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Thread: Communication (PG-13)

  1. #376
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    Kaizer: Yep, it's still alive. I've said I'd finish it, and I meant and still mean it, no matter how long it takes to finish any given part of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaizer View Post
    Beyond that, this was a really, really busy chapter to the point that I almost felt it was kind of rushed. It was great that things happened, but I guess it just makes for a lot to take in all at once. I mean, in one chapter we have the Sinaji issue basically solved with everyone escaping and making a ton of new allies, everyone's reunited, and the teleport mystery has been solved while setting up an even bigger mystery.
    Yeah this... could really have probably stood to be more than one chapter.

    A lot of them probably could have, really.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kaizer View Post
    My only other thought is a bit nitpicky: Grosh tends to refer to other pokemon as people, which makes sense for a group as a whole, but feels odd for individuals. Wouldn't they be thought of as pokemon? Especially by one who actually new humans? Like I said, a bit nitpicky but as a whole I enjoyed this and I'm glad it's back.
    For what it's worth, Grosh was with his own kind prior to capture for longer than he was with humans.

    Thanks for reading and for replying!

    Current Chapter: Chapter 18 – Remnants

    COMPLETE
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  2. #377
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    Sike! I'm so glad to see this story up and running again. it's been so long that I actually started over three days ago so everything made sense again. I'm loving the new Pokemon you're introducing into the story.. Especially the ghost/normal type. Brilliant. Also love the connection to auurade and fights.. Can't wait to see how this turns out. 17 was definitely worth the wait regardless of how things aren't going exactly peachy for solonns party.. At least you didn't leave us on a cliffhanger haha.

    I really hope knowing I'm still alive you'll keep up with this more often because I'm watching.. Regardless of having a husband and all now.

  3. #378
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    Dark Latios: Well it's definitely up but I don't know about running, heh. I'd personally be surprised if there were another chapter before year's end--although at the same time, I wouldn't rule it out entirely, either!

    Glad you're digging the fakemon! And that type combination, as well. It's one of my favorites, and I really hope to see an official pokémon with it someday.

    Thanks for reading and for replying, and congrats!

    Current Chapter: Chapter 18 – Remnants

    COMPLETE
    Communication banner: Saffire Persian | TOoS banner: CHeSHiRe-CaT

  4. #379
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    Oh my god, this chapter was fun to write.

    Oh yeah, and it gets pretty violent. Just thought you ought to know.

    _____________________

    Chapter 18 – Remnants


    “So. This is it, huh.”

    “So it is,” Solonn said, his eyes lingering upon the racetrack not far below. Already pokémon were gathering there. Soon he would join them.

    The past few days had flown by, but they had been incredibly busy. With the aid of the defectors, the force now assembling to move out had constructed their plan of attack. Already, he could see it coming together. There were Grosh and Oth, along with a small team of fighting-types, all pooling their efforts to gather boulders, both conjured and found. There were Zdir and Valdrey with Quiul, most likely reminding the mercirance of her own roles in the mission.

    And here was Zilag, and Solonn was about as certain as could be of what he was up to. “They say our chances aren’t too bad.” They’d said it more than once. He’d clutched those claims like treasures.

    “I know,” Zilag said. “They really do seem to know their stuff. And you’ve got some great allies on your side. But… well, this isn’t really about them. It’s about you.”

    He circled around to meet Solonn’s gaze. “I… think you’re going to do just fine. You, specifically. You personally. I’m not saying you could take them on all on your own. I’m just saying… well, I just want you to know that I believe in you, all right?”

    Solonn didn’t doubt his sincerity, not exactly. But he could see the quiver in the other’s eyelight. The reassurance was for them both.

    But he smiled all the same. It was the least he could do. “Thanks,” he said.

    The noise amidst the bleachers had, by this point, all but entirely trickled down to the track. It would be starting soon.

    Sure enough, <Your attention, please. Your presence is requested at the stadium floor.>

    “And there it is.” Solonn knew that Zilag wouldn’t have heard it himself. Zilag, as well as Hledas, would be remaining behind with the kids. This was mostly on account of neither of them having anywhere near the amount of training as the ones who would be heading out—they wouldn’t exactly be dead weight, but their chances of surviving the mission were less favorable all the same. And nobody fancied the idea of possibly orphaning their children.

    Zilag nodded in acceptance. He moved back around to Solonn’s side, clearing the way for him to descend. “Go make ’em pay, all right? I’ll keep you in my thoughts.”

    If it happens, I won’t forget you, that might have also meant. Solonn couldn’t keep the flicker out of his eyes—just how much concern was Zilag holding back for his sake? But again he smiled, and he gave an assuring nod, and with all the confidence he could muster, “Will do,” he said. “Take care, Zilag.”

    “You too, buddy.”

    Solonn drew and released a deep, steeling breath, then closed the short remaining distance down the center aisle, taking his place at nearly the edge of the gathering. Over the heads of the people before him, he could see Zdir and Valdrey standing atop a winner’s podium that had been raised in the center of the arena, with Quiul waiting on the steps leading up to it.

    “I trust everyone’s here?” Zdir spoke up. Even as she asked, though, her eyes were sweeping the crowd as they affirmed their presence; she’d surely know just fine whether anyone was missing, as well as if anyone wasn’t paying due attention.

    Apparently satisfied with her findings, “All right. Now, I don’t need to tell any of you why you’re here. I don’t need to tell you what we’re about to do. But I do want to emphasize the value of your contributions today.

    “The Virc, by and large, will never thank you. They’ll never know what you have done and will do for them. But no matter how their leadership might deny it, I am still one of them. I am still Virc. And on behalf of my people, I want to thank all of you in advance. For the lives we save, for the minds we put at ease, I thank you. Gods go with us all.”

    “All right, let’s go kick some ass!” Valdrey said, bringing her hands together with a loud clank of armor on armor. “Split up, folks; it’s time to go…”

    At her instructions, the crowd began swiftly parting. For the most part, the teams were already assembled, many of the departing fighters having automatically gravitated toward the ones they would accompany upon heading out, but fitting everyone into the general vicinity of the arena below had required some strategic positioning of some of the larger pokémon.

    Consequently, Solonn had to pick his way through the crowd to join Zdir’s group. Grosh had been assigned to her team, as well, as if Solonn needed any help figuring out where to go. He took his place at the steelix’s side and soon found himself crowded against it as the rest of their team gathered close together in the loose semicircle marked by Grosh’s half-coiled body.

    “Hey,” Grosh spoke up, at which six different faces turned toward him before following his own line of sight and figuring out who he was actually addressing.

    “Hm?” Solonn responded, still keeping his sights trained upward as best he could; his horns and the close quarters made leaning too far back unfeasible.

    “You’re gonna make us proud,” Grosh told him, a smile playing about his eyes. “Me and her both.”

    Solonn’s eyelight flickered at the mention of his mother, and he averted his gaze. “I’ll certainly do my best,” he promised, and not only to those who were physically present.

    “Of course you will,” Grosh said. “You’re your mother’s son. You’re gonna have not only your own strength on your side today but hers, too. She’s not gonna let anything else happen to her boys. And neither am I.”

    The flickering intensified… but a smile, however faint, formed around it. Solonn didn’t doubt Grosh’s dedication in the least… and he was sure that if it truly were possible, Azvida would be lending her figurative hand in their mission, as well.

    Solonn met his father’s gaze once more. “Thank you,” he said earnestly.

    With the departing pokémon now divided almost cleanly in half, Quiul descended from the podium and insinuated herself into the group on the far side of the arena, squeezing in next to Valdrey. In the next moment, a golden aura swelled around the other team and took them away in a flash of light. Seconds later, Quiul returned for the rest.

    As her lithe form slithered its way among his team, Solonn caught himself counting the passing moments. Counting his heartbeats. He tried to treat it as a countdown—not to their departure, but to their eventual victory. Soon, he told himself silently, it would be over. Or this part thereof would be, at least.

    We will win, he told himself as he took one deliberate breath after another. We will make it. Still, as he and the rest of his team left Wisteria behind, those heartbeats grew no softer.

    * * *

    The sunlight was more than a few minutes in the past now, replaced by the cold, blue glare of dozens of eyes. Most of their owners hung back, Solonn included, as Grosh, a gurdurr by the name of Thuras, and a pair of machoke siblings named Daran and Kala worked to block off one of the exits to the Sinaji’s territory with their gathered boulders.

    This was just one of four such exits. Each of the teams had already sealed one apiece; separately, as before, they were tackling the last pair.

    They’d encountered little resistance to speak of thus far: just a trio of guards at each of the exits they’d hit, all of whom now lay lifeless at their posts. But the team’s current task was not silent work. Stealth was hardly a priority in this venture. Avoiding confrontation was not their goal, not this time. It wasn’t a matter of whether or not they’d be noticed by Sinaji further in but rather when.

    There was nothing to do about that but to wait, and to keep a watch out for approaching trouble. Each of the teams was large enough to deal with being discovered, provided that the Sinaji didn’t bear down on either of them en masse—or so they hoped, at least. So Solonn hoped, as he mindfully kept his eyes glued to the path leading inward rather than on his father, making a conscious effort to breathe steadily, holding the key to a quick sheer cold at the edge of his awareness all the while.

    Don’t jump the gun, he reminded himself. Fire when you have a reason to. No sooner.

    Minutes passed, and no such reason came. Before long, “Got it,” Thuras announced. There was a momentary scraping of metal against stone as she retrieved her steel beam from wherever she’d set it down.

    A few seconds’ delay; then, “So have they,” Zdir reported. With Zilag no longer reporting from Virc-Dho, Oth’s telepathic connection with him had been severed, and their connection to Zdir had been reestablished.

    “Come on,” she then said, and began moving away from the now blocked exit. Her team filed out with her: nine glalie, herself included; the three fighting-types; Lirimi, an azumarill; and Grosh grinding his way along from the back, his heavy head looming above the procession. Quiul presently accompanied them, as well: a member of both teams, poised as she’d been all the while to teleport to the aid of either if needed.

    The tunnel ahead of them came from the same place as the one leading to the fourth exit. There they would join the other team, and from there they would move forward as a unified force, able (one hoped) to withstand the full brunt of the Sinaji’s forces in a worst-case scenario.

    Even given that they still could only guess just what, apart from glalie, comprised that force.

    As they continued onward, Solonn gazed out over the heads of the ones before him, scanning for signs of life, friendly or otherwise, hoping that his team would reach the meeting place soon.

    The enemy reached it first.

    The deep blue light of protect auras flooded the room. A sheer cold volley split the air, innumerable shots fired in unison—but not by Solonn, and as far as he was aware, not by anyone else on his side. He heard one body topple over, saw another—gray and muscular and roaring her lungs out—hurtle through the air on her own power—

    —But never saw her land, forced to dodge a speeding glalie barreling right toward him. He wheeled about, his horn catching her as her shield fell, at which she hissed in pain and shrieked in fury. A number of other voices—one bottomless and all too familiar—cried and screeched and bellowed out in nearly the same instant.

    There was no time to turn and find out why. His attacker returned the favor immediately, her horn slashing at his temple, narrowly missing his eye. He roared, and a fresh protect shield came to his summons as she tried once more to blind him. She shielded herself again in the nick of time, as well.

    Solonn caught her third strike with his horn, and for a fleeting moment after, the two were locked in a fencing match, trying to get their horns past one another.

    Then someone slammed into him from behind—he felt and heard something crack apart against his back, accompanied by a short, gurgling cry—and the force drove his horn deep into the eye socket of the glalie before him.

    A burst of yellow light filled his vision as he wrenched himself free of the now-dead Sinaji. Nothing and no one caught him as his momentum threw him backward; he spun about in midair, regaining control of his levitation just in time to avoid plowing face-first into the glowing, segmented tail that fell to earth like a hammer before him, splitting the skull of the glalie below. Blood splashed against him, turning into a briefly-obscuring cloud of mist that cleared to reveal a torrent of flame roaring across the opposite end of the chamber.

    Valdrey’s team had arrived.

    Solonn didn’t stop to gawk at them or at what had become of the glalie hit by the rapidash’s flamethrower—not that he wanted to find out. He’d spotted Alij with a small horde of Sinaji all bearing down upon him just as the latter’s aura failed him; without hesitation, Solonn charged to the rescue—only for the pair of glalie in his path to disappear into thin air as he struck them. Illusions!

    Alij apparently recognized this at the same time; he dealt a sweeping strike against the “multiple” Sinaji as they closed in, destroying a pair of double team clones and revealing their maker in one stroke. Solonn wasted no time in driving the identified enemy straight into the nearest wall. The Sinaji fell to the floor and did not rise again.

    As Solonn leaned in to make sure the illusionist wasn’t playing dead, his massive frame glowing deep blue all the while, he noticed that the shouts and shots and cracks of colliding bodies were dying down. He turned and was met by a scene that calmed right before his eyes. The fight, it seemed, was over.

    Easily more than a dozen glalie lay before him, their blood-mist heavy on the air. Some quivered slightly in place, still breathing, while others were plainly dead—some more plainly than others. He caught sight of one who looked as though they’d tried to swallow a bomb. He ripped his gaze away in an instant, retching in spite of himself.

    He discovered that Lirimi and Kala were down, as well, up against the wall near the Sinaji whom Grosh had smashed, their strange, opaque blood smeared across the floor. Quiul knelt before them, healing their injuries, while Daran, conscious once more, looked on.

    “Will they be all right?” Grosh inquired from somewhere behind Solonn; the latter couldn’t help but throw a glance back to make sure the steelix was all right. To Solonn’s immense gratitude, he was, from the looks of things. But the golduck standing at his side, with pouches filled with medicine belted to his waist, left Solonn wondering how long that had been the case.

    Said golduck then proceeded to offer Solonn a few berries for his own injuries, which he readily accepted. Within moments, he could feel the damage being undone.

    Meanwhile Quiul wasn’t responding to Grosh’s question just yet, clearly focused on her work. When the multicolored aura surrounding her and her patients finally dimmed and vanished, “Yes… and no,” she answered. “You’ll live,” she said to the machoke and azumarill, “and you’ll heal. But not if you do any more fighting anytime soon.”

    “I’m fine,” Kala insisted. She tried to push herself back up, but could barely get more than her upper torso off the ground before pain distorted her features and brought her back down with a snarl.

    “No you’re not.” Daran laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Look sis… I know you’re worried about me. But I’m gonna be okay. I mean, look at us: we didn’t even lose any of our guys.”

    “That’s… not true.”

    Ronal’s voice carried a distinct and chillingly familiar gravity. Solonn didn’t need any further clarification on what had happened. It was only a question of just who had fallen.

    The answer, he found, was Zereth. He lay face-up before Zdir, whose already dull eyelight was muted further still as she held him in her gaze. There was another dead glalie just a couple of feet away, whose face had been gouged so many times that they were completely unrecognizable.

    “His killer,” Ronal identified; it seemed he’d followed Solonn’s line of sight.

    Solonn looked away from the dead Sinaji, letting his gaze sweep across the room again in helpless, dreading curiosity over whether or not any of his other allies had suffered the same fate as Zereth. [Oth thankfully had not; they hovered near the center of the chamber with the luster of half a dozen cosmic powers making their dark hide glitter like the night sky and no injuries that Solonn could detect. But they were only one of the people he was concerned about. “Was anyone else…”

    “No,” Quiul said. “No one else but theirs…” She goes quiet for a moment, staring into space. “Eight of theirs, to be exact,” she determines aloud “And the ones still breathing have a long nap ahead of them.”

    “There’ll be more.” Zdir turned to stare down an adjacent tunnel leading deeper into Sinaji territory. “This isn’t over yet.”

    “It’s about to be,” Grosh said, and his spiked segments rotated restlessly. He shot a glare that seemed to burn despite its lack of light at one of the still-living Sinaji, baring his teeth at him.

    Solonn wondered just how many of the Sinaji had already fallen to Grosh alone. Not enough, no doubt. At least not as far as the steelix was likely concerned.

    Even after all was said and done, even if they made it out of this alive and triumphant and none among the enemy survived, it might never really be enough for him.

    Quiul disappeared then, taking a very tired-looking Lirimi and a none-too-happy Kala with her.

    Right before another rush of light filled the tunnels beyond.

    Zdir and Valdrey’s forces promptly moved to intercept the incoming wave, to keep them bottlenecked at the entrances to the chamber. Several Sinaji poured in regardless before they could stem the tide, and a couple of them promptly burst into multiple illusory copies.

    Solonn took out three of these in succession, then veered sharply out of the way as Haex the bisharp slashed a fourth into nothingness. His next target proved solid; he felt the other’s armor shatter against his skull. Someone tore into his side as they rushed past; he hissed sharply, but held his ground against the threat that chose to stick around.

    The Sinaji he’d engaged lunged at him again at the first opportunity. Solonn lowered his face and took the impact in his heavily-armored head, then pulled back just far enough to rake his attacker’s face with his horn and fling him a short distance away with a toss of his head.

    Solonn heard the other hit the nearby wall, but saw him come back for more. He spotted another pair of them coming at him from the right, but a barrage of ancientpower stones pummeled one of them into submission just as quickly. He threw himself out of the way of them both, then fired a sheer cold blast at the already-injured Sinaji as he came to a stop. The attack hit its mark, its target dropping from midair at the impact.

    <They are breaking through!> Oth called out. They launched more stones toward one of the tunnels, catching one of the newcomers square in the face, but she endured the assault well enough to unleash a sheer cold parting shot before she was brought down by a steel beam swung upside her head.

    Her attack caught Grosh in the midst of another iron tail attack. The silver glow faded from around the lower third of him, and he came crashing down, forcing Solonn and several others to scatter in his wake.

    He’s alive, Solonn frantically assured himself, he has to be… He couldn’t afford a glance to confirm it, not with jets of something deep purple and foul-smelling peppering the floor bare inches away. He threw his shield up—only to take a toxic shot from another source somewhere behind him the moment it fell.

    His hide tingled where it struck him, then burned. The hiss that escaped him turned to a groan as the poison started to kick in. Shaking it off to the best of his ability, he spun about to ram his assailant, hoping to spot Quiul somewhere nearby in the process. Had she even returned yet? Had she tried, only to be deflected back from whence she’d come by a body thrown or charging into her path?

    Solonn let out a ragged breath as armor—both his own and his target’s—shattered at his heavy impact. The other glalie fell, eyes rolling back, and Solonn was sure he’d be following suit before too long if no one neutralized the poison, all too certain of just what the attack he had suffered had been. He let out a ragged breath, biting back a surge of nausea. His body wanted nothing more than to try and purge the sickness out and shut down to sleep the rest of it off… but the fight still raged on all around him. He was still needed…

    He shook his head, trying to clear his mind, but to no real avail. Facing forward again presented him with the sight of two glalie—or one glalie and an illusion—charging him in tandem, horns first, and in his delirium he reacted on instinct, trying to raise a shield—but none came.

    Then a powerful burst of water blasted the copy out of existence and its maker yards away. The golduck responsible dropped to a three-point stance in front of Solonn. Barely any sooner than he’d landed, he’d whipped a handful of berries out of his pouch.

    He rapped on Solonn’s teeth with his free hand. “Open up, b—” He broke off mid-word to give the glalie he’d hydro pumped moments ago a second helping. But Solonn managed to get the message through the growing pain and illness, albeit barely. His jaws parted, but shuddered all the while; the golduck only just managed to get the berries past them before they helplessly slammed shut.

    The last thing Solonn felt like doing right now was eating, but he had just enough sense left to force the medicinal fruits down. Their effects, while not instantaneous, were swift in coming nonetheless; in no time, he was back off the floor, alert and well once more, his wounds no longer bleeding.

    He saw something huge and reflective swing back up into view, with something blue darting away from him—Grosh had been revived. Hope welled back up within Solonn, putting all the more fight back into him—the next Sinaji he singled out was charged full-force. Another caught the business end of his horn soon after.

    The din began to fade out once more, individual shapes becoming more easily discernible amid the chaos once again, and he dared to wonder if maybe it was all nearing an end. Then something new began to creep into his vision: snaking, branchlike structures of ice invading into the space surrounding them, appearing to do nothing more than grow and fan out and dance rhythmically.

    He wasn’t responsible for them, and he doubted anyone else on his side was, either. Not wanting to find out the hard way just what in the world the enemy could possibly have in mind with the display, he tried to will it out of being. The branches began withdrawing quickly, very quickly, suggesting more minds than his own trying to override their conjurer’s control… but then halted in their retreat. They quivered, as if uncertain… and indeed, Solonn found himself no longer sure he wanted their dance to end, and then completely convinced that he didn’t.

    As he stared, transfixed, at the hypnotic ice formation, he began to want something else altogether. Something far less benign.

    The will to fight within him transformed. Vindictive anguish took its place, and it pulled his gaze away from the ice branches at last and redirected it toward the rapidash a short distance away until the brightness of the flamethrower erupting from the latter’s mouth forced him to close his eyes. But no matter. He was already locked on to his target, already blindly speeding toward the alien creature whom he now viewed as the enemy, as one of those responsible for the death of countless fellow Virc, the death of his mother…

    And then his barely-thought notions of vengeance blew apart, and he could have sworn the rest of him was doing likewise.

    He screamed so loudly that his voice gave out almost immediately, leaving him gasping and choking. His eyes screwed even more tightly shut, but he could still see blazing orange light stabbing into them. He dropped involuntarily, rolling onto his back and shaking uncontrollably, still fighting to breathe, his heart racing painfully. Only one coherent thought endured the onslaught: the raw, primal, terrifying certainty that he was dying.

    Until it, along with all the pain, all the terror, and everything else, simply fell away.

    * * *

    (CONTINUED)

  5. #380
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    From out of the nothingness, a gentle pulsing came, nothing at all like the panicked hammering of his heart before everything had gone black.

    A couple of beats later, Solonn realized that the sensation was coming from somewhere outside him, not within.

    He subsequently realized that yes, he was still alive.

    He opened his eyes—or tried to. They still stung terribly, making him hiss weakly.

    “No,” a gentle voice instructed him. Quiul. “Not yet. Let me finish with you first.”

    Solonn fumbled about mentally for a moment, still very dazed, trying to remember just whose voice that was. The image of the mercirance to whom it belonged finally answered the summons. She made it… Even in the midst of all this chaos, she had found her way back in.

    Except… where had the chaos gone? He could hear no signs of battle any longer, could hear nothing at all except scattered mutterings and the occasional pained sound from someone or another.

    “There,” Quiul said, sounding a bit winded, “there. That’s the best I can do, I’m afraid. But you are stable, rest assured.”

    At her words, Solonn dared to try and open his eyes again, and this time he succeeded in keeping them open. No fighting greeted them, no colliding bodies, no stones or beams in flight.

    “Is it really over?” he asked, his voice still terribly hoarse.

    “Don’t know,” Quiul responded.

    “God, I hope so. You had me worried out of my mind there…”

    Solonn turned his face upward, grimacing at the wave of dizziness that accompanied the motion. His expression softened at the sight of his father looking down at him from above, tears shimmering in his crimson eyes.

    The steelix’s expression, meanwhile, did nearly the opposite as he cast a glance across the room. More gently than he’d moved before, Solonn rolled to face forward and follow it, and he saw that rapidash there, talking to Valdrey about something. She was reassuring him, from what Solonn could make out of the conversation.

    Quiul looked off in that direction, too. She sighed faintly. “Grosh… you do realize it wasn’t his fault, right? It wasn’t anyone’s fault but the one who hijacked his brain.”

    Hijacked his brain… Just as had happened to him, Solonn recognized. “They did the same to me,” he reported.

    “And to half of the rest of us. At least.” Valdrey’s voice and hoofbeats drew Solonn’s attention next; he found the aurrade striding in slow circles around another glalie who was lying on the ground—a glalie like none he’d ever seen before. A row of spikes ran along each of the stranger’s brows, and while it was difficult to tell for certain with their light extinguished, the eyes beneath them didn’t look blue.

    “I see you’ve noticed our late arrival here,” Valdrey said. “We think he’s the one who made you turn on each other.” She gave him a little kick with one of her forehooves. “Fried his own brain in the process, though.”

    “He was dead inside his own skull,” Quiul said, and she almost sounded pitying. Almost. “The rest of him just hadn’t cottoned on yet.”

    That likely answered the question of what, and whom, had killed the stranger. But a multitude of questions still lingered about him. He was a hybrid of some sort, Solonn suspected… but what sort of parentage could he have possibly had to give him abilities like those?

    Solonn gave the slightest shake of his head, sighing bitterly to himself. They’d known to expect a mind-controller among the Sinaji, of course. They’d been prepared to prioritize any non-glalie they saw who wasn’t on their side.

    He would never have guessed that such a threat could come from one of his own kind. And apparently he wasn’t the only one who hadn’t. “I’m so sorry,” Moriel said quietly. “I had no idea they had any such thing on their side—I’ve never seen a glalie like this in my entire life.”

    “I don’t think any of us have,” Evane said. Alij and Viraya both gave confirming nods.

    <You are not at any fault,> Oth said. <There is much your leadership did not see fit to tell you.>

    “That… that is true,” Moriel acknowledged. But the way she still frowned uneasily at the hypnotist, guilt dampening the light in her eyes, told that she wasn’t altogether consoled just yet.

    Solonn turned his attention completely away from the glalie with the spiked brows then, and though his body and especially his head protested, he rose from the spot, intent on finding out just how much that oversight had cost them—more to the point, to find out if it had cost him anyone close to him.

    The first such question he had in mind came with a welcome answer, at least. Oth had once again made it through all right. They leaned in midair against the wall near the tunnel through which Zdir’s team had entered, their levitation a little shaky, but they looked fine otherwise.

    Solonn moved over to join the claydol. “How many?” he asked. That was as far as he could stand to elaborate on the question, and not only because his throat was still so sore. He hoped that the claydol and their many eyes could assess the situation, or had already done so, more quickly and thoroughly than he could or wanted to at this point.

    <All but eleven of the Sinaji who entered this cavern have now been slain,> Oth reported, though their tone made it sound almost as much like a confession, <as well as five among our number.>

    Solonn fought back an urge to do a quick head count. Too many bodies. Too much mist, drawn into his lungs on every breath… He tried to shake off the unbidden, imagined sensation of it seeping into his veins, consuming him from within. It came right back.

    He shuddered. “Who?” he managed to spit out.

    <Three of the Hirashka: Arkhiah, Ahsrishasa, and Ghirath. Alisari and Daran were also slain.>

    The thought of Kala waiting back in Mordial for her brother to return when he never would entered Solonn’s mind at the last name, and he felt something sink inside him. The preceding name clicked soon after, at which it sunk further—Alisari was the golduck, the one who had likely saved his life by neutralizing the poison. And the Hirashka soldiers, so willing to put themselves on the line for foreigners they didn’t even know—such a far cry from what the Virc forces would have offered them…

    <Three others among us have been put out of commission,> Oth went on. <Zyuirilziurn, Taldira… and Zdir.>

    Solonn abruptly turned to face the claydol directly. “How serious is it? Will she be all right?”

    <Quiul gave a favorable prognosis,> Oth replied, <but her recovery is expected to take a considerable amount of time due to her age.>

    Her age. The shock drained out of Solonn almost all at once. Of course… of course she had taken a beating. It’s a wonder she wasn’t killed outright, really. But with all she’d done for them, with all the time he’d spent training under her… even now, some tiny part of him was surprised at the reminder that no, she was not invincible.

    “Heads up, we’ve got company,” Valdrey called out, and nearly every eye in the vicinity turned toward her. Past her, hesitating just outside the chamber, there hovered another of those thorn-bearing glalie. This one’s eyes still burned bright, though their light flickered at the sight before them, and there was no question about it this time: they were green, luridly so.

    Hooves were thundering and glalie were surging and a bellowing steelix was lunging toward the new arrival in an instant.

    “No, stop!” she cried out, only just audible over the horde closing in on her. “Please, I surrender!”

    “Hold it!” Valdrey shouted, and her voice was far louder and clearer than usual. A glance in her direction told Solonn that her faceplates had retracted, revealing her gray, humanoid face.

    One of Haex’s armblades split the floor in front of the newcomer, making her dart several inches backward. Grosh brought his head very, very close to the green-eyed glalie, growling deep in his throat.

    Valdrey began striding closer, waving pokémon out of her way, her luminous sword at the ready all the while. As she moved forward, Oth began following close behind.

    “You’d best be telling the truth,” Valdrey warned the newcomer, her head tilted back to peer down at her. “Otherwise it’s gonna get a little hazier in here.”

    The newcomer nodded, her whole body shaking even as she met the aurrade’s gaze once more. “We’ll all surrender, I promise you. Just… please…” She tried to look st some point beyond where Valdrey stood, but it was clear that someone was in the way. “Let me see him, just one more time.”

    “We will,” Valdrey said, “after Oth is done with you.”

    “Oth? What…” Her green eyes flitted about, trying to determine who Valdrey could mean. “What are you going to do?”

    “Oth’s just gonna have a little peek into your head.” Valdrey tapped at her helmet with her free hand for emphasis. “Just to make sure you aren’t trying to pull a fast one on us. I can’t speak for anyone else here, really, but personally, I’m not a big fan of liars.”

    The newcomer’s eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open slightly. “I’m not lying,” she insisted, sounding more than a little offended. “There are so few of us now, and so many of you and your… your monsters…” Grosh snarled in warning at that, at which the newcomer flinched, but then resumed her affronted stare up at Valdrey.

    “If that’s true,” Valdrey said evenly, putting a hand to her waist, “then you have nothing to hide.”

    “It’s in your best interests to allow this,” Ronal told the newcomer. “Your safety—your life—is on the line.”

    Her face twisted, the light in her eyes wavering all the more as she hung there in place, still quaking. Finally, she closed her eyes and nodded in acquiescence.

    “Have at it,” Valdrey said, extending an arm toward the newcomer.

    Oth placed themself before her, silent and still in their work even as their subject hissed and shuddered. She only stopped doing so once they backed off, but even then looked no more comfortable than she had since arriving there.

    “So what’d you find?” Valdrey asked the claydol.

    <Sathir is being sincere,> they confirmed.

    Valdrey held the newcomer in her gaze for a moment more before sheathing her sword. “Then today’s your lucky day,” she said, “relatively speaking.”

    The discomfort in Sathir’s expression turned to something distinctly bitter. “Can I see him now?” she asked coldly.

    “He’s all yours,” Valdrey said, and stepped out of the way.

    Sathir drifted forward, casting distrustful looks about at the unfamiliar creatures among the small crowd of glalie. She soon came to a stop, sinking to the floor before the other of her kind who lay dead. A hiss shuddered through her gritted teeth, then gave way to sobbing.

    “Someone you knew?” Narzen asked. His tone told that he had already guessed the answer, really.

    Sathir looked to him with disgust written all over her features. “I don’t owe you any more answers,” she said, her voice hitching mid-sentence. But then she sighed, turning back to face the fallen glalie again. “But you’ll just take any answers you want from me, won’t you.”

    Before anyone could affirm or refute that statement, “My mate,” she informed them, “and the father of my child.” She sighed again, more bitterly this time. “There are so few of my people left in this world. Even fewer now, thanks to you.”

    “Hey now. It was his bright idea to try and brainwash the lot of us at once that landed him in that position,” Narzen retorted.

    Sathir’s head shot back up, and she leveled the sort of wild, furious stare at him that suggested she wanted to call him a filthy liar. But it quickly faltered. “Damn it, Averin…” she said almost voicelessly to her lifeless mate. “I told you not to try it…”

    “Well, he didn’t listen, I’m afraid,” Valdrey said. “He really should have kept that little trick to himself.”

    “You all should have,” Solonn spoke up. “Why?” he demanded. “Why did you do this to my brother? He doesn’t even recognize me now.” His face contorted with anguish, his eyelight going shaky. “He’s been stranded across the ocean, and if I ever see him again…” He drew in a rattling breath that seemed to turn to stone in his throat. “…I’ll have to tell him that both his mother and his father are gone. Because of you. Why,” he hissed again, his eyes momentarily blazing.

    Sathir wilted almost imperceptibly under his gaze. She swallowed audibly. “It was never supposed to go this far,” she said in a brittle voice. “When we sought refuge with the Sinaji, we had no idea how dangerous they were… They were outcasts, like us. We thought we were one and the same, or almost the same… We were stupid,” she spat.

    She lowered her head. “We began bewitching a few of them, their leaders… just enough to make them safe company. We used their territory as sanctuary from the Virc, with the Sinaji as guards… but at some point, that ceased to be enough. We became resentful of the Virc for making us live the way we do, the way we have for generations… the fact that so many of us never hatched and so many have been born sick and stayed sick… All at once, we were waging war on the Virc, using the Sinaji as our soldiers. The Virc children they captured for us… would have joined them.”

    Solonn just stared agape at her as she sat there shaking, at a loss for words in the wake of her confession. Those children could have been sent to kill members of their own families, or to be killed by them. He might have been forced to kill Jen—and with the latter having surely evolved in that scenario, he might never have known that the blood on his horns was his brother’s, that it would have been by his own figurative hands that he and Jen would never truly reunite.

    The thought of what his mother would think of that came to mind, and he snarled. “Where are the rest of your people?” The demand seemed to come out of its own accord, surprising even him.

    Sathir hesitated to answer, still shaking.

    “We will do them no harm, provided they agree to surrender as you have,” Quiul said. It sounded as though she were genuinely trying to sound reassuring, but her tone was missing a little of its usual warmth.

    “Whereas you’ll harm me if I don’t give them up,” Sathir surmised aloud.

    “No,” Valdrey said, shaking her head. “You surrendered, fair and square. We won’t change our minds unless you do.”

    Sathir looked from one alien face in the crowd to another, still silent as she assessed the situation. Then she rose. “Follow me,” she said quietly, and began to return from whence she’d come.

    Everyone else present began filing after her immediately, with Valdrey directly behind her. Solonn could see her hand move to hover near the hilt of her weapon as he moved out himself.

    They proceeded in this fashion for some time, finally arriving at a very thick, opaque ice wall. Four Sinaji hovered before it, and wasted no time in shouting in alarm at the approaching pokémon.

    “Silence,” Sathir commanded wearily. “They’re allowed to enter, all of them.”

    The guards didn’t argue. Nothing about them suggested that any of them even thought to disagree. “Bewitched”, most likely, Solonn guessed.

    The four of them moved aside, lingering against the walls “Stay there,” Sathir ordered them; then, “Remove the barricade,” she called out to whomever was beyond it, “and don’t be alarmed.”

    There was a delay before the barrier showed any changes. Muffled, uneasy-sounding voices could be heard from the tunnel outside. Then, slowly, the wall came down.

    “There they are,” Sathir all but whispered. “The last of the Rannia.”

    Within the chamber that was now revealed, two other glalie like Sathir huddled against the far wall. A very small snorunt, her eyes as green as the rest of the Rannia’s, leaned against one of them, looking very listless. A third Rannian glalie hovered a bit closer to where the barrier had stood, but the look on her face suggested that she had forgotten why she had come forward.

    And with them, staring in bewilderment, were Sanaika and Kashisha, with a number of blue-eyed and plainly frightened snorunt hiding and shaking behind the two of them and another pair of Sinaji.

    Not taking his eyes off the strangers for even a second, “Sathir…. what the hell is going on here?” Sanaika demanded.

    “Party’s over,” Valdrey responded. “Your forces are down, save for you—” She sweeps a hand across the room, indicating the entire enemy presence therein. “—and those four out there. Your hypnotist friend here has surrendered unconditionally. I’d follow suit if I were you.”

    Kashisha gawked openly at the crowd, shocked or furious or both. Sanaika just stared in silence for a moment, an unspoken dare to contradict Valdrey etched into his features.

    “It’s true,” Sathir said sullenly. “We have to cooperate. If we don’t… Look at them, Sanaika. My family can’t defend themselves against such creatures. They’ll slaughter us.”

    “Maybe they can’t,” the Rannia who still hovered in the middle of the room said. Her eyes were wild and blazing, and her jaws quivered in the gaps between words as if itching for something to sink their teeth into. “But I can, and you can, and…” She shook her head fiercely. “No, I… I can’t give in. I won’t give in!” A snarl of erratically-twitching ice tendrils burst into being around her, forcing nearly everyone around her to leap or dart out of the way. “I won’t—”

    There was a sound like a small thunderclap, and down she went, alive but insensible. Her ice sculpture vanished into vapors in an instant under the control of another now, any hypnotic command they might have carried extinguished before it could really take root.

    Sathir gazed upon her pityingly for a moment, then moved toward Sanaika. “I need to know if you’re going to do this of your own accord or if I’ll have to make you do it. I don’t want to, but I will if you leave me no choice.”

    “I’m not answering that question,” Sanaika said. “Not until I know what’s going to become of us if we surrender. We die if we keep fighting; do I understand correctly? The kids, too?”

    <No,> Oth said. <The snorunt pose no appreciable threat. They will be relocated, as will any of you who agree to our terms.>

    “Speaking of the snorunt… were these stolen, too?” Narzen asked.

    “No, they most certainly were not,” one of the other Sinaji said. “How dare you even insinuate such a thing; these children belong to our people and always have.”

    “Mind letting us confirm that?” Valdrey asked, signaling Oth to move forward once more.

    “Just say yes,” Sathir said wearily.

    The Sinaji who had spoken hesitated at first, but then nodded, closing her eyes. Moments later, <These children were not kidnapped,> Oth said.

    “That’s good…” Moriel said.

    “So you’re… going to take us away… Where?” the fourth of Sinaji glalie who were present demanded. “Do we get any say in the matter?”

    “You can come with us to the Hirashka nation, if you wish.” Roskharha came forward, at which a couple of his surviving countrymen cast uncomfortable looks his way. Solonn did likewise—the thought of these mind-controllers and dangerous exiles headed for the same destination as one of his best friends and the family thereof didn’t sit very well with him at all.

    “Captain… are you sure that’s advisable?” one of the Hirashka asked.

    “They’re few enough that we can handle them. Yes, the green-eyes, too,” he answered preemptively; Sathir glared and hissed at him in response. “We’ll involve the Sisterhood if need be.”

    “Hopefully that won’t be necessary,” another of the Hirashka said, and gave a faint shudder.

    “It’s up to you,” Valdrey said. “Do you wanna move to Sinnoh with these nice, gracious glalie?”

    <You may not get another opportunity to live among your own kind in the foreseeable future,> Oth advised the enemy.

    “…I’ll go,” Sathir said. “And my family will go with me.”

    Sanaika exchanged glances with Kashisha, at which she gave a melodramatic sigh that made her opinion of the circumstances all too clear. Nonetheless, she nodded in assent.

    “Fine,” Sanaika said, “fine. And I suppose we have to leave right this instant?”

    “Sounds good to me. What does Zdir think?” Valdrey asked.

    There was a brief silence as Oth consulted with Zdir—if indeed she was in any fit state to respond at the moment. But apparently she was; <Zdir is in favor of this course of action.>

    “Roskharha?” Valdrey prompted next.

    “I’m ready,” he responded.

    “Quiul? You up to another jump right now?”

    “I’m up to several more, if it comes to that.”

    “That’s good—I think it’ll take at least two. Wouldn’t want you working yourself to a twitching heap. Thuras? Go tell the boys back there to round up the live ones so we can head out.”

    The gurdurr gave a quick nod and headed back down the tunnel at Valdrey’s request.

    Sathir, meanwhile, had drifted off to join the three Rannia who were still awake. “Mother? Father? We have to go with them.” She spoke very slowly and deliberately, as if concerned that they wouldn’t understand her otherwise.

    “Have they returned?” her mother asked, her somewhat pale eyes unfocused, her tone awed. “They’ve come to deliver us; the Vanished Ones have come to…”

    Sathir held her tongue, apparently waiting for her mother’s ramblings to resume, but they did no such thing. “No… no, this is someone else. Our… our new saviors.” She didn’t bother to conceal the bitter sarcasm that accompanied those words, but it seemed lost on both of her parents.

    “Oh… all right,” her mother said, then began moving unhurriedly toward the invaders along with her mate; Sathir not missing a beat, conjured a cradle of ice to catch the infant who’d been leaning against the former. The cradle rose on a stalk like a sprouting plant, then moved forward to lay the child down on top of Sathir’s head and shifted to secure her there.

    Sanaika moved forward next, with Kashisha grudgingly following. The other Sinaji glalie in the room shepherded the snorunt along to join them, with some difficulty; some of them were still too terrified to move at first. Solonn couldn’t help but regard them with pity—they hadn’t asked to be here, and they’d had no hand in the Sinaji’s crimes. They probably weren’t even aware of them.

    It’s over, he told himself. They don’t have to be afraid anymore. None of us do.

    Or so he hoped. Trusting it… was harder. He wanted to believe that yes, the Hirashka and their “Sisterhood”, whatever that entailed, could keep them in check, and that the Sinaji who had yet to wake up would cooperate just as the ones in this room had. That Zilag and Hledas and their daughters would be safe. But with no way to know with absolute certainty that they would, true comfort eluded him.

    To say nothing of the effect that a certain loose end remaining in Convergence was having on his ability to really, truly feel as though the struggle was over.

    It was then that Thuras returned. “Job’s done,” she reported.

    “Good. Go back and stay with them, all right? We’ll be back for the rest of you here shortly,” Valdrey said.

    As Thuras departed the scene once more, “Gather together, everyone,” Quiul instructed, motioning toward everyone present to draw closer. The Sinaji and Rannia complied, though not quite in unison; a couple of the children resisted up to nearly the last moment. Once they and everyone else were finally corralled, the former territory of the Sinaji disappeared from view in a golden flash.

    * * *

    “And you’re sure that’s all of them?” Hledas asked.

    “All of the survivors, yes,” Solonn confirmed. “Oth made sure of it.”

    Across the field in a snowy valley in Sinnoh, the remnants of the Sinaji—minus two of the survivors of the initial battle, who had refused to be taken alive and who had subsequently been dispatched by Sanaika himself—muttered to one another and surveyed their new surroundings with varying degrees of apprehension.

    “I’m sure they’ll be kept in line just fine,” Zilag assured her. Even as he spoke, however, he eyed Kashisha uneasily. That, Solonn imagined, was a reunion that his friend would have rather avoided.

    “So now what?” Zilag then asked. “Are you gonna stay here with us, too?”

    Solonn’s thoughts briefly drifted elsewhere, his eyes following soon after. His geographical knowledge was a bit rusty after so many years between him and his schooling, but he suspected that Hoenn lay in that direction.

    He and Zilag were of very different minds when it came to seeing their siblings again.

    “Ultimately,” he finally answered. “But first… I have to go back to Convergence. I have to find him.” He didn’t bother to elaborate. He knew he didn’t need to. “Even if we have to live apart from now on… I want to try and give back what was taken from him. He deserves to know that there’s something left of his family, his real family.”

    Zilag smiled. “I had the feeling you’d say that. I wouldn’t mind going with you and getting a better look at that place, you know? From what I remember, it was pretty crazy, heh. In a good way,” he clarified quickly. “But… yeah. I’d really feel better sticking close to my family right now, all things considered.”

    “Of course,” Solonn said, nodding in understanding. He rose. “I’ll go find out if and when Quiul’s ready,” he said, “and let the relevant parties know where I’m going. I suppose this is goodbye, for now.”

    “Suppose so. Goodbye, and good luck,” Zilag said, at which Hledas echoed his farewell and Ryneika attempted to do so.

    With that, Solonn set off in search of Quiul. Before he got very far, however, “Um… hey. I overheard what you were talking about there, and…”

    Solonn turned and saw Moriel there behind him. Alij, Evane, and Viraya were with her. “Yes… what of it?” he asked.

    “We were wondering if you’d be opposed to us going with you,” Moriel said. “I mean… from what I understand, there has to be some sort of funny business going on where your brother’s concerned. First he mysteriously can’t be cured of his bewitching, and then the Sinaji you brought over there mysteriously dies? Something’s up.”

    “Something is very likely up,” Solonn agreed, and as he zoomed out from his goal in this endeavor and looked more intently at the process that might be involved in getting there, having these people accompany him started to look like a good idea. Possibly a very good idea. Having very many more than that was probably ill-advised—the Hirashka nation would do well to have at least a little more than a skeleton crew keeping a watch over the Sinaji and the Rannia, Sisterhood or no Sisterhood. But surely, or hopefully, they could spare a small handful.

    “You’re absolutely welcome to join me,” he said. “Thank you.”

    “It’s the least we can do,” Moriel said. Evane nodded in agreement, while her sister and Alij looked on in silence but showed no signs of dissent.

    Solonn began leading them away, but not toward his original target. He was all in favor of having the defectors accompany him back to Hoenn for a bit, but a bad idea was a bad idea, and on the chance that pulling them away from here counted as such, he decided to seek a second opinion.

    When he reached the person he had in mind, he found a potential third opinion there along with her. Good. Roskharha sat there by Zdir’s side, the latter still looking worse for wear but clearly stable and on the mend.

    “Yes?” Zdir inquired somewhat weakly, taking in the small pack of glalie that had come before her.

    “We want to go back to Convergence for… well, for an indeterminate length of time,” Solonn told her. “But… only if the people here can spare us.”

    Zdir gave Roskharha a questioning glance. He sized up the would-be rescue party for a moment, seemingly in thought. “I’d say so,” he finally decided.

    “Go and get your brother, then,” Zdir said.

    Solonn lowered his head, relieved. “Thank you, he said,” and resumed his search for Quiul.

    By the time he caught up with her, he had run into both Oth and Grosh. Upon informing each of them of his plans, they had requested to go with him and insisted on going with him, respectively.

    After confirming that the Hirashka nation and its new citizens could afford their absence, he’d agreed to their wishes, and now the lot of them hovered or coiled before the mercirance, with Solonn ready to ask for her assistance.

    But she beat him to the punch. “Let me guess: you’ve all got somewhere you need to go, right?” she asked a bit playfully.

    “Yes,” Solonn said. “We need you to take us to Convergence, if you would. Jen’s still there, and he might still need help recovering his memories.”

    “Well… I’m afraid I’m not much use to you where the latter’s concerned,” Quiul admitted. “But as far as the former goes, sure thing.”

    <If I might make a suggestion…> Oth spoke up then. Everyone turned to face them. <I think we would do well to establish a link between the two of us,> they said, pointing a turret-hand toward Quiul. With less need for Zdir to dispense orders to her forces now, the claydol was no longer telepathically connected to her, thereby freeing the link up for another. <We would thereby be able to call upon you when we are ready to return.>

    “Was just about to suggest the same thing, actually,” Quiul said. “And don’t worry: I can keep the ghostliness to myself just fine,” she assured them.

    <I had no doubts that you could,> Oth said. If they actually did have any, they concealed that fact very well.

    Quiul made a beckoning motion, and Oth apparently interpreted the prompt correctly; <It is done,> they announced.

    “Okay then, away we go!” Quiul said. And with that, she transported them all to Convergence, and to the hope of undoing the last lingering crime of the Sinaji.

    _____________________

    Fun fact: I was listening to Bond during one of my writing sessions for this chapter, and guess what song decided to come on just as Solonn was getting flamethrowered. Yep. “Fuego”.

    I laughed for quite some time after that, heh.

    Next time: Solonn’s efforts to reunite with Jen get him mixed up in another rescue effort altogether. See you then!

    Incidentally, on that note, I have an announcement to make:

    No further chapters of this fic will be posted until all of the remaining chapters have been written.

    Why? Well, if you knew me before I started posting my fanfics publicly, you’d notice a significant difference between the way I wrote then and the way I write now.

    Well, okay, several differences. But the one relevant to the hiatus-but-not-really I’m taking is the fact that back then, I wrote faster. Way faster. And I’ve determined that part of the reason was because back then, I didn’t spend so much time editing the heck out of the chapters in a too-desperate, excessive effort to make sure they were fit for eyes other than my own.

    Not that I didn’t bother to do any proofreading or editing back then, of course. But back then, I waited until after the whole story was written out. The Origin of Storms wasn’t edited in the slightest until the last word of the last chapter was down on paper. Since going public with this stuff and nonsense, however, the wacky notion I got into my head that I just HAVE to release every chapter one at a time as it’s written has caused me to go into editor mode sooner and much more frequently than in the past.

    I think it will work wonders for my productivity if I can put my focus back on writing first rather than splitting it between writing and editing. Especially since my editing-mind has a nasty habit of crowding out my writing-mind when given too much room to roam. And while it’s obviously too late to hold off on doing any editing at all until this fic is fully drafted, I can, at least, put this policy into effect for what remains to be written of it.

    The good news is that there are only three chapters to go at this point. And it’s my hope that this new/old policy being (back) in place will mean the difference between waiting, oh, maybe a year for this story to finally reach its end as opposed to waiting perhaps three times that long—if not longer.

    Happy holidays, folks, and I’ll see you when I see you.

    - Sike Saner

    Current Chapter: Chapter 18 – Remnants

    COMPLETE
    Communication banner: Saffire Persian | TOoS banner: CHeSHiRe-CaT

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