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Thread: Salvage

  1. #1
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    Rating: I ended up rating this 'fic "M" on FFN. As far as the rating for these forums goes, in later chapters there is definitely "frequent use of profanity", but aside from that, the material is very PG-15, with a fair amount of blood, violence, and death, and the odd sexual reference. I think I would call it PG-15 overall, but hopefully you can make your own call on whether it's something you'll be comfortable with given this paragraph's description of what's to come.

    Author's Notes: I began posting this story back in 2012, but in 2014 it underwent a major revision that affected many of the earlier chapters. Because I didn't want to start a new thread and repost all of the new chapters, I've simply replaced old content with the revised chapters. That means that comments may not relate to the content of the chapter they appear to be in response to, and you may find it easier to navigate the earlier chapters using the index below rather than reading straight down the thread. I also retained copies of the old chapters so you can see what they looked like if you're interested. For example, here's the original Chapter One.

        Spoiler:- Chapter Index:


        Spoiler:- Extras:


        Spoiler:- PM List:


    Chapter 1

    In the conversation they don't have, the child would apologize for letting him die. "Sorry I can't help you, but this is how it has to happen," it would say. "This is how it's supposed to be. Don't worry, this isn't the end. You can still be useful, even if you're dead. I'll take your name and I'll take your face and I'll take your pokémon (the one that is mine, the one that was stolen from me), and I'll go and make things right. That's what I'm doing. So you're helping me, anyway. It's not all bad."

    It can't say anything like that, of course. It can't say anything at all. Absol is very strict about interfering with Fate's victims. She's beside you now, breath misting white in the chill air of the cavern, watching the human. That's what she does: watches. She watches to be sure that Fate plays out the way it's supposed to, but she doesn't interfere.

    Usually the child doesn't mind much. The dying people are no one it knows or foggy memories at best. It has nothing to say to them. But this one it thinks it recalls. "I know you," it might say. "You used to make little origami sculptures for your desk, didn't you? I always liked those, especially the pokémon ones. They were pretty." He must have been an intern, then? Not someone who was around for very long. He's uncommonly old to still be training, but perhaps he decided to take a break after Cinnabar. Maybe he decided science wasn't for him.

    Because the child has other memories, too, memories from a different life, and they whisper, "I know you. I remember you. I remember your face as you wrote the numbers down and lined the needles up. I remember your fear, human, and your shame, but I remember too that it did not stay your hand."

    There wouldn't be time to say all that anyway, not even most of it. In movies it seems like there's always time for last words, but here it's all over quickly: the human slips from the edge of the path, down here where everything is glitter-slick from the spray of the underground river. He falls funny on one arm and it breaks, and he doesn't even cry out as it snaps, just grabs for an icy rock with the other.

    "You don't have to be scared," the child imagines itself telling him as he hangs there for a terrifying second, still thinking he might pull himself back up. "I died once. It wasn't so bad."

    His fingers find no purchase on the ice, and the incline keeps him sliding. His hand goes next to the pokéballs on his belt, but it's too late, too late. The rushing river grabs at his legs, pulls him down and under, and in no time at all he's gone.

    Absol goes forward, thick claws splayed wide to steady herself on the ice. She paces at the edge of the river. The child imagines the human being swept along by the rushing current, slammed against submerged boulders and carried over hidden waterfalls. The river will take him to the very depths of the cave, where stories say Articuno's nest resides, delicate spires of ice and cast-off feathers among the rocks. The human will never see it, though. He'll be much too dead.

    Absol stops her pacing, turns back to the child and nods. It scrambles out from behind the boulder and joins her at the water's edge, peering into the dark, rushing flow. Its shadow stretches out over the water, rippled and frayed by the turbulent surface. There are lights behind it, illuminating the slushy path where it's safe for trainers to walk. Where the child's going, there will be no light at all, and only the bravest humans tread.

    The child sits perched on the edge a moment longer, readying scale and gill and webbing. "I'll meet you back at the house," says Absol, and it nods, not really paying attention. Absol probably likes it down here, where it's deathly cold and the shadows lie close at hand. She might stay a while, vacationing, but the child still has work to do. It hesitates a moment, watching how the water froths around the jag of a half-submerged rock, then throws itself in.

    Even prepared for the shock, even insulated against the water's bite, the child still feels the cold like a hammer blow. Its gasp pulls in a mouthful of water, but it just goes sliding back out over the child's gills like a deep and icy breath. The child lets the current carry it along, clicking and squeaking to conjure a radar map of the riverbed. It makes a game of dodging rocks at the last possible moment, twisting away with a kick of webbed feet. Then the riverbed drops away and it's falling, flailing at air and spray with a whoop of delight. It hits a couple rocks on the way down, jarred but not broken, its scales armor against cutting edges, and plunges back into the river with a thundering splash, drifting down until the current grabs it again and pulls it along.

    Down and down, around tight bends and over surging rapids, down more falls into the heart of the caverns. The child rolls and tumbles along until the current slows and another drop brings it to the final basin, where the river stops and water seeps out through hidden cracks and fissures. The child strokes downwards in the pitch dark, ignoring translucent swimming things, ghostly in its echo-sense, and a few pokémon, wary, staying out of its way. There at the bottom it finds the corpse.

    The child grabs the human and kicks back to the surface, eyes opening to stare at nothing in the deep-dark. There's a shelf of rock up against one wall, it remembers, and it kicks its way over blind until it bumps up against the lip of rock.

    There's barely enough room for it to perch out of the water, and it hunches on the edge like a gargoyle, snorting the last of the water out of its nose as its gills close up. The corpse lolls half out of the water, broken arm tangled in the straps of its backpack. The child ignores the bag for now, and the clothes, and even the pokéballs, the real prize. Greedy with anticipation, it fishes the trainer's pokédex out of his pocket, working by feel. It flips the machine open and squints into sudden LED brilliance.

    The child ignores cold and cramping muscles as it stares at the screen, scrolling through menus, flipping through page on page of data. It learns as much about the trainer's life as it can from the pokédex's records, then snaps the device shut again and in the darkness changes. The child becomes someone else and, crouching there in another's skin, it tells itself the story of who it is now:

    You are Nicholas Garrett. Around eight years ago you were interning at the lab on Cinnabar Island--maybe. Something to do with the lab, or you wouldn't be here now.

    Four years ago you began your journey. You're a slow trainer, but a thorough one: four years, five badges. You have a charizard, your starter, nidoqueen, primeape, rhydon, and several others of little consequence.

    Today you came to the Seafoam Islands. Why, you don't know--looking for a seel, maybe, or just out for an adventure, maybe seeking the legendary Articuno. Whatever you were seeking will have to go unfound.

    Because you died down here, Nicholas Garrett, in the darkness and the deep. You were twenty-six years old.

    What do you do now?
    Last edited by Negrek; 12th May 2015 at 9:23 AM. Reason: let there be a rating change dun dun dun

  2. #2
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    You come back, that's what.
    Pretty nice beginning for what I hope to be an interesting fic. Good spelling, description, etc. Interesting style here with reader's point of view. I like it.
    One small nitpick: it was a bit too short for me. Keep writing!

    Grav
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  3. #3
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    Hurry!
    Increase length, or change it to a prolouge fore a mod closes this.

    This has potential.

    F-word is R as i've heard.
    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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    I NEED A BETA READER!
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  4. #4
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    As said in the other thread, Rotomknight, too short (ie < 2 pages) can be fine as long as the story itself is written well, etc (and that other story was also over 2 pages). And that's the case here, without a doubt. The rules do state we allow fics that are properly written to be shorter, but they do have to be of decent quality. (The rule is there because in the majority of cases chapters that fall short of two pages are not well written for one reason or another too).

    As for the f-word...I don't recall seeing it in the story, but:
    R: This is the highest allowed rating on the forums and must be approved by a Moderator for the fic to be posted. Will include themes intended for adults, more graphic violence, frequent use of profanity, implied sexuality/sex, drug/alcohol use and so on. R generally (but not necessarily) has more and harsher language. Detailed violence may be present, but never detailed sex.
    So one use of it is not deserving of the R rating by any means. Given the opening description PG-13 does sound fine I suppose, maybe at most PG-15 (hard to say on other themes that haven't yet featured, so).

    At any rate, please don't minimod but just report the thread instead. Let us mods see if a thread is actually breaking any rules as telling people stuff that might not be correct doesn't end up being helpful.



    Anyways, I'll agree that the beginning is nice, Negrek. Quite intrigued by the small child there (who was also referred to as 'it' which seemed a nice touch in itself) picking up Pokedex memory files or the like there and it's an interesting way to introduce that character as well. Your description matched the events rather well and set up the atmosphere and mood effectively. Now to see how this story actually continues! It's a neat setup but I can't say I can tell which direction this is going yet (not a complaint, just an observation).

    I don't have much comments beyond that to offer I'm afraid (and I ought to be studying anyways. Whoops). However:
    When you couldn't get a hold and the water was reaching for your waist, you grabbed for your pokéballs, fumbling with cold-numbed fingers, but then they went under and then you went under, and the river pulled you in and down.
    'cold-numbed fingers' sounded a bit...weird? to me? Idk if it'd be an idea to consider rewording it or not as it isn't something I disliked, but it did sound a bit weird to me when I read it.
    Today you were exploring the Seafoam Islands. Who knows why you'd stopped there? Perhaps you'd been on your way to Cinnabar, ready to chase that seventh badge, and headed over on a whim. Perhaps you were remembering the stories, the ones that said Articuno's icy nest lay somewhere in the bowels of the caves. Probably you hadn't been planning your journey there, or you would have put on some heavier clothing. But ultimately, why you were there, you don't know. All that's sure is what came after.
    You were in deep, down where the currents rage and everything is slick and glittering with the constant churning spray. There wasn't much cave left, and maybe you were getting ready to turn back. You turned, anyway, and were starting to climb up, when you slipped.
    And here I'd suggest an extra line of separation between the two paragraphs. Yay minor formatting comments. =p

    Good luck with this fic, Negrek. If past stories/etc are an indicator (and I think so) this'll be worth keeping an eye on methinks. ~

    A parody of the Pokemon Colosseum game, full of pastries and Miror B.
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  5. #5
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    Wow, it's going to be tough to get used to posting here again. My kingdom for a multiquote button!

    Grav

    Glad you liked the chapter. Yes, this ended up being much shorter than I expected... more like a teaser than an actual chapter, unfortunately. The earlier chapters are on the short side (albeit not *this* short), but things get more normal-sized soon enough.

    Rotomknight

    Thanks for your concern. I actually misremembered the minimum length as being one page, but I guess it's okay nonetheless.

    bobandbill

    Given the opening description PG-13 does sound fine I suppose, maybe at most PG-15 (hard to say on other themes that haven't yet featured, so).
    Ah, right, I completely forgot that these forums put a rating between PG-13 and R. PG-15 sounds like the better choice, thanks.

    'cold-numbed fingers' sounded a bit...weird? to me? Idk if it'd be an idea to consider rewording it or not as it isn't something I disliked, but it did sound a bit weird to me when I read it.
    Ah, well... that little descriptor was actually one of my favorites in this chapter, so I'm afraid it stays. :P

    And here I'd suggest an extra line of separation between the two paragraphs. Yay minor formatting comments. =p
    Ugh, yes. Manually reinserting line breaks is no fun. Fixed that.

    Nice to hear you found the opening intriguing rather than just confusing. We'll see if that keeps up, since the narrative certainly takes its time revealing what's up. Thanks as always for a lovely review!

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    I feel sorry for Nicholas. He had so much potential; he seemed to be a good trainer. Just one slip up and it's all over forever.
    † I am a Christian and proud of it! Copy and paste this into your sig if you are too.†

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    This is really intriguing! I wonder who the child is.. Its weird how the child keeps a collection of souls... Its a bit odd for a child. Note how I said child 3 times :P
    Vanilluxe!

    Vanilluxe is not my favorite pokemon, I have chosen it for the winter! My favorite pokemon would either be... Grumpig or Zangoose.

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    This chapter changed substantially during revision. If you want to read the original chapter, you can find it here.

    Chapter 2

    The first thing you do is stop by home. A moment's concentration takes you from cold, dark depths to the warmth of your foyer. Even the dim, leaf-edged light is too much for your eyes after the total darkness of the cave, and you open them slowly, blinking away tears.

    That gives Rats enough time to hide whatever she was chewing on, so when you turn to her it looks like she's just relaxing in her nest, half burrowed under shredded pieces of newspaper and drifts of insulation. "Uh, hey, Boss. Back early, aren't you?"

    "It was easier than I expected," you say. Not like last time. You were smart, this time. You were ready to die. "Come on. I need you to help me with Titan." There will be time to scold her about dismantling furniture later. "Is Absol back?"

    "Dunno." Rats is out of her nest in a great rustling of detritus. "I didn't hear her, but you know how she is." She stands picking scraps of paper out of her fur while you head deeper into the house. You glance at the couch in passing, but Absol isn't there, just the impression in the cushions where she usually lies.

    "So. Titan, huh?" Rats asks, waddling after you on her hind legs and grooming her whiskers as she goes.

    "Yes." You toss her the pokéball and stop at your desk, grabbing your pokédex and flipping it over. You have the back hatch open in a practiced instant and exchange the data card inside for the one you've been clenching in your palm, warm now from the heat of your body. You left Nicholas Garret's pokédex in the cavern, as empty and cold as his corpse. Its soul is yours now, as is everything else that once belonged to him.

    "Looks rounder than I remember," Rats says, examining the pokéball between her claws.

    "That's just his pokéball, Rats," you say, giving her an incredulous look while the pokédex boots up. You relax when the screen comes to life with your information. It's best for it to be official, to be somewhere it won't get lost, in case you need it. It can be hard to remember who you are, sometimes. You haven't been Nicholas Garret long enough to get the details right.

    "Joke, Boss," Rats says with a sigh. "Looks like it's the same old pokéball, anyway. Talk about your years of service, huh?"

    You dig around for her own ball, just in case, and add it to your belt. Nicholas Garret's pokéballs you pull off and dump in the bottom drawer, making a mental note to release them all later.

    "So, should I?" Rats asks, making as if to throw the ball.

    "No. Come on." You need to get outside in case something goes wrong. You don't want anything flammable around. Not that anything will go wrong. You've pored over your memories of Titan so many times they've gone dull and distorted, as much fantasy as fact. But if there's one thing you're sure of, it's that Titan's always been the most loyal of your team. He swore with you, just like the others. He'll come around, and it won't be long before you can finally set out to fulfill your promise together.

    You lead the way down to the beach, the jungle crowding at your back. Knot Island lies somewhere to the south, no more than a speck far off across the waves. You nod at Rats, and she lets the pokéball go. All of a sudden Titan's standing in front of you, stretching his wings up to the sky.

    You forget everything you were about to say. You knew he evolved, of course, but somehow you were still thinking of him as that gawky, earnest charmander. Now he towers over you, arching his long neck and letting out a lazy streamer of smoke like he was never knee-high and afraid of his own shadow.

    "I thought you said we were going to Cinnabar," the charizard says as he looks around, sniffing at the air. "Where are we?"

    "Titan," you say, and his head snaps around, his eyes fixing on you.

    "Who?"

    "We are not going to Cinnabar, Titan."

    "Why are you calling me that?" The charizard tucks his wings in close and stares at the beach around you like he's expecting someone else to be there. "I don't like that name."

    "Why not? It is your name. You remember, do you not?"

    The charizard snorts out a puff of smoke and returns his gaze to you, the whites starting to show around the edges of his eyes.

    "Are you talking to me? Did you just hear what I said? How do you know about that?"

    "Calm down, Titan. I am your trainer, am I not? I know this is surprising, but you have nothing to fear from me."

    It takes all your self control not to flinch when the charizard's head swings down, stopping just inches from your face. He snuffles and sniffs at you, then draws back in confusion. "You smell like Nick. You look like him, too. But you don't sound like him at all. Who are you? What happened to Nick?"

    "I am Nicholas Garret," you say. "I am no one else."

    "No you're not!" Titan rears up again, his tail flame leaping and dancing with his agitation. "Who are you? What happened to my trainer?"

    "I just told you. I am your trainer," you snap. Why doesn't he believe you? You are Nicholas Garret. You are his trainer. "Listen, Titan. Calm down. I will explain everything if you just--"

    "No! I'm not listening to anything you say until you tell me where my trainer is!"

    "Look, Boss, maybe you ought to--" Rats mutters, but you're starting to get annoyed.

    "Your trainer is dead. He drowned in the Seafoam caverns. Now I am him. It is as simple as that."

    Titan stares at you, and in the moment of quiet you can hear Rats groan. "He's dead? What are you talking about? Why do you look like him?"

    "I just told you. I look like him because I am him, now. He does not need his life anymore. So now I am your trainer."

    The charizard sits back on his haunches, puffing smoke again, each panting breath coming with the edge of a whine. He stares around with wide, white-rimmed eyes, his head snapping back and forth in abrupt jerks.

    "Titan. Titan, calm down," you say, taking a step forward with one hand raised. "It is time for your to start a new journey now. You remember the promise you made on Cinnabar Island, do you not?"

    "My trainer's dead," the charizard says tearfully, his too-short arms reaching up like he wants to hide his face behind them. "How? What happened? I don't understand."

    You let out an exasperated sigh. "He drowned. He slipped and fell in the river and then he drowned. Now, if you would just listen for a moment--"

    "How do you know?" The charizard thrusts his face into yours, so close you can smell the sulfurous gases on his breath. "Where's your proof? He can't be dead! You're lying!"

    "I am standing right here, am I not?" you snap. "I have your pokéball. I have Nicholas Garret's pokédex. Your trainer is dead, Titan. I was there to see it. And I am your trainer n--"

    "You were there?" The smoke Titan's blowing is blacker now, coming in suffocating clouds. "You saw it all, is that it? You did it, didn't you? You killed him! Murderer!"

    "I did not kill him," you say indignantly. "Why would I do that? It was his time to go. I did not have to do anything at all."

    "But you were there!" the charizard roars. "You said you were there, but you didn't do anything? You didn't even try to help?"

    "Well, of course I did not do anything. It was not my place to intervene."

    "Look, Boss, could you just just lay off for a second? Let me handle this."

    "I do not see why you think you can do anything," you say with a scowl, crossing your arms. "Titan is completely overreacting."

    Rats pushes past you, cautiously approaching the charizard. He watches her come, breathing heavily, white-hot drips of spittle falling to sizzle on the sand. "Titan, this is Rats," you say with a reproachful look at the raticate's back. "You remember her, do you not?"

    "That's right," Rats says, peering up at the charizard. "Been a long time, hasn't it, big g--whoah." Titan bends down so far his snout nearly presses up against Rats' face, staring at her in utmost suspicion. She starts backing up, then throws herself sideways as a gush of fire shoots from Titan's mouth.

    "Hey. Hey! Is that any way to treat an old friend?" the raticate grumbles, taking off as another flamethrower rushes her way. "What, don't you remember me, you stupid lizard?"

    "I don't know you," Titan says in a low, volcanic rumble, twisting around to keep the raticate in his line of sight. Rats dances from paw to paw, on guard for more fire. "You think I can tell the difference between all the raticate I've ever met? You all look the same, like big, hairy--big, hairy rats!"

    "Ooh, so that's how it is, huh? Well, how about this, Titan, would just any raticate remember that time you totally got beat up by that magikarp you'd--oof!" Titan's tail snaps around, catching Rats off guard and knocking her onto her side. The charizard comes at her with teeth and claws and flame, and Rats can do nothing but shriek disparaging comments about his parentage as she struggles to overcome him.

    Titan pins the raticate under one foot while he stares down at her, smoke streaming warningly from his nostrils. "I don't know why you're working with that thing, and I don't care! My trainer is dead, and it was watching. There's nothing you can say that will make that right!"

    Rats glows red, and Titan's foot lands heavily in the sand as she's pulled back to her pokéball. You frown down at it for a moment before clipping it back to your belt. Well that was a big help. Apparently long days lazing around on the island have let Rats fall out of shape.

    Then Titan's roar splits the air, and with a jolt you realize there's no one standing between him and you anymore. "Titan," you say slowly. "You would not attack your trainer, Titan."

    The charizard answers with flame instead of words, and you fall clear over backwards, a streamer of fire cutting through the air overhead. You grab for Titan's pokéball, then pull your hand back. No. Delaying this isn't going to help anything. Titan needs to learn to obey you, and the sooner the better.

    "Come on, Titan, let us just talk about this."

    "Talk? Talk?! My trainer's dead! And you were there! You know! Stop pretending!"

    "I am your trainer! I am not dead!" Another flamethrower sizzles through the air, but this time it washes up against a wall of energy, fire spreading inches from your face before dissipating into thin air.

    Titan lets out a snort of surprise as you get back to your feet. "Fine," you say as you nurse a ball of blue energy in one hand, water droplets running between your fingers and pattering to the ground. "I wanted to settle this like a human. But if you will not listen to me, we can settle this like pokémon instead."

    You toss the ball of energy upwards, and Titan's gaze follows it higher, higher, until it explodes in a burst of blue light. The beach turns dark and cool as sudden storm clouds block out the sun, and Titan flinches as one fat droplet splashes on his snout. Dark patches appear in the sand as more raindrops fall, and in seconds the island is in the grip of a full-on rainstorm.

    Titan tents his wings over his head and tucks his steaming tail flame tight against his chest. He peers at you with dark, suspicious eyes, but the rain's taken the edge off his fury. "What are you?"

    "I told you. I am your trainer. That is all that matters now." You shift a little on your feet, taking a more solid stance. You're twitching with the old battle restlessness, sizing Titan up without even thinking about it. You like a fight as much as any pokémon, after all. "Now are you going to listen to me, or do you still want to fight?"

    Titan lunges, claws rippling with blue dragon flames. The rain is making him sluggish, though, streaming off his scales and dampening his tail flame. His claws dig into your side, but you manage to catch him, wrapping your arms around his neck and pulling him to the ground.

    "Why won't you listen to me?" you ask, trying to hang on despite the thrashing. "Why do you not want to help me? I am your trainer. Do you not want to help your trainer?"

    "My trainer's dead!" he chokes, struggling to reach you with another dragon claw. "You're just someone who looks like him. You're not even a real person! What are you?"

    "I am Nicholas Garret! I am no one else!" you insist, feeling the blood from your wound mix with rain as it rolls down the inside of your shirt. Damn. You only just got these clothes.

    "You're not! You're not! Liar!" His voice is hoarse now, a choked scream that's more rattle than sound. You realize you might be hugging his throat a bit too tight. The thanks you get when you loosen your hold is a flamethrower that rushes past your head, setting your hair on fire and immolating the edge of your ear.

    You let go with a hiss of pain, landing hard in the wet sand and putting a hand up to the side of your head. "I am not lying," you insist through gritted teeth, and you're not, you're certainly not. You are Nicholas Garret now, or all that's left of him, anyway.

    Titan staggers to his feet, head rearing back and stubby arms reaching for his bruised throat. He takes a couple of deep, panting breaths, then sucks in one great gasp of air and brings his head down again, spitting a fireball straight at you.

    You only have a second to bring your arms up, crossing them in front of your face with palms out towards the charizard. You scream as the fire blast explodes into a great sheet of flame, your arms shaking as you try to keep them in place. Then Titan's the one screaming, his roars drowning you out as he tries to shield himself with a wing. A glittering barrier hangs in the air in front of you, brilliant streamers of light peeling away from its surface and arcing back towards the charizard, searing his scales and flashing raindrops into steam.

    The charizard falls to the ground, hiding his face behind his claws as scalding energy roars around him, rippling the sand in molten waves and letting off a hideous stink. You hold the mirror coat in place for a few seconds more, but at last the sheet of light cracks, then crumbles away to nothing as your arms flop down by your sides.

    After a couple of minutes you gather your strength and stagger over to where he Titan lies, falling to your knees in front of him. The charizard's breathing harsh and shallow, his eyes unfocused. His tail shudders in the hot muck, burning lower now, but not low enough to be dangerous.

    You reach down and lift the charizard's head, and his arms shudder as he tries to raise his body with it. You bring his face to eye level, close enough that a lick of flame would be enough to do you in, engulf your entire head in fire. You'll have to watch his eyes closely to know when to pull away.

    The charizard's scales are feverish to the touch; he's weak enough now that he can't control his inner fire, and it's starting to eat him up from the inside. He's powerful for the moment, but he won't be able to stand it for long. "What... are..." His voice is hardly more than a croak.

    "What do I have to do for you to accept me as your trainer?"

    "I don't... You're not my trainer. My trainer is dead."

    "Enough!" He flinches, something wary in his expression. His gaze is trying to slip away from yours, but you wrench his head around to keep his eyes on you. "What do I have to do?"

    "Can't... You can't make me."

    "I don't need to 'make' you. I'm your trainer. Stop trying to deny it." You don't even bother trying to speak human now. If Titan notices, he doesn't react.

    "But you're dead," he says, weak and plaintive.

    "That's what you wish, isn't it? You wish I was dead!" You're screaming now, and the charizard's wings flare open in shock, beating wildly as he tries to pull away from you. You see in the tensing of his muscles that the moment is now, and you push his head down even as fire starts to gush out around his teeth. The flamethrower is lost as you force the charizard's face into the sand, and he thrashes harder, gagging as a gasp of shock sucks the gritty stuff into his mouth. You wrench his head up again and stare into his tearing eyes.

    "Stop pretending! I know you remember. You promised the same as the rest of us. Someone has to save Mew. We failed last time, but we can't give up. I'm your trainer, Titan. I say we're going after her. Are you with me?"

    The charizard's eyes show white. "I can't."

    You let his head drop back to the ground, and he just leaves it lying there, the rain washing tears off his muzzle. While the charizard tries to control his sobbing, you try to control your temper, flexing fingers that long to turn to claws. You're glad you're human right now; it's hard enough to keep your head when you've been fighting, but as a pokémon, it's even harder. "What do I need to do?" you ask at last, and it even comes out sounding calm.

    "Please. I don't understand. Who are you?" You almost can't make him out for the hitching in his voice.

    You would sympathize if you weren't so frustrated. It took you years to figure things out. But Titan already has the facts: "I told you. I'm Nicholas Garret. I was someone else before. I could be someone else tomorrow. But right now I'm Nicholas Garret. What doesn't change is that I'm your trainer, and I need you to help me. What will it take for you to accept that?"

    Titan takes another one of those great breaths, but you don't bother preparing for an attack. He only chokes on it, turning it into a sob. "Please... You told me you would save her."

    You punch him in the snout as hard as you can, hard enough to shatter teeth. "You idiot. You know I can't do that without you." You push yourself to your feet, woozy and lightheaded, and stagger off towards home. Titan keeps his eyes on the ground, blood leaking from his mouth. It might be a while before he realizes you've left.

    It only takes a few seconds for the dragon claw wound to scab over and vanish, the hideous bubbling burns to fade from your skin, but you still feel gray and drained as you stumble up to the house. Too much excitement. Too much blood lost. Duskull emerges from under the porch as you trip up the steps, making grumbly noises of concern, but you wave him away. All you need now is sleep.

    --

    Hours later, when the child's resting in bed, it hears the door bang open and something large blunder inside. It smiles and clutches the sheets tighter around itself. It knew Titan wasn't in any real danger, not with how short the rainstorm was, but it's glad he managed to find his way here, where he will be safe.

    The kitchen table falls with an incredible crash, and the child imagines the soaked and muddy charizard slipping around on the tiles, searching for somewhere warm to curl up and dry off. That's fine. It doesn't mind the damage. It'll see the charizard in the morning, when it's feeling well enough to walk again. And then, at last, they can truly begin.
    Last edited by Negrek; 7th May 2015 at 6:08 AM. Reason: lots of little tweaks

  9. #9
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    Hmmmm... So Nicholas had a Pokemon the Child knew? Weird, I'd like to know the story behind that.


        Spoiler:- Just a Guess:
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    No worries, the story behind that will be unraveled fairly soon.

        Spoiler:

  11. #11
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    Hm. This guy who impersonates Nicholas is either a criminal or a salesman. Right ? Right?
    More childness. Weird child + Duskull + Pokeballs= scavenger?
    Eagerly awaitin chappie!
    Formerly Grav.
    Quite inactive, but still available. If you have a fanfic that no one wants to review, PM/VM me and I'll give you a hand.

  12. #12
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    This chapter changed substantially during revision. If you'd like to read the original version, you can find it here.
    Chapter 3

    Today you are Jade Winstead, and you are no one. You have no family or friends, and your fingerprints are the fingerprints of a dead child. Your face is modeled after one of your favorite television characters, and people are always stopping you on the street, mistaking you for her. It's more attention than you'd like, but the face you built from scratch was worse.

    This morning you're in one of your favorite paper-reading spots, by the window of the Fuchsia pokémon center with a cup of center coffee close to hand. It's terrible coffee, gritty and bitter as anything, but it's an essential part of the scene.

    The scene is very important. It also includes Togetic, who sits on the table just beyond reach, humming stickily to herself as she devours a melty lemon slush-on-a-stick from one of the street vendors outside, and Titan, fidgeting with the gooey remnants of his cone and watching you from the corner of his eye. And there's the most important part of all, the newspaper spread open in front of you.

    You're about halfway done reading it, and your mind is starting to wander. You already checked all the good bits--the funnies, the training section, and, of course, the obituaries. You even choked down most of the boring stuff, the news-news about people who do things other than train pokémon, like you have any reason to care about them.

    Absol is very insistent that you read the whole paper, yes, the whole thing, regularly. It's important, she says, to understand what's going on in the world around you. You never know what you'll find out if you keep your eyes open.

    You pointed out that she doesn't read the paper. "Pokémon and humans have different ways of learning things," she said without batting an eye. "I know what I need to know." You pointed out that you're just as much pokémon as you are human. "Yes. So you need to do both." What exactly she meant by that, she couldn't explain.

    Whatever her way of learning things is, you bet it's a whole lot more fun than newspapers. But newspapers have ads, at least, so it's not all bad.

    So this is your scene: you have your coffee and your pokémon, your newspaper and your name, and you have the sunlight, too, pouring in through the glass. You imagine it like you're a character in a movie, a real adult human living her life. And if you turn your head just a little, look out the window beside you, you can watch a parade of other normal humans going past on the street outside.

    You'd be safer if you took your paper at home, made like a pokémon and holed up in some secluded place, but there's some kind of herd instinct buried down deep in your body, and you like to be out here, where you can see and be seen by humans. You aren't one of them anymore, and you can't really belong to their circle of being, but you can sit at its edge and watch, and to some extent, pretend.

    You watch the adults, striding along on unknown errands, ferrying children through the crowd: is that what you should be like now, settling into a life under your own power, caring about all those names in the newspaper, talking about money and jobs and sex the way they do on television? You watch the children: is that really how you used to be, wide-eyed at the sight of balloons and ice cream stalls, chasing after trainers and begging to see their pokémon?

    You wonder. This is what you come to Fuchsia to do: read the paper, enjoy the tropical weather, and consider what might have been. That's enough for you. Sometimes the city gives you something more, though. Sometimes it offers you a surprise.

    The doors to the center slide open and two humans you recognize walk through. One is short, dumpy, tanned, the other tall but stooped, pale and sunken-eyed and uncomfortable in his rumpled suit. A porygon-Z drifts along behind, limbs and head in constant, subtle motion, never all pointing in the same direction at once. The humans are Officer Feldhorn, chief of the Fuchsia City police, and Leonard Kerrigan, systems administrator of the Kanto Pokémon League network.

    They approach the desk, Leonard setting a slender laptop on the counter, discussing something with the nurse. Officer Feldhorn's gaze wanders the room while he sips from the thermos that accompanies him everywhere.

    You rap on the table in front of you, and Duskull drifts up out of the wood, just enough that his eye glows out at you. You nod towards the desk, and the red light swivels to look. Duskull gurgles quietly in acknowledgment, then sinks back out of view, off to spy on Leonard.

    You don't expect much. Duskull finds human conversations hard to follow and dull besides. His reporting often leaves something to be desired, but you'll take what you can get.

    Even with your less-than-reliable spy, you've compiled quite a bit about Leonard. He's a special case, someone you care about even though he was never a part of the lab. You know him better than any other human, though you've never exactly been introduced. Above all, you know one thing.

    Leonard has a mission, just like you. He never expected it, in the same way he hadn't expected the job, either. Back when he was an arrogant teenager and they'd given him a choice: prison until he was old enough to be worrying about his prostate, or a second chance defending the systems he'd spent most of his adolescence attacking. "Take it, kid," they'd said. "It's the best offer you're going to get, and who knows? Maybe you'll even make something of yourself."

    He was fine with the job. It was frustrating sometimes, but interesting enough. He's still got it, but only because he needs it to pursue his mission. What joy there was in it has been forgotten. Once, he had a family: a wife and a son. Now both of them are gone, one given up and one taken away. Once, he had friends. Now he only has people who look on him with pity and whose phone calls he ignores. Soon, he will not have these either. But even then, he will still have his mission.

    Leonard stands at the nerve center of the League's great digital brain, watching data flow in from all its sensory organs, the pokédexes every trainer must carry to be considered legal. The pokédex observes everything, records everything, surely knows more than the trainer herself about everything that has happened on her journey: every item purchased; every trainer battled, and the outcome of those battles; every visit to a pokémon center. It's Leonard's job to guard the ever-widening river of information, to see that it flows freely in the wires, to make sure that the system is never undermined.

    That means he's caretaker, too, of all the League's lost souls, all the humans perished in pursuit of their dreams. Their records are marked deceased but not deleted, slumbering in perpetuity in some faceless storage array. Once, Leonard didn't think much of them. But then, one day, something happened. His son became one of the ghosts. And then, his son refused to stay dead. And then Leonard found he had a mission.

    It was a mistake. You were so young, so careless; you had no idea what you were doing. Certainly you had no idea who Leonard Kerrigan was, or why he should matter to you at all. You screwed up, and now he's on to you, in his hopeless, blundering way. You don't know what he thinks is really going on, since he never speaks about it in public and there's not much you can glean from these infrequent sightings. All you know is he can't possibly be right or, well, you'd have been found out already.

    For Leonard has a mission, and that mission is to find you. He will discover what happened to his son and, you have no doubt, he will make those responsible pay. He is no small man in Kanto, Leonard Kerrigan, not even after his fall from grace. And he is your enemy.

    You watch him now, taking in the slump of his shoulders, the shuffle in his walk as he leaves the desk and selects one of the center PC's, one you used earlier when you were Nicholas Garret. You see gray in his hair and lines on his face. He's growing old, is Leonard Kerrigan. He's collapsing in on himself like a rotting piece of fruit, and you savor every moment of his demise. What would he do if he knew the one he chased was sitting not fifty feet away, watching his every move?

    "Hello there, Jade! Returning to the scene of the crime, are we?"

    You start at the sound of the voice, tearing your eyes off Leonard and only just remembering not to bare your teeth. "No, Officer Feldhorn. I did not know there was a crime."

    "Just a figure of speech," the man says cheerfully, and you glower inwardly over the misunderstanding. "Seems like we're always running into each other when I'm checking something out at the Center."

    You know from TV that there are only two kinds of cops: hard-bitten, driven servants of justice who will stop at nothing to put criminals behind bars and those whose greatest exertions are in pursuit of donuts. There's no doubt in your mind which camp Officer Feldhorn falls into. Under the sharp bitterness of the coffee in his thermos, you can smell custard and powdered sugar about his person. "It is a small world," you hazard.

    "That it is," he says, and you relax. Maybe this conversation won't be a total loss after all. "How's life with you, then? I see your togetic's doing well."

    Togetic chirps assent, then goes back to grooming herself. The popsicle stick lies abandoned on the table in front of her. "It is going well. I got my charizard back a couple of weeks ago. Another trainer had him for a while."

    "Oh, so this one's yours, is he?" Officer Feldhorn looks up at Titan. "He's a big fella."

    "Yes. He is very strong." You beam up at Titan, who flashes you a nervous half-smile before turning his attention back to the human.

    That's enough small talk. What you really want to know is: "Is anything new in the city?"

    "Oh, Fuchsia's Fuchsia, you know? It's pretty quiet. Last week some kids tried to break into the Safari Zone and bag a few dratini, but that's about it."

    "Well. That is good. What brings you here today, then? You have that man with you, whatever his name was." You realize you're actually smiling over how cunning your question was and hastily rearrange your expression to something neutral. Subtlety.

    Officer Feldhorn looks over at Leonard, who's going through his ritual at the computer station: a few mysterious incantations on the keyboard, then plug a cable from his laptop into the terminal. Keys, keys, keys, then out with the cable, pack everything away. You know he has underlings who could be doing this for him; you know he can probably retrieve everything he wants remotely. But, alas, he has a mission. He has to be sure. He has to be here, to do it himself.

    "Oh, yes." Officer Feldhorn frowns, which makes him look like a morose granbull; it's all you can do not to laugh. "It's the same old story. Glitches in the computer system, Leo over there getting all worked up about them and insisting we go chasing off after the undead--you haven't seen the dead walking recently, have you?"

    "I have seen a couple of ghost pokémon."

    "Is that so? Well, you'd better keep an eye on them for me, then." Leonard's left the computer and is standing in the middle of the lobby, staring pointedly at the two of you. Officer Feldhorn half turns and catches sight of him, grimaces. "Ah, but it looks like I'm about to be called away. Good to see you, Jade," he says.

    "Later," you say, unable to resist showing off a little of your hip slang. You watch him go over and meet Leonard. They converse a bit, one man relaxed and jocular, the other tight as piano-wire, all indignation at not being taken seriously. Then they leave, and you can't help grinning to yourself as the Center doors slide shut behind them.

    You like Officer Feldhorn. It's nice to have someone human to chat with. It's good practice, talking with someone like him, someone harmless. It doesn't really matter if you slip up. You don't make so many mistakes anymore, though. These days, you're a downright sterling conversationalist.

    Duskull returns and whispers what he heard. Leonard was talking about a computer upgrade, replacing the old PC stations. No real news, then. Still no progress learning Leonard's login information, either, and you can tell by the tone of Duskull's voice that he wasn't really trying. You let it go. You're feeling too cheerful to let a little thing like that spoil your mood.

    Things are coming to a head now. Only two of your pokémon are left, and you know Leonard has one. Once you find the other, Absol can't object to you confronting him directly. She even said it: wait, and if it has not come back to you by the time you find the others, then do what you must do. You look forward to it. There's nothing and no one that can stand between you and your mission, and Leonard Kerrigan's been a thorn in your side for too long. You'll take pleasure in finally removing him.

    You take a sip of your coffee, and your smug grin turns to a grimace. If it it's bad hot, it's unspeakable cold. Across the table from you, Togetic giggles at your expression, and Titan joins in once he sees you aren't mad. They're both done with their snacks, and Togetic's all cleaned up, too. You glance out the window, past the rows of houses and down the slope of the hill to the beach. The waves sparkle invitingly in the sunlight. You look down at your unfinished paper, then back out at the surf and sand.

    Why not? Today is a good day. Everything is going right. What better time to celebrate?

    Togetic takes to the air, trilling excitement as you start folding your paper and gathering your things. You still have plenty of Nicholas Garret's money left. You can go enjoy the beach a while, then head up to Celadon and do some shopping on Nicholas Garret's dime. Maybe you can find some proper hardwood for Rats to chew, pick up some treats for the rest while you're out. Ooh, and you could look for some of those limited-edition Transformozord sneakers you saw an ad for the other day...
    Last edited by Negrek; 3rd May 2015 at 5:59 AM. Reason: wtf period >>

  13. #13
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    A new chapter!
    Nothing is revealed, but your still setting the scene, establishing characters, etc. I'm more curious than ever.

    Question: Are the "child" and "you" different characters?

    P.S. You missed a period on the last line.
    † I am a Christian and proud of it! Copy and paste this into your sig if you are too.†

  14. #14
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    Yes, I'm afraid this 'fic starts out a bit slow, since the main character and its situation takes a bit of getting used to. The story will settle down and start to click along in three or four chapters or so.

    Question: Are the "child" and "you" different characters?
    Nope!

    And fixed the period. <<

    Thanks for reviewing!

  15. #15
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    It's about time I reviewed this.

    The pieces of the concept are starting to come together now, and it's looking interesting. I hesitate to make a guess at exactly what the main character is - I'm leaning towards the "just as much Pokémon as human" comment simply meaning it's a Pokémon that has been living as a human for years, but other lines seem to indicate it's literally something in between the two, whatever that might mean. Either way, it is delightfully inhuman; I really enjoy how much of its ideas about the world come from TV, the meticulous awkwardness of its dialogue and its own conviction that it's completely mastered human conversation. The Absol's role is curious, as well; she seems to be largely behind what the main character is doing, but currently we have no idea what she might be getting out of it. I can't help but suspect she's manipulating it for her own purposes.

    I'm not sure how literally to take the narrator's comments about the League storing the souls of dead trainers. In the first scene of the story, it refers to the Pokédex cards as "souls", but seems to be using them simply to look up the information needed to impersonate the trainer in the Pokédex, and chapter three, while continuing the language of ghosts and souls, makes it clear that the Pokédex collects explicit information that should be quite sufficient to give the narrator all the information it needs. It makes sense that you could call that kind of information, all stored on a neat little card, a "soul" if you regard people as being the sum of their experiences in life. On the other hand, some of that spiritual language does make me wonder - mostly the bits tying it into Leonard Kerrigan's job (calling him a "grave keeper", saying taking care of the League's lost souls is "part of his job too", as if he's doing something special to take care of the "souls" when simple information shouldn't need special upkeep, and talking about the League doing "a fair trade in ghosts"). I don't know how ambiguous you meant this to be; I think you're just talking about the information but it's hard to feel confident even on a very close reading.

    Also, I'm a little confused on whether the narrator actually steals the bodies of the children or not. On the one hand, the first scene has it seemingly being inside the actual dead body of Nicholas Garret, what with the chill of the caverns still clinging to it and slush under its fingernails and icicles in its hair - but with how later it talks about how it can pretend to be him until his body is found, and how it could create Jade's face from a television character, it seems it leaves the bodies behind. Maybe it was just so cold and with the slush under the fingernails and all that after going down to retrieve the body, I guess, but the amount of attention you paid to the ice in the hair and all sounded like you were describing the actual drowned icy body of the kid. And if it isn't using the bodies themselves and has to find a new dead kid every time the body of the current one is found, why isn't it at least hiding the bodies so that they won't be found?

    The bit about Titan is interesting. I'm assuming the main character's injuries at the end of chapter two are from its attempt to talk to Titan, which implies that Titan is Nicholas's Charizard - going from the team description in chapter one, neither a Primeape nor a Nidqueen would inflict burns and slashes, and if the main character was planning to keep Titan and apparently already knew him, he could hardly have been one of the "several more of little consequence" the narrator describes. But that way it doesn't seem to make any sense at all that Nicholas was his second trainer, as the narrator seems to be claiming - if he was given to Nicholas as a starter, he can hardly have been trained already. The entire thing about how the main character and Titan knew each other is intriguing - if Titan just belonged to one of the previous trainers whose identity the main character has assumed, then why does the main character seem so concerned with him specifically even though he usually just lets the Pokémon rot on the PC? Did the main character have a real human identity, and if so, why is it so inhuman in thinking and how is it changing its form? There are plenty of interesting questions to ponder here.


    Some comments on individual bits:

    Today you were exploring the Seafoam Islands. Who knows why you'd stopped there? Perhaps you'd been on your way to Cinnabar, ready to chase that seventh badge, and headed over on a whim. Perhaps you were remembering the stories, the ones that said Articuno's icy nest lay somewhere in the bowels of the caves.
    Here, and in some other places later, the tenses feel a bit weird. Instinctively, at least, "Who knows why you'd stopped there?" just seems off - with "Who knows" there, you're speaking about the past from the present timeframe, so even though it's a past that comes before the past in the previous sentence, just the simple past tense feels more natural than the past perfect. If the past perfect is truly more correct here, on the other hand, then "Perhaps you were remembering the stories..." should also be in the past perfect; it's completely analogous to the previous sentences speculating on why Nicholas went to Seafoam.

    You head west towards Cycling road, visions of spectacular purchases dancing in your head.
    Presumably "Cycling Road" should have both words capitalized, since they're both part of the name.

    You've already checked all the good bits—the funnies, the training section, and, of course, the obituaries.
    Why the obituaries, though? It's hardly a place to look for new identities, since if there's an obituary they already know that trainer is dead, and its current identity is Jade, one that it made up based on a TV character, so it doesn't have to be keeping an eye out for whether the body's been found. Unless it just switched to Jade for today for the hell of it without having retired Nicholas Garret.

    Absol is very insistent that you read the whole paper, yes, the whole thing, regularly. It is important, she says, to understand what is going on in the world around you. You never know what you're going to find out if you keep your eyes open. You'd pointed out that she didn't read the paper. “Pokémon and humans have different ways of learning things,” she'd said, not even batting an eye. “I know what I need to know.” You had pointed out that you were just as much pokémon as you were human. “Yes. So you need to do both.” What exactly she'd meant by that, she couldn't explain.
    Tenses feel wonky again; you talk about what Absol says in general and then you're suddenly using the past perfect to recount the narrator's response, without there being any intermediate past in the picture.

    Whatever her way of learning things was, you bet it was a whole lot more fun than newspapers. But at least your newspapers had ads, so it wasn't all bad.
    This bit just seems to be randomly in past tense when as far as I can tell it's regular narration that should be in the present.

    You watch the children—is that how you were, once, looking around with eyes joyful at the sight of ice cream vendors, the colorful tableau of the beach? Would you have been clutching a parental hand or running with a gaggle of young ruffians, loud and rude and thoroughly enjoying your age?
    I have no idea what to make of this. Again, the narrator is in a made-up body, not assuming the identity of a real kid whose past it could wonder about - so what's going on here? It can hardly be talking about its real human past, if it has one, since this seems to be pure speculation.

    Leonard has a calling. He wasn't expecting it. He hadn't been expecting the job, either, back when he was a grubby, arrogant teenager and they'd given him the choice: prison until he was old enough to be worrying about his prostate, or a second chance defending the borders he'd spent most of his adolescence attacking.
    I was initially just thrown off by this whole bit. You say repeatedly that he has a calling, only to then go on about the job without any indication of how the job relates to the calling until you actually reveal the calling. It just feels frustrating and confusing - I get what you were going for, with building up what he does and finally saying that his calling is to find the narrator, but I don't think it works. I'd suggest maybe saying he has a calling once, then describing his job just as his job, and then finally revealing what his calling is, without having been going vaguely on about the calling in every other sentence up until that point.

    But then, one day, something happened. His son became one of the ghosts. And then, his son refused to stay dead.
    But if he can tell when trainers are dead before the narrator starts impersonating them, why didn't he find out earlier? If the League knows the moment a trainer dies, the whole being able to impersonate them until the body is found shouldn't work at all - impersonating the son of somebody important shouldn't be required to set off alarms. Unless I'm way confused on what it's doing.

    It had been a mistake. You were so young, then, so careless; you had no idea what you were doing. Certainly you had no idea who Leonard Kerrigan was, or why he should matter to you at all. But you'd screwed up, and now he was on to you, in his hopeless, blundering way. You didn't really know what he thought was going on, since he never spoke of it to the public, and you could glean little information from these infrequent sightings. All you knew was that he couldn't possibly be right or, well, you would have been found out already.
    This seems too past-y, yet again - presumably the narrator doesn't know what Leonard thinks is going on right now, as opposed to only having not known that at the time that Leonard discovered it.

    You watch him now, see the slump in his shoulders, the shuffle in his walk as he leaves the desk and selects one of the center PC's, the one you'd used earlier, when you were Nicholas Garret.
    Again - I can't see an intermediate past for that "the one you'd used earlier".

    “Well. That's good. What brings you here today, then? You've brought that man with you again, whatever his name was.” You revel in your own cunning and subtlety.
    Heh. I love how really unsubtle this is and how completely oblivious the narrator is.

    a few myterious incantations on the keyboard
    Typo - should be "mysterious".

    “It's the same old story. Glitches in the computer system, Leo over there getting all worked up about them and insisting we go off on some wild goose chase after the undead—you haven't seen the dead walking recently, have you?”

    “I've seen a couple of ghost pokémon.”

    “Is that so? Well, you'd better keep an eye on them for me, then. ”
    There's an extra space before the closing quote there in the last line, but I'm quoting because again, the weird awkwardness of the narrator's answer is really lovely.

    You watch him go over and meet Leonard, the brief conversation—one man relaxed and jocular, the other tight as piano-wire, all indignation and irritation over not being taken seriously.
    I had to read this sentence a couple of times to parse it correctly - "the brief conversation" initially seems to just be dangling there until you realize that it goes with "You watch".

    Things are coming to a head now. There's only two of them left, and Leonard has one. Once you've found the other, Absol cannot object to your confronting him directly. She even said it—wait, and if it has not come back to you by the time you find the others, then you must do what you must do.
    Hm. I have a hunch that "they" are the Pokémon, like Titan, that the main character is searching for, whatever its past with them actually is.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to more and some answers to all these questions. Keep it up.

    Chapter 65: Three Dragons
    The story of an ordinary boy on an impossible quest in a world that isn't as black and white as he always thought it was.
    (rough draft of the remaining chapters finished for NaNoWriMo; to be edited and posted)

    Morphic
    (completed, plus silly extras)
    A few scientists get drunk and start fiddling with gene splicing. Ten years later, they're taking care of eight half-Pokémon kids, each freakier than the next, while a religious fanatic plots to murder them all.

    Lengthy fanfiction reviewing guide / A more condensed version
    Read and I will be very happy for a large number of reasons.

  16. #16
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    Aaa, thank you for the wonderful review! I have the next chapter ready to go, but since my reply here is kind of huge-o-normous, I think it's going to have to go into its own post so that people who just want to read the chapter can scroll past it more easily.

    I'm not sure how literally to take the narrator's comments about the League storing the souls of dead trainers.
    Not literally at all, and unfortunately that wasn't supposed to be unclear. The narrator has a very mystical view of the pokédex and the data it stores, so it really does consider its data cards its "little group of souls," or whatever. But all the League is archiving is data about people and pokémon. The bit about "doing a fair trade in ghosts" was about the pokémon storage system specifically, and was just a little pun of sorts--it does in fact carry out a lot of transactions involving ghost-type pokémon. I considered taking that comment out for clarity, but I was feeling a bit too pleased with my own cleverness and left it in instead. Leonard's job doesn't involve any special upkeep on accounts that belong to people that have become deceased, but he's supposed to be making sure that no one is tampering with or exploiting them, same as with any other account, and recently he's been spending a lot more time obsessing over the fact that he seems to not be doing a very good job of that than is normal for someone with his job--hence calling him a "grave keeper." I'll remove the bit about the pokémon storage system and perhaps it will help? Most of the rest is just the narrator being a bit metaphorical over how it views pretty mundane user accounts and tracking info; it doesn't understand computers at all, and as far as it's concerned its pokédex is essentially a magic box.

    Also, I'm a little confused on whether the narrator actually steals the bodies of the children or not.
    I think you'll find this gets cleared up in this chapter, or at least is very strongly hinted at; if not, it's more or less stated outright in the next. But if you'd rather (plus a little bit about the ice and slush thing):

        Spoiler:


    Why the obituaries, though?
    That bit is just gentle humor about the child's morbid interests; just something that made me smile as I wrote it. Guess it didn't really work out. The child is way more interested in dead people, by and large, than in people who are actually alive and doing stuff. It enjoys reading the little obituary blurbs about their lives and how they died. So the training section, the comics, and the obituaries (and the ads) are just the parts of the paper it finds most interesting/entertaining, nothing more to it than that. Maybe leaving off the "of course" at the end of the sentence would help.

    I have no idea what to make of this. Again, the narrator is in a made-up body, not assuming the identity of a real kid whose past it could wonder about - so what's going on here? It can hardly be talking about its real human past, if it has one, since this seems to be pure speculation.
    I think this is fine in light of the narrator's nature, but maybe once you get the full story you'll still disagree. If you want a hint, think Ghost Trick.

    I was initially just thrown off by this whole bit.
    Aw. Well, it more or less boils down to the fact that I'm a huge sucker for parallel structure. Originally this chapter contained some third-person limited stuff from Leo's perspective, and the calling stuff was part of it. In the end I decided that I really needed to do the whole story from the narrator's perspective and threw everything focusing on other characters out, but I really liked this bit, so I tried to work it into the narrator's schpiel somehow, even though I have to admit that it doesn't quite fit and it probably lost something in the transition. At the least needing to add those couple of paragraphs that don't follow the rest of the pattern probably didn't help much. I'll look into restructuring that bit, though I'd rather been hoping to keep it... I'm still not as comfortable with tossing stuff as I should be.

    But if he can tell when trainers are dead before the narrator starts impersonating them, why didn't he find out earlier? If the League knows the moment a trainer dies, the whole being able to impersonate them until the body is found shouldn't work at all - impersonating the son of somebody important shouldn't be required to set off alarms. Unless I'm way confused on what it's doing.
    This is covered a bit in what should be chapter six or seven.

        Spoiler:


    I had to read this sentence a couple of times to parse it correctly - "the brief conversation" initially seems to just be dangling there until you realize that it goes with "You watch".
    Yeaaah, I tried to revise this a few times and couldn't come up with a better way to put it and ended up just leaving it as it was. I'll take another stab at that, I guess.

    As for the various tense issues--I'm very unaccustomed to writing in the present tense and keep slipping back into the past at the drop of a hat. I hoped that aggressive editing would fix that up, but apparently I'm not doing as good a job at that as I'd hoped. I've fixed up most of what you pointed out (as well as typos and stuff of course). Hopefully it's better now!

    I think this one is actually okay, though:

    You watch him now, see the slump in his shoulders, the shuffle in his walk as he leaves the desk and selects one of the center PC's, the one you'd used earlier, when you were Nicholas Garret.
    In the past, "you were Nicholas Garret." During that time, "you" used the PC. Kind of going back and forth on it, but changing it to "you used" there somehow doesn't sound quite right to me.

    But yeah. Making weird stylistic choices in addition to weird subject matter choices for this 'fic? What could go wrong?

    Anyway, thanks a ton for the review. I'm glad you find the story so far "interesting" rather than maddeningly obtuse or just too confusing to bother with. One of my major concerns with this story is that people would get really frustrated with the beginning, both because of how strange and confusing it is and because the main character isn't very easy to relate to. Hopefully it's able to keep your attention until the story picks up a bit in a few chapters. I'm also glad that you found the narrator sufficiently inhuman and thought it was amusing instead of a turn-off.

    As for your speculations, you've got some things right, some things wrong, as is pretty much par for the course with 'fic predictions. It looks like the level of understanding you have of what's going on is about what I'd hope for someone at this point in the story, so that's good!

    Thanks again!
    Last edited by Negrek; 3rd January 2013 at 8:40 AM.

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    This post originally contained a chapter that was later moved elsewhere in the chapter order. If you'd like, you can read the original version here.
    Last edited by Negrek; 3rd May 2015 at 6:46 AM.

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    Hey there, I'll be reviewing your first chapter for the Review Game, so let's get down to business!

    Your opening was decidedly intriguing, and I really liked how you set it up so that first, we learn of a mysterious 'child' and its return from a freezing cold cavern. Then we're catapulted into the second person, where we're told that Nicholas Garret died in the Seafoam Caverns. Immediately I wondered if our 'child' was a killer! :O As for your ending, it was all right, I guess. Maybe it was good, but your fantastic opening sort of stole its thunder? But nevertheless, this chapter finished on a good note, and I liked that you managed to indirectly express Nicholas' age while at the same time sending a chill down my spine ...

    There's a drawer where it keeps its little collection of souls
    One of my favourite lines in this chapter! Your style is pretty mysterious, suited to a writer of horror or crime. This fic seems to be easily among home with both genres, and I find that it's already sounding quite macabre.

    Not much to say on the dialogue front, but I like the way you utilise the second person. It's a tricky POV, but you've pulled it off well by making the speaker feel, "Holy sh*t! I could have been that guy, I might have died down there!" At this point, the child seems a grey character, open to interpretation. I choose to feel that it's a negative character, and maybe Nicholas' killer? As for Nicholas himself, he's decently characterised despite only being known to us for a few paragraphs.

    The relationship between Nicholas and the child is mysterious for now. Like I said, the child might be Nicholas' killer (maybe he pushed Nicholas into the water, and 'you' are lying?), but he might also be completely innocent. The whole Seafoam Islands setup might be an elaborate plot device of some point. If so, you've done it masterfully.

    Other than the above, your fic seems most impressive. It's a bit brief and could be expanded upon, but definitely worth reading on. One of the few negative points is that the POV shift is almost jarring. Maybe you could somehow transition it a little better by adding a couple of thoughts in-between? Overall, I look forward to reading more, as I'm done with reading chapter 2 as well now.
    Shoot Confirmed.


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    Hey, thanks for reviewing. I'm glad you liked the opening... it was one of the first things I wrote for this 'fic that really stuck as it was and kind of gave the rest of it direction, and I'm very fond of it.

    Yup, the child is definitely a very ambiguous character. Whether it's good or bad is up to you to decide, and I hope you enjoy figuring out what its role in Nicholas Garret's death was. It's true, the shifts from one POV to another are pretty abrupt, but I'm not really sure whether there's a good way to transition between them, since they also (so far) represent jumps in time and place as well, so there isn't anything that really bridges the gap. Thoughts aren't directly relayed in this story, either (i.e. you'd get something like, "It wondered what to do next" rather than "What do I do next? it wondered"), so they're in the same tense as everything around them and wouldn't be able to bridge from one POV to the next. To an extent the jumping is supposed to be disorienting at first, but if you haven't gotten the hang of it a few chapters in, let me know... it's going to go on for the entire 'fic, so if it's a real problem I definitely need to consider what to do about it.

    Next chapter up tomorrow, finally.

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    Nice battle description. It's detailed, but it doesn't go on for too long, and it's more than a list of attacks with descriptions. That makes it intense. I feel sorry for Titan. Has he had this happen before? It sounds like it.
    † I am a Christian and proud of it! Copy and paste this into your sig if you are too.†

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    Thanks, pacman000! Battles are some of my favorite things to write, so I'm glad you enjoyed it. There will be some longer ones later... in any case, no Titan's never had something quite like this happen to him before. He's a bit bewildered by it.

    Author's Notes: This chapter changed substantially during revision. If you'd like, you can read the original version here
    Chapter 4

    Something bothers you about Cinnabar Island, something you can't put your finger on. Your friends rest exhausted in the pokéballs at your waist as you wander the hot, twisty streets, headed for the Pokémon Center. Not far away, perhaps, your water-bloated corpse rests at the bottom of Seafoam Caverns. That's not what's putting you on edge, though.

    Maybe it's that this is where you died--that's kind of hard to overlook. But you had good memories here, too; it's more than just how your human life ended. There something off about this sunny little island, some kind of wrongness in the soil, maybe, something alien rolling on the waves. With everything that's happened in the last ten years, there's got to be some kind of curse on the place.

    First there was the Mewtwo project, a perversion of nature that ended in flame and death as the slick research facility dominating the island's northwest corner went up in smoke. Then the riots, once the rest of the world found out what had really been going on, more fires, streets littered with abandoned cars and broken glass. And then, barely five years later, a quiet morning shattered by the volcano's explosive eruption, one no seismometer had seen coming.

    You were there, actually, that very day, playing in the shallows and digging aimlessly in the sand. It was the first time you saw Absol do her appearing act, not even stepping from shadow like she normally does but suddenly just there, grabbing your arm in her teeth and dragging you into darkness even as the sand underneath you started to tremble. Not many people were lucky enough to have such a friend. Not many remain who can recount that fateful day, Gym Leader Blaine among them.

    With a friend like Absol, it's hard not to be superstitious. Even if you weren't, you'd live with the knowledge that certain others are, and they take a personal interest in seeing karma's whims played out. But even if you weren't superstitious, you think you'd still be wary of spending a lot of time here on Cinnabar. The gym's back, reinstalled just above the volcano's fiery heart, and new resorts hog the shoreline. There's even a new lab. But so far, the people haven't followed; the streets are quiet, many of the storefronts up for lease, and the high-rises are draped in overly-exuberant banners advertising rooms still to be had.

    You wander through the Pokémon Center's doors, lost in thought. You were a ball of nerves the first time you did this, standing paralyzed on the threshold with no idea what to do, but by now it's all routine. You hand over your pokéballs and idle by the desk, peering with interest at the Center computers. They're new, all shiny smooth plastic that won't last long under the tender care of eager young trainers. They appeared a few weeks ago, not long after you started training with Titan, and you haven't tried one out yet. Today, though, you need money, so you'll get to experience the wave of the future for yourself.

    Once you get your pokémon back you choose a station and slide your pokédex into the slot. You don't even flinch when the machine razzes at you. You nearly had a heart attack the first time that happened, nearly blew your cover in the most dramatic way possible, but you're more experienced now. You lean closer to the screen, calm, unruffled, and read the error message. You're just Nicholas Garret, a no-name trainer who made a tiny mistake, of no interest to anyone.

    But the message is not one you understand. "ERROR: Access Denied. This pokédex has been blacklisted. Please see the front desk for assistance." You'd expected it to tell you that you'd inserted the thing wrong. Annoyed, you press the "Pokédex Eject" button.

    The machine buzzes again, and you almost jump in surprise. Another consultation with the screen gives you no new information. It's the same message staring back at you, hateful and red. You press the button again and grit your teeth as the machine lets out another loud, grating razz.

    You're leave sweaty fingerprints on the keypad as you jam the button over and over again, the terminal's buzz droning in your ears and making your heart rate climb. Still the flashing error remains onscreen; still your pokédex stays locked in the depths of the machine. You growl and press down harder on the button, your eyes starting to blur with tears--

    "Excuse me? Is something wrong?"

    The nurse. The nurse. You spin around so fast she flinches back, staring at you with such shock that for a moment you fear you've lost control of your disguise. Your body's starting to shift in response to your emotions, straining away from the human mask you wear. You rub a hand over your face, wipe the tears out of your eyes and massage the muscles back into place. Then you take a deep, shuddering breath, try to drown the terror pounding inside you, and make an attempt at communication.

    "Yes. The thing took--I do not know." You gesture helplessly at the computer, and the nurse makes a cautious approach, glancing over at you before peering down at the screen. You don't let yourself hope that she'll know what's going on, that she'll be able to get it back. That's not why you're leaning forward to watch, that's not why your breathing's picked up again.

    "Oh," the nurse says, her forehead creasing in a frown. "It's these new models. They said something about a policy change, trying to crack down on pokédex theft, I think." She turns and gives you a reassuring smile. "I'm sure it's just a glitch or something. They're still getting the kinks worked out on these things. Somebody'll be over in a few minutes to look at it, and they'll be able to get it all sorted out for you. I'll call and make sure they have someone on the way."

    You are not reassured. In fact, you feel like the nurse's words have frozen you over inside, ice water seeping into your guts. There is no glitch. This is not a mistake. They must have found your dead body, marked you down deceased in their eternal electronic records. This time, they are not content to let you walk the world of the living. They've taken your pokédex and now they're coming here to retrieve it, to retrieve you.

    Heat flares in your chest as you realize: "They" aren't coming. Leonard Kerrigan is. This is his doing. He stole it. Now he's on his way here to confront you at last.

    The nurse is still looking at you, the frown back on her face. "Are you all right?" she asks. "Would you like a glass of water?"

    You turn away from her, shake your head. You rake your fingers through your hair, sweaty down at the roots, and try to focus. Try to concentrate. "I..." you start to say. "I am..." You are what? You are whom? You are--Nicholas Garret, you went to visit the Seafoam Islands, you slipped, you fell, you died. You are--trapped inside the machine, all that's left of you, the little card, the little card that tells you who you are. Who are you without it? Who are you now? Who are you? "I am..."

    You're distantly aware of the nurse saying something else, backing away from you. You're making a scene. You can't help it. Your hands are shaking. Your heart is racing. Thoughts are pounding so hard inside your skull that your temples are throbbing. He took your pokédex. He has no right! It's all you have! It's you!

    You make a guttural noise, a choked scream, and shove the nurse out of the way so you can get at the terminal again. You plunge your arm straight through the screen, shattering the mocking words, ignoring the glass in your arm, the shards of plastic and spitting wires. Your heart flutters before you remember to toughen your skin against the electricity, and you reach ever deeper, tearing up the machine's insides, searching.

    Your fingers brush against something smooth and metallic, a box jutting inwards from the computer's plastic skin. You seize it and wrench it free, hauling it out of the wreckage. It's the device reader, your pokédex still caught inside, but it's safe now, it's free, it's in your hands. You cradle it against your chest, ignoring the burns and cuts dripping blood all down your arm. The terminal's ruined, its screen caved in and smoke pouring from the hole, shorting wires popping inside.

    You turn around, grinning. It's okay. You have it again. It's safe. And your eyes meet the horrified stares of every trainer in the place, most now on their feet. A couple are releasing pokémon.

    Your smile only gets wider. Something seems to have come loose in your head. You can't think. But you feel you ought to say something into the stunned silence, something apt and witty. You flip through your mental notebook, looking for the right phrase.

    And there it is. Still grinning, you say, "Don't worry, I can pay for that." Then you lean forward over the pokédex and charge for the doors.

    --

    The child lies curled on the bed, sobbing and shaking in the dark. It grips the pokédex so tight it can feel the pulse beating in its fingertips, the machine's metal casing grown warm from the heat of its body. Duskull floats nearby, his single eye giving off a cold exit-sign glow. He's been there almost as long as the child can properly remember; some of its earliest memories of this life are nothing but damp and the cold and the light, the little red light, watching. The child cried a lot then, too.

    It's not badly hurt, although it healed too quickly. Skin's closed over some of the glass, trapping it in the child's flesh. It'll need to be dug out later. More blood will have to flow, but for now, tears are enough. The child cries not because it is in pain, but for the sheer wrongness of it. They tried to take the pokédex. They tried to take its identity. How could they? What gives anyone the right to steal its soul?

    But the dirty feeling of having someone's sweaty hands pawing at its spirit lies atop the sour ache of shame. It knows who's responsible for this. Leonard Kerrigan, with his cold sad eyes and tired face, he's the one who nearly brought the child low. It thought it had the upper hand; it thought the man was no real threat. And it was wrong, oh, so very wrong. It sobs and sobs until its whole body aches, like its every muscle has been wrung dry. It holds the pokédex as tightly as it can and vows to never let it go. No one will ever get the chance to steal it.

    Soon Absol appears. The child doesn't actually see her come in, but it hears the whisper of footsteps on carpet, and then the pokémon leaps onto the bed. Absol settles within easy reach and permits the child to throw its arms around her neck, endures being dripped on, overlooks the fact that her ruff is getting gummed with snot.

    Once the downpour slacks off to intermittent showers, she speaks. "What happened?"

    The child tells her, stopping now and again for fresh upwellings of tears. Absol listens quietly, then remains so for some time afterwards, thinking. The child waits. Finally, Absol says, "That is unfortunate. You will need to be more careful if you don't want the human to catch you."

    "I don't want to be more careful. I have to get him back, Absol. I can't let Leonard Kerrigan do this to me. I need to get War back and not have to worry about him anymore."

    "Seeking revenge is a sure way of making a mistake."

    "I don't care. I don't care." The child turns its back on Absol, curling into a ball around the pokédex again. It can feel her eyes on it, always the same calm, incurious stare. "He tried to steal from me, Absol. He already stole from me, and now he's not just taking one pokémon, he's trying to take all of them. I have to make him pay. He shouldn't be able to do that."

    "It is not yet his time. We have discussed this before."

    "That was different!" The child pounds a fist on the mattress. The other still holds the pokédex close. "I can't do it anymore, Absol. I don't want to wait. I'm not going to. If I ignore him, he's only going to get closer to the truth. It's more dangerous not to go after him now." It doesn't say it wants to see the look on the man's face when he realizes what's going on, realizes that he really has lost everything and there's nothing he can do about it. He will be powerless, and he will know it. And he will never again, never ever again, dare to try and stop the child.

    Absol would disapprove. She already disapproves; the child can hear it in the long pause before she speaks. But she doesn't understand. An absol bears no grudges, names no enemies, holds none dear. The child knows this. Sometimes, it wishes it could be like Absol, eternally serene, eternally detached.

    "You can't do anything until you've rested. That will give you time to think it over. I think you will come to see I'm right," she says.

    The child doesn't care if she's right. She probably is--that's the irritating thing about Absol. It wants to answer the anger burning like acid in its chest, not sit around and listen. "It won't matter. He has to be punished, Absol. I can't let him do this to me."

    Absol shifts over so her back is up against the child's, and the heat of her body soaks in through its shirt. "Rest," she says. "We can talk more later."

    --

    "You said we could talk about this later," the child says with every ounce of accusation it can muster.

    "'Can' is not the same as 'will.'" Absol circles the child, and it reads suspicion in the narrowing of her eyes.

    "Well I got Thunderstorm back, didn't I?" The child tries to thrust the pokéball under Absol's nose, but it can't keep hold of the slippery thing. Absol watches the ball bounce, red splotches marking where it lands. "Oops." The child wipes its hands on its shirt, not caring about the smears it leaves behind, and chases after the pokéball, jabbering all the while. "We have to talk about what to do next, Absol. There's only one left, and--"

    "Did you eat the human?"

    The child cradles the pokéball close to its chest, its mind racing. "Why?"

    Absol doesn't say anything, but her look somehow takes in all of the child, the red-soaked clothing hanging heavy off its frame, the blood smeared across its face, gumming its hair into unruly upwards spikes. "Maybe a little," it mumbles. "But Absol--wait, no--Absol!"

    She stalks away, but the child hurries around to cut her off, pausing only a moment to flame the bottom of its feet so they stop sticking to the floor. It gets in front of her and spreads its arms wide, blocking the doorway. "It wasn't much! And I waited until she was dead anyway, I'm not bad."

    Absol is unmoved.

    "I was hungry! We were following her forever," the child says, drawing the last word out as long as it can. "And I had to stop the wild pokémon from getting her too. They would have taken every bit they could. I was tired and hurt and I didn't even have much. When they find the body and they'll be able to tell who it was, don't worry."

    They always do find the bodies. Absol insists that this is important. The child insists that it's a waste of perfectly good food, and terribly inconvenient besides. If she'd let the child hide them, it would take much longer for the humans to catch on, and it wouldn't have to keep getting new identities when the humans realize its current ones are dead.

    But Absol won't budge. "Take whatever you wish from the dead; they can claim nothing as their own," she always says. "But the death itself has purpose, and attempting to disguise it is against the will of Fate. If the body is discovered, it is discovered; if not, it is not. A death may serve as a warning, a spot of comfort, an inspiration, and to prevent its message from reaching those for whom it was intended, even to delay it, is to act against Fate. You may take their lives for as long as you can, and if you are wise, you will ask for nothing more."

    Absol believes in a lot of stupid rules.

    Right now she's trying to leave again, pushing past the child in that smooth, imperious way she has. The child hurries after. It knows Absol isn't trying to get away, not really; if she wanted to go, she'd be gone, vanished into shadow and halfway across the region in seconds flat. Nothing much will hold a pokémon who can walk the dark ways.

    Absol jumps up on the couch, settling in with paws hanging just over the edge. She looks down on the child with a bland expression, as though wondering why it's there. It stops and gives her a sour look right back. "Come on, Absol. You know we can't just wait around. The humans are figuring things out. We saw it on TV, remember?"

    She'd better. She'd been lying on that very couch at the time. The child was sitting there, too, way over on the opposite end, huddled as small as it could make itself against the armrest. It could tell Absol was angry from the way her claws clutched in the cushion in front of her, from the hard line of tense muscles in her shoulder. But she wouldn't say anything, wouldn't even acknowledge the child at all; she just watched.

    The TV was turned to some twenty-four-hour news channel showing endless repetitions of the security footage from the child's tantrum at the Center. Absol watched in statuesque calm, but the child shrank deeper into the cushions in cringing shame as it watched its mistake play over and over again. After all this time, it thought it had a better handle on its human act than that.

    Meanwhile, commentators chattered over the silent tape. "Yeah, I see where they're coming from. I mean, the way he just stuck his whole arm in there like that, didn't even care about the glass and stuff, that's not natural, I mean--"

    "But he's bleeding," another pointed out as the action moved on to the brawl between Nicholas Garret and the other trainers in the center. "I mean, have you ever heard of a zombie that bleeds?" Laughter.

    Nicholas Garret escaped through the center's automatic doors, and the screen cut back to the newscasters. "What you saw there was footage of an incident that occurred earlier today at the Cinnabar Island Pokémon Center. A trainer identified as Nick Garret of Cerulean City had a breakdown and destroyed a computer terminal, then injured several other visitors who tried to prevent him from leaving. What makes this case interesting, though, is that Nick was found dead in Seafoam Caverns just last week."

    "The whole thing started when the Center computer sequestered his pokédex because he'd been marked deceased in the League's records. In the past, trainers with suspicious pokédexes would be allowed to continue using the device without penalty for a short period of time, but a recent change in policy has made the sequestration immediate. Shortly after the incident, the League held an official press conference to discuss the motivation for the change and its relation to today's events."

    The screen cut to a tape of a harassed-looking young man leaning on a podium emblazoned with the Indigo League seal. Michael Fitzwallace, according to the text at the bottom of the screen, an administrator of the Indigo League Trainer's Network. The child remembers being confused by that, wondering why Leonard Kerrigan didn't make an appearance. "Look," Michael Fitzwallace said, "we implemented the lockdown procedure in an attempt to curb the recent surge in pokédex theft by Team Rocket and other petty criminals. The grace period was long enough to allow thieves with a stolen 'dex to do serious damage to the previous holder's account before flipping it. That's all. And because the system isn't perfect, sometimes an innocent trainer is going to get flagged and have their pokédex taken away; the grace period was supposed to prevent that from happening by allowing time for spurious flags to be resolved."

    "Whatever's up with Nick, it's a job for the police to figure out. It's got nothing to do with us. The League does not believe the dead are walking in Kanto, but we are not discriminating against undead trainers either. Questions?" He had a cocky grin for the camera, but it dissolved in the clamor that followed--obviously he'd expected his wit to go over better, but the reporters weren't going easy on him. The child watched in bitter amusement, amusement that twists its lips in a tooth-bearing smile even now, thinking back on it. He deserved that, the liar. "Nothing to do with us." The smug, smug liar.

    But it's what the anchor said when the camera went back to the news desk that's been on the child's mind. "Nick's family has been unavailable for comment, but the funeral home where his memorial service was held reports that there was nothing odd about the proceedings or the body, and that it was definitely in the casket when it was put in the ground. Nick's gravesite appears intact, and plans to exhume the corpse for inspection are on hold until forensic evidence comes back that positively identifies the trainer on camera..."

    That's where the child stopped listening, frozen in dismay at the mention of "forensic evidence." Alongside the cold prickling in its gut was the searing disapproval in Absol's gaze as she finally turned to look at it. It couldn't meet her eyes, head full of scenes from its favorite crime dramas: white-coated lab techs bustling about, mixing mysterious fluid, reading glowing lines that say who it really is, the person hiding in the blood that spilled from Nicholas Garret's body. It had been so angry it couldn't think, that it hadn't been careful. How much blood would they find? Enough, it thought. How much did they even need? Only the tiniest drop...

    The child looks down at itself, turning Thunderstorm's smeary pokéball around in its fingers. "They're trying to find me, Absol. With science. I can't just sit around and wait for that to happen."

    "It was rash action that got you into this situation. It will not get you out of it."

    "They took my pokédex, Absol. What was I supposed to do? I couldn't let them have it. What would happen then?"

    "You lost your temper."

    "I know. I'm sorry. But what was I supposed to do? What would you do if--I mean, I tried. I tried to be calm. But I can't be calm like you, Absol." It sets Thunder's pokéball aside and clenches its fists. "I know I screwed up. I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting anything unusual, and I panicked." It clenches its hands tighter, then changes its mind and buries them in its matted hair instead. Absol just watches. "What am I going to do now? What if they get my blood and figure out who I really am? What if they figure everything out, Absol? What am I going to do?"

    "What do you think you should do?"

    It doesn't know. But it knows what it wants to do.

    "It's Leonard Kerrigan," the child says. "He's behind this. Whatever this new rule is, it's his fault somehow. It isn't safe to use the pokédex anymore, not like I used to. If they find out who I am, they might figure everything else out, too. What would I do then? If they find me and they stop me, then she'll be all alone. I have to save her, Absol. You know I do." It stops for a moment, mouth working on nothing as the words catch in its throat. It grits its teeth again and forces the tears back, determined not to be pathetic.

    Absol says nothing, but after a few seconds she gives the faintest of nods, inviting the child to continue. It works its mouth until it finally unsticks the words from its throat. "So I have to get him. I have to stop Leonard Kerrigan, Absol. I know you don't like it. But it's the only way. I have to get War back from him before he figures everything out."

    Absol's eyes narrow the merest fraction; her claws dig into the cushions. The child keeps going, spilling out the words as fast as it can, getting it over with, like plunging into an ice-cold lake. "So I'm going to go and get War back from him and make sure he can't do anything to stop me. And once I have War, that will be it, won't it? I can go and find her. It will all be over and I'll find her and everything will be okay."

    "You are panicking," Absol says. "You are losing your temper. Haven't you already done enough damage? Waiting is the safest thing you can do."

    "I can't wait forever, Absol! And Mew can't, either. It's been years. What if it's already too late? What if we wait and wait and in the meantime, they, they--do something to her? They're hurting her, Absol. You know, when I see her--she's scared. She's hurting. We can't just leave her there."

    "It will do no good to rush in when the time is not right. You will only make things worse."

    "But it's fate that we meet again anyway. Why does it matter if I speed it up some? Can you even prove that this isn't how things are supposed to go? Maybe I'm fated to get angry and go off and fight Leonard Kerrigan. Or maybe I was supposed to get War back the first time instead of messing up." They're old arguments, bickered on and off over the months and years prior. The child drags them out one more time, lines them all up for Absol to consider. If she doesn't agree, then she doesn't agree. It'll just have to do it anyway. The thought of going against her puts a cold edge of unease alongside the flush of its anger.

    "It's happening faster and faster now anyway. It was years before you found Rats, wasn't it? And then more for War, the first time. But it was only a couple for Titan, and then a few months for Thunder. Something's going to happen soon. It's got to. Obviously fate is speeding up. I'm supposed to get War back soon. I need to be ready."

    "This is not Fate," Absol says icily. "This is vengeance. And those who practice vengeance will only see it visited on themselves. I cannot stop you if this is what you wish to do. But neither will I be able to save you when Fate turns back on you for it. It is not my place to intervene."

    "I know it's not. But maybe it's mine. Isn't that what humans do? Isn't that what you told me?" The child throws up its hands and tries to believe its own arguments. This isn't about vengeance. It isn't. It's just what needs to be done.

    "You are not human."

    "I know! But I'm not a pokémon, either. So maybe I get to choose."

    Absol cants her head to the side, just slightly, and for a moment the child could swear she's smiling at it. When she speaks again, her tone isn't quite as acid as before. "Perhaps. But I would choose wisely. I have told you of the danger. You could be throwing everything you have away. But it is not my place to intervene." She jumps down from the couch and stands stretching a moment before turning back to the child. "No decision as important as this is properly made in haste. If you take a while to rest, if you think it over, you will be much more likely to make the right choice."

    The child scowls after her as she pads away, off towards the kitchen. The right choice. Of course she just means what she would choose. It turns on the TV and tries to concentrate on what's going on on-screen, some rerun cartoon of a couple nidoran bashing each other with mallets. The noise and flashing colors wash over the child, but they can't distract it from the dark churning of its mind.

    Of course Absol doesn't understand. The child could swear that icewater runs in her veins instead of blood. She wouldn't hurry if there was a tidal wave collapsing down on top of her; she wouldn't show a hint of anger if her entire family was murdered before her eyes. She doesn't understand how hard it is for the child, her and her perfect "Fate" and her detachment and her always being right. She doesn't understand why it has to do this.

    It's not just because Leonard Kerrigan is making its life difficult. That's annoying, but nothing more. There's humiliation there, yes, the memories of how it failed, and that's the only reason the human troubles it at all. But it's more than that, now, so much more. He went and put his dirty hands all over the child's soul. He tried to take the pokédex, the only thing it really has left. And the child can't let someone do that to it. Not now, not ever. It can feel bile rising in its throat just thinking of it. Not now, not ever, never. It doesn't matter what Absol says. She doesn't understand.

    She's right about one thing, though. The child needs to think this over. And it is thinking it over, very, very carefully. It's considering everything it knows about Matt Kerrigan, every piece of information it's gathered over the years, and what it's going to do with them. It won't make the same mistakes it did last time. It's prepared, this time, to be Matt Kerrigan properly. Matt Kerrigan, the lost son. Matt Kerrigan, the suicide case.
    Last edited by Negrek; 7th May 2015 at 6:22 AM.

  22. #22
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    Ooooo...A twist. I like that. Your twist makes since; It dosen't come out-of-nowhere. I also like the news cast; that lets us see the event from different view point. I feel sorry for Nick's family. Imagine finding out that your kid died, then seeing him on the news. That would be terrible.
    Last edited by pacman000; 21st February 2013 at 7:18 PM.
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  23. #23
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    Happy late birthday. Would have posted on the eighteenth, but then you said chapter five would be up that day so I figured I might as well wait for it, and then I was busy. :<


    Now it remembers why it had been waiting for the rain. It could have conjured up a storm whenever it wanted, of course, but it hadn't wanted to, had been perfectly content to wait for nature to provide.
    Past perfect in the present-tense narration again.

    You’d forgotten you’ll need to mend that again.
    This too. Although "You'd forgotten" would work fine if the implication were "At the time you should have mended that, you'd forgotten"; it's just that when what you'd forgotten is that you will need to mend it again, that doesn't really seem to make sense.

    It's interesting how unfazed the child is by Titan's attacks - "Oh, the Flamethrower is setting your hair on fire and immolating your ear" - even though it can clearly feel the pain. I wonder if that's a result of the same detachment that makes it narrate this stuff in second person (that's not me being hurt, it's Nicholas Garret!) or just a narrative voice thing.

    and you grab Rats' pokéball off your belt and release him onto the ground next to you.
    Being that the narration and characters call Rats "her" for the rest of the chapter, I'm assuming this is a mistake.

    Titan easily overwhelms her, pinning the raticate in the mud beneath one heavy foot while she stares down at his opponent, smoke streaming warningly from his nostrils.
    She can hardly stare down at him if she's pinned under his foot, so I assume that should be him.

    “I don’t need too ‘make’ you. I’m your trainer. Stop trying to deny it.”
    To, presumably.

    It’d known the rain wasn’t enough to be dangerous
    Past perfect again.

    You'd been there, in fact, that very day, playing in the shallows and digging aimlessly in the sand.
    Since you're still talking about when the volcano erupted, I'd think this should still be plain past tense.

    They're new, their plastic still shiny and smooth, not scuffed and dented from contact young trainers.
    I think you're missing a word here.

    You'd expected it to tell you that you'd inserted the thing wrong.
    Yet again with the past perfect.

    They're hurting her Absol.
    Presumably this is a direct address and should have a comma, as opposed to a statement that "she" has an Absol and they're hurting it (in which case you'd be writing "absol" without a capital letter, anyway).

    And the child can't let someone do that to it. Not now, not ever. The child can feel bile rising in its throat just to think of it.
    Very possibly just me, but it feels like you repeat "the child" a bit too soon here.


    So. More tantalizing hinting. Titan knows who the child is and says it was there when Nicholas Garret died. I'm guessing that means the child didn't kill him, or he would have said that instead of just "you were there".

    Right now my best wild-speculationy guess as to the child's nature is that it used to be a trainer who died (probably not long into its journey, since one way or another Nicholas Garret seems to have received Titan as a starter after the child died, which doesn't seem to make sense otherwise), and that one way or another, it was revived in some kind of shape-shifting form with only a few stray memories of its human life. That or, what with the way the child appropriates the lives of those it impersonates, it wasn't human even then and Titan wasn't actually its Pokémon, but it lost most of its memories of that life for some reason anyway.

    You're still doing a good job with the child's character. While it's distinctly off-human, it's distinctly childlike too, with the emotional outbursts and kind of whiny "she doesn't understand!" thing.

        Spoiler:- Plot:

    Chapter 65: Three Dragons
    The story of an ordinary boy on an impossible quest in a world that isn't as black and white as he always thought it was.
    (rough draft of the remaining chapters finished for NaNoWriMo; to be edited and posted)

    Morphic
    (completed, plus silly extras)
    A few scientists get drunk and start fiddling with gene splicing. Ten years later, they're taking care of eight half-Pokémon kids, each freakier than the next, while a religious fanatic plots to murder them all.

    Lengthy fanfiction reviewing guide / A more condensed version
    Read and I will be very happy for a large number of reasons.

  24. #24
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    pacman000

    Glad you like the twist! I'm pretty addicted to them, so there's plenty more where that came from. And this is far from the last time the child will end up on television...

    Dragonfree

    I spent ages kind of staring at the various tense things; usually I can deal with that kind of thing more or less on instinct, but I just dooon't seem quite equipped to deal with this present-tense stuff. Nonetheless, I think some of those are actually correct:

    Now it remembers why it had been waiting for the rain. It could have conjured up a storm whenever it wanted, of course, but it hadn't wanted to, had been perfectly content to wait for nature to provide.
    Changed the first sentence to "Now it remembers why it's been waiting for the rain," but I believe the rest is fine, because it's referring to events/attitudes in the past, relative to the time the narration's going on. At any point previously, the child could have summoned a storm, but it chose not to. So, I just cleaned that second sentence up a little, but left things in the past perfect.

    But these...

    It’d known the rain wasn’t enough to be dangerous...
    You'd expected it to tell you that you'd inserted the thing wrong.
    ...at this point I don't think I can even English anymore after staring at them for so long. I can't explain why they look better to me that way than otherwise, and I know that I would state them as simple past if I were saying them aloud ("I expected there to be candy," for example). On the other hand, I can't think of any examples of where I'd actually use the perfect in conversation (there are cases where I could use it, but I can always think of a more natural-sounding, reworded sentence I would pick instead... but probably I'm just a little fried), so I don't know how much that means. I can't say why "You expected it to tell you..." looks so bad to me--it might be because I'm used to the simple past tense being "present" in narration. But for now I'm going to leave those as is, simply because the revised versions seem so irrevocably weird somehow. It's been a long time since I've had to do any sort of serious thinking about grammar... clearly I'm getting rusty. >>

    Thanks for pointing those slips out, along with the other various typos... It feels like, despite the fact that this 'fic has been proofread to a much greater degree than my past stories, it winds up with way more errors in the final copy than those did. Someone's in denial about the prevalence of typos in her previous 'fics, I guess.

    It's interesting how unfazed the child is by Titan's attacks - "Oh, the Flamethrower is setting your hair on fire and immolating your ear" - even though it can clearly feel the pain. I wonder if that's a result of the same detachment that makes it narrate this stuff in second person (that's not me being hurt, it's Nicholas Garret!) or just a narrative voice thing.
    The child's used to battling and isn't fazed by this kind of thing at all. It isn't much bothered by getting injured in general, for a couple of reasons that should become more clear in time.

        Spoiler:- :


    Thanks for reviewing! Best birthday present.
    Last edited by bobandbill; 19th June 2014 at 2:24 PM. Reason: fixing that spoiler tag

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  25. #25
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    Author's Notes: This chapter changed substantially during revision. If you'd like to read the original version, you can find it here.
    Chapter 5

    Only one light burns in the Kerrigan household tonight, up in the study at the rear of the second floor. You can't see into the room from here, but you can picture the scene well enough: Leonard hunched before a keyboard in the semidark, fingers flying, casting his incantations over the computer.

    What you can see from here is your old room. You sat in this very spot almost two years ago now, on the neighbors' roof with legs dangling over the edge and eyes trained on the bedroom window. Only that time, you were the one in the room dying while another waited outside with Absol, nervous and fidgety and unsure what to do. It had waited because Absol told it to wait and not interfere. There wasn't much to see, but somehow she knew when you stopped breathing and prodded that other one forward.

    She won't be prodding you tonight. She watched while you prepared, staring into the mirror trying to get the color of your eyes just right, testing your voice, fussing with your hair. She didn't say anything, and she didn't follow you when you left. Now it's her turn to wait and practice the art of noninterference.

    But you haven't acted yet, and why? Your old room is dark and cold and empty. You sharpened your eyesight enough to pierce the gloom, and you can see that everything's still exactly as it was that day, not even a bit dusty. You can't see it from this angle, but you wonder--is the empty bottle of pills still sitting on the nightstand?

    Leonard isn't the only one in the house. Gruff, the family's aged growlithe, is sleeping somewhere on the first floor; if you concentrate, you can just taste the edges of his dreams as they run in confused little circles. He's no threat--you'll be surprised if he even wakes up to come greet you. You run your fingers through your hair, on edge and not wanting to think about why, then grimace and tease it back into place. Honestly--after all the time you took getting it right in the first place.

    This is stupid. You've established everything you need to: Leonard is home. He's defenseless. It's not like you're going to get a better opportunity. Irritated with yourself, you draw your legs up onto the roof and push yourself to your feet, then forcefully think your way to the stoop.

    You reach out and ring the doorbell before you can hesitate, before you can talk yourself out of it. Then there's nothing you can do but stand and wait, not fidgeting, definitely not fidgeting, as the seconds drag past. If only you didn't have to do this as a human. It would be easy to still the racing of your heart, to banish your anxiety and anticipation alike, but changing enough to do that would make it very hard for you to act like Matt Kerrigan.

    Finally, you hear movement inside the house. A light comes on in the foyer. The bolt turns, and the door opens a fraction. You find yourself looking into the face of Leonard Kerrigan, more haggard than usual, more disheveled. If he was planning to open the door further, he's forgotten. Instead, he's frozen staring out at you, the whites of his eyes huge and round.

    You'd been afraid that you'd forget all your preparations in the heat of the moment. The lines you rehearsed would fly out of your head, and you'd be left a stammering idiot. But you channel all your nervous energy into a kind of poised focus and are able to summon up the casual smile you practiced in the mirror, nail the voice as you begin, "Dad..."

    The door is open in an instant. Leonard Kerrigan throws himself at you, and then it all goes to hell.

    You barely resist the instinct to swat the man aside, the way you would any other creature that jumped at you, and that moment of hesitation leaves you no time to get out of his way. Leonard Kerrigan catches hold of you, wrapping his arms inappropriately tight around your torso. You manage to get your arms up and out of the way so they aren't pinned to your sides, but you're stuck there nonetheless, leaning away from the human and trying to make the minimum amount of contact while he clings to you like he thinks you'll evaporate if he doesn't.

    Ah, wait. This is a "hug," isn't it? You've seen these before. You know how this works. Yes, definitely you do. You lean forward a bit and drape your arms over Leonard Kerrigan's shoulders and wait, hopefully, for further indication of what you should do.

    Unfortunately, the human isn't giving you any cues. He's got his face buried in your chest while he makes making the most horrific wailing noises. The longer you wait there, the more nervous you get--he's making a scene. Leonard Kerrigan's making a scene! What if someone comes to investigate the noise? What if someone sees you?

    "Dad," you say. "We should go inside."

    He keeps sobbing. You squirm around, starting to panic and not really caring if you're being rude. But Leonard Kerrigan won't let you go, and if you push him away too hard, you might hurt him. You wouldn't mind that, but it might be bad for your cover.

    "Dad," you say again. "Inside. We should go inside. Listen."

    You try walking forward, pushing him ahead of you, but that only threatens to get you even more tangled up. For a moment, exasperation replaces panic. You could pick the human up and carry him into the house if you needed to. He's lighter than you expected, actually, thinner than he looks under his sweater. But your head is going round and round with confusion, and you can't remember if you ought to be that strong or not.

    You're standing there wrestling with the crying human and for one instant you feel the insane urge to burst out laughing. You look down at the back of Leonard's head, draggled and unwashed and graying, as you make out words in his pathetic whimpering. "I always knew you weren't dead... Nobody believed me that I saw you, but I knew it, I knew what I saw, I knew you would never k-ki..." Then he descends into incoherence again, sobbing and coughing on his own tears, and you are almost--honestly. Why does being human have to be so confusing?

    You take a quick glance around to make sure no one's watching--not that you could really do anything if they were--then half shove, half carry the man back into the house in what you hope would be called a firm, not rough, manner, and shut the door behind you. You set Leonard firmly aside, taking a moment to be sure he's not just going to jump at you again the moment you let go. He appears to be trying to get ahold of himself, though. His babbling's done and he's wiping tears from his eyes, and you take the moment of peace to have a look around.

    It's dim in the foyer, only one light working in the chandelier. There's only one of everything here: one coat hanging on the hooks by the door, one umbrella in the holder. The smells of unwashed human and dishware overwhelm your sensitive nose; you can see the kitchen down the hall, stacks of plates piled in the sink and garbage overflowing from the can.

    You surprise yourself in having to take a deep breath before you say the line, but say it you do. There's no going back now. "Dad. I am sorry, but I do not have much time. I am taking a great risk to be here in the first place. I need your help, Dad."

    "Help? You need my help?" His voice is shaking, his hands are shaking as he cleans his tear-soaked glasses on the front of his sweater. He almost laughs, makes a horrible noise of inhaling mucus. "Of course, Matt. Anything. Anything you need. What do you want?"

    "I need you to get my pokémon back for me."

    "Your pokémon?" The glasses are back on his face and he squints through them, trying to make out your expression. "But why..."

    "They are in League holding. I cannot access them. But I need them back, and I know that you can get them released."

    "Yes, yes, of course," he says, brushing aside what you've been agonizing over for years. He reaches out and puts a hand on your arm, and you fight down the urge to flinch away. "That's not what I meant. What is this all about, Matt? Where have you been?"

    "I cannot tell you. The work I am doing is very dangerous, and if I told you, you would become a target." You find yourself warming to your lies now that you've really gotten going. Secret agents are cool, after all.

    "Come on, Matt!" Leonard Kerrigan says, and you stare at him, confused by the heat in his words. "A target of what? What's going on? You can tell me! Why are you only coming back now? After all this time the least you could have done would have been to let us know somehow--I mean, everyone thought you were dead, and I--" He slides a hand under his glasses so he can rub at his eyes and the bridge of his nose. "At the very least, your mother--"

    He's isn't taking this as well as you'd hoped. Why can't he just be glad you're alive? You cut him off before he can work himself up even further. "I am sorry, Dad. No one was supposed to know I was alive. It was safer that way. I cannot tell you what I am doing, or where I have been. And no one else can know about it either. You would not have to be involved, but you locked me out of my account. I need my pokémon back, Dad."

    He pauses with his hand still over one eye and laughs. "What, getting mad at me for doing my job? If you weren't faking your own death, you wouldn't have to worry about your storage account."

    You honestly don't know how to deal with this. A glance around the miserable little room doesn't lend you any ideas. You decide to be direct. "I am sorry, Dad, but I cannot stay long. If you want to talk, we can do it while you get my pokémon out of storage."

    He looks at you with an unreadable expression on his face, then sighs and removes his hand from your arm. "Up you go, then," he says, pointing towards the stairs. You remember the way to his study from the last time you were here and are only too happy to lead. You're less happy with what you find inside.

    The area around the computer is cleaner than the rest of the house, but only barely. The machine itself is slick and new, of course, Leonard Kerrigan's porygon-Z bobbing around as its screen saver. But the rest of the room is crammed with old newspapers, from respectable publications to the most seedy, the kind that announce Pikablu sightings and report on people who've seen the face of Arceus in their breakfast cereal. These in particular have been going wild with the stories of Nicholas Garret's posthumous adventures, but even the Saffron Times was only marginally more restrained in its reporting.

    Leonard Kerrigan found those stories, every one of them, and cut them out. There are others, too, reports of curious disappearances, unexplained thefts, that sort of thing, some actually related to you and some not, stretching back over the past two years. They're stacked in haphazard piles, tacked to the walls alongside computer printouts, and overflow onto the floor in a slurry of words.

    The sight is like a hot knife twisting in your gut. Ah, of course. For a few minutes you actually forgot who you were dealing with. You do your best to keep the tightness out of your voice as you ask, "Dad. What is all this?"

    "This?" he asks, stepping into the room behind you and gesturing languidly at all his incriminating papers. "I don't know, Matt. I was hoping you might be able to tell me."

    "What? Why?"

    "Well, Matt, you aren't the only trainer out there to fake their death recently." He sits down at the computer but stays turned towards you. "I was just wondering if whatever this thing is you've gotten involved with has something to do with them, too."

    "I do not know anything about it," you say immediately, then inwardly curse yourself for panicking. "I mean, I do not think so. I have not been keeping up with the news. What is it about?" Leonard isn't typing anything, just sitting at the computer and watching you. You remind yourself to stay cool and alert and that after all you won't solve anything by killing the human right here and now, however easy it would be.

    "Just what I said, Matt. Trainers who are supposed to be dead not staying dead. Showing up on the network even after they've been put in the ground." He's looking at you very closely, and you force yourself to focus on his face and not on the computer screen behind him, where War lies close, so close.

    This isn't working. You take a deep breath and prepare to go off the rails. "I am sorry, Dad. You are right. I am not the only one involved in this. I cannot say more than that, but I promise you that if you help me get my pokémon back, I will return soon. I am almost done, and then I can be with you and Mom again. I did not want to leave. I did not want to be a part of this. But now I am. I need your help, Dad. That is all I am asking for."

    Leonard Kerrigan sighs and rubs at his face again. "Of course, Matt. I don't understand, and I wish things could be different, but I'm glad you're alive. If you need your pokémon back, then I'll get them back for you. I just wish, though"--he stops rubbing and looks you in the face--"there's really no way you can let anyone else know that you're alive? Not even your mother? If you came to see me--"

    "Not even you should know," you say curtly. And how awfully true that is. If you hadn't been so careless back then, if he hadn't seen you, then you never would have had to do this.

    He's still staring at you, and for a moment you are terribly close to doing something rash out of fear that he sees something wrong in your expression. Standing there surrounded by evidence of his scheming is fraying at the edges of your temper. But the human only shakes his head and says, "I see."

    And then, mercifully, he turns to the computer and nudges the mouse, dismissing the bouncing porygon. You watch hungrily as he starts typing, torn between wanting to edge closer and afraid that if you move you might somehow shatter this fragile, perfect moment when everything is going right.

    A transporter set up on the desk spits a crackle of white light, then in one concentrated burst zaps a cluster of pokéballs into existence on the receiving platform. Leonard Kerrigan scoops them up and holds them in front of his face. He picks out one you don't recognize, old and scuffed with a blue top on it. "You remember your first pokémon, don't you, Matt?" he asks, glancing at you out of the corner of his eye.

    You tense. He wants to play this game, then, does he? You've made a careful study of Matt Kerrigan and remember him as well as you think you can without ever having met him, but if Leonard begins to ask you serious questions about your past, you're going to be in trouble. This one is no problem, though. You nod and say, "Duke." Duke the persian, family pet for several years before joining Matt Kerrigan on his brief and ill-fated journey.

    "That's right," Leonard says with a wan smile. "It's been a long time, hasn't it? Why don't we see if he still remembers you?"

    Before you can protest, he tosses the pokéball to the carpet, and Duke takes shape in a flash of light. You have to step back, bumping into a leaning stack of magazines, as the appearance of a four-foot persian abruptly makes the small study even more cramped.

    Duke blinks and snuffs at the air, his movements jerky and uncertain. He's been in storage for a long time, and you wonder whether anyone even bothered to explain to him what happened before putting him away. Your heart is hammering even though it's clear Duke isn't ready to fight. You weren't expecting this, not at all. You were prepared to deal with Leonard, but you don't even know any of Matt's pokémon aside from War. If they realize what's going on, you don't know if you can fight them all.

    You take a deep breath and kneel down in front of Duke. "Hello, Duke," you start. The persian turns deep brown eyes on you. "Remember me? It is good to see you again."

    "What? Matt?" Duke rumbles. His gaze roves the cluttered study, passing across Leonard sitting by the computer without pause. You reach out your hand to pet him, but he shrinks away from your fingers, bumping clumsily against the desk. "What's going on here?" he asks, baring his teeth.

    You hurriedly draw your hand back, make placating gestures, but it's too late. "I knew it," he says, wearing a sickly smile. "You're not my son. But you are connected with the other dead trainers, aren't you? Who are you? And what"--the smile is gone, replaced by a grim expression that draws the skin tight over his cheekbones--"have you done with my son?"

    "No, Dad--Duke--you don't understand. It really is me. I know I seem different. Some things... some things have happened. I did not mean for it to be like this. Please, you have to believe me." Duke keeps looking back and forth between you and Leonard, fur starting to bristle.

    "Is that so? Then just what is it that I should believe? Or is that something else you 'can't tell me'?"

    "I cannot! I am not lying. It really is dangerous! Come on, Dad, what is it that you want me to say?"

    Leonard Kerrigan shakes his head, and you know his mind is already made up. "No. Just listen to yourself. You sound nothing like him--you sound like some kind of fucking robot. Who are you?"

    You take a breath, clearing your head. You're about to make one more stab at diplomacy, but paper crinkles under your foot as you shift your weight; you glance around at the clippings plastering the walls. Leonard Kerrigan is your enemy. He trapped War in the computer; he forced you into skulking furtiveness for fear he might discover you; he stole--you almost choke on bile at the thought. What's the point of discretion? You didn't come here to make friends. You step back, skirting a stack of papers.

    All you're trying to do is maneuver for extra space, but Leonard must think you mean to leave. "Duke, stop him!"

    That's all the excuse you need. There is a ferocious crack as Duke leaps headlong into an invisible barrier, a protect shield thrown up in a heartbeat. The persian falls to the floor in a daze, and you leap over him in one impossibly fast motion, the room blurring for a second before slamming into focus again as you land directly in front of Leonard Kerrigan.

    He jerks backward, completely unprepared for how fast you closed with him, and you grab his arm and wrestle the pokéballs out of his grasp. There's movement behind you as Duke leaps onto the desk, knocking a cascade of papers and old, coffee-crusted mugs to the floor. You brace yourself as he jumps for you again, then catch him in the chest with your elbow and slam him into the side of the desk.

    You deliver a smashing brick break with your left hand to keep the struggling persian down, and with the other you try to juggle the pokéballs without dropping any, rolling them around until your fingers can find the blue-topped one.

    Finally Duke gets his legs back under him, badly bruised but now, at last, starting to realize that he really has to fight. You thumb the button on the front of the ball and call him back to captivity.

    There's a moment of relative peace as a last couple paper shreds drift to the floor in front of the now-crooked desk. You stuff the pokéballs into your pocket and make for the door in earnest, then are jerked to a halt as Leonard grabs your arm from behind.

    You turn to look back at him, surprised but not at all disappointed, because now the fool really is going to put himself in your way. If he's going to push you--well, who's to blame you if you push back? You look down into his desperate face, his teeth clenched, eyes tearing at the corners, as he tries to--what? Drag you back? Pull you down? What can he expect to do, after he saw you take care of the persian so easily? "Stop!" he yells. "Who are you? What have you done with my son?"

    You smile, easily resisting his attempts to wrestle you down. You could kill him now, if you wanted. You have what you came for, and he's doing his best to provoke you. But it might not be wise. His death would bring an investigation, and for lack of any other motive, someone might begin to suspect that there was more to his ramblings about dead trainers than previously suspected. As it is, they think he's crazy, and if he tries to discuss your visit with anyone, they'll only grow more sure. Best just to leave him something to remember you by.

    Your grin stretches wider and wider, splitting Matt Kerrigan's face ear to ear as jaws reconfigure to accommodate the rows of new teeth forcing their way out of your gums, gleaming sharp in the dim light. Fingers grow claws and irises bleed to red as you stare into Leonard Kerrigan's eyes.

    Those eyes are widening, and the grip on your arm slackens as anger gives way to horror on his face. "What--just what the hell--" he starts.

    "Your son is dead, you stupid old fool," you say in a voice that comes out mushy from a mouth no longer meant for human speech. Leonard Kerrigan is still trying to say something, or at least he's moving his mouth, but there's nothing there for you to hear. You lean in closer and add, "And if you continue to get in my way, you will be next."

    The hopeless look on Leonard Kerrigan's face is exquisite, and you laugh as you press your free hand into his chest and shove him away, easily breaking his slack grip. You half-hope he'll come at you again, make some desperate final effort. But he just lies where he's fallen, cowering. You laugh again at his pathetic expression, flush with your victory, and leave the room unharried. Out in the hall, well out of sight, you pause for a moment and clamp down on your elation just long enough to concentrate. With another thought, you're gone.

    --

    Back at the house, the child spends a long time simply holding War's pokéball, bubbling with excitement but too exhausted to face the pokémon inside. The thrill of victory won't let it rest, and it lies awake on its bed until long after morning comes, thinking, exulting, remembering. Remembering Cinnabar.

    It watched footage of the eruption on television, marveling at the disaster it had so narrowly avoided. At the time it didn't think of anything but how lucky it had been to survive, to have Absol. But then, two days later, she came for the child. "Come. There is something you must see." And the place she took it was like the ruins of hell.

    Cinnabar Island was wiped out, nothing left standing. Some buildings had been engulfed by lava flows, others flattened by the force of the blast itself or crushed beneath the boulders it had hurled. Choking ash buried everything meters-deep. Absol practically swam through it, and the child struggled to follow, floundering along with its shirt pulled over its face in a vain effort to block out the particulates, coughing miserably all the while. But it knew better than to complain. Absol, her usually immaculate coat soiled and dark, would not have brought it here for no reason.

    She climbed a splintered beam jutting from the ash slurry, claws digging deep into the crumbling wood to hold herself steady. The child stopped below and waited, looking for some indication of why Absol had brought it there. But the slumping gray humps of ash obscured everything, and even if they'd been standing at the center of the town hall, the child would never have been able to tell.

    "Listen," Absol said. "Look around you. This is Fate."

    "Fate" wasn't right. When Absol spoke of it, the child got the impression that what she meant was something far larger and more complicated than such a simple human word, but "Fate" was the best translation it could make. It grilled Absol about it more times than it could count, but they only ever ended up frustrating each other. Absol would be annoyed by the child's stupidity--how could it fail to understand something so natural and obvious? And the child was completely bewildered by Absol's analogies--what was it supposed to do with explanations like "It is like the way shadows bend when they flow over blood?"

    So, Fate it was. Absol continued. "Two years ago, a terrible crime happened here. It was a crime against both Mew and nature itself. It must not be allowed to happen again. Look around you. Those who were responsible have been punished." She tipped her head to the side, ever so slightly. "And those who were not responsible have also been punished. Such is the way of Fate."

    The child looked again at the shattered remains of Cinnabar Island, then to the still-smoking volcano rising overhead, one side of its cone disintegrated by the explosion. Half-imagined pictures of white-furred shadows, padding quietly through history, teased at its brain. Sometimes it wasn't sure whether Absol thought Fate was something that was or something you did.

    "There are many who abetted the creation of Mewtwo, and every last one of them will be punished. They will die. They will die unnaturally. They will die before the time set down for them."

    Ah. A question. The child, most certainly, had so abetted. And it had to ask--did that mean that it, too...?

    Absol gave it a long, steady look, and after a moment the child subsided, sheepish. Oh. Of course. It had already died.

    Absol continued. "You recall that I have a mission."

    It did. Defend the child.

    "You recall that you have a mission as well. One that you did not undertake alone."

    It did. Its heartbeat quickened as it began to suspect.

    "After you died, humans took your pokémon and divided them. They have come to rest in the hands of others who were here on Cinnabar, others who have been marked by Fate. Each of these will perish, and when they do, I will know. When they do, you will be reunited with your friends. You will take what the humans had and use it to carry out your mission, so that in their death they may help rectify the wrongs they brought about in life. Such is the will of Fate." She fixed the child with a hard stare. "You have grown into your strength. You are ready to begin your mission in earnest. Are you prepared?"

    Yes, of course. It said as much, wheezed it, gagging on the suffocating mouthful of ash-filled air it sucked down in its excitement. Absol was solemn in the face of its hacking affirmation. She nodded. "Then come." She leaped from the beam and dropped into the wreckage, the remains of some anonymous building blasted from its foundation. She dug industriously, hollowing out a crevice in the shifting ash and batting free a grime-covered pokéball, sending it rolling towards the child's feet. As it bent down to pick it up, she said, "This is the first. See to it that you do not forget its purpose, or your own."

    Only later would the child wonder how Absol managed to find the pokéball buried in a pile of soot in some no-account corner of Cinnabar Island. At the time it was too overwhelmed by the reunion with its friend, with the treasure salvaged from the wreckage, with the fact that it suddenly had a real home, once the vacation house of some wealthy Cinnabar resident, now left empty and forgotten on a little island to the south.

    When the child held that first pokéball--Rats' pokéball--it didn't understand what it meant, what it was embarking on. Now it holds this last pokéball, and the circle is complete. It has planned and waited and grown impatient and waited still more, and finally it is ready to set out on its journey. It's a journey long-deferred, dreamt of by a dead human child but never taken. It's a journey dreamt of once again by the person it's become, and today it will begin.

    There are eight badges. There is a grand tournament held only once per year. It's only a little over a month away.

    The child will win those badges. It will enter the tournament. And it will meet the trainer who holds the key to its future--its future, and that of its mother.

    But first, someone else will have to die.
    Last edited by Negrek; 7th May 2015 at 6:23 AM.

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