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Thread: Salvage

  1. #1
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    Default Salvage

    Rating: I ended up rating this 'fic "T" on FFN, because outside of strong language there's not much to qualify it for a higher rating. 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: It's been a long time since I've posted anything but one-shots here, but since I wrapped up my last chapterfic at last, I thought I might have a go at posting the next one here. We'll see how that works out; one thing is for sure: if I'm going to keep doing it, I'll need to set up some formatting regular expressions like Dragonfree has. Ick.

    I've been working on this story for a while, and I'm very excited to finally begin posting it. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

        Spoiler:- Chapter Index:


        Spoiler:- PM List:


    Chapter 1


    The child comes home with the chill of the caverns still clinging to it, slush under its fingernails and inner fire stoked against the cold. The inside of the house is cool as well, the windows in the small kitchen showing mostly the underside of palm leaves. It stows the goods in a corner, to be looked over later, but there is one thing that cannot wait.

    There's a drawer where it keeps its little collection of souls, and it takes them out now. It sits at the table flipping through the tiny cards, turning each one gently over between its fingers, remembering. There aren't more than half a dozen, but it goes through them again and again, until the ice melts from its hair and the shadows recede from its mind and an appropriate amount of time has passed. Then it brings out the pokédex and pries open the door in its back. The card inside joins the pile, and the new one, rescued from the freezing depths and now warm from the heat of the child’s body, is slotted in its place.

    Then it's back in with the battery and turn the pokédex over, wait for it to boot up. All alone, hunched over the table in that dark room, the child waits for the flickering screen to tell it who it is.

    ----

    You are Nicholas Garret, a trainer. You left Pallet Town on the morning of May third with a charmander. Four years later you own the charizard that evolved from your starter, a primeape, a nidoqueen, and several more of little consequence. You have six badges. You are a slow trainer, then, but a thorough one.

    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.

    It was all ice down there, ice and freezing river, and you fell too far, landing hard on the narrow spit of rock sloping down to the water. The arm trapped beneath your body snapped, and you were still sliding, feet already in the water and current starting to tug at your shoes.

    You grabbed at the rock with your good arm, tried to scramble with your legs. 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.

    With your broken arm and heavy gear, there was no fighting the current. It swept you along its subterranean bed, dumping you over underground waterfalls and knocking you against rocks as it went. It was all over well before the pull gentled and left you floating, dark and lonely, so far below the sea.

    You died down there, Nicholas Garret, drowned in the blackest pit of the Seafoam Islands. You were fifteen years old.

    What do you do now?
    Last edited by Negrek; 30th August 2014 at 7:57 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!

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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.
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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. ~

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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.
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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
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    pacman000 and Baivanilla, thanks for reviewing!

    Chapter 2

    The first thing you do is empty your computer account. There isn't much in your PC, just a few potions and odd trinkets picked up here and there, but you take them all and shove them into your backpack. You have no pokémon in storage, and that is a relief. You still haven't really figured out what to do with former trainers' pokémon; you've tried releasing them, but they often attack you when you try, and Absol considers it unwise. You do try to be careful—release them far from home, all across the globe, and hope no one will listen to some pokémon's wild tale of a creature that wore its trainer's face but was something else entirely. But if someone took an interest, and the proper lines were drawn—dangerous.

    There's the same problem with selling them, with the added fact that buyers often ask questions you would rather not answer. So, for now, you mostly leave them in the PC, to eventually be dealt with by the league. You can't help but feel a bit guilty, knowing the long sleep ahead of them, and when they awake, only the news that their trainer is dead and a new life has been selected for them.

    Anyway, you have your hands full with your own pokémon as it is.

    You hesitate over the matter of money. You don't really need it, no, but you do love to shop. Absol thinks this is a failing of yours, but she is a pokémon, after all. There are some things she doesn't understand. But money has been a problem in the past. Withdraw too much or spend it too fast, and some far-off computer algorithm will flag your account, and you'll be out a perfectly good identity. At least learning that lesson the hard way has left you with one very large television.

    In the end, you decide to take 10,000P; you'll have plenty in the bank for later and enough on hand to purchase a few small things. You can get candy for yourself and for Togetic, a toy or such for Duskull, and probably a small piece of furniture for Rats to chew. The remainder will go under your mattress. You don't know why it's traditional for humans to store money under mattresses, and Absol hasn't been able to explain it to you, but you suppose that's as good a place as any. At least it keeps it out of the way.

    You walk out of the Center as easily as you entered and stand outside, squinting in the Fuchsia sunshine. No one looks at you twice, and why would they? You are only Nicholas Garret, one trainer among many and, you certainly hope, not well-known. You are carrying his pokédex, wearing his face and his name. No one will know you're dead for a couple of weeks at least, not until they find the body, and in the meantime you can enjoy all the luxuries of being him. This is all routine for you now; it has been quite some time since you stood dumb and awed on the threshold of a Pokémon Center, gleaming-new pokédex in hand and not a clue what you needed to do with it.

    You set out down street, thinking half of heading to the beach, half of heading north and west instead, up to Celadon to get your shopping done. Or maybe you should go home instead. Nicholas Garret did have one pokémon you intend to welcome into your fold, though it probably won't be easy. Titan was always stubborn, and he likely took your death harder than Rats. He won't like to hear about his second trainer dying, either.

    One way or another, it will be good to see him again. What few memories remain of him you've pored over so many times they've gone dull and distorted, as much fantasy now as they are fact, but they are all dear ones. You're sure he'll come around eventually. He swore with you, just like the others. And someday not far in the future, you'll set out to fulfill your promise together.

    For another moment more you stand there, wavering. Then you see a pair of trainers passing, chatting and enjoying ice cream cones, and are overwhelmed by a desire for sugary things and the gaudy bustle of the mall. And after all, you've waited years to be reunited with Titan; what's another little detour? You head west towards Cycling Road, visions of spectacular purchases dancing in your head.

    Absol calls you hopelessly materialistic. You call her a wet blanket.

    ----

    The child slams open the door and staggers through. There is a grumpy complaint from the raticate dozing in a puddle of sun just inside, but it brushes this aside, along with the concern of a duskull that materializes from a dark corner. It's clutching a pokeball so tight that the blisters on the back of its hand are burst and leaking, but it's too angry to notice the pain.

    It storms into the study and hauls open a desk drawer, revealing old egg cartons with dozens of pokeballs shuddering in their depressions. It hurls the ball it's carrying into an empty one, then fumbles to catch it as it bounces out again. Gritting its teeth in pure fury, the child sets the ball back down with aching gentleness, then slams the drawer explosively and stands there glaring at it until a wave of dizziness forces it to lean forward and grab the edge of the desk for support.

    It can't stand here forever. The child looks down at itself, does a thorough inspection of the damage. Its shirt is rent open from just above the right hip almost all the way up to its heart, and its left arm is bubbled with half-healed burns. The gash on its chest is already scabbing over, but the clothes are ruined, soaked in blood where they aren't torn.

    What a mess. It's always such trouble to find attire to match what's on a corpse, since the original is rarely in any condition to be worn again—trainers rarely go quietly in their sleep. And now it's going need to go out and find replacements.

    The child gives the drawer one last accusatory glower. No sense worrying about that now; at the moment it's in no condition for anything but rest. It turns and limps off towards the bedroom, stopping briefly to smile at Duskull, who is hovering nearby and making grumbly little noises of concern. The child will rest, now; and next time it will wait for rain before making a move.
    Last edited by Negrek; 19th March 2014 at 9:09 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.

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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!
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    Ah, Grav, sorry; I didn't see your review earlier. The character that impersonates Nicholas is definitely a criminal... and the child is certainly a scavenger. I'm glad you liked the chapter.

    A bit of a rough month, November, and this is a bit of a rough chapter; but things pick up nicely from here, so the next one should be up much sooner.

    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 more than once someone has stopped you in the street, mistaking you for her. This is more attention than you would like, but your attempts at building a face from scratch were worse.

    This morning you are at 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, bitter as sin and almost slimy-tasting, but it's an important 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. It will take her a few more minutes to finish it and longer still to clean the yellow residue from her face and feathers, so you consider her well-occupied for the near future. And the most important part of the scene is the newspaper spread open in front of you.

    You're about halfway done reading it now, and your mind is starting to wander. You've already checked all the good bits—the funnies, the training section, and, of course, the obituaries. At this point you've even choked down most of the boring stuff—the news news, about people who do things other than train pokémon, some of whom are even foreigners, as though you have any reason to care about them.

    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.

    Whatever her way of learning things is, you bet it's a whole lot more fun than newspapers. But at least your newspapers have ads, 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 center's tall front windows. You imagine it like you're a character in a movie, a real adult human, living her life. It's a normal life, just like the ones you've seen on television. And if you just turn your head a little, look out the window beside you, you can watch a parade of other normal humans going past on the street outside.

    That's part of what draws you to the center and your other haunts. You're out in the public eye, when you could more safely take the news in at your house or some other 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 little circle of being, but you can sit at its edge and watch, and to some extent, pretend.

    You watch the adults, striding along on personal errands, ferrying children through the crowd, sitting outside a cafe for lunch—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 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?

    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 men you recognize walk through. One is short, dumpy, tanned; the other tall but stooped, pale and sunken and uncomfortable in his rumpled suit. Behind the pair a porygon-Z drifts, its limbs and head in constant, subtle motion, never all pointing in the same direction. These 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 isn't paying much attention, his eyes wandering over the room while he sips from the thermos that accompanies him everywhere.

    A sharp rap on the table in front of you summons Duskull. He drifts up out of the wood, just enough so that his red eye can glow out at you, and you nod towards the desk. The red light swivels to look, and Duskull gurgles quietly in acknowledgement, then sinks back out of view, off to spy on Leonard. This isn't likely to gain you much, as Duskull finds human conversations dull and full of things he doesn't understand, so his reporting often leaves something to be desired. You'll take what you can get.

    Even with your less-than-reliable spy, you've managed to compile quite a bit about Leonard. He's a special case, a person you care about, even though he is not in your little collection of souls. You've done your research, over the years, and grown to know him better than any other human, though you've never exactly been introduced. Above all, though, you know one thing.

    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. “Take it, kid,” they'd said. “It's the best offer you're going to get, and who knows? Maybe you'll even manage to make something of yourself.” They'd said he'd be watching over all the trainers in the league, and their pokémon, too, just another member of the bureaucracy. They hadn't said he would be a grave keeper.

    Leonard has a calling, and it's one he neither asked for nor wanted. Once, he had a job, and that was fine. It was a good job, frustrating at times, but interesting enough. He still has the job, but only because without it, he can't have the calling. What joy there was in it has been forgotten. Once, he had a family, a wife and a son. Now he has neither, though one was given up and one was 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 calling.

    The great digital brain of the League records everything, from the first step each trainer takes after receiving their license to the origin and life history of every pokémon passing through their hands. Leonard stands at the nerve center, watching the data flow in from all the league's sensory organs, the pokédexes that 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 that battle; every visit to a pokémon center. It is 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 grand architecture of the system is never undermined.

    It is his job, too, to be the caretaker of all the league's lost souls, the children and adults who perished while pursuing their dreams. Once, he 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 calling.

    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's on to you, in his hopeless, blundering way. You don't really know what he thinks is going on, since he never speaks of it to the public, and you can glean little information from these infrequent sightings. All you know is that he can't possibly be right or, well, you would have been found out already.

    For Leonard has a calling, and that calling 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, 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. You see the gray in his hair and the lines on his face. He's growing old, is Leonard Kerrigan. He's collapsing in on himself like an old piece of fruit rotting from the inside, and you revel in every moment of his demise. What would he do, if he knew the one he was chasing 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 we're always running into each other when I'm checking out something at the Center.”

    Now that the initial surprise has worn off, you aren't worried. Television has taught you that there are two kinds of cops in the world: the 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 is 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's a small world,” you hazard.

    “That it is,” he says, and you relax; a successful deflection. Perhaps this conversation isn't going to 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's going well. Nothing new.” Pause. “What about you?”

    “Well, Fuchsia is Fuchsia, you know. It's pretty quiet. Last week some kids tried to break into the Safari Zone and bag themselves a few dratini, but that's about it.”

    “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.

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

    Duskull is there somewhere, hiding in the drooping plant on the center counter or haunting a ceiling light, out of sight of the porygon but able to get a look at what Leonard is doing. It won't do much good, since Duskull can't read, and all attempts at getting him to remember and recite the order of keys punched into the keypad have failed. He'll pick up whatever information he can, though. You never know what you might learn.

    “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 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.” Leonard has left the computer and is standing in the middle of the lobby, looking pointedly over 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, the brief conversation—one man relaxed and jocular, the other tight as piano-wire, all indignation and irritation over not being taken seriously. They leave the center as they came in, and you can't help grinning to yourself as the center door slides shut behind them.

    You like Officer Feldhorn. He has always been friendly to you, and you enjoy having someone human to talk to. It's good practice, talking with someone like him, someone harmless. Whenever you slip up, it doesn't really matter. You don't slip up so much anymore, though. These days, you consider yourself a downright sterling conversationalist.

    Duskull returns and whispers what he's learned; there was some talk of 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, either. 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. 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. You look forward to it. For there is no one and nothing that can stand between you and the mission, especially not when its name is only Leonard Kerrigan. He's been a thorn in your side for too long; it will be a pleasure to finally remove him entirely.

    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. She's nearly done cleaning herself up. 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? Absol will never know. Today is a good day. Everything is going right. What better time to celebrate?

    Jade Winstead leaves the Fuchsia Town pokémon Center, her togetic following, a duskull ghosting along in the shadows behind. She weaves through the crowd and turns off onto a little side-street, disappears into a shadowy alley. She doesn't come out.
    Last edited by Negrek; 1st November 2013 at 5:27 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 64: Hide and Seek
    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.

  17. #17
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    Chapter 4

    It wakes to the sound of rain. At first it actually smiles, snuggling down farther in the blankets and imagining a comfortable day spent lazing around the house. Then it frowns and rolls onto its side, flopping an arm across its forehead. 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, had been perfectly content to wait for nature to provide. Now the rain is here and there is no more excuse for delay. It lies in bed longer than usual, and when it gets up, it can do no more than shoot the television a mournful look. This morning, there is work to be done.

    The pokéball is retrieved from its place in the drawer. The card in the pokédex is exchanged. A grumpy raticate is roused. All is made ready. It sighs, ducks its head, and plunges out into the dripping forest.

    ----

    You have to dodge almost immediately after Charizard takes shape from his pokéball. He’s nearly faster than you, but you remember the nasty scratch he gave you last time and make a point of moving a little quicker than normal. “Charizard, hey! Hey--!”

    “That’s not my name!” The hiss of rain off his tail only lends his words extra bite. “Stop pretending!”

    “Titan, Titan!” you try. It’s the right name, but aside from the briefest flicker of surprise, the snarl plastered across his muzzle doesn't change. “Come on, I just need to talk to you. Come on.”

    “Talk? Talk?! My trainer’s dead! And you were there! You know! Stop pretending!”

    “I’m your trainer! I’m not dead!” A flamethrower sizzles through the fallen leaves just beside you. In the sodden air, they give off heavy smoke, but no more. “Calm down. How many times do we have to go through this?”

    But he doesn’t calm down. How long can this go on? He’s been raging at you since the day you died, and letting him cool off in his pokéball hasn’t had the slightest effect on his ire. He doesn’t trust you, and you can’t understand why. You are Nicholas Garret now. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that you're all that's left of him.

    Titan lunges, claws rippling with the blueflame that isn’t touched by water. The rain is making him sluggish, though, streaming off his scales and dampening his tail flame. You are able to catch him now, wrapping your arms around his neck and pulling him to the ground. His claws dig into your side, but it doesn’t matter. The dragon claw is weak enough now that it barely hurts.

    “Why won’t you listen to me?” you ask, trying to hang on despite the thrashing. “Why don’t you want to help me? I’m your trainer. Don’t you want to help your trainer?”

    “My trainer is dead!” he chokes, struggling to reach you with too-short arms. “You’re just someone who looks like him. You're not even a real person! What are you?”

    “I’m Nicholas Garret! I’m no one else!” you insist, feeling the blood mix with the rain as it rolls down the inside of your shirt. Damn. Now you'll need to mend these clothes again.

    “You’re not! You’re not! Liar!” His voice is hoarse now, a kind of choked scream that is more rattle than sound. You realize that you may have been hugging his throat too tightly. You loosen your hold and receive thanks in the form of a flamethrower rushing out past your head, setting your hair on fire, immolating the edge of your ear.

    “I’m not lying.” The urge to put a hand up to your injured ear and whimper is strong, but you’re stronger. Instead, you just let go. You fall back to the muddy ground with an unhappy sapling digging into your back. Titan staggers to his feet, head rearing towards the cloudy sky overhead and stubby arms reaching for the bruising at his throat. He coughs, sputtering flame, and you grab Rats' pokéball off your belt and release her onto the ground next to you.

    “Here—if you don't want to talk to me, why don't you talk to Rats instead? You remember Rats, don't you? You can trust her. She'll tell you what's going on.”

    Titan's face swoops back down as he practically presses his snout up against Rats' nose, staring at the raticate in utmost suspicion. Rats backs up nervously, muttering a greeting and staring warily back into the angry charizard's face. Then she has to throw herself sideways, just as you did earlier, as a gush of fire shoots from Titan's mouth.

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

    “You could be anybody,” Titan roars, twisting around to keep the raticate in his line of sight. Rats is dancing back and forth now, on guard for more fire. Now that Titan is no longer looking at you, you get quietly to your feet and back up a little, just to be safe. “You think I can tell the difference between all the raticate I've ever met? You all look the same: 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. Then Titan is on her with teeth and claws and flame, and Rats can do nothing but shriek disparaging comments about Titan's parentage as she struggles to overcome the charizard.

    Unfortunately, it looks as though long days lounging around on the island have dulled Rats' battling skills far more than you'd realized. Titan easily overwhelms her, pinning the raticate in the mud beneath one heavy foot while he stares down at his opponent, smoke streaming warningly from his nostrils.

    “I don't know what you're doing 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!”

    You recall Rats before Titan can incinerate her; the raticate is too weak to escape, and Titan clearly has no interest in listening to her. You briefly consider raising the other pokéball on your belt and recalling Titan, too, but shove the thought away. The situation isn't going to get better by putting off the confrontation again, and it will only make you weak in Titan's eyes.

    The charizard lurches sideways, foot splashing heavily in the mud as Rats dissolves from beneath it. Then he turns to look back at you, lips twisting up to show his fangs, water misting from his nostrils as he snorts out more smoke. “Is that the best you can do, you lying little human-thing?”

    “I’m not lying,” you say again. You are, indeed, the only Nicholas Garret left, Titan's trainer. He needs to learn to obey you, and it looks as though you're going to have to do the teaching yourself.

    Titan opens his mouth, sucking in a great breath of air. You raise crossed arms in front of your face, palms out towards the Charizard.

    Titan’s throat glows as fire rushes up to gather at the back of his mouth. The ball of flame grows larger and larger, flickering out around his teeth. Dancing red and orange fills your vision. Titan lets all his air out in a rush, blowing the fireball straight at you. You make no attempt to dodge—and then Titan is screaming, twisting away, as the fire blast strikes the glinting barrier that has appeared in front of you. Brilliant streamers of light burst from the midst of the flames and arc back towards him, searing his scales and evaporating raindrops straight out of the air.

    He falls to the ground, hiding his face behind his claws as scalding energy roars around him, the mud at his sides bubbling and letting off a hideous stink. He can’t see what it’s costing you, holding the mirror coat in place. Your raised arms tremble as the glittering sheet of light between you and the last of the fire splinters, crumbling away into nothing. You let your arms fall and try to remain standing, waiting to be able to force your body to move again. It’s bad enough for you, and you were only hit by one fire blast; Titan took the force of two.

    After a couple of minutes you gather your strength and stagger over to where he lies, breathing harsh and eyes distant. His tail shudders in the hot muck, burning lower now, but not low enough to be dangerous.

    You fall to your knees in the mud in front of him, oblivious to the slop getting all over your clothing. Reaching down, you lift his head; his small 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.

    Titan'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 more powerful for the moment, but he can’t stand it for long. “What… are…” His voice is hardly more than a croak.

    “What do I need to do for you to accept me as your trainer?”

    “I don’t… you’re not my trainer. My trainer is dead.”

    “Bullshit!” 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 need 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.”

    “…dead…”

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

    “I don’t.”

    “Fuck that! I’m your trainer! You were there! You know! Stop pretending!”

    His eyes show white; he’s probably too terrified to hear his own words thrown back at him. “I can’t.”

    “You liar! You liar!” You let his head drop back into the mud, and he just leaves it lying there, the rain washing the tears off his muzzle. “What do I need to do?”

    While Titan tries to control his sobbing, you try to control your temper, just kneeling where you are, soaking in the rain and the mud, and flexing fingers that long to turn to claws. You're glad you're human, for the moment; it's hard enough to keep your head when you've been fighting, but as a pokémon, it's even harder. “Please. I don't understand. Who are you?” the charizard says at last, and you almost can't understand him for the hitching in his voice.

    You would sympathize, if you weren't so frustrated. It took you years to figure things out. But for now, he already has the facts: “I told you. I'm Nicholas Garret. Your trainer.”

    That is enough to bring Titan out of his funk, if only for a moment. He glares up at you from the mud, wings flaring to emphasize his words. “No! I saw him die. You look like him, but you act like you're someone else.” He blows out a muddy, exasperated snort. Then he turns away from you, almost speaking to himself as his wings start to droop again. “But they died, too. They're both dead.”

    “I was someone else before. I could be someone else tomorrow. Right now, I'm Nick. But 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?”

    He takes another one of those great breaths, but this time you don’t bother preparing for an attack. He just 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 dislodge teeth. “You bastard. You know I can’t do that without you.” You push yourself to your feet, shaky. He keeps his eyes on the ground, blood leaking from his mouth. It might be a while before he realizes you’ve left.

    ----

    In the end, the child has to use what's left of Nick's shirt to bandage the dragon claw wound. Too much excitement—it’s lost a lot of blood, and if it loses much more, it won't be able to make it back to the house.

    Some hours later, when it's resting in bed, it hears the door open and something large blunder inside. It smiles and hugs the sheets more tightly around itself. It’d known the rain wasn’t enough to be dangerous, even with the injuries that Titan had sustained, but it's glad the charizard was able to find his way here, where he will be safe.

    The kitchen table falls with an incredible crash, and the child can imagine the soaked and muddy charizard slipping around on the tiles, searching wearily for somewhere warm to curl up and dry off. That's fine. It doesn't mind the damage. It’ll see to the charizard in the morning, when it's feeling well enough to walk again.
    Last edited by Negrek; 25th March 2013 at 6:49 AM.

  18. #18
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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.


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  19. #19
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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.

  20. #20
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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.†

  21. #21
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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.

    Chapter 5

    You walk into the Cinnabar Pokémon Center with a calm assurance born of practice, Rats and Titan resting exhausted in the pokéballs at your waist. Not far away, perhaps, your water-bloated corpse rests at the bottom of Seafoam Caverns. This doesn't bother you, but Cinnabar itself does. You've had good memories here, but this is also where you died—it's a hard thing to overlook. And there's something else, too, on this sunny little island; some kind of wrongness in the soil, maybe, something alien rolling on the waves. In the past decade, what has this place seen?

    There was the twisted excess of the Mewtwo project, that perversion of nature that ended in flame and the death for most of the island's population, those who worked in the slick research facility dominating its northwestern corner. And then, barely five years later, the volcano erupted one quiet morning, completely out of the blue, sweeping away all the rest on a tide of lava and ash.

    You were there, in fact, 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 did but just there, suddenly, grabbing your arm in her teeth and dragging you away along the dark paths even as the sand beneath your feet began to tremble. Few were lucky enough to have such a friend. Few remain who can recount that fateful day, Gym Leader Blaine among them.

    With a friend like Absol, it's hard not to be superstitious, because you know that even if you aren't, certain others are, and they do their best to see the dictates of karma carried out. But even if you weren't superstitious, you think you'd probably be a bit wary of living here on Cinnabar. The place has come back—the gym reinstalled near the volcano's fiery heart, new resorts hogging the shoreline. But so far, the people have not, not really; the Pokémon Center is quiet, only a few trainers hanging out around the television, and overly-exuberant banners are draped across the high-rises, advertising the rooms still to be had.

    You turn over your pokéballs and idle by the desk, peering with interest at the Center computers. They're new, their plastic still shiny and smooth, not scuffed and dented from encounters with young trainers. They appeared two weeks ago, not long after you started training with Titan again, and you haven't tried using one yet. Today, though, you need money, so you'll get a chance to experience the wave of the future for yourself.

    Once your pokémon have been healed, you wander over, give the new terminals a good inspection. You slide your pokédex into a slot and 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 now you have more experience. You lean into the screen, calm, unruffled, to read the error message. By now you know that this is the only way to keep safe, to keep unnoticed; if you give any sign of weakness, they'll be on you in a moment.

    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 razzes at you 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 another loud buzz grates against your ears.

    It's getting hard to remain calm. You're leaving sweaty fingerprints on the keypad now 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 grit your teeth 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 like you're an agitated animal who might lash out and bite her, and she doesn't know how right she is. You can feel your body starting to shift, starting to forget your human mask and respond to your boiling emotions. You quickly 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 at your insides, and make an attempt at communication.

    "Yes. The thing took—I do not know." You gesture helplessly at the computer, then watch the nurse like a hawk as she makes a cautious approach, peers at the message herself. 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. There's something about a change in policy, 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, it is as though the nurse has torn open your torso and poured a bucket of ice water into your guts. There is no glitch. This is not a mistake. They've 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.

    There is a flash of hot and then cold again in the depths of your chest. "They" aren't coming. Leonard Kerrigan. This is his doing. He stole it. Now he is the one coming, to confront you at the 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 gaze, 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 are faintly aware of the nurse saying something else, backing away from you. You can feel the eyes of the other trainers on you. Now you are 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 is you!

    You make some kind of 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 apart the insides of the machine, 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 like an injured paw, but it's your arm that's injured, running with blood, burns and cuts all up and down its length. The terminal in front of you is ruined, its screen caved in and smoke pouring out of the hole, pops emanating from inside as severed wires short.

    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 witty and apt. 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. Its grip on the pokédex is so tight it can feel the pulse beating in its fingertips, and the device's metal casing has grown warm from the heat of its body. Duskull floats nearby, his single eye giving off a cold exit-sign glow. His presence is comforting; some of the child's earliest memories from this life are of the damp and the cold and the light, the little red light, of Duskull, watching. It cried a lot then, too.

    It is not badly hurt, although it's healed itself too quickly, and the skin's closed around and trapped some shards of glass in its flesh. They'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, its most precious possession, its very identity. How could they? What gave anyone the right to steal its soul?

    But underneath the horror, the dirty feeling of having someone's sweaty hand close around its spirit, is the sour ache of shame. It knows who's behind this all. Leonard Kerrigan, with his cold sad eyes and tired face, he's the one who nearly brought it low. It had thought it had the upper hand; it had thought the man was no real threat. And it had been 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. Never ever again will they have the chance to take it.

    Soon Absol appears. The child doesn't actually see her come in, but there is the whisper of footsteps on the carpet, and then the pokémon leaps up next to it. 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 deluge has slackened to intermittent showers, she speaks. "What happened?"

    The child tells her, stopping now and again as the recounting brings more tears. Absol listens quietly, then remains so for some time afterwards, thinking. The child waits. Finally, Absol says, "That is unfortunate. You will have to be more careful."

    "I don't want to be more careful. I have to get him back, Absol. I can't let him 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 its free 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." This is what it says to Absol, not that it wants to see the look on the man's face as 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 bother the child about its business.

    But Absol would be disapproving. She already is disapproving; 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.

    "Wait until you have rested. Think it over. You will see that I am right," she says.

    The child doesn't care if she's right. She probably is—that's the exasperating thing about Absol. It wants to answer the burning anger flooding its body, not listen to her measured reason. "It won't matter. He has to be punished, Absol. I can't let him do this to me."

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


    The child wishes there were some way to avoid the news. Absol's displeasure was bad enough when she'd heard its own take on events; no doubt a report would bring even more embarrassing facts to light. Of course, Absol is no fool; she insists. "We must know what the humans are thinking," she says, and trots out into the living room without bothering to look back, knowing that the child must eventually follow.

    They sit on opposite sides of the couch. Rats, who was there first and therefore has pick of the space, is curled asleep between them. The child is grateful for this physical buffer between itself and Absol; it's much easier to ignore her signs of disapproval at this distance than if they were right next to each other.

    The child turns the television to one of the twenty-four hour news channels and, sure enough, finds itself staring into security footage of its little tantrum. Absol watches without comment as the computer terminal is destroyed, while the child shrinks back into the cushions in cringing shame. After all this time, it thought it had a better handle on its human act than that.

    Meanwhile, commentators chatter over the silent tape. "Yeah, I see where they're coming from," says one. "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 at all, I mean-"

    "But he's bleeding," points out another, as the action moves 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.

    The security tape ends with Nicholas Garret's successful escape out of the automatic doors, and the screen cuts back to the newscasters. "What you saw there was footage of an incident that occurred earlier today at the Cinnabar Pokémon Center. A trainer identified as Nick Garret of Cerulean City had a breakdown and destroyed a computer terminal, then injured several other visitors to the Center who tried to detain him. What makes this case interesting, though, is that Nick was found dead in Seafoam Caverns just last week."

    The second anchor cut in to add to the intrigue. "The whole thing started when the computer Nick was using refused to return his pokédex, causing him to panic and destroy the terminal to recover it. This pokédex quarantine is a recent change in policy. Previously, trainers with suspicious pokédexes would be flagged by the network but allowed to continue using the device without penalty for a short period of time. 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 cuts to a tape of a harassed-looking young man leaning heavily on a podium emblazoned with the Indigo League seal. Text at the bottom of the screen identifies him as Michael Fitzwallace, an administrator of the Indigo League Trainer's Network, and the child rises out of its pit of misery for long enough to wonder why Leonard isn't making an appearance. "Look," the man says, "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 in possession of a suspicious 'dex to do serious damage to the previous holder's accounts 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 going on 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, and we are not discriminating against undead trainers. Questions?" He grins cockily at the camera for a moment, but his smile dissolves in the face of the clamor that follows—obviously he'd expected his wit to go over better, but the reporters aren't going easy on him. The child milks that for all the bitter amusement it's worth. He deserves it, the smug liar. Nothing to do with us. The smug, smug liar.

    The picture bounces briefly back to the news desk, where the anchor says, "Nick's family has been unavailable for comment, but the funeral home where his memorial service was held last week reports that there was nothing odd about the proceedings or the body, and that it was definitely in the casket when it was put into the ground. Nick's grave site 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 as Nick. Electronic records show that the pokédex in use at the destroyed terminal was Nick's, however, and both eyewitness reports and security footage match his description. Sheira Miles is on-site at Cinnabar Island to speak with some of the trainers who witnessed the incident. Sheira?"

    The child doesn't catch most of that. Its insides freeze over at the mention of "forensic evidence," and it simply can't concentrate on the rest. All it feels outside the cold prickling in its chest is Absol's gaze, burning a gut-turning spot of disapproval onto its shoulder. It can't meet her eyes. Its head fills with scenes from its favorite crime dramas, white-coated lab techs bustling about, mixing mysterious fluid, reading the glowing lines that say who it really is, the person hiding in the blood that spilled from Nicholas Garret's body. It hadn't even been thinking, hadn't been careful. How much blood would they be able to recover? Enough, it thought. How much did they even need? Only the tiniest drop...

    Unable to take its eyes from the screen, the child watches dully as a smiling woman chats with a few trainers it distantly recalls having seen in the Center. "...not human," a teen was saying for the camera. "I mean, the dude punched out a fucking feraligatr, like, one hit, bam! It was crazy."

    "And the person was definitely Nick Garret?"

    "He looked like the guy in the picture you showed me, yeah."

    Beside you, Absol makes a noise. It's not much of anything, a faint cough, maybe, while she shifts pointedly around on the cushion. But it brooks no argument. You aren't going to be able to avoid me forever, it says. And I'm starting to lose my patience. Swallowing down its dread, the child turns to look at her. She's watching it, impassive. Waiting.

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

    "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 clenches its hands into fists and looks down at its lap, taking deep breaths and trying to keep back tears. It knows Absol's eyes are on it now, and on the fact of it failing to stay calm yet again, and that makes everything so much worse. Absol waits.

    "I know I screwed up. I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting it, and I panicked." It clenches its hands tighter, bent almost double into a little ball of misery, then grabs at its forehead, burying its fingers in its hair. 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," 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. And what if they do manage to figure out who I am? They might figure everything else out, too. They might put all the others away where I'll never be able to find them. They might find me, Absol. 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 and words catching in its throat. It grits its teeth again and forces the tears back, determined not to put on another pathetic display.

    Absol just watches, then gives the faintest of nods, inviting the child to continue. It works its mouth a bit more, until it can finally unstick the words from its throat, and goes on. "So I have to get him. I have to stop Leonard, 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 cushion beneath her. But she just watches. 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. If I'm lucky, I might be able to get Thunderstorm from him, too. Or at least he should be able to tell me where it is. And then, if I get Thunderstorm and 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 it will all be okay."

    "You should wait," Absol says. "I told you you should wait. Patience. You are panicking. You are losing your temper. Haven't you already done enough damage?"

    "I can't wait forever, Absol! 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 she talks to me I see—she's scared. She's hurting. We can't just leave her there."

    "It will do no good 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 confront Leonard." They're old arguments, bickered on and off over the months and years prior. The child is making one last attempt, putting all it has on the line. If Absol doesn't agree—then she doesn't agree. It's just going to have to do it anyway. The thought of going against her puts a cold edge of unease alongside the flush of its anger.

    "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 isn't. But maybe it's mine. Isn't that what humans do? Isn't that what you told me?" The child throws its hands up 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 it is dangerous. 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. "At least wait a little while. Get some rest. Think it through. You should not decide this hastily."

    She pads away, off towards the kitchen. The child scowls after her and sinks back in its seat, turning its eyes back to the screen and trying to focus on the news again. Some woman who claims to be an expert on surviving a zombie apocalypse is being interviewed. The inane chatter washes over the child but can't drown the dark churning of its mind.

    Of course Absol doesn't understand. The child could swear that ice 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 is making its life difficult. That's annoying, but not much more. There is some humiliation in it, yes, in how it failed, and that is the only reason he has any power over it at all. But it's more than that, now, so much more. He's gone 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 to think of it. Not now, not ever, never. It doesn't matter what Absol says. She doesn't understand.

    The vapid news show is only making it more angry. It flips the channel to a loud cartoon instead, and Rats stirs as sounds of mayhem fill the air. She uncurls and blinks around blearily until her eyes focus on the child. She frowns. "What happened to you?"

    "I don't want to talk about it."

    She gives a little twitch of her whiskers, her equivalent of a shrug. "Okay." They sit and watch a pair of nidoran chasing each other around the screen, hitting each other over the head with mallets and playing pranks on their idiot trainer. While Rats enjoys the spectacle, chuckling to herself every now and then, the child watches it without watching, its mind still stewing.

    Absol is right about one thing. It should think this over. And it is thinking it over, very, very carefully. It is considering everything it knows about Matt Kerrigan, every piece of information it has 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 is prepared, this time, to be Matt Kerrigan properly. Matt Kerrigan, the lost son. Matt Kerrigan, the suicide case.
    Last edited by Negrek; 1st November 2013 at 5:22 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 64: Hide and Seek
    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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    Chapter 6

    There's only one light burning in the Kerrigan household tonight, up in the study at the rear of the second floor. You can't actually 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 just below your perch. 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 Absol knew when you had stopped breathing and prodded that one forward.

    She'll be doing no prodding now. She watched you as 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, though, and she didn't follow you when you left. Now it is 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, though you've sharpened your eyesight and can see through the gloom that it's exactly as it was that day, not even a bit dusty. From this angle you can't see, but you wonder—is the empty bottle of pills still sitting on the nightstand where it was left?

    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 their confused little circles. He's no threat, surely—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 tell yourself. You've established everything you need to about the situation: Leonard is home. No one else is. It's not as though 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 yourself to the stoop.

    Then, before you can hesitate, before you can talk yourself out of it, you ring the doorbell. Only now do you allow mild panic to set in. There's nothing you can do but stand and wait there, doubting, 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 anxiety and anticipation entirely, but changing enough to do that would make it very hard for you to act like Matt Kerrigan.

    Finally, you can 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 in the semidarkness.

    You'd been afraid that, in the heat of the moment, you'd forget all of your preparations. Your rehearsed lines would fly out of your head, and you'd be left a stammering idiot. But you find this is not the case. 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 that is when it all goes to hell.

    You only barely resist the instinct to swat the man aside, as you would any other creature that jumped at you, and that moment of hesitation as you rein in your battle instincts leaves you no time to get out of his way. So it is that Leonard manages to catch hold of you, wrapping his arms inappropriately tightly around your torso. At least you manage to get your arms up and out of the way so they aren't pinned to your sides, but you're nevertheless stuck there, leaning out of Leonard Kerrigan's embrace, trying to make the minimum amount of contact, while he clings to you like a limpet for some reason.

    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 awkwardly drape your arms over Leonard Kerrigan's shoulders and wait, hopefully, for further indication of what you should do.

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

    “Dad,” you say. “We should go inside.”

    If he hears you, he doesn't give any sign. You try extricating yourself from the hug, starting to panic and not really caring if you're being rude. But Leonard won't let you go, and you're afraid if you push him away too hard, you'll hurt him. Not an unwelcome outcome, but one that might be bad for your cover.

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

    He's still not listening. You try walking forward, pushing him ahead of you, but that only threatens to get you even more tangled up with him. For a moment, exasperation replaces panic. You could pick him 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 a crying man 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, and listen for a moment to 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...” And 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 reflexive 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 lunge at you again the moment you let go. He appears to be trying to get ahold of himself, though, not babbling anymore and wiping the tears from his eyes, so you take the moment of peace to have a look around.

    Here in the foyer it's dim, only one light still 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. To your sensitive nose the smells of unwashed human and dishware are overwhelming; you can see the kitchen down the hall, with leaning 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 face in the dimness. “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 the thing you've been agonizing about for years. He reaches out and puts a hand on your arm, and you barely manage not 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 started in on them. Secret agents are cool, after all.

    To your surprise, Leonard Kerrigan flips from morose to angry in the space of a couple of sentences. “Come on, Matt!” he says. “A target of what? What's going on? You can tell me! Why are you only coming back now? I mean, 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 really 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 would have been safer that way. I cannot tell you what I am doing, or where I have been. And no one else can know about it. You would not have to be involved, either, 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 at 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 when you step inside.

    The area around the computer is cleaner than the rest of the house, but only barely. The machine itself is slick, of course, and obviously much loved. But the rest of the room is awash in 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 the dead walking Kanto, but even the Saffron Times was only marginally more restrained in its reporting.

    Leonard Kerrigan had 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, some 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'd actually forgotten who it was you were dealing with. Thinking back on your earlier feelings, you're disgusted with yourself. 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 wondering whether you might be able to tell me.”

    “What? Why?”

    “Well, you see, Matt, it seems you aren't the only trainer out there to fake their death recently.” He sits down at the computer, which displays his bobbing porygon-Z as a screen saver. “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 eliminating Leonard Kerrigan 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. It's clear you need a change of plan. 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 this happened to. 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 perhaps this mortifying situation never would have arisen.

    You're having to work hard to stifle your impatience. All this pathetic human blubbering. Why can't the man just get on with it, already? Standing here with the reminders of his scheming all around you is putting you on edge, fraying the ends of your temper.

    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. But then he only shakes his head and says, “I see.” And then, mercifully, he turns to the computer and nudges the mouse to dismiss the bouncing porygon. You watch hungrily as he starts typing, torn between wanting to edge closer in order to see what he's doing and afraid that if you move you might somehow shatter this fragile, perfect moment when everything is going right.

    A small pokéball teleporter 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 picks it up and holds it up in front of his face, picking out a pokéball 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. The small study is abruptly even more cramped as the appearance of a four-foot persian forces you to step back into a leaning stack of old magazines.

    Duke blinks and snuffs at the air uncertainly, obviously disoriented. He's been in storage for a long time, and you wonder whether anyone even bothered to explain to him what happened to Matt before putting him away. Your heart is hammering even in the face of a pokémon so unprepared for battle. You hadn't been expecting this, not at all. You were prepared to deal with Leonard, but you aren't sure how to handle any of Matt's pokémon, aside from War—you know very little about them.

    Nevertheless, you decide to hope for the best and go out on a limb. “Hello, Duke,” you start. The Persian turns deep brown eyes on you, confusion plain on his face. “Remember me? It is good to see you again.”

    “What? Matt?” Duke rumbles, staring around at the cluttered study in blank incomprehension, catching sight of Leonard sitting by the computer. Well, at least he doesn't seem overtly hostile. You reach out your hand to pet him, but he shrinks away from your fingers, bumping clumsily against the desk as he goes. “What's going on here?” he asks, tense, baring his teeth just slightly.

    You hurriedly draw your hand back, make placating gestures, but Leonard is happy to interpret the persian's bewildered behavior according to his own agenda. “I knew it,” he says, wearing a sickly smile. “You're not my son. And you are connected with the other dead trainers, aren't you? Who are you? And what”—the smile is gone, replaced with 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 in agitation.

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

    “I can't! I'm 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 the evidence of the man's pathetic scheming is all around you, a stark reminder of the injustices you've suffered at his hands. War, trapped in the computer; you, forced into skulking furtiveness for fear of his discovery; your pokédex—you almost choke on bile at the thought. What's the point of discretion? You didn't come here to make friends, after all. 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 the room. He's quick to pounce. “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. As the persian falls to the floor in a daze, 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 managed close 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-encrusted 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.

    With your left hand you deliver a smashing brick break attack 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.

    As 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, and a last couple of 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, but 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's yelling. “Who are you? What have you done with my son?

    You smile, easily standing strong against his clumsy attempts to wrestle you down. You could kill him now, if you wanted. You have what you came for, and you would be eliminating a dangerous enemy. 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 and his living son than previously suspected. As it is, they think he's crazy, and if he tries to discuss your visitation with anyone, they'll only grow more sure. Best just to leave him something impossible 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 look of pathetic hopelessness on Leonard Kerrigan's face is exquisite, and you laugh as you press your free hand into his chest and shove him away from you, easily breaking his slack grip. You half-hope he'll come at you again, make some desperate final effort to deter you. But he just lies where he's fallen, cowering, staring at you in confusion and fear. 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 enough to concentrate and think yourself elsewhere.
    Last edited by Negrek; 1st November 2013 at 5:22 AM.

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