last of the sausages off the fire.

    “I think these are done now,” I said. “Bianca, they're mostly for you, unless your Pokémon want any.”

    “I think he might, but I don't really want to give him any,” she said, taking them from me. “I don't really want Smoky to be a cannibal.”

    “I told you, I don't think he minds—”

    “Oh, Cheren,” sighed Bianca in exasperation. “Shut up!”

    “Fine, fine,” he said. “I'll be quiet.”

    “What about Munny?” I asked. “Does he... she... it want anything?”

    “No, it lives off... um, Cheren, what was it called?” Bianca asked. “Background...?”

    “I thought I had to be quiet?”

    “Cher-eee—!”

    “OK, OK,” he said, holding up a hand to forestall further outbursts. “Background imaginative radiation. Munna and its evolved form, Musharna, absorb daydreams, fantasies and waking nightmares, and convert them into regular dreams that can be experienced at night. As a by-product of this, they occasionally emit a pinkish mist known to cause disturbing hallucinations.”

    “I see,” I said slowly, though I didn't really. I wasn't entirely sure how anything could derive energy from dreams – in fact, I had no idea how anything psychic worked. All I knew was that Psychic- and Ghost-types were weird.

    “Yeah,” said Bianca. “So Munny doesn't need any regular food.”

    “Then why does it have a mouth?” I asked, curiously.

    “It's vestigial,” explained Cheren. “Their ancestors were organoheterotrophic feeders; in modern Munna, the entire digestive tract is atrophied, while the skull and ribcage have fused to create a protective case for the massively developed brain.”

    I stared at him.

    “How do you know all this?”

    He shrugged.

    “When either of us catch something, I like to do my research,” he said. “Or if we face one in battle. The more you know, the more effectively you can use a Pokémon's strengths or aim for its weaknesses.”

    “Oh, OK.”

    “By the way,” said Halley abruptly, “I thought you should probably know that the forces of evil are closing in on us.”

    All conversation stopped immediately.

    “What?”

    “Mm. Something wicked this way comes.” She stretched and stood up. “I can feel it coming. Must be some animal instinct or something.”

    “What exactly do you feel coming?” asked Cheren, frowning.

    “Dunno. Teiresias, maybe? Seems pretty lethal, at any rate.”

    Teiresias. So it had found us, then – as I'd known it would. Hiding in the woods might fool a human, but against that black and midnight being it seemed a pretty paltry stratagem. I was certain it could have found us even if we'd hidden on the moon.

    I bit my lip.

    “We should go, then,” I decided. “I don't want to be here when it arrives...”

    “Hold on,” said Cheren. “We have no concrete evidence that anything is actually coming for us—”

    “I guess you don't trust me,” said Halley slyly. “Well, maybe you'd better think about the fact that if Teiresias and Smythe get to us, the main casualty will be me. I'm not going to screw around with you on that topic.”

    “I wouldn't put it past you,” replied Cheren darkly.

    “I believe her,” I said. “Please, can we go? I mean, shouldn't we be going anyway? And if Teiresias is coming, we don't want to be here when it does.”

    “I agree with Lauren,” put in Bianca, shuddering. “That thing – that thing is nasty.”

    “Understatement of the century,” muttered Halley to herself.

    “All right, all right, I see I'm outvoted here,” sighed Cheren. “Fine. Let's pack everything up. If you really think that monster is coming, we'd better move fast...”

    ---

    “Good God,” moaned Smythe in his native Hoennian, and collapsed face-first into the leaf litter.
    Teiresias regarded him with such distaste that one could have been forgiven for thinking it could actually see.

    “Get up,” it said. “We are half a mile from where I saw their encampment.”

    “Why so far away?” wheezed Smythe, spitting out decaying vegetation.

    A shadow crossed Teiresias' broken face.

    “I...” It trailed off uncertainly. “I... Why?”

    Smythe stared. This was very far from normal behaviour for Teiresias. In fact, it was about as far from normal as it could get short of actually shedding tears.

    “Because Halley is perceptive,” it said suddenly, its usual manner returning abruptly. “It is perhaps a result of the feline senses she has been gifted with. If we had emerged from the dark paths any closer to her than this, we could well have been detected.” It leaped down from the stump it had been sitting on and stalked over to Smythe. “Now get up. We have ground to cover and little time to do it in.”

    Smythe struggled to his feet, brushed dirt from his suit and sighed.

    “I haven't even had breakfast,” he murmured sadly to himself.

    “What was that?”

    “Nothing,” he said quickly, and trudged off after Teiresias as it began to make its way through the forest. How it knew where it was going was a mystery to him; perhaps the strange psychic eye through which it viewed the world was currently locked onto Halley or White, and acted like a beacon to guide it; perhaps it had simply memorised the layout of all the forest between them and their destination beforehand. Frankly, either option seemed equally plausible where Teiresias was concerned; the vile creature seemed to positively delight in flouting the laws of reality.

    Smythe heaved the sigh of the oppressed, and put the matter from his mind. There were no alternate options available to him. Abandoning Teiresias would incur the demon's wrath, and that was almost as frightening as incurring that of Harmonia. He turned the mess over once more in his head, winced at the thought, and trudged on with a heavy heart.

    ---

    It was a bright clear day, the kind that looks far, far warmer than it is, and as the sun rose higher into the sky the forest should have brightened.

    It did not.

    Instead, the shadows deepened, darkening to the colour of pitch, and the spring green of the leaves seemed to turn a dull viridian. The birds fell silent. The wind died down.

    None of us dared look back.

    “Is it me, or does this seem worse than last time?” asked Halley quietly.

    I nodded. I could barely speak; the air felt thick with tangible menace.

    “Much worse,” I managed.

    “Indeed,” agreed Cheren, only the faintest hint of discomfort in his voice. “It's interesting... Perhaps Teiresias' powers take time to charge to their full potential. Previously, it has attacked abruptly, but this time, it has time on its side...” He trailed off, thinking hard. “You know, it might be that it's a slow hunter in its wild state, slowly stalking its prey and weakening it with this psychological barrage of menace before moving in to paralyse and finish it off.”

    “Che-Cheren,” said Bianca weakly, reaching up and clutching Munny tight to her chest, “could you maybe not theorise for a bit, please?”

    He blinked.

    “Ah. Right. Um, sorry about that.” He coughed and adjusted his glasses hurriedly, falling silent abruptly; I wouldn't have thought it possible, but he actually seemed flustered. It seemed he wasn't totally mechanical after all.

    “I hate this,” growled Halley, her voice suddenly twisting into a cat's snarl. “F*cking Teiresias... I wish it would just attack. I hate waiting like this.”

    “That's probably why it's doing it,” Cheren pointed out, and she hissed at him for his pains.

    “I don't – do you think we can beat it this time?” I asked fearfully, jags of memory suddenly stabbing into my mind: a rotting floor, a pounding heart, white eyes that saw nothing but one's soul...

    Cheren considered.

    “Munny's Psychic attacks seem to confuse whatever it uses to sense us,” he said. “Perhaps we can make good our escape that way. But I'm not sure – its power does seem to be building this time, although maybe it only seems that way so that we are more afraid of it and thus easier for it to subdue.” He shook his head. “I just don't have enough information, I'm afraid, and until we can look up Teiresias in one of the Treatises, it's going to stay that way.”

    So even Cheren believed it was a demon, then – which didn't bode well, I thought, another claw of fear curling around my brain. If any of us could have thought of a more mundane explanation for the creature and its powers, it would have been him; now that he seemed to think it was something from another realm as well, any hope we might have of stopping it seemed to evaporate into thin air.

    No. Calm down, Lauren, I thought desperately. It's not real, it's a psychological trick, it's just a demon's joke, meant to make you weak; Munny will protect you, blind Teiresias, shut down its eye while you all get away...

    A raven screamed and flapped away overhead. I didn't convince myself.

    The shadows grew longer.

    Distant footsteps sounded behind us.

    “It's eight o'clock in the morning in the middle of spring,” muttered Cheren. “And yet... to create this kind of atmosphere even on such a bright, cheery day... fascinating.”

    It might be an interesting opportunity to study our mysterious opponent. It might be an unparalleled insight into demonic hunting tactics.

    But that was for Cheren, and for my part, I felt like I was only half a step ahead of Córmi himself, the dark ése's great black wings reaching out to snatch me into death. I had been afraid before, walking in the woods alone – of aelfe, of ettins, of rogue Liepard and black Grimveldt wolves – but this was something else. This was fear for fear's sake, welling up from nowhere and everywhere at once, climbing up the walls of my skull in dark waves and crashing down again into tides of paralytic fear. It was an effort to put one foot in front of the other, and when I looked at Bianca and Cheren I wondered how they kept going, how they were resisting the urge to lie down, curl up and wait for Teiresias' long shadow to fall over them.

    It knows you're weak, I thought to myself. It knows you're afraid. It knows Cheren is too cold and Bianca too careless; this performance is all for you, to slow you down and shut you off and make you give yourself up.

    “I promised Halley,” I murmured, so quietly no one else heard. “I promised...”

    I felt, as if from a great distance, tears gather in my eyes.

    “I promised I would help,” I said again, more forcefully, and the voice in my head retreated.

    I blinked and looked up. The shadows were still dark, the birds still silent. The footsteps sounded, if anything, closer.

    I was still afraid, I realised, but I could carry on. I could – just barely – resist.

    Halley brushed against my leg, and I started.

    “You're doing great,” she said, voice low and gruff. “Uh... keep going.”

    With that, she stalked away from me again, and for a moment I stared after her. That had been – that had been concern, right?

    “Halley,” I muttered, a small smile crossing my face despite the rounding menace, and walked on.

    Half an hour later, the aura of menace was still with us, despite our efforts to speed up, and it was then that Cheren hit upon an idea.

    “All right,” he said, “going faster isn't doing anything. We may have to try and use Munny to scramble Teiresias' trace.”

    “Oh yeah,” I said. “That... why didn't you say that before?”

    “Because there's a small chance that Teiresias doesn't actually know where we are exactly, and is spreading this aura around the entire area to try and startle us into showing ourselves,” he replied. “If that's what it's doing, then it will be watching for Psychic-type attacks – if we use Munny, it will know what direction to go in, and then it can send in Smythe to deal with Munny before moving in itself.”

    I stared at him.

    “How did you think of that?”

    “It's what I would do,” he replied. “It's the most efficient course of action. But given how alien Teiresias' mind is, I'm not sure that it would think of doing it.” He chewed his lip. “Do we risk it?”

    “Don't ask me,” I said firmly, shaking my head. “I don't know anything about tactics or anything like that.”

    Cheren sighed.

    “Fair enough,” he muttered. “Bianca?”

    If I can interrupt?” asked Halley, before she could reply. “Cheers. For your information, Cheren, Teiresias knows exactly where we are. It's waiting because it's making Lauren afraid, and the more afraid people are of it, the stronger it gets.”

    Cheren frowned.

    “How do you know that?” he asked. “Do you know what Teiresias is?”

    “No,” she replied. “Yes. I'm... I'm not sure.” She frowned. “I can – I can half remember something. Like a long-forgotten...” She shook her head. “I used to know!” she growled furiously, slapping herself in the face. “F*ck!”

    “All right, leave it for now,” Cheren said tersely. “You'll have time for this later.” He glanced at Bianca. “Are you ready?”

    “What do I do?” she asked helplessly. “I mean... there's nothing for Munny to attack.”

    “I don't know, aim at the sky or something. Just don't hit any of us.”

    Bianca nodded.

    “OK,” she said. “Psywave, Munny. Just, uh, up.”

    The Munna didn't move, but the same strange silky ripples in space that I had seen it generate the night before poured out of its body in sinuous waves. Despite its efforts to keep the move away from us, part of it must have hit me, because for a moment I had a headache and a strange understanding of the shape and taste of the colour blue – but a moment later, both pain and synaesthesia had gone, and the rippling aura was spreading out through the air above us.

    “Well?” I asked, blinking hard. “Did... did it work?”

    “I'm not sure,” said Cheren. “The shadows don't seem any lighter.” He looked around. “And – and aren't those footsteps faster now?”

    I froze.

    “Yeah,” I said softly. “Yeah, they are.”

    In fact, they were very fast, and very near.

    I looked at Cheren, and Cheren looked at Bianca.

    “Well, don't just stand there, morons,” hissed Halley. “Run.”

    ---

    I could describe the chase. I could describe how we raced down the trail; how on my shoulder Candy shrieked in delight at the wind rushing through her feathers; how Munny trailed a vaporous stream of psionic strings behind it in its agitation; how Halley's breath came in wheezy spurts of curses, even after I picked her up.

    But I won't.

    I could describe how the tree in front of us, rotted through with Teiresias' corrosive magic, collapsed to block the trail ahead. I could describe Smythe, bearing down on us like Córmi in the legend.

    But I won't.

    Because none of it mattered except that Teiresias was here, its long black shadow cutting the path in half as it stalked towards us at Smythe's side.

    It had changed. It was no longer a Liepard; it was smaller now, a little under Halley's size – a Purrloin. But its eyes were still white, and its voice still dead, and when it spoke my name my feet froze in place on the dirt.

    “White,” said Teiresias, drawing to a halt a little way off. “And Halley. That is all we desire. You others may leave.”

    “You've made that rather difficult,” observed Cheren, patting the fallen log. “In fact, I don't think you've left us much choice but to stay and help.”

    “Yeah, um... what he said.” Bianca nodded vigorously. She might not have Cheren's way with words, but she definitely shared his spirit; it was about the only thing they seemed to have in common, and distantly I wondered if that was what bound them together—

    “Lauren. Snap the f*ck out of it,” hissed Halley. “Come on, girl, don't go all panic trance on me here. We need to focus.”

    I blinked. Yes. Halley was right. I'd made a promise, and I had to honour that.

    “Look,” said Smythe, raising his hands as innocently as he could when Teiresias was at his side, “I really, really don't want any trouble. I had that damn Munna invade my skull last time, and I'm not really keen to repeat that. I just want Halley and White. That's all.”

    “Then why aren't you taking them?” asked Cheren. “You're standing here talking when you could be taking action.”

    “Smythe insists you can be reasoned with,” hissed Teiresias. “I am here to ensure that is so, and to safeguard against the possibility that you cannot.”

    “I'm a very reasonable person,” said Cheren, “but I don't think it would be reasonable of me to let you spirit people away without due explanation. How about you tell us why you want Halley and Lauren, and then we'll decide what to do?”

    Smythe glanced at Teiresias.

    “I have no time for this,” it rasped. “Take them.”

    The ground went black.

    No slow spread this time: the entire trail, for as far as I could see, turned black with rot, little curls of it twisting away in coils of decay. I jumped back, but there was nowhere safe to flee to. Cheren snapped out an order and Lelouch dived for Teiresias' throat; dissolving into a green ribbon of light as he snaked across the ground—

    The Purrloin swung a paw lightly in his direction, and with a momentary dark flash the Snivy arced away into the forest. It did not come back.

    “Do not attempt to use the Munna,” said Teiresias. “It will end badly for you.”

    No one said anything. I don't even know if they could. The smell was back, the smell from the train – the smell of a dead man's hand bloated in the wreckage of the flood – and the fear returned with it. This time, though, I could see the demon, and that made it a thousand times worse. Everything vanished: self, memory, all rational thought was swept away in a tide of unrelenting terror—

    —except one tiny little thought that refused to go away.

    Why doesn't it move?

    I held onto it tight. It was all that was left of me; all I had that wasn't fear.

    Why doesn't Teiresias move?

    On the train, it had sat down to spread its aura of terror; in the street, it had only moved once Munny had scrambled its psychic 'sight'.

    Is it that it can't move?

    Now, as then, Teiresias was stationary, and it was Smythe who was walking towards us, Smythe who was doing the actual capturing. Teiresias itself hung back, impervious to harm, motionless as ever. Why?

    And then an idea came into my head, and, fighting through the paralysis, I turned my head to Candy and whispered:

    “Get it, but stay back.”

    For a heart-stopping moment I thought she wasn't able to, or she hadn't understood, or she didn't know how—

    —and then there was a small whumph by my ear and Candy's head whipped forwards like a striking snake, at almost the same moment as a large stone slammed into Teiresias' rotting body and sent it flying backwards.

    Immediately, the spell broke. Shadows faded, darkness dissolved; the rot on the trail withered and vanished and the sun came out from behind a cloud. Suddenly released from the supernatural force that had gripped us, Cheren, Bianca and I staggered forward a step; Halley, lighter on her feet, simply bobbed a little.

    Smythe stared, dumbfounded.

    “How—?”

    “Again, Candy!” I said, as Teiresias climbed back to its feet, a crater of snapped ribs and blood-matted fur in its chest where the rock had impacted. She squawked gleefully and another stone popped into existence between her jaws, swelling to full size as she snapped her head forwards and shooting towards the demon—

    —who stuck out a paw and shattered the boulder with another of those flashes of black light.

    “You are percep—” it began to say, but Candy was getting excited now, and sent another boulder whistling towards it – and another, and another, and now Teiresias was flickering and twisting in a loop of purple fur, desperate to save its borrowed body from destruction.

    “All right, time to run,” murmured Halley. “Into the woods. Now.”

    No one argued. Cheren, Bianca and Munny went first, heading off the trail in the direction Lelouch had vanished in; Halley followed a moment later, streaking across the dirt as only a startled animal can. I went last, Candy maintaining the bombardment from my shoulder. Teiresias was getting better, I noticed; it was moving less now, settling back into position and destroying the rocks without so much effort, and I knew that in a moment it would have adjusted to the new threat and begun to weave its spell again—

    I turned, Candy hurling one last boulder over my shoulder, and fled into the woods.
    Last edited by Cutlerine; 30th December 2012 at 9:35 PM.

  17. #67
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    The only sorrow was that you didn't turn it into terisas didn't keep trying to do that, lacking in humor but not in plot.
    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:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rotomknight View Post
    The only sorrow was that you didn't turn it into terisas didn't keep trying to do that, lacking in humor but not in plot.
    Hmm. Thanks for your feedback. Given everything going on while I wrote this, it doesn't surprise me that this chapter wasn't as funny as it could've been... Ah well. I'll look to the future, and my white tomorrow.

    F.A.B.

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    I enjoyed this segment myself, but like Rotom said, lacking in humor, however, I feel this did not detract from the story at all, so no worries there.

    I don't have many things to say besides some of the descriptions you used were well done. Like a sigh of the oppressed or looking at someone with so much didain that they could be confused as being blind.

    Keep up the good work.


    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    I enjoyed this segment myself, but like Rotom said, lacking in humor, however, I feel this did not detract from the story at all, so no worries there.

    I don't have many things to say besides some of the descriptions you used were well done. Like a sigh of the oppressed or looking at someone with so much didain that they could be confused as being blind.

    Keep up the good work.
    Thanks for your feedback! Hopefully I'll be putting up another chapter later today or tomorrow; I think I might finally be getting back onto my feet with this whole writing malarkey.

    F.A.B.

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    Chapter Eight: The Young Miss Moritz

    Niamh Harper (Neeve, she would say with a sigh, it's pronounced Neeve) was one of those people who are, in the movies, invariably referred to as 'the specialists', or 'the cleaners', or some other variant on the same cloak-and-dagger theme. Like her fictional counterparts, she possessed uncanny efficiency, tremendous intellect and more concealed weapons than anyone might safely shake a stick at. Unlike them, however, she was one sixty-fourth faerie.

    So family tradition went, anyway, and Niamh had always maintained that the source of her preternatural luck was the blood she had inherited from her aelfen great-great-great-great-grandmother; all the really successful criminals, she reasoned, had a gimmick – Moriarty had the whole 'Napoleon of crime' thing, and the Zodiac Killer had had his bizarre messages, for instance – and it would be a damn shame to miss out on capitalising on hers. It paid, she thought, to think of a decent advertising scheme.

    Thus it was that Niamh (the name was supposed to be redolent of the mysterious aelfe from which she claimed ancestry, but all it really did was confuse people) had been contracted by Ingen several years previously as their 'clean-up expert'. (Apparently those in charge of hiring her had seen a few too many conspiracy films.) In that time, she had successfully prevented, among other things, a juvenile Megalosaurus from eating its way through an orphanage, an abortive attempt at creating a shoggoth from absorbing half the Ingen staff (Dr. Spitelle's fault), and a pair of snooping journalists from uncovering Ingen's secret facility on Volundr's Anvil off the east coast. Rather less successfully, she had attempted to stop the escape of a small group of Andrewsarchus into the depths of the Grimveldt Forest, from the security of which strange rumours were now drifting out across Unova of monsters raiding outlying settlements in the night – but then again, one couldn't be perfect all the time. Everyone made mistakes, after all, even people like Niamh.

    This, however, ought not to have been a mission on which Niamh would make mistakes. She simply had to travel to Accumula Town, relieve the unknown girl with the green hat of the escaped Archen, destroy it before it fell into the hands of any of Ingen's many competitors, and return home. Simple. She was going up against kids; while it was stupid to ever claim that nothing could go wrong, Niamh was fairly certain that, well, nothing could go wrong.

    As the astute reader will have guessed, this was not the case.

    And Niamh Harper was about to find that out in spectacular fashion.

    ---

    Smythe looked at Teiresias.

    “Should... should I chase them?” he asked tentatively.

    The Purrloin was silent.

    “Teiresias?”

    “No,” it said. “No.” It got to its feet and began to walk back down the Trail, towards Accumula.

    “What? Where are you going?” asked Smythe.

    “To Accumula,” replied Teiresias coldly. “There is nothing to be gained from chasing them.”

    “What? But we have to catch—”

    “Yes.” Teiresias paused, and looked back. “But we cannot chase them. I underestimated White's intelligence. We will have to alter our tactics; brute force is not the way to go.”

    “Oh,” said Smythe, his brain finally catching up with his mouth. “I see... you want to get to Striaton ahead of them and lay an ambush?”

    “They are Trainers. They will go to the Gym there,” Teiresias went on, as if he hadn't spoken – and now Smythe saw that its eyes were burning blue, seeing deep into something other than the forest around them. “White will not. She will go to – to...” It trailed off. “I cannot see where she will go,” it said. “Not yet. But we will have an opportunity to catch her and Halley, when they are separated from the Trainers.”

    Smythe blinked. He might not quite have Teiresias' intellect, but he wasn't stupid, and he recognised the blue eyes and cryptic proclamation.

    “You have prolepsia?” he asked, incredulous. It wasn't common. Fewer than one in five hundred thousand humans were born with the genetic abnormality that let them catch glimpses of future events, and while Smythe didn't know how common it was among Teiresias' kind, he definitely hadn't been expecting it.

    “Yes,” replied his partner, eyes fading to white again. “It is certain. Our opportunity for ambuscade lies in Striaton.”

    “I see. It—”

    “Whatever you have to say, say it as we move,” Teiresias interrupted. “I refuse to drag your swinish flesh through the dark paths again today. We must return to Accumula and use your human methods of transport.”

    “Oh... right.” Smythe thought of the nightmare realm through which Teiresias chose to travel, and heaved a silent sigh of relief. “I guess we'd better go, then,” he said, surprising himself by sounding almost cheery.

    “Yes,” agreed Teiresias. “We had.”

    It stalked on, and, almost whistling with restrained happiness, Smythe followed.

    ---

    “I see,” said Cheren, nodding. “You notice the important details, Lauren, and formulate effective strategic responses... you'd be a good Trainer.”

    “Oh, I don't know about that,” I replied, looking away. “I'm just... I just noticed that it didn't move, that's all.”

    It was an hour since we had left Teiresias and Smythe on the trail, and an hour since we'd seen any sign of them; they didn't seem to be following us, or at least they weren't being obvious about it, and we'd continued on our way north to Striaton slightly more at ease than before. Lelouch had wandered up to us a few minutes into our search for him, holding his head in his stubby arms and hissing groggily, and he was now back in his Ball; Cheren had given him a Potion and the Snivy was now fairly healthy again, but he'd decided that he deserved a rest after his treatment at Teiresias' hands.

    Of course, Halley, Cheren and Bianca had all wanted to know what I'd done to Teiresias and how I'd done it, and I'd just come to the end of my explanation: I had noticed that Teiresias could only concentrate enough to raise its fear aura if it was stationary, and also that it was almost impossible to get close enough to it to move it. That left only one option: try and hit it with some force without getting near. I knew most Rock-type Pokémon knew Rock Throw, and I was pretty sure that Candy was at least part Rock-type; to my relief, she'd been able to work out what I wanted her to do, and had in fact got quite into the whole Rock Throwing business.

    “No, I mean it,” said Cheren. “You have a knack for it.”

    “Yeah,” agreed Halley. “Looks like you got the brain and Jared got the brawn. If I put the two of you together I might actually get a decent bodyguard.”

    I ignored her; I had no idea what to say in response to that.

    Bianca beamed at me.

    “You don't need to be so modest,” she said. “You can accept praise, you know.”

    “Uh... OK,” I replied. “Thank you.”

    “That's better,” she said with satisfaction, and was about to say something else when Munny made a loud blooping noise and started bobbing up and down in what was either excitement or acute indigestion.

    Cheren stared up at it with interest.

    “Oh? What is it?”

    “It senses something,” said Bianca, a look of concentration on her face, and with a small jolt of excitement I realised that Munny must be trying to communicate with her telepathically.

    “That's so cool,” I murmured.

    “It says... there are a lot of wild Pokémon around,” she said, frowning. “Much more than normal... oh, they were running away from Teiresias, and there's lots of them hiding a little further up the trail.”

    Cheren clapped his hands.

    “Excellent!” he cried. “I've had enough spectral persecution for one day. Time to actually do some Training.”

    I started. It had almost slipped my mind that that was what Cheren and Bianca actually did: catch wild Pokémon, and fight others with them. I'd been so focused on Teiresias and the problem of Halley that I'd forgotten this trip was anything more than a way of evading the Green Party's supernatural hitman.

    “Yeah,” agreed Bianca. “Put that demon stuff behind us for a while...”

    “If it gets us off the radar, it's fine by me,” Halley said. “What isn't fine by me, though, is standing around not moving in the woods when we could be moving in the opposite direction to the evil monster hunting us.” She leaped up onto a low branch overhanging the trail, and pointed ahead. “So let's move.”

    “I don't think it's actually following us right now,” said Cheren mildly, but Halley was having none of it. Obviously Teiresias had spooked her more than I'd thought.

    “Don't care. Don't trust it. Move.”

    So we did, moving quietly so as not to frighten off any Pokémon ahead. I had my doubts about how effective this would be – after all, I'd spent a lot of time in the woods before, and I knew that Pokémon and animals alike were far more adept at noticing approaching humans, especially when scared, than any of us – but I was willing to play along. After all, Cheren and Bianca were Trainers. They had to have some level of skill at this.

    A few minutes later, I held out my hand for them to stop. The broken cuffs jingled, and I hastily clamped my fingers over them to keep them still.

    “What is it?” asked Bianca.

    Sssh,” I hissed. “There. Right there.”

    I pointed at the Purrloin crouching ahead of us, half-concealed by the undergrowth.

    “What?”

    I looked at her.

    “Can't you see it?” I asked incredulously. “It's right there.”

    Cheren's eyes were darting around so fast they looked like they might spring free of their sockets and go on a brief aerial reconnaissance mission; I guess not noticing something must have been pretty galling for someone who usually sees everything.

    “I see her,” hissed Halley. “I have a bizarre urge to challenge her for her territory, but I'm holding it in.”

    “I still don't,” began Cheren testily, and then his eyes widened. “Ah.” He frowned. “Why isn't it running away?”

    “Because you three smell of fear,” Halley said. “You've been bathing in it all morning, thanks to Teiresias. Any animal with a decent sense of smell is going to be confused by you, since you look bold but smell terrified.”

    “I don't see it,” said Bianca petulantly.

    “Look, it's right there,” I said, pointing. The Purrloin shrank back from my finger, and I hurriedly withdrew it.

    “I still can't see it.”

    “No matter,” whispered Cheren. “You will in a moment.” He reached into his pocket and took out Lelouch's ball. “This should be simple enough.”

    He threw the ball in a high arc, up among the branches and leaves of the canopy; I didn't see where it fell, but it must have been somewhere beyond the Purrloin.

    The little Pokémon didn't move. It was thoroughly confused; it probably suspected a trick, given that its nature was to hunt by deceit – in contrast to the wildcats, which were physically stronger and tended to drop on their prey from the trees and wrestle it into submission – but it couldn't work out what it was.

    You sound like Cheren, part of my mind told me, but it wasn't true; Cheren was smarter than I was. He researched these things – I'd just seen it happen a few times back in White Forest.

    “Now,” said Cheren quietly, and Lelouch appeared behind the Purrloin, rearing out of the bushes with the total predatory silence only reptiles and birds can achieve. For a moment, he hung there motionless, and I could see his jaw widening in response to his serpentine instincts, about to unhinge and swallow the Purrloin whole—

    —and then his training asserted itself, and he shut his mouth, looking faintly displeased. Almost as an afterthought, he swatted the Purrloin hard on the leg with his viny tail, and the little cat started so hard it looked like it was on the verge of cardiac arrest.

    It whirled, instinctively sweeping its sharp tail across its attacker and following it up with its claws – but Lelouch didn't seem to even notice the thin scratches opening up across its chest; nothing bled from them, and I realised what the advantages of being made of plant matter must be – no pain, difficult to incapacitate... I wondered if Lelouch even had organs.

    The Snivy blinked slowly, and swallowed the Purrloin's head.

    I stared. Had I just seen that happen? Had Lelouch actually just...?

    Yes. Yes, he had.

    The Purrloin twitched and writhed furiously, scratching at his face and throat, but half-inch claws aren't much good at slicing through plant stems, and Lelouch didn't falter. A moment later, the Purrloin slowed – and a few seconds after that, it slumped, unconscious.

    Lelouch made a peculiarly human coughing sound, and spat the Purrloin out onto the leaf litter.

    “Well, that was the most disturbing way I've ever seen anyone win a Pokémon battle,” said Halley lightly. “Seriously? You get him to suffocate his enemies with his mouth?”

    “I'm making use of his strengths,” said Cheren stiffly. “The combination of reptile and plant is fascinating – it opens up a variety of tactics—”

    “I honestly could not give a single fu— fun-size Mars bar,” finished Halley glumly, looking up at me. “Damn you, Lauren.”

    I smiled at her.

    “Thank you.”

    “I seriously can't tell if that's irony or not,” she muttered. “That infuriates me.”

    “I bet it does.”

    Cheren fished around in his pockets and pulled out a Poké Ball; a moment later, he was the proud owner of a new Purrloin, and had, for reasons known only to himself, christened it Justine.

    “Well,” he said, “that was successful. Now, if only I could get a signal out here I could look it up in the Pokédex...” Here, he spared a moment to stare balefully at his phone. Unova's mobile communications networks were unreliable at best and explosive at worst; anywhere outside of the major cities had only patchy network coverage, and the phone masts, manufactured mainly by companies who didn't meet the quality control requirements of other countries, had a tendency to burst into flame when too much data ran through them. “Ah, well,” said Cheren, more jovially. “I have a Purrloin now, at least, and that's something.”

    “So, um, this is kind of embarrassing,” said Bianca, “but I still didn't actually see the Purrloin.”

    I stared at her.

    “Um... you are joking, right Bianca?”

    “Nope,” she said sadly. “I'm... not really very good at being a Trainer, I think.”

    “Oh, don't worry,” I said brightly. “Cheren didn't see it for ages, either. It's just experience, that's all.”

    “You think?”

    “Well, I wasn't born able to see hiding animals like that,” I said thoughtfully, “so I guess it must be practice. I've lived in the woods all my life, remember.”

    “I guess...”

    Bianca didn't sound entirely convinced, and I wanted to do more for her – but I wasn't certain what else I could say without knowing her better, and now wasn't the time to start questioning her about her history and lack of self-confidence. I sighed, and pushed Candy away from my ear, which she was trying hard to stuff her beak into.

    “Yeah. Just practice.” I made myself smile; smiling is infectious, and hopefully Bianca would smile too. “Come on, then. I'm guessing the other Pokémon around here were scared off by that fight, but we might be able to find more. At the very least, we'll end up closer to Striaton.”

    “Yes, good idea,” said Cheren, obviously pleased to have been presented with a way out of a situation he clearly found awkward. “Come on, Bianca.”

    He recalled Lelouch and started walking; it was a good thing, I thought as I followed, that I was here, or poor Bianca wouldn't have had any comfort at all except from Munny – and the Munna's comforting consisted mostly of bumping into her head over and over again, as it was doing now.

    I sighed, and let Candy hop down onto my wrist.

    “What're we going to do about that, Candy?” I whispered, falling to the back of the group. “What're we going to do...?”

    ---

    Picture, if you will, the villain's lair. Let the image fill your mind: a castle, a thunderstorm, a fearsome crack of lightning that illuminates for one brief and violent instant unspeakable horrors; picture the guttering candles, wax oozing from their tips like pale snakes with questing, transparent faces; picture the ancient paintings whose eyes have long since been cut out to provide spy-holes for unseen watchers; the dungeons, the long-forgotten skeleton still in his manacles, the attic where the mad wife gibbers in her chains; the lopsided tower, lit fitfully by a cluster of dying lanterns – and finally, the villain himself, committing black and ancient deeds from before the time of man, bringing unto himself creatures that the ése never meant to see the light of day.

    This was what would have sprung to the mind of Lauren White if asked to envision the place from which Teiresias had begun its mission. Needless to say, it was not correct.

    No, Unova's Green Party had its headquarters in a large and unnecessarily magnificent building in Gaunton, Castelia; it had begun life as the residence of the penultimate British High Commissioner for Unova, and retained almost all of its original splendour. Owing to its erstwhile owner's peculiar architectural fancies, and his patent disregard for the more classical trends of his day, it was a vast and colourful Gothic pile after the manner of Pugin, beginning at the ground in a tangle of white limestone and ending in the sky in a multiplicity of blue-green Undella slate roofs. No two architects would ever be able to agree on whether or not it was beautiful, but anyone at all would concede that it was certainly among the most impressive buildings in the city. It bore its eccentricities with the brash swagger of a cartoon pirate, and had revelled in its own majesty since the year of its completion in 1944.

    It was down the twisting halls of this overweening edifice that Caitlin Molloy bent her steps, down to what had once been the Commissioner's office and was now that of Ghetsis Harmonia. She knocked on the door, and at the sound of a cheery 'Come in!' entered to find him seated behind his desk, flicking through a weighty-looking book of immense proportions; as she drew near, Harmonia looked up, grinned, and laid the book down in front of him.

    “Ah!” he said, smiling mischievously. “If it isn't my friend from Johannesburg.”

    Caitlin Molloy was not in fact from Johannesburg. She could, however, do a fine South African accent, although this was not something she did as a general rule.

    “Afternoon, Ghetsis,” she said, returning his smile at the shared joke. “I brought you the report from Striaton.”

    She tossed a manila folder down on the desk, and Harmonia's eyebrow rose.

    “Ah me,” he said, stroking his chin meditatively. “That looks thick.” His HawkEye clicked upward to lock onto Caitlin. “Any chance of a synopsis? I will read it, just... not right now.”

    “It's difficult to know what to do,” replied Caitlin, dropping into the seat opposite him. “There's two possibilities here. Either the powder actually converts dreamed objects into real ones, which would allow us to synthesise the lost artefact easily, given access to Dr. Fennel's lab – or it stimulates dreams of another life. Given the way the prevailing winds blow over Unova, Fennel theorises that this could be the cause of the whole Dream World – the mist is generated by the Munna and Musharna near Striaton, desiccates and gets spread across the country. Hence the dreams.”

    Harmonia nodded thoughtfully. Like everyone in Unova, he had spent at least some time wondering about the cause of the so-called Dream World; it had never, to anyone's knowledge, been satisfactorily explained, although various theories had been put forward to explain it. In fact, it was Dr. Fennel's potential explanation for the existence of the strangely unified dreams of Unova that had first caught his eye as he scanned the scientific literature of the week before.

    “I see,” he said slowly. “What're the chances that the powder really does turn dreams to reality?”

    “I don't know,” replied Caitlin frankly. “It doesn't even sound possible, to be honest, but stranger things have happened... it's just one step up from Zoroark venom. It's... well, if it's true, it changes everything.” She shrugged. “Fennel was eager to help – you know what these researchers are like, always after funding. We waved a vague offer under her nose in exchange for this report on the Dreamyard.”

    “The Dreamyard?” queried Harmonia. “What's that?”

    “Ah. It's what the people around Striaton call the old Sytec manufacturing plant. There was a lot of waste around there that was never properly disposed of, and the Musharna flocked there to nest. People in Striaton have more regular and Dream World dreams than anyone else in the nation, and they remember them better too – and it's all from the abandoned lot. So they ended up calling it the Dreamyard.”

    “I see.” Harmonia opened the folder and began to leaf through its contents. “Woden's patch,” he muttered. “Psychochemical disturbances in the dream matrix? Hyperbombastic ritual dream exchanges? Thunor, this is hard going... she's really trying to impress.”

    Caitlin shrugged.

    “Like I said, she wants funding.” She watched Harmonia for a moment. “What do you want to do?”

    The red lens moved up to look at her, though the head attached to it remained inclined towards the folder.

    “Let's do it,” he said decisively. “We've got nothing to lose after all; we have plenty of funds at our disposal, with our new allies. Throw some gold at her and see what we can do – if it works, we could potentially finish this thing tomorrow.”

    Caitlin nodded.

    “I'll get right on it, Ghetsis,” she said. “See you later.”

    “Goodbye,” he replied distractedly, returning to the report.

    Caitlin left, and twelve minutes later a message was winging its way towards Striaton.

    ---

    By the end of the day, Munny and Lelouch had put paid to about six assorted Patrat, Purrloin and Lillipup between them; Smoky, whom Bianca had all but kicked into action, had dealt with just one, and then only because it had been a particularly pugnacious Lillipup and had tried to bite his tail. He had sat up, torched it and gone back to sleep without ever opening his eyes.

    There had been no further sign of activity on Teiresias' part, but when we pitched camp that night we agreed we'd keep watch in case it and Smythe returned while we slept; Halley offered to watch all night, citing her animal instincts, ability to see in the dark and heightened sense of smell as reasons. I refused to let her, though; she needed sleep as much as the rest of us, I argued, so we set up a rota. Cheren seemed to think she had some ulterior motive in offering to take the entire watch, but I couldn't see what it would be – she was nervous, that was all, and who could blame her? Teiresias was a nasty foe.

    After we'd eaten, Cheren gathered a few meaty scraps into a little heap, and let out his new Purrloin, which looked around wildly at us for a while before bolting for the undergrowth.

    “Well, that was successful,” said Halley snidely. “Champion material right here.”

    “I know what I'm doing,” replied Cheren calmly. “She'll come back. Wait.”

    A few moments later, the Purrloin – Justine – did in fact return, slinking quietly out of the bushes and doing her best to remain in the shadows, out of sight.

    “Cheren,” began Bianca, delighted to have finally spotted something, but he held up a hand.

    “Ignore her,” he said. “We're not supposed to have noticed her.”

    Candy's large eyes flicked over to the Purrloin in the shadows, and she looked up at me inquisitively.

    “No,” I said, shaking my head as vigorously as possible. “No no no. Don't even think about it.”

    She made a small noise of avian disappointment, which was something like a squawk, something like a sigh and a lot more discordant than either, and went back to digging a shallow bowl in the dirt near the fire. She had done that last night too; I wasn't sure why. I'd never taken Candy out on extended trips in the woods before, and it seemed to be bringing out a variety of responses in her that I expected Uncle Gregory would have been interested in; he was always going on about how there was no way to accurately work out the behaviour of extinct animals from their fossils alone, and about that being the reason why he'd gone into the re-engineering business, and if they'd just give him ten more years and a million more pounds of funding he'd have solved the Gleinhauser Proposition, whatever that was.

    A moment later, Justine materialised next to Cheren's leg, and quietly began to steal the leftovers he'd piled up.

    “What's she doing?” I asked softly.

    “Purrloin are thieves,” replied Cheren, just as quietly. Justine did not look up at the sound of his voice. “They take the kills of others, or steal from campsites. If you give them food, they tend to believe that they're tricking you into feeding them, which makes them quite happy and therefore easier to tame... watch.”

    He picked up a meaty bone he had kept in reserve and held it under Justine's nose.

    The Purrloin froze. Her sharp green eyes focused on the end of the bone, travelled along its length, passed up Cheren's arm and came to rest on his face.

    A sly grin passed over her muzzle, and she ran a thin tongue over her fangs. Then, very delicately, she took the bone in between her jaws and climbed onto Cheren's lap to gnaw on it.

    He looked up at me.

    “See?” he said. “Easy.”

    I grinned and shook my head.

    “That's adorable,” I said.

    “I know!” squealed Bianca in agreement, so loudly that Justine jumped in surprise and inhaled half her bone.

    “Thunor—!” cried Cheren, staring wild-eyed as the Purrloin began to asphyxiate. “How the hell—?”

    One hand on the bone and one on her back, he started pulling and patting at the same time; a moment later, the offending article shot out, and Justine collapsed, gasping for air, on his lap. Bianca stared speechlessly.

    “I... um... sorry, Cheren,” she said at last. She sounded like a toddler who knows they've done something so bad there is no alternative but to pretend it didn't happen.

    “That's... all right, Bianca,” Cheren said, voice strained. “Just – ah – try not to kill my Pokémon in future, all right?”

    “Yeah...” Bianca's head drooped. “Sorry...”

    Halley snickered.

    “See, that's comedy,” she said. “Good old slapstick. There's nothing funnier than serious injury.”

    “Yes there is,” I said. “Justine could've been hurt.”

    “You're missing the point,” she sighed. “That's exactly why it was funny.” She waved a paw dismissively. “Whatever. I'm not going go be able to convince you about this one.”

    “On the plus side,” continued Cheren as if neither of us had spoken, “the experience does seem to have endeared me to Justine somewhat.”

    It was true: while Purrloin weren't really known for their loyalty, I was pretty sure the star-struck look in Justine's eyes indicated that the saviour of her life had now earned her undying respect. It was a pretty big bone for such a small cat; I supposed I'd feel the same way if Cheren had removed something the size of my forearm from my throat.

    “Hmm. A little training, and she might even be up to helping Lelouch with the Striaton Gym,” Cheren said to himself. “Strange as it may sound, I guess I should be thanking you, Bianca.”

    Immediately, she perked up again.

    “OK!” she cried happily. “That's all right, then. Do we have any pudding?”

    “No, you ate it all the night after we left home,” he sighed. “I didn't buy any more in Accumula because it didn't seem worth it.”

    “Oh yeah.” Bianca seemed vaguely disappointed, but she couldn't stay that way for long, and by the time we retired to our tents that night, she seemed to be back to normal. Halley, on the other hand, seemed quieter than ever; even when Candy hurled a rock at her, her curses seemed to lack their usual colour and flavour. I asked her what was wrong, but naturally she said nothing – or rather, she did say something, but that something was a torrid stream of invective, which shut me up pretty quickly.

    At least, I thought as I lay there in the dark, watching the glow of the fire through the thin fabric, she's still up to doing that. I was still thinking about it when I fell into uneasy dreams, a little before midnight.

    ---

    There a certain moments in life that defy conventional explanation – moments when a chance collocation of events coheres and gives rise to a result infinitely greater than the sum of its parts; moments when disparate strands of destiny cross over, briefly form an accidental Gordian knot, and pass on unchanged. These moments are taken by some to be evidence of wyrd, or fate; others, to be evidence of God.

    Niamh Harper was abhorrent of suspicion and possessed of a good vocabulary, so she saw them as serendipity.

    If any particular event that afternoon had occurred differently – a minute later, a minute later, a few feet to the left – nothing would have come of it. But as it happened, a man refused the offer of a second drink before leaving for work that morning, citing lack of time; and a woman's alarm clock in Nacrene ran out of power during the night; and a child dropped his toy car on a walk through the park in Accumula; and a busker's bicycle had a flat tyre, and he was forced to go to his usual spot on Neurine Plaza on foot.

    And the woman was late for work, and the decrepit Anville Rail Service train was even later than advertised; and Portland Smythe tripped over the car and twisted his ankle so badly he could not muster the speed to make it to the station in time to catch his train; and he repaired to a nearby park bench to recover and wait for the next one.

    And Niamh Harper, worn out and stressed from the long train journey, was not looking where she was going as she left the carriage; and the man, who handed out flyers at Accumula Station, was overcome by a small wave of dizziness owing to dehydration; and the two of them collided, sending leaflets fluttering everywhere.

    And as she helped him gather the leaflets, she noticed they advertised a coffee-house two streets away near Neurine Plaza, and decided that she was in need of refreshment and rest before continuing her search; and as she made her way to the coffee-house, the busker finally arrived at work and began to play.

    And on the street next to the Plaza, Niamh subconsciously heard the unmistakeable strains of jazz flute, and without knowing why looked around for the only jazz flautist she had ever known—

    And over the iron railings of the park she saw Portland Smythe, and at the same moment he looked up at the sound of the flute and saw her too.

    Their jaws dropped.

    Serendipity.

  22. #72
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    EPIC AWESOME SAUCE!
    It looks like White would be a good trainer... She has a pokemon.
    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

  23. #73
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    Wow, that would have been gruesome if that Purrloin wasn't meant to be caught, pretty awesome though.

    Also, endangering your pets via proxy and saving them = best loyalty gain ever. Keep it up Cheren and soon all the pokemon in the group will respect and listen to you without a second thought.

    I wonder if that Caitlin is the same one in the Elite 4...

    Anyway, that was a pretty sweet chapter though not much happened in anyones POV besides getting a new pokemon. Looking forward to the next one and am quite surprised at the speed this one showed up.


    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

  24. #74
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    Well, hello there, everyone. It's been, uh, a while. I can only apologise and claim the construction of a Traction City* as an excuse for my absence. I'm discovering that I'm one of that breed of art students who create completely mental sculptures on a semi-unmanageable scale, so I've been utilising my creative muscles recently to the extent that I haven't particularly wanted to flex them outside of studio hours. When I finally did force myself to sit down and write, I wrote the whole of Chapter Nine in less than twelve hours, so lack of time can't form an adequate excuse for not updating. Or even visiting the forums.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rotomknight View Post
    EPIC AWESOME SAUCE!
    It looks like White would be a good trainer... She has a pokemon.
    She does, doesn't she? I did say Lauren and Jared complemented each other. Hopefully, this is the first of several examples.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azurus View Post
    Wow, that would have been gruesome if that Purrloin wasn't meant to be caught, pretty awesome though.

    Also, endangering your pets via proxy and saving them = best loyalty gain ever. Keep it up Cheren and soon all the pokemon in the group will respect and listen to you without a second thought.

    I wonder if that Caitlin is the same one in the Elite 4...

    Anyway, that was a pretty sweet chapter though not much happened in anyones POV besides getting a new pokemon. Looking forward to the next one and am quite surprised at the speed this one showed up.
    Caitlin... Damn it, I completely forgot there was one in the Elite Four. Ah well, never mind. I can handle multiple Caitlins. Although, I do have to wonder whether it would be worthier of me to suffer them rather than deal with them... Time for a parodic soliliquy.

    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of numberless Caitlins,
    Or to take arms against a sea of Caitlins,
    And by opposing end them?

    And that's quite enough of that. I shouldn't be encouraging myself.

    A new chapter will be up very shortly indeed.

    F.A.B.

    *No, seriously, I'm building a Traction City. Of sorts.

  25. #75
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    Chapter Nine: The Bane of Gregor Samsa

    Striaton, unlike Accumula, let you know it was coming. It didn't suddenly rear up out of the woods like a spooked horse; it built up slowly, the forests giving way to fields that, in turn, gave way to suburbs. It was a city, not a little backwater village, and as I breathed in the familiar scent of petrochemical fumes, I sighed with relief. I felt like I was coming home.

    Candy coughed on my shoulder. I barely noticed; here were the trappings of civilisation again, the tarmac and concrete and cars, and what could possibly be finer than that?

    It had taken us the better part of the day to reach this blessed metropolis, and it was four o'clock by the time we'd got into the city proper and were somewhere near a Pokémon Centre. I was exhausted, and looking forward to sitting down – but Cheren, it seemed, had other ideas, and headed off immediately in search of the Trainer's School in the north quarter. Bianca chose not to follow him; like me, she was tired, and still a little dispirited from her failures the day before, and so she came with Halley and me to the nearest Pokémon Centre.

    “Well,” I said, when we'd arrived. “It looks like someone's, uh, kind of desperate.”

    The broad windows of the Centre were covered almost entirely by plastered notices, screaming out the same message over and over, the wording more and more despairing from poster to poster.

    ASSISTANCE WANTED

    the first few read,

    WITH A GLORIOUS UNDERTAKING
    FOR THE CAUSE OF SCIENCE
    VOLUNTEERS TO BE HANDSOMELY REWARDED
    ENQUIRE AT PSYCHOSOMA LABORATORIES, 12C BEETWAX STREET,
    FOR DETAILS

    By the end, though, the flyers were somewhat less grandiose:

    FOR GOD'S SAKE, WILL SOMEONE PLEASE HELP?
    THIS IS NOT ALL THAT DANGEROUS REALLY,
    I PROMISE. AND COMPENSATION FOR ANY MENTAL TRAUMA
    WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE. COME ON. ANYONE?
    ANYONE AT ALL?

    “What school of graphic design did this moron graduate from?” said Halley acidly. “Big and bold is all very well, but this guy's crossed a line – and then pissed on it.”

    “I wonder what it is,” mused Bianca, staring. “It must be important...”

    “I guess so,” I agreed. “Maybe the receptionist will know.”

    “How're you going to talk to them?” asked Halley. “You're a cardless Trainer from Sweden, remember?”

    I scratched my head. Damn. We didn't have Cheren to convince them.

    “Uh... We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

    “We're standing on the f*cking riverbank, Jared, we're not going to get much closer—”

    “Shut up and pretend to be a normal cat,” I snapped, pushing open the doors and walking into the Centre.

    On my shoulder, Candy perked up suddenly, extending her neck to feel the warmth of the central heating on her scaly head; fleetingly, N's words flickered through my mind, but like most people, I'm pretty good at not thinking about uncomfortable truths and let the thought slip from my mind like an eel through a noose.

    “Hi,” said the receptionist as we approached. “Welcome to the southern Striaton Pokémon Centre.”

    I frowned. Was it a uniform requirement for all Centre workers, or was it just a coincidence that both she and the one from Accumula had the same dyed-pink hair?

    “Hi!” said Bianca bouncily – so much so, in fact, that her voice seemed to rebound off the walls with its sheer perkiness. Halley and I winced in unison. “What're those posters in the window about?”

    Her directness caught the receptionist off-guard for a moment.

    “Eh? Oh, those,” she said, with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Some scientist from Sotwell—”

    “Sotwell?” I asked.

    She made a clicking noise of annoyance at herself; she'd forgotten we weren't Striaton natives.

    “East of the city centre,” she explained swiftly. “She's looking for Trainers to go and get something from the ruined Sytec factory – something to do with Musharna. No one wants to go deep enough into the factory to find a Musharna, though – it's really not a safe place.”

    Sytec. Everyone in Unova – and probably the world – was familiar with that particular disaster. The only reason Striaton wasn't totally uninhabitable now was because the army had jettisoned most of the waste north into Patzkova (where, conspiracy theorists claimed, it had given rise to a brutal mutant variant of Druddigon) - and what was left had, according to the books, turned the old factory into a twisted maze of semi-sentient psychic fields. I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded like something any sensible person would want to avoid.

    “What about a Munna?” asked Bianca, pointing to the pink ball floating above her head. “Would a Munna be able to help?”

    The receptionist shrugged.

    “No idea. If you want to know, I'd ask the scientist herself.”

    Bianca's eyes lit up, and I sighed.

    “Do we have to?” I asked her.

    “But I might be able to help!” she said eagerly. “And that might make up for – for yesterday...” She trailed off quietly, and I knew I didn't have the heart to resist her. She wanted to make amends, was that it? To prove that she could still be a decent Trainer, even after not spotting the Purrloin and then almost killing it? Fair enough, I thought; I wasn't going to take that away from her.

    “I don't know,” I muttered, stalling for time – trying to delay having to accept her proposal.

    “And I don't think Teiresias will be able to follow us there, either,” Bianca went on. “It won't be able to see us, right?”

    I paused, and glanced down at Halley, who looked back up at me. Teiresias' psychic eye was blinded by Munny's mental radiation; if we entered the Sytec plant, it might well do the same.

    “It won't be able to see us,” Halley whispered, so quietly I almost didn't hear.

    “Is that a wildcat?” asked the receptionist, confused. “Who has a pet wildcat?”

    “Uh... me,” I replied. “I also have a parrot.” I scratched Candy's neck and she crowed with pleasure. The receptionist stared.

    “Is that an Arch—?”

    “All right then!” I said swiftly. “Come on, Bianca. Let's go find this scientist.”

    Esé damn it, I thought sourly as we walked out. How the f*ck does everyone know?

    ---

    12C Beetwax Street was a good half an hour away by subway, as it turned out, and when we arrived I wasn't entirely sure it was worth the trip. The whole area looked like it had been spat out by a dog that had decided it wasn't worth the effort of chewing, and number 12 looked like it had been right between the molars. Its upper floor, where the landlady informed us 12C was to be found, was more the sort of place I expected to find a yolk kitchen than a laboratory. I supposed that pure science didn't pay too well.

    “This... doesn't exactly look like what I thought it might,” Bianca said cautiously, looking at the scratched wooden door. The '2' was missing from its sign, and had been for so long that there wasn't even a patch of lighter wood to show where it had been. “It's... um...”

    “A sh*thole,” said Halley concisely. “A bloody sh*thole. Huh. Gone are the days of the gentleman-scientist, I guess.”

    I said nothing, but knocked at the door; it swung open at my touch, revealing a cramped tangle of machinery and desks, and a young, haggard-looking woman leaning against the wall and smoking furiously.

    “...Woden hang them all,” she was muttering. “Theirs is the generation that grew up with Portal, for Frige's sake! How can they not want to help test for science...?”

    She did not seem to notice us, wrapped up as she was in her ranting monologue and cigarette smoke, so I said hesitantly:

    “Hello? We're, uh, here about the adverts?”

    I could've sworn an electric shock ran through her. She shot bolt upright, almost inhaling her cigarette, and hastily tossed it into an ashtray, eyes locking onto us with a fervour that made me doubt her sanity.

    “Really?” she beamed, regarding us hungrily. “You're here to – ah, a Munna!” One of her hands curled reflexively into a fist and started wiggling in excitement, and she paused for a moment to calm herself. After a deep breath, she stepped forwards. “Good afternoon,” she said brightly, holding out her hand. “My name is Dr. Regan Fennel, and I'm very glad to see you two. My research is almost at a standstill, and without a decent quantity of the dust, I'm not altogether sure the psychoanalytic engines will— but I'm getting ahead of myself,” she said, shaking her head. “Please, come in.”

    Somewhat cautiously, Bianca and I followed her through a maze of abstruse mechanisms, stacked high to the ceiling; they wound about the room in a tangle of wires, of cables, of electrodes and pistons, sprouting monitors and keyboards like curiously geometric fungal growths, clicking and whirring and flashing the occasional light like the eyes of phosphorescent fish in the benthic depths. All the while, Fennel kept up a steady stream of scientific technobabble.

    “I'm investigating dream potentiality,” she told us. “The hidden energy and possibilities within dream states. Musharna – I know this must seem unrelated, but bear with me, it'll become clear – communicate using psychochemical mists, composed of psychically-charged esters – chemicals that carry a scent and a tagged emotion. In the minds of other Musharna, this triggers a sympathetic psychic response that conveys the original Musharna's meaning. It's a unique system: no other Pokémon uses that combination of smell and psionics. It's why they're so bad at pure psychic communication, why they can only vaguely hint at what they mean when they attempt to 'talk' to humans.

    “But that's beside the point. Psychochemicals have so much more potential than simple communication, if there are enough of them – and in the Dreamyard, the Sytec plant, where there are an estimated five hundred Musharna all emitting the sprays at once, and where the roving psychic fields left by the explosion keep warping them...” Fennel paused in excitement. “The sprays dry out,” she said, as if this was meant to mean something to us. “They dry out and become powder – and without the water saturating them, their chemical structure alters just slightly: they become able to cross the pulmonary alveoli. Humans can breathe them in, and they affect us.

    “Winds blow them all over Unova from Striaton,” she went on, as I started to wonder how this long, long labyrinth of machines could fit into the tiny upper floor of 21C Beetwax Street. “We breathe them in, and we feel them unconsciously, and we dream dreams like no one else in the world.” Fennel grinned. “We dream the Dream World.”

    It seemed she wanted a response to that, and she got one. I had been doing more than my fair share of wondering about the Dream World recently, what with Halley's claims about the switching over of reality and Lauren White, and I actually gasped as she said it.

    “Are you sure?” I asked. “That's what causes it? Dried-out Musharna spit, or whatever that is?”

    Fennel looked pained.

    “I see the subtleties of the science elude you,” she said, “but essentially, yes. I do believe that.” We had stopped, and she gestured for us to go on. “Come on. There's more.”

    “More?” I asked. “What more can there be?”

    I was actually kind of excited now, despite myself. I wasn't usually interested in the abstruse science of psionics – or any science, really – but when the Dream World and Unova's strange dual reality was involved... I was pretty sure this was relevant to me. (Bianca looked lost rather than interested, but then, she had done ever since Fennel had uttered her first polysyllabic word.)

    “Much, much more,” Fennel said, pressing a button on a nearby panel and waiting for a series of massive gears to grind slowly out of our way. (How much longer could we walk for? It felt like we had gone miles already.) “You see, there's another possibility. Even if the mist doesn't generate the Dream World specifically, it may be able to do something else.”

    Fennel led us around a corner, and waved her arm at the space beyond – space that, I was truly and utterly certain, was about thirty feet too long to fit into 12C Beetwax Street.

    “You see, that's the thing about Dream Mist,” Fennel told us. “It makes dreams into reality.”

    ---

    “... and left a kidney there on the way,” finished Smythe gloomily. “So yes. Same old, same old.”

    Niamh smiled. Eight years had passed since the incident on the Borealis had driven each to give the other up for dead, but nothing had changed. Portland Smythe – adventurer, flautist, demigod – was still among the unluckiest men on the planet. His wyrd danced over the shears with every stitch of the tapestry, but was never quite severed.

    “Your flute?”

    Smythe sighed.

    “Gone,” he said hollowly. “You know what Dragons are like. They love shiny objects. I had to get away somehow, and that was the only shiny thing I had to distract it with.” He shook his head and drunk deeply of his coffee. “I hope that bastard Haxorus enjoys it.”

    It was not a normal Haxorus he spoke of, Niamh knew. It was the Patzkovan variant – bigger, meaner and with an inexplicable fondness for alliterative verse, three traits it shared with much of the northern country's wildlife. It had to be, for though he made little of it, the route he described would have dropped him much too far north for him to have arrived in Opelucid without a lengthy trek south-east through the untamed Hallowveldt.

    “I'm sorry,” she said at length. “Did you ever... replace it?”

    Smythe shook his head.

    “No,” he replied. “It can't be replaced. No one could make another.”

    Niamh had thought as much. She had never seen a flute like Smythe's before, and she was pretty sure she never would again.

    “Anyway,” he said, brightening. “How have you been? Still in the monster-slaying business?”

    Niamh smiled, grateful for the lifeline – as anyone was who got drawn into the depths of Smythe's life story would have been.

    “Yeah,” she replied. “I landed a contract with International Genetics – cleaning up some of their mess. Dinosaurs, monsters – sh*t like that.”

    Smythe nodded.

    “I see,” he said. “They're based in Nacrene, right?I guess you're on a job right now?”

    “Yes. I'm after an escaped Archen – a little half-bird, half-dinosaur thing. It was meant to be destroyed but someone let it out, and some kid picked it up.” Niamh shrugged. “Should be fairly easy to deal with.” She frowned. “What's up?”

    Smythe was staring, and his heart was racing. Half bird, half dinosaur... he knew that damn bird.

    With a strange giddy feeling, he realised that he and Niamh were after the same target.

    And with a horrible chill feeling, he realised that he could not possibly tell her.

    Teiresias was not visible – it had flickered out of conventional space as soon as Niamh had greeted him in the park, and had remained out of sight throughout their trip to the coffee-house – but Smythe knew it was watching him, and that revealing any Party business, even to as old and trusted a friend as Niamh, would result in it taking swift and deadly action.

    And so, though he would dearly have liked to share his burden, and though Niamh was probably the most qualified person he could think of to deal with the fiend, Smythe kept silent.

    “I saw it,” he said, desperately trying to think of a way to help Niamh out without compromising the Party. “I saw that thing... it's with a group of Trainers, isn't it? Heading north to Striaton.”

    Niamh's eyes widened. This was an unexpected windfall of information.

    “You're sure?”

    “Yeah. They were at Harmonia's speech the other day; I was there on Party business, and got bitten by the damn bird.”

    Niamh nodded.

    “Trainers... They'll take the Trail rather than the roads. I guess I could try and head them off in Striaton; I could get there before them.” She looked up at Smythe as if just realising he was there. “Sorry. Got distracted.” She waved a hand. “Doesn't matter. I'll find them easily enough. Thanks for the information, though.”

    “It's nothing,” said Smythe, pleased to have been helpful. “You'd do the same for me, I know.”

    Niamh smiled.

    “What is it that you're doing, anyway? I can see that that 'quiet job' you have with the Green Party obviously isn't as quiet as you'd like.”

    Smythe sighed and rubbed his forehead.

    “It isn't,” he said. “It was when I started – I thought maybe I'd finally managed to leave all those misunderstandings, those hurried escapes, the lies – all of that behind me. But Harmonia found out, assumed I was a master criminal, and sent me on a quest.” He paused, calculating how much he could say without calling down Teiresias' wrath on his head. “I'm tracking some thieves who stole something of value from the Party,” he said at length. “There's an eldritch abomination mixed up in this, too. Christ,” he said, voice suddenly passionate, “I wish I'd never left Mossdeep...”

    ---

    “Whoa.”
    It was Halley who'd gasped, but thankfully Fennel didn't seem to notice – she probably thought it was Bianca or me, and who could blame her? We certainly had reason to gasp: The room bulged out in a great swelling oval, the walls that looked square from outside round in here; I could even see the window with the red curtains that I'd seen from the street, and I knew that this room was completely, totally impossible...

    “Dream logic,” said Fennel proudly. “This was my first successful experiment. Using the powder from dried Musharna chemicals and a few little scientific tricks, I partially actualised my dream of a better laboratory.” She waved a hand at the space before us. “The room works in the way only dreams can work: bigger on the inside than the outside.”

    I was still staring. There was nothing too special in there – more machines, computers, a bed connected to a web of electrodes – but still, it was so wrong, so different to the reality I knew that I couldn't tear my eyes away.

    “How... If you can do this,” I asked, “how come you're still here? How come you're not rich and famous already?”

    Fennel shifted uncomfortably.

    “Well... there's the thing,” she admitted. “You don't need all this machinery to bend space like this. You can manipulate reality by blending certain Pokémon moves – Trick Room, Magic Room, Wonder Room – which, when combined, can do any of a great number of things to space as we know it.” She sighed. “This research isn't fundable. It doesn't prove anything – doesn't prove I can use Musharna chemicals to turn dreams into real, solid things. Of course, there's a chance I might not be able to do that – the chemicals might have more to do with the Dream World, or maybe something else entirely that I haven't thought of and which could also give these results – but I've built prototypes of the machines that can do it. If I got some more Musharna chemicals, I could conduct the first experiments to find out if I can do it. And then, with a little more funding, I could probably build machines to bring dreams to life, or even record and share dreams between people without the need for Psychic-type Pokémon.” She spread her arms. “All it takes is the chemical dust, and money.”

    “Speaking of which,” came an unfamiliar voice, “we've just got a Ł750,000 grant.”

    I thought Fennel might explode. She spun around to face the speaker so fast her long black hair swatted me in the face, and cried out:

    “What?”

    The speaker – a younger, less cigarette-haggard version of Fennel, who appeared to have come from somewhere in the dream-space – held out a letter.

    “From Mr. Harmonia of the Green Party,” she said, voice hollow with amazement. “He thought our work was very interesting.”

    A chill ran through me, and my eyes involuntarily slipped over to Bianca's. I could tell she was every bit as shocked as I was.

    Harmonia.

    Could it be a coincidence? The political party that was pursuing us wanted to fund Fennel's extraordinary research... I couldn't see a connection, but then, there was still a lot I didn't understand. I remembered I'd forgotten to take the opportunity earlier to research the Green party and Teiresias, and resolved to do it as soon as I could. We couldn't run away forever, I was sure of that; sooner or later, we had to stand and fight, and while I knew I was capable of it – Regenschein's was an eminently suitable training ground for battle – I had to know my enemy better if I wanted to win. Teiresias was a foe I couldn't beat just by hitting with a metal pipe – and while Harmonia probably was, I needed to know whether he really was at the top of this conspiracy before I went around beating him up.

    “This is— give me that!” Fennel snatched the letter from her colleague and read it voraciously, devouring it with her eyes at a speed that would have done credit to Cordelia (who read with the speed of lightning and the implacable inertia of a runaway freight train). It wasn't even a minute later that she lowered it. “Incredible,” she said, voice trembling. “Incredible...” Abruptly, she swept her assistant into a bone-crushing hug. “Ammie! This is it! With this, we can finish – can prove it – can – can—”

    “OK, calm down Regan,” said the assistant – Ammie? – disentangling herself with some difficulty and leading Fennel over to a chair. “Sit down for a minute.” She flashed a shy smile at us, and with a start I realised she couldn't be more than a year older than I was – if she was older at all. “Sorry,” she said. “We kind of didn't expect this to happen. Like... ever, really.” She left Fennel breathing into a paper bag and came back over to us. “I'm Amanita,” she said. “Regan's sister. I help with her research.”

    Bianca cocked her head on one side.

    “You're... pretty young,” she pointed out uncertainly. “Are you a genius or something?”

    Amanita took the question better than I expected.

    “Depends,” she replied with a shrug. “According to Terman's definition, yes – I have an IQ of 146, based on the Stanford-Binet test, which places me within the top 0.5% of the Unovan population. However, if you use Hollingworth's definition, which requires an IQ of 180, then no, I'm not a genius. Other than that, 'genius' is a pretty vague label, with many different philosophical definitions, and I'm not sure it can ever be applied to someone other than retrospectively.”

    “That's enough of a 'yes' for me,” said Bianca frankly, which made Amanita smile.

    “Anyway,” she said, “you two are here about the Dream Mist, right?”

    “Dream Mist?” I asked. “Is that the Musharna chemical stuff?”

    “Yep,” she said brightly. “If you could get some from the Munna or Musharna that live in the Dreamyard, that'd be great. It's all we want you to do.”

    “I thought maybe my Munna could help?” asked Bianca, pointing it out.

    Amanita shook her head.

    “Sorry, no. The Mist only desiccates in the Dreamyard; your Munna will stop any wild Munna or Musharna attacking you for invading their territory, but unless it's in the Dreamyard, its chemical sprays dissipate in the air. The psychic fields kind of bake it, in a weird sort of way.”

    “Cark,” squawked Candy, looking at me. I knew what she wanted and shook my head.

    “Not baking cakes or biscuits,” I told her. “Baking mist.”

    Candy tried to make sense of that, failed, and decided to go to sleep before her brain melted. Amanita watched with interest.

    “Hey, is that an Archen?”

    I bit off a curse.

    “Yes, she is,” I sighed. “Just... don't ask. Please.”

    “All right,” said Amanita, “but it is pretty weird for something so dead to be riding around on someone's shoulder. People will ask questions. Just so you know.”

    “Yeah, I got that much,” I said sourly. “Everyone seems to realise.”

    “Right,” interrupted Fennel, who had glided back over to us without me noticing. “Munna and Musharna are less active in the dark, so you'll probably want to head over to the Dreamyard pretty soon, to get there around dusk. Hopefully, that'll be before the Purrloin and the wildcats wake up – they hunt at night, you see. You want to avoid dealing with them.”

    “Dealing with them?” Bianca asked. “They usually run away, don't they?”

    Fennel hesitated.

    “There aren't very many of them, you understand,” she said. “Really, there aren't. They die pretty soon after they enter the factory – no food, you see—”

    “What are you hinting at?” I asked, unease mounting in my stomach.

    “Well... the Purrloin and the wildcats in the Dreamyard...” Fennel looked helplessly at Amanita, who shrugged; Fennel was on her own here, she seemed to say. “They're... they're kind of mutant.”

    ---

    There were no houses for a mile around the Sytec plant; it was a long walk from the nearest bus stop. As the city retreated from the scar of the disaster, nature had marched forwards again, trees and grass springing up around the shell of the factory and swallowing it up as if it had never been. Once, long ago, the whole of Unova had been a colossal forest. Long after civilisation collapsed, I thought with a shiver, it would be one again; the trees would stalk in, one by silent one, and devour the cities in a low rustle of leaves and roots.

    “Are you feeling OK?” Bianca asked me. There was a strange edge to her voice.

    “Uh... yeah,” I replied. “Just had a weird thought.” I stared at the forest, pressing up against the edge of the suburbs as if it was waiting for us to look away before striking. “It feels weird, even here.”

    Bianca nodded.

    “Yeah.”

    “I'm impressed,” said Halley. “Out of the five of us, you two are the least sensitive, and you managed to feel it even from here. That's pretty good going, guys.”

    I would've tried to think of some kind of scathing reply, but I didn't think I could come up with one right now. I felt... weird.

    “Should we put on the helmets?” I asked.

    “Fennel said not til we get there,” Bianca replied. “I don't think they'll do anything except look stupid if we put them on before.”

    I sighed.

    “All right,” I said, resigned, and stepped cautiously off the road and into the forest.

    There were signs along the way – not many, but enough that we didn't lose the trail. They said things like 'Sytec factory ˝ mile', 'Sytec factory this way', and, more ominously, 'Turn back – Danger of death'.

    “They sure know how to cheer a girl up, don't they?” remarked Halley, when we stumbled across the last one. “It's actually almost funny, if you think about it. To escape Teiresias, we need to flee to one of the few places in Unova that's probably more dangerous than wherever Teiresias is.”

    “That's not funny,” I told her.

    “I know. I'm trying to lighten the mood.”

    “It's not working,” Bianca said.

    “I know. But at least I'm f*cking trying.”

    No one answered her. We walked on in silence after that.

    It didn't take long. A tall chain-link fence, topped with rusting razor wire and collapsing in as many places as it still stood; warning signs in red and yellow and bold black drooped as if dying from the steel and partially obscured the crumbling network of concrete buildings beyond. Trees punctuated the asphalt of the car park beyond, punching through tarmac as if it were nothing. I saw creepers and bushes, flowers and brambles, much less dense than outside the fence but still present, and definitely in the process of taking over.

    And rising above them all, just visible through the crushing vegetation – the spire, the lonely tower that was the root of all the trouble.

    Sytec's last project.

    The towering, broken mind-flayer.

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