Page 8 of 8 FirstFirst ... 45678
Results 176 to 189 of 189

Thread: Salvage

  1. #176
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Lurking
    Posts
    1,090

    Default

    ( Continued from previous post. )

    The noise is so loud you don't even hear it at first. You're screaming with both hands in the air, and the roar of the crowd feels like it's coursing through your veins instead of blood, resonating all around you, inside and outside at once. You did it. You won. Absol told you it would never work, but it totally did. This is the best. You are the best. And now everybody knows it.

    You realize some of the healers are patting you on the back, murmuring congratulations. The challenger's box rattles back to earth beside you, and the great Nathaniel Morgan scoops his pokéballs out of the healing machine built into its railing. He spends a minute just rolling them in his hand, looking exhausted, but his eyes narrow when they settle on you. "You. Keep up." He sets off towards the stands, and you follow, floating in a dreamy haze and only vaguely aware of the reporters who crowd around the great Nathaniel Morgan, jostling you without appearing to notice you're there.

    "Mr. Morgan! Mr. Morgan, how does it feel to be going to the finals?"

    "Mr. Morgan! Why do you use so many pokémon without pokéballs?"

    "Mr. Morgan! Can you explain how you chose your nickname for the tournament?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan plows through like he doesn't even see them, not a "fuck you" spared for anyone. You hesitate a second, airy mood pierced by the sense that something's not right, before plunging forward into the dark, echoey tunnel that leads beneath the stands.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan isn't slowing down. You hurry to stay behind him, try to get close enough to whisper so he can hear without the reporters catching on. "Great Nathaniel Morgan," you start, then yelp when he grabs your arm and drags you sideways into a prep room, slamming the door behind him.

    "Just what in the fuck was that?" he snarls, two inches from your face. You can only stare. He's mad?

    "Well?" he yells. "What the fuck is the matter with you? You just gonna do whatever the fuck you want on the field, and fuck what I say? You think it's funny? You think--"

    You brighten as you realize what he's talking about. "Actually, it was pretty--"

    "Shut the fuck up! Have you gone fucking insane? You see the scariest motherfucking blastoise on the entire fucking planet and, what, you pop a huge boner for throwing yourself right the fuck in front of it?"

    "What are you even--"

    "In the fucking semis? You're going to pull shit like that in a fucking semifinal match, when you know we can't lose? Hell, it was you who wouldn't shut up with the bitching about how much was riding on this, then, you--this? You can't even, you can't--" He's interrupted by a bout of coughing, reaching out to steady himself against the wall.

    "Are you done talking now?" you ask.

    He shakes his head and wheezes, "I ain't done, you--" But his cough gets the better of him again.

    "I knew we had to win that battle. That is why I went out against the blastoise. Because you were losing," you say as the great Nathaniel Morgan slumps down on a bench, trying to get his breath back.

    "You--" he manages to get out, but now you're the one who won't let him get any farther.

    "You were not believing in yourself," you say peevishly. "You were convinced you were going to lose. I had to do something to turn things around."

    "Wh-what?" the great Nathaniel Morgan gasps. "What are you, some kind of fucking shrink? You thought fighting that fucking monster would help?"

    "Yes. I wanted you to get mad so you would stop being afraid."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan leans forward, face livid and teeth bared. "I don't need your fucking help, asshole. I know what the fuck I'm doing. You think I didn't know we were in deep shit? You think I didn't fucking care, like I just wasn't trying hard enough or some bullshit?"

    "Of course I knew you cared. If you did not, you would not have gotten mad when I went on the field. And anyway," you add, cutting off an angry retort, "it worked, did it not? We won."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan stares at you for a moment, then looks past you, like he's contemplating something off in the distance. "We won," he says slowly.

    "Exactly. Thanks to me. I beat Blastoise for you, remember? And basically Electivire, too."

    A brief smile flickers across the great Nathaniel Morgan's face. "Yeah, I guess that was kind of badass."

    "More like really badass. So stop complaining. Now are we going back to the apartment or what?"

    He's taking the pokéballs off his belt instead. His pokémon take shape in dazzling bursts of white.

    "What's up?" Raticate asks. "Did we win?"

    Mightyena jumps on the great Nathaniel Morgan the instant she solidifies, and he laughs and hugs her around the neck. She slobbers all over his face, but he just keeps laughing and laughing, hanging on tight while Mightyena wriggles and bounces on her hind legs.

    "Well, I guess that's my answer," Raticate grumbles. "Hey! Where's the love?" He jumps up next to his trainer, and the great Nathaniel Morgan gathers him under an arm. The human endeavors to scratch under the rat's chin and handle Mightyena at the same time, but the dark-type keeps shoving up against him until she's nearly driven him off the far side of the bench.

    "We won!" the great Nathaniel Morgan says in frank, delighted disbelief. "We fucking won! Hell yeah! Take that, you fucking academy nerd!"

    "Okay, but what happened?" Raticate asks. He pushes Mightyena out of the way and settles himself in the great Nathaniel Morgan's lap, stretching out flat while his trainer scratches along his spine. "Some of us were stuck inside a pokéball for the good parts, you know."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's head snaps up when you repeat Raticate's question, and for a second he stares at you like he doesn't recognize you. Then he says, "Oh, man, it was fucking awesome. I mean, I guess you know all about the muk, right? But Mightyena fought a salamence, and then there was this fucking blastoise..."

    "I punched an aggron," Graveler offers. She's standing off to one side as usual.

    "Well, it's gonna be on TV, ain't it? Like all kinds of replays and shit. You can see the whole thing." The great Nathaniel Morgan chuckles, a dazed but giddy look on his face. "I mean, it's gonna be on TV. All those losers back at base can suck it, I'm gonna go against fucking Red. Here, come on, we gotta celebrate. I mean, we got the money now, right? We should, like, go out to eat or something. Somewhere all fancy, you know? Come on, I'm fucking starving."

    He pulls himself up with the help of the wall and gently pushes past his clamoring pokémon. Raticate and Mightyena climb over each other, yelling about what restaurant they want to go to. The great Nathaniel Morgan herds them towards the door, Graveler stomping up behind. He turns back to you, arms crossed over his chest. "Well? You gonna stand there all fucking day, or what?"

    You have no idea what he's talking about. He rolls his eyes and motions towards the door.

    "I can come?"

    "Not if you don't get your ass over here right this second."

    You hesitate. There must be some kind of trick. But the great Nathaniel Morgan turns to go, and the door nearly closes behind him before you run up to catch it. The great Nathaniel Morgan ignores you, and you hang around at the rear of the group, curious and somehow hopeful besides. Today is a day for surprises, you suppose.

    Absol meets you in front of the restaurant, then appears at your table before the rest of you can even cross the room, and you grin at her showing off. At first you're wary when the great Nathaniel Morgan insists you sit across from him, but after a couple minutes you realize he only invited you so he could keep up with his pokémon's conversation, prodding you to translate between bites of your food. That makes sense, then. You can settle in and enjoy the dinner, an all-you-can-eat buffet for humans and pokémon both.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan mostly just listens and shovels food into his mouth. Down towards the end of the table Graveler does the same, steadily crunching her way through a pile of rust-red Indigo Plateau rock. You imagine some poor lackey chef getting shoved out the back door with a bucket and a pick whenever the buffet runs low.

    Raticate and Mightyena swap details of their matches, only slightly exaggerated. "What? Your substitute scared the crap out of a dragon? You've got to--well, actually, I can kind of see that," Raticate says. "Anyway, listen, at least you didn't have to literally swim in a muk, which by the way is made of poison death and just the smell could kill you."

    "What, you're saying you'd rather face the salamence?"

    "Honestly..."

    "Well, I couldn't send Mightyena against a muk," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "I mean, with her nose? She wouldn't be able to take the stench. You did good, buddy. It was a tough fight."

    Raticate stares at him, ears flattened against his skull. "Nate, I can smell better than Mightyena."

    "But you smell worse," Mightyena says. Raticate throws a gnawed chicken bone at her.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's brows knit together in a frown. "Wait, what? I mean, she's a dog, they got super noses, don't they?"

    "I swear, your lot have the best PR," Raticate says to Mightyena.

    "Don't know what you're talking about, you filthy, disease-ridden vermin," Mightyena says brightly. "Anyway, that's about it for us, isn't it? Now what were you talking about with a blastoise, Nate?"

    "Oh, that. This asshole's the one you want to talk to about that."

    You sit back, so surprised your fork clanks off the plate as you set it down. "You want me to tell it?" The great Nathaniel Morgan nods and makes circular "go on" motions with his fork while he chews.

    "Well, there was this really big blastoise. She was super old," you begin, and smile as you remember what it was like to stare her down across the battlefield, how scary she was. But you won.

    Soon enough you're absorbed in telling the story, arguing back over Raticate and Mightyena's skepticism, getting the great Nathaniel Morgan to back you up on the best parts. Of course you don't mention how you actually won, how you had to change--you don't want the great Nathaniel Morgan getting mad again now.

    Raticate's still scurrying back to the buffet now and again to grab more food, but everyone else seems more interested in chatting and slowly finishing whatever's left on their plates. Graveler's no more outgoing than usual, and of course Absol's been quiet the whole time, daintily murdering a couple of extremely rare steaks. The other three banter back and forth about what it would be like to have a salamence on their team, which somehow evolves into the great Nathaniel Morgan regaling them with the story of how he set a high school teacher's car on fire. "So they kicked me out," he says. "And that was supposed to be the punishment! Holy shit, if I'd known I woulda done it years earlier, saved us all some time."

    In the end even Raticate's reduced to desultory picking at his plate and the great Nathaniel Morgan's dozing where he sits. You're none too alert yourself, stuffed so full it's almost painful. You've been talking for practically everyone, after all, and as lethargic silence settles over the table it's nice to slide down in your chair and not have to say anything, just smile as you watch Mightyena get increasingly blatant about stealing scraps off her trainer's plate.

    This goes on until she gets greedy about some bits of ham at the far opposite side of the plate and ends up knocking everything into the great Nathaniel Morgan's lap. "Come on, come on, let's get back already so I can get some goddamned sleep," the human grumbles. "Someone thought it would be funny to raise my blood pressure right through the fucking roof today. I'm beat." The procession that leaves the restaurant is far slower than the one that arrived, the great Nathaniel Morgan falling asleep on Graveler's back after only a few minutes. Raticate climbs up to join him, curling up to sleep in his trainer's lap.

    By the time you get back to the apartment you're feeling pretty beat yourself. The great Nathaniel Morgan and his pokémon pile off to the bedroom while you contemplate the television. But no, even that feels like too much effort, so you climb into your chair and pick up Captain Rubina Roth, who was guarding it while you were away. Curled up with an overfull stomach and the good captain hugged against your chest and the weariness of the day's battle dragging at you, you settle in warm and content for a good night's sleep.

    Something cold and sharp seizes your shoulder. "Cordierite-eyes." The hissed word is cold, too and loud, coming from about two centimeters away from your ear.

    You sit up too fast, heart racing. The comfortably small chair suddenly feels confining. "What?" For once you don't even try to hide your annoyance.

    Eskar perches on the arm of the chair, behind your head so you have to twist all around to even see her. The sliver moon, just visible through the window, lights her gems like shards of colored glass.

    "Ah, Cordierite-eyes," Eskar sighs. "Sometimes I worry."

    "About what?"

    "About you, Cordierite-eyes." For once Eskar's not smiling.

    "Me?"

    "Yes, you. You worry me, yes, yes."

    "Why?" you ask. You want to sleep. Why can't she just spit it out?

    "The human," Eskar says. "You know that Illite-eyes will be so displeased if she can't get Lazurite-eyes. But I think, ah, I think, when the time comes, perhaps you will not be so willing to hand him over, you see?"

    "What? Of course I will! What are you talking about?"

    "Please, please." Eskar holds up her hands. "No disrespect. You know I like you, Cordierite-eyes. We are good friends, are we not? But I think maybe you are also a little too friendly with Lazurite-eyes. Perhaps you think he is not so bad, yes?"

    "No!" Your flames cast tall, flickering shadows over walls and ceiling. You can't let them go as much as you like, though, have to clamp down on another yell. The great Nathaniel Morgan and his pokémon are sleeping in the next room, or in the case of Graveler, most likely not sleeping at all. "I hate him! Of course I hate him. Don't be stupid," you go on in a whisper.

    "Good, good," Eskar purrs. "But I worry. I do. You see how he tries to manipulate us?" She points to your hand, and you look down. You forgot all about Captain Rubina Roth, and only now do you realize how tight you're squeezing her, so tight her plastic edges are digging into the insides of your fingers.

    "Let me see that," Eskar says, and snatches Captain Rubina Roth away before you can say no. One bite snaps the action figure clear in half, and Eskar spits the upper portion carelessly away.

    "Hey!" you say, and struggle to uncurl out of the chair and go after it. You flinch back when Eskar shoves the remainder of Captain Rubina Roth in your face, brandishing the torsoless legs like a poker. "No, Cordierite-eyes. No. This is how he buys us, you see? With cheap trinkets like this. Worthless trash!" She reaches into her chest and pulls out a chip of rock--one of the gemstones the great Nathaniel Morgan gave her, you realize. Its glossy surface glints in the moonlight, but you can't tell its color.

    "Useless thing. It's dyed, you know. Cheap, cheap trash," Eskar says. "But watch now, Cordierite-eyes. Watch." She drops Captain Rubina Roth's legs and scratches something into the back of the gem, claw squeaking and rasping through a few quick, efficient strokes. "You see?" Eskar holds the gem up for your inspection.

    You squint but can't make out the symbol by the shifting light of your fire. "Illite-eyes' own mark," Eskar says softly. "It means you have her protection. Good for one favor, yes? Take it. Take."

    You reach out, slowly, and Eskar drops the gemstone into your palm. You feel the scratches on it as you close it in a fist, but still can't tell what they form. "My gift to you," Eskar says. "Very precious. It is good to have the regard of Team Rocket, yes? And we are good friends, are we not, Cordierite-eyes?"

    You nod, hesitantly. You don't really want a gift from Team Rocket. You don't want to be friends with them at all. But it could be useful.

    "Lazurite-eyes, he tries to bribe with his worthless little gifts. Pfeh! His pokémon, they love it. But we are not so easily bought, Cordierite-eyes, are we? We will not be swayed by cheap trinkets."

    Not that she gave you much choice, you think with a flash of resentment. But you already had an action figure like that anyway. And Eskar's right, it's a pretty cheap toy. "No. And you don't have to worry. The great Nathaniel Morgan deserves to go to the boss. I told you you could have him, and I meant it. I'm not a liar. I won't go back on my word."

    "Ah, good, good, Cordierite-eyes," Eskar chirrs. "Such a good friend. I am much reassured."

    "Is that it? I want to go to sleep."

    Eskar shakes her head. "Ah, Cordierite-eyes, ah--"

    "What are you doing?"

    Eskar hisses a curse between her teeth, head snapping 180° in a single abrupt twist. You know Absol well, though, and you aren't surprised when she steps from the darkness beside the couch.

    "Absol! We're just talking."

    "I can see that," Absol says. She never looks at Eskar, but the sableye perches tense on the arm of the chair, overwide mouth curved down in a frown. "And why is it that you're talking to this... person?"

    "Because I want to," you say, folding your arms over your chest. "Why are you here? You never visit except for training."

    "This sableye is not trustworthy. It is not safe to do business with her."

    "Ruby-eyes! Please! Such slander!" Eskar says. She freezes, poised on the edge of the chair arm, as Absol tips her blade in her direction. But Eskar's constant smile is back. "Team Rocket always keeps its promises. It's good business, yes?"

    "Eskar's on our side, Absol. I asked her to help with the tournament, and she said yes. A lot faster than you did." You shift around in the chair, averting your eyes from Absol's steady gaze. "We need her."

    "Need can't justify everything," Absol says firmly, ignoring Eskar's affronted gasp.

    You're pretty sure Eskar's only pretending to care what Absol says, but still. You care. It's always the same thing with Absol.

    "You didn't have a problem with me being around the great Nathaniel Morgan, and he's from Team Rocket, too. Is this about him? Are you mad because I'm sending him back?"

    "The human is of no consequence," Absol says. "You are the one I'm worried about."

    "Well, I'm fine. I already told you, I don't want to hear you complain about the tournament anymore. Go away if you don't have anything else to say."

    Absol stands there, looking between you and Eskar. For once you think she's being quiet because she doesn't know what to say. "I don't want you to get hurt," she says at last.

    "Please, please, Ruby-eyes," Eskar says, holding up a hand. "I am not here to hurt anyone. Cordierite-eyes and I are friends, yes? There is no reason to fear."

    "I'm not going to get hurt, Absol," you say. "Now go away already."

    She stands and looks at you, until Eskar says, soft as a breath, "Cordierite-eyes asked you to leave."

    That brings Absol's attention around to her, hard and coldly furious like you've never seen. Absol levels her blade at the sableye again. "You are the one who should leave," Absol says. "I have not agreed to tolerate you."

    "Absol, come on!"

    "Is that so, Ruby-eyes?" Eskar says, and there's real laughter in her voice now. "Cordierite-eyes has made their decision, yes? You can't interfere, watcher-cat. Both of us, we know you are bound."

    "Absol, I told you to go away. I know you're trying to help, but you're not."

    Eskar holds Absol's gaze without flinching, smiling wide, so wide, like there isn't a blade hovering in front of her nose, like Absol isn't standing with claws splayed in the carpet, muscles tense beneath her silky fur. "Cordierite-eyes says to leave," Eskar says quietly.

    At last Absol turns away. "We will discuss this later," she says.

    "No we won't!" you say, as loud as you dare. You sit with your hands balled into tight fists, flames hissing and crackling in your ears while Absol melts back into shadow. She can't make you. She can't.

    "Sorry," you say, unable to meet Eskar's eyes. "Sorry, she just... She can be like that sometimes."

    "Worry not, Cordierite-eyes, worry not." Eskar waves a hand dismissively. "Watcher-cats, yes? Crazy, all of them. Let her worry if she will. You will show her, yes?"

    "Yeah." You take a deep breath and let your flames die back, slowly, to gutter fitfully at shoulder length. "We'll win the tournament, and then she'll see I was right."

    "Of course, Corierite-eyes."

    "So is that it?" you ask. "You don't have to worry. I'll make sure you get the great Nathaniel Morgan back."

    "Ah, Cordierite-eyes." Eskar looks away from you, wringing her hands clean through one another in little puffs of ectoplasm. "Ah, Cordierite-eyes, I fear there is one other thing."

    Your flames are trying to flare up again, from threading fear this time. "What?"

    "Well, you see, Cordierite-eyes, Illite-eyes, she is not pleased. 'Why haven't you found them?' she asks me. 'What are you doing out there? Should I send someone else?' So angry, Cordierite-eyes. So angry."

    "So...?"

    "So I fear I must ask something else of you, Cordierite-eyes. If I were to turn our human friend in, such rewards I would have! But no. Instead I say nothing. And so Illite-eyes gives me nothing, no, not even the smallest treat. So I must ask you for something. Something for Eskar, for her service and her hardship, yes?"

    "So what do you want?" you ask after a moment, but you already know, of course, you know before Eskar tips her head and taps a claw against one gemstone eye.

    Your stomach turns over, bile souring your throat. You wish you didn't have so much for dinner. "That's okay," you manage to get out. "I can give you another eye, if that's what you want."

    "Oh, Cordierite-eyes, you don't understand! Illite-eyes wants Lazurite-eyes so very badly, so very badly indeed. If someone let slip where he was to be found, if they gave just the tiniest little hint..."

    "I know!" It's half a shout, choked down at the last second. You have to take a moment to gather yourself before continuing. "I know, Eskar. It's okay. You can have another eye. It's fine."

    "Ah, Cordierite-eyes! I like you, I really do. Such a good friend." Eskar gives you a dazzling smile. "But I'm afraid my rates have gone up."

  2. #177
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    There-ish
    Posts
    2,102

    Default

    OKAY SO. Finally I've caught up. Probably could've done so sooner, but I'm in something of a REREAD FRICKIN EVERYTHING phase these days, so. On the plus side, that did give me a chance to check out those revisions--speaking of which. It could just be that this is my second time around reading this, therefore kinda knowing what I'm getting myself into this time, but I kind of get the feeling somehow that even if it weren't I'd have had an easier time following the early parts of the story this time around?? At any rate, it was a smoother read, is what I'm getting at.

    First off, loved the poochyena extra. She is such a frickin dog, holy ****. I love it. I love the sheer dogginess of the way she decided to test Nate near the end. And I like getting to read some POV of a pet-shop pokémon; neat to see how one of those views the wild.

    I continue to like the actual frell out of Eskar--more than ever, as a matter of fact, what with her scene in that last chapter. And that conversation with Graveler several chapters back, omg. Precious geology nerds.

    God, speaking of geology. The ****in rock porn conversation. Frickin priceless.

    Some real gems among Child and co.'s opponents through these recent battles. That muk takes the top prize, hands down, but I liked Blastoise pretty well too. And Electivire.

    Anyhoo, this has been a fun few afternoons on my end. Still enjoying the heck outta this, and looking forward to more.

  3. #178
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    920

    Default

    Another uncomfortably close hydro pump roars past, and then you realize--your head is on fire. That's how. There's no hiding, then. Sooner or later Blastoise'll hit you, and that'll be the end.
    Heh, that's one downside to choosing to be an infernape. Aren't infernape able to subdue their fire, though? It could be suspicious, but with as deep a hole as its in, it could probably get by without attracting attention.

    "Infernape, come on! You have to get out of there!" No, really?
    Good ol' Nate, pointing out the obvious.

    Now that I've read the entire chapter, I have to say his dialogue during the Blastoise vs. Infernape part of the battle was a tad underwhelming. I liked that Nate wasn't forgotten and shoved to the background in favor of letting the child do whatever, because their angry and disobedient dynamic is always amusing and key to them working together, but the dialogue didn't really feel like Nate was really there after a while, if that makes sense. I know he can't go overboard with swearing here, but the majority of his dialogue during this battle segment was just like the quoted portion, stating the obvious and without real emotion or depth added. Basically, his dialogue started to feel forced rather quickly.

    Nobody wants to have to scrape her off the bottom of the arena."
    If I were Nate, I'd freak out on her after this comment. Geez. Glad she got beaten in the end. >_>

    You flop to the ground and stretch out like you're following orders, but what you're really doing is changing your ability back to blaze. It's probably too much to hope that you can keep absorbing your opponent's attacks without anyone noticing.
    Well, I'm glad the child did take advantage of the fissure in some way. XD I wonder if an advanced trainer like Aanya Singh will notice something was off and report Nate.

    A couple pointed comments about how much brain damage Salamence must have after throwing herself off a bunch of cliffs really spoil the mood.
    Heh, amusing homage to Bagon's pokedex entry here.

    "I knew we had to win that battle. That is why I went out against the blastoise. Because you were losing," you say as the great Nathaniel Morgan slumps down on a bench, trying to get his breath back.

    "You--" he manages to get out, but now you're the one who won't let him get any farther.

    "You were not believing in yourself," you say peevishly. "You were convinced you were going to lose. I had to do something to turn things around."

    "Wh-what?" the great Nathaniel Morgan gasps. "What are you, some kind of ****ing shrink? You thought fighting that ****ing monster would help?"

    "Yes. I wanted you to get mad so you would stop being afraid."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan leans forward, face livid and teeth bared. "I don't need your ****ing help, *******. I know what the **** I'm doing. You think I didn't know we were in deep ****? You think I didn't ****ing care, like I just wasn't trying hard enough or some ********?"

    "Of course I knew you cared. If you did not, you would not have gotten mad when I went on the field. And anyway," you add, cutting off an angry retort, "it worked, did it not? We won."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan stares at you for a moment, then looks past you, like he's contemplating something off in the distance. "We won," he says slowly.

    "Exactly. Thanks to me. I beat Blastoise for you, remember? And basically Electivire, too."

    A brief smile flickers across the great Nathaniel Morgan's face. "Yeah, I guess that was kind of badass."

    "More like really badass. So stop complaining. Now are we going back to the apartment or what?"
    Okay, but I really loved this entire conversation. They're both really stubborn and angry but they come to the agreement that, yeah, things actually worked out in the best way possible, so it's time to celebrate. XD

    "I punched an aggron," Graveler offers. She's standing off to one side as usual.
    MVP of the team, obviously. :P

    You can settle in and enjoy the dinner, an all-you-can-eat buffet for humans and pokémon both.
    I'm still in the mindset that the entire situation surrounding Nate and the child working together is super messed up, but scenes like this make me root for them still. When everything inevitably falls apart, my heart's going to break, I just know it.

    "No!" Your flames cast tall, flickering shadows over walls and ceiling. You can't let them go as much as you like, though, have to clamp down on another yell. The great Nathaniel Morgan and his pokémon are sleeping in the next room, or in the case of Graveler, most likely not sleeping at all. "I hate him! Of course I hate him. Don't be stupid," you go on in a whisper.
    And if the badass conversation earlier wasn't enough, we get some concrete proof that the child actually has a soft part for Nate, which has been less obvious than Nate having a soft spot for the child. NICE. Again, you're going to totally break my heart when this all falls apart.

    "Absol, I told you to go away. I know you're trying to help, but you're not."
    Ironic, since the child always wanted absol to come around, not go away for the longest time. I guess some other things have changed, too. And even though Eskar is obviously not a friend anymore by the end of this chapter, the child's not going to admit it was wrong, because it's so stubborn...

    Ugh. Yeah, this chapter hit me right in the feels even though it probably wasn't meant to be a totally emotional chapter. The tension during the battle and all the aftermath stuff was just all really well written. Looking forward to more, as usual. :P

  4. #179
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Elsewhere
    Posts
    2,310

    Default

    Hot damn that was a battle! I think I still like the Cradily battle best, but this is a very close second.

    The electivire laughs again. "I like you, kid. I was gonna say I'd plaster you on the battlefield on account of your trainer's mouth, but what do you know? I'm still gonna plaster you, but it'll be friendly-like this time. How's that?"
    Pfft, this Electivire is hilarious. I love the personality given to all the random side Pokemon in this fic.
    Aggron's claws clang off his own armor as he tries to catch Raticate, but the normal-type stays just ahead of his attacks, crawling up and down and around Aggron's torso, biting wherever he sees an opening. The poison doesn't seem to have slowed him down at all; if anything he's more energetic than usual, staying in constant motion.
    Ahh, I forgot he had Guts! I think I remember that being mentioned because Rats doesn't have it. Speaking of Rats, I miss her. :<
    "What the ****?" The great Nathaniel Morgan leans out over the railing, squinting at the battlefield. It looks like it's boiling, the sludge Muk left behind bubbling and sizzling as raindrops spatter it. "What the ****? It's just poison," the great Nathaniel Morgan says to no one in particular. "You put water on poison and it, like, heats up or something? What the ****? How does that make sense?"
    Alright, I'm stumped. :P I can't think of any game mechanics this is intended to represent, so I'm guess it's chemistry-related.
    "Your trainer." She turns hostile red eyes upwards, towards the great Nathaniel Morgan. For the first time she looks fully awake. "It's not right."

    "Huh?" You follow her gaze. The great Nathaniel Morgan looks like he's on the verge of exploding with the strain of wanting to hurl invective but being too afraid of the referee. "Oh. Oh. No, no, don't worry. He's harmless. He just isn't really ready to battle in a tournament like this."
    That's...actually really cute that this ancient Blastoise was worried her opponent was being abused.
    A sunny day attack is a glowing film of energy wrapped around a ball of gas, meant to float high into the sky and burn like a tiny sun. You hurl one down Blastoise's cannon just as you hear the click that means water channels are opening to deliver a blast straight to your face. Instead what comes out is a mist of water droplets and a gust of hot air.
    Aaaaah, I really like that interpretation of Sunny Day! Damn, now I'm mad I never thought of that.
    It feels like gentle summer rain, cool and soothing against the raw wounds down your back. They start to close as the water soaks into your skin, its energy combining with your own and setting off a wave of healing. You let yourself fall, savoring the sensation of overflowing energy that drowns aches and soothes spent muscles until you're practically whole again. You're lucky Blastoise went to finish you with one of her most powerful attacks.
    I actually thought that the protagonist was just gonna pop a Recover or something when no one was looking. But Water Absorb! That's pretty clever.
    She shakes droplets of dark energy from her fur, which stream across the ground to merge and mass up into a pitch-black, shadowy wolf shape, eyes glowing red. Salamence growls faintly, drawing her head back as she gathers fire. You don't know if the dragon recognizes the strain in Mightyena's stance, how she bows her head like she's standing against an attack. Wisps of dark energy drift from the messy spikes of the substitute's shadow-fur, but Mightyena's holding it together, she's doing it, she's not going to let it fail.
    I completely forgot she'd never pulled off a Substitute until now!
    "Foul play!"
    Ahahahaha I should've known, you even mentioned foul play as something you'd toyed with in the previous battle. (And while that Swagger combo would've been hilarious in the Avalugg match, that would have been such an ungodly level of haxx. xD So prooooobably for the best that they lost that one, yeah.)
    That brings Absol's attention around to her, hard and coldly furious like you've never seen. Absol levels her blade at the sableye again. "You are the one who should leave," Absol says. "I have not agreed to tolerate you."
    Oh geez. Absol's actually pretty scary when she's mad, huh?
    "Ah, Cordierite-eyes! I like you, I really do. Such a good friend." Eskar gives you a dazzling smile. "But I'm afraid my rates have gone up."
    Strange place to end it off. I assume the fee's not just gonna be two eyes, as the protag could easily handle that. :P No, the dramatic tension suggests to me that it's gonna be something considerably darker...

    ~Chibi~



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

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    July 15 Update: CHAPTER 25: “The Heart of a Rocket” POSTED!!!
    Chapter 26 progress: 3/10 pages


  5. #180
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Lurking
    Posts
    1,090

    Default

    Been a while, right? I have been working on the next chapter, but in addition to it being another long one, I've also been very distracted. However, I finally finished the second draft, which means that the final version should be done fairly soon. In less than a month, anyway. I quite like this next chapter, and I hope you'll enjoy it, too, once it's posted!

    In the meantime, review replies.

    Sike Saner

    Hey, Sike! It's great to see you back again. Hope you've been enjoying your rereads; they sound like a lot of fun. Thanks for letting me know what you think of the revised early chapters. It tends to be hard to get feedback on them since most people naturally focus on the recently-posted stuff, so it's reassuring that you found them a bit more coherent than the originals.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the poochyena extra, too. That's probably my favorite out of the ones I've posted so far, and it was a ton of fun to write. Eskar is too, of course, and I'm pleased you've enjoyed her scenes. She's a bit character who took on a much larger role in the narrative than expected, so it's always nice to see evidence that that wasn't a mistake. :P (Also the rock porn joke, because I am twelve.)

    Thanks again for stopping by. Hope you continue to enjoy the story--we'll be wrapping up the League and going new places soon.

    diamondpearl876

    Heh, that's one downside to choosing to be an infernape. Aren't infernape able to subdue their fire, though? It could be suspicious, but with as deep a hole as its in, it could probably get by without attracting attention.
    How I headcanon it, yes, infernape can control the level of their flames, but not extinguish them entirely. The fire going out isn't as bad as it is for the charmander line, where they supposedly just die if it happens, but it is a necessary part of their physiology that burns off waste products in their bloodstream, so toxins start to build up very quickly. The protagonist could definitely have dimmed its fire a lot, but even a faint light is very easy to see in a dark pit like that.

    Now that I've read the entire chapter, I have to say his dialogue during the Blastoise vs. Infernape part of the battle was a tad underwhelming. I liked that Nate wasn't forgotten and shoved to the background in favor of letting the child do whatever, because their angry and disobedient dynamic is always amusing and key to them working together, but the dialogue didn't really feel like Nate was really there after a while, if that makes sense. I know he can't go overboard with swearing here, but the majority of his dialogue during this battle segment was just like the quoted portion, stating the obvious and without real emotion or depth added. Basically, his dialogue started to feel forced rather quickly.
    Hmm, interesting. Nate doesn't have a lot constructive to offer during the battle against Blastoise because he's caught flat-footed and doesn't really have anything constructive to add, but I hope he was more interesting during Mightyena's fight? His role there is pretty important.

    Well, I'm glad the child did take advantage of the fissure in some way. XD I wonder if an advanced trainer like Aanya Singh will notice something was off and report Nate.
    She might very well think something was odd. The protagonist definitely showed some exceptional resiliance in that battle. The issue with cheating is proving it!

    Okay, but I really loved this entire conversation. They're both really stubborn and angry but they come to the agreement that, yeah, things actually worked out in the best way possible, so it's time to celebrate. XD
    Haha, yup, they get all worked up for a fight and then it turns out there's nothing to fight about anyway.

    MVP of the team, obviously. :P
    No frills, Graveler just gets the job done.

    I'm still in the mindset that the entire situation surrounding Nate and the child working together is super messed up, but scenes like this make me root for them still. When everything inevitably falls apart, my heart's going to break, I just know it.
    Glad to hear it! I'm hoping that overall readers don't necessarily hope the characters will succeed at what they're trying to do, because both the ends and the means they use to achieve them can be super questionable, but where they're still sympathetic, or at least recognize that they're kind of stuck in, like you say, a pretty messed-up situation. We'll have to see whether that's worked out at all once we get through the more brutal parts of the story.

    And if the badass conversation earlier wasn't enough, we get some concrete proof that the child actually has a soft part for Nate, which has been less obvious than Nate having a soft spot for the child. NICE. Again, you're going to totally break my heart when this all falls apart.
    I hope so! Breaking hearts is my business. >:]

    Ironic, since the child always wanted absol to come around, not go away for the longest time. I guess some other things have changed, too. And even though Eskar is obviously not a friend anymore by the end of this chapter, the child's not going to admit it was wrong, because it's so stubborn...
    The protagonist is definitely responding better to Eskar telling it it's awesome and has all the best ideas than it has been to Absol's cryptic and fairly judge-y tutelage, for sure. And anyway, Absol isn't right about EVERYTHING... right?

    Ugh. Yeah, this chapter hit me right in the feels even though it probably wasn't meant to be a totally emotional chapter. The tension during the battle and all the aftermath stuff was just all really well written. Looking forward to more, as usual. :P
    Well, I had hoped it would be at least a little feels-y. Not in a very dramatic way, necessarily, but this is possibly the happiest chapter out of the entire story, so I was hoping readers would get at least some warm feelings from it.

    Thanks so much for reviewing! It sounds like you had basically exactly the reaction I was hoping for to the recent chapters, so it was a real joy to read all your comments.

    Chibi Pika

    Yeah, I think the previous battle was my favorite as well, but I'm glad this one was an entertaining read nonetheless. There aren't many formal battles left in this story, so I'm okay with having peaked there. :P

    Pfft, this Electivire is hilarious. I love the personality given to all the random side Pokemon in this fic.
    Thanks, I have fun coming up with them!

    Ahh, I forgot he had Guts! I think I remember that being mentioned because Rats doesn't have it. Speaking of Rats, I miss her. :<
    Yup, Raticate has guts and Rats has run away. Will we be seeing her again? Unfortunately if so, it won't be anytime soon...

    Alright, I'm stumped. :P I can't think of any game mechanics this is intended to represent, so I'm guess it's chemistry-related.
    Yep, it's based on the old chemistry saying "add acid to water, not water to acid." Acids react exothermically with water, so they can bubble and boil vigorously (and possibly splash in your face, which is Bad) if you dump water on them. It would need to be an extremely strong, concentrated acid to produce the degree of burning portrayed here, but blah blah pokémon magic, if pikachu can make lightning in its cheeks muk can make super-strong acid.

    Aaaaah, I really like that interpretation of Sunny Day! Damn, now I'm mad I never thought of that.
    Heh, it's one I used aaaaages ago in a little one-shot back when I first started writing fanfic, and I couldn't resist bringing it back in a bigger story.

    I completely forgot she'd never pulled off a Substitute until now!
    Ahaha, the substitute thing is actually one of my favorite little callbacks in this arc. I figured nobody would expect Mightyena failing at that attack to have any sort of significance, but I already knew it was going to play a role in the climax of this fight. Hope it was a nice little a-ha moment for you when you remembered the earlier bit!

    Ahahahaha I should've known, you even mentioned foul play as something you'd toyed with in the previous battle. (And while that Swagger combo would've been hilarious in the Avalugg match, that would have been such an ungodly level of haxx. xD So prooooobably for the best that they lost that one, yeah.)
    Yeah, if I'd made foul play the clincher in two battles in a row it just would've been lame. Originally I had Mightyena win against the salamence some other way, but I don't remember what it was and it was dumb anyway, so I definitely had to free up foul play for use here.

    Oh geez. Absol's actually pretty scary when she's mad, huh?
    Ooh yeah, you definitely don't want to make her mad. She probably won't actually hurt you, but she can put the fear of God in just about anyone.

    Strange place to end it off. I assume the fee's not just gonna be two eyes, as the protag could easily handle that. :P No, the dramatic tension suggests to me that it's gonna be something considerably darker...
    Ah, yeah, I do have a weakness for melodramatic chapter endings. The price is simply two eyes, which the protagonist can deal with, yes. It's not going to like it much, though! (Also I hope ripping out eyeballs is dark enough, lol.)

    Thanks for the review! Again, glad you enjoyed the battle here; it's definitely an important one.

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

    Banner by Sworn Metalhead of Dćdric Design




  6. #181
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    The bottom of a lake
    Posts
    728

    Default

    Just got caught up! I've been busy the past six months or so and it's only recently that my life has cooled down enough for me to get back into this. Since I went through a few chapters, I didn't do the bit-by-bit usual review that I do, so I'll just let you know my main thoughts.

    Overall, I thought this was really good! The battles were gripping and kept me entertained the whole while, and I usually have a hard time staying attentive for battle scenes. I know that the last battle wasn't fair and they really didn't deserve the win, but I was VERY impressed and pleased with Mightyena beating Salamence (as you can probably imagine =P). Also, I was pretty intrigued by that Blastoise. If she's 700-800 years old, how would an "academy brat" like Aanya get her? And what would her life have been like? She would have lived through such interesting parts of human history--although she might have been far removed from where any of the action was. I feel like a cool little side-story could be made out of that. Also, do you have any inspiration for the name Aanya Singh? Sorry, I just get really interested in names and their ethnic origins.

    And the scene where they capture Leonard Kerrigan is gold. I love Benny's "I'm a bruiser!" and then needing to be told that he wasn't being complimented XD Little character quirks like that are great. I'm finding myself more sympathetic with Absol and more fustrated with the child, whom you've reminded us really IS a child in terms of temperament. I keep worrying about Nate and his physical condition; he really isn't doing anything to improve it and i feel like his body is just a fleshy bag filled with broken bones. And the last conversation with Eskar makes me wonder what her "higher rates" refer to...

    All in all, it was good, and it's good to be back! I'm looking forward to the great Nathaniel Morgan's next battle, and to see where the plot will head afterwards


    My fic, Drowning.
    Cye of the Torrent is my bishie.
    Credit to Sketchie of Coronet Designs

  7. #182
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Lurking
    Posts
    1,090

    Default

    Hey, great to see you again! Hope you've been having a great time with whatever's been keeping you busy. It's always fantastic to see a familiar face pop up after an absence.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the recent chapters, especially the battles; I always worry about them getting tedious, especially because they're so long! So it's very reassuring for you to say they kept you entertained.

    Also, I was pretty intrigued by that Blastoise. If she's 700-800 years old, how would an "academy brat" like Aanya get her? And what would her life have been like? She would have lived through such interesting parts of human history--although she might have been far removed from where any of the action was. I feel like a cool little side-story could be made out of that.
    I think Aanya and/or the Blastoise's stories would be worth telling in their own right, although I don't have any plans to do so at the moment. Aanya is a serious trainer and quite ambitious, and she came to the tournament intending to win it--not just win against the other newbie trainers, but actually unseat Red and become the Champion. She knew that if she was going to do that, she'd need more than just her normal team in order to take Red down; he's throwing around Mewtwo, after all, which is simply unfair compared to what most trainers can field.

    So Aanya tackled the issue as an academy brat might, by researching well-known battling pokémon who might be open to taking on a new trainer. Like the announcer metions, Blastoise has appeared in the Indigo League tournament twice before, and a bit on the competitive battling circuit as well. That means she's in the League's records where any enterprising trainer can look her up, and she has an impressive win-loss record, which definitely caught Aanya's eye. Since she didn't currently have a trainer, she was one of the pokémon Aanya sought out to ask for help in the tournament. They trained together for a few months before heading to the Plateau, and Aanya was careful to keep her out of the spotlight so people didn't recognize the signifiance of the blastoise that showed up in her trainer profile. Blastoise was set up to be her secret weapon for the championship (and possibly not her only one--we didn't get to see her entire team in that battle, after all!).

    As for Blastoise, you're right, she's lived through a lot of huge changes in the way the League is structured and pokémon training in general is carried out. She's always been a battling pokémon, though, and as such she wasn't personally there to witness a lot of your major historic events. As she's gotten older she's spent more of her time way out in the deepwilds, looking after a clan of wild squirtle and wartortle. Obviously she still enjoys battling, though, or at least Aanya was able to offer her some incentive to come out of the wilds and take part in the tournament.

    Also, do you have any inspiration for the name Aanya Singh? Sorry, I just get really interested in names and their ethnic origins.
    "Aanya" was the name I'd picked for an RP character I'd sketched out but never ended up using. I thought it was a pretty name, so I figured I'd recycle it for use in my fanfic. Can't recall what drew me to the name in the first place; maybe only that I liked the sound of it.

    With "Singh" I just looked for common Indian surnames and picked one I thought sounded nice with Aanya, then Googled a bit to make sure "Aanya Singh" was actually a valid combination and not something that would sound super weird.

    And the scene where they capture Leonard Kerrigan is gold. I love Benny's "I'm a bruiser!" and then needing to be told that he wasn't being complimented XD Little character quirks like that are great.
    Thanks! I had a lot of fun writing the nidoking bros; they're some of my favorite bit characters so far.

    I'm finding myself more sympathetic with Absol and more fustrated with the child, whom you've reminded us really IS a child in terms of temperament.
    Interesting! Most people seem to be getting more frustrated with Absol than with the protagonist. The protagonist certainly is a child, though, and a rather bratty one at that.

    I keep worrying about Nate and his physical condition; he really isn't doing anything to improve it and i feel like his body is just a fleshy bag filled with broken bones.
    Well, you're definitely not wrong. :P Nate's physical condition is pretty terrible, and I'm sure stress isn't doing him any favors, either.

    Thanks a lot for leaving a review! It's always cool to see you pop up. Hope your own writing's going well and we'll see a new chapter of Drowning sometime soon!

    The next chapter is on its last draft, so posting is, finally, imminent. It'll be out in a week or so, and hopefully sooner.

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

    Banner by Sworn Metalhead of Dćdric Design




  8. #183
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Lurking
    Posts
    1,090

    Default

    Author's Notes: And it's done! This was a very tricky chapter to nail down, but I hope you enjoy the end result!

    Chapter 31

    "What's got you all worked up?" the great Nathaniel Morgan asks during your training session the next day. "I mean holy shit, ain't like those rocks did nothing to you."

    In a perfect world they wouldn't be rocks, they'd be the great Nathaniel Morgan's face, same as they are in your imagination. Trying to make you like him. Making you forget about all the bad things he's done. Being all confusing.

    Your eyes itch. You rub at them, hard, and aim another kick at the boulder in front of you. It lands with a crunch, cracks jagging across the rock, and that makes you feel better even though it isn't who you really want to be kicking. Maybe after the tournament you'll beat the great Nathaniel Morgan up for real. Eskar didn't say the boss wanted him in one piece.

    "I am just practicing," you say. "We have to fight the Champion next. We have to get ready."

    "Don't worry about it, Freak. We're awesome, right?" The great Nathaniel Morgan holds one of Mightyena's tennis balls over his head, and she dances around on her hind legs trying to reach it.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan mimes throwing the ball, then hides it behind his back while Mightyena spins and charges after the phantom throw. "What? What? Where'd it go?" he asks when she comes trotting back a second later, ears perked and tail wagging expectantly.

    "The last battle was not awesome," you say. "You would have lost if I did not take things into my own hands. And the Champion will be harder."

    "We don't even gotta beat the guy," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "We just gotta make him send Mewtwo out. And anyway I got a plan. Ain't no big deal. Lighten the fuck up, Freak."

    Oh, a plan? Of course he's got a plan. He's always scheming away at something. Probably he's got another plan to get revenge on you once he's got his steelix back. Well, the joke's on him, isn't it? He's going to be waiting an awfully long time for that.

    Mightyena tugs at the arm the great Nathaniel Morgan's holding behind his back, and he pretends not to know what she's getting at while he transfers the ball to his other hand. "What's this?" he asks, holding it out of Mightyena's reach again. "How'd it get over--" Raticate jumps and grabs the ball out of his hand. "Hey, what the fuck?"

    Raticate dashes off, and Mightyena gives chase, barking like mad. The great Nathaniel Morgan starts to follow, but only makes it about a dozen steps before he has to stop and sit down hard, coughing and wheezing for breath. "Oh God. Nope. Still dying," he chokes. The pokémon circle back around to smother him with praise for failing at something even a baby pokémon would have no trouble with.

    You kick another boulder into gravel, then turn flame over the remains, letting it burn hotter and hotter so the rock glows red, then orange, then white. You shouldn't really blame them. After all, he almost had you fooled, just for a second, and he's had much longer to work on them. Pokémon can be weird about their trainers anyway. Not that it stopped yours from criticizing you all the time. Maybe if you bribed them like the great Nathaniel Morgan does they'd be nicer to you.

    The rock chips char to blackened, crumbling dust. Your feet ache, your whole body aches, and you aren't even angry anymore, just tired and empty and somehow nauseous.

    It doesn't matter. Even if the great Nathaniel Morgan can be kind of nice sometimes, he has to go back to Team Rocket. That's what he gets for joining them in the first place, and anyway, it's what you have to do. To get Mewtwo back. To save Mew. You'll do whatever it takes, and you shouldn't feel bad about it. You don't.

    Your eyes itch, and you rub at them, scrubbing until they're watering so bad you can barely see. They still itch. Stupid. They're brand new. There's no reason they should give you trouble.

    Somehow the nonsense around the great Nathaniel Morgan has evolved into something like an actual training session. The great Nathaniel Morgan sits cross-legged on the ground with Mightyena lying next to him, pushing the tennis ball around with her nose. "Okay, that's not bad," the great Nathaniel Morgan says as Raticate makes a huge leap, one that would take him nearly to his trainer's shoulders if the great Nathaniel Morgan were standing up. "You could probably learn swords dance if you wanted. Well, and if..." He turns to look at you.

    "What?" you ask.

    "Forget about it. It's not worth the hassle," Raticate says.

    "Are you done?" Mightyena asks you. "Can you help me ask Nate a question?"

    "No. I was just resting," you say, and after that you more or less have to go back to blasting things. It's probably just as well. Watching the great Nathaniel Morgan and his pokémon was starting to make you angry again, and it's better to be doing something.

    Not that anybody else does. You crack stone until your knuckles start bleeding, then heal them and keep going. And what are the great Nathaniel Morgan and his pokémon up to? Sitting around playing stupid games. The great Nathaniel Morgan keeps trying to get you to translate things for him, but you pretend like you don't hear, stomping around and blowing fire at nothing in particular, too tired to think of something more productive to do. The great Nathaniel Morgan's so terrible he's even making you useless.

    It feels like hours before he and his pokémon finally get bored. "All right, good work, guys," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, rummaging in his pocket. "Let's see what we have h--Raticate, get off!" He shoves at the rat, who clings on with all claws and tries to push his entire head into his trainer's pocket. "You're gonna get the same amount either way. Just wait, okay?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan pulls out a crumpled pack of pokéblocks and fends Raticate off with an elbow while he tears it open. "You're just lucky Steelix ain't here. More for you, huh?" He rubs between Raticate's ears while the normal-type gobbles treats out of his other hand. "Enjoy it while you still can, greedy-ass."

    "Oh yeah, Steelix and his pokéblocks," Raticate says mushily. He watches the great Nathaniel Morgan feed Mightyena pokéblocks one by one, tossing them high so she rears up to snap them out of the air. "Remember that time he knocked Nate over he was so excited to get at them?"

    "Yeah, he's all about honor and restraint and everything until it comes to the good stuff," Mightyena says. "Then it's all, 'I'm the biggest, I get to be first,' the shiny metal hypocrite."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan gives you an expectant look as he passes Graveler her share.

    Can't they shut up about that stupid steelix for one second? Your fire seethes restlessly inside you, and you can't keep quiet any longer. "I do not understand you," you say.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan glances between Raticate and Mightyena, then looks back to you. "Huh?"

    "I thought you must have joined Team Rocket because you hated pokémon. Or maybe you only liked them because they were useful."

    "Where the fuck is this coming from?"

    The air ripples around you as your flames heat up. He acts like he doesn't know what you mean, but he does. He's pretending. "But that is not true. You obviously love your pokémon. But you are still a member of Team Rocket."

    The pokémon exchange glances, and Raticate makes a whisker-twitch shrug like Rats always does. Fissures crinkle across Graveler's forehead like she's actually mildly interested. And it's them, too. They know. They're at least as bad as their trainer. Their trainer who says, "Are you pissed 'cause you didn't get no pokéblocks? Because, like..."

    "No! I am mad because it is wrong! You know what Team Rocket does to pokémon. You know. But you help them anyway because as long as it does not happen to your pokémon, you do not care. And you hurt pokémon, like that guy's beedrill. You were mad at the trainer, but instead of hurting him, you hurt one of his pokémon so bad even the Pokémon Center could not fix it."

    "Okay, first of all, I didn't even touch--"

    "I know you did not!" Of course he'd say that, of course he would. It's another trick. "It was you, wasn't it?" Raticate stares at you like you've grown an extra head. "Or you?" Mightyena's ears are up, and she lies with paws out in front, ready to jump up any second and defend her trainer. Of course she is. Because she sides with him even though she knows he's bad, and it's not right and it doesn't make sense.

    "It could have been any of you. It does not matter because none of you care. And you." Back to the great Nathaniel Morgan. "You bragged about the beedrill. You acted like you thought it was funny. It is not funny. It is horrible, and all of you are horrible, too. You keep pretending to be nice, but you cannot fool me. I do not forget that easy."

    You're breathing hard now, but it feels good. Your fire warms you, flames crackling in your ears, and it's good because you saw through his lies. Now let him try to deny it. There's no way--none. He can't keep pretending.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan scrunches up his face like he's about to sneeze, and when he glances down to find Raticate and Mightyena looking up at him, he bursts out laughing. The pokémon join in, and the three of them collapse against each other. The great Nathaniel Morgan hangs onto Graveler as if for dear life, breathless with giggling.

    For a moment surprise holds you suspended. Then your eyes are itching again, hot tears washing out your vision so you can't even see. You can still hear laughing at you. "Shut up!" you yell, and fire roars behind your words, the rocks around your feet warmed to glowing. "Shut up, all of you! I hate you!"

    That only makes them laugh harder. The fire builds up and for a second you're ready to torch all of them, send everything you've got their way and see who's laughing then. But they don't stop. They see you flaring up and act like it's the most hilarious thing ever. You hesitate, confused, and then ashamed that you hesitated, and their laughter goes on and on, like you're hilarious, like you said the most stupid thing in the whole world. Standing there, listening to them, you start to feel stupid. There's something here you don't understand at all. So instead of charring them all to dust, you turn and run, down on all fours going as fast as you can. Their laughter follows you long after they're out of sight.

    --

    Absol finds you perched on a fence surrounding a scraggly little park that's crowded with battling trainers. You're watching a roserade beat up a primeape, who screeches and flails as his anger escalates, but who only ends up hurting himself on his opponent's thorns.

    Something about the quality of the silence behind you grates on your subconscious. You'd never know it was Absol if you hadn't lived with her for ages. As usual, she doesn't say anything. As usual, you resolve to ignore her and not give her the satisfaction of making you ask what she wants. As usual, you don't manage.

    "What do you want, Absol?"

    "Are you all right?"

    "No."

    Absol lets that sit awhile, long enough for the primeape to be recalled and his trainer to wander off. They leave a tempting patch of open grass, and not two minutes later another trainer's tromped over to claim it, pulling out a Frisbee to throw for her sylveon.

    You twine your tail between the fence's bars, in and out and in and out, and hunch your shoulders against a sudden breeze. It gets dark earlier on the plateau than on your island, and the air is already golden with the end of afternoon.

    "I thought I was going on an adventure, Absol. It was supposed to be fun. But somehow it keeps turning out to be terrible."

    "All adventures are hard." You wonder what she's looking at: you or the park or maybe just up at the sky.

    "Well, I knew it would be hard sometimes, but shouldn't it be fun sometimes, too? It's been bad the whole way. I miss Togetic and Titan and Rats and everybody. They would make me feel better."

    You watch the sylveon make a huge, drifting leap for the Frisbee, then glide up and out of his trainer's reach. He swoops playfully above while his trainer runs after him, waving her arms over her head. "Except I wouldn't be able to keep Togetic with me, not with that Rocket around. He tried to poison her once. I can't believe I almost forgot about that." You grip the iron spikes on top of the fence so hard the edges dig into your palms. "He's horrible, Absol. He deserves everything he's going to get."

    "I could not say what he does or does not deserve. What makes you think you can?"

    You twist around to look at Absol. She has to tip her head all the way back to return your gaze. "He did bad things, Absol. Of course he deserves bad things to happen to him."

    "So you will be the one to do those bad things?" Absol asks. She must know how badly that too-calm stare gets under your skin. "Perhaps then you would deserve the same."

    "Knock if off, Absol. It doesn't count if you do it to someone who deserves it. It's what's supposed to happen. You know all about that, don't you? About doing what Fate says has to happen?"

    "This is not Fate," Absol says firmly.

    "Okay, fine. The point is he deserves it. I'm sure." You focus back on the park, but you know Absol's still there. She rears up on her hind legs, claws rasping on metal as she rests them against the side of the fence. You can feel the vibrations up through the soles of your feet. "You are still young."

    "What's that supposed to mean?"

    "You are confused."

    "Not about that."

    Absol starts pacing down below, turning tight circles, around and around. "But there is something that is troubling you. Something you don't understand."

    You sigh and hug your knees close to your chest. "Maybe. I... It's not fair, Absol. I'm a kid. Maybe, maybe better than a kid, but it's different. If I were a grown-up it would be easier. Grown-ups understand everything."

    "Not everything. But you come to understand some things."

    "I wish I would grow up already so I didn't mess up so much."

    "I thought you told me grown-ups are boring."

    "Well they are." You resent the teasing in Absol's voice. She is a grown-up, and you hate it when she reminds you. "But I won't be when I grow up. If I grow up."

    "Ah."

    The sylveon leads his trainer on a merry chase, the two of them meandering over to the far end of the park. A big group of trainers walks off together, talking about dinner and ice cream. The sun hangs in the perfect spot to sear out your eyeballs.

    "Are you going to come down?" Absol asks eventually.

    You almost blurt out "no," just because, but you're hungry and cramped from spending so long scrunched up. "Fine." You untwist your tail and drop down to the sidewalk. Absol keeps pace with you as you set off down the street, even when you speed up, almost all the way to a run. She doesn't even comment on how fast you're going, and you slow down again with an exasperated sigh. Same old Absol.

    "It's almost over," you say at last.

    Absol nods. A couple streets go by.

    "I'm only trying to do the right thing, Absol."

    "I know," she says. "Most people are."

    You wonder what she means by that.

    --

    When the great Nathaniel Morgan and his team get back to the apartment you're lying on the couch, watching a nature documentary about feral totodile in an Australian river. They don't pay you any attention, talking loudly and laughing and banging around in the kitchen.

    After a few minutes the pokémon filter off towards the bedroom, but the great Nathaniel Morgan leans his arms on the counter and watches you. You pretend not to notice until he speaks up. "So what the fuck was that all about, huh?" he asks.

    "You heard what I said."

    "Yeah, yeah, you fucking hate me, old news. But I don't get what the fuck set you off all of a sudden."

    You watch a feraligatr cruising through a marsh, only her eyes and nostrils visible above the water.

    "Oh what the fuck ever. Just turn the TV down, would you? I'm gonna want to sleep soon."

    "I do not get it," you mutter, and the great Nathaniel Morgan hears you, for all the TV's supposedly on too loud.

    "Get what?"

    "It doesn't make any sense. You love your pokémon, don't you? So why are you such a jerk?"

    "We work together okay, I guess." Raticate pokes his head out of the bedroom, and the great Nathaniel Morgan glances his way. The rat sniffs the air, then scurries over and flattens himself under your chair. "But not everybody who likes pokémon is good, and not everybody who don't is bad. Ain't that fucking simple."

    "It should be," you say. Raticate emerges dragging a long piece of string, which he drops at the great Nathaniel Morgan's feet before dashing back into hiding. "That is what I do not understand. If you like pokémon, why are you on Team Rocket?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts. "Money, dumbass? Get a fucking clue." He braces one hand on the counter while he bends down to grab the string.

    "But there are a lot of things you could do for money. And you said you did not even make that much from Team Rocket."

    "Where did you even get this?" the great Nathaniel Morgan asks Raticate as he wraps the string around one hand, but all he gets in response is the excited rattle of chattering teeth. Raticate's nose pokes out a second, then disappears. "Well, what the fuck do you think I should be doing, then, if you're the fucking job expert?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan flicks the end of the string out across the floor and twitches it side to side in irregular bursts. Raticate explodes from under the chair and jumps on the wiggling string, pouncing again and again as the great Nathaniel Morgan slides it out from under his claws and drags it across the tiles.

    "I do not know, anything. You could work at a store or a bank or a library or you could be a baker or a builder or a professional trainer or--"

    Raticate gets the string between his teeth and pulls so hard the great Nathaniel Morgan has to grab the edge of the sink to stop himself from getting dragged to the floor. "Holy shit, Raticate! I ain't got no fucking muscles left, I can't pull that hard!" Raticate leaps like he's had an electric shock and scampers back under the chair.

    "Yeah, I could be the Prime Minister of all motherfucking Kanto, but I ain't," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, righting himself. He flicks the string a couple times, and in moments Raticate's back out on the tiles, hopping around and squeaking and snatching at it.

    "But you are in Team Rocket even though you could do other things. If you could be good, then the only reason you do bad things is because you want to. So that means you must be evil."

    "I think you got to stop thinking life is like those shitty TV shows you watch, Freak." The great Nathaniel Morgan slides the string off his hand and drops the free end on Raticate, who rolls around getting tangled in it.

    "They are not shitty. You are just too stupid to understand them. And I think you must be extra evil because you pretend to be good."

    "What, ain't I fucking mean enough for you, Freak? Holy shit, I must be slipping. Maybe it's the whole basically dying thing." He has to grab the counter for support as Raticate climbs up his side all the way to his shoulder. "Look, I don't get the issue here. Of course I'm a fucking bad guy, moron. Why the hell are you acting like it's a huge fucking surprise all of a sudden?"

    "I just want to know why."

    "There ain't no 'why,' Freak. Some people are just born to be bad, you know?" The great Nathaniel Morgan plucks Raticate off his shoulder and grunts, "Since when are you so fucking heavy?" He cradles the rat in his arms, tickling Raticate's creamy belly fur while the normal-type nips at his fingers. "Goddamn but you are hyper tonight. No more soda for you, buddy."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan tosses Raticate into the living room, and the normal-type jumps up to the back of your chair, where he sits combing through his fur with his claws, licking and twitching and fussing it back into place.

    "Bother the freak if you want to play more, okay? I've got to get to bed 'cause it's..." The great Nathaniel Morgan squints at the microwave clock. "Goddamn, nine thirty? Christ, it's like I'm a fucking old man. Anyway, yeah, I'm tired as shit, so I'm gonna hit the hay."

    Raticate flicks an ear, which might be an okay or might mean nothing at all. He's gnawing at the base of a claw like nothing else in the world matters.

    "Anyhow, Freak, the whole point of that was: you still good to fight? Or are you gonna be facing the fucking Champion and decide you'd rather roast my ass or something? Speak now or forever hold your motherfucking peace, get me?"

    "Of course I will still fight. That is the entire point of being here. But when the battle is over, we will be enemies again. Do not think I have changed my mind."

    "Damn straight." The great Nathaniel Morgan regards you a moment, leaning against the counter with arms crossed over chest. "You get something to eat, or have you been lying there pissed all evening?"

    You curl your lip. "Stop that. I told you, I am not going to be fooled by you pretending to be nice to me."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan smiles. "Damn, you're good. I just can't get nothing past you, can I, Freak?"

    "No you cannot." You turn your attention back to the TV.

    "Well, we bought grub. If you're gonna help yourself, you better do it before Raticate cleans it all out. I'm gone."

    He drags himself off to the bedroom, leaving you alone with the sound of Raticate sucking on his fur. "What about you?" you ask him. "I suppose you hang around with your trainer because he feeds you."

    Raticate lets out a disdainful "tch," then scuttles off towards the bedroom himself. You scowl and curl tighter on the couch and try to pay attention to the TV, which has moved on to a show about the Indigo Tournament's history. You already know this stuff, though, and it seems like all the other channels are battles and more battles or news you don't care about. You try to watch the shopping channel for a while, but you can't buy anything right now anyway. In the end you turn the TV off and stare at the ceiling instead, waiting for sleep to take you.

    ( Continued in next post. )
    Last edited by Negrek; 12th June 2017 at 12:30 AM.

  9. #184
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Lurking
    Posts
    1,090

    Default

    The morning finds the great Nathaniel Morgan asleep at the kitchen table, one arm stretched out in front of him and a take-away coffee cup next to his face. You give him a wide berth and climb up on the counter to see what kind of food he bought yesterday. There's a box of Canalave Crunchies, which you consider barely acceptable. You sit eating them by the handful and watching the great Nathaniel Morgan drooling onto the tabletop. Boring.

    You reach over and prod him with a toe. "Wake up."

    The human twitches and raises his head, squinting at you as you shove another handful of cereal into your mouth.

    "The fuck d'you want?" he grumbles.

    "It is time for you to get up. We have a lot of work to do today."

    "Yes!" Eskar's head pops up over the edge of the table, and your mane flares up so high it endangers overhead cabinets. "Open those lazurite eyes wide, Backstabby! It is a big day for us all!" She climbs up and sits next to you, and you scoot away so fast you nearly fall off the counter, scattering cereal in all directions.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan regards Eskar with sleepy disinterest, then stretches his arms up over his head with a squeaky kind of grunt. He settles back into a comfortable slouch, scratching at his stubble while he considers you. "Gonna eat that whole box, ain't you? Asshole."

    He investigates the coffee cup and finds it empty, tosses it at the trash can and misses. Eskar claps her hands and snickers. "Oh, very good, Lazurite-eyes. It's a wonder you manage to stab anyone in the back with aim like that."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan frowns at her. "What'd she say?"

    You groan and rub your face. "It was a joke. She said it must be hard for you to stab people in the back with such bad aim."

    "Stab people in the back?" The great Nathaniel Morgan sits up straight. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

    "I think she is talking about how you betrayed Team Rocket. I do not think she likes that."

    "Betrayed? 'S'not... ugh." The great Nathaniel Morgan rubs his face, then pauses, looking at Eskar from the corner of one eye. She smiles back, glitteringly innocent. "And how the fuck would she know about Team Rocket? You been gossiping? Don't bullshit me, the only other people who know are... are..." He slowly draws back from the table, his face going slack with dismay. Eskar's grin widens, and she waggles her fingers at him in a teasing wave.

    "No," the great Nathaniel Morgan breathes. "Oh fuck me, no. Mightyena, get in here!"

    Mightyena charges into the kitchen, claws skittering on the tile.

    "Get the sableye! Get it! Get!" The great Nathaniel Morgan jabs a finger at the ghost, who rolls on the table, cackling laughter and kicking her feet in the air. Mightyena glances at her, then back at the great Nathaniel Morgan.

    "Why? She's cool."

    "Mightyena!"

    "What is your problem?" you ask.

    "That's the boss' sableye, ain't it? You recruited the boss' own fucking pokémon for your insane little plan!"

    "So what?"

    "So what? So fucking--you--I can't even--she wanted to eat my fucking eyes!"

    "Eat them?" Eskar sits up, suddenly frowning. "Eat eyes? Oh no, Lazurite-eyes, no! They would be so squishy! And all soft and liquid and yeeerch. Food isn't supposed to squish!"

    "You are completely overreacting," you say to the great Nathaniel Morgan. "Eskar has been very helpful, and she never even tried to do anything to you."

    "You're fucking insane. Mightyena!"

    Mightyena huffs a sigh and turns to Eskar. "Look, could you give us a couple minutes? I need to talk to my trainer."

    "Yes." Eskar relaxes from a disgusted cringe and frowns at the great Nathaniel Morgan. "And perhaps I won't come back." She drops down from the table and fades out into shadow.

    Mightyena goes over and rests her chin on the great Nathaniel Morgan's leg. "There. The scary sableye's gone. You can calm down now."

    "Mightyena, this is serious," he says, shoving her away.

    "She agrees with me. You need to calm down."

    "She ain't got the first fucking clue what's going on, and I'll calm down when I'm goddamn well ready to. Like maybe after you explain in what universe you thought it was a good idea to bring the boss' own psychotic flunky in on this."

    "I do not see any reason to discuss this with you. Eskar has been helpful. I do not need to justify--"

    "You serious? Look, you working with Rocket now, or what? I swear, even though you will not get off my ass about--"

    "What? Of course I am not helping Team Rocket! How dare you--"

    "How fucking dare I? When you're all bro-ing around with the boss' goddamn right-hand--"

    "She is not helping Team Rocket! We made a deal!"

    Raticate comes up next to Mightyena, who's sitting on her haunches, turning her head back and forth to watch the argument ping-pong between the two of you. The pokémon mutter to each other while the great Nathaniel Morgan fires back. "Oh, a deal? A fucking deal? This is gonna be fucking great, I can just feel it. The fuck kind of deal you talking about, Freak?"

    "Eskar said she wanted to help me. She likes my eyes. She likes me. So I told her she could battle with us in the tournament if she did not tell the boss about us. And if something goes wrong after that, who cares? I will have Mewtwo again. Team Rocket will not be able to do anything then. I am not afraid of them."

    "Not afraid--not afraid of..." The great Nathaniel Morgan bites a knuckle, shoulders shaking in a desperate chuckle. "Dunno if you noticed, Freak, but they kinda kicked your ass every goddamned time you went up against them."

    "That only happened twice, and the first time was your fault. The second was not even Team Rocket, it was Sabrina. Mewtwo completely destroyed the Rockets in Viridian."

    "Okay, fine. You can go on not being scared, whatever. But you know who's scared of Team Rocket? Me. I am fucking terrified of that shit. And I say we're getting the fuck out of here now. Mightyena!"

    You'd hoped she might see sense. But no, she looks up with ears forward, all alert and eager to please, and when the great Nathaniel Morgan tells her to watch from the shadows to be sure Eskar doesn't come back, she whirls and is gone without hesitation.

    "Raticate, go help Graveler pack up. We're leaving."

    "Leaving? What are you talking about? Where do you think you are going?"

    "Gonna keep that one a surprise, Freak, since as far as I know they got bugs all over this goddamned place. I'd ask you to help, but the best I can hope for is for you to stay out of the way for a bit, ain't it?"

    You follow him along the counter while he opens cupboards and throws things into shopping bags resurrected from the trash.

    "We cannot leave! We have work to do. And Team Rocket would already have come after us if they were going to."

    "No, they would wait until we did all the hard work and jacked Mewtwo, and then they would come after us and see how much they could get for our fucking organs."

    "They will not. They have no idea we are going after Mewtwo. Eskar agreed not to say anything to the boss."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts. "Yeah, and what'd she do to sell you on that load of bullshit? She smile real pretty with those pointy pointy teeth that can chew through fucking bone?"

    "No. We made a deal. I gave her my eyes."

    "What?" The great Nathaniel Morgan peers into your face.

    "They grow back," you say, exasperated.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's mouth hangs open in a dismayed frown. "Oh my God that is so fucked up. You gave her your eyes? That is so fucked up."

    "I said they grow back. It is no big deal."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan shakes his head and goes for the fridge, leaning on the open door while he considers his options. Apparently he decides the most convenient place to store the food is his own stomach, since he grabs a box of old pizza and starts stuffing his face. "What in the hell were you even thinking?" he asks thickly after managing to cram almost an entire slice in his mouth in one go. "The boss sends her creepy-ass ghost pal to follow you, so you decide the best thing to do would be to give her exactly what she wants? What the fuck?"

    "The boss does not get what she wants. I already said Eskar will not tell her anything."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan makes a face like he has a sudden stomachache, then chugs a half-empty bottle of soda, belches explosively, chucks the bottle at the trash and misses. "God-fucking-dammit. Look, the whole problem with this picture is you thinking you can outsmart the boss. You don't get to be her age and in charge of Team fucking Rocket without being one scary motherfucker, you get me? She's smarter than you and me, I fucking guarantee it, and somehow I don't want to risk my motherfucking life on whether you managed to put one over on her."

    "She is only human. She is not that scary."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan starts downing a carton of orange juice rather than answer, then chokes on it when he glances over at the bedroom. "Oh my God, Graveler," he sputters, orange juice dribbling down his chin, "what the fuck?"

    You follow him as he dashes into the bedroom and find him considering a bunch of rocks scattered across the bedspread. "What the fuck did you even do to--what is this, a shirt?"

    "Made it smaller," Graveler says. She demonstrates with the towel draped across her lower arms, gathering and crushing it in one decisive motion. When she opens her hands again, it's been reduced to a small bundle about the size of a hamburger patty, compressed by incredible pressure.

    "We are not leaving," you say. "We have work to do, and in case you do not remember, we need Eskar. We need six pokémon. You are going to apologize to her, and then we are going to stay here and train."

    "No, we ain't."

    "Yes, we are." You take a step forward, and the great Nathaniel Morgan rounds on you.

    "No, we ain't. Or at least I ain't. You can stay if you want, and good fucking riddance. I'll meet you at the stadium tomorrow."

    "I think you are going to do what I say." Graveler turns towards you as you clench your fists, your flames leaping higher.

    "You think you're gonna make me, Freak?" the great Nathaniel Morgan asks. His tone is sharp, but he sags where he stands, looking every inch someone who woke up five minutes ago and already deeply regrets it. "So, what, you fight the team, and maybe you lose. Then we do what I want."

    "I will not lose."

    "Okay, so maybe you win. Then what? You beat on me until I agree to whatever? Fine, so now I'm all fucked up. How the hell am I supposed to battle tomorrow then, huh? You fuck me up, you ain't got no game anyway." He turns back to his packing. "Face it, Freak. I'm more important to you right now than that fucking sableye."

    "That is not right," you say, and fortunately Raticate saves you from having to think up why.

    He emerges from the bathroom with toiletries clutched in his paws and his cheeks bulging. "Fink I got everyfing," he says and jumps heavily onto the bed. He drops what he's carrying, then reaches into his mouth and paws out a pile of now-slimy accessories. "Say, what's this thing?" he asks, picking up one of the clothing briquettes.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan sighs as he considers his spit-covered pokédex, then starts sweeping everything haphazardly into a backpack. "Honest to God, Kid, how do you not know when you're getting fucking played? You start bargaining off your fucking eyes and you don't think maybe you're in over your head?"

    He doesn't seem like he's really talking to you, but you don't care. "I am not stupid. I would not have done this if I thought it was too risky."

    "It's Team-fucking-Rocket you're dealing with!" The great Nathaniel Morgan slams the backpack onto the bed and stuffs the contents down as he tries to wrestle the zipper closed. "How the fuck is it not too risky? You know what the fuck's gonna happen if they catch us? If they catch you?"

    "Of course I know," you snarl. "And I remember that you were ready to turn me over to them anyway."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan forces the zipper shut at last and stands there looking down at the bag until Raticate nudges his arm, peering anxiously into his trainer's face. The great Nathaniel Morgan runs his hand over the top of the backpack once, then turns and crouches down in front of you. He puts a hand on your shoulder and asks, "Did the sableye give you anything? Or ask you to bring her anything?"

    You jerk away from his hand, the gemstone concealed under your fur cold against your skin. "No!" you snap.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan stares into your face for a moment, then nods and stands again. "Mightyena!" he says to empty air. She appears right next to him, and he reaches down and ruffles her ears. "You heard all that, right?" A nod. "Okay. We're going to move. Stay with us and keep an eye out for that sableye."

    She nods again and slurps at his fingers. The great Nathaniel Morgan smiles and pats her side. "Off you go."

    Mightyena turns back on herself and is gone. The great Nathaniel Morgan slings the backpack over his shoulder and grimaces as its weight settles on him. "We're leaving," he says, already stomping towards the door. "Graveler, get the food."

    You stay where you are while Raticate leaps past you and skirts around his trainer at a run. Graveler lumbers along behind. The great Nathaniel Morgan glances at you over his shoulder. "Coming, Freak? Last fucking chance."

    You look around the room, seething with anger. You want nothing more to do with him.

    But on the other hand, can you afford to let him out of your sight?

    "I am coming," you hiss.

    "Whatever." The great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't even look back as you knuckle along behind, out of the apartment and on to whatever stupid place he wants you to go.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan leads you towards the edge of town, past crowds of tourists drifting around in search of breakfast and a battle between an arbok and a tauros, the bull gouging at the snake with her horns as she disappears into his coils. The great Nathaniel Morgan keeps up a brisk pace, but you can hear his rasping breath even following a couple yards behind. Raticate mills around the great Nathaniel Morgan's feet saying he should stop, he should let Graveler carry him. The human trots along without even looking at Raticate, face set in a grimace.

    Now and again someone in the crowd recognizes the great Nathaniel Morgan as the Indigo finalist, and Graveler plants herself between him and any too-interested parties. Even so the great Nathaniel Morgan speeds up whenever one gets close, until he's bent over and gasping but still moving forward.

    Streets go by. You pass a couple of kids egging on a pichu and a bidoof. The pokémon seem much more interested in growling at each other than fighting, but at last the bidoof headbutts the pichu in the stomach, and she falls over. Then she starts crying.

    The youngsters' shrill argument over whether this counts as a knock-out or not follows you down the street until the great Nathaniel Morgan finally collapses against the side of a building, wheezing and coughing like he's going to choke up a lung. His fingers tighten into claws on the bricks beside him, but he can't stop himself from slipping down to sit at the base of the wall, nose running and sweat pouring down his face.

    Raticate and Graveler huddle up against him, and Mightyena reappears, growling at the great Nathaniel Morgan when he makes an attempt to stand. "Stay there," she says to him. "You need to rest."

    "You sure, Mightyena?" Raticate asks. He's chewing a claw, gaze roaming the people walking past. "If Team Rocket's coming, we need to move. Listen, Graveler can--"

    "Nobody's going to jump us in the next few minutes," Mightyena says firmly.

    "I'm fine," the great Nathaniel Morgan wheezes. "I'm fine, I'm fine, I just--" He tries to get up again but doesn't even make it halfway before he falls back. He closes his eyes and rests his head against the brickwork, shivering.

    "Rest, Nate," Mightyena says. "If you push yourself like this you're going to end up hurting yourself. Is there anything we can do? What do you need?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan clenches his jaw and shakes his head. He tenses up, rocking forward like he wants to make another bid at standing, but then falls back in a slump, breathing hard through his open mouth, almost whining. After long minutes of labored breathing, he abruptly balls one hand into a fist and slams it against the wall. He stays like that a second more, leaning into the bricks, then gasps, "Get a tent." The pokémon exchange confused looks while he works up to saying more. "Small one. Take... the pokédex. Buy it. However much it costs."

    You've been holding your tongue, content to let the great Nathaniel Morgan's stupid excursion fall apart, but this is beyond ridiculous. "A tent? How is that supposed to help?"

    "We can't leave him here with that guy," Raticate says.

    "I'll stay. You two go," Mightyena says, like she'd be able to stop you doing anything.

    "I said, how is a tent supposed to help?"

    "Are you sure?" Raticate says. "If something happened, you really think you'd be able to handle it? All by yourself? If the Team shows up and--"

    "Raticate, just go."

    "I have had enough," you say, stepping forward so you stand between the two of them. "This is stupid. It has been stupid from the start. We are going to go back to the apartment and get ready for the next battle, if I have to knock all of you out and drag your trainer there myself."

    Mightyena snarls and leaps at you, and you duck aside, fire leaping around your fist as you swing a punch that cuts the air just above her skull.

    "Stop," the great Nathaniel Morgan says in a whisper, almost lost in Mightyena's growling. "Stop, stop, Mightyena." He breaks off with a choking cough.

    She hears him somehow, and she does stop, crouched low with fur bristling, yellow eyes wide and wild. You kick her in the side, and then Raticate jumps on you, sinking his teeth into your thigh.

    "No! No fighting, no... Raticate, go. Get a tent." The great Nathaniel Morgan's struggling with the pokédex in his pocket, and your retaliatory punch hits empty air because Raticate's already over there next to him, gently taking the pokédex himself when the great Nathaniel Morgan gives up on it. The rat holds the device against his chest, whiskers quivering and looking beseechingly at Mightyena, who's positioned herself between you and her trainer.

    "Take Graveler. You can't carry..."

    Raticate glances helplessly at the great Nathaniel Morgan, then back to Mightyena. "We'll be back fast," he says, and races off on all fours, the pokédex in his mouth, with Graveler lumbering behind.

    "You are going to explain now," you say. "Where are we going? Why do you want a tent? If you do not answer, there will be more fighting, and this time I will not stop." Mightyena growls at that, deep and fierce.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan waves a hand towards something, and you turn to look. Street, people on the street, shops, the edge of town and the forest of tents and campers that surrounds it. "We are going out there?" you ask. The great Nathaniel Morgan nods. He's coughing fitfully, mouth closed like he's trying to hold it in. He wrestles with his backpack, fingers fumbling at the zipper but losing it over and over.

    "Need to be by people," he says. "So. Out there."

    You stand scowling while he tears the backpack open, sticking his hands through a gap in the zipper and forcing it the rest of the way. After that he moves on to struggling with a hyper potion. Mightyena sidles closer to him, facing you the whole while with lip curled up to show teeth. Only after the great Nathaniel Morgan mists her with the potion--or around half of it, he has some trouble with the nozzle--does she turn aside to lick the sweat from his face. She's still watching you from the corner of her eye.

    Irritated, you heal away your own wounds. "I am waiting," you say. "I will not wait much longer."

    Mightyena growls again, and the great Nathaniel Morgan reaches up to stroke her neck. It takes him a couple tries to get started, but once he does he manages to keep the words coming well enough. "Look, Freak. If Rocket's gonna come for us, it's better to have people around. It won't stop them, but it'll be harder for them to send a ton of guys our way. Too many witnesses, get me? Messy. Way harder than just popping a force into that apartment and taking us quiet-like."

    "That is stupid. If you are really so worried, I can just teleport us somewhere far away where they will not find us."

    "No! No." The vehemence of his response sends him into a coughing fit, and you lash your tail impatiently while he struggles to get his breath back. "If they follow us, we'll be... alone. Worse. Worst. Not that."

    "There is no way to track a teleport."

    "There is if they got a tracker on you."

    "That is just paranoid. When would they even have put one on?"

    "Better paranoid than dead, Freak."

    "You will be dead if you keep making me angry."

    "And then you really will be fucked tomorrow, won't you? It keeps coming back around, Freak. You can leave if you want. Don't care. But if you fuck me up, you ain't got no game tomorrow." He shifts his weight a little, a tight frown flashing across his face. "Fuck me up worse, I mean."

    You snort hot air out of your nostrils and cross your arms, tail worming fitfully across the asphalt. What can you do? Nothing good. There's no good choices anymore.

    "Well?" The great Nathaniel Morgan says. "Stay or go, Freak? Don't leave me to die in fucking suspense, here."

    "I will stay," you say. "So that we can prepare for the battle tomorrow. Do you understand?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan nearly smiles. "Sure, freak. We'll have ourselves a fucking awesome camping trip. Roast marshmallows over your head. All that good shit."

    "We will work."

    "Yeah, yeah." He slouches against the wall, eyes half-closed, dragging his fingers idly through Mightyena's fur. You pace, listening to the angry crackle of your fire and trying to put your thoughts in order, to salvage something from this idiocy.

    It isn't long before Raticate comes hurrying back, Graveler following with a large box held over her head. "They didn't have much," Raticate pants as he passes back the pokédex. "Everything's sold out. All those other people, I guess they bought up most of the stuff. Anyway, it's kind of big... And kind of expensive... I don't know."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan accepts the news with equanimity, and doesn't even complain when Graveler has to lift him and seat him on her head herself. After that comes a long search for a place to pitch the tent, one crowded enough for the great Nathaniel Morgan's tastes but with room to accommodate you, and then there's the matter of getting the thing put up. The great Nathaniel Morgan turns out to be just as useless as his pokémon at that, so it's mostly you wrestling with the poles, relying on the frayed memories of family trips from another life. All the while you could swear you actually feel each minute ticking by, marking another minute closer to the Championship that you're doing nothing to get ready for.

    Finally the tent's up and the team's crammed inside. Graveler and Mightyena take up nearly half the floor, but the great Nathaniel Morgan could stand up if he wanted. If he was able to--he's huddled against one wall of the tent, resting his head on his arms on his knees. You bounce impatiently on the balls of your feet, as close to the center of the tent as you can get, where there's enough overhead space that your flames won't burn it up. Just how long is the great Nathaniel Morgan going to mope around playing sick?

    Mightyena ends up speaking up before you, though. "Nate, can I ask you a question?"

    "No. Your trainer said he would go over the plan for tomorrow. If he is going to talk to anyone, it will be me." You give him a pointed look.

    "Don't be a dick, Freak," the great Nathaniel Morgan says wearily. "You can go after her, for fuck's sake. What does she want?"

    "You cannot make me translate for her." You cross your arms over your chest. "Training first. Then talking."

    "Mightyena, what is it?" the great Nathaniel Morgan says, turning towards her. "You need something?"

    Mightyena shoots you a glare, then turns to the great Nathaniel Morgan and barks twice.

    "Okay, then. But it's important? Right. Is it about the battle tomorrow? No. Is it about you? Is it about the team?"

    You're going to be standing there for hours with them playing twenty questions at each other. "Fine, fine," you snarl. "She wanted to ask you a question. Which was...?" You give Mightyena a look like she'd better make this quick.

    "Nate, what are we going to do after the tournament? After you get Steelix back?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan wilts, even more than he was before, and wearily rubs his face. "Oh, God. That's the fucking question, ain't it? I dunno, Mightyena, all right? Already got fucking Rocket after me, and the police ain't gonna be too pleased, neither, not after I rip Red off in front of half the fucking world. Gonna have to find somewhere to lie low, I guess. Real goddamned low."

    Mightyena nods slowly. "And then what?"

    "Look, Mightyena, this ain't exactly a good time, okay?"

    "I know. But there isn't much time left. There's the battle tomorrow, and then"--she glances over at you--"you're splitting up with Infernape, aren't you?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan gives you a dark look and says, "Damn straight."

    "Right. And I was thinking... I mean, all of us were thinking..." She looks pleadingly at the great Nathaniel Morgan.

    "Fine," he says, spreading his hands and then slapping them down on his knees. "Go on. You wanna talk? Then get talking."

    Mightyena must hear the bite of frustration in his voice. She goes over to rest her chin on the great Nathaniel Morgan's leg. He doesn't say anything more, just scratches her neck, and this goes on long enough that you're about to remind them that you have actual important things that need discussing when Mightyena says, "Nate, you weren't thinking of joining up with another gang, were you?"

    "No, I was thinking of doing what the freak there said and becoming a motherfucking professor. Where the fuck is this coming from?"

    "I never said you should be a professor," you say, confused. "That is a dumb idea."

    "Nate, why can't you just be a trainer?" Mightyena blurts out.

    "Because beating up little kids ain't worth shit for cash. The money's in tournaments and the gym circuit, and you can't play in no fucking tournaments if going on TV means fucking Rocket's gonna see it and send a squad to wipe you out. Can't play the gym circuit if you ain't got no license. And for some fucking reason they ain't keen on giving those out to fucking wanted criminals!"

    "We could make it work, Nate. We're strong, we can win whatever battles we need to. Or... it doesn't have to be training. There's lots of jobs for humans with strong pokémon. You could be a security guard, or a wilderness guide, or--"

    "You're right, landing those is way easier than being a fucking trainer. It's like background checks don't even fucking exist." The great Nathaniel Morgan takes a long, shaky breath. "Ain't that simple, Pooch. I mean, look, I ain't saying we gotta do nothing shady. I'm definitely gonna try--"

    Mightyena pulls away from him. "You'll try? You mean like you were 'trying' to get out of Team Rocket, which is how you ended up working for for them for--how long was it?"

    "Hey, fuck you." The great Nathaniel Morgan scowls. "I was fucking trying, but in case you ain't noticed, it ain't exactly easy to quit Rocket, at least if you don't want to go out in a body bag."

    "I'm just saying, Nate, none of us wants to go back to that. You don't either. You know you hate it. And it is hard to get away from. So this time, let's not start in the first place."

    "I'll do what I can, Pooch, but I can't promise nothing. That's all I got, hear? You happy?"

    Mightyena rests her head on her paws, looking off into the far corner of the tent. "Okay, Nate."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan crosses his arms and frowns at her back. "Look, this is human shit, okay? It ain't like for pokémon, I can't spend my life running around in the fucking woods or some shit. I gotta make money somehow, and ain't nobody wants what I got except a bunch of fucking crooks. I'll do my best, but if it comes down to ripping something off or fucking starving, you damn well better believe I'm gonna steal what I need."

    "I understand that, Nate," Mightyena says in a carefully measured tone. "I just wanted to make sure you were thinking about all our options."

    "Oh, sure, options, we got a fuckton of those now," the great Nathaniel Morgan snarls. "But I ain't sure why I'm the one to look at them, since you obviously think you got a better handle on this shit than me. You want to be the trainer now, huh? Go on, what's your brilliant plan for how everybody's gonna get fed without ripping nobody off?"

    Mightyena rumbles out a growl. "No, I was letting you know that I don't want to have to fight for someone like Team Rocket anymore. You don't have to be an ass about it."

    "That's just how I am. Deal with it, Pooch."

    "You know, Nate, maybe if you weren't so much like how you are you wouldn't have such a hard time of it," Mightyena says. "I don't get it. Why do you have to be so difficult? If you would just--"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan barks a nasty spasm of laughter. "Because fuck you, that's why. And if you want to start with that shit you'd better be ready to see exactly how much like I am I can get."

    "Oh, you are impossible!" Mightyena snarls.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan gives her a long look, lips pressed together in a thin line. Then he says, "I liked you better when you couldn't talk."

    Mightyena's mouth hangs open uselessly while she stares at the great Nathaniel Morgan. He stares back, one of his nasty smiles stretching across his face. Then Mightyena surges to her feet and blurs into shadow before she's even taken two steps.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan bares his teeth at the space she left behind, then turns to Raticate, who's huddled in the opposite corner. "Well? What about you? You got anything you want to say, huh?"

    Raticate stays frozen, as though the great Nathaniel Morgan might not notice him if he doesn't move. The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts and turns to Graveler. "And you?" The rock-type regards him placidly. "Yeah, like you even give a shit," the great Nathaniel Morgan mutters. He stands, grabbing at the central tent pole for support, and stumbles towards the exit.

    You come unstuck, only then realizing that you'd been as still as Raticate. "Stop! Where are you going? We need to--"

    "No!" the great Nathaniel Morgan roars, then pauses a moment, swaying and gulping down air. "We ain't gotta do no-fucking-thing! I got to hope to God I can fix your fucking mess, and you are going to stay here and try not to fuck everything up for once in your fucking life!"

    "I did not fuck everything up! You are the one who just ran your own pokémon--"

    "Stay here!" the great Nathaniel Morgan bellows, red in the face and shaking as he clings to the tent pole. "If you don't park your ass right there and stay until I get back, so help me God--"

    He can't come up with anything. And really, what could he ever threaten you with? All he can do is make a strangled scream-noise at the back of his throat and duck out of the tent.

    You let him. Eskar's gone. Mightyena's gone. And so is your supposed trainer, after doing his best to ruin everything. For a moment you're as weak as he is. You can't even stand. Instead you sit staring at the half-open tent flap. Then you squeeze your eyes shut, clench your hands into fists, and tighten them until heat wells up from your straining muscles. Fire, and fire, and then you sit back, open your eyes, and let it all go. You don't even have the energy to be mad. Instead you find yourself wishing Absol would show up, but of course she's never there when you really need her.

    Raticate takes a box of cereal and tears it into little cardboard shreds, ignoring the multicolored rings that spill out of it. Then he takes another box and starts over. Ugly ripping noises punctuate the sounds filtering through the thin tent walls: a group of people walking by, chatting; children playing, shrieking laughter and calling to one another; a chatot alternately babbling in human speech and arguing with a glameow about whether it's going to rain.

    Graveler stands quietly off to one side, where she's torn a hole through the floor of the tent. Now and again she picks a rock off the ground below and stuffs it in her mouth. You listen to the faint grinding of her teeth and watch the sunlight shining into the tent like you're in a trance.

    It's cold that finally rouses you, cold even though the lowering sun now falls directly on your face. It's actually painful, concentrated in a spot dangerously close to your heart. You put your hand up to your chest only to feel smooth stone under your fingers. And with that touch a whisper in your ear: "Cordierite-eyes."

    You snap to attention, turning left and right and then thinking of Raticate's eyes on you and forcing yourself to slow down, to look without seeming to look. No sign of Eskar, but even after you jerk your hand away from the Boss' mark, you can still hear her murmuring her name for you, over and over in her hissing, whispery voice. In a panic you scramble out of the tent, blinking in the sudden light and once again turning, turning, searching.

    "Cordierite-eyes." Eskar's in front of you, and you have to change your next step into a wide, exaggerated arc to stop yourself from putting your foot right through her. "We have much to discuss."

    "Eskar!" How did she find you so fast? You shoo her away from your tent and lower your voice, mindful of who might be listening. "Don't worry, you'll get the great Nathaniel Morgan. Just like I said. That hasn't changed, everything's fine." Nothing's fine. What are you going to do tomorrow? You have to find the great Nathaniel Morgan. What have you been doing, sitting around moping all this time? You have to find him.

    "Is that so?" Eskar asks, head tilted to one side. "You must understand I have concerns, Cordierite-eyes. Grave concerns."

    "I know. I get it. Don't worry. I'll get it under control. The human--he's just an idiot. I'll handle it." You will find him, and if he tries to run off again you'll break one of his legs and see how far he wants to hobble on that. He doesn't need both to give commands.

    "Mmmm." Ekar's head tilts farther, so far her neck looks grotesquely broken. "Mmmmmmm." She stays like that for long seconds, making a weird humming noise. It's so long you start to sweat, wondering whether she's preparing an attack or about to call all of Team Rocket down on you right then and there. Then the sableye's head snaps up straight again, teeth gleaming in a broad, triangular grin. "Very good! Very good, Cordierite-eyes. I was worried, yes, but you say you will do it, and so I believe you will. I trust you, Cordierite-eyes, yes. We are such good friends."

    You nod, almost frantically, up and down and up and down as she talks. "I had to make sure, Cordierite-eyes. I had to remind you. Old Eskar's watching, she is! But you never forgot, did you, Cordierite-eyes?"

    Your skin itches as fear-sweat dries into your fur, and you scratch while nodding mechanically. You half turn back towards the tent, worrying again that one of the other pokémon might be watching. Still Eskar chatters on. "Now, tomorrow, Cordierite-eyes--pay attention! This is oh so important. Tomorrow after your battle you will meet me at black glass place. The place of training, yes? Bring the backstabby human, and then you can leave. Unless perhaps you would like to come with Eskar, too? Team Rocket could use one so powerful as you. There are rewards, Cordierite-eyes, so many rewards. More than just one favor, yes? And we could be friends forever. Wouldn't you like that?"

    You can't hide your cringe, stomach lurching queasily at the thought. You working with Rocket now, or what? "No. No, I can't. I'll bring you the human, it's no problem, but I can't join Team Rocket. I'm sorry, Eskar, I can't."

    Eskar sighs and shakes her head like a weary parent who's come home to find their child's made another mess. "As you say, Cordierite-eyes. Tragic! But there's time yet, yes? Time for you to change your mind." Her serious look evaporates, and she's back to her usual smile. "There is nothing to fear, Cordierite-eyes. You are such a good friend. So very good, yes." She drops her voice to a raspy whisper, leaning towards you. "Perhaps a friend might spare a little present for Eskar? Just a tiny small gift?" She reaches towards your face, and you recoil, tripping over your tail and sitting down hard.

    Eskar howls with laughter, head tipped back with mouth open wide, wide, wide. "No? No? Nothing for Eskar?" She recovers from her laughing fit while you spring back to your feet, tripping over yourself to apologize and schooling yourself not to rub your burning eyes. "Very well, Cordierite-eyes, very well. I only came to talk. A little check-in, yes? Remember, Cordierite-eyes! Remember your one favor!"

    With that, she's gone. You think you see the glint of gemstones in the shadow of clothing on a line, but after one solitary dazzle that's gone, too. You keep watch for a few more seconds, heart worked up to a gallop, but you can't linger here. You have to find the great Nathaniel Morgan.

    You bend down, searching with eyes and nose for a trail, but in your head all you can see is Eskar's gleaming smile. What was she even doing, showing up like that? Pulling a prank? You don't think so. 'Remember, Cordierite-eyes.' She wanted you to know she's watching, and if you can't get the great Nathaniel Morgan back, if he's gone and run off for good, you have a feeling Eskar's not going to think you're such a good friend anymore.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan's scent is strong around here, but as you go farther from your tent it gets tangled up, buried under layers of humans and pokémon passing along the busy makeshift thoroughfare. You alternate between tearing down tent-lined avenues, dodging pedestrians with flames streaming out behind you, and crouching with face centimeters from the ground, taking huge snorting breaths and trying to filter the great Nathaniel Morgan's thread from the myriad stories sprawled across the earth. You shouldn't have left it so long. You don't have much time. You have to find him, and soon.

    The scent grows ever more confused as narrow, meandering paths merge into what's almost a proper street, the main path back to town. Finally you sit back on your haunches, tail thrashing and flames hissing frustration in your ears. You don't have time for trying to make sense of the scent-map laid out in front of you, churned up by hundreds of wandering people. Where would he have gone?

    A bar somewhere. He's probably out drinking himself senseless. You tear off in the direction of town, resolving to turn over everywhere in Indigo that might sell alcohol. You'll carry the great Nathaniel Morgan off by force if necessary; you're looking forward to it, even.

    No good. There's not a whiff of him anywhere, not in the bars or restaurants or shops or even the laundromat you barge into mostly by accident, running on the adrenaline of desperation more than any kind of rational thought. The sun tilts towards setting, and your stretching shadow leads your charge down endless cobbled streets. The crowds are turning over, some people retiring for the evening, others emerging for a night on the town. It's fear more than frustration that speeds your steps now. Maybe the great Nathaniel Morgan saw his chance and ran, maybe he's halfway across the region already, maybe Team Rocket went and grabbed him while they could. You'd have thought he wouldn't leave his pokémon, but after today, maybe you're not sure.

    The sky's lighting up orange by the time you give up. It's back to the tents, back to tracking scents even more faded than before. You force yourself to slow down and piece the trail together no matter how long it takes, doubling back when you get confused and slowly working your way out from your tent. You haven't even gone far before you run across a windfall, a fresh splash of scent. The great Nathaniel Morgan's been back here, and recently. The scent's so strong you could imagine he was actually standing right in front of you.

    "The fuck're you doing out here?"

    You look up, and there he is, arms full of a knotted jumble of cloth. "Looking for you," you snap, too surprised to decide whether you're angry or merely relieved. "Why do you have all that stuff?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan blinks at you like you couldn't have asked a stranger question. "Gonna be cold as balls out here tonight, even with your fire. I got us some blankets, that's all." He shambles past you, moving at a foot-dragging pace, hunched up over his burden.

    He got food, too, if your nose tells you right. You follow along beside him, wondering. He wasn't out getting blankets all day.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan ducks back into your tent, and Raticate freezes. He's surrounded by scraps of cardboard and bright-colored sugary bits. The great Nathaniel Morgan pretends not to see him and sits down with a sigh, dumping the pile of blankets on the floor. Underneath them he was holding a paper bag, from which he withdraws a narrow foil-wrapped shape, which he sets down at arm's length between himself and Raticate. He takes out another and gives it to you.

    Raticate pounces on the sandwich, then retreats back to his corner, already wrestling with the foil wrapper.

    "I'm sorry, Raticate," the great Nathaniel Morgan mutters, "for being a dick at you before. And you, too, Graveler. Although for all I can tell, you really don't give a shit."

    Graveler gives a double shrug and goes back to prying up a fist-sized chunk of rock.

    Raticate flicks an ear and chews industriously through his sandwich, nose twitching as he nibbles away in tiny bites. The great Nathaniel Morgan watches him for a few seconds, then asks, "Seen Mightyena?"

    Raticate ducks away from his trainer's gaze, clutching his sandwich tight. You say, "No. She did not come back."

    "Well, good," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "If she's got a problem with me, she oughtta leave. And the same goes for the rest of you," he adds, raising his voice. "You don't like the way I do things? Fine. Just fucking go, then. You want to leave, leave. Ain't hard."

    "Go where?" Raticate asks.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan glances at you, and you growl back at him. More talking. That's exactly what you need tonight. Is he hoping to get rid of Raticate now, too?

    "Freak, come on. We gotta do this whole song and dance every goddamn time? What did he say?"

    "No. You are just going to fight and lose us another pokémon. If you want to talk, you can talk about what we are going to do for the battle. That is it."

    "Doesn't matter, does it? He doesn't really want to hear what I have to say anyway."

    "Look, this is about what I said to Mightyena, ain't it?" the great Nathaniel Morgan asks. Raticate stares at him, chewing away again. "I didn't mean it like that, okay?"

    "Oh? And how exactly did you mean it, Nate?"

    "I really am not going to translate until we figure out what we are doing about the battle."

    The great Nathaniel Morgan rubs his head, scowling at the floor. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? Like, seriously. It's just weird, you know? Being able to hear what you're really saying. And it's great, definitely, it's amazing, but it's not always what I expected. It's just weird."

    "So you can't pretend we're saying whatever you want anymore, huh? That must be so hard. I feel real sorry for you," Raticate says. He tears a particularly large chunk off his sandwich with a vicious sideways jerk of his head.

    "Oh, yeah, we're pissed, ain't we?" the great Nathaniel Morgan growls. "Well, fucking deal with it. I'm trying, okay? What the fuck do you want from me?"

    "I want you to drop this stupid argument and get down to business," you say, fully aware that they're going to ignore you. You're squeezing your sandwich so tight you can feel marinara sauce oozing out over your fingers. Why are the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon being mean to him all of a sudden? Couldn't they have waited just one more day?

    Raticate doesn't say anything.

    "That's right, you ain't got no fucking clue. I'm doing the best I can, and if you don't like it, you can take a fucking hike. You hear me?"

    Raticate twitches an ear.

    "What the fuck are you still standing there for?" the great Nathaniel Morgan practically shouts, the blood rising in his face. Your tail twitches spasmodically, like you're switching away a fly. Here he goes again. "You think I'm gonna come up with something if you fucking stare at me long enough? I told you, I ain't got nothing. I ain't got no fucking clue! You want a real trainer, fuck off already and go find one. I'm a fucking criminal, got it? It's always gonna be the same shit."

    Raticate watches silently while the great Nathaniel Morgan's ranting ramps up. "What the fuck do you want from me? I'm trying, it's just, I don't know. I don't fucking know! Look, I know I'm an asshole, I just ain't got no fucking clue what the fuck I'm supposed to do! I've got fucking Team Rocket on my back and the police and the League and I'm probably going to die, and then, then you--I--I'm just--I'm just so fucking tired of being sick!" He takes a huge, gulping breath of air and turns away, pinching the bridge of his nose with his eyes screwed shut. He breathes noisily between gritted teeth, shoulders rising and falling heavily.

    He sits like that for a while, shaking with--anger? You don't understand what's going on at all. Finally Raticate goes up to him and headbutts his knee. The great Nathaniel Morgan shrinks away from him, drawing himself into a tight ball. Raticate nudges him again, and again, and finally climbs up and settles himself on the great Nathaniel Morgan's hunched back, nosing insistently at what little of his trainer's face is exposed. The great Nathaniel Morgan reaches back and pulls Raticate into his arms, hugging him tight while the rat rubs the side of his face against his trainer's chest.

    You let them have their moment. Several moments, even, but as far as you can tell they plan to stay like that for the rest of the night. "That is enough. You have wasted too much time. You need to get up so we can train at least a little before tomorrow."

    "Ain't no point training, Freak," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. Raticate shifts in his arms, fixing you with one glinting, reproachful eye. "That pikachu's a fucking monster. Ain't no training's gonna make us strong enough to beat that."

    "So you are going to give up? After everything else you are just going to lose?"

    "Never said that, Freak. Just said training won't help. But don't worry, we'll get it done tomorrow. All we gotta do is send you out there and let you do what you do best."

    You're good at a lot of things. What on earth is he talking about? "Be awesome?"

    The great Nathaniel Morgan opens watery eyes and actually manages a smirk. "Cheat."

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

    Banner by Sworn Metalhead of Dćdric Design




  10. #185
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    There-ish
    Posts
    2,102

    Default

    "Oh yeah, Steelix and his pokéblocks," Raticate says mushily. He watches the great Nathaniel Morgan feed Mightyena pokéblocks one by one, tossing them high so she rears up to snap them out of the air. "Remember that time he knocked Nate over he was so excited to get at them?"

    "Yeah, he's all about honor and restraint and everything until it comes to the good stuff," Mightyena says. "Then it's all, 'I'm the biggest, I get to be first,' the shiny metal hypocrite."
    Whoops, I continue to love this steelix.

    "Eat them?" Eskar sits up, suddenly frowning. "Eat eyes? Oh no, Lazurite-eyes, no! They would be so squishy! And all soft and liquid and yeeerch. Food isn't supposed to squish!"
    I take it she's not a fan of jello, then. :B

    But yeah, love that detail. Of course a sableye would prefer food that doesn't yield so darned much.

    You follow him as he dashes into the bedroom and find him considering a bunch of rocks scattered across the bedspread. "What the **** did you even do to--what is this, a shirt?"

    "Made it smaller," Graveler says. She demonstrates with the towel draped across her lower arms, gathering and crushing it in one decisive motion. When she opens her hands again, it's been reduced to a small bundle about the size of a hamburger patty, compressed by incredible pressure.
    Well now we know where those "magic" towels come from, don't we.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan rubs his head, scowling at the floor. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? Like, seriously. It's just weird, you know? Being able to hear what you're really saying. And it's great, definitely, it's amazing, but it's not always what I expected. It's just weird."

    "So you can't pretend we're saying whatever you want anymore, huh? That must be so hard. I feel real sorry for you," Raticate says.
    SERVED.

    He sits like that for a while, shaking with--anger? You don't understand what's going on at all. Finally Raticate goes up to him and headbutts his knee. The great Nathaniel Morgan shrinks away from him, drawing himself into a tight ball. Raticate nudges him again, and again, and finally climbs up and settles himself on the great Nathaniel Morgan's hunched back, nosing insistently at what little of his trainer's face is exposed. The great Nathaniel Morgan reaches back and pulls Raticate into his arms, hugging him tight while the rat rubs the side of his face against his trainer's chest.
    Oh my god that's adorable.

    Lots of great interaction between Nate and his team in general this time around. Incidentally I wonder if we really have seen the last of Mightyena. Somehow my money's on "yes".

  11. #186
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Elsewhere
    Posts
    2,310

    Default

    So first of all, lemme say that I'm super glad to see you posting here again! The forums are definitely livelier for it. Hope your travels have been going well!

    Also super glad to see a new chapter! Lots of heavy emotions in this one and I love it. The fact that Eskar belongs to the boss finally dropped, and Nate took it about as well as one would expect (not very.) And the protag finally confronted him about the concerns it's had throughout the entire league arc. I freaking love that its grievances with him basically boil down to "Why are you not irredeemably awful in every way?! D:< D:< D:< You're supposed to be!!" Not taking this whole "gray morality" thing very well, is it?

    Of course, the standout for me was Mightyena's callout, and man was it a doozy. Because yeah, Nate's Pokemon love him and support him, and also can see that he's made some really, really awful decisions and could easily fall back into making even more if they don't stop him. But at the same time, you see why he made those decisions, and it's obvious that he really didn't want to. And the idea that you can just cheerfully decide to always follow the right path in life regardless of whether or not it's realistically possible... is about as childish as the one suggesting it. But that doesn't mean Nate's Pokemon can't hold him responsible for his terrible actions, even if it's understandable why he did what he did! A good reason is not a good excuse (I've always been fond of that phrase.)

    Also, this chapter exemplifies a lot of the things I love about the way you write Pokemon. Because it's a fic that takes the fully sapient interpretation (with translated Pokespeech to boot), but still constantly sprinkles delightful little reminders that these characters are not human and do not act or think human at all. I just could not erase the stupid grin from my face the whole time Raticate was building that silly froot loop nest. That's something I really want to work on in my own writing, and something I'll be focusing on from now on after seeing it done so well here.

    Can't believe they're actually gonna fight Red soon. Obviously that fight is going to involve shenanigans. And it's not like the protag can really object to cheating, can it? After all, the mission is more important that everything else, right? >:3

    ~Chibi~



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

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    July 15 Update: CHAPTER 25: “The Heart of a Rocket” POSTED!!!
    Chapter 26 progress: 3/10 pages


  12. #187
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    The bottom of a lake
    Posts
    728

    Default

    So I actually read this when you first posted it but am only now taking the time to review. Sorry about that...

    Anyway, the part with Absol and the child was really cute. I like how she gives this image of this caring figure, even if she is aloof much of the time. And I can't help but wonder at the "It's almost over." comment... Does that also mean this fic is almost over?

    Also I won't pretend that I teared up a bit when Nate started breaking down. His "I don't want to be sick anymore!" really got to me. He at least seems aware of his situation and the morality of it, although he doesn't believe there's anything he can do about it in spite of others telling him that there is. I really felt for the poor guy.

    Additionally, him finding out that Eskar belonged to Team Rocket made a pretty hilarious scene. I could really feel the child's panic when Nate asked if Eskar had given anything to the child XD The kid really needs to learn who he can and can't trust, especially considering how much he claims to hate Team Rocket.

    And you can probably imagine that I got really upset when Mightyena left ;_; I'm really really hoping this wasn't the last we saw of her--though I wouldn't blame here if it was...

    All in all, I really liked this chapter! It wasn't so action-y, but had a lot more focus on character interaction, which is more of my cup of tea and I think you did it all really well. It's really making me wonder what's going to happen next, and I'm a little worried for how Nate will be acting now that Mightyena is gone. Really great job, and I look forward to the next


    My fic, Drowning.
    Cye of the Torrent is my bishie.
    Credit to Sketchie of Coronet Designs

  13. #188
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Lurking
    Posts
    1,090

    Default

    I'm hard at work drafting the next chapter. No ETA on that yet, but it's been going pretty well. In the meantime, some replies!

    Sike Saner

    Whoops, I continue to love this steelix.
    I definitely regret putting Steelix on a bus earlier in this story; he's probably my favorite out of Nate's pokémon to write, so naturally he's the one who gets the least screen time.

    But yeah, love that detail. Of course a sableye would prefer food that doesn't yield so darned much.
    Yup, if it doesn't crunch, it's basically inedible. Eskar might be fine with chewing bones, though. (They're full of lovely minerals!)

    SERVED.
    It's too bad Nate didn't get to hear that quote verbatim. Or too good, maybe? That would have been a serious burn.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the interactions between Nate and his team! They were loads of fun to write. Thanks for reviewing and letting me know your thoughts!

    Chibi Pika

    Also super glad to see a new chapter! Lots of heavy emotions in this one and I love it. The fact that Eskar belongs to the boss finally dropped, and Nate took it about as well as one would expect (not very.) And the protag finally confronted him about the concerns it's had throughout the entire league arc. I freaking love that its grievances with him basically boil down to "Why are you not irredeemably awful in every way?! D:< D:< D:< You're supposed to be!!" Not taking this whole "gray morality" thing very well, is it?
    The protagonist might be about as good as N at seeing shades of gray, heh. In fairness, though, its grievances go a little beyond Nate not fitting its idea of what a "bad guy" should be; he's going to have a lot of trouble living down that one time when he sold it out to Team Rocket, for example, and he has legitimately been an ******* to it on many occasions. But in this particular chapter, yeah, he's just being so confusing and obviously trying to pull one of his sneaky tricks over on the protagonist and he needs to stop.

    And the idea that you can just cheerfully decide to always follow the right path in life regardless of whether or not it's realistically possible... is about as childish as the one suggesting it. But that doesn't mean Nate's Pokemon can't hold him responsible for his terrible actions, even if it's understandable why he did what he did! A good reason is not a good excuse (I've always been fond of that phrase.)
    Ooh yeah, "a good reason is not a good excuse" is definitely a major theme in this story. There are several characters who've done pretty terrible things, although for hopefully-understandable reasons, and how are they supposed to deal with that? How do you balance holding someone responsible for their actions against recognizing they had few other options? Or they had other options but were never equipped to recognize or understand them? When should you hold someone accountable for their actions, and when should you give them a second chance? How can you forgive someone? Should you? On the flip side, how much are you defined by your past? How can you forgive yourself? (Should you?)

    Thankfully the cast is all emotionally and intellectually prepared to wrestle with these sorts of questions in the extremely hands-on crash course I've designed for them.

    I'm glad you like emotion-heavy chapters because there are going to be some weighty conversations in the back half of this 'fic, haha. Plus another generous barrel full of stupid jokes, of course.

    Also, this chapter exemplifies a lot of the things I love about the way you write Pokemon. Because it's a fic that takes the fully sapient interpretation (with translated Pokespeech to boot), but still constantly sprinkles delightful little reminders that these characters are not human and do not act or think human at all. I just could not erase the stupid grin from my face the whole time Raticate was building that silly froot loop nest. That's something I really want to work on in my own writing, and something I'll be focusing on from now on after seeing it done so well here.
    Thanks! I actually think I write my pokémon characters (and the protagonist) too human, so it's nice to hear you believe otherwise.

    Hoo, well, it was a bit difficult not to go on a huge rant in the middle there. I'm really glad you're digging all the gray morality in the story and the way the characters struggle with it; it's what the story's really "about", so to speak. There's plenty more to come!

    Starlight Aurate

    You seriously never need to apologize for taking a bit to get around to a review. Especially not when you're posting only days after an update, good grief!

    It's funny you should ask whether the 'fic's almost over--there's more than one person who seems to think we're nearing the end. But no, this is only about halfway through the story. The protagonist thinks it's almost over--they have to beat the Champion, and from there things will get resolved quickly--but it's not going to be that simple. I'm glad you liked the interaction between the protagonist and Absol, though; there's going to be more focus on their relationship soon.

    It's great that you enjoyed all the drama this chapter, what with Nate finding out about Eskar, Mightyena leaving, and the protagonist kind of freaking out about the whole thing. And yeah, Nate really feels stuck in a terrible situation here... he's definitely not in a good place right now. Whether he manages to get out of it and if Mightyena comes back we'll have to wait and see!

    Glad you liked the chapter! I was a bit apprehensive because it's quite long and doesn't appear to move the plot along (everybody's waiting on that last battle, heh), so I'm pleased that it's been well-received anyway. Thanks for stopping by!

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

    Banner by Sworn Metalhead of Dćdric Design




  14. #189
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    920

    Default

    Chapter 31

    "I mean holy ****, ain't like those rocks did nothing to you."
    The rocks looked at the child funny, obviously. Don't mess with it ever.

    Trying to make you like him. Making you forget about all the bad things he's done. Being all confusing.
    The childish tone and word choice really sells this. I like it!

    "What? What? Where'd it go?" he asks when she comes trotting back a second later, ears perked and tail wagging expectantly.
    Anddd the contrast between the child's seriousness and Mightyena/Nate's playfulness works well here. Nate's being super adorable with his team, as usual. <3

    Your eyes itch, and you rub at them, scrubbing until they're watering so bad you can barely see. They still itch. Stupid. They're brand new. There's no reason they should give you trouble.
    Something tells me Eskar's the reason for this somehow...

    I can't believe I almost forgot about that."
    And not long ago, the child said it doesn't forget that easy... Hmm... (Not sure if that's an error or not, but it fits well with the child's character regardless.)

    "I could not say what he does or does not deserve. What makes you think you can?"
    I know Absol's dialogue usually sounds more formal, but the dialogue feels a bit forced here.

    "Where did you even get this?" the great Nathaniel Morgan asks Raticate as he wraps the string around one hand, but all he gets in response is the excited rattle of chattering teeth. Raticate's nose pokes out a second, then disappears.
    It's never explicitly said so I'm not sure of this, but it feels to me like the child wants in on their fun. Even if not, Nate and his team having all this fun narration during his conversations with the child still hit hard, since the child is... well, a child, and should be having fun rather than worrying about everything happening right now.

    "Anyhow, Freak, the whole point of that was: you still good to fight? Or are you gonna be facing the ****ing Champion and decide you'd rather roast my *** or something?
    I'm wondering the same thing, to be honest.

    The great Nathaniel Morgan snorts. "Yeah, and what'd she do to sell you on that load of ********? She smile real pretty with those pointy pointy teeth that can chew through ****ing bone?"

    "No. We made a deal. I gave her my eyes."

    "What?" The great Nathaniel Morgan peers into your face.

    "They grow back," you say, exasperated.
    Okay, this conversation is hilarious, despite how messed up it is. I'm terrible, I know.

    "That is just paranoid. When would they even have put one on?"
    I'm suspicious of Eskar again. Not sure if I should be, but I am. And after the way the last chapter ended, can you blame me?

    The great Nathaniel Morgan gives her a long look, lips pressed together in a thin line. Then he says, "I liked you better when you couldn't talk."
    Now, this I wasn't expecting, especially after all the playfulness earlier. But I have to say, it fits Nate's character to say/do awful things when he's angry, even if he's hurting the ones he loves. We also got a more concrete idea of what his pokemon think of his criminal life here, which was interesting to see. I have a feeling this'll have a huge impact later on.

Page 8 of 8 FirstFirst ... 45678

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •